2015 Season

With a brand new season of lighting, we bring a new story of how we got to our end goal. Read on to hear more about how we designed this year's show.

Phase One: Re-Design
This year, we completely re-designed our Christmas light setup. We added a whole new controller, replaced our lights with fancier ones, and added a couple of new props. We also changed the layout of our display.

First, the new controller. We bought a CMB-24D RGB Lights Controller, a special 24-channel controller for RGB lights. We have 7 elements using this new feature and we're pretty excited about the new effects we can create with the addition of RGB lighting. We haven't fully jumped into the RGB end, so you will definitely still see many of our LED rope light in effect around the house. In fact, we probably re-purposed some of the rope light to either make a new area or just to continue lighting the house. Either way, this is going to be one ROCKING show this year!
Second, new lights. We eluded to this briefly, but we decided to take our lighting skills to the next level by upgrading our lights from using 15 channels (out of 32) of rope light for three colors, to using 7 out of 8 channels that can have much more flexibility with changing colors. (Woohoo!) By buying the CMB-24D RGB lighting controller, we opened up a chance for more lights to be added. Here's how it works: the lights we replaced have their own controller (the CMB-24D)... which operates 8 elements of Red, Green and Blue variations. (24 total "channels"). Therefore, we now have 32 channels to work with and fill in. We re-used our rope light, in addition to creating new props and new elements, to fill in our gap.

We now operate 21 out of 24 RGB channels and 25 out of 32 standard channels.

Third, new props. So we have new lights, a new controller, and now more props and elements! Before we tip our hand, we recommend you wait until around Thanksgiving to see our magnificent Christmas light display come to life. (We're only a few short weeks from it all happening!!!!) You will notice that the layout of the lights will be new. Different from last year, the train and snowman had claimed their own territories on separate halves of our front lawn. That is, one is on the left and the other is on the right. It is just a tweak that may or may not be permanent, but will last the entire 2015-2016 Christmas season.


An updated picture of our new design for the year.
Click the picture to enlarge.

Update - Nov. 22, 2015:
The picture that is the visual representation of our display is slightly different than what we have chosen to do this year. To see what we mean, visit our display! (It's easier to see it than to explain it...plus you get to see some really fascinating animations!)

Phase Two: More Purchases

More lights, tools, and supplies purchased to accommodate a new season.

With the addition of RGB lighting, new props and fixtures, we have many items in our "shopping cart." Please note we have not done all major purchases yet. When we complete our shopping list and begin construction, the shopping list, prices, and businesses we've purchased from will be published here.

Thanks!

November 2015 Update:

We anticipate completing our purchases soon, as we finalize plans and coordinate with vendors. When we receive our shipments of each new addition, we'll update you all with pictures of each product we're adding. Thank you for your patience as we continue scrambling to make this winter season memorable. We're doing our best to work around the clock and keep everyone in the loop.


UPDATE #2 - November 14, 2015

Our order from Creative Lighting Displays (here) has arrived... it includes:


  • [1] CMB24D RGB DC Controller
  • [2] 10' 4-Wire Waterproof Cables (Runs power to the lights from the controller)
  • [6] 40' 4-Wire Waterproof Cables 
  • [7] 16.4' Waterproof RGB Dumb Lights
Our order from Amazon.com is here.... it was a 150' Ethernet cable to connect our RGB controller to our pre-existing controllers.



We have a ton of other things coming in a few days - pictures of all the products will be up ASAP. :) Update: There are A LOT of products we've ordered and bought. You will see them later on... We won't include EVERYTHING we bought in this section. We hope you understand. Thanks!

Phase Three: Master Builders

Constructing new elements to add to our show. A special behind-the-scenes look at the creation of our show.
This section will have all of the "DIY" project notes, information and setup guides we created as we formed our design from virtual to reality.

Our project includes:

  • Drilling 5 sheets of 2' by 3' corrugated plastic into the shape of trees,
  • Mounting over 100 ft of RGB lights and another 100 ft of PVC piping and 16 ft of plexiglass,
  • Routing way over 300ft of power supply cables,
  • Arranging various lawn decorations,
  • And spreading Christmas cheer around the neighborhood
Pictures and how-to guides available when these projects start.

Update: NOVEMBER 14, 2015

We're tackling each step very carefully as we work hard these next few weeks. Our biggest challenge we're focused on is the design for a new prop. Here's one mockup of what we might use this season... This will go on corrugated plastic and will have lights creating the outline of the tree.


Update: NOVEMBER 22, 2015

Work began around the house yesterday as we started building slowly. We're taking J-Bolts, 10 ft segments of PVC and some staples and creating our OWN unique mounting system for our RGB lights.

Here's what's happening:

We're using 1/4" X 4" J-Bolts to secure the PVC in a rigid and stable manner. We drill a hole in the PVC approximately every two feet, thread a J-Bolt through and it's a quick-n-easy way to install a new mounting mechanism. We plan to zip-tie our RGB strands to the PVC and then mount the whole section in one easy go. The best part is the storage - the J-Bolts and the RGB can stay attached to the PVC all year until next season!

Now... we didn't buy enough PVC to build all of it yet, but we will be doing that later today. (We'll build during Black Friday, this was an experiment to see if it would even work)

A side note:

This weekend, while we were experimenting and working hard, a neighbor was driving by, about to head off somewhere, and stopped. He rolled down his window and asked, "Starting early this year, eh?" We all chuckled, and we responded, "We have to... new plans!" He then drove off, and we were glad our neighbors were happy to see our work starting up.

Our next challenge we face soon is creating the trees - we have the materials and templates and what-not, it's more a challenge of execution. We know what we need to do, it's the process that is difficult. How can we quickly cut the circles in the corrugated plastic without damaging it? We're looking for a corrugated plastic circular cutter. Or techniques we can try out.

Tonight:

Tonight we plan on configuring and testing our RGB lights and controller. Pictures will follow. There will be an updated set of pictures from yesterday as well.

Update: November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving! (Yes... this is an EARLY MORNING Thanksgiving update!)

We have just about everything we need to start assembling the show! Tomorrow is when everything begins! (As long as the weather is nice.) We tested all of our RGB lights to make sure everything is setup correctly and working... and we ran into a snag. One of our RGB light strands had a few faulty RED diodes. We've spoken to the company already and they will contact us following the holiday to replace the lights. Here's our setup for testing our lights out. EDIT NOV. 27: The company for our RGB lights sent out a package of BRAND NEW lights just for us - without even telling us they would do so. Great customer service like this will continue to keep us buying their products!


Update: Nov. 27/28

Thanksgiving was a terrific way for us to remember how grateful we are for all the help we received along our Christmas lighting process and in our personal lives. It was a great opportunity to relax and step away from our chaotic display. However, by 9 AM Friday, we were already going at it all again. We are making great progress, especially in comparison to last year. Only a couple of days away from December, and we already have half of our RGB lights installed. (Last year, our lights weren't even up until a week or two into December.) Tomorrow, Nov 28, we plan on finishing the RGB installation on the second story roof line, and re-installing our rope light fixtures. This should be done all by the end of Saturday. The fun part comes on Sunday... finishing the construction of new props, connecting all our power cords to the controllers, and labeling it all. We're hoping this is the last leg we need before our official 2015 LAUNCH!

Summary:
Nov 27 - 1st Floor RGBS completely installed, need to connect power cords to the controller (yet to be mounted)

Nov 28:
  • 2nd Floor RGBS almost completely installed, temporarily waterproofed.
  • Re-installed (almost completely) Window frame and Door Fixtures. (Including the LED rope light)
  • Find a clever way to mount the RGB Controller
  • Begin new prop construction (1/5 done). (Yay!)
Nov 29:
  • Took a break from working 8-10 hr days on the lights... it's good for ALL of us. Took the time off to work on sequencing.
What's holding us back:
  • More sequencing! We need to sequence more music! Ryan's almost done with his THIRD song, while Tod needs to start his song. (If Tod can't ... Ryan may just take over in that field.)
  • Misplacing old pieces from last year causes us to lose time by searching for the exact pieces we need.
  • Solution: During our latest trip to our hardware store, we bought an organizer for all the screws, bolts, hooks, and what-not we used this year. 
  • Running to hardware stores in search of more materials... on Black Friday/holiday shopping weekend.
  • Rope light plugs coming undone (ugh!)
    • One of our fixtures came undone - meaning we have to re-install the fixture. Something we were trying to avoid having to do this year.
    • This warrants new research and possibly a change for next year's display. We may switch to LED retrofit bulbs on SPT-2 sockets so that we can (1) have an easier assembly and (2) have a more straight and clean line of lights. The rope light is tightly wound on a spool, causing it to curl up naturally. This is horrible to work with. This is the main reason we may make the switch soon.
     
Here's an update to what happened this weekend:

(Summary of pictures left to right)

1. We hung the first floor gable pretty easily. The tricky part was nailing in the U-hooks for the J-Bolts to sit in...

2. Minutes after starting to hammer the U-hooks into place... the hammer fell something like 10 feet on the head of the hammer, effectively breaking it. Only mere minutes (less than 5) from this happening, we grab our spare wood hammer. We're adjusting the ladder, forgetting the hammer is on top... and KABOOM. It. Happened. Again. Both hammers we owned ... snapped their own head off.

3. We decided to switch gears while we waited for someone to return with a new hammer (a steel one, luckily) and worked on assembling the rope light fixtures that go around our garage doors, and three of the second story windows. As you can tell in the fourth picture, we are struggling with keeping the rope light straight and flat. We hadn't had this much of a problem last year. It's bad enough we have entertained the thought of switching to a different light type altogether. (We probably will next year.)

4. The second story gable and the second story windows were completed. :)

We plan on trying to finish everything up as quick as we can since December is a busy month in terms of our scheduling. We'll be ready though.

Phase Four: Music!

New music is added to the playlist and swapped out with others... plus a potentially sweet surprise.

We've found that time is of the essence, in everything. Between tweaking our display, juggling other aspects of our show and sequencing, this has been a real challenge. Due to time constraints, we're only showcasing three songs this year. The songs are linked below, so that you can listen to them in just a click. We hope to release a fourth song before Christmas rolls around (fingers crossed)! All links open a new tab or window.

Here's an update regarding the future and the music library we use:

We plan to try to eventually have a display that will feature small adjustments, additions or upgrades. This is for an easier transition into a better, bigger, brighter and more spirited display. This will work by keeping 80-90% of the display consistent season-to-season. The RGBs, five trees, pillars, windows and doors, and the tree trunk will most likely be our constants as our display continues. Additionally, this will minimize the time needed to set up the display, so that our season can be much longer. We envision our display to gradually change through different aspects. For instance, we changed from an all-rope light display to a much larger format this year by incorporating RGBs and new fixtures. Next year, we might keep the exact same setup, but we might add new songs to our show. In this sense, our show will grow in length of performance, instead of size of display.

NOW PLAYING:

Wizards in Winter - Trans Siberian Orchestra [here]

Nutrocker - Trans Siberian Orchestra [here]

Santa Claus is Comin' To Town - Mariah Carey [here]