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Thread: Jeff's Christmas Lights Thread...

  1. #1
    Christmas Lighterer!
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    Post Jeff's Christmas Lights Thread...

    As long as nobody minds, I figure I'll keep a log of the progress I'm making towards the 2008 show here. I like seeing threads where people work on something month after month, maybe even year after year. Makes seeing the finished product take on a whole different light because too many times people think things are easy... when in reality it takes loads of planning and work. (the guy who built his own Hummer comes to mind here)

    Probably should start with a couple pictures of the 2007 Christmas Lights so I can come back here in 12 months and laugh.

    Here are a few of my favorites...










    And as of 12-27-07, here is a picture of the items that will be added next year...


    Should be a good show next year...

    To be continued...
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    Our Christmas Lights:
    MaineLights.org

  2. #2
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    Talking





    My kids would LOVE for you to be next door to us

    We may stop by next christmas

  3. #3
    Ancient Haggis Hound Angus's Avatar
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    :santa:

    That just screams to be synced up to "Wizards of Winter"


  4. #4
    =>Team Joker<= LAURENU2's Avatar
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    Oh the Day after Xmas light sales Smart

  5. #5
    Christmas Lighterer!
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    Up to 29,140 new lights for next year because of those damn 75% off sales. Also picked up 2,000ft of 14 and 16 gauge wire and I'm starting to actually design the frame of the house. Figure I'm going to outline the house with electrical conduit... makes for a nice straight frame and I can easily fish my wires.

    Theme next year will be "Silver and Gold". Everything I do will have at least Silver(aka White) and Gold(aka Yellow). Probably going to also include Red since it goes very well with the other two colors. Picked up ~2,000 Blue lights too just for the song "Blue Christmas".

    Each color will be able to be controlled separately and each color will also be able to "chase" itself around the frame of the house. Lots of controller channels involved for this, but I've watched 60 or 70 videos so far and the ones that stick out use very subtle effects like that.

    I completed the first 16-channel controller this past weekend and have started to do some very basic programming with it. DAMN cool unit and program. LOR(aka Light-o-Rama) is an awesome company and I can't wait to pick up 4 or 5 more 16-channel controllers from them in April when they have a major off-season sale.

    Absolutely lovin' the new hobby!
    Our Christmas Lights:
    MaineLights.org

  6. #6
    Peaches Moogie's Avatar
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    Wow Jeff! This is simply fantastic! I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next year. How did you get into this hobby? How long have you been at it?





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  7. #7
    Administrator Bok's Avatar
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    me too. Makes me want to put in the blog addition to this forum just for you....

    Bok

  8. #8
    Peaches Moogie's Avatar
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    Not a bad idea Bok. I, for one, would love to watch the progress. Of course, I'm a sucker for Christmas lights.





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  9. #9
    DinkaTronic Shish's Avatar
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    Mebbe post you some shots from around Leam Lane Bok....just to show a load of folks around the home area are in the competition but I need to get outa the house first and we got snow forecast. We just went for 2 nets of led chasers and a Santa Sled this year but Geoff has some serious competition around here with at least 10 houses hiring a cherry picker between them to get more lights up I think there were some pics on the gateshead and South Shields Council websites for you ex=pats Bok.
    Like an ol` 8086, slow but serviceable.
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  10. #10
    Administrator Bok's Avatar
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    heh, my brother back in South Shields had quite a few lights I believe, still have not seen the pics yet though...

    Bok

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Moogie View Post
    How did you get into this hobby? How long have you been at it?
    I used to help my grandfather "light up" my aunts house back when I was 12 or 13. She had one of *the* houses in our area and we took a lot of pride putting up all her decorations(yep, she was the rich one in the family).

    Since we bought our house 8 years ago I've been putting more and more up. Each year I'd buy one or two more blowups and a few more strands of lights. Last year seeing Richard Holdman's house(http://www.holdman.com/christmas/) just blew me away. This year seeing how big a leap he made in just two years made me think I could do something similar... then... slowly... a fuse started to blow in my head... **SNAP** Both feet in without another though.

    Quote Originally Posted by Shish
    Geoff has some serious competition around here with at least 10 houses hiring a cherry picker between them to get more lights up
    Funny you should mention that... the contractor neighbor that lives right next store said I could use his 40ft lift next year(this year). Hell... this year after seeing the house he bought a "Snow Couple" blowup and put it in the lift, then lifted the lift the full 40ft. They looked awesome up that high.
    Our Christmas Lights:
    MaineLights.org

  12. #12
    Holdman's lights are crazy, it says he uses 300A just for the lights. I like his FM transmitter thing so you can hear the music in a car without having to blast it outside. Our house only has 100A coming in so there is no way we could even get close. How much electricity are all these lights going to use?

    There was an article about a guy in Canada who has tons of lights as well, cost him about $100/day in electricity and about $5000 over the season. He usually collects about $30000 for charity with them each year.

  13. #13
    DinkaTronic Shish's Avatar
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    Sorry Bok, stuck in the house just now and most of them are coming down.
    Need to remind me next year and I'll get some pics for the contest as well as mebbe some of the clips from the local tv which always does a feature on 'em.
    The guy on the corner also raises money with his lights for the hospice I'm involved with and he does better every year. As for power loads, we're paupers nowadays with only a standard 100A (@230v) plus my added 44A but LEDs are getting cheaper and better year by year. We just got some extra for very little from the next door neighbour who manages a fancy goods importer's warehouse (nearly put an O after the W for some strange reason ) and he says they've had record sales this year on big outdoor LED sets and figures so hopefully, next year, we'll get some up on the new house which at one sub storey and one ground storey is easy for access as I've got a half roof half flat area for sun etc with stair access from inside and a kind of veranda all round. Still gotta have some slopey bits for the combo water and suntrap panels but I'll have a 2 storey house with a roof space and attic in the space of a normal large bungalow with all the convenience of both. I still have lots of friends in the heavy contracting sector so craneage of any kind from 5 to a 1000 tons or platforms of any size upto Super Simons are no problem and we definitely have some plans for a small display next year otherwise the grandkids will be gunnin for me cos I made one of those daft promises which grandparents mostly do.
    And I want to get ALL my pension money back so I ain't dyin for at least another 200 Years.
    Like an ol` 8086, slow but serviceable.
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Digital Parasite View Post
    Holdman's lights are crazy, it says he uses 300A just for the lights. I like his FM transmitter thing so you can hear the music in a car without having to blast it outside. Our house only has 100A coming in so there is no way we could even get close. How much electricity are all these lights going to use?
    While I don't doubt if Holdman had ALL his lights on there would be a hell-of-a current draw, I have a hard time thinking about 300A.

    We upgraded to a 200A main service a few years ago and I just picked up a 125A sub-panel today that I'll start wiring it up next week. It's a 12 position/24 circuit panel so I should have plenty of room. Even though each controller will be able to draw 40A, I'll bet 75% of mine will be only ~10A(except for the Mega-Tree controller since I'm planning on many, many lights there). I'm planning on 2 controllers per 20A GFCI circuit for all the house frame lights. Mega-Tree will probably be 4 20A GFCI circuits for only 2 controllers.

    I also have a 1W FM transmitter coming in from China...
    http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll...m=180199518393
    Stinks because I had a 200mW one from college days but of course I couldn't find it. Oh well tbh, this Chinese one seems pretty damn cool.

    There was an article about a guy in Canada who has tons of lights as well, cost him about $100/day in electricity and about $5000 over the season. He usually collects about $30000 for charity with them each year.
    $100/day is just plain crazy... no matter how rich you are.

    Holdman said last year he only paid ~$60 more because of all the switching of the lights. At any given time he estimated that only 30% of his lights were on. I have a feeling though that $60 estimate was for the wifey... probably more like $160 or $260 more.

    Last edited by Jeff; 01-05-2008 at 05:34 PM. Reason: Corrected "tired" typing. ;)
    Our Christmas Lights:
    MaineLights.org

  15. #15
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    The FM transmitter arrived from China today and I just did a little testing. Seems like 95.5FM will be the home for us from this day forward. Didn't think I'd have a problem picking a frequency but boy oh boy are things crowded. There were only a few places that didn't have some kind of reception on consecutive frequencies. Seems like 95.3-95.9 is pretty much open within a mile or so of the house.

    1W is definitely overkill btw... I can receive my station over a mile away if I put the transmitting antenna outside on the ground(which is a horrible spot btw). With the antenna inside the house, it's still pretty decent quality at around 1/2 mile. Better not piss any of the neighbors off next year or I might have to get a different transmitter.

    ~2000ft of wiring also showed up this week. I have a bit more wire to order but I'm already rethinking how I'm going to wire certain aspects of the show. Putting some controllers actually in the display will save a ton on wiring. They sell weather proof housings with the controller kits as an option so I may just pick up a couple when I order everything during the "Spring Sale".

    That's all for now. Next week I plan on really getting into the sequencing software... I have to go to Boston for the week and instead of hanging out at the bar for happy hour, I plan on playing around with the software. Yeah... sick I know.
    Our Christmas Lights:
    MaineLights.org

  16. #16
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    Picked up 3,000 ft of "zip cord" from an online surplus store for like half the cost it should have been. Also picked up three dozen male and female plug ends for it.

    On the electricity side, I started to wire up the 100A sub-panel today. Well... after I added a new circuit to the mud room and replaced some old(and damaged) wiring going to the old garage that is.

    I guess I should also mention that I've nickeled and dimed my credit card down to almost nothing now to prepare for the spring sale Light-O-Rama will have. And I did it in such a way that the wifey didn't even notice... BONUS!

    Other than that, I've just been busy with work(loads of OT) and the kids. I can't believe I used to spend 20 or more hours on the computer per week. I barely can fit in 1 or 2 now.
    Our Christmas Lights:
    MaineLights.org

  17. #17
    Free-DC Semi-retire gopher_yarrowzoo's Avatar
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    Jeff you may think the boss hasn't noticed but she will do at some point and then your BUSTED...
    Semi-retired from Free-DC...
    I have some time to help.....
    I need a new laptop

  18. #18
    dismembered Scoofy12's Avatar
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    What kind of software are you using for the sequencing? did it come with the sequencing hardware, or is it some sort of custom job or what?
    C-x C-c

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scoofy12 View Post
    What kind of software are you using for the sequencing? did it come with the sequencing hardware, or is it some sort of custom job or what?
    The software is made by the controller company, Light-O-Rama(or LOR for short). They have a demo of the software to get your feet wet before you actually buy any hardware. It's a nice program for what little I've played with it. After it gets a bit warmer out I'm going to set some stuff up in the back yard to get a real feel for the software.

    Here's the software linky...
    http://www.lightorama.com/demo.php


    BTW, this past weekend I made 7 mini-trees that have 100 red, 100 silver(aka clear or white) and 100 gold lights on them. The trees are only ~23"-24" tall so they look really bright with 300 lights

    I also finished wiring the sub-panel. I originally was going for a 100A breaker, but I decided to try a 60A breaker first. There is a $30 difference between the two and after doing some calculations, the 60A should be plenty. In reality if I load the panel evenly, that's basically 60A per phase, or 120A total draw and that should do me just fine.

    And finally, from the clearance rack at Lowes I picked up 8 outdoor weather resistant electrical boxes with two sets of GFCI outlets in each. I'm going to run separate 12 gauge wires to each GFCI receptacle on 5 of the boxes and a shared 12 gauge wire on the last three. The 5 boxes will be the ones feeding the sequencing equipment while the other 3 will be for "other" decorations.

    So, that's the update for today.
    Our Christmas Lights:
    MaineLights.org

  20. #20
    Christmas Lighterer!
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    Boy yesterday was rough on the old credit card. LOR had a "Secret Sale" for their end of tax year inventory reduction. Bought 5 more controllers to bring the total up to 6. Looks like 2008 will officially feature 96 channels of pure joy(unless the credit card takes another hit during LORs yearly sale in June).

    I also wired up 5 more mini-trees for a total of 12 now. I am almost thinking that I will go for 16 total and control each tree AND each color individually(for a total of 48 channels just for these trees). At first that sounded like a lot of channels to me, but with securing 96 channels this early in the year already, I can see myself adding 2 or 3 more controllers in June. (yes, it *IS*a sickness just like DC and everything else fun in life)

    And of course, another electrical update. After wiring the sub-panel up I got to thinking about the "not to code" hookup I had for the emergency generator. If I'm going to be doing things right, I may as well do this 100% correct then too so I ordered another sub-panel(with lockouts) and an outside generator outlet.
    (JFYI, the generator was backfeed through a 240v 20A circuit breaker to the main, which is only illegal because you have to switch the 200A main off and this one on in two seperate steps. Code requires some form of lockout so it is impossible for both to be on at the same time, which can create hazardous voltage outside your house by backfeeding through your transformer)
    Last edited by Jeff; 02-24-2008 at 07:22 AM.
    Our Christmas Lights:
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  21. #21
    Free-DC Semi-retire gopher_yarrowzoo's Avatar
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    Jeff - STOP NOW before it takes over your life , oh wait I think it already HAS!
    96 channels of joy - yeah you say that now but think of the wiring NIGHTMARE that will be 96 channels unless you plan on using good power rated multi-cored cable with at least 8 pairs so 1 for every 2 trees.. or just making it a massive bundle I'd start laying cable out about oh sept I know how hard it is to try and wiring up a single alarm panel fully zoned out - 8 zones, remote keypads, bell and a phone line + space for the battery - to say space is at a premium wouldn't be too far from the truth, and then there is carefully pushing it all in to make sure the cover closes and nothing is shorting out
    Now if your gonna make joint I did see something not sure how much of a power rating it's got but it's basically a gel filled crimp so you put the cables in, crimp it with a pair of pliers and your done it's water tight (to a point).

    Oh yeah Good luck with explaining the credit card to the Boss!
    Semi-retired from Free-DC...
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  22. #22
    Christmas Lighterer!
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    Thanks for the great ideas.

    I think being involved in a few video game shows in the past has helped me prepare for this undertaking. I was the guy in charge of getting as many old arcade games to the shows as possible. It was up to me to make sure everything was wired up for power and such so I started this whole thing off with a bunch of cords.

    On top of that I have purchased 3000' of "zip cord" and ends for most of the channels I will be doing. Less than 1A will be passed on most of my channels so this wiring will be plenty in terms of current.

    There are many different ways to wire up channels, one way is via a shared neutral. You basically oversize the neutral and then control each circuit with just the hot. It sounds worse than it is and it saves copper. I was planning on this route, but with all the wire I have already, I don't think I'll need to go this way.

    At any rate, LOR has shipped my controllers so I should have a present waiting for me when I get back home on Friday(away for work this week unfortunetly).
    Our Christmas Lights:
    MaineLights.org

  23. #23
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    Thumbs up


    Ended up getting the last of the controllers soldered/assembled today. It was nice having a very slow day at work today.

    The stack of boxes on the left are "Planet Christmas" controllers from LOR, think of them as a "bang for your buck" controller. The large gray box to their right is part of LOR's Showtime line, pretty much top end.

    Basically, the way I am going to be using them there isn't much difference in the two, except for $$$. And soldering/assembling them makes them all the cheaper.




    Figure I'll make the last two mini-trees tomorrow(for 16 total, or 300x16=4,800 total lights). After that, a little break is in order. Maybe for a week or two since I'm pretty much right on(or maybe even a little ahead) of my loose schedule.

    Next on the list are the outside electrical outlets. Only real pain in the butt ones are going to be up on the roof. Getting cables up there isn't going to be impossible, just dirty and time consuming.

    At any rate, once the weather gets a bit nicer, I'm going to be putting the 16 mini-trees in the back yard and then doing some demo work. I'll be sure to post a video once the real fun begins. Up until now it's basically just been all preparation work... and to be honest, I'm getting a bit antsy to start programming the show.
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    Our Christmas Lights:
    MaineLights.org

  24. #24
    Sweet, can't wait to see the demo.

  25. #25
    Christmas Lighterer!
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    Here is what we are working on now...
    http://www.adventurevision.com/pub/Arches/

    I'll put a little demo together once we are finished with the four arches we are making. The pictures show them with 800 multi-color minis on them. After that, we add 900 clear minis. The multi-color will be either all on or off while the clear minis will be grouped 100 per 12". These sections are how we will animate.
    Our Christmas Lights:
    MaineLights.org

  26. #26
    Senior Member paleseptember's Avatar
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    Ooooh, shiny!

    is still eight months away, you'll have to install your own power substation at this rate to ensure 'quality' electric

  27. #27
    =>Team Joker<= LAURENU2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff View Post
    Thanks for the great ideas.
    Jeff did you ever think of getting like a disco laser light show
    That way you can use All the houses around your house as a screen for your Lights
    Or just to high lite the snow when it falls

  28. #28
    Christmas Lighterer!
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    Personally, I haven't really thought about it, but I did notice someone else has...
    http://planetchristmas.mywowbb.com/forum13/23113.html

    I have a feeling my location of being within 2 miles of our airport may just make me forget about anything like that. Pretty darn cool though.
    Our Christmas Lights:
    MaineLights.org

  29. #29
    Christmas Lighterer!
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    BTW, I have been taking a small break from the Christmas lights. Those arches take alot out of you since it is such slow work. I partly wish I would have settled on just white lights since over-wrapping a second layer is tough. I will eventually update with pictures and a video or two of them working.
    Our Christmas Lights:
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  30. #30
    =>Team Joker<= LAURENU2's Avatar
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    ya you could put a star over your house like this
    http://chinesedepartmentstore.com.cn...n-laser-01.MPG
    You should setup a network Vid cam and broadcast live to the Net

  31. #31
    Take a nice break, you still have a while before light season is upon us. In fact we still have snow on our front lawn.

  32. #32
    Christmas Lighterer!
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    Have been going at it over the past few weeks again. Loads of projects have been finished and I'm working on loads more. Here's a little test video of one of the arches(not in the arch position though)...
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=92ZpELCscEY

    I currently have 4 of those arches done hanging from the basment rafters and I'm thinking I may do 4 more... if I have time.

    I'm going to try and setup some items in the back yard and do a little programming just to get the feel for the software. For the above video I just used a sequence from someone else and massaged it to work with my arch.

    At any rate, I'll probably update this again over the next few weeks with hopefully a cool video with about 15,000-20,000 lights setup in the back yard.

    Here's the website I've been updating for friends and family to see my wackiness.
    http://www.mainelights.org

    Hope everyone has had a great summer so far!
    Our Christmas Lights:
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  33. #33
    Honda Sportbike Rider .CBR600 Cappy's Avatar
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    Jeff is there a site and or such that explains how this is done????

    is it all tied into a computer and switchs and or what,,, and they way these

    things play to music just blows me away can you direct me to a step by

    step site and maybe a parts section that explains what you need to do this and why???

    this has always interrested me and really would like to give it a try???

    THANKS for any info you can provide m8,,, i think the kids would love this

    and the neibors would really not like me then :P :P like i care what they think lol..

    just make them jealous and then they would have to try also i like compitition

  34. #34
    That is very cool to see your progress. Good luck with the programming and can't wait to see the final product!

  35. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cappy@[SETI.USA] View Post
    Jeff is there a site and or such that explains how this is done????

    is it all tied into a computer and switchs and or what,,, and they way these

    things play to music just blows me away can you direct me to a step by

    step site and maybe a parts section that explains what you need to do this and why???

    this has always interrested me and really would like to give it a try???

    THANKS for any info you can provide m8,,, i think the kids would love this

    and the neibors would really not like me then :P :P like i care what they think lol..

    just make them jealous and then they would have to try also i like compitition
    Phew... I'll try answering all those questions... here goes...

    I've learned a bunch going to...
    Light-O-Rama:
    http://www.lightorama.com/

    Light-O-Rama forums:
    http://lightorama.mywowbb.com/

    Do-It-Yourself-Christmas forums:
    http://www.doityourselfchristmas.com/forums/

    Planet Christmas forums:
    http://talk.planetchristmas.com/

    Light-O-Rama is an awesome company and they make an awesome product. In the beginning of this thread I talk about their controllers and the software used to synchronize the lights to music.

    Basically the L-O-R controllers can control 16 different "channels" of light. Each channel can be turned on or off, dimmed, flashed, faded up or down, and "sparkled". And L-O-R controllers can be connected together with simple phone cable up to 255 controllers. I'm using 9 this year but 255 would be nice.

    Just start reading at the above links and you should be able to get a handle on what is needed to start doing this. L-O-R has a starter package that includes a 16-channel controller and the software. I saved a TON of money because I bought 8 of my kits completely unassembled. I soldered all the components to the PCB and did all the assembly into the cases. (Again, you can same a TON of money this way...)

    If you get into it and have any questions, feel free to ask. I don't know a lot about this hobby yet but I'm getting there slowly. I'm already looking forward to 2009 when I'll have more time for things other than the basics.
    Our Christmas Lights:
    MaineLights.org

  36. #36
    Honda Sportbike Rider .CBR600 Cappy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    s/w Pa.
    Posts
    15
    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff View Post
    Phew... I'll try answering all those questions... here goes...

    I've learned a bunch going to...
    Light-O-Rama:
    http://www.lightorama.com/

    Light-O-Rama forums:
    http://lightorama.mywowbb.com/

    Do-It-Yourself-Christmas forums:
    http://www.doityourselfchristmas.com/forums/

    Planet Christmas forums:
    http://talk.planetchristmas.com/

    Light-O-Rama is an awesome company and they make an awesome product. In the beginning of this thread I talk about their controllers and the software used to synchronize the lights to music.

    Basically the L-O-R controllers can control 16 different "channels" of light. Each channel can be turned on or off, dimmed, flashed, faded up or down, and "sparkled". And L-O-R controllers can be connected together with simple phone cable up to 255 controllers. I'm using 9 this year but 255 would be nice.

    Just start reading at the above links and you should be able to get a handle on what is needed to start doing this. L-O-R has a starter package that includes a 16-channel controller and the software. I saved a TON of money because I bought 8 of my kits completely unassembled. I soldered all the components to the PCB and did all the assembly into the cases. (Again, you can same a TON of money this way...)

    If you get into it and have any questions, feel free to ask. I don't know a lot about this hobby yet but I'm getting there slowly. I'm already looking forward to 2009 when I'll have more time for things other than the basics.

    W0W THANKS BRO !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    that will help alot ya been thinking about this for along time , ever since i seen the first video on You Tube :P

    once again THANK YOU FOR YOUR RESPONCE !!!!

  37. #37
    Free-DC Semi-retire gopher_yarrowzoo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Location
    Santa Ana, CA
    Posts
    3,980
    yeah cappy, see told ya we was helpful over here ..
    Oh goto http://stats.free-dc.org/stats.php?page=statstool and set up your tag on here they look real nice don't they
    Semi-retired from Free-DC...
    I have some time to help.....
    I need a new laptop

  38. #38
    Christmas Lighterer!
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Location
    Upstate NY, USA
    Posts
    556
    Blog Entries
    1
    Haven't gotten the arches up this week at all for testing but I wrapped another two 5' trees and put lights on my first wire frame...
    http://www.mainelights.org/GiantStar/

    Talk about alot of zip ties?!?!?
    Our Christmas Lights:
    MaineLights.org

  39. #39
    So Jeff, how are things going? Time is running out now!

  40. #40
    Christmas Lighterer!
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Location
    Upstate NY, USA
    Posts
    556
    Blog Entries
    1
    Sorry for the delayed response but things are going full tilt now. I have finished the roof outline with lights spaced every 2". I ended up making the stringers so basically I had to put 1100 sockets on some SPT1 wire... yeah, 1100. Then I had to populate those sockets with ~350 red, ~350 gold, and ~350 white lights.

    I also just got done wrapping ten 20" wreaths with 50 red, 50 gold, and 50 white lights. They are also on the house now.

    Beleive it or not, I was just kicking back with a cold one in the driveway watching the show. And even with only the roof line lights and the window wreaths it looks pretty darn good.

    I only have icicle lights left to hang one the gutters and then all my ladder work is done.

    After a few more weeks, I'll get all the lights going in the yard and then test for a few weeks before opening night on Thanksgiving. I can't wait!

    -Jeff

    [edit]Can't believe I didn't post this but I have a little website regarding our Christmas decorating here...
    http://www.mainelights.org
    It shows some of the projects I/we have done over the past 10 months.
    Last edited by Jeff; 10-23-2008 at 09:52 PM.
    Our Christmas Lights:
    MaineLights.org

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