Christmas Lights Show
About The Show
My fascination with computerized christmas lights started one day after watching a video of Carson Williams house. After watching that video, I decided that one day I would do my own show. The first show started in 2007 running on a spare Pentium III computer without any controllers. The show used a direct connection to the computers parallel port, which gave me 12 channels. The next year, I added a parallel port expansion card, which doubled the number of channels to 24. For 2009, I built my first controller called the Renard 64. This controller has 64 channels and was different form previous ones because it supported dimming. In 2010, I added a new 24 channel controller to the setup. The total channel count was now 88 channels. The 2013 season brought a 32 channel low voltage DC controller to the show, which brought the chsnnel count to 120 channels. With 2014 arrived another 32 channel controller. The ever increasing channel count has risen to 152 channels.
The show is located at the corner of Lahring and Fairbanks roads in Linden Michigan.
How The Show Works
The Show Computer
The show all starts with the show computer. My show computer is an Intel Atom based system with 4gb of ram and a solid state drive. The computer runs Windows 7 and a piece of software called Vixen. Vixen runs previously programed sequences and sends data to controllers out in the yard. The data is sent through the serial port and through an RS-485 converter. The RS-485 converter allows the data to be sent over long distances. The blue cable coming out of the converter runs through the attic and to the front porch.
I have several controllers located outside that control the show. The first one is a Renard 24 that is hung on the house and controls all the lights on the house. There are two data cables that run to the first controller. One comes from the show computer, and the other one goes out into the yard to the Renard 64.The Renard64 located in the yard controls the bulk of the objects in the yard such as the mega tree and arches.
The controllers receive the data from the computer and either turn on, off, or dim each channel to a specific percent. Each channel on a controller connects to an SSR box witch does most of the work. The SSRs are a kind of electronic light switch that actually controls the power going to the lights. The SSRs are located through the yard and are connected to the controller through Cat5 networking cables. Each section of lights is plugged into one outlet of an SSR box.