Belair Christmas Lights

Belair Christmas lights Icon

How it Works...

There are two main parts to the system: 1) the software that sets up and controls the lights, and 2) the hardware that drives the lights.  
The heart of the show is (for now) my PC.  This PC runs the show program and sends the commands to the light controllers via the home network.  

Software

The show program is where the show sequence is created. (I use Vixen 3)   
You create the list of elements - the things with lights on them that you want to make flash.  
The music track is assigned to the show sequence.  
While playing the music you go through and setup what you want each element to do at a point in time according to the music.  It could be turn on, turn off, flash, flicker, change colours, etc.  
This takes an awful long time and involves replaying a period of a song over and over again to get the timing right and to see what the show will look like on the visualiser.   
It is no exaggeration when I say that each minute of a song can take several hours to program.  

Hardware

Each light controller takes the commands sent from the PC and turns the lights on or off.  
I use two types of light controllers, the first is used for standard LED strings.  These are the type of LEDs you would buy from a department store or hardware shop.  The second type of controller works with LED pixels.  LED pixels are a single multicolour LED that can be set to any colour.   (About 16 million colours to choose from!)  
I use 5V, 12V and 24V power supplies to drive the different LED strings.  Even though LEDs are low voltage I still need to provide enough current to drive more than 20,000 LEDs  (approx 800 Amps are required to turn them all on at once).  To achieve this there are over 20 power supplies driving the LEDs.  
Connecting all of the 'bits' together requires lots of cables.  I use Cat5 cable (the stuff you use for networks) for the data signals to the lights.   Power is supplied via Figure 8 cable.  
I dont track how much cable I have bought, but there are kilometers of cable in the show.  For exampe the 8 mini trees down the side of the driveway, alone, use 240m of Cat 5 cable.  
I use lots of extension leads and 4way power boards to transfer 240V where needed for the power supplies.