These are some commonly asked questions about our show, and shows like it. If you want more technical information- please visit Wolf’s blog at:
Q: Don’t you have a huge electric bill doing this?
A: No, we don’t at all. While we have some conventional decorations like blow-molds and inflatables that use more power, our light show itself only averages about 200W when most of the LEDs are lit. The controllers use very little power, and the LEDs only use power when they are actually lit up. We use a power management system to track it, and from Thanksgiving to New Years we only add about $12 to our electric bill.
Q: How do you do make the lights play to the music?
A: It’s pretty involved, but in a nutshell:
We use special software called xLights to digitize all of our display elements (decorations). We can then load music into it and map different elements of the music, like beat, melody, different instruments, and lyrics, to special effects on those display elements. Once this programming is completed, the “Sequence” is saved. In many cases- we buy sequences from vendors and then adapt them to our own show, which saves us countless hours of programming time.
Once the sequences are done- they are uploaded to the computer and controller network that actually controls all of the lights. These all run software called FalconPlayer or FPP. A show-runner computer manages the music, sequence library and playlists, and has a scheduling system. It coordinates with the other controllers to make all the lights blink to the music when they are supposed to. We use a small low-power FM transmitter so you can hear the music without having large speakers outside.
Q: Don’t you upset your neighbors doing this?
A: Well, so far we don’t think so. We talk to our neighbors next door and across the street and they love the show and have been very supportive.
The biggest thing that upsets folks in the neighborhood isn’t the lights themselves, it’s cars stopping in the middle of the street or blocking their driveways, or folks with their windows rolled down blaring the music. Please don’t do this. Also, when you stop, please turn your headlights off so they aren’t shining in windows or blinding other people trying to drive by or watch the show.
Q: Have you won any awards? Have you seen “The Great Christmas Light Fight?”
A: Yes and yes. These always seem to go together. First and foremost though- we aren’t in this for awards or competition. We are in this for our own enjoyment, and to provide something that we hope our community enjoys too. We have won a couple of local awards (Thank you!), and have zero interest in anything like The Great Christmas Light Fight.
What really makes us happy is seeing more people in our neighborhood and community putting up Christmas lights and getting into the holiday spirit. For a long time- people just weren’t decorating anymore, and there has been a surge over the last few years that we are happy to be a part of.
Q: Are there other shows like yours around here?
A: Yes- two that we know of:
Jeff’s Christmas Lights
1858 Evondale St
Cape Girardeau, MO
Hubbard Family Lights
1565 Jennifer Dr
If anyone else knows of any great animated/musical light shows in the area- we are happy to add them to our list. I will probably actually build a Christmas Light list for 2022. Most of the local Christmas Light lists we found in 2020 and 2021 were pretty lacking, and some had outdated info. Just let us know via our Facebook or Twitter accounts, especially if you do your own musical light show like ours! We would love to see it and send people your way.
Q: Can I just buy this stuff at Menards, Home Depot, Lowes, or Amazon?
A: No. There are no “plug-and-play” light shows like this that you can just buy, set up, and walk away from. Our show is made up of over 150 DIY and commercially-sourced props/decorations, dozens of computer, network, and controller components, thousands of feet of power, network, and data cable, and of course- thousands of individually-addressed pixel nodes and matrix panels. It takes both of us hundreds of hours each year to prepare and set up, and it requires daily maintenance to keep running. Each musical light sequence can take many hours or even days to program. We love doing it, but have also seen a lot of people jump into this hobby and quickly get frustrated and give up, after devoting a LOT of time and money to it.
In 2021 we and others in this hobby noticed a lot of fly-by-night (foreign) companies selling complete “light shows” online, especially on Facebook. Some have even stolen video from real shows like ours, claiming they can do the same thing for a few hundred dollars. They can’t. Please don’t waste your money. There are some legitimate online sellers of (expensive!) pre-built controller boxes and custom pixel strings, but beyond that- this is still a very-DIY hobby, with limited or no real “support” other than online forums.
If you want more information about running a show like this, Wolf’s tech blog at https://lunardenlights.com has a lot more information, including resources and terminology links. A background in electronics and computers, or an aptitude and strong desire to learn, is a must!
A related question that is often asked is “How much did all this cost?”. We haven’t kept careful track, and don’t really want to. It’s a hobby after-all! I will say that if you want to do this, you can count on spending as much as $1000/year or more.
Q: Is there someone we can just pay to do this for us? How about you?
A: We have “day jobs” and just doing our own show takes up a significant amount of our spare time throughout the year. There are some folks who have made a business out of doing this and do full installs, mostly for commercial and municipal projects. They are in larger cities though. Unfortunately as far as we know there is nobody in this area that does them.
Most local landscaping companies do some really outstanding conventional Christmas Light installs, which are a good option if you can’t devote time to a pixel light show. As far as we are concerned- any lights are better than none!
Q: Where is your donation box?
A: We don’t have one. Please see here.