2015 Adams Family Christmas Lights!!! (With Pixels!)

2015 Christmas Lights

Come watch our lights right here in North Ogden, Utah. We aren’t very hard to find ūüôā The show runs nightly from 5:30-10:00 PM. We currently have 2 songs running and are working on more. If you can’t come in real life check out this video!

Pixels!

We have switched to pixels this year! Meaning everything in the show is RGB capable, and we can control every single light independently from all other lights. This is how we have sweeping effects from one side of the house to the other.

How Much Power?!

Our Display has the following:

  • 6097 Pixels
  • 8728 RGB LEDs
  • 5-12V DC power for all LEDs
  • 307.2A Max Current Draw
  • 1924.5W Max Power Draw

1924.5W is the most interesting number. This is a little more power than a hair dryer uses, and a little less power than a clothes dryer uses. Also keep in mind that this is the max power the display uses. That is when everything is full bright white. A single color of red, green, or blue uses 1/3 of the amount of power listed. Plus the entire display is rarely on, so I would guess the average power usage is around 1/4 of max or around 500W. This puts the cost of running the show for the month of December at around $6.50 in electricity. Not bad.

A “Pixel” means I have full control over the color and brightness of that light/element. Some elements have multiple LEDs (e.g. each piano key has multiple LEDs inside). This is why the total number is listed LEDs is higher than the total number of Pixels listed.

2015 Power and Light Detailed Specifications

I Want This On My House!

I wish you luck! This type of lighting is not for the faint of heart. It can most definitely¬†be done, but plan on putting in months of work to get something like our show. I’m not joking. It has literally taken months of work to get our lights fully operational.

If you are serious, there are tons of resources available on the interwebs.¬†DoItYourselfChristmas.com¬†is a fantastic resource that I pulled much on my information from. HolidayCoro.com has lots of lights and information. As does diyledexpress.com and boscoyostudio.com.¬†And Ray Wu’s store on AliExpress is vital. Don’t be afraid to buy from China. Ray is a really nice guy. (None of this post is sponsored and we don’t make a dime off the lights FYI)

Custom WiFi Controllers

I have designed and built our own custom Pixel and RGB strip controllers for this year. Each element has a little control box that all of the strands of pixels connect into. Each control box has a DC power supply, a custom circuit board, and a Particle Photon running custom firmware (With the most important part being FastLED). Each Photon hooks up to our home WiFi network where a Raspberry Pi is sending out the commands to each control box.

I will be posting more details about my circuit board/firmware in it’s own post soon. Here is what each¬†circuit board looks like though

Pixel Controller

Individual Item Information

Arches

Arches

Each arch is a 9.1ft length of HDPE pipe. We ordered a 100ft roll to save on shipping. Each arch has an 80 light section¬†of WS2812 30/m Pixels inside. I have plugs on both ends for power injections. A rebar cap is used as a foot for each arch. A hole was drilled in the base of each rebar cap for a tent stake¬†to go into the ground. A ~6ft length of 3/4″ Conduit¬†with a hole through both ends was used to hold the shape of the arch. A bolt goes through a hole in the HDPE, through the rebar¬†cap, and through the conduit to secure secure all the pieces together.

Matt Johnson has a fantastic video on building HDPE arches.

Candy Canes

Candy Canes

My Candy Canes are based off of the fabulous Candy Canes over at HolidayCoro. They have some great videos that go into great detail on building this type of Candy Cane.

The Candy Canes I made require 1 4’x8′ 4mm White and 1 4’x8′ 4mm¬†Black CoroPlast sheet per set of 5 Candy Canes. You will also need 16 WS2811 Modules for each Candy Cane (80 modules¬†or 4 strings of 20 per 5 Candy Canes)

Here is what I drew up in CAD for my Candy Canes. I hooked up my computer to an old projector, lined up the image on a sheet or coroplast and starting tracing each candy cane onto the sheets. The extra material in between each candy cane outline is used to make the walls (from the white sheet), and the dividers (from the black sheet). Cut up all of the extra material into strips to have enough.

Candy Cane Drawing Guide

Now¬†you start assembling. I found it worked well to start with a white candy cane outline, hot glue on the (white) walls, then hot glue in the (black) dividers. Next I stuck the WS2811 modules to the black¬†candy cane outline, soldered on the plugs I wanted, made a notch for the plugs to go out, then glued to black to the rest of the candy cane. That’s all there is too it really. It takes forever though. I think we figured around 4 hours of work per Candy Cane.

House

House Outline

The House outline was pretty time consuming. Mostly due to mounting, power injection, and waterproofing. For the house we are using WS2812 30/m 5V Strips. Due to the small nature of the flexible circuit boards the pixels are mounted on, we power inject every 80 pixels max. This requires a lot of injection points. The strips are mounted to the house using ¬†3/4″ NM Staples¬†with the tabs ground down and¬†a¬†Silicone Clip¬†on the inside of each staple.

We used 12AWG, 14AWG, and 16AWG Landscape wire for all of the power injection wiring. Our house alone required around 600ft of wire! This calculator makes quick work of figuring out what size wire you need for which point depending on distance, amps, and voltage.

The house is driven with 3 of our custom controllers to keep the costs of running power injection wires down.

Matrices (Matrix)Matrices (Matrix)

The matrices are built around a 4’x8′ sheet of 2″ Spacing PixNode Net from HolidayCoro. We cut the net into two 4’x4′ pieces, which leaves you with a 24×24 pixel grid. Pop 576 WS2811 5V Bullet Pixels¬†into the holes and you are almost¬†done. Since we used 5V pixels we chose to power inject on every row to keep things nice and white. We did end up using a 8ft length of 4AWG wire to reach the control box. That stuff is huge, hard to solder, and expensive.

MegaTree MegaTree

MegaTree Front MegaTree Front Bottom MegaTree Mounting Ring MegaTree Backside

 

The MegaTree is built around PixNode Strip¬†and¬†WS2811 5V Bullet Pixels. The tree is a 180 degree tree with 16 strand of 50 pixels on each strand. The pixels are currently on a 3″ spacing. The bottom of each strip has a string that is staked into the ground. The top of each strip is zip tied to ring that we welded up. The center of the MegaTree is our flag pole so we used a split ring hanger, welded on some rebar supports, then welded on a circularly bent piece of conduit. The PixNode strips¬†are zip tied to the conduit. The split ring hanger makes for a very secure mount to the flag pole. Again, since these are 5V pixels, each strand has power injection. Data is daisy chained up and down the tree.

MegaTree Star

MegaTree Star

The MegaTree Star is built around the same¬†PixNode Strip¬†and¬†WS2811 5V Bullet Pixels. We first welded up a star out of rebar, then zip tied on some¬†PixNode strips on the inside and the outside of the rebar (to give 2 concentric stars). Pop in all of the pixels, add power injection where necessary, and solder on a couple of plugs. We also used a¬†split ring hanger¬†to secure the star to the flag pole as well. I would like the redo this star eventually since our rough estimate on the dimensions didn’t work out quite perfect. (See the LittleTree Stars below for how a star should be done)

Piano

This is a major project. It deserves it’s own post. See here

LittleTrees

LittleTrees (PixelTrees)

Little Tree Bottom Wheel Front View Little Trees Backside Little Tree Top Wheel Little Tree Bottom Wheel

These are very similar to the MegaTree. Using the same¬†PixNode Strip¬†and¬†WS2811 5V Bullet Pixels. The trees are 180 degree trees with 9 strand of 33 pixels on each strand. 2″ pixel spacing. Each tree is built around a piece of rebar. Then a “wheel” is built for the top and bottom. The “wheels” are a piece of pipe with rebar struts going out to a wire ring that we found at a gardening shop. The PixNode strips are zip tied/stringed to the wire rings. The wheels are then held in place on the rebar with a pin. This way the trees can be collapsed to save on storage space.

LittleTree Stars

Little Tree Star

Little Tree Star

I designed these with Autodesk Fusion 360. Cut them out of some 3/4″ MDF on my little CNC machine, and they turned out fantastic. Just pop in the¬†WS2811 5V Bullet Pixels, wire them into the end of the little tree and go. I really like these.

Other Supplies

Programming

Our show was entirely programmed/sequenced with Xlights/Nutcracker. It’s free and Open Source. A HUGE thank you goes out to all of the folks who have put so much time into developing the software. It takes about 4-5 days of work to sequence each song we have running in our show.

Feel free to ask any questions in the comments section below! Happy Pixels!

  • Mike Forbes

    Hi, any info on how you designed your controller board, can you share your gerber files, and how you synced the photon with fastled with xlights? I’m really interested in your design Thank you

    • shane bourgeois

      yeah that would be really cool