Behind The Scenes
When & How
It all started a several years ago when local businessman James Varner worked with local businesses and the Chamber of Commerce to create several animated displays around Andrews.
During Christmas 2006, I became interested in during a display at our home. First I downloaded the software from Light-O-Rama. Then I watched 100's of videos, both on their site, and from links at PlanetChristmas. I adopted several ideas for my show, including a mega-tree and roof snowflakes (from Jeff Trykoski's Site in Frisco).
Then came the important part- the 'after Christmas' sales on lights at Walmart, Westlake Hardware, Home Depot, and Lowes. I didn't know how many lights I would eventually use, but at 75% off, it's the best time to buy.
We have over 240,000 lights, of which around half was used in our initial show for 2007.
Next came the hardware. Fortunately, Light-O-Rama has a great sale in July, so we were able to acquire 23 16-channel controllers, for a total of 368 channels of animation. Over the next few months we found the FM transmitter on Ebay, and setup the dedicated computer that runs the show.
In September 2007, we poured concrete for the 50' Mega-Tree and set the guy line anchors.
In October 2007, we began preparing the lights for the Mega-Tree. Each string is actually 2 strings (one clear, one multi) wrapped around 12 gauge THHN wire, then tie-wrapped. This process alone took over 20 hours.
Once we had most of the main parts of the show planned, then the tedious job of sequencing the lights to music began. This process takes 10-20 hours per minute of music to complete.
After Christmas was over, we decided to add Red and Green strings to the Mega-Tree and House, so selective shopping followed.
For the 2008 Show, we moved the Nativity Star up 10', to make the tree 60' tall. A 100' "Beam of Light" goes from the star to the Nativity Scene. We've also added eight 1200watt fog machines, moving yoke stage lighting, and lasers. This is primarily used during the Elvis Intro from his Hawaii concert.
After a two year absence, we debut several major additions in 2012. We've consolidated our 'mega-tree' strings to include 64 strands of red/green/clear, and added 10' to each one to make them 60' long. This took over 150 hours, much more than estimated. The most impressive part will be the addition of individually controlled LED 'pixels'. A new 20' 'Pixel' tree with 1800 RGB led's will be featured in several songs, as well as a 16' wide horizontal grid at show center. We will be cutting out some of the stage lighting and effects that debuted in 2008 for our Elvis concert feature.
For 2013, we built new 'mini trees', replacing the 5 original ones with three 16' RGB LED trees. The center one is also a 'pixel' tree, with 1200 individually controlled LED's. Our clear,red, and green roof strings were replaced with RGB LED's as well. 'God Bless the USA' became our #1 attraction.
Beginning in January 2014, we began testing different ways to replace the huge yard grid and 70' megatree with LED's. Given software constraints, reliability, and weather durability, we elected to use 'dumb' RGB LED's. The total count needed was just under 37,000 bulbs, with 80 350watt 12vdc power supplies needed to power them. Because the 60'-80' length was needed on each string, the load would be greater than almost any DMX controller would be able to handle. Single channel amplifiers we put in line for each of the three colors, (red/green/blue) on each of the 60 channels of our new yard grid, and 32 channels for our 64 string MegaTree.
Just before Christmas 2013 we were contacted by scouts for the "ABC" show "The Great Christmas Light Fight" who were looking for homes to be featured the next season. After a lengthy submission process we were finally selected to compete against three other homes for a $50,000 cash prize.
Pictures of Mega-Tree Pictures of (Original) 11' Mini-Trees
(More pictures on picture page)