2018 – My First Christmas Light Pixel Display

It’s just a few weeks before Christmas 2018, and I wanted to take this opportunity to really document and recap what I’ve installed for Christmas this year.

If you’re new to Learn Christmas Lighting, you can learn more about me here.  I’ve been working with pixels and stage lighting as my career for over 10 years, and over 2018, I decided to make my first, synced to music, Christmas light display.

So, I bought some pixels.  For this first year, I bought 300, 12mm 5v Pixels from DIYLEDEXPRESS, and at the last minute added an additional 200, 12v “Amazon pixels” for the tree inside.

Here’s what my display looked like for this “first” display:My 2018 Display

Like any project I get into, my plans started basic and got considerably more complex as time went on.  🙂

I started off the year mid-summer, and figured I’d build a basic display and do some very basic scenes and transitions between them, but nothing fancy or synchronized to music.

Then, in September I really started planning. I decided that if I was going to do this, I might as well do it right and do my limited number of pixels but fully synchronized to music.

Hardware

And that was the day I bought an FM transmitter.

After scouring the web, I decided to buy the Whole House FM transmitter 3.0.

Now, this particular transmitter has mixed reviews online, but so does pretty much any transmitter that you can buy.  There’s a lot of user error that goes into setting these up!  I found mine on eBay refurbished for a reduced cost.

Next, I decided on my layout.

I figured it’d be a good idea for the first year to outline the columns of my porch because that would allow me to both do some cool video like animations and also keep it simple.

Power Supply Protection Boxes

My DIY power supply protection boxes – nice and dry inside after heavy rain!

While in my career in stage lighting I have deployed lots of pixels, I had never put out an installation in the rain for an extended period of time, so I thought it would be wise to keep it simple.

To mount the pixels, I went with Boscoyo Studios pixel strips.

I found these to be pretty amazing, really easy to use.

Because I outlined the outside of my columns I built a simple mount with some PVC pipes that I’ve in zip-tied the strips too. It worked really well.

To power the pixels, I used some waterproof Meanwell power supplies, in waterproof ammo boxes from Harbor Freight.

My indoor pixels used a no-brand12-volt power supply, and I also located my pixel controller there.

I went with the Advatek Pixlite 4 ECO, driven by an old PC that has a 3rd generation Intel i3 processor.

Software

The Vixen interface.

When it comes to Christmas lights sequencing software, there are two main (free) options: Vixen and xLights.

I tried out those pieces of software and ultimately decided for this year to go with Vixen.

I found Vixen to be simpler to use and easy to get started as someone who’d while I have lighting experience I’ve never done Christmas lighting before. These pieces of software have a very different approach to programming compared to what I’m used to.

Outcome

Overall, I’m very happy with the way this display turned out. Having placed the pixels in vertical stripes allowed me to do some really cool stuff, and then the extra lights on the Christmas tree and added some extra fun. Plus my son loved watching the Christmas tree from inside every night.

Next year, I’m already planning a much larger display. I consider this year’s display a “proof-of-concept” – everything went great and now I’m ready to scale up to a much larger display for 2019.

Until then, I’ll be writing here sharing my knowledge on pixels and how to do a really great job of making an easy to maintain, fun to deploy Christmas light display. I hope you’ll join me!

About the author

David Henry

David first began using pixels in stage lighting, and then decided to try it out on his house. The result? An urge to create useful and helpful information to help non-technical folks create great Christmas lighting with pixels on their homes!


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