What Software Should I Use to Run My Christmas Lights? Vixen, LOR, or xLights?

A few years ago, I made the decision that I wanted to build my first Christmas light show.

So, I went ahead and started going….

Step 1: Buy some lights.

Step 2: Get them wired.

Step 3: “Sequence” them to music.

And that’s where I drew a complete blank! Having a background in stage lighting, the first 2 steps were pretty easy to learn, but the software aspect was a bit more difficult – let me explain.

Christmas light sequencing programs don’t really work anything like stage lighting control programs, even though they use the same protocols and similar types of lights.

So, I began to do some research.

It turns out, in Christmas lighting, there are 3 main programs – Vixen, Light-O-Rama (LOR), and xLights.

In this article, I’m going to dive in to each program and weigh the pro’s and con’s. Each has it’s strengths, so while I’ve found the program that I enjoy best, you may find a different program best suits you. Let’s dive in!

Vixen

Vixen is a free, open source sequencing software for Christmas lighting.

For my very first year, I used Vixen to make my display and was quite happy with the experience and outcome.

Vixen in action!

If you’re just starting out, and aren’t the kind of person who really dives into detail and making everything just perfect, then Vixen may be right for you.

Setup

Vixen allows you to simply set up the design of your show in 2D, and then sequence patterns and videos across your individual elements or your whole display.

I found the setup a bit confusing at first, but I think that was mostly because I wanted it to work like a stage lighting console, which it is not. Once I got the hang of it, I found that there were tools built in to quickly and easily set up my lights inside of Vixen.

Yes, the interface can feel a little clunky and confusing between the different windows, but if you follow the tutorials that are provided by the developers it’s not too difficult to learn.

Sequencing

The selection of different effects is pretty vast, and as you gain an understanding on how to use them, you’ll find you can really do a TON with it.

Like most programs in Christmas lighting, Vixen offers a timeline to set your music on. You can then drag and drop different FX on different elements of your show, which lay out vertically, and then play it to test it as you work.

There are not a lot of “pre-built” sequences available for Vixen, so you’re going to be rolling your own FX and building them into sequences.

Some folks find this to be their favorite part of making a display – I enjoy it a good deal myself. It does take a great deal of time, especially if you want to be particular or do complex effects.

But, if you’re not that type of person, then I’d probably recommend looking at the other options below. 🙂

Scheduling

Vixen offers a great scheduler to set up your display to run automatically.

I set up my show quickly, and let this run for the entire season last year (Late Nov – Early Jan), with absolutely no problems.

I did hit one hiccup, when I wanted to create a static scene for my indoor Christmas tree.

I needed to have it turn the pixels on my tree on and blue for the daytime hours, and unfortunately, Vixen doesn’t really allow you to create non-musical sequences.

Because of that, I had to create an hour-long sequence that repeated all day. This mostly worked, but occasionally I would notice as the tree would quickly blink when the sequence restarted.

My Take:

I think Vixen is an excellent program, and probably the quickest to get up and running with.

It’s not as complex as the other options below, and I’ve found that I get frustrated when trying to do very complex FX…but that’s probably the lighting designer in me!

If I wasn’t so particular, I could definitely use Vixen for years to come and be very happy with my show. Even though the “industry” of Christmas Light folks definitely prefer xLights, I think Vixen is a very solid choice, and perfect if you’re not going for an overly complex show.

It’s quicker to learn than LOR or xLights, so if you’re tight on time, it’s a good one to use.

Light-O-Rama (LOR)

I’ve got to warn you right now, I’m not a big fan of LOR.

While Light-O-Rama was probably a pivotal program in getting this industry started, it just doesn’t shine above the other options available today!

LOR is a paid program, and to be honest, it’s quite expensive for a “once-a-year” use, especially if you upgrade it yearly and want to have a large display.

Note: To test Light-O-Rama, I downloaded the demo and worked with it. Unlike the other 2 options, I have not used LOR on a live display.

Setup

LOR really confused me when I first installed it. Like most software, I unchecked the box to place an icon on my desktop, as I really like to keep things clean.

The installer spit out a number of installed programs (literally, 13), and I inevitably choose the wrong once when I first tried to launch it.

As I got into the program, I found that it was on par with the other options when setting up my display. It had more “tooltips” and popups to guide me and felt a little more polished than other options but wasn’t really any more efficient than the other programs.

I did appreciate that the “patching”, or assigning of lights to controllers, is built-in to the sequencer. Simply double-clicking any of my props allowed me to edit the patch settings for that prop.

Sequencing

When you get to sequencing, you realize that the LOR program was definitely designed for regular Christmas Lights, and not pixels – they were a “add-on” later.

There are (2) sequencing windows that you have to use in order to work with pixels – the “Sequencer” and the “SuperStar Sequencer”.

The LOR SuperStar Sequencer in action

The regular sequencer can generate effects like twinkles, chases and on/off for regular Christmas lights, and then can import “SuperStar” sequences that control pixels.

So, it’s a little awkward compared to other programs, having to go to a completely different window to program your pixels, but it works.

While it’s easy to see the downsides to this approach, the upside is that you have to save all of your pixel sequences as individual files, so you can easily bring them into different sequences as you program your show.

Scheduling

Like the other Christmas light sequencing programs, LOR’s scheduler is pretty simple to use and allows you to configure dates, days of the week and times to run your show.

It allows you to run background shows as well, and is pretty simple to understand.

My Take

As I mentioned at the top of this section, I’m not a big LOR fan.

Is it a good program? Yes. But the fragmented nature (so many different little programs), and the cost really turn me away from recommending it.

xLights

xLights is THE popular sequencing program for Christmas lights in the “DIY” community.

Like Vixen, it is open source. xLights has a VERY passionate community behind it, and it’s easy to see why.

It’s a really good program, that can do some really complex things. Plus, the developers are constantly improving it for the users.

But newbies be warned – it DOES have a good sized learning curve. Still, it’s the best, most complex and most often updated program available!

Setup

One of the things that I really like about xLights is that everything works within one main window.

When you go to set up your lights and patch them to DMX or e1.31 sACN, it’s all within the same window, just different tabs.

Creating your models and patching them to addresses is pretty straightforward. Plus, like Vixen, you can re-address and change models as you go, and your programming adapts to your display.

Sequencing

When it comes to sequencing, xLights follows the same general format as the other programs.

You have a timeline, and left to right is time. The vertical axis of the chart, contains all of your individual props and groups of props.

You are then able to drop drag-and-drop different effects on different props at different times. You can also click to customize effects, and of course there’s a really great preview available on the side of this window.

I really like how xLights keeps everything within a single window.

In Vixen, you have a few different floating windows that are completely separate, and sometimes it gets a little confusing.

But, if you do need to full-screen any of your xLights windows, like your house preview,  you can totally do that in order to have it on a second monitor.

Scheduling

Scheduling in xLights actually happens in a separate program called xSchedule, which is automatically installed when you install xLights.

Using xSchedule is pretty straightforward, and if you look online you can find videos that describe it as well.   

Like the other programs I’ve reviewed in this article, you’re able to set different schedules for different days of the week, different dates, and different orders.

I also really like how xLights supports static “Animation” sequences that don’t require a music track. These work well for in-between songs, or even if you want your whole display to be without music.

It all happens within a pretty no-nonsense interface, and as I’ve been testing it, it plays back flawlessly.

My Take (and Conclusion)

xLights is a really good program, but also is pretty deep and can be confusing.

My recommendation is this –  Check out Vixen, and if it looks to you like Vixen is going to be too simplistic or feel limiting, then move to xLights. The articles I’ve linked in this paragraph will get you started!

Also, if you plan to import sequences that you buy from other people, then you’re going to want to use xLights.

It has more of a learning curve than Vixen, but if you want the more advanced options or need to import sequences, then it’s totally worth the time you put into it!

I hope this article has helped you to understand the differences between these programs, and get you started in choosing the right one for you.

February Update – What Have I Done So Far This Year?

In 2018 I had started planning my Christmas lights pretty late in the year. I had started in September and my set up was very simple and it worked out really well.

For this year my goal is to make this year’s lighting set up bigger and better. So, with that I am going to be more intentional with my planning and I have already started making plans. It’s only February but here is a recap of what I have done so far.

January

It’s never to early to start planning for lights! So, I had started out in January by sketching out what ideas I would like to do for this year.

2018 Christmas Lights Setup
2018 Christmas Lights Setup

Last year, in 2018, I had a very simple setup with just under 600 pixels and conventional Christmas lights that were turned on. Nothing to fancy but it was a great way to get started.

Sketching and Planning

This year I decided to upgrade to using xLights to help sketch and plan out what I want to do for my lights this year. Last year, I had used Vixen which worked good but I wanted to try a different program.

Using xLights

As I started working with the program and testing out what I could do with the program my list and ideas piled up pretty quick. With that I had created an excel sheet to find out what I would need, how much it would cost, and if it was feasible.

What is a PreSale?

So what is presale? Presale is when vendors are importing pixels from China and will take orders in January and February. You do pay for the order upfront and then you receive the orders 2 – 3 months later. This helps you save on cost and is cheaper than buying pixels later in the year.

Settling on What I Needed

So after running the numbers and organizing my list of everything I needed I had placed my order with Diyledexpress.com. I had ordered my lights from them last year and had a great experience. There are other vendors of course you can order from.

The downside is that this year most vendors are going to an X-Connect plug but the vendor I ordered from does not carry these just yet.

Getting Started on Planning

If you’re looking to get started I would recommend starting in January or February. Start with planning out your lights using xLights, Vixen, or even Light-O-Rama and start sketching out what you want to do.

Then, you want to make a list of everything that you would need so that you can save money by getting your pixels and equipment ordered early in the year.

Through March I am hoping to get together my power supply and getting my lights in. While it’s not necessary this early in the year I would like to have everything together so that during the summer I can start building my props and have everything ready for set up in November.

What Power Supplies Do I Need for My Christmas Light Pixels?

One of the biggest challenges for people just beginning with smart pixel Christmas lights is power.

Unlike traditional lights, which just plug into the wall and turn on, pixels need both data from the controller, and power via power supplies.

While I’ve covered “the how” to get your pixels plugged into power here, it’s also really important to get the right size power supply.

While you can’t really go too big with your power supply, going too small can cause major issues in your light display.  And as your display grows (as most do!), the need for multiple power supplies will arise.

How do you know what power supplies to buy?  Are more expensive power supplies worth it?

In this article, I am going to share with you how to figure out how many lights you can fit on a power supply, and help you figure out how to best distribute them.

Then, I’ll show you the very best power supplies available, and how you can save money when you buy them.

How Many Pixel Lights Can I Put on a Single Power Supply?

Like most tasks when you’re designing your light show, figuring out your power supply needs starts with the layout of your display.

Before buying power supplies, you want to have a really good idea of how many lights you’ll be using, what lights you’ll use, and where you’ll be putting them.

Then, look at the specifications of your lights.  We’ll be doing a little math here – but don’t worry, it’s not too difficult, and there are calculators we can use that make it really easy.

You need to figure out how much power (Watts @ Volts or Amps) your lights will consume.

Take this example from Smart 12v Bullet Nodes on WiredWatts.com:

At full, (1) 50 count string of these lights will draw 3a (amps), or 36w (watts).  Let’s use 10 strings, for a total of 360w, or 30a at 12v.

What size power supply do I need for this?

The quick math tells me that I need 360w of power.  But the truth is, electrical engineers (and the national electric code) tell us to never load up a power supply or breaker past 80% of its capacity.  So, we would need 450w of power supply to power these 360w of lights.

But. 

This is at full intensity, and at full white on EVERY light.  Let’s step back a minute and think about your show.

How Much Power Do Your Lights *Really* Need?

If you’re new to this hobby, you’ll want to know that most people do NOT run their lights at full.  Inside of your controller, you’re usually able to set a maximum intensity for each string of lights you are connecting.

I personally run most of my pixels at 30%.  Pixels that are further away from the viewer will need to be brighter to look “balanced”, and pixels closer can be dimmer.

When a pixel is at 30%, it takes about 30% of the power to drive it.  For conservative, safe numbers, let’s give ourselves an extra 20% and run the numbers based on 50%.

360w @ 50% = 180w, 225w of power supply capacity.

Even this number is a little bit conservative when you think about your show.  While you may occasionally hit everything at full white, it’s not something you’ll do often.  So, size your power supplies for the “highest-case” scenario, and you’ll be fine. 

Most of the time, as your lights are dancing to the music, the overall load on the power supplies will be much less!

Now, that does sound like a lot of math, that I’m sure you’re not eager to do – I’m sure not, either!

Thankfully, Spiker Lights has an excellent calculator that allows you to plug in all of the information you need, including the size of wire that is feeding the lights.

Once you find out how much power you need for each of your props, it’s time to decide on sizing.

Power Supplies – A Few Large Ones, or Many Small Ones?

As we’ve covered above, it’s always most ideal to get your power supplies as close to your lights as possible, for minimal voltage drop.

If you follow this rule, you end up with many small power supplies at the end of each of your strings of lights….which is kind of a pain to set up.  On the other hand, this approach wins when you do have a power supply failure because very few lights are affected.

The opposite approach is to use a few massive power supplies with long cords to many of your strings (but short cords to other strings).  The big disadvantage of this approach is that you really begin to lose voltage over distance, and that can severely limit the number of pixels that you can run in one string.

(The Spiker Lights Power Calculator can really help you discover this!)

My Approach to Power Supplies

I like to keep any 12v power lines in my Christmas Light rig under 25′ on 18 AWG wire. (Thicker wire = less voltage loss).

This means that I can approximately space my power supplies 50′ apart, and still reach all of my strings.

This is kind of a combination of both approaches, and I think it’s a healthy middle ground.

What Brand and Type of Power Supply Should I Buy?

You really don’t want to cheap out on power supplies.  But, the good stuff doesn’t have to be expensive, either.

I’m not an engineer, but when I talk with engineers, they tell me about how superior good power supplies are, especially when they fail.

All power supplies will fail someday.  When the good ones fail, they do so safely and protect the connected equipment.  When the cheap ones fail, they send out high levels of rogue voltage and kill equipment.

What Are The “Good Ones”?

Pre-2017 or 2018, your one and only choice for quality power supplies was Meanwell, particularly the LRS series.

Meanwell’s are still good, particularly if you keep your individual power supply needs under 360w.

If you need more power or don’t mind an extra accessory, using power supplies from servers has become very popular.

These “HP common slot server power supplies” can be found for ridiculously low prices online (used).  Combined with a breakout board, these can carry ratings of 750-1200w at 12v to power your lights!

From what I understand, the reason why these are so cheap is that IT companies run these in their servers, and switch them out regularly so that they are far from a failure.  We get to reap the benefits of this in our hobby!

While I haven’t used any of these yet, I’ve got my breakout board ordered from a presale, and I’ll be sure to update with my experience!

No matter what type of power supply you choose, I truly hope this article has helped you to understand how to size your power supplies so that you don’t get into trouble later!

Why Should I Use Light-O-Rama to Control My Christmas Lights?

A lot of people, myself included, don’t love Light-O-Rama, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a valid way to control your Christmas lights.

I love to use pixels, and I think xLights is the best software for controlling them in a Christmas light display.

But still, I’ve found three reasons that may make using Light-O-Rama the best choice for your particular needs.

Reason 1: Traditional Christmas Lights

If you want to use primarily traditional Christmas lights, I’m not sure there’s an easier way to sequence your lights than Light-O-Rama.

There’s something to be said about this approach: While I love pixels and running really cool effects and video content across my lights, it would be a whole lot easier just to run traditional Style Christmas lights!

Reason 2: One-Stop Shopping

One of the great things about Light-O-Rama is that you can get everything you need from their store.

Not only do they sell the hardware and the software, but you can also get a wide variety of sequences for your conventional-style Christmas light show.

Reason 3: Support

While xLights and Vixen have community support (and it is often quite good), Light-O-Rama offers the options of both online support through their forums and help articles, and 1-to-1 calls.

The fact is, nobody else can match their ability to get on a phone call with you and sort out the issues you’re having. You’re not going to find a number to call when you have xLights issues that has a customer service agent on the other end.

Conclusion

While I truly believe that xLights or Vixen are much better choices than Light-O-Rama in a lot of ways, I know that each also has it’s target market that it covers well.

And if you feel like Light-O-Rama resonates the most with you and what you’re trying to do, then go for it!

How Do I Power Christmas Light Pixels? Power Injection 101

Christmas light pixels can be really fun, but one of the most intimidating aspects of using them is power.

While “regular” Christmas lights run a full, high voltage from your standard wall outlets, pixels are a low-voltage product.

They don’t use a lot of power, but they are picky about the characteristics of that power.  When we’re working with low voltage, our primary issue is from voltage drop.

What is Voltage Drop?

Voltage drop truly is as simple as it sounds.  Because we are working with a low voltage, generally 12v or 5v, at a certain point (about a 20% drop) the voltage gets too low for the pixels to operate properly.

This is a phenomenon that happens with all electricity.  As electricity goes through wires over distance, it loses voltage.  Because regular Christmas lights run at line voltage (115v here in the US for homes), a drop of a few volts over the length of wire doesn’t generally cause any problems – it’s a small percentage of the total voltage.

But when a few volts drop at 12v, it is too low for the pixels to work properly.  So, we need fresh power!

More Power!

One of the cool things about pixels is that they can be powered via a variety of different ways.  The power for your pixels can come from the start of the line of pixels, from the end, or even the middle!  The power also can come through the controller, or bypass the controller entirely.

This can make power both simple, but also confusing, especially when you are first getting started with pixels.

There are a few main ways that you can add power to your pixels, starting with…

From The Controller

Many pixel controllers are designed to provide some power to the pixels.  After all, the controller needs power, and the pixels need power, so it just makes sense to add it here.

Most controllers also have fuses on board to protect both the controller and the power supply from any electrical issues that may come about – primarily loose connections which heat up or failures of cheap power supplies.

When you’re working with 12v pixels, you’ll find that you can run anywhere from 100-300+ pixels straight from the controller before you need more power.  The total number depends on the wattage of your pixels, the size of wire and distance, your power supply’s actual voltage, and what percent you run the pixels at in your show.

Pixlite pixel controller

Generally, when the voltage gets down around 11.6v, it’s time to re-inject power!

Remember, voltage is going to drop over the distance of wire, so extensions that you use from the controller to your pixels will contribute to voltage drop.

Thicker extensions offer less voltage drop, but the more power you have connected at the end of an extension, the more drop you will see.

You can test this yourself with your pixels to see what your drop looks like in “real life”.  And remember, it’s better to stay on the safe side, rather then max out every power supply and run into issues if your voltage drops a hair!

Providing power from the controller can work well, but I generally don’t recommend it, especially on larger controllers.

As you begin to add more and more power through your controller, you increase the risk of the power input on that controller electrically arc-ing – and this can destroy your controller!

No, this shouldn’t happen, but connections get loose over time, and it does happen to folks.  Even if the connections are good, cheaper power supplies can fail in a very dangerous way and take out other components as they die.

With a simple difference in wiring (but mostly the same components), we can get the same power to the same pixels, without running through our controller.

This protects the “brains” of our operation and doesn’t require much more in gear, so it’s a “win” in my book!

From a Power Supply

Example of a Pixel Controller Box

Example of a Pixel Controller Box

12v power supplies can be used to add in power separately from the controller as well.

This can be done for the purposes of power injection (see below), or as a safety measure to keep less power running through the controller.

It’s really as simple as wiring your pixels from your controller with the DATA wire and the GROUND (-) wire, and then running from the power supply with the Ground (-) wire and the +5v or +12v wire to your pixels.  You will want to provide a fuse between your power supply and your pixels as a safeguard against any arc-ing or a power supply failure.

This provides the power separate from the data and keeps the amount of power running through your controller minimal.

As a bonus, you can locate the power supply much closer to the actual pixels if desired, and cut down on the voltage drop.  This allows you to run more pixels before re-injecting power.

Using Fuses

As I mentioned above, using fuses is important to protect your power supplies and controller boards.  Just like your home as circuit breakers, fuses protect your hardware when pixels unexpectedly draw more power than they are supposed to.

This can happen when there is a short in the electrical cable or a loose connection causing arcing.  Or, it could be that you just hooked up way too much to one run of power, though with pixels you usually see the effects of voltage drop way before this!

Some folks use automotive-style fuse blocks like this, but I prefer using distro boards designed by the Christmas light community.

The Christmas light style distro boards are much quicker and easier to use with your controllers, and the fuse sizes supplied are generally matched to what we need.  Plus, they don’t really cost any more, so you can’t go wrong there!

Power Injection

The 1000-pound bear to tackle here is this: power injection.

As we’ve mentioned before, there will come a point in your pixel strings that your voltage drops too low, and you need to re-inject power.  Because there are a lot of options on how to do this, it can get confusing – but it doesn’t have to be confusing.

Like anything in your display, I recommend choosing one method of power injection and then stick with it for all of your power injection within your display.  This allows you to more quickly and easily change out components and test for problems later in the process.

At the base level, power injection is no different than adding in power from a power supply, separate from your controller.  There are a few, basic rules to follow that will set you up for success.

Power Injection Rule #1 – Don’t Carry the Positive Between Power Supplies!

The cool thing about power is that it doesn’t have to “flow” in any specific direction through your pixels.  At any point in your pixel string, you can go forward, backward, or any combination of the 2.

However, you need to be careful and follow the rules.  If you’re injecting a run of pixels from your controller with 1 power supply, you can pretty much do whatever you want.  You can add power in at the front end, at the back end, and anywhere in-between.

When using a single power supply, always continue the connections between all the wires of your pixels and your power supply.  If you add power in the middle of the strand, connect all the +’s together, all the -‘s and all the data will flow through (not touching the power supply directly).

When you use multiple power supplies for longer runs and/or more pixels, you need to disconnect the positive (+) wire when you change power supplies.  You also need to keep the negative/ground (-) wire connected through the line of pixels.

You’ll never disconnect the DI/DO (data in / data out)  or negative wires down a string of pixels.  These deliver the data that the pixels use to change colors, so they’re very important to your lights working 🙂

Using Tees

If all the information in the section above seems confusing, that’s because it is!  The truth is, you can power your pixels in many different ways, but one of the very easiest ways is to use “Tees”.

Sold by pretty much all of the holiday light vendors, these adapters pass through the data and negative wires, while disconnecting and adding in your new power wire.  Most often they are wired as seen in the photo –  the “bottom” wire connects directly to your power, and the “data” flows through across the tee. (See my high-quality marking on this tee).

Tees are typically worth the few dollars they cost because they make it really easy to hook up your power supplies.

Most vendors will supply a wiring diagram to let you know what colored wires attach to which connections.

Any time your voltage is getting too low between strings of pixels, drop a tee in, and your voltage will be back up to full!  It’s really that simple, and it makes putting up your display really easy, especially if you take down good notes for future years. 🙂

End of Line Injection

As I mentioned above, when you are using a single power supply, you can simply provide power at both ends of the string of pixels to effectively “double” the number of pixels you can power between breaks.

This can be a good option for you if you’re custom wiring your prop anyways, and perhaps it’s more convenient to where your power supplies are located to do it this way instead of via Tees.

Using A Single Power Supply vs. Multiple

If you’ve read this far, you may be asking the age-old question of “How Many Power Supplies Should I Use?”

Some folks use small power supplies, scattered around for minimum voltage drop, and others use large power supplies with many 12v or 5v cables running around.

The truth is, I could write a whole book on this topic because there are so many variables and so many different ways that you could do things.  For most props and Christmas light displays, there are even many different ways that would work well.  So, what should you do?

I’ve gotten into the habit of using as few power supplies as possible, when possible.

For me, the first question when I am thinking about sizing power supplies is this (and there will be a whole different post on this topic later!) – “How many props can I power within 25′ of this thing?”.

The shorter the cables are to the props, the less voltage drop.

The less voltage drop, the more pixels we can run before re-injecting power – there is a definite amount of drop that happens as you run through the wire that the pixels are on.  We can’t change that.  But we can change the path from the power supply to the first pixel, and maximize that for minimum voltage drop.

Make sense?

So, in areas that are very dense with pixels, I like to use larger power supplies.  In less dense areas, I use smaller power supplies.  On a smaller display, you might be able to get away with a single power supply.

But always remember to keep around some backups!  You never know when you’re going to need one!

What is a Pixel Controller, and Which One Do I Need for my Christmas Lights?

Christmas Light Pixels are unique in the fact that we can control them via a computer…but not directly.

While our computer will put out a DMX, Art-Net, or e1.31 (sACN) type signal, our pixels are not able to understand that information directly.  We can’t just plug them into the computer via USB!

Pixels need the information simplified for their use.

In between the computer the Christmas lights themselves, we need a pixel controller.

What is a Pixel Controller and How Does it Work?

At it’s simplest form, the pixel controller takes the data from the computer (usually running a sequencer program like xLights or Vixen, or a Rasberry Pi running FPP), and converts it into a format that pixels can use.

This “format” may be a variety of different protocols that may use either three or four wires to communicate the signal to the pixels.

The most important thing to understand when looking for a controller is that you need to match your controller to the type of pixels (the protocol) that you have bought or are planning to buy.

There’s nothing worse than buying a controller that’s not compatible with the pixels you bought!

As I mentioned before, it’s generally a safe bet to go with WS2811, WS2812, WS2813 or similar pixels.   Most controllers will work with these types of pixels, and they are the most popular type of pixels out there.

Other Things Pixel Controllers Can Do

Pixel controllers also can do a variety of other helpful things.

They can set a maximum intensity level for each string of pixels that are connected, and they can also do some fancy configuration to assign the exact data that you want to the exact lights that you want… especially if you didn’t wire everything the way that you intended when you first set up your software!

Often, the pixel controller that you buy will have multiple ports. This will allow you to drive multiple strings of pixels from that pixel controller.

Each string of pixels will have a maximum pixel count, usually 170, 340, 680, or 1020+ pixels.

Pay attention to this closely when you buy your controller – it will greatly govern the number of lights you can control overall!

Also, know that more is not always better – a bad pixel at the start of a 1000 pixel run hurts your show a lot more than a bad pixel at the start of a 340-pixel run!  But, on the other hand, using the full output capability of your controller saves you money – so it’s a tough balance to debate with yourself!

Each string of pixels that you hook to an output of your pixel controller can also be configured as to what “Universe” and “Channels” it uses from your computer’s sequencing software.

What is a Universe and Channel?

We get these terms from the technology for controlling lights called “DMX”.  DMX is the type of signal that has been controlling stage lights since the late 1980’s, and is quite good for a lot of reasons. (Dive deep into DMX here)

Each controllable “Channel” of DMX generally runs 1 function of a light – for pixels that is red, green, or blue.

512 Channels make up a DMX universe.  When you run out, you need to start a 2nd universe (or 3rd, 4th, etc).

Back in the 80’s, the architects of this protocol probably intended for large shows to only have a small number of universes.  But with LED’s, pixels and moving lights, it’s very easy to get into MANY universes of DMX.

For that reason, the stage lighting industry created Art-Net and sACN (known in the Christmas light world as Art-Net and E1.31), which are both built off of the building blocks of channels and universes.

And that is why we split up our signal to our pixels into blocks of 512 channels, called “universes”.


Each pixel needs to use its own channels, and channels work sequentially in universes.  A single port of a pixel controller can output multiple universes to control lots of pixels.

For each port, most pixel controllers will also provide some power to the pixels via a power supply that you connect to power them all.   

There are a lot of pros and cons to powering pixels from the controller versus from an external power distribution board, and we go into that here.

What Types of Pixel Controllers Are There?

There are two main types of pixel controllers that you will run into. The most common and older type that you’ll find is a standard pixel controller.

Standard Pixel Controllers

Example of a Pixel Controller Box

Example of a Pixel Controller Box

Just as I described above, these pixel controllers will take in the data from your computer via a network cable and convert it to pixel outputs, all within 1 “box”.

Controllers like these may have anywhere from 1 to 16 ports, and each port may be able to control anywhere from 170 to over a thousand pixels.

In the Christmas light world, these controllers usually come as a bare “board” that requires you to wire a power supply and the outputs yourself.

These connections happen via “terminal blocks”, or screw-down connectors that are attached via sockets to the controller board.  These allow you to supply your own, preferred type of connectors to plug in your pixels.

Some pixel controller brands offer “Ready to Run” controllers that are built inside of a waterproof case with a power supply and output plugs pre-attached.  This can be a time saver, but you need to make sure your pixels have the same connector as the controller before you buy!

Long-Range / Differential Pixel Controllers

The second type of pixel controller is a long-range style system. These are so much easier to work with, but I’ve got to give you a little background first so you understand why.

Why Long Range or 'Differential' Controllers?

Pixel signal, unlike the networked signal that drives the pixel controller, doesn’t like to run far distances.

In fact, depending on a number of factors, it may start to have problems after about 30 feet…. which is not very far when you think about the amount of wire that you’re going to use in your total display!

When the pixel signal starts to get weak, you’ll have problems like flashing, strobing, or completely unresponsive props.

The worst part about this is that your pixels can be working fine one day on a long wire, and then after the rain or a change in temperature things can go awry!

For that reason, it makes sense to go with smaller pixel controllers that are closer to each prop.

The downside to this approach is that there’s a lot of individual controllers that you have to configure and set up separately. It can become a bit of a networking nightmare if you’re not well versed in networking!

Some folks like to use “null pixels”, which are simple pixels that you assign in your sequencing software to always be off.  These then amplify the signal so that the rest of your pixels work fine.  Getting these right is a bit of guesswork, and a bit of a hack. 

At the end of the day, it’s not as ideal of a workaround as a long-range controller, or multiple small controllers.  But, I am getting ahead of myself here…

Long-Range, or “Differential” controllers, however, solve that problem for us.

They split the conventional pixel controller in half, with the processing done on a centralized board, and then receivers can be placed right next to your props for your pixel strings will plug into.

I also like to keep my differential controllers in a “safer”, more waterproof area, slightly further away from my pixels – under the carport or a porch works great and lessens the chance of any water getting in!

These receivers can often be hundreds of feet away from the central board. This is a win-win situation, and the great news is that these aren’t all that much more expensive than the regular older style of controllers.

Some examples of these types of controllers are the Falcon F48, and the Advatek Pixlite Long Range system.  In the professional world, we also use the ENTTEC Pixelator system, but that’s a little pricey and has a lot of power and features that we generally don’t need when we’re doing Christmas lighting!

What Pixel Controller Do I Need?

Figuring out what controller you need is where the rubber meets the road.

If you’re just planning to do a small display, and you can keep your pixel strings with around a maximum of 30 ft between any two pixels, you can probably get away with a smaller 4-port pixel controller.

This is what I started with, and these controllers can often drive up to three to four thousand pixels.

However, if you’re considering going with a bigger display, and/or want the benefits of the long-range differential style receivers, then you’re going to want to buy a long-range controller.

For example, with the Falcon controllers, one of the most popular brands in the Christmas lighting community, I can get (2) 4-Port controllers for $250 at the time of this writing.

For that same cost, I can get one F48 controller that drives up to 12 receiver boards, that each can drive (4) strings of  680 lights a piece. With the F48, I can add (2) receiver boards, and the total cost is just under $250, for about the same functionality…plus expandability!

We could dive into the weeds on this comparison, as you may have noticed that the two 4-port controllers can drive a few more pixels.

On the other hand, the Falcon F48 controller gives you that centralized processing, and easy setup with the receiver boards. Plus, you can expand your show as time goes on very inexpensively by just buying more receiver boards (up to 12).

So, for this reason, I recommend most people begin with a long-range or “differential” style pixel controller if you’re buying from scratch.

It’s how I’ve used pixels most in the professional world, and the little cost increase far outweighs the downside of the standard type controllers – the length limit on how far the WS2811 signal can go!

What are Christmas Light Pixels?

When it comes to creating great Christmas lighting, nothing beats the pixel.

When you go by someone’s house and see color changing and blinking “bulbs” that each change color, you’re seeing pixels.

Or you see a smooth, wave of color slide across a home – you’re seeing pixels!

Pixels are individually color-changeable lights which are all wired together.  They are different from regular Christmas lights because each light can change on its own.  This is unlike regular Christmas lights or even “dumb” LED lights that only change by the whole strand.

Having the ability to change each and every light is not only magical but also a great way to make a high-impact Christmas light display.

And because these lights give us total control, we can choose whether we want to be flashy and fast-paced, or slow and smooth – or any mix of the 2!

In this article, I’m going to share with you how pixels work and show you some examples of what they may look like so that you can begin the planning process of putting your first Christmas light display together!

How Christmas Light Pixels Work:

In simple terms, Christmas light pixels are controlled via a type of serial data from a pixel controller. This pixel controller is then controlled by some sort of DMX (RS-485), Art-Net or sACN (e1.31) console or computer.

Popular types of pixels run via protocols such as WS2811 (and WS2812, WS2813 and many other variants), APA102, and TM1804.

The “WS” varieties are the most popular, and a really great type of pixel to run so we’re going to focus on those here.

When given the signal from the pixel controller, the first RGB pixel takes three channels of information. One channel for red, one channel for green, and one channel for blue.

The microchip inside the pixel then passes the rest of the information along to the next pixel, who also thinks that it’s the first pixel in the line.

Because each pixel takes its three channels and strips them from the data stream, pixels are assigned their order based on how you plug them in.

This has some massive advantages and a slight disadvantage.

The Advantage

It means that when you’re setting up, you just plug in your lights in the order that you want to control them. Then, they just work, and self-address. On the side of the pixel itself, you don’t have any settings or numbers that you have to assign.

The Disadvantage

The disadvantage to this way of working (not that you have a choice with pixels), is that if you have a prop or section go bad and need to remove it, you must replace it with the same number of pixels before your show runs again – or else any pixels after the “bad prop” will get the wrong information!

Now that we’ve got the data sorted out,

Pixels Need Power Too…

While your pixel controller may or may not provide power, after a certain distance, you’re going to need to add in more power.

This is called Power injection (and this article goes much deeper on the subject).

Most commonly, you will see pixels that run off of 5v power or 12v power.  Without going into the weeds on the differences, just buy 12v LED’s, and your life will be easier 🙂

And while I could write a whole book on different methods and ways you can inject power, for now, it’s just important that to understand that you’re going to need to power these lights separate from the data, but you can insert power at any point in your pixel chain that you need to.

The simplest way to inject power is with a “Power Injection Tee” that many sellers of pixels offer.

Power Injection Tee

These special adapter cables insert wherever you need to inject power.  They cut off the existing power while allowing the data to flow through the adapter and the new power is spliced in.  All without having to solder!

This also is a huge advantage over traditional, ”dumb”, RGB LED lights that can’t be re-injected with power for a long run!

What Types of Christmas Light Pixels are There?

Now that we understand the basics of how pixels work, what do they look like?

One of the cool things about pixel technology is that pixels themselves aren’t limited to one look or one type of light.

Below, I’ve listed a number of different types of pixels that you may run into and show you what they look like.  This by far isn’t a 100% complete list, but it does list the common types that you’ll see in most Christmas light displays.

As you think about the type of Christmas lights you might want to do on your home or business, the great thing is that you can mix any of these types together to make your show!

12mm Pixel “Bullet Nodes”

The most common type of pixel that you’re going to see is called the 12 mm “bullet” node.   

This is a simple, waterproof pixel that is on a wire and looks a good bit like traditional Christmas lights.

The advantages? These are very inexpensive, and quite simple to repair as well. I like these a lot and use them often.

There are also many “props” that are designed to mount this type of 12mm node (or the “square” type below), to make various shapes, colors, and outlines on your home.

The only real disadvantage I see is that they do leak a lot of light behind them, and installing them into your props can get a bit tough on your hands. 

Many places that sell pixels also offer “Pixel Pliers”, which do make this process a bit easier.  Or, you can throw a party and invite all of your friends to help if you’re mounting many pixels.  🙂

12mm Square Pixel Nodes

Square WS2811 PixelsSquare pixel nodes are pretty much the same as bullet nodes except they are placed on a little square that is a lot easier to install within various props.

Though these pixels cost a little bit more than the bullet nodes, they also don’t splash as much light back behind themselves. 

This can be an advantage when you want to highlight the pixel, but a disadvantage on some props that are purposefully white-colored to catch the light that splashes back!

So, if your budget allows for it, it’s a good idea to buy these if you want to save a little bit of frustration and get a little bit of a cleaner look.  At the time of this writing, it’s $2-$4 more for a 50 count string of square nodes, compared to the bullet nodes.

Personally, I’m on the fence. The cheapskate side of me keeps buying regular bullet nodes but I really do like the way that the square pixels appear and install, especially for house outlines!

Pixel Tape / Strips

Very popular in the entertainment industry as well as architecture, these are the first type of pixels that I was introduced to.

However, when it comes to using pixel tape or strips for your Christmas lights, it’s generally not a great idea.

Though waterproof strips exist, they often are not fully waterproof, or the waterproofing doesn’t last as you move around and work with the strips.

Also, doing repairs on pixels tape or strips is very difficult and time-consuming. Remember, we’re going to keep these things out in the rain, snow, wind, and other conditions, so it’s best to stick with other types of pixels that are much more repairable.

Pixel strips also are thinner, which requires you to inject power much more often.

Having worked with both the “cheap strips”, and the “expensive” architectural-grade strips, I can tell you that there is a major difference between what you get in a $20/5m strips vs a $200/5m strip.  The inexpensive stuff that many of these holiday pixel vendors sell is very fragile and difficult to work with.

For this reason, I usually recommend going with a different type of pixel for Christmas lighting, because it’s just much less frustrating!

Pixel Modules

Similar to the square pixel nodes, pixel modules are available in a variety of form factors, often with a flat back.

These models are often waterproof, and what sets them apart is the fact that you have multiple LEDs within each pixel. So, they’re larger and brighter for each “pixel”.

An example module shown here contains three LEDs. so each module is a pixel, and these three LEDs are all controlled together – not individually.   And sometimes, that makes a lot of sense for the prop you’re designing!

These particular pixels come from the retail/sign-making industry and are often shipped without any plugs on them – just bare wire.  Keep that in mind when ordering and planning your display!

Pixel Floods

Pixel floods allow you to get a mini flood light to shine on your house and control it like a regular pixel.  

The fairly obvious thing that sets these apart, is that they do use a pretty good deal of power, compared to other types of pixels.

But, the effect is really cool.  Because they are many, many times brighter than a regular “bullet” pixel, they also cost a good deal more too.  But, only a handful of these can create a nice wash of light across your home or yard, as each pixel puts out a ton of light!

Pixel Bulbs

If you’ve walked through a home improvement store lately, you’ve probably seen bulbs like these. Individual color changing large-style Christmas light bulbs.

When you move into the pixel world, you can get the exact same thing. Individually controllable, but instead of plugging in the regular power, these will plug into your pixel controller.

These give you that classic look, with the full functionality of pixels.

If you are going to buy this type of lights, please buy them from a pixel vendor and not the home improvement store!

Many people have tried using the “home improvement store” pixel bulbs with their pixel controllers, and while you can get them to work – they’ve proven to be significantly less reliable for only a little less cost.

These are usually a standard 12mm bullet-type pixel with a decorative lens on top.  Sometimes, you can buy these in icicles and other form factors as well.

Anything You Can Imagine!

The crazy thing about pixels is that they literally can be any shape or size. 

While these are the most common types you’re going to see, if you really look around you’ll find some really interesting shapes that you can make a part of your display!

Where Do I Buy Christmas Light Pixels?

Now that we’ve covered the types of bulbs that there are, and you’ve got an idea of what pixels you want to buy, where do you buy them?

You’re not going to find these at your local home improvement store. However, this doesn’t mean they’re overpriced, just slightly uncommon.

A Quick Note About Waterproofing...

Most electronics, these lights included, are given a rating by their manufacturer as to what the “IP”, or “Ingress Protection” rating is.  This is a measure of how “waterproof” the lights are.  You’ve probably seen numbers before like “IP65 Outdoor Rated”, and this roughly means that the unit is “waterproof” in rain.

The first number goes as high as 6, and deals with the ingress protection of solids (dust, etc).  The 2nd number is all about liquids and goes up to 8 – total protection when submerged!

Most of the time, IP65 will do what we need (dust tight and waterproof against “jets” of water), and some pixels like bullet and square nodes are generally rated IP68.  But remember, these IP ratings are assinged by the factory in China, so be careful – especially on more fragile pixel products, such as pixel strips/tape.


When you’re just getting started, my recommendation is to buy through a Christmas light vendor. For that, I’ve had great success with our DIY LED Express, and Wired Watts.   There are others as well, but don’t waste your day comparing them – there are many with similar quality products.  Find somewhere that works for you, and stick with it!

You can also buy pixels on Amazon, but you’ll pay too much, and products change so much on Amazon that you’ll have trouble getting matching pixels over time.  Trust me, I know this from experience!  Not good!  🙁

You can buy directly from China as well.  However, it’s much easier to buy from someone here in the states. 

Then, the vendor in the state takes care of making sure the quality is up to par and the products are consistent – an issue that many people have had when buying directly from China!

Consistency is key, and every detail of the pixel must be clearly communicated with the factory – from the type and size of wire, LED, plugs, quantity, etc.

Even with specifying all of this information, I’ve seen some occasions where folks still find something “new” has been added or changed since their previous order without notification.  And you don’t know until you open the box that was delivered to your doorstep!

That’s why, in my mind, it’s best to order from a US importer like the ones I mentioned above, especially when you are first starting.  It saves you a TON of details, at little extra cost!

Tip: If you’re buying a lot of pixels (multiple thousand), buy during a early-season “pre-sale” or email and ask the vendor for a custom quote – you’ll be glad you did!

How Do I Get Started With Cool, Musical Christmas Lights on My House?

Have you ever driven by one of those houses that does the Christmas lights to music and thought “I wish I could do that!“?

You and me both!  

On the outside, it seems like making a music-coordinated, color changing light display would be difficult…maybe even near impossible, and certainly only for the geekiest folks in the world.

The truth is, not only is creating a great, dynamic Christmas light display possible, it’s not more complicated than you can handle, and it doesn’t have to be expensive.

Not only that, but it doesn’t have to be a solo endeavor!  This is a great hobby where you can include your spouse, kids, and friends in both the setup and sequencing of your lights.

In this article, I want to share with you how I learned to create my first display, and show you what tools you need and a basic idea of how it works together.

Sound good?  Let’s dive in!

What Do You Need To Get Started?

My 2018 DisplayOrdinary Christmas lights work by simply lighting up a strand of lights when power is applied.

It’s likely you put some of these lights up on a tree or on the outside of your house or at least seen it in your neighborhood.

You may also have seen that house down the street or in the other neighborhood where these type of lights that turn on and off as a whole strand, are synchronized to music. Pretty cool!

Traditional lights, paired with a controller box and some software, can make a pretty neat show.

But what you may also have seen is the next generation of Christmas lights – pixels!

These lights, which are not as expensive as they look, are able to be individually turned on and off and change color.

This ability makes them far more exciting than a full string of traditional lights cycling on and off!

While the sequencer/computer for both types of Christmas lights may be the same type of computer, the way that they’re controlled between the computer and the actual lights themselves is quite different.

Why am I going into all this?

After all, I said I was going to tell you what you need to get started making a great Christmas light display.

The reason why I’ve gone into all this is that it’s important to have a basic understanding of how pixel lights vary from traditional Christmas lights.  While they may look similar when they’re on a house and all on in a single color or white, they’re actually quite different.

I’m going to focus on pixel lights here because they give you the most bang for your buck.

The fact is, the ability to individually control each light, and then run videos and effects across them is immensely powerful and impactful.  You get at least 10x the functionality, for only about 2x the price!

So, what do you need to get started?

Pixels

The first thing you need are some lights…or pixels!

The definition of a pixel is:

Pixels are individually color-changeable lights, which are all wired together.  They are different from regular Christmas lights because each light can change on its own.

Now, these pixels can take many forms, but the most common is called a pixel node, as seen in the picture to the right.

These pixel nodes are driven by a protocol like WS2811, or a similar type of serial data.

Understanding this is not super important, as long as you verify that your controller and your pixels both speak the same language!

Chances are, if you buy your controllers and lights from a Christmas lighting vendor, they will be compatible.

What other types of pixels are there?  Well, there are lots, and you can learn more about all of the common types here!

Controller and Power Supplies

Pixlite pixel controller

Once you have your pixels, they need to be driven by what’s called a pixel controller.

A pixel controller takes the information that comes from a computer or professional lighting controller and turns it into a type of signal that the pixels can listen to.

Once the data leaves the pixel controller, power is then “injected” and fed to the pixels themselves with the data.  This power is fed via low-voltage power supplies, usually 5v or 12v.

The great thing about pixels is that they are self-addressing – no buttons or menu’s to press on the pixels themselves!  The order that you plug the pixels in determines what their order is.

Pixels also are helpful because they amplify their signal as they pass it along.  This means that you can run some very long strings of pixels off of a single controller output, only needing to re-inject power, but not data, as necessary!

One of the most popular brands of controllers in the Christmas light industry is the Falcon: Here is one their website – PixelController.com

Computer/Mini Computer

Vixen Lighting SequencerLast, in a simple system, you then need some sort of computer to control the lights.

Most people are going to be programming using a computer program called xLights, or another called Vixen.

These are the two most popular and also free sequencing programs for Christmas lights.  Want help deciding which program to use – this article will help!

The computer will be connected via a very simple network (as simple as just a network cable!) to your pixel controller, which will then be connected to your pixels along with power.

When you give the pixels an animation or another command from the computer, they’ll do as you say.  These commands can be as simple as turning on in a single color, or as complex as a video!

Once you program your lights, you can run your show on the computer or via a mini-computer called a Raspberry Pi, or just a regular PC.

This is somewhat of a simplified explanation, and there are more things that you’ll find that you’ll need as you go along. But, these are the basics.

So, if you’re just getting started, take a breather – because I know that was a lot of information!

Then, come back for more information here on Learn Christmas Lighting, and I’ll teach you how to create a great Christmas lighting show for your home.

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!

What is Learn Christmas Lighting?

Hi, I’m David Henry, and I think I’m addicted to Christmas Lights.

Seriously, though – it’s a ton of fun to impress my neighbors and inspire others with a captivating lighting display…on my house!  And this year, I’ve decided to dive in and do the “real deal” – FM radio and color changing pixels lights driven from a computer.

As I began to dive into the “how-to” in the Christmas Light world, I quickly realized that there is a place for my unique voice.  Why is that?  Because for the last 15 or so years, I’ve found Stage Lighting to be a passion of mine, and for since 2009, it’s been my full-time career!

And with working professionally and teaching stage lighting comes the knowledge of pixels.  Which is exactly what these new-fangled color changing Christmas lights work with – a match made in heaven!

Back to making Christmas lights happen…

As I dove in to various online forums, guides and how to’s, I realized that the perspective of *most* folks teaching Christmas lighting was from a very “Engineering” type perspective.

There’s nothing wrong with an Engineering/Mathematical brain or teaching, but it’s just not how my brain works, and I think there’s other people out there like me.

So, if you find your joy from soldering on circuit boards and following schematics – you’re not my kind of person – and that’s okay!

But if you want to make great Christmas lighting for your home, business or just for yourself, and you’ve found other guides too “techy”, “involved”, or “complicated”, I am here to create something for you.

I’m planning to write periodically to document my Christmas light displays, and also plan and teach how-to’s to make it all work together.

Sound like fun?  I think it’s going to be, and I hope you’ll join me!

-David Henry

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