Hight Fantasy Lights is the name of our display located in the greater Phoenix area in Surprise, AZ where we celebrate the birth of our Savior with fun, music and a whole lotta lights. This is not your traditional Christmas display. If you live nearby you can get our exact location here.
We started decorating the house like "normal people" do. Only, each year we seemed to grow larger until finally in 2008 we began to computerize the display. In 2011 we made a tough decision that and life was getting too hectic to continue the display. After this decision, we sold everything from the controllers to the lights. However, 3 year was all we could stand to not put on a show.
We are back now and better than ever! We have recently revamped the display after our "time off" and now have a light show unlike what you are used to seeing. Our display is 100% built, programmed and synchronized by hand. Utilizing the latest LED Pixel technology, we are able to control each individual light on the entire house and can make that light any one of over 16 million colors (for more on that, visit the How-To page). Even though our light count has seceded sharply, what we used to be able to do with 4 different colored individual strings can now be outdone by one tiny light bulb. With that our channel count has risen sharply and we currently have just over 26,600 avenues of control which allows us to create some amazing effects across the entire face of the house. Feel free to browse the website and the information below for info about the display as well as videos and pictures. The one and only goal of my display is to bring a little joy in peoples hearts at Christmas.
We really get enjoyment out of it. Sometimes the planning, programming and construction can be daunting and a little overwhelming, but once everything is up and running and we have people stopping by and see the excitement of the kids as they stand in front of the display jumping up and down, it's all worthwhile.
That's actually not as easy of a question as it used to be. Our display is comprised 100% of LED Pixel Lighting which is a little different than what you may be used to (if you want to geek out a little like I do you can go here to get into more detail on what that is and how it woks). To keep it as simple as possible, we have 28,830 individual LED lights which gives us 9,610 Pixel Nodes. A Pixel Node is basically 3 separate LED lights (red, green, blue) put close together to give the effect of seeing 1 light. By turning either of these 3 lights on and in differing combinations and intensities you can achieve any of 16 million colors. White, for instance, is all three lights (red, green, blue) turned on together and with the same intensity.
For 2016 we had 26,622 channels of control in our display. This was handled using 3 SanDevices e682 controllers and a Falcon F16V2. We also have 1 Alphapix 4 controller that we use to test lights with. For 2017 I have sold all 3 of the SanDevices and purchased 3 F16V3's and an expansion board to use with my current V2. I did this due to not only the great product from the Falcon team, but also the functionality and incredible customer service they offer. These controllers offer quite a bit more versatility for expansion later.
Only 3. That's right, just 3 extension cords on the entire display. Those three cords run to the 4 controllers located throughout the display. From there, all pixels lights run 12v over the same cable sending the data signal.
Like any hobby, we work on the display throughout the year mainly with programming and building the various elements. We have the set-up down to a science and can actually get it up and ready quicker than most moderately sized standard light displays.
Most of the time, however, is spent programming the songs. I edit each piece of music in the show to include only the good parts, keep them short and try to cut out any repetition. With over 26,000 channels of control it can take anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes to program each second of music and get it just right. Some songs are quicker than others depending on the intricacy of what I'm trying to accomplish.
Surprisingly, we us a lot less power than you would think and our electric bill barely sees an increase. Since we are 100% LED, our entire display will use a max of 4,942 watts (about 41 amps). Keep in mind, this is if we turn all the lights on at once which would be full white which only happens for short periods of time. We also run the entire display at about 50% power or less meaning the lights aren't even as bright as they can go. To sum it up, during normal control we end up using about 30% of that max number or about 1482 watts (about 12 amps). Our average nightly display will use less energy than running your dishwasher. Pretty sweet!
The lights are controlled through a combination of hardware and software. The software I originally used is from Vixen, but I will be switching to xLights in 2017 due to it's versatility and support. Once the music is loaded, I hand program the effects I want applied to each element. Sometimes I can control an entire element at one time, while other times I may need to control the individual lights on the element. The software takes some of the burden off by way of built in effects that can be applied but each effect has to be tweaked to get it just right. This is why it can take upwards of six to eight hours to program each minute of music. The hardware I use will be entirely Falcon controllers in 2017. The hardware and software "talk" to each other on an e1.31 network via cat5 cable ran from the ethernet port on my computer through a network switch and out to the controllers. The controllers then send power and data to the individual pixels. You can get more detail on my how-to page.
Like any hobby, their is definitely an investment that comes with it. We buy most of our lights and controllers during group buys right after the holidays or direct from vendors in China so we can get some good discounts with some advanced pre-planning. As soon as our display is running, we are outside with a notepad and pencil planning out next years display . More than money though is the time spent on the display, but in the end it's all worth it! I always say..."some people golf, i do Christmas Lights."
This one comes in various forms such as "are you an electrician" or "what do you do for a living." First, it's not often you see electricians wiring up houses where the lights inside blink to music (haha). For the other questions, I'm sure you would expect me to say I'm in computers or maybe in lighting. You may be surprised to know that my career has nothing at all to do with my hobby. I'm actually an Area Sales Manager for Staples Advantage and my wife teaches piano as well as runs her own business - Christy's Tutus & More. Most of my technical knowledge was self taught through a ton of research and hands on experience. Really, anyone with patience to do the research and a willingness to ask questions can do this.