Fun Facts

 

How many lights are there?

Thanks to the RGB and LED technology, we have condensed our original 2012 display count from 55,000 LEDs, down to around 15,000 bulbs

How do you get the lights to go with the music?  I currently use  xLights lighting software.  This software is free for anyone to use, created and developed by members of the holiday lighting community.  Each display prop is modeled in the xLights software.  The program helps organize the props on grid setup (see image to the right).  Then we can manually turn on and off each individual prop in the display.  The program builds-in some very interesting effects and allows you to create and endless amount of options.  The process known as Sequencing, most time consuming process of the entire display.  For a 3 minute song, I’ll spend roughly 30 to 40 hours to make the lights “go” with the music.  I believed I’ve sequenced over 100 songs and typically only run around 20-30 songs per season.

How does it work?

When loaded with the sequencing software, the computer looks up the synchronization files and outputs them through the computer’s network port.  The data is collected and transferred to the lights via the controllers located out in the display.  We use the Falcon F16v3 and F16v2, Sandevices e682 and e6804, and the Advatek PixLite16 pixel controllers.  Each prop in the display is connected to an output on a controller.  These controllers collect the network data from the computer and distribute them to the display item.  It is a network orchestra, combining technology with the lights.

 

 

What kind of computer is needed to create and run the show?

During the late spring of 2018, we built a new desktop computer (image to the right) that is dedicated to sequencing.  The software doesn’t require a “monster” or “ultra fast” computer.  However, I spend a lot of time sequencing and the software does utilize the resources that a gaming computer can offer.

This is a modern PC with a Ryzen 1800x 8 core processor with 32GB RAM, and a 2 TB hard drive.  Because I do a lot more with a computer than just web browsing and media viewing, this computer is much more advanced than my previous system.

To “run the show” we continue to use an older Gateway computer purchased in 2010.  It is a 2.5Gb quad-core processor with 8Gb Ram and a 1 TB hard drive.   The lighting software includes a “show player” software that doesn’t require a lot of resources.  In fact, the light show can actually run off of a $35 mini computer call a Raspberry Pi.  Lighting community members have developed software, free-to-use, called the Falcon Pi Player.

What is your electric bill like??  Most people will be surprised to hear the show costs $43 per week to run during the holiday season.  The added cost to run the 2017 show was around $300 to run from November 24 to Jan 5.   Thanks to the tedious time invested into sequencing, computer animation usually shows around one-quarter to one-half the lights at any given time during a song.  Considering  the show runs for 5 to 6 hours per night, and the lights are not all-on for the evening; the  bill to run the lights is rather manageable.

Are those special lights? Yes they are. In 2013 we added RGB technology. Each bulb contains  3 colors, red green and blue.  This “pixel” technology is very much like what is found in your TV, allowing us to mix over million combinations. The RGB lights were custom designed for each prop or location on the house.  These lights are not available in any box store, imported and customized by over seas vendors. Each display element requires it’s own individual string of pixels and uniquely addressed  to the pixel controller.  Each and every element has a hand-soldered extension cords and wire connector.  Because of the specific nature of this type of lighting, everything they are all hand-crafted and made to be used in this manner.

How long does it take to setup?   I usually begin setup in October.  The weather is usually best in mid-fall when the leaves begin turning and falling.  Set-up always varies.  Work schedule, temperature, and weather play a big part.  I am a one-man-show, usually setting up the display on my own or with the help of my neighbor Dennis.  The most challenging part of setup is retrieving each prop from storage in the basement or attic.

Are you an electrical engineer?    I began learning about electricity in 6th grade with a project for the science fair.  Since then I’ve learned a lot about wiring, soldering, low voltage lighting, and electrical safety.  I have been working for Kings Family Restaurant for over 10 years.  I work as an Assistant General Manager and enjoy the job and location I work at.

How did you learn to do all this?  In 2007 a friend shared a video of some crazy Christmas lights dancing to music.  I must have watched it over 1000 times.  After doing a lot of research, I learned it could be done by anyone.  The first year for Leechburg Lights was 2008 and looked nothing like what you see today.  For the past 6 years, I’ve dedicated a YouTube channel (Leechburg Lights) to teaching others how to do some of the things I have done.  There are over 120 video tutorials on how to create and build your own animated light display.