For 2019 we have a grand total of 16,000 LED bulbs. Each bulb has 3 lights in it. This brings the count upto over 45,000 lights in our display.
How do you get the lights to go with the music? We use xLights lighting software. Each display prop is modeled in the software, and the program organizes the props on grid setup (see image to the right). On this screen we 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, is the most time consuming process of the entire display. A 3 minute song will take me around 40 to 50 hours to match the music with all lights. To date, I personally have sequenced well over 200 songs.
After the song is programmed, the computer looks up the sequence files for the song. It sends the file data through the computer’s network port. The data is collected and transferred to the light strings via the lighting controllers (image left). We use the Falcon, Sandevices, and Advatek pixel controllers. Each prop in the display is connected to a plug on a controller. These controllers collect the network data from the computer and distribute them to the display item.
During the late spring of 2018, I built a new desktop computer (image to the right) that is dedicated to sequencing. This is a Ryzen 3700x 12 CPU core computer processor with 32GB RAM, and a 2 TB hard drive. This computer is considered a workstation and we utilize it’s resources for our professional programming events. To “run the show” we have dedicated computer that starts and stops the show at the scheduled time.
What is your electric bill like?? Most people will be surprised to hear the show costs $25 per week to run during the holiday season. The total bill for December 2018 show was around $350, (December 1 to January 5). This includes my home heating, normal electrical usage, and the light display.
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 a TV, allowing us to mix millions of color combinations. Most every prop must be hand built to fit an area of the display. Many of the props are custom made. You can’t just walk into the store and buy these lights.
How do you make your props? I began by converting decorations I already had with the new lights that work with the show. Eventually I wanted more, so I had to build my own props. We also have custom made elements, for example the reindeer wireframes. Some of our props are made of coro such as the snow flakes and singing characters. We always appreciate the work of companies such as Wizard of Wire and Boscoyo Studios because they design props that are easy to use for this hobby.
How long does it take to setup? We typically start setup in November, and the set-up time always varies; work schedule, temperature, and weather play a big part. For 2019 I was on-site in Los Angeles, Norco (Calif), and Phoenix for 6 commercial lighting installs. We didn’t start Leechburg Lights display setup until after Thanksgiving. The 2019 display took about a week to erect, and another week of controller connection and programming. We opened December 11th, 2019.
Where do you store all of it? Each prop is built with the thought of how to store it. We have a large basement that is great for storing all the ground display elements. Everything on the roof is kept in the attic. Some of the larger and longer props are kept in a storage shed.
Are you an electrical engineer? Electricity has always been an interest of mine. In 6th grade I did a cool electrical project for the science fair using light switches and batteries. Since then I’ve learned a lot about wiring, soldering, low voltage lighting, and electrical safety.
How did you learn to do all this? I always enjoyed hanging lights on my home. Even way back as a 10 year old boy, mom bought me a few strings of lights and said to put them up on the porch. I was hooked! In 2006 a friend shared a video of some crazy Christmas lights dancing to music. After doing months and months of research, I learned how it could be done. The first year for Leechburg Lights was 2008.
Where can I learn how to do all this? The Leechburg Lights website was created to help show the average person how to add this kind of lighting to their own home. In 2018 we expanded and created a new website which shows in much greater detail how to build the light display of your dreams. You can find us at www.pixelprodisplays.com