Getting Started with Musical Christmas Lights: Interview with Light-O-Rama
We talk to a lot of customers who are interested in synchronizing their Christmas lighting display with music but don’t really know where to start. We currently don’t sell any musical Christmas lighting accessories and don’t have any in-house experts on the subject so we generally refer them to the good folks at Light-O-Rama who are the undisputed experts in this area. I wanted to educate myself a bit about the musical Christmas light set ups so I recently spent about 30 minutes on the phone with Chuck from Light-O-Rama. Here’s a rough transcript of our conversation:
Q: I wouldn’t even know where to begin if I decided I wanted to do an animated lighting display synchronized to music this year. What do you tell the new guy who wants to know how to do this for the first time?
A: The most important thing I tell beginners is to start small and first master the concept of linking music to lighting. Most people don’t realize that it doesn’t matter if its 8 channels or 108 channels--you can get the same effect and emotional response to a small animated lighting display.
Q:Does creating and animated lighting display require any special training or background? (I am no engineer or electrician, is this a problem?)
A: Well, its not something that really requires any special training but it does help to have a musical background. Sequencing, or timing light to the beat of the music, can be difficult to get at first and it helps to have someone with a musical background involved. Although it may take someone with some musical background to get the timing set up properly, anyone will be able to tell if the music is out of time with the lights.
One of the first things I try to do when explaining how an animated lighting set up works to someone knew to the concept is to have them think of the different control channels as separate light switches on the wall. Each switch controls one line of lights and there are several possible combinations of on and off plus each line can be dimmed. Once people grasped this basic concept it is easier to understand the system as a whole.
Q: What would you recommend for the guy that really wants to do something special with Christmas lights this year for his family but is essentially technically inept?Q: So let’s say I decided to get a little ambitious this Christmas and do an animated display at my house, can you walk me through what I should do and maybe help me come up with a materials list?
Sure. As I mentioned before, its best to start small so I would start out with 8 or 16 lines of LED Christmas lights. (I know you sell LED Christmas lights and are very familiar with their advantages but we always encourage people to use LED--they are so much easier to work with from a technical standpoint.) We’ll assume you have a nice 15 foot pine tree in your front yard and we will be decorating that. The first thing I would do is tell you to get a piece of paper and do a diagram of what the installation will look like.
One you have the diagram done you should gather the following materials:
- 8-16 strings of LED Christmas lights
- Long stick that is long enough to reach the top of your tree
- Nail to create hook on stick
- Planet Christmas Residential Grade 16 Channel controller
- Pre-sequenced Christmas music from Light-O-Rama
- Extension cords
- FM radio transmitter
Once you have all the materials together, create 8 or 16 separate lines of LED Christmas lights. Using the stick and nail, place the female end of the Christmas light set on the end of the stick and hang it from the top of the tree so that it hangs vertically and the male end of the line is on the ground. Repeat this step until all 8 or 16 lines of lights are installed.
One the light are installed connect the lights to the controller according the instructions provided with the Light-O-Rama unit. You can use the optional FM transmitter to broadcast your sequenced Christmas music out to 150’ or so which will enable passersby to tune in and listen to the music that goes with your light display. This will keep your neighbors happy since you won’t be blaring loud Christmas music all the time.
Q: Thanks a lot for taking the time to speak with me Chuck, any closing comments?
I really hope that you and your readers find this information helpful and can use it to help create a display in their community that will lit up the faces of the young children that view it. Its really great for people to become part of a community that goes through such great effort to produce something many can enjoy and help create family holiday traditions. I would encourage anyone who needs further help or has additional questions to join the Light-O-Rama user community. Its a vibrant and active online community and you should receive a response to any questions you post very quickly.