Overview of computerized Christmas lights

You watched a video of a Christmas house (Xmas-Light Display) on YouTube, or you came to one of the ever more frequent Christmas houses in Germany and ask yourself:

  • How do they do that?
  • Can I do that too?
  • What do I need for that?
  • Then you are exactly right here. This article is intended to give a beginner a general overview of how most
  • Christmas houses are constructed.

To better understand how each element of a Christmas display works, you first need to know how the system works.

So you can generally imagine a computer-controlled light display (Christmas lights)


It usually consists of:

  • Computer with lighting control software (Xlight, Vixen, DMX programs, MADRIX ...)
  • One or more controllers
  • Power Supplies (for LEDs)
  • LEDs (As Pixel, RGB LEDs, as Stipe, as Chain ...)
  • Other lights that are connected directly to the mains
  • Switch Pack (relay) for the other lights
  • Many, many meters of cable
  • data cable
  • FM transmitter or loudspeaker


Of course it is not that easy, there are many different ways to build a computer-controlled light display. Here is a rough overview of what each component consists of.

The computer


You should already know a little about the computer. After all, you're surfing the internet so it looks like you already have knowledge here ....

As programs for the lighting control of the Christmas lights, there are, for example:

  • Vixen Lights

    This is a very good free American program to realize your ideas. However, you should be able to speak a little English. The advantage here is that it supports various controllers and is very good for the use of pixel LEDs.

  • Xlights

    This is also a very good free American program and my favorite (I use it myself).
     
  • DMXControl

    The software project DMXControl is part of the non-profit organization DMXControl Projects e.V. and is also free of charge. If you rely on DMX control, then you're in the right place.
     
  • MADRIX

    Here you have to take a "bit" of money in hand, but you have a professional program which also use the professionals in large clubs and at festivals. On YouTube you will find some videos what the Americans have implemented with this software.


What makes a show but only complete is the music, which is also output from the computer. The music selection is a personal matter of taste, but you should choose music that makes sequencing easy.

the controller

The basic function of a controller is to convert the data from the computer into control signals. Some controllers only provide simple ON / OFF light control, while others provide up to 256 levels for dimming.

For DMX controllers you need e.g. a DMX interface on the PC and the appropriate controller which then converts the DMX signals (for example for RGB LED strips). Some lighting effects like WallWasher have already integrated the controller.

You can use MicroController like the Teensy for example. use for pixels. They are then connected via USB and must be programmed with scripts.

The easiest way to configure your show is with controllers like the Advatek PixLite 4 or the Advatek Pixlite 16.

Power Supplies (For LEDs)

Here it depends on the LEDs used. There are, for example, in 5 volts, 12 volts, or 24 volts.

The more LEDs you use, the more powerful the power supply must be. For larger installations, you may need multiple power supplies. Also on the protection class such. IP67 should be respected. There are power supplies, which already have a splash protection, but then cost accordingly. An alternative is switching power supplies, which are installed in watertight housings.

cables and wires

Do not underestimate the amount of data and power cables you need to install your Christmas lights. The power cables should all be suitable for outdoor use.

You can use almost any type of cable for the data cables. Often a CAT5 (LAN) cable is used for data transmission.

Plan carefully and generously, then hopefully you will not have to go to the hardware store at the last minute to buy expensive cables.

FM transmitter or speaker

That's the voice of your display. Without an FM transmitter or speaker, visitors to your Christmas house will only see the light. Sure, the flashing lights will be impressive at first, but if your audience hears the music synced to the lights, you'll be amazed.

There are many FM transmitter products, but they all have the same basic function. They take the output from the computer's sound card and convert it to an FM radio frequency signal.

But there is also a legal question