This page contains technical information for folks who wish to look behind the curtain and learn how the display works. If you don’t want the magic ruined, stop reading now… You’ve been warned.
The display is controlled from a computer inside the house. A USB RS-485 adaptor attached to that computer takes commands and sends them via category-5 (ethernet) cables to each of our relay bank animation controllers outside (3 in 2009, 6 in 2010) The controllers (and the software and the USB RS-485 adaptor) are from “Light-O-Rama” (www.LightORama.com). And before you get all bent out of shape… No: we do not pay those prices. They have 2 sales in the off season. We get the cheaper equipment and do a lot of the assembly ourselves to save even more. It’s not “cheap” to do this, but it is manageable if you plan ahead and hit the sales. We are not rich (at all.. really), but with careful planning it can be affordable.
Every set of lights in the display needs its own extension cord to an animation relay controller. Additionally, every animation controller gets power from its own circuit (or 2) in the house (5 circuits in 2009, 8 in 2010). In other words, power goes out to the animation controllers and is distributed to each display element from there. Each controller can handle 16 display items (we say that it has “16 channels”). Every 8 of those channels can handle up to 15 amps of power draw, but we keep it under 14 amps for safety (and prefer to keep it under 13 amps). Extension cords are costly and need to be rated for the power and distance they will be carrying it. The cords which go from in the house to the animation controllers are all 12 AWG and 14 AWG because they handle the most power.
The music gets to your car radio with an FM Transmitter from EDM (www.EDMDesign.com. Don’t let the unprofessional website scare you. It’s a great product made by a company who we have heard nothing but good things about. We purchased ours from another display operator in Colorado, who no longer offers them.
This transmitter is very powerful so we turn it down in order to operate within FCC regulations and no permit is needed.
We broadcast on 96.9 FM specifically because there are no other stations in our area using that frequency.
If you are another display operator who is using Light-O-Rama (LOR) then you may be interested in our animation sequence files. We use the “tracks” feature extensively so you will need the “S2″ version of the the LOR software to use them. They are bundled together by year and holiday in large downloads. Be sure to read the accompanying info file before using them. If you use these sequences in your display all we ask is that you let us know. If you post a video of it, we’d like to see it. That’s not too much to ask, is it? And of course, you should go out and buy any of the music you’re going to use. You should not just use these edited versions and avoid paying the artists. Use the edits, but make sure you own the songs.
Christmas 2009 84.8MB ZIP file
Halloween 2010 7.84MB ZIP file
Christmas 2010 83.2MB ZIP file
We will try to share sequences after we’ve used them 1 season.
Charlie Brown Patterns
Several people have asked us where we got our large plywood Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and Snoopy’s Doghouse. We made them ourselves using pictures in a coloring book for reference.
Below are links to the images we created from those pictures to use as a reference while creating the cutouts. We marked a 6 inch grid on plywood, and then using the grid on these images as a scale reference we drew them on the plywood. If we were to do it again we would have borrowed an LCD projector and used a computer to project the images on to the plywood, but the scale/trace method still works great.
Charlie Brown – 4x’6′: 852 x 1280 – JPEG – 184KB
Snoopy – 4′ x 4′: 800 x 800 – JPEG – 95KB
Snoopy’s Dog House – 6.5′ x 8′:
- Top Half - 1280 x 640 – JPEG – 233KB
- Bottom Half - 1280 x 640 – JPEG – 223KB