For anyone looking to do an animated christmas lights display, I would definately recommend visiting the DiyLightAnimation forums at www.diylightanimation.com and saying hello - there is so much information there, and a heap of people happy to help out. I also have to give a big thanks to the community over at Falcon Christmas(www.falconchristmas.com), without the Falcon Pi Player this show would not be a success!

But you'll want to know upfront that this isn't an "end of year" hobby - most people start planning their displays in January (or even earlier), and you certainly do need a lot of time to source all the relevant bits and pieces, and get aquainted with it all.

Power Usage

I haven't completed an official measurement but lets just say I've never seen a difference in my power bill. The cost of running LEDs is very minimal.

So the power bill is certainly the least of your worries with this hobby!

Hardware

All lighting is sourced direct from China. There are approximately 1,700 LEDs in total, with about 300 of these in single "dumb" strings where each string is a single colour, and the whole string turns on or off together.

The remaining LEDs are "smart" RGB lights (otherwise known as pixels), where each individual LED (or sometimes 3 LEDs) is connected to it's own microchip, which means that that pixel can be turned on or off by itself (and also be turned on to any colour we like!) This allows a huge amount more flexibility and creativity, but certainly complicates the whole process!

The 6 stars on the ground in the fron of the yard are made from Coroplast and contain 3 rectangle LED modules. The 4 mini trees are also made from Coroplast and also contain 3 rectangle LED modules per tree. The arches/mega-tree/house lines have ~1000 pixels in them, allowing a few different effects, like chasing, or the multi-coloured twinkle which looks great.

I am using a mixture of control hardware, including 16 Channel Lynx Express DC Controller, 27 Channel DC controller from Ray Wu (China), Dumb String controllers from DiyLightAnimation and Smart String controllers from DiyLightAnimation

These are all run via DMX/Pixelnet (DMX is used in stage shows and music gigs) from the Etherdongle. The Etherdongle is conneteced to the Active Hub to send signals to the various controllers to control the lights. The show itself is ran/controlled from a rasperry Pi using the Falcon Pi Player software.

Getting further into the technical nitty gritty of the "smart" pixels - I use three different types of pixels:

Pixel strip (used for arches), which have TM1804 chips in them (one chip for 3 RGB LEDs)
Pixel Strings (used for the strings on the tree/house), which also use TM1804 chips (one chip per RGB LED)

Controllers

Lynx Express
Lynx Express
27 Channel DMX Controller
27 Channel DMX Controller
Smart String Controllers
Smart String Controllers
Dumb String Controllers
Dumb String Controllers
Active Hub
Active Hub
Etherdongle
Etherdongle
Raspberry Pi
Raspberry Pi



Software

I am using Lightshow Pro as my controlling software. Like any software, there is a bit of a learning curve, but once you get used to it, you will get moving pretty quickly. Don't underestimate the effort involved in sequencing channels to music (especially with lots of channels) - some people report spending 10 hours+ to sequence a single minute of music.