Planning Your First Display
You’ve seen the videos on the Internet, or you drove by them in your area. They seem to be everywhere, but that’s not stopping you from planning your first synchronized Christmas light display. While the end result is very rewarding, there is a lot of planning that goes into the display planning process.
This is the first in a series of articles that will show you how to start the process of planning and running your first light show.
The very first step in this journey is to gather facts about your display area. There are some very important things you need to know before you decide things such as types of lights, hours or even type of display you want to do.
One of the most overlooked factors in many displays is the amount of available power. If you are setting up your display at home, then typically you might have a single outlet available to you outside. This single outlet is probably on a circuit in your home with other areas, such as a garage. A typical home circuit is rated at 15 amps, which means everything on that circuit can be no more than 15 amps total. Interestingly, there is an “80% Rule” of electricity that comes into play. While there is some debate on if this would apply to synchronized Christmas lighting, it’s worth noting in the display planning process.
SYNCHRONIZED CHRISTMAS IS NOT AN ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR, NOR CERTIFIED TO OFFER ELECTRICAL ADVICE. YOU SHOULD CONSULT A QUALIFIED ELECTRICIAN WHO KNOWS THE ELECTRICAL CODES APPLICABLE TO YOUR AREA WHEN CONSIDERING A DISPLAY.
Hazards and Installation
During the display planning process, you will want to take into account any hazards that may be present in your display area. For example, is your electrical outlet near where the lights are going to be? If no, how will you get the cords to the lights? If you plan to go on the roof of the structure, how will you power the lights there?
How will you install lights on your home or business? Are you going to put everything on the ground? How do you plan to manage cords running across the display area?
While these are questions that you don’t necessarily have to have an answer to at this stage of planning, they are things you will need to keep in mind as you move forward.
Welcome to the topic that no one wants to talk about, but that will end up driving the majority of decisions that you make in this journey. For some the topic of money is a sticky subject, one that they want to ignore, however it’s a topic that we are going to get into here.
The cost of a Light-O-Rama Starter Kit is $307, which does not include shipping costs to you. In some ways you could consider this the lowest cost of entry available into the world of synchronized Christmas light displays. Without a controller, related accessories, and software, you will not be able to program a Light-O-Rama display.
There are many other costs to consider. Extension cords, installation tools, lights, props and other items are going to factor into your overall budget. We’ll be looking at some of these in future posts.
You’ve thought about the electrical needs, potential hazards and costs. Now it’s time to start the fun part. Planning the display! This is the fun part of the planning process; it’s where you get to design your display to fit your vision and budget.
As this series progresses from start to finish, we’ll use this house as our “demo” house. For example, with this house you might decide to put lights around all of the windows, garage, and front door, while not touching the roof at all. Or you could decide that you want to only put items in the yard, leaving the entire house untouched. Or you could go all out and put lights on all of the windows, the front door on the roof line, and in the yard. Then you have to decide if you want to use regular LED lights, old school incandescent lights, or new style RGB lights, or even a mixture of all 3!
Once you have your design in mind, it will be time to start doing some electrical calculations. While to some this may seem like an unnecessary step, with years of experience in the field of Christmas lighting we can assure you it’s something to think about now, versus later.
In our next post we’ll have some illustrated examples of what you might put on the demo house. We’ll then look at some of the electrical needs that such designs might need. This will give you some examples of what you might do in your own display.
Once you determine the display, and any electrical needs, you’ll be ready to start laying out the display in the software, and working on your programming. If programming isn’t something you want to do, then we can help with that.