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ericosiu

How much does an epic xmas light show like Holdman's cost?

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Seriously. All I know how to do is plug into an outlet and go. There's no way I will ever be able to get as complicated as you all make it sound. I get a kick out of it when you all talk about how "easy" it is to do these displays. I have absolutely NO knowledge of how to do it. I have NO idea what it means to have 224 "channels". What's a channel? I run one extension cord out of my house, and another one out of my garage. I put about 6 strands in each. Beyond that, I have NO idea how to expand. :( I suppose if I ever wanted to go to the next level, I would need to bring in an electrician and have him tell me what I need, and also pay him to do it.

Mike,

Each channel is a separate strand, or group of strands, of lights. When someone says they have "224 channels" that means that they have 224 separate "items" that they can turn on or off. That "item" can be as simple as a single light bulb, or as complex as a whole oak tree wrapped with lights (although, the maximum number of mini lights strings that you could put on one channel is around 25 strings).

... oh, and yes, that means that the person with 224 channels has 224 extension cords running from each channel to the lights.... ;)

Here is what you could easily do with your one extension cord out of the garage and another out of your house. Connect those two extension cords to a single 16 channel controller. Connect that controller to your computer. With those 16 channels and 16 separate extension cords, you could proceed to turn on or off 16 different lighting elements. Here would be an example of sixteen lighting elements that I have in my front yard:

bushes on the left of the house - white lights

bushes on the left of the house - red lights

bushes on the left of the house - green lights

bushes in the middle of the house - white lights

bushes in the middle of the house - red lights

bushes in the middle of the house - green lights

bushes on the right of the house - white lights

bushes on the right of the house - red lights

bushes on the right of the house - green lights

oak tree on the left of the house - white lights

oak tree on the left of the house - red lights

oak tree on the left of the house - green lights

oak tree on the right of the house - white lights

oak tree on the right of the house - red lights

oak tree on the right of the house - green lights

That is 15 separate lighting elements that you could turn on or off with your 16 channel controller (a controller that, from LightORama cost around $160 during the summer sale).

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when someone asks me how much I spent on everything I comment: "Some people take vacations, buy flat screen Tv's, buy ATV's or a new vehicle; me... I spend my money on christmas lights."

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Mike,

Each channel is a separate strand, or group of strands, of lights. When someone says they have "224 channels" that means that they have 224 separate "items" that they can turn on or off. That "item" can be as simple as a single light bulb, or as complex as a whole oak tree wrapped with lights (although, the maximum number of mini lights strings that you could put on one channel is around 25 strings).

... oh, and yes, that means that the person with 224 channels has 224 extension cords running from each channel to the lights.... ;)

Here is what you could easily do with your one extension cord out of the garage and another out of your house. Connect those two extension cords to a single 16 channel controller. Connect that controller to your computer. With those 16 channels and 16 separate extension cords, you could proceed to turn on or off 16 different lighting elements. Here would be an example of sixteen lighting elements that I have in my front yard:

bushes on the left of the house - white lights

bushes on the left of the house - red lights

bushes on the left of the house - green lights

bushes in the middle of the house - white lights

bushes in the middle of the house - red lights

bushes in the middle of the house - green lights

bushes on the right of the house - white lights

bushes on the right of the house - red lights

bushes on the right of the house - green lights

oak tree on the left of the house - white lights

oak tree on the left of the house - red lights

oak tree on the left of the house - green lights

oak tree on the right of the house - white lights

oak tree on the right of the house - red lights

oak tree on the right of the house - green lights

That is 15 separate lighting elements that you could turn on or off with your 16 channel controller (a controller that, from LightORama cost around $160 during the summer sale).

awesome info! Thanks! Dumb question: it takes TWO outlets to run to the 16 channel controller? So...both extension cords would run to the controller unit?

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That is correct. For a 30 amp controller to carry a 30 amp load it needs power from 2 seperate 15 amp cords/outlets/breakers.

Not trying to confuse anyone, but if the total light draw hooked to a controller is less than 15 amps the controller can be powered from one 15 amp outlet/breaker

Edited by roberson3

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So...the back of the controller has two outlets on it? (just specifying)

Depends on what box you are using, but yes basically. The LOR has two "pigtails", or what looks like the last tewlve inches of two heavy duty extension cords. These plug into the wall to supply power. You would run extension cords from the wall to these pigtails. There is not an "outlet" in the traditional sense of a wall power outlet/socket.

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Wow, for what should seem like a simple question there is not a simple answer, huh?

Long thread - lots of answers/comments/opinions. Anything I can add would only be a summary of some of the great ideas/thoughts already posted. Not sure there is anything new to offer here. But, for any newbie to PC reading through, the info might be a bit scattered. So maybe I will summarize anyway. I see the orig poster has been with us only 6 months, so maybe some of this will help. Myself, I am somewhat new to the board - newer than most anyway. But I have been doing it on my own the hard way for 20 years (mostly static for the first 15). So maybe the OP is not so new after all, hard to tell. Might be more like me in the overall scheme of things. I have been reading the board as a lurker long before I joined up. And as you can see - don't post very often as there are so many great postings/ideas/answers already on here. So it is hard to guess anyone's experience level.

To answer the original question - something big like Holdman's display is on the order to tens of thousands of dollars. The posting that it cost $11,000 is a general guess ( a very good one though), but does not include when something goes wrong and has to be redone. Nor does it count the fact that Holdman had to move from his original location. When you add in time/labor to get it all together (if you were getting paid for it) the cost easily crosses over the $100,000 mark or perhaps much, much more. And this does not even include the electric bill - which happens all over again every year even if the display makes no further changes. Holdman's has changed over the years, much like any of the rest of the displays any of us build here.

The question lots of people here keep answering is not the one you asked. But evidently many have thought it was implied. A couple other newbies have specifically asked however - so I guess they are thinking the same thing.

How much does it cost to get started? Less than $100. (difficult, but certainly possible with diligence)

Someone will gripe and complain I said that - but it is true. All you need is a single controller. If you are visiting this website, I would say there are 99% odds that you already have a static display in the yard. I did - and it was actually bigger than 90% of the non-animated houses you see on any given neighborhood block. My static was actually bigger than a couple animated I have seen as well. Anyway, now all you have to do is animate it. The first year, you do not necessarily need music, or a radio trasmitter. No need to go buy more lights. But you might or might not need more extension cords depending on how your existing display is set up (cords already run). It is possible to pick used equipment on this board - matter of fact a new one was posted yesterday. You might get software with the used controllers - depends on the brand and licensing. And you don't even need that if you go with used Gemmy or Mr. Christmas. Of course, like most of us, you will probably get the "bug" and want to go bigger/better (keep in mind, bigger IS NOT necessarily always better). So expanding those last two items will be more difficult than stepping into LOR, Vixen, Light Show Pro,etc to begin with. But, it can be done with your existing stuff - and still be nice. And when you use only your existing display and just animate it - your costs might go down for electricity. Since your static "all on" display is now "sometimes on, sometimes off" blinking and fading - those "off" times are not using all that electricity anymore.

Unfortunately, the $ and life circumstances do get to all of us at some point in time. For some people this means no show for a season (or more) There are those that want/need to part out their existing equipment. So you can pick up hardware, lights, cords, molds, etc. on the cheap. Then there are those that jump in head first, get several controllers brand new, and go hog wild right out of the gate (nothing wrong with this either).

There are some on this board that are excellent bargain hunters - and I am sure they will be more than willing to help anyone get started. Friendliness and watching out for each other is not something we are short of around here.

While there are those that don't need to count the $ and can make over the top displays without feeling it, there are also those that make over the top displays - and are able to do so because of the sacrifices they made elsewhere (having nothing to do with their wealth/social status). So it can be done - only you can make that decision though. And as others have said - this is a *family* decision, not just a personal one, since the whole family could possibly be feeling the effects.

And then there is also the whole DIY crowd. So if you have the ambition to build, you can go even cheaper. You do not need talent or skill to DIY -- those can be aquired as "on-the-job" training. I am big on DIY. Not everything works out on the first try - so my savings in particular may not be as great as others when I have to redo something. But I enjoy the DIY aspect - so that is ok with me.

Remember, Rome was not built in a day. And neither was Holdman's display. And neither was almost anyone else's on this forum either. Due to the time involvement already mentioned - everything moves slower that you really want when planning/building/displaying. But that is OK - it actually helps spread out the costs over the months/years.

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Well...I'm still a few years away from being "epic". It's nice to have goals though. Also, as far as cost goes: We strictly budget what I can add each year in terms of Christmas decor. Small steps is my formula. That way, the cost doesn't seem to smack me in the face. Unlike most, I actually want to make efforts to keep down electrical costs. It's a bigger factor to my wife than the cost of buying "stuff" each year. Seems like most of these calculations simply count light strands & accessories, with not much attention being paid to operating cost.

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Well...I'm still a few years away from being "epic". It's nice to have goals though. Also, as far as cost goes: We strictly budget what I can add each year in terms of Christmas decor. Small steps is my formula. That way, the cost doesn't seem to smack me in the face. Unlike most, I actually want to make efforts to keep down electrical costs. It's a bigger factor to my wife than the cost of buying "stuff" each year. Seems like most of these calculations simply count light strands & accessories, with not much attention being paid to operating cost.

If for example you are already running a 20,000 light static display, your operating cost (electrical) will actually go down if you animate your display. However, your savings in electrical cost probably wont even touch the cost of the equipment/software to animate

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If for example you are already running a 20,000 light static display, your operating cost (electrical) will actually go down if you animate your display. However, your savings in electrical cost probably wont even touch the cost of the equipment/software to animate

I agree with Paul. I run around 75,000 lights and my electric bill goes up around $60 each year.

If you run 10,000 lights without animation (let's assume all mini lights), that is 100 strings x 0.3A each, which is 30A @ 120V, which is 3.6kW continuous power draw

If you run those 10,000 lights for 5 hours per night, that is 18kW-hours per night

If you run those 10,000 lights for 30 days (the month of December), that is 540kW-hours total energy draw from your electric company

Electricity down here in Florida is around $0.12 per kW-hour, so that would cost $65 to power for that duration

You can check the cost of electricity in your state here: http://www.eia.doe.gov/electricity/epm/table5_6_a.html

Remember, the estimate above is for 10,000 lights. To compare that to my 75,000 lights, multiply by 7.5, so $487. As I stated above. With animation (you can see my vids in my sig file below), my bill is only $60-ish.

So as someone said above, if you are ALREADY running 10,000 or 20,000 lights, going to animation won't cost you any more in the cost of electricity based on my outlined cost calculation above. IF you are someone that is running 50,000 to 70,000 lights without animation, you could end up saving hundreds of dollars in electricity every year that would offset some of the cost of the controllers.

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Wow, for what should seem like a simple question there is not a simple answer, huh?

Long thread - lots of answers/comments/opinions. Anything I can add would only be a summary of some of the great ideas/thoughts already posted. Not sure there is anything new to offer here. But, for any newbie to PC reading through, the info might be a bit scattered. So maybe I will summarize anyway. I see the orig poster has been with us only 6 months, so maybe some of this will help. Myself, I am somewhat new to the board - newer than most anyway. But I have been doing it on my own the hard way for 20 years (mostly static for the first 15). So maybe the OP is not so new after all, hard to tell. Might be more like me in the overall scheme of things. I have been reading the board as a lurker long before I joined up. And as you can see - don't post very often as there are so many great postings/ideas/answers already on here. So it is hard to guess anyone's experience level.

To answer the original question - something big like Holdman's display is on the order to tens of thousands of dollars. The posting that it cost $11,000 is a general guess ( a very good one though), but does not include when something goes wrong and has to be redone. Nor does it count the fact that Holdman had to move from his original location. When you add in time/labor to get it all together (if you were getting paid for it) the cost easily crosses over the $100,000 mark or perhaps much, much more. And this does not even include the electric bill - which happens all over again every year even if the display makes no further changes. Holdman's has changed over the years, much like any of the rest of the displays any of us build here.

The question lots of people here keep answering is not the one you asked. But evidently many have thought it was implied. A couple other newbies have specifically asked however - so I guess they are thinking the same thing.

How much does it cost to get started? Less than $100. (difficult, but certainly possible with diligence)

Someone will gripe and complain I said that - but it is true. All you need is a single controller. If you are visiting this website, I would say there are 99% odds that you already have a static display in the yard. I did - and it was actually bigger than 90% of the non-animated houses you see on any given neighborhood block. My static was actually bigger than a couple animated I have seen as well. Anyway, now all you have to do is animate it. The first year, you do not necessarily need music, or a radio trasmitter. No need to go buy more lights. But you might or might not need more extension cords depending on how your existing display is set up (cords already run). It is possible to pick used equipment on this board - matter of fact a new one was posted yesterday. You might get software with the used controllers - depends on the brand and licensing. And you don't even need that if you go with used Gemmy or Mr. Christmas. Of course, like most of us, you will probably get the "bug" and want to go bigger/better (keep in mind, bigger IS NOT necessarily always better). So expanding those last two items will be more difficult than stepping into LOR, Vixen, Light Show Pro,etc to begin with. But, it can be done with your existing stuff - and still be nice. And when you use only your existing display and just animate it - your costs might go down for electricity. Since your static "all on" display is now "sometimes on, sometimes off" blinking and fading - those "off" times are not using all that electricity anymore.

Unfortunately, the $ and life circumstances do get to all of us at some point in time. For some people this means no show for a season (or more) There are those that want/need to part out their existing equipment. So you can pick up hardware, lights, cords, molds, etc. on the cheap. Then there are those that jump in head first, get several controllers brand new, and go hog wild right out of the gate (nothing wrong with this either).

There are some on this board that are excellent bargain hunters - and I am sure they will be more than willing to help anyone get started. Friendliness and watching out for each other is not something we are short of around here.

While there are those that don't need to count the $ and can make over the top displays without feeling it, there are also those that make over the top displays - and are able to do so because of the sacrifices they made elsewhere (having nothing to do with their wealth/social status). So it can be done - only you can make that decision though. And as others have said - this is a *family* decision, not just a personal one, since the whole family could possibly be feeling the effects.

And then there is also the whole DIY crowd. So if you have the ambition to build, you can go even cheaper. You do not need talent or skill to DIY -- those can be aquired as "on-the-job" training. I am big on DIY. Not everything works out on the first try - so my savings in particular may not be as great as others when I have to redo something. But I enjoy the DIY aspect - so that is ok with me.

Remember, Rome was not built in a day. And neither was Holdman's display. And neither was almost anyone else's on this forum either. Due to the time involvement already mentioned - everything moves slower that you really want when planning/building/displaying. But that is OK - it actually helps spread out the costs over the months/years.

Quite possibly the longest post that I've ever read all the way to the end. Well written. Good advice. Good Job!

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That's very impressive and waaaaaaaaaaaay out of my league. Honestly, I didn't know what LOR or animated displays were until this website. Whenever I see videos of these displays I am just amazed at the beauty of it all. And, hard work and $$$ that have gone into it.

Yep same for me! It was this site and Richards Video's that have turned my world upside down! With all I've been doing since I took the lights down last year is preparing for this year, I'm amazed just how quick the year flew by. In lowe's yesterday it really struck me as I started @ their Christmas lights. WOW! For me, the fastest year on record. 2010

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Hey gang! I thought I'd chime in on this topic, since I've had the opportunity to meet Richard Holdman and get a "behind the scenes" look at his display. In talking with him and looking at his set up, his display (in my opinion) isn't as "epic" as far as the cost is concerned. YES, his display is what has inspired me in my quest for "epic-ness", but I have seen MANY other "epic" displays here and on YouTube that blow Holdman's out of the water when it comes to adding up the $$$.

Here's what I learned and observed from Richard's display:

  • He buys ALL of his mini lights at clearance prices, usually around $1.50 each or less. (I think many of us try and do the same)
  • His white christmas trees are just cheap white aluminum trees that he got VERY cheap. They were pre-lit (I believe) with white lights, so all he had to do was wrap them with red and green.
  • He had only about 4-5 LOR controllers, if I recall correctly
  • He used aproximately 20 GFCI outlets, and based upon what I've read on the boards here, having electrical work done can cost $1,000 to $3,000, depending on what you need. Richard's outlets were tapped into an outside power box that just happened to be at the right place on the property in the middle of his current display.
  • His display (much to my surprise) seemed much smaller in person.
  • He uses the LOR mini MP3 Director and a radio transmitter.

So, based on what I saw and learned from Richard, I would guess that his display (including all lights, reindeer, snowflakes, arches of lights, controllers, cords, artificial trees, electrical work) costs about $6,000 to $8,000 on the high end.

What makes Holdman's display so epic, is the sequencing and "choreography" of the lights. He really knows how to make the lights dance to the music, instead of making them repeat what the music is doing. He's put A LOT of time and thought into his shows, and THAT is what makes them EPIC.

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[*]He had only about 4-5 LOR controllers, if I recall correctly

You don't remember correctly ;) He has on his website that he had 176 channels as of 2008 I think. 176 divided by 16 is 11 LOR controllers. I can almost guarantee that he has more than that now.

One other note.... yes HE may have gotten his cheap aluminum trees cheap, but you won't. Yes HE may have gotten his lights on clearance for real cheap, but, the recent trend has shown that the days of the "cheap lights after Christmas" are gone.

Just an FYI.

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The bottom line is just like any other hobby. You've got to start small.

Before all the LOR's and D-lights, etc. I started by writning my own program with BASIC, just like Chuck did. The first year I didn't have the music part. VERY TIME CONSUMING!

Then came "Dancer" Very basic but had synchronized music and worked!

With that I was getting feedback from both the founder of LOR and D-lights on how to re-write my program and or fix my hardware issues.

I finally decided they were more experienced at the actual code and hardware design than I was and decided to start using a professionaly built product.

Again, bottom line is, start with one controller. That will get you atleast 16 channels to work with. More than enough to get started.

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The bottom line is just like any other hobby. You've got to start small.

.....

Again, bottom line is, start with one controller. That will get you atleast 16 channels to work with. More than enough to get started.

Very sound advice... from a very wise man.

Well said John! :)

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Yep same for me! It was this site and Richards Video's that have turned my world upside down! With all I've been doing since I took the lights down last year is preparing for this year, I'm amazed just how quick the year flew by. In lowe's yesterday it really struck me as I started @ their Christmas lights. WOW! For me, the fastest year on record. 2010

Same here. It was the Holdman video that got me hooked a few years back.

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Same here. It was the Holdman video that got me hooked a few years back.

Same Here.

Well this is my first year with an animated display and I have 10 LOR boxes that I got during the summer sale. I purchased the 64 channel package and 4 of the PC boxes. In that setup alone I have just over $3,000. One heck of a birthday present, lol. Then there are the lights, I spent just over $1,000 last year on a snowman, horse & carriage, and 7,500 mini lights. I got some lights like my net lights and mini trees very cheap after Christmas last year and I got about $1,500 worth of stuff for about $500. I am going from 7500 lights to 50k this year and I've just bought and ordered the rest. In the c9, c7, & c9 strobes plus 3k feet of extension cords, zip ties, etc. From Action Lighting (who Richard used) I have another grand. Walmart has also taken another $500 in mini lights at $2.48 a strand. So as of this moment I have roughly $6,000.00 in my current setup. I have in total just over 60,000 bulbs (some of which are backups, etc.), 11 LOR Boxes (I bought a used one, and am saving one of my PC controllers as a backup for this year), plenty of extra bulbs, fuses, etc. The only thing I don't have figured in this cost is the electrical upgrades, the 4 arches I'm going to make, misc stuff, as well as the mega tree, and the 2 sets of led falling icicle lights I'm buying (the 40" one's from CDI).

What do I think it will cost, probably around $7,000.00. Now keep in mind I'm going to be at 160 channels, and 50,000 lights. Holdman in 2009 has 150,000 lights and 200+ LOR channels (I think he said 192 in 2008 and that display is the same as 2009). So I'm sure his light cost is higher than mine, and he also has more elements, even at his home that he is lighting up. You can see my "animated" elements on You Tube, user name - njwatkins1.

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The unwritten rule in my household is to never speak of display costs. why dampen the joy it brings.

Bill, I'm with you. If my husband ever found out what I spend every year, he would take my credit cards away! Luckily this is the only hobby I have that involves spending.

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What ever you do...DO NOT TELL THE WIVES! We will all be in trouble!

[ATTACH=CONFIG]38417[/ATTACH]

No, it's don't tell the Husbands!!! Robert, I will have to come by and see your display this year. Fayetteville isn't too far from Jackson.

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I will say that while I don't have a personal display of my own (yet), I have had the privilege to help design and layout some displays in my immediate area and in other states. The fastest display to go up that I helped with was from nothing (no controllers, no extension cords, no anything) to full display (4 controllers, lights, mega tree, 2 leaping arches, 5 songs sequenced) was in just over 3 wks. Start of November last year, and I have a good idea of what that cost to put together. Same for the costs for some of the other displays that I've helped with.

But when it comes to answering the cost question for any display I answer with a question of my own: How much do you want to spend? Everyone one of us has three levels of spending: What we dream of spending, what we want to spend and what we actually spend. To answer each of those would be very different and mean different to everyone.

The shows that I have seen, been involved with have been from small (12 channels) to big (500+ channels), however I feel the "cost" is nothing when it comes to memories, smiles, laughter, tears of joy, or traditions that may start with your display when people see it. You look at overall cost. All they see is the cost of giving something to the community. That is something that can't be measured in dollars and cents.

I know that what I am looking at for my first year when I set my own display up (hoping for next year) will not be small but not huge but it will be epic. Regardless of where you live, to everyone who see's your display and what you are able to create, it will be epic to them and will have them talking about it, tweeting, facebooking, or messaging all their friends and family about what they just saw/witnessed in front of the display YOU created.

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Cost is really not relevant judging the quality of a display.

Some of the most nicely done displays I have seen (and I saw several hundred when producing the Holiday Lights DVD series for the 4 years I offered them to our forum communities) were certainly not the largest by any means!

Some of the largest, I found tended to have a lot of repetitive elements and or timing (in the case of large numbers of channels).

The best displays, in my opinion, were designed using themes. They were not just a collection of lights, synchronized or static for that matter.

Bottom line - It depends on the reasons you are doing your display. If you are out to win a contest, have bragging rights, or use it as an ego builder of some sort, you will tend to spend more, just to be better/have the best.

If you are doing it to share the joy of the season with your viewers, and create those special moments that "create a lifetime of memories", especially with the younger ones, you may find yourself not needing to spend all that much.

Remember that creativity is free. The thought process behind it does cost you - time...

Greg

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