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Klayfish

Taking The Next Step With Our Outdoor Display. Help

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Hey everyone! Wanted to stop in and introduce myself and start gathering some ideas for the upcoming holiday season. A bit of background. I love the Christmas season. Funny thing is I was actually raised in a Jewish household and am not religious at all, but I just love the spirit of the holiday. I've been dressing up as Santa at the local daycare/preschool and mom's club holiday party for years…all 170lbs of me…lots of padding involved… We cut down our own trees at a local farm, the whole quaint experience. You get the picture.

My wife and I have slowly added to our Christmas decorations every year for 15 years. The inside of the house is now nicely decked out, though we're not done. The outside is where I could use some help. I'd say it's now at the fringe of what the "average Joe" would do. Lots of lights, about 7 blow ups, a few signs, etc… We're lucky enough to have a large property, totalling 3.5 acres. It's also on a fairly well traveled road, so a perfect place for a big display! Our front yard stretches about 400 feet from side to side. Here's a link to a few pictures of what we had last year…sorry the photos aren't very good, it only shows a small portion of our stuff. http://s1197.photobucket.com/albums/aa424/Klayfish/Christmas%202011/#!cpZZ1QQtppZZ16

We're ready to take the next step, but are on a limited budget. During the post holiday sale last year, I snapped up about 12-15 prelit 6' trees from Walmart. Not sure of the exact plan for them yet. Our long term goal is to have an amazing, jaw dropping display. But just like the past 15 years, we know it's one step at a time. My thought for this year would be to either add a mega-tree or get some kind of a controller for the lights and/or add an FM transmitter, but I know nothing about them. I can do average basic stuff, but am not an electrician or true handyman. I know an electrical upgrade to the house is needed soon specifically for the display, and that'll be done by a licensed electrician, hopefully one specializing in light displays.

Sorry for the long intro. Any input you can provide would be great. Are mega-trees really hard to install? Given our yard size, we'd want a fairly large one. Are there decent kits? What would be your recommendation for a starter set to be able to control the lights and/or broadcast over FM? Any other ideas for the first step into making our display a crowd pleaser? We've got a couple utility poles about 100' apart. Thought about putting a wire across from side to side and making a dancing "light curtain"?? I know there's a lot of info on the website and I read through it some when I get time, but any specific feedback would be great!

Edited by Klayfish

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Welcome to our world of crazy lights. The best recommendation that I can give you is to visit the LOR web site and the LOR forums here http://forums.lightorama.com/ this will get you to some very smart people that has done this for years and will help you anyway posible.

Earle

PS - LOR will be having a sale very soon.

Edited by EWTalley

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Ditto to what Earle said..........If your get into animating you lights LOR is the way to go IMO........There are plenty of free sequences out there to get you started and plenty of people who use it and most are quite helpful..........You mentioned a mega tree kit, I purchased my 20' kit from Christmas Light show http://www.christmaslightshow.com/ and have used it for the past 3 seasons and it has held up really well........The kit has just about every thing you need except pipe and lights and it looks great when it's up. I also think if you invest in LED Lights you probably would not have to go thru the expense of upgrading your electrical panel, cuz they use hardly any electricty as compared to incandescent lights. Hope this helps.

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I would also recommend Light O Rama Controllers as earle said the Lor Forums is the best place to go

The Ctb16pc line is the most affordable controller if You have soldiering skills there is a kit that is the most affordable http://store.lightor...m/ctkitaop.html if you cant soldier there is other options

such as the assembled kit where all you have to do is install the electricial dangle cords and they have quick connect terminals on the ends it will simply plug right into the board http://store.lightor...om/ctascpa.html and the third option is the fully assembled model http://store.lightor...retogonoas.html

there is also an Professional grade controller that has a metal enclosure http://store.lightor...m/locolico.html

http://www.lightoram...ontrollers.html

Edited by TitusCarnathan

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Get a LOR controller and start there. Use an even number of trees, it is easier to sequence with music, since most music is 4/4 time.

Ling the front of your property with the trees, and put some type of fencing between each tree, with lights on the fence. I think rope light between the trees would look very nice. Sequence the trees to do different things such as run from one to the next (impressive to the crowd) you can even have two trees come on at the same time as it runs across your lawn. You can program them to run from each outside edge to the center, flash on and off, fade, twinkle, stuff like that. It will look really good. Have a look at how Richard Holdman does his lights and trees. it will inspire you. He has (I think) about 3 different colors of strings of lights on each tree, red green white, and he uses the controller to tell the trees to change color.

http://www.holdman.com/christmas/

Of course, in Richard's scenario, each tree would require 3, so you can do the math to see you will quickly want to get more controllers! You can find them on sale, and sometimes here on Planet Christmas when someone is getting out of decorating, you can get a good deal. Wowlights also has sales and sells controllers and premade sequences. You don't have to be an electrician or a handy man to do this. Study other people's sequences (like the free ones) and you will learn how to do your own the way you want. there are several websites that offer free sequences. But starting out slow is GOOD. You may want to start looking for great sales on LED lights so you won't have to upgrade your electricity any time soon. LEDs are cheaper than new electrical service! We picked up a half price deal $8.88 at Big Lots last year for 120 light strands. I bought everything they had and they are beautiful lights! Save the Mega tree for later, you'll probably want to change to the Colormotions tree anyway!

Edited by Darlene Pino

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Thanks everyone. I did find the LOR forum shortly after I made this post and I've registered there. I know I have a lot of reading to do and am going to do as much as I can. One of my biggest challenges is time. It's a challenge both in learning about all this stuff and then in setting everything up. Working full time and having 3 little kids at home doesn't leave me with a ton of free time. That's also one of the reasons I don't plan to try to go big right away. As much as I'd like to, I realistically know I just don't have the time. As the kids get older, I can involve them more and get them to help, and have more free time. But for now, I'm doing what I can.

This will be the first year I've tried to do anything beyond your basic stuff. I've always just gone to Wal-Mart, bought some new light strands and had at it. Last year, I did try to be a little more fancy, such as the crude ramp I built for my Santa and his sleigh you see in my avatar. I don't know the first thing about sequencing, controllers, etc..., but am a willing and eager student. Guess maybe the first step is to buy a controller. If I want to broadcast music over FM, that's something separate from the controller that I have to buy, correct? Are sequences something I load onto a computer, and the computer then plugs into the controller?

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You'll need the software, a controller (16 channel).

The sequences are created or loaded onto your computer and the software is what tells the controller to work.

Each cable that attached to the controller (16 of them) are called channels.

If you have 16 channels/plugs then you have the opportunity to have 16 different things to happen simultaneously in your display.

Since you are so limited in time, why don't you look at the WOW lights, as they have it already done for you. Pick what you like and start from there. You can buy just a sequence, or sequences with the controller, and more, depending on what you want to buy.

It is not Unusual to ask for a controller for Fathers Day, Christmas, Birthdays, etc. (hint)

Everything in your yard does not have to be synchronized. Some people just do one part, some much more. it jut depends on your taste. Controllers last a long time and are well made, so they are worth the price.

And whenever you get the chance, go to one of the Christmas Workshops, such as PLUS or the one in Texas and take the LOR courses, you'll be glad you did.

Folks here are happy to help you, as well. Just ask.

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Welcome To the Madness, WARNING this hobby is very addictive . With that said if i were you i would start with the free download of the LOR software it will allow you to do everything except control lights. i find it's much easier to understand while your playing with it. LOR also has several Help Manuals on there Downloads page this should help you get a feel for it. best addvice would be once you decide on your first layout don't change it. Everything will sound like a good reason to change it and it gets confusing. The FM Transmitter is the Simplest thing you will deal with do some research here and decide your favorite model and plug it in.

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Welcome to PC ! In your original post you said you bought some trees but didn't know what you were going to do with them -- you'll fit right in here!

I too am not a super handy person so I paid the higher price and got LOR Showtime controllers - you can read about the differences between those and the PC models on the LOR website. I also bought some extra fuses from them - they are hard to find locally -- I have never needed one yet, but I like having them "just in case"

Again, Welcome!

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Trying to do as much reading as I can during my lunch breaks, etc... I'll have to try to find the LOR software download. I've been crawling around their website when I can, but there's a lot to it. So if I understand right, I'll have a computer/laptop hooked up to the controller, which will coordinate everything? Then I put the software on the computer which will have the sequences on them to send to the controller?

If I buy a 16 channel controller this year, but 3 years from now, want 32 channels, do I just buy another 16 channel controller? I'd assume the controllers can be linked together to sync up?

If I can find a local workshop, I'll definitely try to attend.

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My bet is that it won't take you three years to want another controller.

Ha, ha. I think the same thing as above! Do you have any idea how many controllers it takes to do one Mega tree? I think we started with three 16 channel controllers, and It goes up from there rather quickly. So that is just for one decoration.

So if I understand right, I'll have a computer/laptop hooked up to the controller, which will coordinate everything? Then I put the software on the computer which will have the sequences on them to send to the controller?

Let's start with the computer. The LOR Software is on your computer. Then you put your sequence in the LOR Software, Then the computer is hooked up to the controller, then the lights are plugged into the controller (unless you get a ShowtimeMP3 controller that uses a card then you can shorten this path a little) Look here for pictures and a better explanation of a typical setup. sometimes it is helpful to see it.

Go here and look at the quick start guide http://www.lightorama.com/Documentation.html

for the DEMO VERSION to download: http://www.lightorama.com/demo.php

And you can get a low level version of the software here: http://www.lightorama.com/ShowtimeSoftwareSuite.html

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I started out with 2 controllers the first year and now I have 6 and it's only my 3 year. Welcome to the mad world of blinking lights. Just remember to have fun with it and enjoy the big smiles.

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I started out with 2 controllers the first year and now I have 6 and it's only my 3 year. Welcome to the mad world of blinking lights. Just remember to have fun with it and enjoy the big smiles.

Doug: Talk about a mad world of Blinky Flashy. I started out with 2 controllers just like you and now I have 14 and this is my 3rd year also talk about crazyness ...................(LOL) then I decided the coro singing tree quartet was really cute to add to our display this year, I got them and guess what, I need 2 more controllers just for them.......Guess I really got the bug or the bug got me (LOL) But it is fun and thank God for LOR spring & summer sales.

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Hi Klayfish and welcome! This is my 2nd year into animated lighting and it's really been fun and rewarding! The folks out here on this forum and the LOR forum are so helpful. Between both sites there is so much information and knowledge that at times it can be overwhelming but someone is always there to help...even around midnight and the wee hours of the morning!

And yep...you will find yourself wanting more of those controllers pretty quickly :-)

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My bet is that it won't take you three years to want another controller.

Truer words were never spoken.

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How many controllers for a mega-tree - ONE - depending upon number of colors and what you want to do. Example: my first year I did only green, so 16 strings - 1 controller, and I added mini-trees to the channels as well.

Thic year coming up, 4 colors, so broke the tree into segments, i.e. 4 green strings will go into plug 1, the next 4 into plug 2, etc.. so 4 plugs to go around the tree in groups of 4 means I can add 4 colors to the tree.

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I just wanted to add my Amen to all that has been said and pass along my experience. This is a great hobby and it is addictive.

I

I had been doing a static display for many years, each year building on it. 4 years ago, I got bit by the animation bug. I bought 1 LOR controller box of 16 channels and bought a couple of sequences from LOR, I also found the friendly freebie sequences that folks are willing to share. I just laid out my static display as I always had and plugged it into the controller box and ran the of-the-shelf sequences. It actually worked very well.

The 2nd year I doubled my controllers and added lights and built a Holdman Bethlehem Star as the centerpiece for my display. Year 3 I added another controller, a leaping driveway arch, and a 10 ft mega tree. This year I added another controller to drive another arch, got a 3-D Star topper for my tree, am building roof top fire sticks and adding mini trees.

Start slow and easy. Consider your skill level. Learn as you gol Aso consider the time you have to give to the process. Dont try to do too many things all at once. I'm creative but not the best at building things.Each new thing you do adds to your learning curve and slows you down a lot. Everything takes longer than you expect it to. Also consider your budget. This gets expensive fast. Lights are constantly going up in price and blowmolds, wireframes, and inflatables are expensive. Your initial outlay for 1 controller and starter kit, some sequences, lights and extension cords could cost you $1,000.00 depending on the type and number of lights.

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No doubt about it, I'd love to have more than one controller. But budget, free time and skill level will keep me to just one for this year. I've been getting all kinds of great support from the forums here and at LOR, which is awesome. I definitely see how this hobby can get expensive very quickly, hence part of the reason I'm adding slowly. Right now, I've got a decent start with lights, extention cords, etc...and given what I've spent on the controller and such, I'll probably make do mostly with what I have. May make a few mini trees or something, but otherwise I'll just use what I've already got.

I'm going to dive head first into learning the LOR software and trying my hand at sequencing, but I'll definitely ask for any existing sequences other folks are willing to share. If I can get a song or two of my own sequenced for this year, fantastic. I'll supplement it with the freebies I get to put on my show for this year.

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Someone STOP the madness - I keep having light flashback - 5,000, then 17,000 and now 30,000 where will it end - well...like most of us you will find yourself expanding until you find when you flip the on switch and the rest of your neighborhood dims! LOL -

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It is maddening! I am very excited about the coming season.

Temple Square in Salt Lake City has started hanging their lights already, it's a pretty cool display for those that have not seen it. Well, I guess it's pretty cool for those that have seen it too.

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