We have a plan

Here we are at the halfway point between the lights turning last season and the lights turning on for this season and we seem to have a plan. I toyed with a few ideas of what to change and what to add, where I finally settled is changing the left hand side of the house to a walk through area with the donation bin inside a “Santa House” that can double as a photo op as well as adding two additional pixel panels to the lower section of the house beside the garage.

Walk through displays that inspired this seasons change in layout
Mock up of Walkthrough area

I was inspired by a couple of the displays I visited in South Calgary last year that had wooden cutouts set up for photo ops. We often have a few kids come up on the driveway and dance but I wanted to encourage people to walk up a little more. The plan is to have a pathway lined by lights that will lead up to the Santa house where people can drop off their donations as well as have a chance to take some pictures. The path will go from the road to the top of the driveway passing the wooden cutouts I already have. Some things on this side of the house will be permanently illuminated and others will be integrated into the display.

The Santa house will be a bit of a challenge to build, I want this to be bolted together vs screwed so I can easily assemble and disassemble each year. I also need to figure out how to design it to sit level on the slight slope we have on the yard where I want to put it as well as account for the wind we get. I also want to build a small door that people can put their donations through for whatever charity we support each year.

The walk up from the road to the Santa house will have some lights that are on 100% of the time so it doesn’t go completely dark while someone is walking through. These will mostly be standard LED lights with RGBs floodlights (that will only run white) and the Donation direction arrow that will have a red and white RGB moving display. The pathway will be outlined with Pathway marker lights and candy canes with the Santa car and elves wooden cutouts integrated in the walk through to create a winding path. I’ll be using a background sequence to run the pathway lighting. I have tried this in the past with little success as the lights seem to flicker when I had a background sequence running. What I have learned is the background items need to have their own preview with the props (Channels) in the background not included in the main sequence. I’ve tested this approach on my summer light set up and it seemed to work.

Background Layout for walk through area

Juggling things around to allow for the walk through area I will need to remove or relocate one of my pixel panels. I’m still undecided on what I will do here, the thought of not using lights isn’t appealing but I don’t know how awesome it will be if I force it into the other side of the display. I am thinking of positioning it under the living room window so it can be seen above the right side matrix panels.

I will also be adding a couple of additional pixel panels beside the garage. I really enjoyed the ones I added to the upper story last year and think 2 more will really add to the effect. These are pretty easy to build and store and won’t require me buying a whole lot more equipment. These will be the same size as the outer two on the upper level but will need to be designed a little different to allow then to slide over the house lights.

Proposed 2022 Musical Layout

I will also be incorporating a moving head spotlight into the display, I bought this a couple of years ago but had never figured out how to control it, now I have so its time to use it. I still need to figure out how and where I will mount is as it is not waterproof so I’ll need to be thoughtful on this. The first step in using this is to map the controls to DMX Values, this includes the Horizontal, Vertical Tilt, the colour and GOBO values.

Testing the moving head light using mapped values

From music perspective I don’t’ have a lot of new songs I am planning on adding, its enough work updating all of the legacy ones and there are a few that need some significant updates. I also want to incorporate the singing trees we added last season into more songs, I only managed to get three songs programed with them last season. This season they will be in a much more prominent spot at the front of the display so I will need to spend some time on this.

Singing Tree

One last thing I have added for this year is a Facebook page. I personally abandoned Facebook around 7 years ago but decided it would be a good idea to have a Facebook page for the lightshow. Hopefully this will help drive additional exposure and donations for the charities we support each year.

I have a pretty good idea of what I want to do, I have the previews built and now just need to start converting the songs and building any prototypes. For this I have created my build schedule, this year I have moved from excel to using Azure DevOps, its a bit overkill but I use it regularly, have access to it and wanted to learn more about the setup and configuration. I’m hoping this will also give me some good views into my overall progress. I know I am achieving the learning I wanted.

2022 Work Plan (yellow song conversion, green new songs, blue installing lights, purple building new props)

Looks like it is time to get busy

I am also pretty excited about the possibility of our light up Party returning after a two year hiatus. This is one of my favorite nights of the year and I look forward to a day of street hockey for the kids and a house full of food drink and friends for when the lights go on for the first time in the season.

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