Brad's Christmas Lights will be back again this December! Planning is already under way for this year's upgrades! Gone are the traditional Christmas Light strings from the hedge - now all will be replaced with individually programmable RGB LED pixels. Stay tuned to my Facebook or Twitter feeds for build updates!
Brad's Christmas Lights is a music synchronised display that has almost entirely been custom built using the latest in digital LED pixel lighting technology.
You can also "Get your Name in Lights!" by connecting your phone/tablet to the Xmas Lights WI-FI hotspot portal. Enter your name and it will appear on the house roof* - all in real-time and in sequence with the light show.
The display is also a fundraiser for a registered charity, so please don't forgot any loose change if visiting! :)
See below for more details about my display, including location & operating times.
Please also consider the following to make your visit as enjoyable as possible:
When is the best time to visit?
Many displays - including this one - will get busier as Christmas approaches. Plan your Christmas Light visiting earlier in the month to avoid missing out! Also with the Summer storms around, it's often best to get in before there's a week of rain!
As of Christmas 2016:
- How big is your electricity bill?
- The entire display only adds about $1 per night to the power bill. I'll spend more on cable ties.
- How much power do you use?
- LED lights use very little power. Doing the ironing will actually use double the power than this entire display. For the nerds we are talking ~1000Watts when all LEDs are on (vs 2400W for an Iron). Power consumption varies greatly during the show as not all lights are on at once. Displaying a single primary colour (like red, blue, or green) also reduces the load as their other two colours (to mix) aren't required.
- How long does did it take to setup?
- Many of the elements within the display are pre-built during the year (or built in previous years). Physical assembily & testing on the house takes about three weeks during November
- How long does it take to sequence the lights to music?
- Each song takes approximately ten hours per minute of music to sequence. Yup it is a slow process of mapping various effects out to each bar of music within the song. This process is then repeated for each element in the display - be it the roofline, Christmas tree, front garden edge, etc.
- What do you do for a living?
- I'm in IT, working in System Operations, Networking and similar Level 3 tech support fun.
- What sort of LED's change colour like this?
- Unlike your normal store-bought Christmas Lights, digital LEDs "Pixels" are fully programmable so each one can be programmed for its own colour & brightness. Every LED pixel node is numbered and their physical location is programmed in to sequencing software that is used animate the lighting effects.
- How does the interactive Wi-Fi aspect work?
- In 2013, Brad added the Wi-Fi hotspot where visitors can get their name in lights.
This involved coding custom computer software for two systems...
A) to dynamically modify the show on-the-fly so the names would appear, and
B) web portal software for visitors to interact with in order to request their name. On top of this is a database-driven system backend to manage/filter/coordinate requests.
Then on top there's the IT side of networking it to the Wi-Fi captive portal.
- Can I pay you to do my house?
As professional as my display looks, this is merely my hobby. My own display already takes considerable time & effort to organise, on top of already working full-time!
- How can I build a display like this?
- Checkout the AusChristmasLighting 101 Manual on the AusChristmasLighting forums, a community of like-minded Christmas Lighting Enthusiasts. You will require a technical background (or desire to learn) as these displays are far more complicated than just plugging in a few sets of lights. :)
- How should I start out doing some simple Christmas Lights?
- Start out by using the lights to outline your house, eg: gutter, around front windows, then roofline if you like climbing on the roof. If you don't like heights you can always shine a coloured light up a wall or tree from the ground too!
- Does the radio station / Christmas Light competition pay you to do lights?
- Not at all. (unless I were to win!)
- Do you get a discount on the power bill?
- I wish. Reality is I use more power in winter modestly using the A/C on heat
- Why aren't my lights on in the rain?
- Two reasons. 1. My lights are not the same as your normal cheap Christmas Lights from the shop. Whilst I design everything to be waterproof I'd rather not risk damaging them considering... 2. Since the street is narrow, road safety is also of concern whilst it's raining.
- Why don't you leave the lights all night?
- A display this size draws crowds and requires constant supervision. I'll be the first person to say that I don't want to hear extra traffic at midnight whilst trying to sleep too!
- Are you authorised to fundraise?
- Yes. Letter of fundraising authority will be attached to the letterbox.
- How long have you been putting up your Christmas Lights?
- Since 1998
- How long have you been computer controlling Christmas Lights?
- Since 2002
- Where do you get/buy the 'name in lights' thing?
- You can't. This is entirely custom programmed via 1000's lines of code to create custom software for this task. Believe it or not one Christmas Light vendor actually told me they've had multiple inquires about it!
- I can't make it because I'm too busy with my own Christmas Light display
- Special arrangements can be considered for fellow Christmas Lighters whom are trapped supervising their own large displays/dd>
- Will Brad be around for questions whilst we are visiting the display?
- Of course! If I'm not already out the front, I won't be far away.