View Full Version : Help me name my first project

08-04-2009, 11:05 AM
Figured you all have pet names for your projects (ChristmasInxxxxx, for example). So you can probably help me come up with an interesting name for mine as well. "An A.D.D. Christmas" is probably off the books, although it'd really fit my description best.

I live in Tulsa, Oklahoma (apparently a few miles away from Firegod's home) and have seen the work put in on these projects by a few homes around the city. I have no foundation for board circuitry, but wanted to use this project as a means of learning.

The day after Christmas, I went ahead and bought 75 boxes, each, of red, blue and green 100-counts along with 150 boxes of white 100-counts.

After reading through the how-to's on the forum, I was able to hook up with Firegod to get the FG128 boards, went through a co-op with Ibro and bought the SSRoz boards from wjohn (parts for the SSRs from Mouser using wjohn's parts list).

After a couple vacations in March and June, it took me and a couple friends about 2 hours to stuff and clip all the boards (pretty much was learning about each component as we were stuffing).

But the great milestone that I completed yesterday was the completion of soldering all 37 boards....in about 20 minutes. A friend has worked with a friend of his. The friend of the friend owns a factory that specializes in LED (and nextgen) lighting. The owner was gracious enough to allow me a little time in the factory to hit up his wave conveyor, which will ionize, heat, solder and cool each board in about 2 minutes. Here's a link to a wave conveyor (http://www.ettaco.com/admin/images/products/images/Soltec_wave_solder1.jpg). So now I'm ready to work on the power source. The initial thought is to use 2-gang outlets and just run each of the 4 channels to an outlet and break those out. We've looked at other power ideas and think this may be the best one as far as the yard configurations go.

Nonetheless, rather than using arcs or a large tree (which are already used in good form around the city), I figured I'll try some new ideas that can possibly help others spark some of their own new ideas. The one thing that a few of you all do that I do want to try is the snowflakes on the house. I saw this at Sak's Fifth Avenue in NYC and really dig the idea. I do want to do 8 to 12 mini trees in the front yard, but will most likely offset them to allow for a more diverse use. Has anyone else done this? I was thinking 3x3 or 5x4, or possibly 4x3 to add another dimension.

Finally, I have a little music composition experience and am trying to write my own pieces to use for the show. I figured the challenge will be to not rely on using what the music has to give when writing the sequence, but rather using what the yard provides and then writing the song around that. It should allow for greater use of particular features, such as the trees, the snowflakes, or the 40 feet of fence that will be covered in lights.

Thanks to all who have delivered ideas and helped each of us serve our community with this project. This is truly something that makes families happy, I believe.

So again, help me come up with a name for it and I'll have my wife make some cookies for you. :)

08-04-2009, 11:51 AM
So again, help me come up with a name for it and I'll have my wife make some cookies for you. :)

Welcome to DIYC, a vast frontier of exploration and creativity!

Do you have a "theme" or style in mind for your display?


08-04-2009, 12:55 PM
I would think "aSteelPanzChristmas" would get people wondering just what kind of (under?) garments are involved. ;)

08-04-2009, 03:36 PM
I would think "aSteelPanzChristmas" would get people wondering just what kind of (under?) garments are involved. ;)

Hilarious! Given that, the steel drums are an instrument invented in Trinidad and Tobago (like a calypso). I used to play the instrument in college and the name pretty much stuck.

Given the A.D.D. humor (and fact), the songs used and the lighting sequences delivered in each song will vary greatly from one to the next. I've seen a few homes online use some songs to feature just a particular segment of the house. For example, my wife (given that she's provided her blessing for me to spend the money on this project) has requested one song with nothing but white lights and an emphasis on the snowflakes and bells that'll be on the house and in the yard. So with that info, I'm trying to find a song (or write a song) that'll fit that particular theme.

I guess I'm trying to think about the experience the passers-by will have when they come by the house. As suggested in other parts of this forum, I'd really like to seek permission (from the companies whose songs I use) to limit the time between 2 and 3 minutes so that each person can get a glimpse of 3 or 4 different themes and uses before they drive off.

Thanks for the responses thus far. I've been looking through some of y'all's profiles to see how you've gone about setting this up (and more impressively, how many years you've been working with this).

08-05-2009, 12:03 AM
... (M)y wife has requested one song with nothing but white lights and an emphasis on the snowflakes and bells ...

Debussy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Claude_Debussy) "Snowflakes are Dancing" - I'd recommend the Tomita recording (http://www.amazon.com/Debussy-Snowflakes-Dancing-Prelude-Tomita/dp/B00003OP6X) which uses quite a lot of bell tones.

Although getting a synch. license (synchronize with the lights) plus a public performance license from a major label is going to be Expensive.

(yet another Don)

08-06-2009, 07:01 AM

Just brain storming here.


08-06-2009, 09:24 AM
Tesla in Tulsa

08-06-2009, 10:21 AM
Tesla in Tulsa

Cute, but he's doing Blinky-Flashy -- not Flashy-Sparky!!! (we hope!)

08-14-2009, 09:01 AM
After getting my boards waved, I realized that all 128 LEDs on the 4 FG128 field modules were put in backwards. So today will mostly be spent desoldering and resoldering those connections. The AC sockets on one SSRoz board was also put in backwards. I was able to get Firegod to flash my chips for me (although one turned out to be dead (thanks to someone else local here in Tulsa for giving me one of his)). So by the end of the day, I should be in much better shape than I am this morning.

I'm feeling a little pressure now as time seems to be escaping me. I fear the fact that I have no power connections setup yet (or purchased) is a sign that I'm already behind schedule.

For near-future consideration I'm trying to figure out which method I want to use to mount snowflakes and bell-shaped designs on the house. I thought about using a tomato cage for each, but think it's going to be too flimsy. So I think I may go with chloroplast or perhaps some pegboard and simply cut the shapes out on each.

I've also decided on using a couple Celtic Woman songs from their recent Christmas album as part of the show. I can fathom several unique effects using those songs that I may not be able to use with other songs I've checked out.

08-24-2009, 11:13 AM
Firegod was kind enough to help me troubleshoot my PC interface. I should have time, when I get home today, to test the connections to see if, at least, the LEDs will light.

Has anyone bought pre-made snowflakes rather than building their own?

09-23-2009, 02:26 PM
A little late to brag about this (due to the fact that I'm rolling out in about 7 weeks for previews), but I've finally completed my first song...again. I just had a neighbor volunteer a tree that lies close to our property boundary for use in the show. The tree will contain 8 of those "crystal" balls made out of the punch cups and multi-colored lights. There's a reason I'm finding this tree to be a good idea. You see, the neighbor's backyard backs into my front yard. That means there's about a 40-foot fence on the left side of my yard (if you're looking at it from the street) that divides our properties. That means that some viewers, when driving by, may not see part of the show (given that I'll have lights strung up on the entire length of the fence). So these ornaments - or crystal balls, or whatever - will help me display more lights to those who may be unable to see the fence (due to a few other cars driving by at the moment).

I still have no solid thought on how I'm going to run power. I have 128 channels using the FG dimmer boards and SSRoz boards from WJohn. I'm trying to avoid the all-power-cord option as I think that may get pretty pricey. A couple people mentioned using telephone wire, or even cat-5 wire. Do any of you utilize either of those?

The tomato cages will be the way I'm going for the 8 trees in the front yard this year (4 channels per cage). It'll probably look really slender, but it'll do for now. I'm realizing I have about 10 feet of gap space between the last cages and the front yard's garden, which makes me fear it might be too spacey. I'm curious if there are any single channel fillers (I have about 8 channels left to utilize) you all would recommend.

Finally, I have a friend using AutoCAD to design my 10 snowflakes that'll be mounted to the house. I'll be mounting them to a variety of surfaces - cedar fence pickets, brick and faux wood siding. I'd like some thoughts on how you all have mounted items onto these surfaces without having much of the damage exposed the remaining 10.5 months of the year.

Thanks for checking my updates out. I'll do my best to forward the favors on to others. :)

09-23-2009, 03:39 PM
I still have no solid thought on how I'm going to run power. I have 128 channels using the FG dimmer boards and SSRoz boards from WJohn. I'm trying to avoid the all-power-cord option as I think that may get pretty pricey. A couple people mentioned using telephone wire, or even cat-5 wire. Do any of you utilize either of those?

Do not, DO NOT use cat5 as "power" cable. Telephone wire either. There's a reason why extension cords are thicker and have all that insulation -- it for YOUR SAFETY as well as the safety of others.

Yes, cat5 (and perhaps telephone wire) can carry the signals from a controller to an SSR, but they can't carry the high current, too.

Now, repeat to yourself, "I will not use cat5 for power cable.... I will not use cat5 for power cable... I will not..."

09-24-2009, 01:04 PM
Above post noted.

In regards to broadcasting edited music, my research indicates the obvious - don't broadcast cut or edited songs over the air without permission. For those who try to abide by this, do you try to limit yourselves to shorter timed songs , which essentially may eliminate some good songs due to their length being 4 or 5 minutes?

11-24-2009, 04:06 PM
Going live on Wednesday.

I have 8 36" snowflakes on the house along with 2 20" flakes to go on the sides of the garage (I posted a how-to in the how-to section of the forums). Each large flake has 600 lights and 2 channels. Each took about 6 hours to make, but I felt the result made it well worth it.

The yard does have mini-trees. Each has 4 channels, stands 2'9" tall and contains 800 lights. I decided the draping method was best and ended up screwing 72 deck screws in the PVC pipe and a 20" circular base cut. The pipe for the trees is covered by foil to accentuate the lighting a little.

I have a cedar fence along the south side of the yard, that stretches 32 feet. So each and every picket is covered with lights - 32 channels, 3,200 lights. The neighbor who I share that with was happy to help with the project despite getting 8 2-gang outlets stapled to his side of the fence.

The one issue I'll troubleshoot tonight is figuring out if the 50 feet of the cat5 run from the PC interface (FG Dimmer 128) to the field module is the reason several channels are either not lighting or dimly lit. I'll also be tinkering with switching out a 5 volt regulator with a 6 volt one. So we'll see if that works out.

Other than that, I have 3 songs, just totaling 5.5 minutes right now with another 2 minutes of music set to be complete by tomorrow.

My last 2 tasks will be to add an FM transmitter, which I hope to complete today and adding on 2 red and blue flood lights.

Finally, in the how-to section, someone mentioned the sparkling christmas balls made out of punch cups. I started working on this a few weeks ago, but am delaying it (may add it next week) to get the 3 major components complete first.

11-24-2009, 04:21 PM
Sounds like it'll be a very, very cool display! Can't wait to see it!!!