Thinking of Creating a Musical Christmas Light Show?: Here’s What You Need to Know
There are people who put up Christmas lights and then there are the overachievers, the awesome people who create an event and entertain the masses. Little kids love them and their parents are thankful for the free entertainment and holiday spirit. These are the people who put up Christmas lights that create running reindeer, flashing Christmas trees, and waving Santas synchronized to the beat of holiday songs. Serenity Lighting Systems wants to share the information you need to get your Christmas light spectacular started.
Materials and Cost
When deciding how many lights you might need you first need to know how large of a display you want to create. This can be done by deciding how many channels, or sections of lights, you want in your display. For example, a section of lights on a tree would be one channel and another section running along the porch would be the second channel.
Getting regular Christmas lights are your best option. You don’t need flashing ones as they may not be able to be programmed to flash the way you want.
The cost of lights vary due to length, style, and type of bulb used. They can range from about $5.00 for small boxes to $300 for longer strands. The best time to get lights is right after Christmas when they are all on sale! Buying bulk lights may also offer some price reduction and be useful on larger channels you want to create. So, if you are thinking about doing a synchronized display, planning ahead is your best option.
Control box and Synchronizing Software Program
You will need a control box designed specifically for musical lighting in order to synchronize with your music. There are some control boxes that automatically sync to the beat of the music, giving you ease of use, but less control of what channel lights up during different parts of the song.
If you purchase a control box that does not come with its own synchronizing software, there are several software programs you can purchase online. With these programs, you are able to manage every detail of your light show. This can be very time consuming, however. In addition, some programs can be very difficult to use.
If you are feeling really adventurous there are DIY tutorials online to help you build your own control station. You will need to purchase a software program to program your lights, however.
The cost of your control box will depend on how many channels you want to run to it. The average cost of control boxes for a home is around $150-$400. If you build your own control box you will save money, however, you should feel confident doing electrical work.
If you are in need of software programs, there are a few websites offering free, easy to use synchronization programs. This may not offer all the effects you desire for your display, but it is definitely a money saver and worth a test drive. If you chose to buy one, they run approximately $50-$400 depending on the effects you hope to achieve.
FM Radio Transmitter
To play your music on the radio, you need to purchase an FM radio transmitter. You want to find one capable of broadcasting far enough to reach the people who have come to watch your amazing light show. It is equally important to find a transmitter with a wide range of frequencies so you can find an unused station available to play your music.
A quality FM radio transmitter will cost you between $100-$300 depending on the broadcast distance you want. Knowing the size of your yard and how far down the street you want to reach will help in choosing the right transmitter for you.
Music Source/Audio Cable
If your transmitter doesn’t come with an audio cable then you will need to purchase one. This connects your music source to the FM transmitter.
If you use a software program, most likely the music can be played through the program on your computer. If not, using your computer to play the music is still a great option. Other possible options include an iPod, iPad, or other similar Android devices. Whatever you choose, it will need to be connectable to the transmitter.
The music source and audio cable could potentially be no cost to you as you may already have these at your disposal.
Surge Protectors/ Extension Cords
Protecting your home and display from electrical surges is important, especially if you are doing a large light display. This also helps to connect all of your lights, which is required in order to program them.
If you are creating channels with some distance between them, you will need to use extension cords to maintain your lighting connection.
Surge protectors can be bought at your local hardware stores or online, starting at $15 for heavy-duty protectors and increasing in cost with brand and outlet options.The number of surge protectors you will need depends on the size of your display and the number of channels you decide to have.
Extension cords for outdoor use cost around $50-$150 depending on the length and brand at your local hardware store.
Depending on where you want your lights and how you want to hang them, you will need to purchase something to hang your lights, for example, staples and a staple gun. If you are building shaped displays you’ll also need the appropriate materials necessary to complete your ideas. This could include items such as pipes, wood, nails, glue, hammer, screws, drills, etc.
Plan out your ideas and create building plans to ensure you don’t forget a vital piece when heading to the hardware store to get your building materials.
Pros vs. Cons
Creating a Christmas lighting show is no small feat. It is not a low-cost one either. Even the smallest light show can run up your electricity bill. Be prepared to see a significant hike in your bill in addition to the cost of getting the materials discussed above.
In an effort to decrease costs for the following years, many people advertise and ask for donations. Though some people are uncomfortable asking for donations, many in the community are willing to help maintain the light show for the next year.
Building and programming your light display can be labor intensive. There are ways to cut down labor such as buying already designed light displays but these will increase expenses. These can run anywhere between $500 to $5,000 depending on how elaborate and how many channels you want. You simply have to put up the lights and connect all the equipment.
The major upside to having a light show is the notoriety you receive from the people in your city or area. Everyone will know and adore your house. The joy and awe it will bring to the children in your area will be very rewarding.
The accomplishment of designing and building your light show is another great benefit. Overcoming the challenges that go along with this endeavor will gain you bragging rights for years!
Creating an epic Christmas light show is time-consuming and costly but can be personally fulfilling. Spreading the Christmas spirit through lights and music is a great way to spend the holiday. If you decide not to embark on this Christmas lighting adventure, but are fortunate enough to enjoy another person’s display, remember the effort and thought put into it and ask how you can help keep it going for the next year!