The amazing World of Christmas light display

20/05/2024 20mins
Ajish Prakash


Perhaps the holiday cheer will not be complete without the festive Christmas lights display, shifting colors and dancing to a tune, in the neighborhood.

You may be wondering how these amazing Christmas light displays work. Or, you may want to know how to make your own. At the end of this article, you will have the idea on how the components work together so you can make your own Christmas lights display.

So, How Do these Christmas Lights Show Work?

There are three primary components that make up these mesmerizing Christmas light displays, namely, the lights, the sequencing of music and choreography of the lights and the controllers and power supplies.

The Lights

The Christmas lights are arranged strategically to display various formations such as stars, snowflakes, Christmas trees, leaping arches and so much more. Typically, the light used for Christmas lights displays are LEDs. These LEDs are connected to electronic switches referred to as relays. Through relays connected with simple microcontrollers, the lights can be programmed to blink on and off with fancy effects.

More recently, LEDs have evolved and new light technology has started to kick in the market. These lights are called Pixels which are essentially the modern version of smart RGB light bulbs. Pixels are connected in a strand and each of them contains a tiny microchip that dictates the LED when to turn on and off including what color to light up. They can also light up individually to display various patterns and effects. The different designs and light formations can be created using pipes, corrugated plastics and custom structures. Keep in mind that your Christmas lights display must be able to literally weather outdoor challenges without falling apart.

Music and Choreography

Once the Christmas lights are arranged in props such as stars, snowflakes and Christmas trees, you can group them as you would imagine instruments in an orchestra as the lights dance to the music. Choreographing the lights will require software that you can interface with the lights system.

The most common free software is called xLights. The lights will be designed strategically where each of them will have a different track. You can then incorporate various effects to individual or groups of lights and add complex patterns using the software.

Controllers and Power Supplies

Now, to make the lights look dashing, you will need to use controllers and power supplies. There are two types of controllers used in the typical light displays that you can see. The first one uses sequencing software and the second one uses hardware controllers that interface with the lights directly. There a variety of controllers you can choose from and they’re available in different shapes and sizes. They work by converting the data from the show computer into specific protocols responsible for the light show.

Let the Show Begin!

The last thing you will need is a computer where you can store the lighting sequence and the audio data for your own light show. Your laptop can come in handy, but one of the commonly used show computers is a Raspberry Pi that contains the software called Falcon Pi Player.

After you have put together all the components, you can now proceed to running your own Christmas lights show. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


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