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What did you learn in 2012?


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Year one in the books. Lessons learned:

1) My wife likes to hang the lights on the roof.

2) The reason I do this is for all the little kids (and young at heart) that come by and love it.

3) My time spent in college as a music major has the added bonus of being able to program quickly.

4) An 8-minute show that is great is better than the 15-minute show that is good.

5) Less traffic for the 8-minute show keeps the neighbors happier. :-)

6) For all you newbies IMO a radio transmitter is a must.

7) LED's turn on faster and fade up/down faster than incans.

8) Plan ahead, stick with the plan, buy what you think you need and then do it.

9) Everyone on this forum says buy more extension cord than you think you need. It's true.

10) A singing snowman choir that shimmers on long notes gets more oohs and aahs than some of the effects that took hours to execute. :-) KISS

11) Hearing peoples reactions to the show are priceless…my favorite, "Holy S***!!! The tree turned red!" That from a 60+ year old.

12) LOR friends in my area are great and very open.

13) If you have an interest, read about it here first and then read about it some more. I started thinking about this in December 2011 and read stuff all year.

14) Have fun. If you aren't having fun, PM me and I'll take all your lights and LOR equipment off your hands. :-)

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Things I learned in 2012:

1) Started experimenting more with DMX. Did not get it fully implemented for the 2012 show, but learned more than I knew about DMX before 2012.

2) Start Early! Don't take two months off in January and February or else you will be behind.

3) You never have enough SPT cable for extension cords. The number of trips I had to make to Home Depot or Lowes for SPT cable because I needed it.

4) When the manager at Home Depot says "I see you a lot around here these days" makes you learn you need to ask them for a discount next time you are there.

5) Buying stuff during the Pre-Sales makes it easier and saves you money.

6) RGB -- Started learning the basics

7) Before setup, create a plan beforehand. I can't believe the amount of time I spent out in the yard asking myself "What do I do now?"

8) Before you start setup, have all extension cords sorted and labeled. It will make setup easier.

9) You can never have enough zip ties, electrical tape, and other "installation" materials.

10) Make sure you have your FM frequency figured out before asking the Demented Elf to do your voiceovers. I had him do my voiceovers in April and by November, my FM frequency had to be changed.

11) Contact an outside source (e.g. The Demented Elf) to do your voiceovers. It pays off in the end!

12) Cut down on the time delay between sequences

13) Start doing your homework now on what you want for next year, what materials you need, your budget, etc.

14) Don't share the "true" cost of your display with anyone. Heck, don't even total it up. I totaled my bills for 2012 and realized I spent WAY MORE than I had budgeted. I almost passed out when I saw that true figure.

To Learn in 2013:

1) How can I make my show better for 2013?

2) How can I help others?

3) Learn RGB and more about DMX to improve the show and add that next "element" of surprise

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@ A majority of the folks watching my display would drive off when we stepped outside. I spent all year working on the display for me to lure you into stopping in front of my house so that I could come out and scare you off.

I get this too! What is up with that?

Things I learned in 2012:

1. You really should start before November

2. Buy 3 times as many zip ties as you think you will need at Harbor Freight where they are cheap

3. The dog will tear the covering off of the door

4. If people that you are married to try to tell you that you will not need guy wires do not listen to them

5. Put even more guy wires than you think you will need

6. Watch where you are walking after you put the guy wires

7. 3 day priority mail from the USPS is not guaranteed

8. It wouldn't hurt to put a couple of radio station signs because people still are not understanding there is music

9. 2 married people should not attempt to video the show together in the same vehicle

and finally

10. Hire someone to video tape the display because your camera stinks and neither you or your husband can sit still and hold a camera straight.

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@ A majority of the folks watching my display would drive off when we stepped outside. I spent all year working on the display for me to lure you into stopping in front of my house so that I could come out and scare you off.

I get this too! What is up with that?

Things I learned in 2012:

1. You really should start before November

2. Buy 3 times as many zip ties as you think you will need at Harbor Freight where they are cheap

3. The dog will tear the covering off of the door

4. If people that you are married to try to tell you that you will not need guy wires do not listen to them

5. Put even more guy wires than you think you will need

6. Watch where you are walking after you put the guy wires

7. 3 day priority mail from the USPS is not guaranteed

8. It wouldn't hurt to put a couple of radio station signs because people still are not understanding there is music

9. 2 married people should not attempt to video the show together in the same vehicle

and finally

10. Hire someone to video tape the display because your camera stinks and neither you or your husband can sit still and hold a camera straight.

I love #6. Using dark rope doesn't help either.

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Test all the previous years home made SPT cords before putting them on a controller and burning up triacs.

Drew

This is going to be my first year using SPT could you explain to me what happened and how a person can test for this?

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10. Hire someone to video tape the display because your camera stinks and neither you or your husband can sit still and hold a camera straight.

I've been videoing mine since 2010 and the video still look broke down. My son is in HS and I am going to see if he can get one of his AV friends to video next year.

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This is going to be my first year using SPT could you explain to me what happened and how a person can test for this?

Get a multi meter. Many available at reasonable costs.

Before you plug anything into anything, put the meter in the OHM's mode and put one probe on each of the blades of the male connector.

The meter should not indicate anything, or, it should be the same as when the probes are not touching anything.

If it does read some value, there is probably a short, or partial short in the setup.

Find it before you continue.

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What I learned in 2012:

1. Don't run drip tubes and strobes at the same time if they are close together. They cancel out each other and look like a flashy blob.

2. Yes, in fact, you can never have enough extension cords. I literally used my last cord the last element I set up.

3. Keep a Mr. Christmas in your arsenal. Loan it to neighbors who want to get into the hobby. If they still are committed afterwards take them to a mini (mine decided against it).

4. In this hobby and forum are some of the most generous and kind people around.

5. Even with a lit "Tune To" sign, and speakers in the yard, some people still don't realize the lights are set to music.

6. As you are tearing your seasonal display, someone will invariably ask when you will start putting up next years lights. (I hear a volunteer.)

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Don't cheep out on your CAT5 cable and connectors.

Had a tonne of issues with channels sticking (ON) till I replaced every cable to each LOR controller.

This years display ran AWSOME after that.

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2012 was my first crack at it. I learned how to make my lights go blinky blink and watch my kids stare in amazement.

2013 goal - learn what in the heck I'm actually doing, and make the blinky blink turn into choreographed movements. :D

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NEVER NEVER again introduce lots of new items into the display late in the season ( November), no matter how nice it would make things. I added a 16 string pixel tree and revamped my DMX lines at the last minute without a complete test. Blew most of my display as a number of connectors had failed resulting in NO dmx and blown fuses in E1.31 controller limited my pixel tree,

In the future no new stuff late in the year. wait until NEXT year!!! and test each individule and connected items as a section before setting out in the display. Trouble shooting once set up really SUCKS.

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I learned that those quick connectors that are sold on ebay for connecting cut RGB strips together without soldering are CRAP! Solder all your connections. It will take a little more time but you'll have less headache in the long run.

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I learned that those quick connectors that are sold on ebay for connecting cut RGB strips together without soldering are CRAP! Solder all your connections. It will take a little more time but you'll have less headache in the long run.

AMEN! Also the four pin connectors that are already soldered to the ribbon don't hold up in the cold. It's no fun rewiring once you're setup and it gets cold out.

Edited by scubado
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Things I learned this year.....

  1. Start working on sequencing before November
  2. If you are having a few issues getting going, don't worry about getting an entirely new sequence set out
  3. Once you do get everything out, go outside with some candy canes and offer them to your guest. You end up talking to lots of people and find out that many people come out every year and many will come out multiple times in the same year.
  4. Offer candy canes to everyone, kids and adults.
    • a couple of days before Christmas I was out handing out candy canes around 6pm and a cute elderly couple stopped by and stayed way down on the end if the yard, I offered them candy canes and the wife accepted. seeing her up close I could tell that she was in poor health. Late that evening around 11:15 I was just finishing up recording the show (show shuts off at 10:30 and we never see anyone later than that) and I see a car pull, it is the couple again. the wife was kind of slumped down in the passenger see and just kind of stared out of the window, the husband asked if the show was over and explained that his wife was ill and wanted to see the lights one more since they didn't think she would be around for next year, I told them to hold on a second and I would turn if back on for them. I turned the whole shebang back on they sat and watched all 30+, minutes.

[*]Always make sure to have at least one extra controller board available for an emergency swapout. I had one controller that i finally ran out of spare channels when they started sticking.

[*]and a common repeat....You can never have enough SPT cords.

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I learned that the dog likes to take his dumps near my CCP controllers? what does that mean?

Smart dog. Maybe he knows their value and was just trying to protect them. Ha. Or, at least he wanted to make sure you knew who was snooping around your display. Anybody with dog crap on their shoe should be easy to spot, er, smell. :(

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Don't cheep out on your CAT5 cable and connectors.

Had a tonne of issues with channels sticking (ON) till I replaced every cable to each LOR controller.

This years display ran AWSOME after that.

UGH I didn't think about the CAT5 cables, I had a channel sticking so I changed the channel to another controller, then another then another, ended up just chasing sticking channels one at a time. I'll bet it was the CAT5 cable I just used ones left over from other things.

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Things I learned this year.....

  1. Offer candy canes to everyone, kids and adults.
    • a couple of days before Christmas I was out handing out candy canes around 6pm and a cute elderly couple stopped by and stayed way down on the end if the yard, I offered them candy canes and the wife accepted. seeing her up close I could tell that she was in poor health. Late that evening around 11:15 I was just finishing up recording the show (show shuts off at 10:30 and we never see anyone later than that) and I see a car pull, it is the couple again. the wife was kind of slumped down in the passenger see and just kind of stared out of the window, the husband asked if the show was over and explained that his wife was ill and wanted to see the lights one more since they didn't think she would be around for next year, I told them to hold on a second and I would turn if back on for them. I turned the whole shebang back on they sat and watched all 30+, minutes.

That was very kind of you to do that! Nice job.

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I learned: 1 no matter how how awesome your display is some one with not a single decoration of any kind will come along and tell you what is wrong with it.

2. 16 channels isn't enough.

3. strobes don't look cool if you don't have several of them.

4. 65 mph winds will in fact blow 42" tall 30" wide pvc trees over.

5. once you catch this bug there doesn't appear to be a cure.....

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4) A majority of the folks watching my display would drive off when we stepped outside

What is up with that? I noticed it too!

I can't pinpoint all of the stuff that I learned, but here is some:

1) I finally learned to use the RJ45 crimper that was in my tool box for so long that I forget where I got it.

2) If something odd is happening with your lights, it probably isn't the hardware (more likely, a comm cable or something else).

3) Sequencing didn't take as much time as I had feared. Other things kept coming up and I didn't have more than 8 channels programmed to one song by the weekend before Thanksgiving. I still was able to go live with 2 songs on December 2. (I don't recommend this. I'm just saying that it is possible to do a last minute pull-out and still pass--much like every term paper that I wrote in college.)

4) It is OK to add songs after you have gone live.

5) Drilling a hole in a reinforced concrete storm drain is hard!

6) Trimming all of the tiny branches from trees in the fall makes putting up lights sooooooooooooo much easier.

7) DMX isn't hard. (And remember to have the listener running.)

8) There is apparently, only one way for less than $30 to get audio line in to an iphone (iRig).

9) Put all of my tools for christmas stuff in one tool bag (and put them back). This saved me hours of "has anyone seen the wire strippers? Where is the electric tape?"

10) Holy jeebus! It takes a long time to make custom cords for 168 channels!

11) Set a firm "lights on" date and tell EVERYONE. It is sure to motivate you to meet the date.

12) Don't put lights around my bedroom closet window until I'm sure that I don't have to go out that window again to get to the front roof.

13) I need a better way to secure my icicle lights to the roof.

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  • a couple of days before Christmas I was out handing out candy canes around 6pm and a cute elderly couple stopped by and stayed way down on the end if the yard, I offered them candy canes and the wife accepted. seeing her up close I could tell that she was in poor health. Late that evening around 11:15 I was just finishing up recording the show (show shuts off at 10:30 and we never see anyone later than that) and I see a car pull, it is the couple again. the wife was kind of slumped down in the passenger see and just kind of stared out of the window, the husband asked if the show was over and explained that his wife was ill and wanted to see the lights one more since they didn't think she would be around for next year, I told them to hold on a second and I would turn if back on for them. I turned the whole shebang back on they sat and watched all 30+, minutes.

  • *Make it a point to talk to your viewers* (Most important lesson learned this year)

This is the first year I have gone out of my way to go out and approach people and strike up conversations out of the blue. I can't tell you how many enchor shows I ran for people either after hours or after new years. All they had to do was ask and it was done. Made them feel good and made me feel good too.

I had a truck pull up at dusk one evening when I had all the lights on static and I was taking video and pictures in nice light. I called out to him and stated that the show will start in half and hour. He got out of his truck and came over and immediatly shook my hand. I learned that he had an autistic boy and stoped by to watch the show EVERY NIGHT. It was this boys routine this year.

I had lots of similar stories this year with my display. Made me EXTRA vigelent to make sure the show ran without many hitches this year.

  • *Be careful what you do in public, dispite what you might think you are recongnized for what you do* (You are a public figure much like a politician)

After work one day I had stopped by the local grocery store to pick up somethings I forgot for dinner. I barely got out of my truck when I was approached by some guy I had never met before asking me to please follow him to his house and help him with his house display and programming that he was having problems with. (Kinda spooky. How'd he know me? Was it just chance that he spotted me or was he following me?,... but was apparent to me that this was HIS first year trying to do a animated Christmas show.) After calling my wife to insure that someone knew where and with whom I was disappearing with, I spent about two hours helping a complete stranger with their Christmas display.

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