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My 2014 Christmas Lights to Music (and video) show

Hank Hancock

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This is the fourth year I've been putting up a LOR computerized light show. This year, I decided to do a thematic show - a 10th anniversary tribute to the 2004 Christmas animated motion picture, "The Polar Express."

This was the first year I couldn't post my videos to Vimeo (they kept deleting them). So, I cancelled my Vimeo account and used the money to buy my own video player library for my personal web site and move my videos to it.

Enjoy and Merry Christmas!!!


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Thank you, Matt.

The display has kind of evolved over the past four years. I try to keep it simple and organized and mix it up each year to keep the neighbors guessing. I'd like to transition to RGB lights along the roofline next year if possible and expand from there in subsequent years, gradually replacing all lights with RGB as I can afford to.

The video was shot with a Canon VIXIA HF S20 camera on a tripod. It has decent low light properties for the price. I shot the show six times - two times for each of the three different camera angles (so I could have clean video without cars driving through). I then edit the video in Final Cut Pro X (FCPX), where I add the soundtrack back in and boost the saturation to bring out the color of the lights.

Merry Christmas!!!



Edited by Hank Hancock
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  • 1 year later...

This is awesome.  Well done.  We are new and just starting to get to program this.  It's alot.  Any pointers? 



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Hello Vicki. Thank you for the complement. I wasn't sure if you were looking for pointers on sequencing the Polar Express or just pointers on getting started with light shows in general. I'll try to touch on both.

I've been doing my shows for a five years. The one thing I think I learned was to build the show incrementally rather than try to plan and sequence a large show as your first project. My first year, I kinda' bit off more than I could chew and realized I needed to drop some props from the show if I were to get the show up and running on time. From that I also learned I needed to start sequencing the music / video earlier in the year so as to not feel like I was up against a looming deadline. I now start planning my show and building props in mid to late August. That also allows me to order things I need from overseas wholesalers and receive them in time.

I started sequencing the Polar Express show in early September and finished it towards the end of November. But, I have a day job so I would work on it a few hours each night. One challenge I ran into was the video projection. Curiously, I discovered that, for some reason, the computer running the show and playing the video wanted a higher resolution video format. I'm guessing that had something to do with my video card, which might have been choosing between software and hardware rendering, depending on the resolution. Anyway, that took a lot of experimentation to find a video resolution that worked well consistently without dropping frames.

Designing and building the projection screen was interesting. I built it twice. The first time I used rear projection cloth I found on Amazon. After test watching it, I didn't like how I could see the projection lens through the cloth - too distracting to me. The second time I built it, I used a 3 mil. plastic drop cloth (for painting). That worked great.  You can also use a plastic translucent shower curtain. I used that for a rear projection through my front window for Halloween. That also worked great.

Out of curiosity, are you planning on sequencing the Polar Express? Also, please feel free to ask questions. I'm always happy to reply.

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