Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What does this do to your power bill?
A: Surprisingly not very much. The lights are all LEDs so they are very efficient. The whole display uses about as much power as a hair dryer. That’s about $10-15 worth of electricity total for the whole season.
How long does it take to put up?
It takes the better part of two weekends to put everything up. There’s also constant tinkering and troubleshooting if things break.
Where do you keep everything
All the parts and cables come apart so everything can be easily stored in our basement. It’s mostly PVC pipe, corrugated plastic, and speaker wire.
How much time does it take to put together a song?
Depending on the complexity of the song, it can take an hour or more for each minute of music to choreograph the lights.
What’s your day job?
I recently graduated from UIUC with a Master’s in Computer Engineering. I also played percussion in several music ensembles there. Now I work as a Digital Hardware Engineer designing electronics.
How do you get the songs on the radio?
The Raspberry Pi that runs the show is connected to a small FM transmitter in the garage. This broadcasts my own mini radio station on FM 88.5 with a range of a block or so.
Where do you buy all the stuff?
I have a supplier in China where I buy the lights themselves. The plastic cutouts for the stars, faces, small trees, and snowflakes are purchased from BoscoyoStudio. I designed and built the rest of the models with countless trips to the hardware store. The wiring, show computer, and power supplies are purchased from Amazon.
How does it all work?
Each light has a mini circuit board in it. They are all connected to a big network where I can control the color of each bulb individually. I use special software to create the show that knows where all the lights are and then assigns them colors. For a more detailed explanation, I wrote an article that explains it a little deeper. If you’d like to know even more or are interested in putting something like this together for your house, send me an email to “RiparianLights@gmail.com” and I’d be glad to help out!
This is the model of all the lights that the software uses
Here is what the choreography looks like. Effects can be placed on different props or groups of elements. They are synchronized to the music on top