Projects & How Tos
I have had many requests on how to do an animated display and how I created some of my props. Below are guides and information on how I created my display.
Behind the scenes tour
Below is a behind the scenes tour of the display. It includes a lot of information about the arches, megatree, and how things are set up. Runs almost 30 minutes.
For my arches I started with 1" PVC pipe that was 20' long. I took an old "Tater Twister" appliance (you can find many on ebay) that I had sitting around and hooked it up to the PVC pipe so that it would turn around and I could easily put on Christmas lights. Click Here to see a close up of the attachment I made that hooks between the tater twister and PVC pipe. It is made by taking a piece of metal and bending it into a U shape and then making the same shape hole as the drive shaft on the tater twister.
Jeff of www.LauderdaleChristmas.com just recently created this great video of how to modify a Tater Twister into an arch wrapping machine.
There are 9 channels/sections for my arches and each section has 200 mini lights. I made my own extension cords using SPT2 wire and ran the cords parallel with the PVC pipe and allowed the Christmas lights to cover them. I started in the middle of the PVC pipe and worked my way towards the ends. I ended up with about 7 inches of bare PVC pipe on each end and cut off 4 inches on each side so the total length is now 19'4".
This section is a work in progress and is not complete
Once your display starts growing you will quickly find out that you need lots of power. LEDs are a good way to conserve power and you can install 10x the amount of lights on one circuit that you could normally with incandescent lights. The problem though is LEDs cost almost 10x as much as normal lights. I am sure that one day I will switch to all LEDs but right now it is much cheaper for me to run incandescent lights.
For my 2007 Display I installed 17 dedicated outlets and breakers and for 2008 I installed a total of 22 at my new location. Each outlet was on a 20 amp breaker
If everything was on in my display it would draw 470 amps. I have to be careful what I turn on at a given time because to much which would cause fuses to blow, breakers to trip, etc.
The Max I can pull is about 300 amps. For the 2008 display I have 14 LOR Controllers and it was a chore trying to figure out where I was going to plug everything into. Each LOR controller can handle 20 amps per side (I installed 20 amp fuses in them) so you have balance the display across all you controllers.
For Example, a section of one arch only takes 0.6 amps but a single color of one tree might take 7 amps. Because of this, you will find yourself moving objects in your display to other controllers to balance them.
I keep track of everything in an Excel Spreadsheet that you can download here. This is a list of all controllers and what are hooked up to them. Every single amp is figured up so nothing is left to chance. I use a Kill-a-Watt meter to measure the amps of everything in my display. Many things you can figure up before hand such as wire frames, wreaths, etc. But you never know for sure how many strands it is going to take to wrap a tree. After I have everything up in my display, I take my Kill-A-Watt meter around and measure every amp of every object in my display and put it in my spreadsheet. On my display you will notice that I have Red, Green, & White lights on about everything. To squeeze more amps out of every LOR box I have a rule that I follow. I NEVER turn on RED and GREEN on the same object at once (Red & White or Green & White is fine). By Looking at my spreadsheet you will see I have what is called a "RG Difference". Since I never turn on Red & Green on one given object at a time, I can subtract the difference from Red OR Green to give me my true amp count that I will not go over as long as I follow my rule. I always use Red as the "RG Difference" in my Excel Spreadsheet to make it more simple. Also you have to make sure you put RED & GREEN on the same side of the controller for this to work. This may sound a little confusing but if you take a look at my spreadsheet, it should make sense. Some controllers are loaded up where if everything was on, it would pull 27 amps and easily blow the fuse in the LOR box but if I follow my Red/Green Rule, the most it could pull would be 19 amps.
Most controllers I have to run two cords to each side (8 channels) on its own outlet and breaker. I do though have controllers where the total of both sides is under 20 amps and those ones I only have to run 1 cord to. If possible, I try and make the ones that are far away (I have one that is 150' away from the control center) only require 1 cord. Most of all my extension cords that power the LOR boxes are 12 gauge which should be able to handle 20 amps.
Believe it or not but I have NEVER had a breaker trip from my display the last 3 years. I have had GFIs trip because of rain and they should because they are doing their job but never has a breaker tripped because the circuit was drawing to much power. If you figure everything up, you should be good to go.
This is a work in progress and more will be added later.
Mega Tree Topper
Below are some photos of the top of my Mega Tree. I used a wood bun from the hardware store, some screws, and plumbing parts. I then zip tied metal washers on the end of my light stands and put them over the screws. The topper just slides into the pole on top and does not need to be fastened. I then zip tied on a large snowflake for the top.