Behind the Scenes
Sub Menu
On the left is the den/office where I do all the computer work for the lights.  The computer on the left is the "christmas" computer, it's only use is to play christmas music and run the animation software.

On the right is the network closet.  Along with other gear is the equlizer and the transmitter for our music.
This is a line drawing of our power distribution for 2008.
There are two parts to how the lights work; there is Power Supply and Computers.  These two systems combine at the Animation Controllers.
The Power Supply starts at the main circuit breaker panel in the garage.  In the current configuration power is supplied by a 60 and 40 amp two pole breakers for the main and a 20 amp single pole breaker for the controls.  The main feeds through two 30 amp fused disconnects (switches) and a 60 amp un-fused disconnect to three contactors (relays, which are electrically controlled switches).  Each contactor feeds a -breaker panel with four 15 amp circuits that each powers a different portion of the display.  The control power feeds the light sensor and the timer and eventually turns on the contactors.  Normal or Fully Automatic operating mode has the system come on at dark and turn off at 10pm.  The control power runs many systems some of which are; alarms, yard lights, emergency stop, main power, and systems monitoring.  For security reasons these systems will not be detailed.
Some of the individual circuits are controlled by three more contactors which in turn are controlled by the animation controllers.  This allows the animation controllers to switch very large power loads on and off (no dimming).
The Computer systems start with software and programming in a dedicated computer.  Up to twelve hours are spent programming lights to music (sequencing) for a single song.  Another program plays music before and after the light show.  At scheduled times a program plays a show which is a group of sequences.  Commands from the sequence are sent to the controllers through the USB adapter and the Cat5 cable.  The controllers take the commands from the sequence and turn on their 16 circuits accordingly; this is what makes the lights flash.  Music is played by the sequence and sent through the computer’s sound card to the transmitting equipment.  The transmitting equipment consists of an equalizer and FM transmitter.  The equalizer allows for tuning the sound before transmitting so that no adjustments are necessary on your car radio.  The transmitter is the final step, sending the FM signal to your car radio.

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