Programming the Light Show:
Nineteen standard light controllers (sold by Light-O-Rama) control this years light show. Each controller can
control 16 sections of light. A section of light, for example, may be one red string of lights on the tall 3D trees,
one of the dancing trees colors, or one small segment on the leaping arches. Most of the show this year
have been lit with LEDs to brighten parts of the show and reduce the amount of burned out bulbs over the
month that the show takes place.
In addition, a 3000 LED grid is new this year consistin of twenty rows of a Cosmic Color Ribbon (CCR). This
grid is lit up by twenty additional controllers specially made for the CCR. Each CCR led can be lit up in
virtually any color.
A computer runs this years show. It runs a schedule and starts and ends the show at specific times. There
are 6 data highways to tell the controllers what to do with the lights. Each data highway is a Cat 5e/6 cable
using RS485 electrical protocol for data communications. RS485 is a differential transmission standard that is
highly immune to interference and provides good signal up to 4000 feet away from the computer. Five data
cables are used just for the LED grid. Some of the songs will send over 300,000 lighting commands to the
grid in a 2-3 minute time period! The other light controllers receive commands up to 20 times per second.
The commands tell the LOR controller to turn on or off, fade up or down, blink randomly, and shimmer (repeat
a very fast on/off) at any time during a song. At the same time, the computer plays the audio which is sent to
a small FM transmitter so visitors can listen to the music in the comfort of their car.
The difficult part is deciding when to send the command to the lights. The software package that assists this
is also from Light-O-Rama. Each song is listened to in small sections often at 1/2 speed and then a designer
decides what the display should look like at that point in time.
The image below is the LOR programming software showing a sequenced 7-second section of the Nutrocker.
Only a small section of the total number of channels are displayed.
In addition to the standard programming, another software product (Superstar Sequence Editor) is used to
program the grid. Below is a short part of the Nutrocker where ‘Mr Keys’ is playing the piano.
Assembling the Audio and Voices:
Each riddle is recorded about 4 times so we can choose the best one to use in the show. Once the best
voice is selected, the editing begins. The voices are raised in pitch, reverb is added and then compressed to
make the voice stand out. Laughing is added after each joke and finally music is added to the background.
Below is a picture of the sound editor with the introduction being edited. This same editor is used to shorten
some of the songs to fit within the show.
Creating the videos (last year):
The videos are taken very late at night to minimize other car headlights. A Flip UltraHD is used for the wide
view. For the chipmunk closeup, a SLR camera with telephoto lens was used in HD video mode. No sound
is recorded at that time. Once the video is done, it is imported into a video editing program and then the
soundtrack is added, the opening title is added and the picture is adjusted for best look. It is then rendered
into a smaller size video that can be viewed on the website. The chipmunk video required additional work to
zoom in on the faces. There are actually two videos that are merged together: the wide view of the show and
a close up of the chipmunks.