Over the course of the season, many questions were asked, this page is meant to capture the most frequent of all questions and provide some answers, (in case you were too embarrassed to ask). But next year, feel free to fire away! The first 3 questions below are tied for the MOST asked questions. There is also some great information in the "Behind the Scenes" section and can be accessed via the How To's link
you store all the stuff? -
put everything in the attic space above the single car side of our garage.
There is quite a lot of room. I have put down plywood, made some hangers
etc... I also use the crawl
space under my house. There is about 4ft of room under there, and the large
Christmas Tree in our Living Room has always been stored under there since
we bought it. In July 2009, we had a shed built in the back corner of the
cleaned out the garage of stuff, and we were able to put a loft in it. The
loft is used for display storage.
How much does it cost? - This question is asked in several forms. The most asked part, is wanting to know what our electric bill costs to run the display. Most are amazed when I tell them it is less than $100. LEDs, we are about 97% LEDs now, and the fact that the show runs at the max 5-6 hours a night, plus most of it blinks and flashes. About 1/3 of the cost comes from the INSIDE of the house which is the complete opposite. The second form of this question comes in terms of overall spend for the display over the years. I give my standard answer, that, "that information is on a need to know basis, and I don't even need to know that" :)
How long does all this take? - This is a multi-part answer. This is close to a year round hobby at this point. I do have a life, job and other interests, but I love making the display happen. Planning is easy, what fell out of the year before, goes into the next years display. Fixing, creating, maintaining starts in the late spring to early summer, the music programming will start to be more year round, and the set up normally starts around October 1st, and takes approx 25 days to set up. I now target December 1st for "Light UP!" All this while holding down a demanding job that can throw travel at me at this time of year as well, so juggling schedules is quite interesting at times. Remember, I still work for a living.
How does Santa in the Window work? - Santa is by far the highlight of the display. He is a DVD that is bought from Christmas Light Show on my Links page. It is played on a personal DVD player, connected to an InFocus projector which is aimed at a screen that is built for my Home Office window. If you walked around, or had your windows down, you would have even heard him rustling around, wishing you a Merry Christmas, and a few other things. There are speakers on the porch that broadcasts the sound to you.
How is it that we can hear it on the radio? - I have a small 10mw FM transmitter that allows me to broadcast an FM signal on any frequency within the FM spectrum. I have to find dead air space, so as not to be overrun by the FCC licensed stations in the area. The FCC allows individuals to broadcast within a 200ft buffer around their home without having a license. I connect the audio output jack on my computer to the transmitter, and viola! a radio station. I even have software to be a full fledged radio station that is used during the day when I broadcast my Christmas Carol collection. A microphone jack on the transmitters allows me to make "live" announcements if needed. More info in the "Behind the Scenes" section in the How - To's link.
Do you work for a living? - Yes. I have a pretty demanding full time job in the electronic design automation market. CAD software for designing integrated circuits, PCB's and Microelectronics. Cadence Design Systems. I travel a significant amount during the year. So while working in electronics, I am not an electrician by any stretch. What I do at Christmas is all part of being a homeowner and Weekend Warrior. I get help and advise from friends, relatives and my brethren on the various Christmas Forums I participate in.
Do you make it all yourself? - Some items are purchased, that are obvious, or at least to me. To date these are a fair amount of the wireframe items, inflatable's, and what we call the Blow Molds. Rudy and the Mega Tree Star are the exceptions, I bought the wireframes bare, and put LED lights on them. I made all the arches, both large and small, they stay wrapped except if I have to change out a light string. The Candy Cane Posts up the drive and walk were also home made. I welded and built the 7' Bethlehem Star that sits at the top of the roof. I attempt to balance buying versus making depending on my time, and the item. All the wood cutout items, Peanuts Nativity and the Yellow Snow, Snowman family are handcrafted by me.
How do you get the lights and music to go together? - Light O Rama is the commercial product I use. They sell controllers that manage the lights. They also sell the software which is needed to drive the controllers. The program is very Excel like, for those of you who work with or know spreadsheets. My light strings have names and are listed on the left side, the song is imported and displayed in time segments across the top. Time is divided into 10ths or 100ths of a second. I go to the light string I want to do something with, locate the time in the song I want to do it, and either turn them on/off, fade up/down, or twinkle/shimmer (strobe). Christmas songs are edited down to two minutes to a max of 2 1/2 minutes, where it makes sense. Once proficient, at 2 1/2 minutes it takes 8-10 hours to program a song. I am NOT proficient yet, but getting there! More detail can be found in the "How_To" - Behind the Scenes link. I also am getting more and more into what is called DIY or Do it Yourself. Which is hardware that an individual, who designs products then sells somehow to us who do this. They require me to assemble, solder and program components. I try to keep things simple, so I am only looking to incorporate DIY hardware from one individual from Do it Yourself Light Animation on my Links page.
Why SPECIAL OLYMPICS of Washington ? - Sports growing up played a big role in my life, in many ways. I loved them, and still do. When I moved to Seattle in 1988, I met one of my best friends today. He married a woman, who, from a previous marriage had 2 handicapped boys. Both participated in SOWA for years, and it was phenomenal to see the joy they got from participating. Sports provides a sense of accomplishment and camaraderie. It's an outlet for growth. SOWA gives all this to kids who are less fortunate physically than most.
Who are the NorthShore Wranglers? - This is a special organization who are local to my area. At one point they were known as the Woodinville Wranglers. To make a long story short, the Wranglers are the local group working with those with special needs and whom participate in all of the Special Olympics of Washington activiites. In 2010, SOWA made me aware of the Wranglers. They thought since this was my local community SOWA team, that half of the proceeds I collect should go to them. I whole heartedly agreed. Hence stared a great relationship with this wonderful organization.
How long have you been doing this? - Growing up, my parents decorated the house for Christmas. Dad did some lights on the gutters, we had one, sometimes 2 Christmas Trees in the house and decorations as well. It was always festive. We had a close personal friend who had a Christmas Tree lot that I worked at for several years while growing up. My mom loved Christmas Carols and always played them during the Holiday Season, which is where I get my love for them today. I have had an indoor display since I was on my own, at about 20. A tree, some decorations, etc... When I got my own home, I started putting up lights inside and out. The outside has been growing since 1989. Around 2003, I wanted to start to do something different. I found Planet Christmas for the vendors they have listed. Some wireframes were purchased, then, I found the forums behind the front page, which is where oodles of information is shared. Once I found this, I became aware of the possibilities that computer animation provided. In the years since then, things have accelerated to where they are today. So I experienced Christmas in many ways growing up which had an influenced on me, still does, and I am in turn sharing that with my family and you.
How do you keep your icicles so straight? - It is better to show you. Check out the How-To / Behind the Scenes section of the website
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