Win, lose or draw for this year’s house decorating contest, Steve Conner is content he’ll have brought joy to hundreds of Marco Islanders stopping off outside 1842 Dogwood Drive.
Using high-tech light and Christmas music sequencing, and some down-home props that even include upturned wire tomato growers, Conner spent the past five months putting his spectacular show together.
It lasts about 20 minutes, and features sweeping and pulsating lighting effects with endless color changes that are synchronized with assorted Christmas songs. Onlookers can access the music in their cars by tuning to FM 97.1.
A finalist in the contest last year, Conner this year decided to ditch static lighting, instead opting for motion and color changes with around 20,000 RGB LED “smart” pixels—each with a controller chip molded into a dot of silicone.
One by one, he inserted the pixels into strands of weatherproof material—a task he said wore holes in the fingers of his protective leather gloves.
The strands with their pixels eventually ended up flowing gracefully from a huge palm in his yard, as well as wound around other trees, the upended tomato planters, around candy cones, PVC hoops secured firmly into the ground over rebar stakes, and along the roofline that has an icicle effect at night.
Originally working off a 3D computer image of his house and yard, Conner—who has a background in electrical engineering—calculated his power needs and built half a dozen power injection point boxes for the 12-volt system.
He also assembled a controller box to be able to synchronize the entire show, and he also put together a small FM transmitter for the music. He also made sure that all fittings, connectors, plugs and boxes were completely waterproof. Using his intuition here, he chose some plugs designed more for automotive use.
“The whole thing was a learning curve,” said Steve, who originally planned to limit his show to big hoops he used last year in his driveway. “Once I got into pixels, I decided to do the rest.”
Steve didn’t put a dollar amount on his overall investment in materials, but he did say that each smart pixel’s computer chip runs at 11c.
Besides the thrill for his pre-teen children Emersyn and Easton and wife Adrian, Steve says he gets a kick out of the ever-increasing traffic as word of his creation gets around.
“Hopefully, people get plenty of joy and excitement out of it,” he says. “Next year, I might even make the lights tighter, so I can make (moving) images for some of the programs. The main program I used (xLights), has almost endless possibilities.”
He added that he was so pleased with the outcome that he might consider creating these props and programs for people as a business sideline.
Preliminary judging was due to take place earlier this week, with the finals on Friday evening, December 18.
The RGB color model, according to Wikipedia, is “an additive color model in which red, green and blue light are added together in various ways to reproduce a wide variety of colors.”