A Dry Christmas (Light Show 8 Update)

In the first update for my next Arduino Light Show, I went through some of my experiments with my fountains. After some thought, I had planned on scaling it back but, in the end, I decided to scrap the fountains all together from the next light show. Despite the loss of the fountains, there are still new things to see!


OK, so this is not really new. I made this weird Christmas tree last year. It was rather last minute so I didn’t do much with it. The plan now is to incorporate it into a new Light Show. Actually, it’s going to be the main feature.

I did a little bit of cleaning up. I cut the base into a circle and painted it black, trying hard to avoid painting over the LEDs.


Here’s something new… well, again, sort of. I’ve done LED “spotlights” before by strapping 5mm LEDs to a servo motor. What’s new this time is that I’m using two servo motors per spotlight to make it pan and tilt. I’m also using WS2812B LED modules like on the tree. More movement and color should make the spotlights more interesting than before.


After testing out the concept, I made an army of four.


Some LED tests.


I painted the spotlights all black as much as I could so that they’ll blend into the darkness.

So that’s the current state of the next Arduino Light Show. I had some other ideas in mind but I wanted to leave lots of time to get what I have here ready and programmed. We’ll see how the next little while goes. Thanks for reading!

PREMIERE — Christmas Special 2013

Yesterday I made a post about what I envisioned when I was building the show. Now that it’s out there, it’s a little easier to make a few more notes about the show.

  • The original tracklist was “Spirit of the Season” (Alan Silvestri) , “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” (Mariah Carey), “Feliz Navidad” (Jose Feliciano), and “Merry Christmas, Happy Holiday” (Nsync).
    • “Feliz Navidad” was changed to the Glee version because it wasn’t as upbeat. I dislike Glee, but their rendition of Feliz Navidad was good.
    • Spirit of the Season was cut to just that short opening bit because I made it half way through the song but it was just dragging on. At that point, I lost a lot of motivation which is why Mariah Carrey’s track disappeared completely.
    • All of these revisions of the soundtrack resulted in a very short show. I suppose it’s better than nothing.
  • One thing I was counting on was having the servo LEDs shine onto the breadboard but the neighboring towers prevent it from doing so. If I keep up with this setup, I will have to move them around.
  • The last spotlight at the end of Feliz Navidad is supposed to be bowing, a homage to World of Color at Disney California Adventure.
  • I know it seems early for a Christmas show but if Disney parks can do it, why can’t I?

I hope you enjoyed it! Happy holidays!

Christmas Arduino light show coming tomorrow

As it looks right now, the Christmas Arduino light show will debut tomorrow.

It’s been a rough ride. Even though I really enjoyed how the stage came together, I found it to be a struggle to keep patterns fresh. That’s why the original 6 minute soundtrack got chopped multiple times down to a 2 minute mix of songs that should not be together. I gave up half way through the first song but I kept the first little bit of it because I didn’t want it to go to waste. It sets up a really weird tone to the show, but it is what it is. The reason the song selection is so strange is because traditional Christmas songs are just too gentle and I wanted strobes and racing LEDs and chaos. With the movement in what is the post-show, I still count it as part of the show so it’s still as long as the first generation light shows (the ones before the Halloween special). You’ll understand tomorrow…

I’m not sure where to go next with this project. I’m leaning toward destroying it and trying something different again, but I did that the last time and it took me months to get back to doing something with my LEDs… I’ll decided soon enough.

The extra feature I wanted to add was the illuminated words “Happy Holidays” above the stage which would get focus in the post-show. I scrapped that plan pretty quickly when I actually tried making it.

I hope you’ll take a couple minutes to enjoy the show tomorrow. Here are a few pictures from the final show:

IMG_20131122_170044 IMG_20131122_170103 IMG_20131122_170232

Now the stage is set…?

When I started picking out the songs, I felt like they were too slow to do anything fun so the selection is kind of weird and even features a Glee song even though I dislike the show. With the soundtrack down, I started programming.

I’ve programmed 19 seconds of the Christmas show that I’m not even completely happy with. It’s not going as well as I hoped.

With that, I thought something needed to change. The easiest thing to change was the servo orientation. I wanted to make it as if all three were “dancing” together but it looked weird with one going to side to side. I wanted to go back to the orientation like my first light show with servos but there’s not enough room. The best option I could come up with were all of them facing out moving up and down.


Hopefully this will help me figure out what I want to do. It’s a good thing I started early this year.

The stage is set.

Since my last post about throwing in some green LEDs, a lot of progress has been made in improving the stage and things are coming together nicely. At this point, the hardware is done except for one bonus feature I still want to experiment with. Now that the main features are put in place, I can start considering what songs I want to use. I’m doing a Christmas mix for sure, but I also want to do other songs as well, possibly a 2013 mix. I’ll sort that out soon enough. Anyways, on to some pictures and notes from the construction!

The biggest improvement for the stage is filling in the area beside the single tower. I thought about different ideas like stringing lights like a Christmas tree or creating a web of wires so I could have LEDs floating in the air like stars. I chose to make more towers because I felt like it would give off the best polished look. It may look pretty awful in the daylight but the darkness hides its flaws pretty well.IMG_20131112_150106The build techniques were different for both sides. The left side was done first so the mistakes were made there. I tried making the two towers as one piece with a separator but that led to problems putting on the tissue paper. I managed to get that finished, then decided to just make individual towers for the last two.

IMG_20131112_152426I’m still considering putting something to line the bottom so that the holes for the wires are covered but it’s not as noticeable when it’s dark.

IMG_20131112_191452Add in some RGB LEDs and you’ve got something going. IMG_20131114_120029Once the light test was over, I was starting to question whether the moving spotlights would still be as effective with the additions. I thought about moving them around or changing the orientation, but I decided to just leave them. They may end up staying stationary most of the time but I’m okay with that.

To help keep them from looking out of place, I added sockets along the edges of the towers, as seen in the picture above. I ran out of jumper wires but more are coming in the mail so I’ll have to wait for those to arrive before I can move further.

BTW, the tissue box is to keep any floating wires away from the power bar I have there…

I’ll be back with more when I sort out the music. Thanks for reading!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

So with my attention now turned toward my light show, I thought it would be a good idea to spit out all of my ideas and try to organize them here.

The only thing I’ve done since the Halloween special was add in my new green LEDs. These green LEDs have clear lenses so they’re as bright as the blue and white LEDs. I just ordered the same kind of LEDs for the reds and yellows so that hopefully these different colors won’t be fighting to be the brightest.
BYvGTkpIcAAwzFuI’ve come to a few conclusions since the Halloween special. The first thing is that either the opening was weak (To be honest, I thought it was) or that people don’t like a lengthy video. I’ve had better reception with the shortened one-song videos. The Christmas special will be another multi-song presentation but I’ll timestamp the songs in the description at least. The second thing is regarding the spotlights. I found that when the two side servos moved opposite of each other, it made it look like really awkward t-rex arms. That could be fixed by either separating the spotlights further away from each other or not moving them like that. The last thing is that the whole single tower look makes it feel like the stage incomplete.

Also, with Greg the robot, I learned that the analog in pins can be used as digital outs. That’s 16 additional outputs for the Arduino Mega that I’m using for the light show. The Halloween special setup used 41 pins so that leaves 29 pins open.

With all of that said, I’ve got a rough plan in my head. The plan is to create two additional towers on each side of the existing tower that get shorter. They will be lit with RGB LEDs like the existing tower. The two side servos will probably be moved one or two towers over.

The original plan before this was just to create a few string lights to make a Christmas tree outline. However, the great thing about this project is that it’s easy to reuse for different themes. The string lights would make it feel like Christmas every time, even with the plan to swap out the lights for less Christmas-y colors whenever it’s not Christmas. Also, with the tower design, I felt like this was the first project that looks the most polished compared to what I’ve done in the past. I don’t think I’ll be getting rid of the breadboard soon, so I’ll try to make up for it in other places. Having those additional towers will also block out the backstage wiring, though it’s hard to see all of that stuff when it’s dark anyway.

So that leaves 17 pins left. I’ll figure out what to do with those when I’m midway through construction, even though that sounds like a terrible idea.

Construction will begin when those new LEDs arrive which will hopefully be sometime this week. I will post up construction update when they’re ready. See you then!