Christmas 2015

Welcome to our 2015 Christmas Light Display page!

 

This is our first year to try anything like this. We saw Lights to Music Christmas displays on houses last year, and thought that, maybe, we could do that. And since we were looking for a new hobby project anyway, we decided to make a display using an Arduino microcomputer.

The results of our project will be shown starting on December 1st, and running nightly through December 31st., from dusk until 9:00PM.


2015 Musical Selections
Joy to the World - Percy Faith and his Orchestra
Santa Baby - Taylor Swift
What Child Is This - Sovereign Grace
Wizards in Winter - Trans-Siberian Orchestra
We Wish You a Merry Christmas - Snowflake Christmas Series


The Hardware
This project is built around an Arduino Mega 2560. It has 54 digital outputs for controlling individual strings of lights. 15 of these outputs can be used as PWM outputs for controlling the brightness of LED lights. This year we are only using the outputs to switch strings of lights (using relays) on and off.

Caution - Caution - Caution!!

THIS DESIGN INVOLVES THE SWITCHING OF 120VAC MAINS VOLTAGE!

IMPROPER SAFETY PRECAUTIONS CAN CAUSE SHOCKS, BURNS, AND DEATH!

DO NOT TRY TO BUILD YOUR OWN CONTROL IF YOU DO NOT FEEL COMFORTABLE WORKING WITH MAINS VOLTAGE.

 

Relay circuit diagram

This is the circuit we used for switching the light strings on and off. We chose to build individual relay boards for each of the 30 "channels". This way, if a board goes bad mid-show, only the inoperable piece has to be replaced.

Parts (search Ebay for best prices)

Printed circuit board
12VDC Relay
1N400x Diode
2N3904 Transistor
1/4W Resistor Assortment
LED's
Hook-up Wire, screw connectors, etc.
Power supplies(at least 2) for Microcontroller and Relays
Computer running Windows 7 or greater
FM radio transmitter
Lots of mini christmas lights!

If you choose to purchase ready-made relay boards, check out YourDuino.com. Terry is a great guy and offers reasonable prices on components also.

 

Custom circuit board

This is a picture of the custom made circuit board we designed for this project. Red and black wires connect to the relay supply voltace source. Never power relays directly from the Microcontroller board. As few as 5 relays could overload it's voltage regulator.

The two screw connectors are to the N/O contacts in the relay. They connect together when the circuit gets a 5V signal on it's input pin, switching the 120VAV to the outlet.

   
 
Microcontroller hook-up
The control box contains the Microcontroller and the relay cards. Wiring is done point-to-point.
   
Crntorl box interior
Full inside view of control box.
   
Control Power
Power supplies for the Microcontroller and the relays.
   
Control Box
Exterior of the control box showing 24 of the 30 outlets. We created a separate control box for the second house. It contains 6 relays and connects to the main control box using CAT-5 network cable.


The Software

The software we used is called VixenLights. We have used Ver. 2.1.1.0 (download from here), running on Windows 10. Vixen2 is easy to set-up using this Instructables Tutorial.

The software to create the Arduino programming (the Arduino IDE 1.6.5) is available from the Arduino web site. The program running on the Arduino is a modified version of the code fund here.


Email us if you have any questions or comments at christmas2015@redcardinal.com

©2015 Cardinal Systems