image How do I get started building a cool holiday display like these?

image Believe it or not, I started the day after Thanksgiving. No, not for that Christmas, but for the next Christmas. You really donít work on it for twelve months, but you do need to start that early if you want to watch your budget. Lowes, actually starts discounting their Christmas lights the day after Thanksgiving, others waiting until the day after Christmas. Wherever the discounts are, go buy! You can get 2 to 4 times more lights and decorations for your money if you buy the year prior. Now, if this is your first year and you missed that window, it might just take a little more planning in the design to get the biggest visional impact within your budget.

Sometime between January and June, you should do some research for display ideals. There are many videos on YouTube, Vimeo and other video streaming sites. You can get great information from the Light-O-Rama forum and some other links you will find on this site.

image Take a picture of the front of your house (or display area). Then trace it to create a line drawing. With this you can start planning your layout that will include: decoration elements, colors, string of lights, etc. If you are going to use Light-O-Rama equipment, you will use the original picture to simulate your light show in their software. This is an excellent way to visualize your show.

Christmas in July, YES. Light-O-Rama has their super sale in June/July. They even offer a special incentive that could result in you getting your order for free! If you have any electronic background, they have kits from building your own boards, stuffing all their components into your enclosures or you can purchase a completed box that only requires you to plug it in.

image Once you have your layout and you have decided how many channels you will be programming, you will realize that you need a few extension cords. Ok, you need a lot of extension cords. Lowes and Home Depot never include extension cords when they closeout Christmas stuff, so no luck there. I would recommend that you purchase a few each month so that you spread out the cost. Stay away from the standard orange cords, they distract from the display and during the day and well, it looks like a mess. I purchase the landscaping green cords at Lowes. Depending on your lighting layout and the power load that you are carrying on each channel, some use SPT wire (zip cord) and build their own extension cords. Depending on where you purchase your supplies, there may be a small cost saving. However, the largest advantages are flexibility of length, multi taps on a single channel, weight and ease of storage. The female plugs are the hard parts to find and mostly like you will only find them online. Plan on ordering your supplies early, like September.

image Some people will even do a Halloween display. I have not only because we have a tremendous amount of kids out on Halloween. So I hold off until after Halloween and then I start putting up my strings of light and running all the extension cords. I do not put out the larger yards elements until a few day before Thanksgiving. Then at 6:00pm on Thanksgiving evening, my show starts and I start planning for the following year.

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Software and hardware for controlling lighting effects. Include music, sounds, moving animatronics, and interactive elements in your lighting display.
Light-O-Rama Forums
This is an excellent site for newbies and seasoned Christmas display animators. The LOR community is NOT a place of competition, but one of sharing. You will find a tremendous amount of information about all aspects of Christmas light decorating.

Videos, FAQs, and a discussion forum regarding many aspects of Christmas lights.

Professional voice-overs for your Christmas display. Voiceovers will help add that something extra and will leave your display viewers remembering your display. They can add a touch of humor, provide information, and even show your neighbors that you have them in mind too with a voiceover asking people to give them the right of way.

Transmit your showís music directly to your visitorís car radios. In the Cleveland winter, itís a must!

This is a mini radio station for your PC. For non-show hours you can have your very own Christmas radio station with your favorite holiday songs, show promos and announce display hours. This one is just fun to have and play with throughout the whole year.