Sound reactive Christmas tree makes folks happy

public-square-holiday-tree-is-sound-reactiveThis non-traditional Christmas tree in Victoria, British Columbia is bringing people together this holiday season. It boasts over 800 lights that react to sound. You can see the pulsing and color changing that go along with some Tuba carols in the clip after the break.

The art installation was commissioned by the Downtown Victoria Business Association. A great big cherry tree was adorned with strings of individually addressable RGB LED Christmas lights. They are controlled by a system which calculates changes based on onset, energy and frequency analysis of sound picked up by multiple microphones. The effect is delightful and it’s not just musicians getting in on the fun. Passersby can’t seem to help themselves from yelling, clapping, and singing to make the tree sparkle.

Also included in the project is an interactive stop-motion animation film. It’s projected on the side of a building and invites viewers to send a text message to interact with it. A video of this is also found after the jump.

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O Christmas tree of digital logic

tree

[Chris] over at PyroElectro is getting into the swing of the holidays with a LED Christmas tree build. Unlike the other electrical Christmas trees we’ve seen this holiday season, [Chris] designed his tree entirely with digital logic – no microcontrollers included.

The tree [Chris] constructed on a piece of perf board is a beautiful spiral arrangement of 64 green LEDs.While we’re sure getting all the LEDs soldered to the right height, [Chris] makes it look so easy to create 3D structures with circuits.

The LEDs are driven with a set of eight shift registers, themselves clocked by either a predictable 555 timer chip or a pseudo-random pattern generated with a circuit built from a few hex inverters. By setting the tree to the sequential mode, a pair of lights travel slowly down the spiral of the Christmas tree. If set to random mode, an random number of LEDs light up and walk down the array of LEDs.

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Displaying text on random strings of Christmas lights

lights

With the help of a microcontroller, a few strings of GE Color Effect Christmas lights can be easily turned into a fully programmable LED strip, or if you are so inclined, a huge RGB LED display. [Hubbe] had a few strings of these Color Effect Christmas lights, but didn’t want to spend the time arranging his light strings in an array simply to get a programmable display. His solution to this problem – the Chaos Display – turns strings of Christmas lights randomly thrown on a tree into a fully programmable display capable of displaying text and images.

[Hubbe] was inspired by QC Co-Lab’s light wall powered by GE Color Effect lights. Having a huge RGB LED display is very cool, but requires building a frame for each of the Christmas light pixels. [Hubbe] had a different idea – just throw the lights on a tree and use a web cam to figure out where each Christmas light is on the display.

The actual build consists of six strings of Color Effect lights. After throwing them on the tree, [Hubbe] set his phone on a tripod to record an image for each individual light. With some computing power, he was able to create a virtual display made of tangled strings of Christmas lights.

You can see a video of [Hubbe]‘s work after the break.

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Syncing two strands of G35 Christmas lights

Lights

For a few years now, the set of Christmas lights most wanted by hackers and makers the world over is the GE G35 color changing set. With 50 individual RGB LEDs controlled by a microcontroller, these light strings can display any pattern of lights with the help of something as simple as an Arduino. The stock light sequences are a little problematic, especially if you’re running more than one string.

[Todd] picked up two G35 strings, and even when they’re turned on at the same time the light sequences slowly go out of sync after a half hour or so. He came up with a great way to make sure these lights stay in sync that requires only a slight modification. To make two light strings stay in sync, it’s simply a matter of disconnecting the data line from one string’s controllers and bridging that connection with the other string.

It’s a very easy modification, but it won’t give you twice as many individually controllable LEDs – for that, you’ll have to use either multiple Arduinos or buy a longer RGB LED strip. Still, having two identical 7×7 LED panels is better than a single panel, so we’ll have to tip our hat to [Todd] for this one.

Christmas light controller is its own percussion section

clicking-christmas-tree-controller

[Jason] and his father took advantage of a week off of work over Thanksgiving to design and build a Christmas light decoration that can flash fancy patterns. He calls it the Uno Christmas Tree. It’s sixteen strands of lights draped between a pole and the ground to form the shape of a tree. The main controller is an Arduino UNO, but what really makes this work is a mechanical relay board with sixteen channels.

Using trigonometry they figured out that the decoration would be fifteen feet tall and have a five-foot radius at the base. A pipe was installed to act as the trunk, with an old toilet flange at the top and stakes at the bottom to anchor the lights. They all make their connections at the controller box using extension cords that were labelled with channel numbers. You can see the final product in the video after the break. But you’ll also want to watch the clip on [Jason's] blog which shares the sonic symphony created when the mechanical relays really start working.

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Kick off the Christmas decorating with a review of 3 types of LED strings

[Todd Harrison] has been on a quest to replace his incandescent Christmas lights with less power hungry LED lights. There are plenty of options out there, but so far he hasn’t found any have the appearance he’s looking for. Since last year he bought three different kinds to try out and has posted a review of each.

Check out the strand of Brite Star Symphony Lights he’s showing off above. There is a white ‘Try Me’ button that lights up the string while still in the package! This offers fifteen bulbs each twelve inches apart. The strand draws 8.4 Watts when in use, you can connect up to 30 strands in series, and they are RGB lights with several different blinking patterns. He spends nearly an hour on this strand in his video review.

Next on his list is a set of Brite Star Classic Style C7 lights. They are single color and are meant to look like traditional large-bulb incandescent strands. At 2.4 Watts per strand you can string together 87 sets of them. This video is much more concise at around twenty-five minutes.

Finally he looks at the Brite Star 50 Mini LED strings. These are the traditional white Christmas tree lights, except in LED. One bulb every four inches on the string adds up to a 2.4 Watt power draw. You can string 58 sets together for a 1000 foot long string. [Todd] spends less than eight minutes reviewing this set.

You can see an intro video after the break but the full reviews are linked in his article. He really liked the Symphony Lights but the other strands have some issues. He discusses what he sees as design flaws in those strands and has decided they’re not really usable because of flickering.

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Christmas prep starts early: MIDI control for strings of lights

If you’re planning to outdo yourself with this year’s Christmas decorations now’s the time to start planning. After all, what else have you got going on since the dreadful heat is making outdoor activities a sweat-soaked misery? Take some inspiration from [Tim] who just finished prototyping a wireless MIDI controller for his strings of Christmas lights. You can just see the four spools in the distance which are lighting up as he tickles the ivories.

The wireless link is provided by a WiFi access point which uses its USB port to control the external hardware. This is a USB Bit Whacker board which in turn drives a relay board that was designed to switch mains voltages. The high voltage parts of the rig are housed in a plastic food storage container which hosts two pair of outlets to drive four channels in total. [Tim] is happy with the outcome, which he shows off in the video after the break, and hopes to expand to a total of sixteen channels for this year’s festivities.

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