X-mas Hack: 8-channel Musical Show

We’ve been seeing them appear one house at a time over the last few weeks as Christmas lights are making their annual appearance. Some folks just throw a set of net-style lights on the bushes and call it good but that wouldn’t suit [Noel]. He’s outfitted his house with a show that includes music, 8 controllable light channels, and an Internet interface.

He’s used a plastic toolbox as an enclosure to house everything. Affixed to the base of the enclosure are eight solid state relays for the strings of lights. An Arduino is used to control the SSR switching, playback music through an FM transmitter, and to interface with the wireless bridge.

Rubberneckers can tune their radio to the broadcast frequency and log into the web interface to request their favorite tune or track Santa’s current location. The device even implements VU monitoring to sync the light show with the music. If you want more, watch the video after the break or check out his step-by-step instructions. The Arduino library sure makes the code pulling this all together pretty simple!


22 thoughts on “X-mas Hack: 8-channel Musical Show

  1. While having a show based on what is essentially a big color organ is interesting the folks at
    have been making light shows using a scripting program called Vixen and a variety of control hardware schemes for about 5 years or so. Anyone interested in controlling Christmas lights needs to check out their web site. The Vixen program allows a PC to precisely control lights set to music. It has been used to produce some fantastic light shows.

  2. @Life2Death, my whole goal was not to have a slave off a pc!!! This is a stand-alone box. It has an arduino wave shield that reads of an SD card… I use the ioBridge and wi-fi bridge to avoid having a PC server to interact with the box (arduino)…

  3. Does anybody else think this would get old /really/ fast? And not just with the occupants of the house, but with the neighbors? This is really cool though and since the box just outputs to regular outlets for the lights it could be used for so much other stuff as well.

  4. pretty cool.

    personally, i would put the 6 plugs inside the box, and make small notches where the lid closes to tightly secure the incoming chords.

    this way you don’t have to worry so much about the snow and rain.

    plus I have that “wire management” OCD kinda personality.

  5. Here is a light show I built myself and synchronized to music using the Vixen program described above. This was in 2007:


    In 2008 I did another one with 48 lights, you can find it on youtube but it’s a bit blurry. Then last christmas I made a scrolling text display on the side of my house using 60 80W lamps. It was a huge success!

  6. I reviewed the video for the X-mas Hack: 8-channel musical show and could not see any light to music synchronization. Some of the other comments link to videos where this is clearly seen. Example, from Red and SeBsZ. I’m sorry but the video for X-mas Hack: 8-channel musical show just looks like random zones of Christmas lights flashing.

  7. Thanks for all the kind comments! I created this and yes the whole point is that this a simple DIY solution and that is web enabled. I have looked on the other solutions (commercial and hobby-DIY) but all of them require you yo have the lights driven by a computer. This project is completely stand-alone no computer necessary. The lights do sync to the music when they are on VU meter mode, but the light mode changes randomly every 10 seconds (it gets boring in just one mode). There are similar commercial solutions (4 channel for $500) or even a cheap GE box that has 10 predefined electronic songs….Again I do acknowledge there are not many lights (channels) but that is not the point. My goal was to have a WEB enabled device.

    @Chris yes unfortunately the video just shows a few of the modes that randomly change every 10 seconds. The VU mode does read from the amp of the SD WAVE shield. In VU some songs will have the lower channels always on. It’s one of the payoffs from not wanting to manually script each song! This is all autonomous.

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