2009 Blog

It’s become a tradition over the years that I keep a “blog” of design ideas for the year’s display.  Here is the blog for the 2009 display.  It will be updated throughout the season, until the end of the 2009 lighting season.

10/14/09:  Ah, here it is mid-October, and I’m just writing my first blog item for the year!  Let’s catch up a bit.  First of all, last-year’s teardown was almost as bad as the previous years.  Ice had kept a number of cables frozen down, and I broke a few trying to get them back up.  I’m hoping this year will be much better.  But it’s hard to think about teardown when it’s not even setup time yet!

I’m working on a few projects for this year’s display.  First of all, we will be adding more LED lights to replace some older incandescent ones.  These will primarily be on the fruit trees at the back of our main display area.  LED lights are very expensive, but provide stunning color, and operate on a fraction of the power of standard mini’s, so they’re easy on the power bill and the environment.  We also picked up some LED icicle lights to replace our aging incandescent ones.  The jury is out on if these will look as good or not, and if they will last a long time.  For the money involved, I hope so…

Secondly, I have a few kits ordered for a new type of LED wash fixture for the front of the house.  Depending on how well these work, these might supplement, or even replace, the LED wash fixtures I built last season.

Finally, assuming I get things worked out, the big addition for this year will be video.  I picked up a cheap video projector early in the season, and am working on incorporating it into the display.  If all goes well, it will replace our slide projector that we’ve used for the past 9 years in the Linus display.  I’m still working out whether Linus still will share speech bubbles or not.  On some songs, he likely will.  Other songs, as well as the “bumpers” between songs, will contain video synchronized to the audio and the lights.  It should be pretty cool– again provided I get things working.  So far, I have the interface to the computer worked out (the projector only has a composite input, my computers don’t), and am working on adapting the weatherproof enclosure that we used for the slide projector to the new one.  More to come…

I usually start setting up the less-obvious things around Halloween.  I still have to do a bunch of non-Christmas related fall projects outdoors before that happens…

12/1/09:  I’m getting really bad at maintaining this blog.  Well, it’s December 1, and the lights are running.  This is no small feat.  We had a death in the family (Cathy’s dad), some technical hurdles that I’m still working out, and some other issues, but the lights are running.  Nice to see all the hard work pay off.

I’m a little disappointed in the video projection– it’s very dim, but I hope folks enjoy it– I spent a lot of time editing videos.  In the future hopefully I can upgrade the projector to something that isn’t a near-toy…

This year’s setup weather was incredible.  I can’t remember a single year where it was so pleasant to work outside setting stuff up.  Let’s hope it stays that way for teardown! 🙂

12/20/09:  Overdue for an update– the display has been running really well since I worked out the kinks in the first few days (had to move to a different show computer, as the laptop I had planned to use was just to flaky).  We had a couple of displays get knocked out of commission beyond repair (for this season anyway) but nothing most people would miss.  We also had a crazy incident last week where I noticed half the display was out partway through the night.  It just happened to be the coldest night of the year (so far) as well.  After some diagnostics, I determined that a rabbit happily munched through one of the computer cables that integral for making the lights work.  I did a quick replacement (to the cheers of a few folks watching) and went inside to try to get some feeling back in my fingers 🙂

Thanks to everyone who’s been coming out and seeing the lights.  People in general have been very courteous to not be noisy, block neighborhood access, etc.  We also appreciate the positive feedback we get from folks.  The display takes a lot of time and effort (as well as funds) and it’s great to see so many people enjoy it.  Whenever I start to feel “burned out” it’s this positive energy that I thrive on to keep going.

Weather and personal schedule has kept me from getting pictures up yet.  Hopefully very soon!

12/30/09:  Well, we got a record Christmas blizzard this year.  The snow kept coming and coming for about 3 days.  Not sure of the official totals, but it was perhaps 18″ of the stuff.  Some of our displays were buried completely, and the city snowplow made a “wall” of snow that pretty much completely obscured our arch fence and some other displays.  I was a little disheartened by it all, but what can you do?

I wasn’t going to shoot any video since the snow makes it look so poor, but I did anyway.  I’ll have to see if it’s good enough to post.  If not, I’ll master some of last year’s video (which I never did post) and post that instead.

Tomorrow night is the last day for the display to operate.  I’m very concerned about tear-down this year with all the snow.  I really like to have the display totally out of the yard within a few days of the new year.  This might prove impossible this year, with all the snow.  We shall see how it goes…  The past two years were a huge struggle to get things in as I fought the weather.  I can’t do it 3 years in a row.  I guess it comes in when it comes in.  I’m always concerned about vandalism until everything is safely inside, so my number one priority is to minimize the worries about that.  In the meantime, the security systems and cameras will continue to run…

It’s hard to believe another display season is almost over.

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