Much of the work I have created over the past two years in the creative arts program in both lighting design and sculpture can be attributed to my initial start in lighting design. I had an extremely early start in the world of lighting. At the age of seven I started what would become one of the largest synchronized Christmas displays in Connecticut. The first year of the show was fairly simplistic, with only about 4000 white incandescent Christmas lights and 16 channels of control. A channel is almost like a computerized dimmer switch that can control anything from the red, green, or blue chip on a single LED, which allows for up to 16.8 million colors to be produced as is done with pixels, to a single strand of Christmas lights.
Between 2006 and 2008 additional lights beginning with red followed with green were added first to the bushes and then to the two trees in the yard. After 2008, LEDs began to be implemented as their power usage was much lower compared to the older incandescent lights and their colors were much richer and brighter. While switching over to LEDs, I also started to add display “elements” such as arches, poles, and trees as I ran out of bushes and trees to decorate. These are pictures from 2009 where red and white strands of LEDs were first implemented on a six-foot tall tree opposite the rest of the display. 2009 was also the last year where incandescent lights were used on the bushes and trees and was the first year where large arches nicknamed leaping light arches were used in the front of the yard. The leaping light arches were built with eight individually controllable strands of lights wrapped on 3/4 inch pvc pipe. With the correct programming, I could make the lights on the arches chase back and forth to make the arches look like they were leaping.
In 2010, besides switching over to LED lights, I wanted to start filling the yard and house with more decorations and began to do so starting with small arches on the sides of the driveway. The red lights on the roof and the snowflakes on the front of the house were also added to fill the void that was the house. Having a large object that had no light illuminating it felt like a lost opportunity that I then took advantage of.
Between 2011 and 2013 I began to change the display into a single, cohesive display rather than small, disconnected, individual elements. Red, green, and blue LEDs were added onto all parts of the display with white being added as accents throughout the display to give emphasis towards specific parts of the show. 2012 and 2013 also saw the addition of pixels, individually controllable LEDs, first on a small LED screen used to display the FM radio station and then to the outline of the house, trees, and arches.
2014 and 2015 saw the single largest change in lighting in the 12 years the display has been running. Over 10,000 pixels were added to the show, completely changing over the large trees and house outlines to pixels, adding a dynamic element that could change with the show as needed. 2015 saw even more significant changes with a change in location and the addition of 3d projection mapping using two projectors. With the significantly wider yard, the focus of the layout of the show began to change from haphazard placement of elements to strategic placement to maximize the width of the yard to make the show look larger. Smaller elements were placed in the front while larger ones were placed behind them. Brighter elements were also placed further back to help even out the brightness of the show.
Last year’s show added additional pixels on the ground and mini-trees in the front of the yard, large pixel grids on the roof, more than double the amount of projectors to help maximize the brightness of the video, and moving heads to add areal effects to the show. Flames, pyro, and cryogenic effects were also added for the opening night and in the filming of the show to convey the intensity of some of the songs used.
Besides being an intriguing hobby, this Christmas display has given me an avenue to freely express my creativity. Many different opportunities have risen as a product of this show such as the formation of my production company that handles audio, lighting, video, lasers, and special effects for concerts, theatrical shows, and other events. This has allowed me to do shows such as the winter musical Pippin here at Watkinson, the show Herobust at the Webster Theater in Hartford, the show Leah Culver at Tuxedo Junction in Danbury, and the show Hyperglow at Stage 48 in New York City. The construction of the elements in my Christmas display has even lead me to major in electrical engineering in college to further my interdisciplinary creativity.