It Took Me Eighteen Years to Build This Website

Posted by Michael Stoffregen on 3/18/2018 to News
It Took Me Eighteen Years to Build This Website
My wife and I purchased a home in Ozark, Missouri and moved into it over Thanksgiving weekend in 1999.  While not very big, the house has some character to it -- it looks a bit like a cottage and we really like that "old-world" style.

In 2000, we decided to buy some Christmas lights and decorate our home.  It started off simple enough.  We had some garland and colored lights we ran along the eaves.  We through some lights on the bushes in front of the house.  Nice and simple.

Well each year we added to our little display.  Mostly static lights bought at Wal Mart during the post-Christmas sales.  Then, in 2007, I saw an article on the Internet discussing "Light-O-Rama".  Electronic lighting controllers that allowed you to synchronize your lights to music.  After discussing what it could do and watching a video or two, my wife and I were hooked.  We bought our first pair of controllers and I taught myself to sequence using the Light-O-Rama software.  The results were amazing.  We enjoyed the sequences and the show we put together.

The next year we added two more controllers, more lights and more sequences.  The year after that I bought six controllers from someone who was selling all his controllers in January.  Three more the next year plus some LEDs.  The next year we added four more controllers.  By 2014, we had  17 controllers, about 40,000 lights and almost two miles of extension cords.

Our home is located in the center of a cul de sac.  Unlike some displays that have to deal with slowing down or stopping traffic, our audience can actually sit and watch as many songs as they like.  That allows me to sequence more songs for the show.  I don't have to repeat the show every 10-15 minutes to keep traffic moving.  It's not unusual for our show to have 20-30 songs lasting more than an hour.  The result is that I get lots of experience sequencing.

As this hobby/addiction goes, there is always something you would like to change about your display.  For a couple of year's I had been reading about the advancements in the RGB pixels.  I also wanted to do something different with our house.  My wife and I discussed what it would take to have a "Whoville" themed house.  I began doing drawings of what it could be like and "engineering" what it would take to make the conversion.  I began researching pixel controllers and software, reading all the on-line forums.

In January of 2016, I downloaded the then-current version of Xlights/Nutcracker and began playing with it.  The learning curve was steep.  I had been using Light-O-Rama sequencing software for nine years.  Xlights was a different animal, but I could tell it was extremely powerful.  It took almost three months of working a couple of hours a day, but I finally had my first Xlights sequence -- Mavis Staples' Christmas Vacation. 

I continued to work on my sequencing.  I got faster and better.  By August I had sequenced more than 15 songs -- enough for a show.  We made the decision to transition into pixels.  But we didn't just wade in, we jumped in the deep end.

We sold our controllers and as many of our lights as we could.  I bought 200 feet of 3/4 inch PVC, tons of T-joints, angles, snap-on Ts and 20 sheets of Coroplast and began working on our Whoville house.  We ordered two Falcon F16V2s with expansion boards and about 10,000 pixels from Ray Wu.  By October 15th, Whoville was up, but none of our pixels had arrived.   It turns out we had ordered right before a Chinese national holiday, and those folks take their holidays seriously!  Factories shut down and people stay home for a week or more.

When the pixels finally arrived, I began soldering and drilling and poking and punching to put the display together.  There were times I felt like it would never get done.  Then, when it was up, we had grounding problems.  I had wire things incorrectly and had stray electricity dancing on my data lines.  Every day we put out a new fire (figuratively) and fixed my mistakes.  It was scary and frustrating.  Everything had been so simple before.

But the display was beautiful.  It is hard to describe how beautiful it was.  The colors were so vivid.  The entire house came to life.  Unlike our old flashy-blinky lights, the pixel lights could dance and swirl to the music.  Our audience was amazed.  Our family was amazed.  We were amazed.

In January 2017 we began posting our first videos.  The feedback and response was unexpected.  People time and again asked for copies of our sequences, and I freely shared them.  So many people told me, "You're sequences are really good.  You should sell them."  The seed was planted.

In 2017, I continued to sequence like I had in 2016.  By now, my sequence catalog was up to 35 songs.  I added some wonderful new songs like Mary Did You Know by Pentatonix, a fantastic Christmas Medley by Two Steps from Hell, and Christmastime by Michael W. Smith.  I sequenced some traditional songs like It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year by Andy Williams.  In the back of my mind, while I was sequencing, the seed that had been planted continued to grow.

So here we are in 2018.  After the 2017 Christmas lighting season, I began working on my first website to market my sequences.  My wife and I are proud of what we have accomplished.  We are proud to be able to offer people unique and beautiful sequences.  And it took us only 18 years to do it.



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