Display Details and Frequently Answered Questions
How many lights are there?
We don't really know. We've lost track over the years, and we'll probably never get
around to counting them. Best guess is maybe about 70,000 at it's peak, although that
number is now in decline.
Why is the number of lights declining?
A string of commercial grade LED mini-lights is brighter and has a more dazzling, intense
color than the same size string of ordinary incandescent mini-lights. As Clearwater Lights
transitioned from filament bulbs to diodes we've needed fewer lights to achieve the same
amount of brightness.
Plus, using programmable RGB nodes, we can make a single string of lights turn any color
we want them to be from one second to the next.
What do you mean, RGB?
RGB stands for Red, Green, Blue. Those are the primary colors that get mixed together
in varying proportions to form virtually any other color. (Kind of like paint, but nowhere
near as messy.) The color changing ribbons and bulbs in the display are all RGB devices.
And if you think THAT'S cool, we even have pixel strings where we can control each
individual bulb. We can make each bulb a different color all at the same time. And we can
make each bulb do something different: twinkle, shimmer, fade - all at the same time.
How do you make all the lights blink when they're supposed to?
When we first started doing synchronized to music Christmas lights back in 2008, we did it
just like most everyone else did back in those days. Lots of extension cords and wiring,
rows of double-gang light switches, and a good number of midgets - many of them bused
in from out of state - to turn all the lights on and off.
You're joking about the midgets, right?
Be careful, most midgets don't appreciate being joked about. Things were different back
then. Midgets were different. You can't look back and judge by today's standards.
Today, of course, we use a computer to keep track of all those switches. A lot more
reliable and precise than midgets, and at a fraction of the cost. Every set of lights is
controlled to 1/100th of a second. This year we'll have over 600 "regular" channels and a
few thousand RGB pixel channels.
How much does it cost to run all those lights?
As we've transitioned over to LEDs we've seen the cost drop each year, even while the
number of lights was increasing It's to the point now where it's barely noticeable -
probably around $100 for the entire season.
Yes, way. You might think you're watching a lot of lights, and you are. But you're seeing
only the lights that are lit at any given moment. What you're NOT noticing is that the rest
of the lights, the overwhelming majority of them actually, are off.
Can the lights be seen from space?
Since no one known to or affiliated with Clearwater Lights has ever actually been to space
(as opposed to being spaced-out, of course) that question is currently impossible to
answer. However, since the display is oriented to provide maximum visibility from the
ground, it seems unlikely.
How long does it take to put together?
The computer programming is an ongoing hobby/activity throughout the year. With the
current channel count, it takes 16-18 hours to sequence one minute of new music. Props
are built/modified mostly during the summer months. Testing and deploying everything
takes 6-8 weeks. (Helping hands gratefully accepted.)
How many songs are there?
We used to have a few dozen songs, but with the display constantly growing and changing
it's too hard to keep that many songd up to date. And as the lines of traffic get longer
each year we've been forced to cut back the number of different songs that get played
during the evening. This is especially the case early in the evenings and on weekends.
Kid's favorites and traditional Holiday music is played mostly in the early evening hours,
while adult favorites and oldies (like Pink Floyd) are mostly concentrated during the later
Oldies? Pink Floyd?
Yeah, that's right. We can't stand listening to solid Christmas music all day every day any
more than you can. Besides, what's a light show without some Pink Floyd?
WHY WE DO IT
Because we can. Everyone has their own ways of celebrating the Holiday season, but we
can blame this one on Momma Simmons. Each year without fail – even in snowstorms -
she would pack all four of her kids into the family station wagon the last Saturday before
Christmas and take us around to look at other people’s Christmas lights. Even though the
only kind of lights there was to see back then was C9 outdoor bulbs, it was still a special
treat that we waited for all year. Now it's time to pay those memories forward. After doing
ever-larger static Christmas light displays practically since childhood, synchronizing the
lights to music just seemed like the natural next step. We hope you enjoy our lights!
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