How to make singing tree faces for holiday light show

What it takes to add singing tree faces to a light show

How to make singing tree faces for holiday light show

Last year I tried out my first holiday light display using a Light-O-Rama controller. I was sure a person could have a holiday light show that delights people of all ages and still keep their privacy intact since people wouldn’t be peering into their houses. That part was true; it’s a different story when two different TV crews show up in vans a couple different times and want interviews. Fortunately, declining is an option that doesn’t seem to impact traffic backing up to watch the lights dance to music they can hear via FM from the warmth of their vehicles.

I was also sure the second year would consume less time since the songs would be sequenced. That might be true, except for the fact that my hard drive and the hard drive with the backup died within five minutes of each other. Normally I’m not a big fan of the cloud, but this year as I finished sequencing songs, they went directly to the cloud. It’s an uncomfortable to feel like a walking commercial promoting cloud backups.

At any rate, I mentioned singing faces or Christmas trees last year. This year, I added another LOR controller and will have singing trees. If you decide to do the same thing, then you should block off a good amount of time for the DIY project.

HolidayCoro sells patterns for singing trees, singing Santa or Mrs. Claus faces, a singing snowman, singing snowman strumming a guitar, a talking reindeer, and singing light bulb faces. I opted for the singing tree pattern designed for RGB lights.

singing tree face pattern

Push paint marker through singing tree face pattern.

Basically, you lay the pattern over a sheet of plywood that has already been cut to 4x4 feet, push a paint marker through each pattern hole, repeat that on other 4x4 sheets of plywood, and then lay the plywood on top of each other so it requires drilling out the holes only one time. Then build a frame around each and paint the plywood. People often use black, which keeps the faces practically hidden during the light show until they kick on during the sequence to sing or talk.

Instead of smart pixels, which are pricey, the singing pattern requires the relatively less expensive dumb nodes, dumb RGB LED lights. Each singing tree face needs 307 nodes (lights), broken down into 19 nodes for top lips, 25 for “oh” mouth, 30 for “ah” mouth, 30 for middle mouth, 33 for bottom lip, 62 nodes for eyes open, 18 for eyes closed and 90 for the tree outline.

oh and ah mouth

Singing tree face "oh" mouth and "ah" mouth.

smiling singing tree faces

How many times you need to solder depends on how you purchase the lights. In groups of 50, for example, you would use 19 for the top lips and then cut it and solder four times: red, green, blue and power. The tree outline needed 90, so it required that twice. You use heat shrink to keep the soldered connections waterproof.

Those nodes are connected to a DMX controller, such as the dumb RGB 27 channel DMX controller. You need eight channels to run each face in order to make it appear as if it is singing; each channel has red, green and blue (RGB). With that specific DMX controller, you don’t use all the channels. We won’t delve into universes of DIP switch address charts, but you will learn about them if you didn’t have that knowledge going into this DIY project.

You need a mounting kit for the controller and a power supply, which needs a cord; the mounted items fit into a waterproof enclosure. In order for the singing tree face DMX controller to be able to talk to Light-O-Rama, you need a dongle to convert DMX 1.11 to USB 485.

Then you program, called sequencing, the songs to make different mouth movements so it appears as if the trees are singing. You can mix colors to get other colors, but they don't always appear as the same color you changed the trees to in the LOR Sequence Editor. You need to test it if you want colors other than red, blue and green.

rgb singing face sequence

In theory, you run four singing faces at once; that was too big a chunk out of the budget, so I figure any singing faces are better than none. Some people run two or three. How many singers does a song have? Do you really need four? It can be done with two, but songs such as by Pentatonix are tough to do on just a couple faces.

In the end, all your hard work will surely delight your community. I’ll find out. If you read this post the day it was published, then I was likely outside setting up at the time. Here is a video of singing tree faces in action on a grand scale.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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