This was the first year I didn’t develop any new hardware or light animations for the MegaTree! (It still took me a good six hours to unpack and put up, but that’s a lot less time than I spent on in the the previous two years!) So the only thing new in this years video is drone footage and a cool soundtrack.
For Christmas 2017, I built a computer controlled RGB Pixel LED megatree around a pine tree in my yard. For Christmas 2018, I built a 48″ outside diameter “ball” topper for the tree. (It looks better when it’s pulled 20′ up the tree, and lit up at night…)
This was the first “large scale” project that made use of my Maslow CNC router to cut out a large number of parts (which took many hours) that bolt together in such a way that each individual part can fit into a 27 gallon tote for storage.
If you want my OpenSCAD files to make your own version, you can find it in this zip file:
And here is a video that shows off some of the animations I sequenced for 2018:
So, what do you need to build a large digitally color controlled LED outdoor Christmas tree display? (Commonly called a “megatree” by people in the Christmas display community.) And how much will it cost?
First, you need strings of color controlled RGB LED lights, wires to connect them, and a few power supplies. I bought 16 strands that have 50 lights each, with 6″ spacing (PixaBulb w/ Strawberry lens) from http://www.diyledexpress.com. (I also got a 17th strand as a spare, and am using it as my tree topping star right now). This cost me $650 (including extra connection wires & two 12 volt power supplies).
Then you’ll need a light controller. I bought a Falcon 16V3 from https://www.pixelcontroller.com for $210, and a CableGuard CG-1500 outdoor enclosure to protect it from the elements. (This enclosure holds the controller board, but is not large enough for the two power supplies, which I have under a better ventilated anti-rain plastic storage box)
Then you’ll need a lot of mounting hardware (lag eyes, quick connect links, etc) and wire ropes (small cables, cable thimbles & crimp connectors) plus zipties, lots and lots of zipties. I used stainless steel hardware from e-rigging.com except for the galvanized wire rope that I bought at Harbor Freight (shipping a 500′ spool of stainless 3mm cable was prohibitively expensive). Including miscellaneous pieces of wood I used for my mounting ring and star tree-topper, a few extension cords, tent pegs and a 100′ run of Ethernet cable, all of this hardware cost me around $245.
I’m not including the cost of all the tools needed, plus a laptop to sequence and control the show.
So all in, for a “mid-sized” megatree (20′ tall, 16′ diameter at the base) you are looking at a little over a thousand dollars (plus a hundred hours of work). On the plus side, this cost can be amortized over multiple years, so it’s cheaper than multiple years of fireworks. Plus, with some creative work, you could re-purpose the lights for Halloween, weddings, parties, etc…
A more specific list of mounting hardware:
40x 1/8″ Zinc Plated Copper Sleeve – Crimp connectors that hold the cable in place around the thimble. (Buy the proper crimping tool for these.)