How It Works

Below is a diagram showing how the basic computer christmas display works (picture was taken from Do It YourSelf Christmas).

 Generic Christmas Hardware Setup

 
Software:
As a Do It Yourself person we choose to use readily available freeware/opensource or write our own software.  We have been fortunate to have a fellow DIY’r write an incredible application (Vixen) for powering our lights.  Vixen was written and is maintained by KC Oakes and can be found here
Controller Board:
The function of the controller board is to take the data received from the computer and convert it into control signals that are sent to the solid state relays (SSR’s) to control the action of the lights.
Solid State Relays (SSR):
A solid state relay is an electronic switch, which, unlike an electromechanical relay, contains no moving parts.
FM Transmitter:
This is what is used to give your display life.  Without it, visitors merely see a bunch of lights doing crazy things at random.  Once they see how the lights are synchronized with the music they are absolutely amazed.
Power Sources:
Power comes in two flavors for us, DC and AC.  The DC power is used to power the controller boards and the input into the SSR’s for triggering the on/off.  The AC power of course is what is used to power the lights.
The Christmas Lights:
Not much to say here, but you have many options today that need to be considered.