June 9, 2020

Getting lighting gear together for a Christmas display at first can seem overwhelming and trying to figure out what you really need to make it all work. Once you understand the terminology and how everything works together it’s actually a fairly simple setup.

In this post, we’re going to review the basics of what gear you will need to be able to create a great light show.

To get started, we’re going to work backwards and start with the lights and work our way back to how to power and control those lights.


The most known piece would be the actual lights that you use in your display. This could be the strip lights that are often used in most homes or if you looking to create a display, pixel nodes that are wired together are great to start with.

What Do You Need to Make a Great Light Show Happen?

When working with pixel nodes you have ability to set each pixel to light up differently than the others. The plug receives the power and data, and you then set those pixels up on what is known as a “prop”.


A prop is a terminology commonly used that basically means anything that would shape your pixels. This could be your house, a display, corrugated plastic, and so on.

Power and Control

To get your lights or pixels to light up they’ll need a way to receive power and data to do so. An important piece to keep in mind is that when data has to travel a long distance there is more of a likelihood that there will be a struggle for the data to get from point A to point B.

Of course the actual distance amount can vary, but a good rule of thumb that I use is 25 feet as my limit.

Controller and Power Supply

I do have my own setup with a waterproof box, but there are many different ways you can actually set this up.

What Do You Need to Make a Great Light Show Happen?

In this box, I store a few different pieces that you will need for a display. You’ll need a controller, possibly a receiver board, a power injection board, and a power supply.

What this does is act as a communication piece between the computer and helps send the data and information on what the pixels should be doing.


The last piece would be your computer. In my setups I use a very inexpensive tool known as Raspberry Pi microcomputer. But you can also use a PC or even a Mac. This is where the data and the information actually originate for your lighting.

You won’t need a super fast or even a fancy computer to run your lights but it does need to be reliable and in working condition.

And that’s it! These are the basics of what gear you will need to make your first Christmas light show happen!

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