music in lights

Red, green, blue and white lights flickered and flashed to the rhythm of Christmas-themed rock music.

Strands around the edges of Andy and Joni Wallman’s eaves, garage and doorways explode in color and fade away with each jazzy note of Tom Hanks’ “Hot Chocolate” song from “The Polar Express.”

A post in the center of the yard illuminates, rotates and dances to the sounds of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines.”

Every Christmas season, the Wallmans’ southside home glows with holiday cheer spread by close to 10,000 lights.

The family has employed new technology this year to make the holiday display more vibrant, more musical and more magical. Connecting the lights to a bank of computer circuits, they can make a seamless light show that seems to dance with the music.

“We’ve always enjoyed driving around and looking at houses all lit up for the season,” Andy Wallman said. “For years, we’ve hung tons of lights on our house. A synchronized display just became the next natural step to expand and make our display stand out.”

Andy Wallman has been messing around with Christmas lights since he was a child, dragging his family’s strands of lights out of the garage to hang on trees.

That has grown into a fully choreographed display synced up with popular music and classic Christmas songs.

“We’re always looking for upbeat or faster songs,” Andy Wallman said. “We’ve been doing it enough when we hear a song we like, we talk about some of the effects we want to do.”

The family has replaced traditional lights with RGB pixels. The special light-emitting diode bulbs contain a red light, a green light and a blue light.

By controlling which lights turn on and at what intensity, the technology can create hundreds of color shades, Andy Wallman said. Each bulb has a microprocessor, meaning that every light can be controlled separately.

“It’s cut down on the number of lights we’ve needed but increased the number of effects we can do,” Andy Wallman said. “We had a bunch of lights up there, but they’d either all be on or all be off. Since any bulb can be any color we want it to be, we can make them chase back and forth, rather than turn them all on at one time.”

Some holiday decorators can spend hours hanging the lights, setting up displays and checking extension cords, but Andy Wallman has found that part of the job to be easy.

It’s the hours spent programming each bulb to “dance” to the music that is the most difficult. A three-minute song can take up to eight hours to type in by hand.

“Hanging the lights can be done at a weekend, but programming takes a lot longer,” he said.

Since they started doing the choreographed displays, the Wallman house has become a regular stop for holiday light-chasers.

Their neighbors are understanding, and almost all of them come by to enjoy the show nightly between 5:45 and 9:30 p.m., Andy Wallman said.

“For the most part, it’s relatively calm. We usually have one or two cars out there idling,” he said. “The only time when it’s a concern is a week before Christmas, that’s when it really picks up.”

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Where: 8154 Fendler Drive, Indianapolis, near Five Points and Stop 11 roads

Residents: Andy and Joni Wallman

Features: More than 10,000 RGB pixels on a display coordinated to music.