Wow, between storms, deer, bad pixels, and software glitches- it’s been a “fun” week…

The big storm that blew through earlier this week took out some of our sparkleballs, and we had controllers and electrical cables literally floating in a few spots. Fortunately we were able to get everything dried out and working again fairly quickly.

The local deer seem to be enjoying our show a bit too much, and aren’t watching where they are walking. We’ve had lots of broken stakes and some bent fence posts. Fortunately no serious damage to our show, and hopefully not to the deer. If we could just strap some pixels to them and get them to stay…

We have actually been fairly lucky on pixel failures so far. Other shows are reporting large numbers of daily failures, especially with “2021” pixels. We are losing about two pixels a week, mostly on the mega-tree. While last year’s pixels were problematic too, causing fires in some cases (not here, fortunately), pixel manufacturers this year seem to have really cut corners. Like almost every other manufacturer and business in the world right now- they are having supply chain and labor issues.

The data that tells each pixel what color to display at any moment travels in “series”. Kind of like old mini-lights. When one goes out or malfunctions- it takes all of the ones after it out too. So- instead of just a single light that may not be as obvious- a whole section of a prop/decoration will go dark, just display a single color, or start flashing randomly.

Finally, the software that runs all of this stuff is free and open-source and is continually evolving and being updated. This can result in “buggy” releases that can cause problems like freezing or sequence misfires. Sometimes a musical sequence will stop part-way through, or whole sections will go dark. Sometimes specific “props” like our column matrixes will freeze. There are dedicated volunteer software developers chasing down problems like these, but unfortunately often when one problem is fixed- another will surface. This year seems to be exceptionally bad, but I remember quite a few problems last year too.

These shows aren’t “plug-and-play”. You can’t just go out and buy one- they are all custom-built. Almost nothing has a warranty, and you can’t just call someone to fix them. It’s a hobby, and all of us in it do the best we can to make them as “perfect” and enjoyable as possible for everyone. Most of the time we catch problems and fix them as quickly as possible, but we may not see all of them. Sometimes we sit out in a car with all of you, watching and taking notes. We tend to be our own worse critics too!

In any case, if you see something obviously broken please let us know via our social media accounts, and we will work to get it fixed ASAP. Facebook Messenger seems to work the best, as Twitter seems a bit lax in notifications. Thanks!