A multimedia designer who fell in love with Christmas light displays 10 years ago has one-upped himself every year since then with an epic festive display at his own home.
A decade ago, 39-year-old Michael Coffing from Albuquerque, New Mexico, watched “The Great Christmas Light Fight” on television and was instantly transfixed.
“It was the first time I had ever heard of RGB pixel lighting and the ability to animate to music,” he told The Epoch Times. “A couple of years later, I had the opportunity to see a house done in that style, live, for the first time, and I have to say I was hooked at that moment. I remember thinking, ‘I have got to learn how to do this!’”
With nobody to teach him, Mr. Coffing taught himself how to synchronize RGB pixel lighting with music using YouTube tutorials, and spent the following year researching, investing in the right equipment, and learning new skills such as soldering and electronics. He then put his skills to the test by lighting up his first strand of pixel lights.
“From that point on, everything fell into place,” he said. “What helped me the most was having a background in animation techniques, and I applied that knowledge to my custom show.”
“The biggest reason I love my Christmas light show is getting to pick and choose songs that are meaningful to me, my daughters, and the reason for the season,” he said. “I incorporate a light-up nativity scene into my show for several songs too, and turn them on and off to the songs as well.”
“A lot of thought goes into every scene,” he told The Epoch Times. “I listen to the beat, come up with an interesting way to tell the story of the song in lights, and, surprisingly, don’t light up everything I have all at once. Every effect, every animation, and everything that lights up must have a purpose.”
However, the biggest challenge for Mr. Coffing has been getting to grips with electronics and the fiddly business of extending the length of the wire to reach the furthest display “with null pixels (single RGB pixel lights whose only purpose is to repeat the data signal down the line).”
“The data information gets corrupted after traveling around 20 feet,” he said. “I had to solder in sometimes five null pixels in the same lead wire line to get the data to my furthest display elements.”
Mr. Coffing runs his entire display from just two controllers and two power supplies, and said that while his most impressive display element is the snowflakes, his favorite one is the five arches of various sizes that he calls “gravity arches.” They are the result of an experiment to see “the effect of an arch losing height, the same way gravity slows down a bouncing ball.”
“One day I was working in the garage, fixing an element of the show, and a car pulled up,” he said. “I could hear the kids scream, cheering and singing along to Frozen’s ‘Let It Go’ song. I looked at my cameras and could see two girls standing halfway out of the rolled-down windows, arms in the air and having the time of their lives! Definitely a favorite memory I'll cherish forever.”
Today, Mr. Coffing’s Christmas light display boasts 2,762 individual lights. This is not among the biggest, since some domestic light shows boast up to 30,000. But Mr. Coffing believes it’s not about the number, “you just need to make it memorable and fun.”
He encourages locals to see his epic 2023 display at 10251 Country Meadows Dr. NW Albuquerque and reminds them to be mindful to turn off headlights and avoid blocking driveways. He’s already thinking ahead to 2024 and the songs he may add to his sequence.
“The quality and complexity increase every year, and there will definitely be some new effects people have never seen before,” he said. “You’ve got to see it in person, you won’t be disappointed!”