Christmas Storm: SHIELD Rings in Another Use – Creating Dazzling Holiday Light Show

by Brian Caulfield

SHIELD can do many things. It can play Android games. It can stream AAA PC games. It can be used to fly drones. Oh, and it makes for a pretty good portable stereo system.

Now, John Storms, in Austin, Texas, has found a way to use it to control Christmas. Or at least the thousands of Christmas lights he has attached to his home this year to create a dazzling holiday show.

It’s an effort that has grabbed Storm millions of YouTube viewers over the past four years – and appearances on everything from “Good Morning America” to “Fox and Friends.” And it’s one that reflects both the NVIDIA compiler engineer’s attention to detail – and wild sense of fun.

“Last year it really got picked up,” says Storms. “We seemed to be on every local news station across the country, we had friends in West Virginia, Utah, Cancun, and Germany who saw us on their local news.”

This year he’s created displays synced to “Jingle Bells, Batman Smells,” “I Am a Gummy Bear,” and – why not – the theme song to the 1978 version of the television series “Battlestar Galactica.”

It’s a show that Storms has begun for the past four years after Thanksgiving – no sooner. “Every time you turn them on before Thanksgiving, an elf dies,” Storms quips.

As always, the display is put together with the kind of panache that Clark Griswold – the bumbling protagonist whose holiday light display went so comically wrong in the 1989 classic “Christmas Vacation” – lacked.

The thousands of lights are synced up with software from Light-O-Rama running on a PC, and the music is broadcast through a small FM transmitter. And because the lights are energy-efficient LEDs, Storms estimates it uses no more than $15 worth of electricity.

The latest addition to the show: SHIELD. Storms can now control his system using his SHIELD hand held gaming device, which uses the Pocket Cloud Android app to give Storms control of the PC powering the display from anywhere in the world.

While, like kids everywhere, Storms’ children aren’t as awestruck as the rest of us (“they figure if Dad does it, it can’t be that cool,” Storms says) they do help out. His daughter, the family’s musician, helps insure that the lights, and the music, are perfectly in sync.

The only thing that isn’t automated, tracked, or perfectly calibrated: the number of lights. After years of building ever more elaborate holiday displays, Storms admits he’s lost track of the number of lights he puts on his home every year.

Since Griswold uses 25,000, Storms simply estimates he’s got no more than that. “We don’t want to put Clark to shame,” he says. Somehow, we think he’d like it.