Befitting an engineer in the digital age, NVIDIA’s John Storms takes his passion for creating dazzling holiday light displays to a new level of twinkling.
A compiler verification engineer by day, Storms morphs into a lighting engineer extraordinaire during the holiday season. Each year he transforms his home in suburban Austin, Texas, into a showcase of highly choreographed light shows set to music.
Storms got his start as a child, helping his parents decorate their family home. “We lived in the middle of nowhere with no neighbors around, so we could go all out,” he said.
A Family Tradition Continues
This year, his younger daughter chose music from the movie “Frozen” and helped plan light sequences. His older daughter figured out the correct timing for the music.
The more than 25,000 lights flashing and blinking in time to the song “Let it Go” are dazzling viewers online. (Storms stopped counting lights at 25,000. That’s the same number said to festoon the home of Storms’ holiday light show inspiration, Clark Griswold, the lead character from the classic Christmas comedy film “Christmas Vacation.”)
His video of glimmering trees and shimmering snowflakes all glittering to musical syncopation has attracted more than 5.6 million views on YouTube since the end of November.
Each year, Storms like to try something different. This year there are 5,000 fewer lights, although “we don’t think anyone noticed,” he said. “We are also trying to keep it green, so the lights go on around 6 pm and off by 9:30 pm.”
Being an Engineer Helps
Color-changing pixel lights added this year came in a box without instructions or even a plug. And far from the Griswoldian approach leading to a wildly overloaded plug socket, Storms built the connections himself using a soldering iron and then tested it all. It’s DIY decorating at an expert level.
The days of fast-twirling electric meter dials are also over. Storms long ago switched to LED lights from incandescent. He estimates his display uses about 11 Amps for the two months the lights are up, costing less than $15.
Storms recently switched from using a SHIELD portable to a new laptop with a Kepler GPU to design his light displays. He also uses Light-O-Rama software that synchs up with the LED lights and choreographs the show.
Storms love of setting lights to music isn’t confined to tunes from movies.
He found new inspiration after repeatedly listening to conference calls at work. Unable to shake the on-hold jingle from his head, he re-interpreted the tune by choreographing it to his LED-lit trees and snowflakes. This latest YouTube video has already exceeded 8,000 views.
The East Coast native also likes to give a nod to his adopted state of Texas by placing a steel-framed cactus at the front of his house and, of course, covering it in lights.
Storms admits this sort of DIY decorating isn’t for the faint-hearted. But he notes with a twinkle in his eye that it all starts with the first string of lights.