The Force Awakens in NVIDIAN’s Front Yard for Holidays

by Samantha Zee

Dazzling lights. Stirring music. Storm troopers.

Okay, no storm troopers, but the drama of the new Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens movie helped inspire this year’s holiday light display at the home of NVIDIAN John Storms, in Austin, Texas.

A Star Wars movie lover since he was seven, Storms has long dreamed of setting the sequence of his holiday light display to the franchise’s powerful symphonic music by composer John Williams.

A Holiday Tradition

An annual tradition now in its sixth year, the video of this year’s visual spectacle — including twirling mega wreaths, glittering snowflakes and shimmering trees — could break his record of more than 7 million views on YouTube for last year’s production, choreographed to the theme from the movie “Frozen.”

Storms has more than 25,000 lights flashing and blinking in time to the Star Wars theme, dazzling visitors and viewers online alike. (Storms stopped counting lights at 25,000. That’s the number said to adorn the home of Clark Griswold in the classic Christmas comedy film “Christmas Vacation.”)

“In Washington, you don’t build taller than the Washington monument, and in the holiday lighting world, you don’t say you have more lights than Clark Griswold,” Storms said, noting that “Christmas Vacation” is his favorite movie.

A Jedi Shares Lighting Show Lessons 

Storms, a compiler verification engineer, plans for his holiday lighting display all year long. Lights and pixels are ordered in January and February. This summer, he trimmed the two trees in front of his house into the shape of lollipops and attended conferences like the Christmas Expo and Lone Star Holiday’s Holiday Academy, where he taught software programming for lighting shows.

“Folks often do well with hardware, but the software is tricky,” Storms said. “I found ways to speed the process that helps people when they’ve spent hours creating sequences that just cover 15 seconds of song.”

The Force Awakens as Early as September

Pixel snowflake light display.
Pixel snowflake light display.

Setup for the holidays can begin as early as September. Being an engineer helps when color-changing pixel lights come in a box without instructions or even a plug and must be compatible with LED lights and RGB flood lights. Everything has to work with the Light-O-Rama software that syncs the lights and choreographs the show while running off a PC powered by an NVIDIA GeForce GPU.

Storms switched to LED lights from incandescent years ago to keep energy costs down. He estimates his display uses about 11 Amps for the two months the lights are up, costing a total of less than $15.

Putting the light and music show together is similar to some of the projects he works on in his day job, with “a lot of dependencies,” Storms said. “But it’s all about time management and a firm deadline.”

Last Year’s Highlight: “Frozen”

2013: “I Am A Gummy Bear”

For more, see John Storms’ “Listen to Our Lights,” YouTube Channel.