NVIDIA Logo Aglow in Austin Holiday Lights Spectacular

by Samantha Zee

Christmas comes early and stays late in Austin, Texas, where one home is ablaze with festive holiday lights by mid-November — and delights and dazzles the neighborhood well into January.

The sparkling display is created by Lee Franzen, a senior program manager at NVIDIA, who unleashes the power of our graphics chips to give his neighborhood a show to remember each year. Planning for his music-synchronized, 100,000+ light show kicks off at the beginning of each January, just as the lights from previous year are taken down.

Constructing the displays is done during the summer months, and this year included a new RGB matrix 12 1/5 feet tall and 12 feet wide, which Lee then hung on one of the exterior walls of his house.

Instead of the traditional holiday motifs of prancing reindeer and jolly snowmen illuminated in the light display, Lee created the NVIDIA logo on a 10-foot section of the matrix, containing 2,400 pixels on three-inch centers, bringing a little of New York’s Times Square glitter into suburban Austin. Digital snowflakes drift down on each side.

GPUs Increase Speed and Smoothness

Lee just updated to NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 GPUs for his light display as they increase the speed and smoothness of the rending simulations he uses to get lights and songs synced properly. He also uses two monitors, one for music synchronization software, the other to run a light show simulator for simulating and sequencing the show before it goes on display in his front yard.

Lee, who got his start in big holiday light shows about six years ago, likes to involve his neighborhood in the event by throwing an annual party. This year more than 150 people came the first night when the lights were turned on.

The “lights-on” event also kicks off a toy collection drive targeting contributions from the hundreds of passersby the show draws in. He’s already gathered 100 toys for Dell Children’s Hospital and Operation Blue Santa, a nonprofit started by the Austin Police Department, that provides gifts and warm meals to families in need during the holidays.

Songs Sequenced to Holiday Lights

Completing the holiday decorations this year are 20-foot inflatable Santa, with a 14-foot inflatable deer next to him, a dozen plus glowing green mini trees in front of the house, and a 50-foot tunnel covering the driveway covered in sparkling lights.

Lee also posts a sign from a radio station in his yard, so people driving past can tune their car radios to it and listen to the songs sequenced to the lights. Lee’s family pass out candy canes for visitors to snack on as they stop to admire the lights, with 500 already handed out.

Lee’s holiday wish each year is for families who swing by to watch the show and listen to the music to have a great time. And, if they can, to share some of that goodwill with families in need.