It's time to get serious.
Here are some of my thoughts about building your own winning Christmas Lights Display.
Start with a concept, theme or story
It's like any basic design principle. A display can look lacklustre and extremely average when there is too much unorganised chaos. Try organising the chaos to showcase or highlight you properties architecture and combining that with a curated colour pallet. It doesn't mean you can't have chaos, just create some rules for it. Or think of the property as a blank canvas and what can you add to it to complement or accentuate what is already there.
Start with a central flagship idea or feature
A great display should create a memorable experience or special photo opportunity for those coming to view it. Once you have determined what your overall theme or concept is, determine what the unique centrepiece of your display will be. Start with looking your property, what makes it unique? Look at your design idea or concept, what is a unique concept that will support that idea? For some displays its as simple as decorating a central tree to create an intimate canopy of lights over a landscape or it accentuating a feature of the house not similar to any other. It could be an intimate archway of lights. It could be an awesome unique Christmas Tree. Remember it's all about the WOW factor here.
Colour Choices Are Important
Fort the clarity of a display, like all design an effective colour pallet of light must be established. This becomes more obvious once you come back to your central concept or theme. Unless you are creating a story or image landscape with obvious colour rules, a colour rule to remember with a conceptual display is less can be so much more. In these instances it can help to restrict your lighting pallet to something as simple as only 2 colours. Follow this rule for example: have a base colour or tone which makes up 90% of the lighting display then add a feature colour or tone to the 10% which would be your displays accent pieces. The base colour on its own will look vast and stunning and will really allow the accents of the display to pull it all together. Check out this awesome example of how a house at Belbowrie used the vast emptiness of space at the front to create a beautifully colour curated landscape.
It's not the size that counts, it's where you stick it
This is an age old rule with Christmas lighting but still as valid as ever. The architecture or form of your property or space can not be ignored, a display should always enhance or sit complementary to it. For example, if you have large gable roof facing the main display viewing zone, accentuate it with colour and or movement that best suits your house's overall theme or concept. If your house is an interesting shape, highlight it by outlining it or 'colouring it in.' One of my favourite colouring in example has to go to this house at Victoria Point which managed to follow every horizontal line of brick work on the house. The effect is worth the effort, it just makes your display look fuller, brighter and neater. If you have a big garden of plants, make sure you treat every plant, tree and ground cover individually. Go as far as the grass if you have any. What can you do with a bitumen or large concrete open space? Every bit of space needs to be considered.
Don't add, unless you really have to
Steer away from adding extra bits of superfluous netting or architecture to your yard or house to extend a display. I noticed one house that only had a 6 foot fence extended it up with LED netting on metal poles to around 12ft, whilst forgetting to texture the bland front walls of the house. Did it help tell the story? No. Did it fit with an overall theme? No. Did the colours complement or serve as a highlight? No. This house still one first prize in the district. Go figure.
Keep it Interactive
Don't just make people drive by in their car. Give people a reason to park miles away and walk to your display to get involved. Have snow machine sessions, include bubble machines! I've seen displays with little maze's in the backyard. There was even one house at Morayfield which had converted their ride on mower and trailers into a train ride for 5 years and under! Small Laser lighting and effects machines can help add a different source of lighting to a display. Make sure you include background music or sound elements. There is nothing more dead then turning up at a house and hearing crickets. Most importantly include a photo opportunity zone. This year a few places built their own Santa Sleighs in which to get a memorable shot of the night. Great idea for the social media sharing age!
It's Christmas, make a Night of It!
I found if you want the people to come, not only invite them in but allow them to feel comfortable to stay a while. Consider inviting some friends around to set up some stalls within your display selling locally made merchandise or produce, or maybe have some food/dessert stalls or a sausage sizzle. We love sausage sizzles! To continue the community feel, use these food stalls as a feel good opportunity to donate profit to charities. One house this year had a soft serve ice cream truck parked out the front whilst I've also seen displays in past years with coffee vans! Who doesn't get hungry or thirsty looking for treats on a festive night out! But don't forget to include the stalls conceptually within your overall display! Dressing up as Santa and giving out small candy canes is a surefire a winner with kids. I've also seen a house that had a face painting booth. The options are limitless, but really add to the experience of making these visits for a family memorable.
Synchronised Displays tips
The rules for this area are limitless but if your thinking of creating one of these in the future, here are some of my thoughts.
Start with my general rule of finding a great concept or story. A lot of the other rules outlined above can apply here to, so I won't reiterate those. But at these displays time after time people play one Christmas track after one Christmas track and flash lights and colour to it, but people have no reason to stay or invest more time into it. Why should people stay for the third song and thereafter? What a waste of your time if people couldn't care to stay for it all. Create a show that goes for around 10 to 15 mins that has a story as a base. The story could be as cliche as the night of Jesus' birth or why not taking a classic Christmas Story or rhyme and create your own spin on it. That then allows you to build a kick ass appropriate soundtrack, design a display with purpose filled surprises and scenic themed colours and takes the audience on an intimate ride on which should compel them to stay till the end to enjoy. People are forgiving and will allow you to go little 'Rock Eisteddfod' from there.
Execute your ideas well and to there full extent. Yes it's a great idea to put lights on the roof, but make sure that if the whole roof is visible you cover it all! Same with fences. Symmetry can be your friend and make sure when you accentuate architectural straight lines, the light runs stay and remain as straight as possible. A lot of this sounds obvious, but it's harder than you think. It's minor overlooked details can let a big display down. On the contrary, there's no such thing as the perfect display. A perfect display would be boring. Perfect imperfections make incredible displays.
There is so much more I could talk about but like all art, it's all subjective and there is no right or wrong answers. the biggest risks more often than not present the biggest failures, but without these risks, new exciting ideas cannot be birthed.