Lights in the Landing

By: Sean Cassar and Megan Ford
The holiday season entails many different traditions. Some wear scratchy sweaters, and others take pictures with Santa. Brandon Bullis creates intricate light shows that garner attention across the country.
Using approximately 8,500 lights, Bullis turns a normal house into an animated Christmas special. Using the program Light-O-Rama, he gives his house a life of its own. It tells classic Christmas stories, plus sings and dances to Christmas carols. Obviously, this is not a normal hobby, and it takes up most of Bullis’ time. However time consuming this pastime may be, the electric bill at the end of the month makes up for it. The LED lights use much less energy than their incandescent counterparts, without any loss of function. “It would be horribly expensive [to use incandescent lights]. The LEDs run, I would guess, less than $40,” comments Bullis.
When he lived in Texas, Bullis saw someone else doing a similar light show, and it sparked his interest. “Part of it I made up in my head, and part of it I saw somebody do about ten or twelve years ago. I wanted to do it ever since.  I just finally sat down a couple [of] years ago and decided I was going to do it,” says Bullis. Most people know about the house because of the Halloween show Bullis put together in October. The show drew attention from all over the country, even making the Yahoo! News front page. Many elements in the Christmas show are re-used from Halloween, making setup easier, faster, and cheaper than one might expect.
Each strand of lights is divided into sections called elements. “Every element that you see out here is wired back to a controller,” Bullis explains. These controllers act like giant on and off switches that tell each element when and what color to flash. Each element is individually programmed to each song by fragments of a second. This is evidently time consuming, but Bullis says, “I love it. I absolutely love it.”
Bullis is an electrical engineer who found himself in need of a hobby a few years ago, stating, “My wife wanted me to get a bit more into the decorating spirit, so I combined the two and came up with this.” His three children, ages 12, 10, and six, love to watch the show, as does his wife. “She likes it when it’s all done. She likes to watch it,” Bullis jokes.
Bullis’ wife and kids aren’t the only ones who enjoy the show. One little boy came right up to the house and asked Bullis, “Are you going to test the train?” while practically falling out of the car trying to get a look at the display.
Besides the fanfare of lights, the show also incorporates songs and stories about Christmas. From the “Ukrainian Bell Song” to The Polar Express, this show will keep you entertained. The light show will be up and running the week of December 9th. For those in the mood for an extraordinary holiday treat, head over to 1826 Woods Edge Drive, Leesburg, VA, 20176 between 7:15 and 10:00pm and tune your FM radio to 98.1. The house doesn’t actually project music, but it is synced with a radio station. So tune in, then sit back and enjoy the show.