|While pictures don’t do the animated lights on Edwards Landing justice, Brandon Bullis has made it a family tradition to create animated lights for both Christmas and Halloween. Courtesy Photos/Edwards Landing|
When Brandon Bullis was just starting his family in a Dallas suburb over a decade ago, one of his favorite holiday activities was to take his first-born daughter to visit a neighborhood well-known for its elaborate Christmas decorations.
“I enjoyed it as much, maybe more so, than my daughter. Seeing how delighted she was by the lights and displays, I thought to myself that I’d like to do something similar one day,” says Bullis, a Leesburg resident since 2004.
Fast forward to New Year’s Day, 2011. Bullis and his family, now expanded to three children, were watching a Discovery Channel show about tricked-out home holiday displays and he felt the familiar pull of interest again.
With his wife’s encouragement, Bullis decided to take the plunge.
“But I didn’t want just static lights,” he said.
And, indeed, Bullis’s creations are far more than the usual unblinking colored lights strewn from rooftops.
His installations, which he displays at his Leesburg home in Edwards Landing, are outrageously complex. Thousands of individual switches and multi-colored LED lights are synched to holiday-themed music, all directed by computer software that’s taken Bullis months of programming and countless trial and error to perfect.
He says it typically takes 10-12 hours of programming for every minute of music, and he usually has a 20-30 minute loop of songs that accompany the light display.
“It’s obviously a year-long hobby,” Bullis laughs. “But it’s pretty exhilarating when it comes on for the first time.”
At Halloween and Christmas, his installations attract up to 250 cars a night packed full of delighted children and parents. In addition to the thousands who personally visit his neighborhood, he also attracts millions – yes, millions – of YouTube views for his elaborate productions.
Bullis, an electrical engineer by trade, is humble about all the attention. He insists anyone can do it. He cites a wealth of online information, including discussion groups, DIY websites and videos, to help anyone interested in the hobby.
Still, he admits being an engineer doesn’t hurt.
Bullis’s first ambitious installation was for Halloween 2012. He coordinated a dazzling light show to the wildly popular hit song, “Gangnam Style,” by South Korean pop star, Psy.
A local DJ heard about the installation and interviewed Bullis during the popular morning drive-time hour. Other media jumped on the story and, before they knew what hit them, the Bullis family was overwhelmed with interest for their display.
“At first we only had a few cars coming through, but after the media got hold of it, the traffic became overwhelming. Fortunately, we have fantastic neighbors,” said Bullis.
Bullis says the installation has become a source of family and neighborhood pride, but he also helps keep things under control by posting simple rules for those visiting the neighborhood on his Facebook page (which currently has over 3,800 “likes”).
The popularity of the holiday installations recently led the Bullis family to consider how else they might spread good cheer to the community. They thought about how young children are positively impacted by the joy of the holidays, so they chose to give all display donations to the John Hopkins Children’s Center, a place of calm refuge for children being treated for cancer.
The family does not openly solicit donations, but there is a place on their Facebook page, and also a drop bucket at the house, for those who wish to donate.
This past Halloween, the Bullis family presented a check for $3,000 to the center.
Asked how the family reacts to all the attention, Bullis says, not surprisingly, that his kids enjoy it. He says they aren’t shy about letting people know that the house with the uber-cool light show is theirs.
And Bullis’s daughter, who once accompanied her dad all those years ago in Dallas to look at Christmas decorations, now pitches in to help with crowd control.
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