Holyday Lights @ Whitehouse - 2014

Technical lead in the project for Nexus studios

Pictures and project description from Nexus studios project site:

"For the 92nd Annual National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony at the President’s Park in Washington, young women were invited to code their own animation which appeared on the 56 Christmas trees in front of The White House, each representing a different US state or territory.

Launched by US President Obama, Nexus Studios managed all the creative, technical and logistical requirements to take every single girl’s coded animation from the website and display it in real-time on their Christmas tree in the President’s Park. The project had millions of submissions, with girls traveling across America to see their design in lights and aired on PBS and YouTube Live. The project ran for 6 weeks across the holiday season."


As technical lead, and given the time constraints, my main focus was on simplifying the technical requirements and finding the simplest possible solution without compromising the aesthetics and functionality of the project.

One of the first decisions I took was to create an emulator so the team at Nexus could easily visualize the final result and facilitate the design decisions before actually being on site. This tool allowed the design team among other things to test different arrangements of lights on the trees before being on site.

Along with Tim Gfrerer we developed the emulator code in a way that used the same code base as the actual installation so we didn't have to duplicate effort and code and the visualization of the emulator was as accurate as possible a representation of the actual installation.

Early emulator tool

The openframeworks application that drove the emulator and the real installation, translated the patterns we received from the girls code on the web into a custom protocol that sent the data to custom hardware and software designed by Charles Yarnold that finally targeted each individual LED on the christmas trees.

Our software also allowed to coreograph different visualizations sent by girls to the project website and was used during the official Christmas Lighting Ceremony hosted by US president Barack Obama.