Picture of Arduino Light Display With Vixen
I will show you how to create your own computerized light show!!  If you have any questions or comments feel free to post.




  A few options are;

  • LOR ( Light-O-Rama
  • Vixen Lights
Most of these light shows have a big setup cost for the software and hardware. However they are a much easier setup. The vixen lights is free but will take some foot or should I say finger work but if you are up for it it will be well worth it. I chose to use vixen lights and I have already done all of the searching and will share all of this with you in one spot. So grab some snacks and a drink and get ready to learn. I decided to use the arduino as the hardware controller, but there are many supported hardware options. 

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Step 1: Things needed

  • Vixen lights program
  • Arduino ( I'll assume you know how to use one )
  • Relay board or if you choose to build one click here  for my build info
  • Female cord ends ( I found some on ebay ) But the ones on LoghtORama web site are longer.
  • Plastic enclosure (see pic)
  • Computer

Step 2: The Software

Vixen lights software;

First things first. Download the software from here www.vixenlights.com I am using version Now keep in mind some of the sequences will not work across different versions.  On the link above be sure to read the page and what to install first and so on. After download is complete extract files and check the box that says " show extracted files "  to a location you will remember. When the extracted files appear right click on the vixen deer and select send to desktop. ( This will allow for fast access ) 

Step 3: Set up a Sequence

Set up a sequence, This is how the show is created!

Click on the vixen deer icon, you will see a grey screen with a tool bar on the top. ( it may ask if you would like to upgrade, answer no )
  • On the top left tool bar, click on SEQUENCE, then NEW EVENT SEQUENCE, then VIXEN STANDARD SEQUENCE.
  • A window will open ( New Sequence Wizard )
  • Click next,( Event Period )
  • then next again, ( Profile )
  • Click on Profile Manager button. A new window will open ( Profiles )
  • Click on the blue (+) new window will open ( New Profile )
  • Type the name of your choice and click OK. A new window will open ( Edit a Profile )
  • Chose how many channels you wish to have. ( for this instructable choose 16 and click add ) on the left side
  • Click on the box with 4 color square,  new window will open ( Channel Colors )
  • Click new color a new window will open ( Color ) here you will select 16 colors of your choice.
  • On the  ( Channel Colors ) window you can drag the colors on the right to the channels on the left of your choice.
  • When done click OK.
  • on the  ( Edit a profile ) window click on Output Plugins. New window will open ( Sequence Plugin Mapping )
  • Select Generic Serial from the left menu and click on use.
  • Now click on the Generic Serial in the box on the right then click on ( plugin Setup ) under channel numbers.
  • A new window will open (Setup )
  • Select a com port that your arduino uses and a baud rate of 9600.
  • Click on OK.  
  • Then Click done.
  • Then done again. ( New Sequence Wizard window)
  • Click on the  NONE drop down menu and select the profile you created.  
  • Then click Create  it.  
  • A ( Save as ) window will open.
  • Type the same profile name here. 

Step 4: Create A Sequence

We will now build the show! This is where you can get as creative as you want.
  • Open vixen
  • Click on Sequence (top left)
  • Choose " open an event sequence "
  • Click on the one you created ( sequence will open )
 Once the sequence opens you will see all of the channels open.

Add Music

To add music;
  • Click on the box with only a music note ( top of page )
  • Click on Assign audio 
  • pick through your audio files and select one of your liking
  • Click OK
Now all you have to do is play the audio and click on the boxes till they turn the color you choose for each channel.
An empty box means this channel will be off. A colored box means this channel will be on. You can select several boxes and right click and choose on. This will make things a bit faster. 

Be sure to save your work often in case it crashes. 

Step 5: Schedule a Show

With vixen open;
  • Choose " Programs " from the tool bar
  • Select " Manage " a new box will open ( Program Management )
  • Under the " Programs " section click on the blue +  a new box will open
  • Enter a name of the new program
  • Click OK
  • Select the program you just created ( in the middle box ) it will turn blue
  • Click and drag sequence(s) from the far left menu ( available sequences ) to the far right menu ( program event sequences )
  • Under " Test " make sure the " use program's plugin setup " is selected
  • click ok ( box will close )
Time to Schedule;
  • Click on " Programs" on the tool bar
  • Click on Schedule ( Scheduler will open )
  • Choose the view you prefer 
  • Pick a day and double click ( Timer will open )
  • Chose " Select Program " ( chose program you created )
  • chose the " Execution start "  you would like ( day and time )
  • Click " repeat "  ( if you want this option )
  • Under " Recurrence "  choose your preference ( how often, then start date and end date )
  • click OK

Step 6: Hardware

Picture of Hardware
The arduino: Keep in mind that when using the arduino with vixen that the channels will be off by 2. Example channel 1 in vixen will operate pin 2 on the arduino. This is due to the fact that pin 0 and pin 1 is a TX RX and will not work with this set up. It's best to make a note to put with the equipment so that you will remember this.

There are some choices on hardware. I chose the most simple option to get started. A regular relay board I built. The only down fall is it's just a on/off option. Vixen can do fading but this will require a more advanced relay board. This may be in my future and will add info here when ready.

You can see my relay board layout on my other instructable.  The arduino sends the on off signal to each relay that in turn will make the lights go BLINKY BLINKY.

I used the same method but a more narrow board so I could fit it the the box I chose. I used and orbit outdoor sprinkler timer box. It's rigid and the size I needed. 

Step 7: The arduino code

The arduino code is very simple. This current setup uses 15 channels but to add more is very easy. I actuality tested a arduino mega and ran 52 channels with no problems. 

You can use more than one arduino. All you have to do is add the same exact code to both arduinos. Then in vixen add a second controller to your profile section. Then open each controller and choose which channels you want to go to each arduino keeping in mind each arduino will need to be assigned a different com port.

Adding more channels:Read below or see video.

To add more channels simply add the new lines in each section just increasing the line number by 1. you must also change the number of total channels in the 3 sections of command line. You also have to go into vixen open the profile you will be using then choose the controller and change the amount of channels you will be using.

int A = 2;
int B = 3;
int C = 4;
int D = 5;
int E = 6;
int F = 7;
int G = 8;
int H = 9;
int I = 10;
int J = 11;
int K = 12;
int L = 13;
int M = A0;
int N = A1;
int O = A2;

int i = 0;
int incomingByte[15];

void setup()

  pinMode(A, OUTPUT);
  pinMode(B, OUTPUT);
  pinMode(C, OUTPUT);
  pinMode(D, OUTPUT);
  pinMode(E, OUTPUT);
  pinMode(F, OUTPUT);
  pinMode(G, OUTPUT);
  pinMode(H, OUTPUT);
  pinMode(I, OUTPUT);
  pinMode(J, OUTPUT);
  pinMode(K, OUTPUT);
  pinMode(L, OUTPUT);
  pinMode(M, OUTPUT);
  pinMode(N, OUTPUT);
  pinMode(O, OUTPUT);


void loop()
  if (Serial.available() >= 15)
    for (int i=0; i<15;i++)
      incomingByte[i] = Serial.read();
    }                                       // Arduino pins
    digitalWrite(A, incomingByte[0]);  // Pin 2
    digitalWrite(B, incomingByte[1]);  // Pin 3
    digitalWrite(C, incomingByte[2]);  // Pin 4
    digitalWrite(D, incomingByte[3]);  // Pin 5
    digitalWrite(E, incomingByte[4]);  // Pin 6
    digitalWrite(F, incomingByte[5]);  // Pin 7
    digitalWrite(G, incomingByte[6]);  // Pin 8
    digitalWrite(H, incomingByte[7]);  // Pin 9
    digitalWrite(I, incomingByte[8]);  // Pin 10
    digitalWrite(J, incomingByte[9]);  // Pin 11
    digitalWrite(K, incomingByte[10]); // Pin 12
    digitalWrite(L, incomingByte[11]); // Pin 13
    digitalWrite(M, incomingByte[12]); // Pin A0
    digitalWrite(N, incomingByte[13]); // Pin A1
    digitalWrite(O, incomingByte[14]); // Pin A2

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eightbittrip made it!5 months ago

awesome project! I love mine and I plan on using it for many years to come. I also purchased a high power fm transmitter so traffic can hear the music. I have videos of it too. facebook.com/eightbitrip

62bailey6 months ago

i have the vixonlight i am using the sainsmart 16 ch. 12v powerd sepertly and weating on theftdi 5v breakout yhanks

wirenut1980 (author)  62bailey6 months ago

Try this code; BobP2 posted this in the comments below, he supplied this to help with better control. I modified it a bit to fit the 16 channel set up you are going for. Load it into the arduino and let me know from there any additional help you need.

const int numChannels = 16;
// List Arduino pins in Channel number order
int channels[numChannels] = {2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,A0,A1,A2,A3};
int incomingByte[numChannels];

void setup()

for(int i = 0; i < numChannels; i++){
pinMode(channels[i], OUTPUT);
// Start with lights turned off


void loop()
if (Serial.available() >= numChannels)
for (int i=0; i<numChannels;i++)
incomingByte[i] = Serial.read();

for(int i = 0; i < numChannels; i++)
//digitalWrite(channels[i], incomingByte[i]);
digitalWrite(channels[i], 255-incomingByte[i]);


wirenut1980 is there a random codr i can put in wit the sketch i got fron you thanks john

wirenut1980 (author)  62bailey5 months ago

With the code provided it takes the data from vixen and converts it to an output. If you were to try to add a random there wouldn't be a way to have it both ways. When vixen isn't sending data to the arduino it has no way of knowing when this happens and so has no way to fire off a random sequence. I have seen others ask the same question and get the same answer I have given.

62bailey5 months ago

thanks wirenut 1980 john

62bailey5 months ago

is there or can i ad a random mod to use when the vixen is not runnihg thanks for the help

62bailey6 months ago

is there a place to go for help on vixen that is not over my head found some but not user frendly am trying to use vixen thanks hor the help

wirenut1980 (author)  62bailey6 months ago

Every thing I have/are learning about vixen is from www.doityourselfchristmas.com you can search the wiki and forum. You can also post a question by searching the forum for your specific topic then adding a new thread. Everyone there is very helpful.

kgiri6 months ago
62bailey6 months ago


62bailey6 months ago

hi i have the mega 2560 i am in need of the program to work with the 16 ch relay board. i have the vixonlight in my comp. thanks cbjk@sbcglobal.net

wirenut1980 (author)  62bailey6 months ago

Thank you for viewing. I need to gather some more info. What version of vixen lights are you using? What type of relay board are you using?

BobP27 months ago

Thanks for the instructable. Google got me here when I was trying to fix a problem. Since this helped, I'd thought it only polite to give back. Two details. First, I rewrote the Arduino code similar to Expert Noob. Second, my Sainsmart relays (3 x 8 relays/board) is reversed from the Arduino pins (0 is On, 1 is Off) so the code below accounts this. A side note, in an ON/OFF situation, Vixen sends either a 0 or a 255. Hopefully, this code will help others.

In this code, there are 24 relays, but I left the 15 relay code commented. To change from 15 to 24 relays, only two lines need to be changed (the number of relays and the actual pins used). To change too reversed relays, another two lines need to change.

//const int numChannels = 15;
const int numChannels = 24;
// List Arduino pins in Channel number order
//int channels[numChannels] = {2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,A0,A1,A2};
int channels[numChannels] = {22,24,26,28,30,32,34,36,23,25,27,29,31,33,35,37,40,42,44,46,48,50,52,54};
int incomingByte[numChannels];

void setup()

for(int i = 0; i < numChannels; i++){
pinMode(channels[i], OUTPUT);
// Start with lights turned off


void loop()
if (Serial.available() >= numChannels)
for (int i=0; i<numChannels;i++)
incomingByte[i] = Serial.read();

for(int i = 0; i < numChannels; i++)
//digitalWrite(channels[i], incomingByte[i]);
digitalWrite(channels[i], 255-incomingByte[i]);


wirenut1980 (author)  BobP27 months ago

Glad my instructable helped. Thank you for the post of the code as this will help many others. The reason sites like this exist is to help people by giving a starting point from there new ideas are created and re shared. This means things can only get better.

jdestinb8 months ago

I ordered an arduino uno R3 and I have 8 relays. What do i need to plug in to the arduino uno from the relays and what kind of code do i need to use to make this work in vixen. I am really new at this and really need some help. Any would be greatly appreciated. I really need to know what programs need to be open when running vixen and where do i need to put in the code.

wirenut1980 (author)  jdestinb8 months ago

I need a few details before I can help. Have you read the information on how to program the arduino? Have you had a chance to fully read the information in this instructable? What kind of relays are you using? Are they individual with pins on the bottom no board, individual with a small circuit board on them, or combined on a single circuit board. It would be helpful if you could post the information for the relays. Post a pictures of the relays as well.

I made a setup similar to this using the Arduino Mega 2560 and a 16 channel relay board. I used the code from this article, but when I program my lights in Vixen 2 when the lights are supposed to be off, they are on, and when they are suppose to be on, they are off. I know I can just program it the way I want and then select invert, but is there something easy that I messed up somewhere along the line?

sounds like you have inverted relays: High is off, Low is on. You might want to switch your wires on the relays if they are on NO to NC or from NC to NO depending on how that is set up. The Arduino code can also be re written (probably easiest if things are already build). In the past, I have had to switch HIGH with LOW, however this code has none of that so a "not" or ! will be needed somewhere. I'll see If I cant rewrite this code as I progress through this process.

Try this code on the arduino, also only the first few lines need to be changed in order to compensate for more or less channels.... Notice the ! I added before the last 'incomingByte[i]'?

int ledPin[] = {

2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, A0, A1, A2, A3 };

int pinCount = 16;

int incomingByte[16];

void setup()



for (int i = 0; i < pinCount; i++) {

pinMode(ledPin[i], OUTPUT);

digitalWrite(ledPin[i], HIGH);



void loop()


if (Serial.available() >= pinCount)


for (int i=0; i < pinCount; i++)


incomingByte[i] = Serial.read();


for (int i = 0; i < pinCount; i++) {

digitalWrite(ledPin[i], !incomingByte[i]);




wirenut1980 (author)  michael.finch38 months ago

Thank you for viewing. That is a weird thing to happen. If you can reply with a few pictures of your set up including the relay board so I can see what might be going on here.

It's not exactly the same design since I used an already built relay board, but the code is essentially the same. I just used all of the digital pins instead of the PWM pins. Let me know if you see something obvious that I'm doing wrong. Thanks!

wirenut1980 (author)  michael.finch38 months ago

The relay board you are using utilizes 12v relays. From what I can see from the picture you are trying to power the relay board from the arduino? is this correct? The arduino supplies 5v+. This is simply not enough power for 1 relay let alone 16. This could damage the arduino. My suggestion is to connect a ground wire from the relay to the arduino and then connect a 12v wall wart to the relay board. The arduino and relay board should share the same ground.

I do have 12 volts powering the relay board. It's not exactly clear in the picture, but I have a separate power source for it. Once plugged in the relay board and arduino are both on. Since the USB cable also supplies power to the arduino, should I not have power (jumper wires) going from 5V on the arduino to the relay board? Right now I have the 16 digital I/O pins from the arduino to the relay board. Also i have a jumper wire going from a 5V pin on the arduino to a 5V pin on the relay board. Same thing with the ground. Maybe that's the issue?

wirenut1980 (author)  michael.finch38 months ago

That could be an issue. It doesn't hurt to try to remove the 5v+ but leave the ground from the arduino and relay board an see what happens.

wirenut1980 (author)  wirenut19808 months ago

It's a little hard to fully make out the wiring. I put together a simple diagram. please refer to it to see if you have wired your setup the same and let me know.

Relay wire diagram.jpg
ebrough10 months ago

The video is no longer valid :(

wirenut1980 (author)  ebrough10 months ago

How so?

God of thunder10 months ago

How do you do it with light o rama?

wirenut1980 (author)  God of thunder10 months ago

Sorry for the late reply. I was out of town. I have never looked in to Light o rama so I am not sure. A great place to get help for this is www.doityourselfchristmas.com you can search for help, or you can post a question and someone will help you out. Good luck.

light-o-rama is a completely different beast all together it's prebuilt and preprogrammed, if I'm not mistaken.
bklammer1 year ago

Mine is being quite mixed up. Using the channel tester in Vixen, the lights that turn on are seemingly random, sometimes one channel lights two. Right now I'm only using LEDs ran straight into the arduino with just resistors. I honestly have no clue what's up.

wirenut1980 (author)  bklammer1 year ago

Post the code that you are using here so I can take a peak at it.

I'm using the code from this article! Might it be that I've got the event period at 50ms? Or, that I'm only using 13 channels? The same thing has also been happening with several other people's codes made for this same thing.

wirenut1980 (author)  bklammer1 year ago

If you use more or less channels then what is in my posted code (15ch) then you must adjust the code and vixen accordingly. The video explains this however you need to change the following lines in the code:

int incomingByte[15]; to int incomingByte[13];

if (Serial.available() >= 15) to if (Serial.available() >= 13)

for (int i=0; i<15;i++) to for (int i=0; i<13;i++)

you also have to remove two channels from each section that contains A-O

Then you must update vixen through the profile of your sequence that is attached to generic serial this must also be 13 ch. any time you add or remove these items listed above they must be adjusted. The reason for the randomness is that if vixen sends out a set number of code like 13 channels but the arduino is looking for 15 like the posted code then it gets confused. Example if you have 15 eggs and one crate that holds 12 the remaining eggs have no place to go.

Ah, there we go! It works perfectly now, and now I can transition to building the actual display diorama. Thank you much so!

wirenut1980 (author)  bklammer1 year ago

Glad to see you got it working it will be lots of fun from here on out

Got it done! Here's a video of it with a couple songs. Thank you for this guide and workings!


bklammer bklammer11 months ago

New link: http://youtu.be/1vOkF8O_usg

wirenut1980 (author)  bklammer11 months ago

That is AWESOME!! Great job with the syncing and amount of detail that went into your project.

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