Cardboard Reindeer Head Light Show

Introduction: Cardboard Reindeer Head Light Show

During the Winter Holiday, families flock to neighborhoods to see houses decked with boughs of holly (lights synchronized to holiday music). Here's an opportunity to bring the magic of outdoor light shows indoors.

This Instructable addresses the need of syncing lights with holiday music on a smaller scale. The approach is to create a cardboard reindeer head, place LED lights throughout it, and connect it to an Arduino program called "Beat Syc" (courtesy of akcarl found at This program allows any song, holiday or not, to be played with the reindeer.

If you have any questions, suggestions, or considerations please feel free to contact me. Tech Yeah I want to have a conversation!

Step 1: Tools/Materials List


  • Helping Hands
  • Soldering
  • Soldering Iron
  • Sponge
  • Pliers
  • Wire Cutters
  • Glue Gun
  • Glue Sticks
  • Eye Protection


  • Wreath
  • Red Ball
  • Wires
  • 3.5mm Male/Make Audio Connector
  • 3.5mm Audio Splitter
  • 3.5 female audio connector
  • Arduino Uno
  • USB Cable
  • Alligator Clip Leads
  • LEDs (Blue, Red, Green, Yellow)

Step 2: Reindeer Head Cut Out

Inspiration for the Reindeer Head came from the following Pinterest

There are two ways about going in cutting out the Reindeer Head:

  1. Laser Cut
  2. Cut it by hand

Attached are the CorelDRAW files I created to cut with a laser cutter. If you are lucky enough to have access to a laser cutter you can use these files. If you happen to be more crafty than that and happen to have access to CorelDRAW (Inkscape may be your best alternative, you can use the files to have exact measurements of the reindeer head, mini antlers, and antlers.

Mini Antlers - The size of the Mini Antlers is roughly 4.5 inches by 4.5 inches.

Antler - The size of the Antlers is roughly 14 inches by six inches.

Reindeer Head - The size of the Reindeer Head is roughly 13 inches by 14 inches.

Let's hold off on the reindeer head assembly for later in the Instructable.

Step 3: Software Courtesy of Akcarl's "Beat Sync"

There are a lot of options when it comes to how you want your light show to look like. My first instinct was to search the depths of the Internet, then I came across akcarl's "Beat Sync" program for Arduino on the Instructables website. This program syncs LEDs to music in the form of a visual equalizer.

The first file, "CardboardReindeerHeadLightShow," (renamed for the purpose of this Instructable) contains the code you'll upload to your Arduino Uno.

The second and third file, save those into your Arduino library. This is an important step.

Step 4: Circuitry

The LEDs

Two things going on here:

  1. Each anode is connected to the digital pins 5-12. The cathodes are connected to the ground.Here's where it gets it gets a little tricky - the images above were taken from "Beat Sync". In "Beat Sync", there are eight LEDs, as seen in the images above. In Cardboard Reindeer Head Light Show, there are 32 LEDs. Each digital pin is connected to four LEDs connected in parallel - three additional LEDs to each row in the image above.
  2. You should have eight strings of LEDs. Every two sets will be a different color. The first two are red, second two are yellow, third two are green, fourth two are blue.

The Female Audio Connector

The image of the male audio jack is used to discuss the "tip, sleeve, ring" you will find in the female audio connector.

  1. Cut off the plastic parts covering the "tip, sleeve, ring" of the female audio connector, this is on the side opposite of the plug.
  2. Solder the ground to the "sleeve", part three in the image.
  3. Solder the positive terminal to either the "tip" or "ring". I am unsure of the difference between the two, I soldered it to the ring.

The positive terminal will be connected to the analog three pin.

Step 5: Integration

Each step here addresses a picture above.
  1. Outline the wreath on the cardboard
  2. Cut out a hole for the wires at the bottom of the inner circle of the wreath
  3. Draw eyes and poke a hole for the LED in the reindeer head portion
  4. Three sets of LEDs will be placed onto the cardboard
  5. Hot glue the reindeer head onto the cardboard
  6. Place the wreath over the reindeer head onto the cardboard and hot glue it together
  7. Mark the antlers the parts where you will place it onto the reindeer head and cut it, then slide it onto the reindeer head. Several pictures illustrate what is done to the mini antlers
  8. Place the lights onto the reindeer head and antlers*
  9. Slice a hole in the red ball to fit onto the nose of the reindeer head. Place it onto the nose of the reindeer head

*Each pair of mini antlers is a string of LED lights. For example, the inner mini antlers are all one string of LED lights (in this case they are the green LEDs). The blue LEDs fills the rest.

Step 6: Enjoy! (Future Work and Considerations/Thank Yous)

Future Work and Considerations

  • The LEDs, as depicted in the video, does not correspond to how the LEDs in "Beat Sync" functions. Tinkering needs to be done to determine why this is.
  • For overall presentation, the wires need to be long enough to hide behind the cardboard box.
  • I precut all the wires before placing them, hence why the wires need to be long enough, but I should have scaled the wires as I went.
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Thank You

  • I want to thank akcarl for allowing me to use his "Beat Sync" program. It really enabled this project. If not, my last resort would have been to use a whole bunch of time delays and it would have only applied to "Sleigh Ride" (my favorite holiday song).
  • The place I work at for allowing me to use the work space. The tiny dorm room style I live in just does not cut it for me.

Once More With Passion

  • I had a lot of fun playing with the music so much. Look out for YouTube videos of this reindeer playing other kinds of music!

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