Help me start my halloween project: led lights on a spaceship!

Total newbie here. I need a lot of help starting my project. This year for halloween we’re building an alien invasion display for our front yard. We’ll have a corn field with aliens in it, fog machine, crop circles cut in my lawn, and the center piece of it all will be an alien ufo. I’d like to put a string of led lights around the perimeter of the ufo. Ideally the lights will do a variety of different things: all brighten and then dim, chase each other at varying speeds, and other patterns that would look appropriate on a ufo. I would like the leds to have the ability to change colors however, when doing their patterns I will mostly want them to stay in one color. For example, dim in and out while staying in blue only. I mention this because in my short amount of research online it seems a lot of these led strips do these patterns while cycling through the colors.

Also, I’m going to put together a sound track of all sorts of creepy ufo and alien sounds and there will be parts of the soundtrack that I’d like to coordinate with the lights. For example, if I used a sound like this: Strange Sounds Heard Blasting From UFO!! - YouTube, the lights on the ship would come on in coordination with the sound blasts.

The circumference of my ship will be approximately 41’. So I’ll need to put together an led strip that long. However, the ship will be up in my yard and people won’t really see the backside, so I could conceivably not wrap the lights all the way around if necessary.

So where do I begin? Thanks for your help! Looking forward to this project!

edit: Let me know if I should post this in the LED forum instead and i’ll move it.

Learn how to use the TLC5940 and the WS2801 or WS2803 or WS2812. Look for libraries.

I did a project that involved a flying saucer taking off/landing simulation using neon lights installed in welded circular tube frames suspended from chains in Paramount Studio’s Sound Stage 13 (the one they filmed the FIRST Star Trek movie in). Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner were guest speakers at the Los Angeles Museum 1982 Contemporary Art Council’s Awards Banquet. My boss was the lighting designer and came up with the concept and my job was designing and building the controller (shown in one of the photos) to create the effects. The lights were powered by 12V which the neon transformers converted to High Voltage (10kV or higher). The circular rings shown in the photo were suspended from the ceiling in a 200 ft sound stage so everything had to be CMOS logic to work with such long cable runs. Each ring had 16 segments of straight neon, the sizes varied. The smallest ring was 3 ft. in diameter and suspended at the furthest upper corner of the 200 ft sound stage. The next smaller was 6 ft, then 9 ft , 12 ft , 18 ft and finnally 30 ft in diameter. Starting with the smallest ring at the highest furthest point, the rings were sucessively larger and lower (from the ceiling or to the floor) with the largest being 30 ft in diameter directly above the portable disco dance floor (that rented for $2000 a night) . The principle is simple;
A flying saucer is simulated by grouping the 16 segments into groups of four, which consisted of pairs of opposing (across from each other) segments. The four groups A,B,C & D, were consecutive in that B segments were in between A segments and C segments and D segments were in between C segments and A segments so that if you connected the digital signal lines A,B, C, D to a counter chip and sequenced them in that order, the POV (Persistence Of Vision) effect would make it appear as though the disk (In a dark room you can’t tell it is a ring) is spinning . If you set the sequence rate , successively slower from smallest to largest ring, it looks like the flying saucer is shooting in from a distance at a high speed and then slowing down suddenly until it gets to the 30 ft ring which is only 10 ft off the floor (whereas the smallest ring is 40 ft above the floor ; the sound stage is 50 ft high and 200 ft long , and I don’t remember the width). If you use a method to reverse the order of the sequence control lines (I used analog switches), at the flip of a switch you change it from “Landing” (smallest to largest order) to “Taking off” (largest to smallest ring order). Then by having a method to changed the light pattern from sequencing to all segments on mode (more digital tricks) when the saucer lands, you make the active ring “pulse” all on and all off , starting very slowly and increasing gradually until it looks like it is ready to take off, at which time you enable the sequence mode (largest to smallest ) and switch from pulsing to sequencing (spinning ) at the same time and walah ! you have a flying saucer taking off and disappearing into the distance. (repeatedly unless you disable all segments after the smallest ring, making it look like it really did disapear)
Everything was done with discrete digital CMOS because the first PC was just being released by IBM and embedded technology was in it’s infancy, not to mention my boss didn’t trust computers.
Everything would be done with uProcessors now, probably with I/O Expander chips (PCF 8574).
I don’t know if any of this will give you ideas but you might be able to use some of it.

Ace project, Rasch, but I don't think this fellow wants anywhere near that much work!

Forty-one feet? That is quite an ask!

You want them pre-assembled (or you will go mad), and you actually want them spaced out, and you want them individually controllable.

You want these units - from whoever you buy them. Those ones are (reasonably) weatherproof. At 41 feet you may need a couple of chains, these just plug together but you need to power each chain separately (because of voltage drop). You can still use one power supply (such as a PC power supply) but cable from the power supply to each chain with something like that used to wire houses.

The library to control them - with all the sort of effects you want - is on Adafruit.

Those look totally cool. I would put them on my car if the CHP wouldn't go nuts when they saw it.

Thanks guys! I'm thinking that maybe this year I will just buy some rgb strips that come with a remote already and just use the included modes. Then next year I can focus on upgrading my project by doing what I outlined in my original post. Just not sure if I would have time to pull it off this year.