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olingerjccj
08-15-2010, 12:35 PM
I have not really looked int to ren c/ren t stuff not even sure if that is right but really a later question If I decide to do this, I have been getting a lot of interest from my neighboors to sync up our block. I guess a simple question but is this too late in the game to coordinate all this.

Thanks
John

StandingInAwe85
08-15-2010, 02:46 PM
I really think that depends on if your neighbors are going to be helping out... It seems like there will be one last Ren SS group buy going on in Sept for the controllers, and if your neighbors will help solder and sync, you might be able to make it. One thing to keep in mind is in some situations, you may not need wireless to do this. If you're in a neighborhood like mine, you can easily reach a cat5 cable two houses down and still be within the 400' limit of RS485. That will be less than a third of the cost of the wireless (an no boards to make). For those across the street and further down, look at using remote serial port software. Basically, it will take a serial port on their computer, and make your computer able to use it over the internet. Check this link out for an example: http://www.pira.cz/eng/piracom.htm I haven't tried this with Vixen, but in theory it should work (you'll need a RS232 to RS485 converter for this). I'm making the assumption that they would be willing to allow you to use some resources their PC for this and they have a broadband internet connection.

dirknerkle
08-15-2010, 02:51 PM
John, you really should contact tweist about doing the neighborhood. He's a wealth of information and did about a dozen houses last year, direct-wired with Grinches and SSRs. His plan is for at least that many this year but he's doing it wirelessly with Ren64's so he can still use the old SSRs.

LabRat
08-15-2010, 02:52 PM
RE: Remote serial ... just don't expect the timing accuracy that you are used to. I have just been tinkering with this, as a means of creating a "web" based LedTriks. The net result was that although the packets flow.. the jitter from the network was VERY noticeable.



I really think that depends on if your neighbors are going to be helping out... It seems like there will be one last Ren SS group buy going on in Sept for the controllers, and if your neighbors will help solder and sync, you might be able to make it. One thing to keep in mind is in some situations, you may not need wireless to do this. If you're in a neighborhood like mine, you can easily reach a cat5 cable two houses down and still be within the 400' limit of RS485. That will be less than a third of the cost of the wireless (an no boards to make). For those across the street and further down, look at using remote serial port software. Basically, it will take a serial port on their computer, and make your computer able to use it over the internet. Check this link out for an example: http://www.pira.cz/eng/piracom.htm I haven't tried this with Vixen, but in theory it should work (you'll need a RS232 to RS485 converter for this). I'm making the assumption that they would be willing to allow you to use some resources their PC for this and they have a broadband internet connection.

olingerjccj
08-15-2010, 05:03 PM
I decided to have the neighboors who are interested come over for a bbq on Tuesday. That way we can discuss who is really going to help. If it is mostly just me then I am out, feeling a bit stressed about getting my display done. I will say this I can make huge steps in sequencing once the kids go back to school. So we will see.

John

frankv
08-17-2010, 05:15 AM
StandingInAwe85's mention of broadband makes me think... I wonder whether you could sync effectively over the Internet???

If everyone had their PCs synced using NTP, would that be close enough?

Wikipedia...

NTPv4 can usually maintain time to within 10 milliseconds (1/100 s) over the public Internet (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet), and can achieve accuracies of 200 microseconds (1/5000 s) or better in local area networks under ideal conditions.

Otherwise, a central website or server could be used to to get PC times synced at the beginning of an evening, or even at the beginning of each song or sequence. Or even stream the entire sequence to a bunch of PCs?

Failing that, run some Cat5 from one house to another and use that to send synchronising or sequence information. Ethernet over Cat5 can go 100m per segment. You'll need a hub or switch between segments, but everyone has a router including a switch nowadays.

How about GPS... an overlooked capability of GPS is that it distributes time signals that are extremely accurate.

kychristmas
08-17-2010, 08:48 AM
I believe I read that the delay on the Ren-Wireless stuff is minimal if any. If they needed to be chained, it might be an issue, but if you can do a Hub and Spoke setup then you will have minimal response/delay issues.

I just ordered the parts for my Ren wireless boards. Looks like I may be setting up small displays on two houses across the street.

chilloutdocdoc
08-17-2010, 08:59 AM
I decided to have the neighboors who are interested come over for a bbq on Tuesday. That way we can discuss who is really going to help. If it is mostly just me then I am out, feeling a bit stressed about getting my display done. I will say this I can make huge steps in sequencing once the kids go back to school. So we will see.

John

Definately something I would think needs to be sorted out is WHEN everybody can work together, setup etc, for those big things that take more than one person sometimes. Also, Vixen? LSP? Other? Who will sequence their own house? Who will compile all of the sequences to one computer (if you go that route)

Who's putting the funding out? Does everybody have enough power, extension cords, etc. Do they mind having lights flashing, will they be there to hook up power? Or will you use timers? Do they want a set it and forget it or will they be willing to replace strings, fix bad bulbs, etc?

Just things to think over.

Jack Stevens
08-17-2010, 12:00 PM
StandingInAwe85's mention of broadband makes me think... I wonder whether you could sync effectively over the Internet???

If everyone had their PCs synced using NTP, would that be close enough?

Wikipedia...


Otherwise, a central website or server could be used to to get PC times synced at the beginning of an evening, or even at the beginning of each song or sequence. Or even stream the entire sequence to a bunch of PCs?

Failing that, run some Cat5 from one house to another and use that to send synchronising or sequence information. Ethernet over Cat5 can go 100m per segment. You'll need a hub or switch between segments, but everyone has a router including a switch nowadays.

How about GPS... an overlooked capability of GPS is that it distributes time signals that are extremely accurate.

I think you're asking for trouble there. NTP won't sync packets. You can do a quick test by just going to a radio station web site and starting an audio stream. I can't even get two computers on the same local network to coincide doing that, never mind a neighbor that may or may not be on the same carrier I'm on.

The delay lags may or may not be noticeable in the light synchronization. You may be able to program the sequence around those lags, assuming they remain constant, which they probably won't. You'd probably have better luck if all participating PC's share the same wireless router, and use the router as the "common" point, to make the lag consistent. The router doesn't have to be on the Internet for this. But that gets the cost back up again, unless someone in the neighborhood has a spare wireless router they could donate the use of for the season.

Skunberg
08-17-2010, 02:57 PM
John, you really should contact tweist about doing the neighborhood. He's a wealth of information and did about a dozen houses last year, direct-wired with Grinches and SSRs. His plan is for at least that many this year but he's doing it wirelessly with Ren64's so he can still use the old SSRs.

I agree with this. If I remember correct he has them setup and plug in their own display with enough supervision to prevent overloads. Sends out his sequences on cat5 and they plan or just plug in to the channels. Then they can rearrange if they want. They can have the same amount of channels or less as they want. Just enough supervision to prevent any damage. A big undertaking but giving them enough for ownership and unloading enough to keep from driving you crazy.

StandingInAwe85
08-17-2010, 03:17 PM
I was thinking about using wireless networking with this, however I'm not sure the range of a single access point (router) would be enough, and getting repeaters and such setup could be difficult for something like this. As far as the remote serial, I'm not sure exactly how much the delay will vary in you neighborhood, in mine the ping response times to a couple of my neighbors PC's have been consitant enough for me to think it might be do-able if accounted for in the sequencing.


In other news, doesn't Vixen have some type of built in webserver that can be used to start/stop sequences and such? I don't recall exactly where I saw this, but a feature listed on the Vixen website is "A remote client that allows you to have an internet-controlled display and to set up displays that span a neighborhood or a continent." I have a text file with some HTTP request strings saved on my NAS with the install for it, so I'm assuming it's web based. You might really want to consider looking into that.

tweist
08-18-2010, 12:43 PM
John,
Sorry I have not seen your post until now. Been really busy at work.
As for doing the neighborhood, its not as hard as it sounds. Last year I used 3 grinch 64 channel controllers and about 8000 feet of Cat5. I had all of the controllers at my house and ran 2 cat 5 cables to each of the other houses. That way I only had 2 SSR's at each house for a total of 8 channels per house. Can it still be done this year if you want to? Yes. Last year I did not start making the hardware until late Aug. To get all the neighbors to go along with it (which was not as hard as it sounds), I told them I would pay the cost of the hardware if they would help set it all up. Really all they had to do was put up there lights by a certain time. Several of the men from the block all helped pull and put up the cat 5 cable and to get the houses across the street, we tied the group of cat 5 to a steel cable, then put hooks on it and connected it to the eve of my house and across the street over the street light and down to another house. Its hard to explain, but if you would like pictures, just let me know.
This year we are going wireless. its much easier, and I have tested the distance at over 4 miles. So I really don't think I will have a problem there. Last year we had 12 houses hooked up, this year we may try for 14, but not sure yet. If you really want to do this, let me know and I can send you pictures and drawings of how it is layed out.
To make the sequencing easyer, I made a simulator using pictures of each house mounted to some foam board and then pushed about 1500 LED's into it. It really helped to program and see the entire block in action.
Let me know what else I can answer and I will give you all the in's and out's on how to do it.
If you want to see it in action, click on the video below. It will give you an idea of what to expect.

Entropy
08-18-2010, 01:30 PM
I think you're asking for trouble there. NTP won't sync packets. You can do a quick test by just going to a radio station web site and starting an audio stream. I can't even get two computers on the same local network to coincide doing that, never mind a neighbor that may or may not be on the same carrier I'm on.

The delay lags may or may not be noticeable in the light synchronization. You may be able to program the sequence around those lags, assuming they remain constant, which they probably won't. You'd probably have better luck if all participating PC's share the same wireless router, and use the router as the "common" point, to make the lag consistent. The router doesn't have to be on the Internet for this. But that gets the cost back up again, unless someone in the neighborhood has a spare wireless router they could donate the use of for the season.

It doesn't need to sync packets... It just has to sync the time, and whatever plays back the sequences needs to have precise enough timing control that if two PCs are set to start a sequence precisely at 7 PM, they do so. Not sure if Vixen has this kind of precision or not.

Synchronized playback of streaming Internet radio is a bad example because it was never designed to have low/controlled latency.

budude
08-18-2010, 02:06 PM
It doesn't need to sync packets... It just has to sync the time, and whatever plays back the sequences needs to have precise enough timing control that if two PCs are set to start a sequence precisely at 7 PM, they do so. Not sure if Vixen has this kind of precision or not.

Synchronized playback of streaming Internet radio is a bad example because it was never designed to have low/controlled latency.

Well, Vixen will use Windows time and it does support NTP but would it accurate enough that you would not see lag between two homes - maybe... There might be some utilities out there to sync up computers better - perhaps a bit of googling will find it.

frankv
08-18-2010, 03:32 PM
I think you're asking for trouble there. NTP won't sync packets.

My idea was not to sync packets, but to sync computers.

Everyone has their sequence sent to them, sometime earlier. Then at (say) 8pm *exactly*, all the sequences start playing. Computer clocks are accurate enough to keep in sync for a couple of hours.

[Edit] Just saw Entropy's post saying the same thing.

dirknerkle
08-18-2010, 03:57 PM
My idea was not to sync packets, but to sync computers.

Everyone has their sequence sent to them, sometime earlier. Then at (say) 8pm *exactly*, all the sequences start playing. Computer clocks are accurate enough to keep in sync for a couple of hours.


Just make sure all the computer clocks are sync'ed to the same time server and that the time zones are set properly, and that will help a lot.

Good luck on getting others to set that up... my company has customers in every time zone in the U.S. and of the hundreds of users, I can count on one hand the number of people who know enough about their PCs to do that properly.... and they all work in my office. :rolleyes:

olingerjccj
08-18-2010, 04:26 PM
Wow thanks looks like this is a hot topic. We had the bbq yesterday and I got 3 homes that are really into it. They are both right across my street and right next to each other so I may start small. Once I get a concrete plan for my mega tree, I will dig into this more. 3 houses might be fun.

Thanks all
John

Entropy
08-18-2010, 04:36 PM
Just make sure all the computer clocks are sync'ed to the same time server and that the time zones are set properly, and that will help a lot.

Good luck on getting others to set that up... my company has customers in every time zone in the U.S. and of the hundreds of users, I can count on one hand the number of people who know enough about their PCs to do that properly.... and they all work in my office. :rolleyes:

I think it's probably a safe assumption that if he's helping to set up lighting controllers and a Vixen machine, he'll be able to set up the time sync correctly. :)

This is the sort of thing I'd feel a lot more comfortable with if there were a solution involving Linux with hrtimer support though.

dirknerkle
08-18-2010, 04:48 PM
Once I get a concrete plan for my mega tree, I will dig into this more...

John

Concrete? Mega tree? And there's digging involved?

John, is this a hint as to things to come? Is this the beginning of the first KMC -- the "Kostyun Megatree Challenge?"

:lol:

budude
08-18-2010, 04:56 PM
Keep in mind if you want to use some type of synchronization that all the computers will all have to be connected to the internet or at least the same local network.

tweist
08-18-2010, 07:36 PM
This whole idea would be much easier is you just use the Ren-W's. No Syncing computers, no internet delays, no hic-ups in timing. Dave's Ren-W is truly the way to go. Fast, easy to set up, no timing issues. Trust me, I am pushing the limits on this thing and it has not missed a beat.

olingerjccj
08-18-2010, 08:54 PM
Concrete? Mega tree? And there's digging involved?

Yes I want the pole permanate so I can attach a flag to it in the off season

John, is this a hint as to things to come? Is this the beginning of the first KMC -- the "Kostyun Megatree Challenge?"
:lol:

LoL maybe next year, I can only go so high before my trees get in the way.

Jrd
08-20-2010, 09:38 PM
The best and easiest way to do this is definitely to use Ren-w's, if you cannot afford the cost then maybe you should ask everyone who wants to be animated to give you $50 to help cover the costs, actually that would probably be good for them to help cover the cost of supplies anyway.

Jack Stevens
08-21-2010, 07:22 PM
Just make sure all the computer clocks are sync'ed to the same time server and that the time zones are set properly, and that will help a lot.

Good luck on getting others to set that up... my company has customers in every time zone in the U.S. and of the hundreds of users, I can count on one hand the number of people who know enough about their PCs to do that properly.... and they all work in my office. :rolleyes:

OK, I probably read it the wrong way; going from remote control of the serial port to syncing with NTP, I thought the idea was syncing the serial port with NTP, not just syncing the computers. Having synchronized start of sequences would probably work, once it's set up. And it doesn't take every compute owner to know how to do it, as long as one person in the group does know how to do it, and the rest of the group lets that person set it up or at least oversee the process.

To be honest though, I think controlling it all from one computer and doing it wireless would be lest troublesome and more expandable, even if a little more up-front cost. But then, how much does a DIY DMX receiver cost compared to a DMX USB dongle (or LOR dongle?)

dmcole
08-22-2010, 04:35 PM
But then, how much does a DIY DMX receiver cost compared to a DMX USB dongle (or LOR dongle?)

From RJ, both a DMX dongle and a DMX RX/TX box costs about $50 ... LOR iDMX 1000: $260.

\dmc

Jack Stevens
08-23-2010, 01:42 PM
From RJ, both a DMX dongle and a DMX RX/TX box costs about $50 ... LOR iDMX 1000: $260.

\dmc

Yup. Both cheaper than dedicating multiple computers, which is what I was getting at. Even the LOR ELL (Electronic Light Linkers) would be more cost-effecting than multiple dedicated computers.

$50 for a transmitter, then $50 for each additional receiver, vs computer + dongle - or $249 for the first set of ELL's plus $149 for each additional, if you want pre-built commercial products vs computer + dongle, is more preferable in my mind. Add to that, not having to attempt synchronization, keeping the kids off the dedicated computer at show time, etc.......

Aussie Ryan
08-27-2010, 01:47 PM
This whole idea would be much easier is you just use the Ren-W's. No Syncing computers, no internet delays, no hic-ups in timing. Dave's Ren-W is truly the way to go. Fast, easy to set up, no timing issues. Trust me, I am pushing the limits on this thing and it has not missed a beat.

Tweist: Would you mind discussing the sequencing of multiple houses? Did you make a viewable profile for each house sequence then copy channels into the "master" sequence?

I saw your post on making a "street" board with LED's to view it in action, I am just wondering how you programmed each individual house and merged that data into the main sequence file?


I agree Ren-W is the easiest method for syncing and the boards are on sale in the group buy section of this forum.

thanks, R

Jrd
08-27-2010, 06:16 PM
He probably loaded all the channels into Vixen and then used one or more Adjustable Preview plugins for each house and synced it all as one big house with many different sections/previews.

klanger
08-27-2010, 10:25 PM
He probably loaded all the channels into Vixen and then used one or more Adjustable Preview plugins for each house and synced it all as one big house with many different sections/previews.

Ouch, just the thought makes my head hurt..

tweist
08-28-2010, 02:41 PM
Ryan

The original idea for sequencing the entire block all came about over a beer at our local block party. I said I would investigate if it could be done, and in the process of my investigation I found DIYC. Last year was our first year, so we started out with just on and off, no dimming. I decided to give each house on the block 8 channels, except mine of course because I was paying for it.

I started out building the profile and assigning the 8 channels to each house. If you were to stand at the entrance to our street, the houses on the right all sequenced the channels 1-8 from right to left. The houses on the left all sequenced the channels 1-8 from left to right. It really did not matter if the lights were going to be in trees, on the eves of the house, or anywhere else. As long as the lighting moved right to left or left to right as we went thru the channels, thats all that mattered.

After assigning all the channels in the profile, I realized that a single profile was not going to work. I then set out to build a simulator using LEDís. I took pictures of the front of each house, printed a copy, mounted it to some 1/4Ē foam board, and started punching holes with a finish nail where I thought the string should be. At first I used 4 LEDís per channel. Lets just say that was a lot of LEDís. I then attached each string of LEDís to a channel using Cat5 cable and then routing that down to the Grinch boards I had made up. It was a lot of work and most people would not go to that length to test a sequence. But if you really want to see the entire block in action, you have to come up with something out of the ordinary.

Once the simulator was complete and connected, (see attached pictures), I was able to start my sequencing. By first laying down the music, and then the beat track, I just listened to the beat of the music. By counting the beats I was able to jump house to house or channel to channel for each house. I did not just program one house at a time. That would have been totally impossible. You have to stop, close your eyes, imagine the entire block in your head, and then start the music. As the music starts to play, just listen to it and imagine the lights blinking and flashing up and down the block to the beat of the music. Once you have an image, start with the first house and lay down the first few beats remembering which side of the block you are on and which direction you want the beats to go. By only starting with 8 channels per house, the programming is not as hard as it sounds.

I am estimating that a 3 minute song would take me about 30-40 hours to program. Thats where the simulator really helps out. You can see your results very quickly and you can tell if the sequencing look funny or not. I set my cell width at 50ms, which may seem fast, but it gives you a lot more options with the beats. At one point in one of the songs, I actually was moving from house to house in 50ms timing and it did not look bad at all.
At times I was not able to connect the sequencing to the simulator, (I was on my laptop programming at lunch in the office), so I did make up 12 previews, one for each house, but I kept them very small and simple, and assigned each preview the correct channels for that house. I put the final resolution at 64X32 with a pixel size of 2. Its a lot easier if you use a larger size to begin with and then resize it down to this resolution and pixel size. I also took one spare channel and turned it on for the first 20 second of the sequence. In the lower left corner of the preview I put the number of the house and connected it to this spare channel. As I started playing the sequence, I had to separate the previews the first time and set them in the correct street order. It did help, but not like the simulator.

All of the programming was done as one sequence, not as separate houses and then merged together. The sequencing is all basically seat of the pants, no real rhyme or reason. Just make it fun.

Hope this answers your questions. If not, just let me know and I will try to explain it better.

Aussie Ryan
08-28-2010, 03:06 PM
That's perfect detail. All I can say is WOW.

My neighbors are already asking me to animate their homes and this will be my first year away from the gemmy using renards.

Pretty amazing, you videos are really cool.

Thanks for the input. R.

dmcole
08-28-2010, 04:39 PM
Tweist:

Would you move to my neighborhood?

\dmc

tweist
08-28-2010, 07:05 PM
Thanks for the kind words everyone. It helps on those summer nights when you just get tired of working on all this stuff. All in all, I do have a lot of fun.

Now back to the project for this year. We may increase from 12 to 14 houses, but this year I have changed all of the controllers from grinch to Ren64. That way I can still use the same SSR's. Last year everything was hardwired from the grinch's to the SSR at each house. It took over 8000 feet of cat 5 and a hand full of men to put it up. This year to make things a lot easier I have changed everything to wireless. It will make setup so much easier and faster. I am running two transmitters because you can not put 320 on one USB port. I have already tested the range, (I only need 500'), and so far I am still good and strong at 2 miles away. Each house gets one Ren64 with one Ren-W. Depending on how many channels the house gets, corresponds to how many RJ45 plug into the Ren64. The only drawback to this idea, just make sure you are plugged into the correct connection on the Ren64. Otherwise you will be displaying a different houses information.

Really it is a lot of fun. And to see the neighbors all come together the night before thanksgiving and stand in the middle of the street for the first test show makes it all worth it. Even if no one else shows up, just bringing the neighbor together is really a great feeling. Oh and yes last year we really did not tell anyone about it, but when the newspaper showed up and did a story on it, well let just say it was impossible to get down the street and into the driveway after that. I know this year it is going to start even earlier.

Let me know if you have any other questions about the setup from last year or even the set up for this year. I am always here to help.

tweist
08-28-2010, 07:12 PM
Oh and as for moving to another neighborhood. I don't think the current neighbors are going to allow that. Sorry. ;)

dmcole
08-28-2010, 07:35 PM
Oh and as for moving to another neighborhood. I don't think the current neighbors are going to allow that. Sorry. ;)

Yeah, I figured.

\dmc

FYI: My across-the-street neighbors use my display as an excuse for a neighborhood holiday party. We sit in their living room, listen to the show on their stereo and watch it through their plate-glass window. Oh, and we eat their food and drink their refreshments. Quite pleasant, if I do say so myself. At their 2008 event, it was the first time my wife had watched the show all the way through.

olingerjccj
09-16-2010, 08:13 PM
I kinda wanted to bump this since some were asking about syncing multiple homes, I will give you my update. I have decided not to try and do this, this year not really enough intrest to help me. This is my 1st year with a larger channel count and really want to focus all my energy on making my home work. 2011 is another story. I really plan to try this. Thanks for all the great info.

John

cessnapilot
09-17-2010, 08:37 AM
Here is another example of syncing the block. At the end of last year they had 22 houses using LOR controllers.

There are some videos and pictures but you can also seach youtube for "picktown lights"

http://www.picktownlights.com/

This neighborhood is about 15 mintues from me. It is amazing to watch.