View Full Version : Intro and of course questions
07-16-2009, 11:06 PM
I am thinking about setting up my first display and have been poking around this site for awhile. I want to keep the budget light to start to be sure I am really going to pursue this hobby. So here are my first questions:
1) Is one Ren-24 going to be enough to do anything or what is the minimum I would need as far as controllers?
2) One of my confusions is around the concept of a channel. My thoughts were one light strand = one channel. I have seen comments where it sounded like one light strand could have 6, 8 or more channels. Can someone clarify this for me?
3) I live in Minneapolis and want to be a good neighbor. Did any of you approach your neighbors to tell them what you planned to see if anyone objected?
07-16-2009, 11:28 PM
My first display was only 32 channels, so to start a 24 might be fine. but the next year you will need ten times that if you are like the rest of us. As far as channels and strings, you have to be concerned about the max number of lights or better yet the max amperage of the lights (wattage also). most channels are a amp or two (= to 120-240watts or 3-6 100ct minies). But min number of strings unless you modify them is one string per channel. No, I didn't approach my neighbors, let them find out the bright way. I also have great neighbors who also put up lights.
07-16-2009, 11:30 PM
Welcome Osgoor. The numbering of the questions makes this easy.
1. 1 Ren24 is plenty to get your feet wet and have some fun wow-ing the neighborhood.
2. One channel is defined as a single controller output. On the Ren24 (without adding a heat sink to the triac) you can control ~4-5 100 ct mini strings off a single channel. A lot of the time a channel does control a single string of lights, though. More channels equals more control. Download and play around with Vixen (there are training videos on YouTube http://www.doityourselfchristmas.com/forums/showpost.php?p=15182&postcount=1 (http://www.doityourselfchristmas.com/forums/showpost.php?p=15182&postcount=1)) and the concept of a channel will become clear.
3. Do talk to the neighbors and, while not asking them for permission, explain that you will do what you can to make it less of a nuisance to them and ask them to bring issues directly to you to address. A plate of cookies never hurts, either!
07-16-2009, 11:36 PM
Hi and welcome to DIYC!
Think of a channel as a circuit. A circuit can light one string of lights, or two, three, etc. depending on the power capacity of that circuit. If you plug three 100-light strings together for one long string, you could plug the whole thing into only one circuit, er... channel and when you turned on that channel, all three strings would light. Light string manufacturers advise that you should not plug in more than 3, so most of the equipment you'll find here is designed to handle up to 3 strings per channel. 3 strings of mini-lights by the way will use up about 1 amp of current, so on a typical 15amp circuit in your house, you could conceivably power 15 channels of 1-amp circuits.... about 45 strings of lights before you blow the fuse/circuit breaker in your house. This applies only to if they're all on at the same time. If you don't turn them all on at once, then you can have more channels on the same 15 amp house circuit.
But most of us probably put only one string on a channel (much of the time) in favor of having a lot of channels instead of only a few channels and a lot of strings. More channels allows you to articulate more strings of lights, simulate motion, or have other fun.
A Renard SS24 can control up to 24 channels. It can be plugged into two 15-amp circuits for a total of 30 amps if you need that much power, but a lot of folks would use it to control only 24 strings (plus/minus a few). Renards hook up to the serial port on your computer and not only can they blink lights on and off, they can gradually fade them up or down, flash them, and other effects. They're relatively inexpensive, do a great job, and are well supported by some really neat folks.
On the topic of neighbors, of course it's nice when they're enthusiastic about your display, too. If it's tastefully done and instead of using speakers to blast the music out into the yard you use an FM transmitter (people can then listen in their cars) you won't create noise problems. However, there are some stories about folks who objected and it did create neighborhood strife.
This is a great community here on DIYC. You'll have a blast!!!
07-16-2009, 11:46 PM
When I first started this hobby I only had one Renard 24. Let me say its a great way to start out. I used all 24 channels on a mega tree that had 24 100-count minies. 6 each of red, green, white and blue. I didn't have any music but was still able to turn heads. The next year(2008) I was hooked and went all out with music and lots more channels. Looking back Iím glad I started out small because it allowed me to learn how to used everything and be better prepared for the next year.
07-17-2009, 06:33 AM
welcome to this crazy place with all us nutters.
24 channels is a great place to start. More channels does'nt nessarily mean a better show. Learn how to use 24 channels well, and you can do a better show that some people who have hundreds of channels. Almost certainly, you'll want more if the bug bites you.
07-17-2009, 07:27 AM
There are pre-made systems that they sell around Christmas time, that only have 4-6 channels, and they do a pretty good show. They don't have the ability to change the music like you would building something from here, but it is a good show otherwise. So 24 Channels would be plenty for your first year.
In addition to what everyone else said, I simply think of a channel as an outlet, since most of us will hook up either a traditional outlet or a female end of an extension cord to out hardware anyway. You will have the ability to control on, off, and dimming to each of the outlet, but that it is. You can't do anything fancy like make a multi-color string of lights chase itself if it is plugged into one outlet... just like you couldn't do that with a normal outlet. You would need 4 outlet, and 4 different color light strings to make that work.
07-17-2009, 11:53 AM
I just did my first show on July 4th, and I am hooked, big time. I had 48 channels until I blew one of my triacs, so had 47. But even with only 47 channels and a pretty low budget, I made the front page of the newspaper (with two color photos) and the Houston TV news. Not bad for my first outing.
I now have two additional Ren 16 boards to build which will give me 80 channels. WOOHOO!
I did "warn" my immediate neighbors about my show and they were all excited about it. Several of them came out nearly every evening to watch. Our neighbor across the street even said that people were welcome to sit on their lawn to watch. They even had a party one evening and had everyone out on the lawn, waiting for the 8:45 show.
One word of advice: You can't have too much extension cord. I bought a 1000' roll of wire, thinking that would be more than enough. Wrong. I ended up buying another 500' at premium price and used most of that, and I have a fairly small front yard. Same for lights.
So, don't "think about it", just do it.
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