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Thread: Hello!

  1. #1
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    Default Hello!

    Well ill keep this short and simply hopefully, My name is Parth live in the great North Easter of America, New Hampshire to be more specific. My brother and I have just recently got into the whole light show concept. We bought our first DMX512 board and LOR usb - ethernet dongle. That ended being a blunder so returned and started to do so more digging, I happened to come across this great forum doityourselfchristmas from there I found holidaycoro where I bought a 30 Channel DMX board and a USB Dongle that they recommended. We finally got everything and began making little sequences using some LEDs we had left over from converting our garage from fluorescent to all LED to help with cutting costs as we both are car fanatics and most of our days are spent in the garage.

    BUT!! To get things flowing after playing with the dumb RGB controller it clicked in my mind its time to jump into pixels I am using xLights as my primary sequencing as my family is all about apple and it seems like xLights seems to be the only program compatible with Macs. But I do have a few questions.

    1. Where do I buy a Smart/Pixel controllers? I have seen some but it just seems like most answers are very vague.
    2. In forms of connecting pixels to the board is it much like connecting dumb rgb to the board? I do know I do not have to run individual data lines for each node.
    3. As a beginner in pixels, starting with one board with few strings of pixels and bunch of RGB good for as a beginning light show? We plan to start setting up the lights (Hanging them up wiring and all during the summer)

    Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    As for who does the lighting me and brother do the lighting, our parents want no part in what our minds are up to. They handed a blank canvas and our imaginations are the limit (We have no cap)

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Hello!

    HolidayCoro.com has the Alphapix in a 4 or 16 output version, they can also be use to connect your DMX board(s)

    Pixelcontroller.com has the Falcon boards also in 4 or 16 output, and can control DMX, Renard or LOR controllers

    Sandevices.com has the E682 16 output or E6804 4 output Contorllers, also capable of connecting to DMX

    These are not the only ones but they are the 3 most common ones used by the members here.

    To connect, the pixels come in strings of 50 to 100 usually, but you can make them as long as you need. They are 3 wire, +5V or +12V, Data, and Ground, so yes you connect them much like dumb RGB but they are directional so make sure you connect the "data in" side to the controller. There are usually arrows but sometimes hard to see

    Your display can be as big or as small as you want. Take a picture of your house and draw out what you want, figure out what does and does not look good to you. There are some impressive displays with very few lights

    http://doityourselfchristmas.com/for...Year-Sequences
    Matt

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Hello!

    Parth, I am from NH, Londonderry to be specific.
    First off, go with pixels. There are pre-sales running right now and you can buy them for the cheapest prices of the season. I have the Falcon f16v2's and Sandevices e682's. They are both great boards, but the Falcon will give you more bang for the buck. Basically, if you are using xlights to sequence, you are using the best sequencer, imho. I would join the Facebook group--Official xlights support group. They have volumes of info to help you get started. Also, I would join the Falcon Christmas Forum as well. If you have any questions pm here or friend me on Facebook.
    Sean Patel

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Hello!

    One of your first steps should be add a location to your profile. Just city/state. Helps you link up with others near you who might be able to mentor you.

    Your first assignment is to read BEFORE you buy anything...
    https://auschristmaslighting.com/for...ic,1889.0.html

    I know, its an Aussie forum. But they have a very good primer PDF at that url that will help you wrap your brain around things better and faster.

    Second is you should get an idea of your budget. This will help you plan better.

    There are a couple schools of thought on controllers.

    1. Start big. Save later. Hard to imagine your show is not going to grow. So one option is plan for it. Getting a larger controller up front can save money later in not having to buy one later and being stuck with a smaller one and having to sell it off.
    2. Start small. Grow into what you need. Again, not likely your show will remain small. The thought here is to buy smaller controllers and start small. Then buy more later and have a decentralized controller strategy.

    Each one has pros and cons. #1 means more up front cost and a single controller which means a central failure point that can take the whole show down. However, its usually cheaper to buy one larger controller (like the F16 for example) than to buy multiple smaller ones. #2 means less up front cost to get into this but means higher long term cost as multiple smaller controllers are more expensive than one larger one. It also means a single failure (after you have multiple controllers) doesn't take down the whole show. Replacements are cheaper. It also means you must manage more devices.


    Alternatively, you could start small with reusable components for the most part. Many folks use a Raspberry Pi to run their shows (after sequencing in xLights, the files are uploaded to the Pi to actually play). You can make a tiny board (assuming you have soldering skills). If you can solder, have a look here: http://www.ipernity.com/doc/wolfie/a...?with=43525162

    If not, perhaps a PiHat is a good starter: https://www.pixelcontroller.com/stor...roller=product

    Either one simply plugs into the Raspberry Pi and can control two strings of up to 800 pixels each. This is a great way to get your feet wet with pixels, controllers and Falcon Player (FPP) software. And you can run the show off the Pi all by itself. And later you can remove the PiHat and continue to run the show off the Pi. Then if you need another tiny controller pick up another Pi and reuse the Hat. I am planning to use mine on my indoor tree next year.

    There is a distinction in the terms used here and other forums. When we say "pixels" we refer to smart pixels like WS2811 family of products (includes 2811,2812, etc). They operate on the principal of RGB (as in color) but run from a single data line. When most folks here talk about "RGB" we commonly refer to dumb RGB LEDs. These dumb products operate completely different than the smart products in that they have separate R, G and B lines and a common (which can be common annode or + or common cathode or -). Dumb products require a different controller than smart products. But there is nothing wrong with having both types in your show, just know you will need different controllers for them. Also, incandescent and commercial LED strings (all one color) can also be controlled and sequenced, by yet another type controller. And yes, you can roll all 3 into one display.

    Smart products offer the ability to select brightness/color of every individual (or small groups) of LEDs. Dumb products will all be the same brightness/color off one port. Smart products can be told to look like the dumb products. The converse is not true, dumb products will never be able to look/work like pixels. For example, if you make a mini-tree out of dumb RGB, you can control the brightness and color of the whole tree at once. You can't put sparkles on it or stripes or spirals. If you make the same tree out of smart pixels, you can tell them all to be one color, thus looking like the dumb RGB tree. But you could also throw on spirals and all the effects pixels have to offer. And there is not a substantial difference in price. Yes, pixels are more expensive. But not massively so. So it might be good to consider which type of LED elements you want to build and control early on.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Hello!

    Thank you very much for the responses all, it is truly appreciated! I have done research into all possible solutions. Have narrowed down to the Alphapix Controllers, as I stated before we just begun with the whole light show concept. As a matter of fact we just took down our traditional lighting. We plan on starting with 3 controllers (2 dumb rgb and 1 Pixel) to get our foot in the door. Hopefully by the 2018 Light show we plan on expanding to have 2 remaining Dumb rgbs and move to 5-6 pixel controllers.

    But once again thank you very much all, the feedback is truly appreciated!

    To also add we also are going to be using a combination of Dumb/Pixel Nodes along with Dumb LED Strips we have started designing our display slowly how we plan on connecting, where our main controls are going to be, also FM Transmitter and also how to incorporate traditional lighting using the DMX boards
    Last edited by parthpatel96; 01-10-2017 at 06:19 PM.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Hello!

    the alpha can run lor and renards also from its dmx ports
    Quote Originally Posted by Ruppro View Post
    HolidayCoro.com has the Alphapix in a 4 or 16 output version, they can also be use to connect your DMX board(s)

    Pixelcontroller.com has the Falcon boards also in 4 or 16 output, and can control DMX, Renard or LOR controllers

    Sandevices.com has the E682 16 output or E6804 4 output Contorllers, also capable of connecting to DMX

    These are not the only ones but they are the 3 most common ones used by the members here.

    To connect, the pixels come in strings of 50 to 100 usually, but you can make them as long as you need. They are 3 wire, +5V or +12V, Data, and Ground, so yes you connect them much like dumb RGB but they are directional so make sure you connect the "data in" side to the controller. There are usually arrows but sometimes hard to see

    Your display can be as big or as small as you want. Take a picture of your house and draw out what you want, figure out what does and does not look good to you. There are some impressive displays with very few lights

    http://doityourselfchristmas.com/for...Year-Sequences
    James WinterHaven Fl

  7. #7
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    Dec 2016
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    Default Re: Hello!

    Just wondering what are the differences between 5v and 12v Pixels? The way Im thinking of running my pixels is the follwing

    Power Supply -> Pixel Controller
    Power Supply -> Power Junction Box -> Power Injection to Sixteen 50 Node Pixel strings.

    Just wondering how I should be setting up the Power Supplys would I be setting both Power Supplys to 5v or One gets 12v and the other gets 5v?

    I have the DUMB RGB portion figured out the pixels seem to be more of a homework then the Dumb controllers/Dumb RGBs. Im only Choosing power injection due to the fact of being able to have more nodes light up at 100% per channel then just directly connecting them straight to the controller

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Hello!

    First, PSUs are either 12v or 5v. I don't know any that you can switch. Not any that we generally use anyway.

    There are two schools of thought on 12v vs 5v. I will let you know up front, I have removed all 5v pixels and PSUs from my outdoor display. Its all 12v.

    Power consumption:
    5v is closer to the operating voltage of the chip and LED on the chip so by in large the power consumption is less than 12v pixels. This can translate to more pixels per PSU than 12v. 12v pixels must drop the voltage down to operate. Older pixels frequently used resistors to do that and that results in lost energy not as light. Newer pixels seem to have gone with a voltage regulator on the back side of the pixel. Their ratings are very similar to 5v pixels as far as power consumption goes. Some specs show that 5v pixels consume less power per pixel than 12v pixels and maybe as much as double (.3w per 5v and .6w per 12v). My most recent pixels from Tod are not that different. My 12v pixels came out to .4w per 12v pixel when I ACTUALLY TESTED THEM. I placed 100 on a PSU with a volt and current meter. Math tells me the wattage (voltage times current).

    Brightness:
    Some claim that 12v pixels are not as bright as 5v pixels. In my personal experience and I personally set a string of 5v and 12v pixels side by side and I can't see ANY difference. To a light meter, perhaps, maybe, there is a difference. But I don't give a rat's behind about a meter. If my eye can't see it, the point is moot.

    Wire size:
    There are some hard rules that electricity must obey. P=I*E is one of them. As voltage goes up, current goes down to maintain the same wattage. So, in my PERSONAL TESTS, my 12v pixels draw .4w since they are the newer ones with regulators on the boards inside the pixels. They tested at 33ma ea at 12v or 3.3a per 100. I have not actually tested 5v pixels but if we take the specs at face value of .3w ea, they will draw 60ma at 5v or 6a per 100. So you can see that even though they consume more power, 12v pixels draw less amps. Amps is what matters most in wire size (for the most part). A wire can carry a set current and it really doesn't matter if that current is at 5v or 500v the current limit basically the same when talking DC. So, if a wire can handle 10a, and you are using 5v, thats 50w of power it can handle. But if you are using 500v thats 5000w of power! That is why the power companies use very very high voltage for distribution and step it down to lower voltages closer to your homes. The same holds true for your pixels. 12v pixels of the same general wattage draw less current than 5v pixels of similar wattage. This means your power injection wires can either be smaller or can handle more pixels given the same size wire.

    This is why the general rule of thumb is you need to power inject every 50 pixels if they are 5v, and every 100 if they are 12v. This is not a hard and fast rule but a general expectation for planning. I personally can get 120 pixels on a power injection point and is what my tree uses (two 60px strings).

    Voltage drop:
    Wire size and current form a resistor. This means wire IS a resistor. When a resistor is placed in series with a power source, how much voltage it will drop is a factor of how much current is drawn through it. So, given that a certain wire size (gauge) equates to a certain resistance per foot, then that translates into more voltage lost across that wire the higher the current that is drawn through it. That means wire loos is higher with 5v than with 12v because my 12v pixels draw less current than 5v pixels. This translates into a basic fact. For a given wire size, you can go longer distances before the voltage becomes too low if you draw less current. 12v draws less current.

    Usable voltage:
    Another factor in play here is that 5v pixels operate on voltages near 5v! Who would a thunk? 12v pixels operate on voltages near 5v! Surprise! As I said, the current generation of 12v pixels commonly run a voltage regulator. This means they operate with a wider tolerance of lower input voltage than 5v pixels do. What does this mean? It means that 12v pixels are less likely to pink out on you with under voltage conditions. So thats another reason why the general rule of 100px injection points and why my tree runs just fine with 120px per injection (and likely much longer).


    So, the two schools of thought.... (Never run PSUs at 100%. Just saying.)

    5v is more power efficient and can get more per PSU. Typical 5v PSUs are 60a (300w). That works out to an absolute max of 1000 pixels on that PSU. Theory says they are brighter. You pay for that in larger wires, more injection points and greater wire loss.

    12v is less power efficient so you get fewer per PSU. My 12v PSUs supply 30a (360w). That works out to about 900px per PSU max. Theory says they are not as bright. But you need fewer injection points, smaller wires and less wire loss.

    Practical situation....
    My megatree is 24 by 60px per strand. 1440 pixels total. I could have got away with 2 power supplies at 5v. I would also have needed to inject power into every strand so that means 12 injection wires. So 12 wires times 5' ea is about $21 of wire alone. Add in 24 connectors and its about $57 in wire and connectors. I chose to go 12v so, I only have a total of 6 injection wires and I chose to use 3 PSUs. So 6 times 5' is about $10 of wire add in 12 connectors and we are in at $28. With the added PSU that comes to $44. So, I saved $12. Big whoop. However, its fewer wires. Fewer connections. Easier setup. Less crap strung all over. And the PSUs are running at only 50% capability so less likely to stress fail and I have more headroom for expansion.

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