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Thread: Help getting started...

  1. #1
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    Default Help getting started...

    Hello,

    We are new to the world of rgb led pixelated Christmas displays. My apologies in advance, not sure if I'm even wording that correctly. We looked through pages of the forum but aren't finding the info we are looking for. Convinced it must be here and we are overlooking, hoping someone can attach a link or point us in the right direction.

    We would like to start purchasing items to begin assembling and programming a new Christmas display for this year. I'd like to make sure we order all needed to start up but still feel a bit confused to what that is. We'd like a system that we can expand over the years but keep our initial investment under/around $1000.00 this year.

    Has anyone posted basic guidelines or kits for starting up?

    Thank you!
    Last edited by Mommy1210; 04-16-2017 at 04:37 AM.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Help getting started...

    Welcome Mommy1210. Let the madness begin!

    There are quite a few threads dealing with this subject, but in a nutshell:

    1. Start with what you want it to look like. Take a picture of your "canvas" (house) and then draw where you want lights, props, etc. Dream big, then keep in mind your budget. (This means prioritize what you "need" right now, and what can be added "later".)

    2. The picture developed in #1 will help you gather information as to how many/much you need. It will also lead you to what type of control you want/need. You will find the tide here these days is to do everything in pixels. Though this is a great thing, it is not necessarily the only way. Traditionalist, here and elsewhere, will argue that the look and feel of older style (LED and Incandescent) lighting suites them better. (It is also easier on your pocketbook.) You will have to decide. Don't discount combining the old with the new. You may be surprised how nice it can be.

    3. Knowing what you need to control will lead you to the places to purchase that type of controller.

    4. The design you have will also provide you with a general layout that you can use to work with sequencers. There are several free ones, including (but not limited to) xLights, Vixen, HLS and others. Download and try as many of them as you want. You can then settle on one that works best for you. There are paid sequencers as well. (If you want to start a lively discussion, ask about these.)

    *** Note that this is one of the "Do It Yourself" websites. There are other products that are more "plug and play". Here again, you can get help with them as well. (Don't be surprised if you get the hard sell to not use them, but they have their place among those that want to go that route. You make the decision.)

    ASK QUESTIONS. You will find this community one of the greatest assets you have. I've been putting up a Christmas Display every year since 1986. 8 years ago I decided to move to a more "energetic" endeavor. Jumped in with both feet and purchased a complete show. Little did I know what I was getting myself into. It was the folks in this community that saved my bacon, for sure.

    Once again - Welcome!
    "Never Give Up. Never Surrender!"
    Capt Tagert - Galaxy Quest.
    Al Gerdes - Christmas Lighting Nut!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2014
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    Default Re: Help getting started...

    With a budget like that, lightorama is surely not an option, so you really need a diy option. You have missed most of the presales, so you probably won't get the best prices for this year.

    I would recommend diyledexpress, holidaycoro, or pixelsequencing.com for the pixels. I recommend a falcon controller. For software either vixen 3 or xlights. I personally prefer xlights. You can sequence without having any hardware.

    Start there and get familiar with the products and then decide on what you want the layout on your house and yard to be.

    Sent from my Pixel using Tapatalk

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Help getting started...

    Depending on your comfort level with designing/building/assembling your own system, you could put a display together for $1000. You could find good used equipment for sale from members on this forum. You might also find someone on this forum who lives close enough to you that could offer assistance.
    Kevin

    2017 - Pi3 w/FPP controlling 8 ESPixelsticks driving 1250pixels and 3 Arduino MEGAS communicating with ESP-01s driving 96 channels
    2016 - 184 channels of Blinking/Flashing using 4 Arduino MEGAs and cheap home-made props.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Help getting started...

    Great info! Thank you! We have a basic idea of the direction we would like to go. We are very happy with a diy system that we can expand on over time. Our $1000 budget is for the lighting, electrical and control equipment for online orders. Anything we can pick up at Home Depot/lowes for building displays is not included in this budget. Currently I am going over the design and trying to figure out how many lights we are working with and the best way to tie them together. Using the info you have provided will help greatly! Do I have the abilities to post a photo of our design and get recommendations?

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Help getting started...

    Yes, you can attach photos. I'm on my phone, but I think it's under advanced.

    Sent from my Pixel using Tapatalk

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Help getting started...

    IIRC, there is a minimum post count before you can attach photos. But I don't remember what that is However, you can throw it up on dropbox, photobucket or ipternity for free and link it just as easy.

    In your design phase, you need to isolate what technology you think you will or can deploy. There are two basic types of light controllers and lights (LEDs).

    1. Dumb RGB. No its not an insult. Its what they are called. The advantages are the controllers tend to be a bit more basic. And the led strands are a little cheaper. The drawback is that each strand or group of lights (LEDs) all will be the same color as they all share the same R, G and B outputs from the controller. So if you make a mini-tree from dumb RGB, each group of strands will all be the same color. But you can put more than one group on a prop.

    2. Pixels. Or Smart RGB. Each of the lights has a tiny chip in it that processes data given it from the controller. Due to that, each individual light can be a completely different color from any other on the string even though they all connect to each other and to a single output of the controller. Controllers for this sort of lighting can be rather complex, however, with a simple circuit, a Raspberry Pi ($35) can control 1800 or so of them. I very nice get-your-feet-wet startup.

    And there is absolutely nothing says you can't deploy both technologies in the same display. Many many people do just that. But with a limited budget for a startup you really should focus on one type or the other, at least on your first go-around. Then once you got your elf legs, consider expanding or including different technologies as you see fit.

    Also, it would help immensely if you could take some time and help us understand you and what your level is. Can you solder? Do you have the tools to do so? Any electrical or electronics background? Many of these areas are going to be eventually used by you at some point in your display construction. Also, would help if you could throw in your city/state in your profile location. Heck, we could be neighbors and not know it!

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Help getting started...

    You will not save that much between "dumb" and "smart". But, there is a good chance you will regret getting dumb and then buying buying RGB down the road. So in the end you will be paying more. I've read lots of posts where people had regretted getting dumb. You can treat RGB as dumb, but you can't make dumb anything but.

    Sent from my Pixel using Tapatalk

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Help getting started...

    Quote Originally Posted by Phrog30 View Post
    You will not save that much between "dumb" and "smart". But, there is a good chance you will regret getting dumb and then buying buying RGB down the road. So in the end you will be paying more. I've read lots of posts where people had regretted getting dumb. You can treat RGB as dumb, but you can't make dumb anything but.

    Sent from my Pixel using Tapatalk
    They require different controllers which is why I made the suggestion to pick ONE to begin with. Which one is kinda up to what they want things to look like. And sometimes dumb rgb is easier to wrap your brain about. I don't use dumb RGB in my display. Not my bag. Others like it a lot.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Help getting started...

    As you can see, there are opinions all over the map about what to and not to use. Nobody is wrong in this discussion. Some are more steadfast in their conviction of going in one direction or the other than others.

    I can give you a true-to-life example about using Dumb Nodes vs Smart Nodes. We purposely built 16 mini trees and 1 spiral tree using "Dumb Nodes". They do exactly what we decided we wanted at the point that they are used. They replaced trees that had "110v superstrings" (multiple single colored strings tied together) with a simple single string (per string) that would produce all the colors we could ever want. They will work in that mode for several years. They are also the only dumb nodes we have in the display.

    Would I do it again, today? Knowing what is coming out from the board designers here, probably not. It is true that the cost comparison between dumb and smart pixels is not that great any more. The controllers themselves are the difference in price. Even that is being negated by advances in smart-node control.

    "You can treat RGB as dumb, but you can't make dumb anything but" is very true. For flexibility, I'd go with smart pixels.

    Then again, I want RGBAW or RGBVA lights, but I'll settle for RGB at this time due to the lack of sequencers supporting the newer, more capable nodes. Maybe next year.

    Have fun figuring out what you want. It truly can be a blast when you hook them all up and see them light to your specifications!
    "Never Give Up. Never Surrender!"
    Capt Tagert - Galaxy Quest.
    Al Gerdes - Christmas Lighting Nut!

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