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Thread: Multiple smaller controllers or single large controller?

  1. #11
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    Default Re: Multiple smaller controllers or single large controller?

    The question should include the capacity per output.

    I presume with larger controllers come more nodes per output, hence if you typically use one output per prop regardless of the size of the prop, smaller controllers will suffice. On the other hand if you are able to maximize the high node capacity of the larger controller, it is cheaper per node/output.

    Using the Falcon controller example, the F16v3 has 1024 pixels per output for 16384 pixels per controller at $200.00 is 82 pixels per dollar. The F4v3 ($125.00) has capacity for 4096 pixel coming to 33 pixels per dollar.

  2. #12
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    Default Re: Multiple smaller controllers or single large controller?

    the problem with that logic is an additional limitation per port. If you want real motion refresh rates then you use a 25ms refresh rate. At 25ms, a single port can only drive about 600 WS281x based pixels.


    2018 - Moving and going to visit my Daughter in New Zealand. Most likely I will be dark or nearly dark, Some static stuff that is simple to put up.

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  4. #13
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    Default Re: Multiple smaller controllers or single large controller?

    Quote Originally Posted by MartinMueller2003 View Post
    the problem with that logic is an additional limitation per port. If you want real motion refresh rates then you use a 25ms refresh rate. At 25ms, a single port can only drive about 600 WS281x based pixels.
    Another great tid bit that most either do not know or think about.
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    Brian, your friendly site Admin.

  5. #14
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    Default Re: Multiple smaller controllers or single large controller?

    One of the challenges with differential receivers is that you can't test each one on its own. As an example, consider you have 1 large controller and use 4 differential receivers. If one receiver isn't working then you have to trouble shoot the receiver, cable, controller, etc. Is it a chip, the cable, distance, programming, pixels? Who knows but you can't go to the receiver, connect a PC and test it directly. You have to test the whole chain from controller to receiver. It takes more work to isolate the issue and there are more failure points.

    If you had 4 small (independent) controllers then you could take a PC to the one that doesn't work and connect to it directly. You can run a sequence from the PC to determine if the controller works on its own. If it doesn't work then you can look at failure points from the controller down to the pixels. If it does work then you can work from the data cable back. You've basically divided your troubleshooting and made it quicker/easier.

    Another plus for small controllers is being able to isolate your show/props into smaller groups. If you have 1 controller handling a mega tree then you can put that out as 1 functioning unit and test it as one unit. You can do the same with a group of mini trees or arches. Make them a single unit so you know the group works or doesn't. Each group can also be tested throughout the year without having to drag out a large controller and enclosure. This has been the biggest headache for me because I don't know if the whole show will work until it's setup. After that I spend a lot of time troubleshooting and getting it all working. It would be nicer to work on a small part of the show, like arches, over the summer and make sure they work on their own.

    I know this because I've always run a bunch of differential receivers with two large controllers. I also have several smaller ones and they're so much easier to deal with. Next year I hope to exclude all large controllers and differential receivers from the show.

  6. #15
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    Default Re: Multiple smaller controllers or single large controller?

    I did not light last year due to my out of state job.

    For me, I use a modular approach and that gives me the freedom to change things year to year.

    I am not a fan of running 120v power all over my yard if I can avoid it. I centralized all the power supplies. The trade-off is using larger cables to distribute the power. Some of my controllers are housed in a standard rain tight box with a custom built backboard. Some are in ye 'ol CG-1500 boxes.

    Looking over the options of hard wired vs wireless lead me to keeping things hard wired.

    No matter how you look at it, all controllers require power and data lines. Each controller needs an enclosure and the size of the enclosure depends on housing a power supply or just the controller.

    It is possible to use 4 output controllers based on what you want to control.

    Consider a central network hub. I use an older 3-Com rack mount switch in a weather proof box (had it for years so I used it). It is isolated using a fiber optic connection from the PC.

    Add all the things you will need together. Small controllers VS Large controllers.

    Lately I have noticed an expanded output on some of the new controllers. The 340 pixels per output is no longer a limitation.

    I built and use my own differential line drivers (DLD) for the past 4 years. With the expanded pixel output, I can plug in my own driver to the end of one prop to reach another prop up to 250 meters away. RS-485 is very useful, however, distance does degrade the speed - part of the physics.

    Today (as noted the post above) there are controllers with DLD built in or as an add-in option. There are some receivers that are "OPTO ISOLATED" and cost a bit more for that protection.

    The idea is to be flexible. The amount of pixels you need to control and mapping out distances between props and between controllers.

    I warmed to the idea of DLD built in or as an option. Between these boards and the flexibility of distance plus the 1020 pixel output, it is hard not to keep to a 16 output board. A few extra network cables? Not a big deal.

    The cost is justified as FOUR 4 channel boards (usually with less pixels per output/total) plus housing, plus power supplies - the initial cost of ownership is significantly higher than a single 16 channel board ... Sort of a no brainer.

    Since my power supplies are modular in design & distribution, tapping power for a controller or DLD receiver is no big deal.

    Take the time to plan what sort of design you want to use, the initial cost of ownership, the repair costs and ease of use.

    Research takes time - mistakes are made in seconds.

    Good luck,
    Last edited by RGB_Mixer; 12-10-2018 at 11:59 AM.
    -Eddie

    The missus wants to ride!

  7. #16
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    Default Re: Multiple smaller controllers or single large controller?

    Quote Originally Posted by RGB_Mixer View Post
    The cost is justified as FOUR 4 channel boards (usually with less pixels per output/total) plus housing, plus power supplies - the initial cost of ownership is significantly higher than a single 16 channel board ... Sort of a no brainer.
    I have to address this statement as it isn't true. If you're only talking about Falcon Controllers then yes this would be the case. There are other, cheaper options available. An F16V3 is priced at $200 for 16 channels. I can get 4, 4 channel controllers for $108 and they work great. From my point of view they have the same usable capacity. I wouldn't use 1024 pixels per port due to refresh limitations so for me the port capacity is equivalent.

    You'll need power supplies regardless of whether you isolate or consolidate them so there's no cost difference in power unless you factor in wire. It's cheaper to run data cable than heavier gauge power injection cable. Isolating the power supplies should reduce the amount of cable you need.

    The cost of enclosures could possibly be a difference. It depends on what you come up with for housing everything vs an individual enclosure. You can put a small controller, power supply and power distro board into a piece of 5x5 fence post. My cost for one of those is about $10. A CG1500 is $12-$14 plus shipping and those will also fit the same items nicely.

    I haven't found that my large controllers are a cheaper option. Absolutely the opposite. Cost is less of a factor to me though, than time and convenience.

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  9. #17
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    Default Re: Multiple smaller controllers or single large controller?

    Quote Originally Posted by MartinMueller2003 View Post
    the problem with that logic is an additional limitation per port. If you want real motion refresh rates then you use a 25ms refresh rate. At 25ms, a single port can only drive about 600 WS281x based pixels.
    I was simply using cost per pixel as one consideration.

  10. #18
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    Default Re: Multiple smaller controllers or single large controller?

    Quote Originally Posted by SethOF View Post
    I was simply using cost per pixel as one consideration.
    While cost per pixel is a great way to figure value I don't think most people max out their pixel controllers. I think this is due to a multitude of reasons. 1 being the distance limitations of simple pixel installations. Another reason is that some of these controller can control so many pixels that the average user never even gets that many pixels in their display. Another is that splitting universes gets a bit confusing when it comes time for controller/software setups.

    Take a Renard SS for example. You can do cost per channel of an 8 vs 24 channel controller. In the pixel world I don't think it is so simple. While it can be to calculate I do not think the cost per pixel calculation model reflects reality as far as controllers go.
    Thanks,
    Brian, your friendly site Admin.

  11. #19
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    Default Re: Multiple smaller controllers or single large controller?

    Quote Originally Posted by SethOF View Post
    I was simply using cost per pixel as one consideration.
    Yes but. Your calculation used a max pixels per port model. However, the definition of max pixels per port is driven by additional factors. I am simply pointing out that the cost per pixel may be a bit higher than your calculation shows. I am also trying to prevent someone from buying a controller just because a single port can control thousands of pixels only to find out the practical limit (no matter what the controller can support) is just over 600 pixels on a port.


    2018 - Moving and going to visit my Daughter in New Zealand. Most likely I will be dark or nearly dark, Some static stuff that is simple to put up.

  12. #20
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    Default Re: Multiple smaller controllers or single large controller?

    @dcamron - curious what 4 channel controllers you're getting that are $27 each?

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