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Thread: New to rgb and not sure what direction to go

  1. #1
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    Default New to rgb and not sure what direction to go

    I have been decorating for years and always used traditional lights and controllers, my last big leap into light control was purchasing Mr. Christmas. I always have the biggest display in the area and I wont to venture off and do something new next year. I love things in the yard that traditional lights have like animals and snowmen, Santa clause. Things that I can purchase I spend more time then what I have decorating already so a lot of what I do have has been just purchased. But now its time for newer and bigger and hopefully a lot less trouble. So on with my questions to see if other enthusiast can help me in the world of the unknown. This is my plan to get started for next year for rgb control either the sans devices e682 or the falcon f16, I was going to go with 12v nodes seems like less problems for longer strings. I plan on buying a cheaper lab top so threw out the year I can build my show on my lunch breaks that is really the only spare time I have. I was thinking the vixen app not sure what is best for a beginner and not very computer savvy. I want to control a/c lights and can not find anything that controls them other than light orama ctb16pc, I don't even know if I would be able to control that with vixen or not I would like to be able to control the older a/c powered things I have with the newer things I want to build. My first build will be about a 100 feet from where the lap top would be and I guess my question is where do I start. I want addressable RGB's for the new, what controller is best that comes built. I want to be able to control in conjunction with RGB's traditional 120 A/C lights is there anything out there that will work together. is there some kind of data booster I need for signal strength 100 feet away from lap top. I see DMX used for a lot of A/C power but it does not seem that the two would be able to be controlled by the same lap top. Any direction would be helpful.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: New to rgb and not sure what direction to go

    Quote Originally Posted by Classic lights View Post
    I have been decorating for years and always used traditional lights and controllers, my last big leap into light control was purchasing Mr. Christmas. I always have the biggest display in the area and I wont to venture off and do something new next year. I love things in the yard that traditional lights have like animals and snowmen, Santa clause. Things that I can purchase I spend more time then what I have decorating already so a lot of what I do have has been just purchased. But now its time for newer and bigger and hopefully a lot less trouble. So on with my questions to see if other enthusiast can help me in the world of the unknown. This is my plan to get started for next year for rgb control either the sans devices e682 or the falcon f16, I was going to go with 12v nodes seems like less problems for longer strings. I plan on buying a cheaper lab top so threw out the year I can build my show on my lunch breaks that is really the only spare time I have. I was thinking the vixen app not sure what is best for a beginner and not very computer savvy. I want to control a/c lights and can not find anything that controls them other than light orama ctb16pc, I don't even know if I would be able to control that with vixen or not I would like to be able to control the older a/c powered things I have with the newer things I want to build. My first build will be about a 100 feet from where the lap top would be and I guess my question is where do I start. I want addressable RGB's for the new, what controller is best that comes built. I want to be able to control in conjunction with RGB's traditional 120 A/C lights is there anything out there that will work together. is there some kind of data booster I need for signal strength 100 feet away from lap top. I see DMX used for a lot of A/C power but it does not seem that the two would be able to be controlled by the same lap top. Any direction would be helpful.
    First, Welcome, say goodby to your free time. Look at the wiki beginners guide and the controller selection guide. It is out of date for pixel stuff but all of the AC and DC stuff is valid. The renard controllers do a great job with AC. 100' is not far. You just need good quality wire.

    I suggest you run your show using a raspberry PI running (free) FPP software. I use to to run my show and it works great.

    I use Vixen to sequence the show, others use xLights or HLS. All work. You need to decide which works best for you.

    The forum has Renard controllers coming up for sale, grab some.

    Take a picture of your house. Pencil in where you are going too put your lights. Use that to figure out where you need too place controllers and how many controllers you will need. Mr Christmas is not a good model for this hobby.


    2019 - Going to visit my Daughter in New Zealand (again). I will be dark for the 2nd year in a row. Sigh..

  3. #3
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    Default Re: New to rgb and not sure what direction to go

    You have a phrase in there that concerns me: “....a lot less trouble”

    You’re going to have A LOT of trouble with animated displays—we all do. Part of the hobby is being able to troubleshoot and identify problems.

    If you’re expecting plug-and-play, set-it-and-forget-it, then you’re going to be sorely disappointed.

    Yes, there is a great community here they can help you work through all the problems—so you won’t be left by yourself. But you will need to anticipate “a lot of trouble.”

  4. #4
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    Default Re: New to rgb and not sure what direction to go

    I second that. If you are looking for something that will be less trouble or take less time, I would not jump into this hobby. It really is a hobby and something that takes a lot of both time and money...not at all plug and play. You will need some computer savvy too but there are a lot of great resources to help you along if not.

  5. #5
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    Default New to rgb and not sure what direction to go

    Based on what you wrote in your post, my recommendation is you start out your first year just doing an AC light show. That’s what I did my first year. Then the next year you can add in some simple pixel lighting and build from there.

    Vixen is a good choice for AC lighting, and the learning curve is not too difficult. There are a ton of videos on YouTube to help get you started, including the official ones at Vixen Lights Software. Also, read through the documentation on their website. You can play with this for some time without ever connecting controllers or lights. That way you can get a good feel for what you might really want to be doing.

    I recommend getting a Raspberry Pi to run the show using Falcon Player. There are several videos on YouTube showing how to set it up. In particular, there’s a good series at Canispater Christmas. Once you have a song sequenced on Vixen, you simply export the file as an FSEQ file and upload it to the Falcon Player.

    As far as like controllers go, you can’t go wrong with the Renard controllers. As was stated before, there will be lots of pre built used ones for sale in the upcoming few months on this forum. Or, you could always get a kit and solder it together yourself. Contact Wayne J on this forum to do that.

    You’ll also need a USB to RS-485 converter. I got a cheap one on eBay, but there are others available online as well. Search around this forum and you should see a few different choices. You will use this to output from the Raspberry Pi to an ethernet cable that will run to your first controller. After that, you can daisy chain any additional controllers from that one using ethernet cables.

    The Renard controllers that you buy might come preassembled and completely ready to go. In that case, you simply plug each light string into a separate channel on the board.

    However, it’s more likely that you will have to mount the board into an enclosure and add a power cord and pigtails to connect the lights to. Cheap extension cords from the dollar store with the female end cut off work well for pigtails.

    Finally, you will need some way to get the audio of the song to the people watching. You could always use speakers set up in front of your house connected to the audio output on the Raspberry Pi, but the more popular method is using an FM transmitter so that people can listen to the music in their cars. Again, I bought a cheap one off of eBay for just a few dollars. It works OK. But if you want something that’s a little more robust, search around the forums and you’ll see lots of options.

    If you want to get a visual on how most of this will look, watch my 2017 behind the scenes video. It will give you a general understanding of how all of this works together.

    https://youtu.be/NOeDsMWP_T8

    In addition to all the hardware requirements, you will run into several stumbling blocks on the software end. Getting Vixen set up and sequencing, setting the Vixen outputs for your lighting controllers, setting up the falcon player on the Raspberry Pi and getting those outputs set correctly, and making sure the firmware in the controllers is working will likely cause a few headaches along the way. Tackle one thing at a time and try to solve it. Watch videos and search the forums for solutions. Ask specific questions when you get stuck and someone may have the answer.

    Good luck and welcome to this crazy hobby!

    Ken










    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    Last edited by kdoyon; 01-10-2019 at 01:45 PM.
    2016 - Static Light Show
    2017 - 72 Renard Channels - Roughly 4,200 Lights - 3 Sequenced Songs
    2018 - Added Pixels to Rooflines
    Website: www.doyonlights.com
    You Tube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQ8...yLJieEEwDto7xg

    Adding Pixel Arches, Snowflakes, and Singing Bulbs in 2019!

  6. #6
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    Default Re: New to rgb and not sure what direction to go

    This forum is kinda weighted towards Renard for hardware, Vixen for sequencing, and FPP on a Rasberry Pi for playback. All good choices and great support on this board!

    You mention that you are not very computer savvy. I am a little concerned with the amount of "auxiliary equipment" and fiddling required to get FPP installed and running on a Pi and then get shows installed. Most people here will say it is not difficult, but most people here have already done it a couple times and have all the cables, SD cards, etc. I suggest that a beginner may be able to get and running faster using something other than FPP to display a show.

    I am not very familiar with all off Vixen's capabilities. Specifically, I know it is a great sequence builder but I do not know if it has scheduling and playback built it so it can run a show.
    As an alternative. I suggest looking at xLights and the associated xSchedule.

    This is just my opinion. YMMV.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: New to rgb and not sure what direction to go

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry-Rigs View Post
    I am not very familiar with all off Vixen's capabilities. Specifically, I know it is a great sequence builder but I do not know if it has scheduling and playback built it so it can run a show.
    As an alternative. I suggest looking at xLights and the associated xSchedule.

    This is just my opinion. YMMV.
    Vixen has playback and scheduling capability.
    Ed
    Happily retired

  8. Thanks Jerry-Rigs thanked for this post
  9. #8
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    Default Re: New to rgb and not sure what direction to go

    Thank you for your input I will do some research on a/c control but my plan is to have 6 arch ways over my road with RGB's using pex tubing. I wont to incorporate that this year, if you don't dive in head first you wont get your feet wet. There is some things I need to look at but this forum will be a lot of help. I will be reaching out as I build.

  10. #9
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    Default Re: New to rgb and not sure what direction to go

    Almost the same advice for pixels. Lay everything out on paper. Figure out where you need to inject data. Figure out where you are going to run data. Use that to determine how many controller ports you will need and let that drive the controller purchase process.


    2019 - Going to visit my Daughter in New Zealand (again). I will be dark for the 2nd year in a row. Sigh..

  11. #10
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    Default Re: New to rgb and not sure what direction to go

    I'm new this year as well. However I don't have the issue of having any lights or displays from previous years. I'm starting with a clean slate. 10-15 years ago I used to setup 10k+ lights on my house in California... back when LOR was just coming out (I wanted to get one the following year) and sequencing was really unheard of except in more professional displays. Ended up divorced and moved back to Florida. 10 years later I'm settled in a nice house and financially able to start doing this again. Last year I bought about 4,500 LED 100 strings at Walmart (45 boxes at $1.00 each) hoping to use for 2018's initial display (they never made it out of the box as I started to look at pixels and sequencing). I'm able to plan my initial house trim and screened in pool lighting which I plan to keep up year round for lighting and ambiance, but also changing the colors and patterns with the seasons and holidays.

    I've been researching and browsing these and other forums for the last 2 months, watching many many youtube videos (thanks Canispater Christmas dude), and finally started ordering bullet pixels and some Falcon controllers, along with all the subsequent hardware and tools that will be needed. I picked up a lot of after-Christmas 50-90% off items I feel I can make use of or finagle in the display I'm planning. I have the measurements of every eave, soffit, window, corner, peak, and yard size. I have taken pictures of every angle of the house so I can bring them all into Vixen and do some test layouts. I am still up in the air on using Vixen or Xlights; I don't want to pick one then realize I need to start over in the other because of a feature or compatibility issue. I have cleaned out the garage and my workspace so I can set it up for this on-going project... even installed a window A/C unit so I'm not out there working in the Florida heat (it's a spare unit I've had in the attic to run off a generator in case of a hurricane and power outage).

    Anyway, this has consumed most of the last 2 months of my life... and I'm just getting started. I joined a FB group last night for "Extreme Lighting Fanatics of Florida" and have my first Mini-expo scheduled for March 2nd. This may lead into one of the bigger light expos elsewhere (where oh where will I fit my Comi-con's in). Just plan for the fact that this can consume you too! It's a never-ending planning, fixing, securing, upgrading, adding, reconfiguring, adjusting, tweaking, and enjoyable hobby!

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