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Thread: Help me decide on a controller

  1. #61
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    Default Re: Help me decide on a controller

    Dan,
    What an appropriate, thoughtful and measured response.
    Thanks for sharing your perspective !
    For those that don't know 'your' controllers, I suggest you edit your post and provide an info link!
    Quote Originally Posted by dkulp View Post
    My perspectives from different view points (this will be long):

    As a Mac user, any controller that requires some bizarre windows only utility to configure it is automatically blacklisted. Even if I was a windows user, I would strongly recommend against it. During setup, I am constantly using my phone or iPad from my yard to make minor adjustments and to test things and such. With the capabilities of browsers now, it makes no sense to not provide a complete and useful browser based frontend for the controller.

    As a controller designer/manufacturer/seller/whatever, I personally think all the spec chasing stuff is nearly pointless. No one uses controllers at their full capacity. Joe's "grandma/grandpa" example is a good one. To hit 1000 pixels per output would require all kinds of special handling of power with all kinds of power injection, knowledge or what happens when one pixel dies causing all the rest, etc... That's not something you want to thrust on them. At 50 ms timing, my controllers can hit 1400 pixels per output on all outputs. You could even drop to 100ms timing and go over 2800, but I would never recommend anyone do that. To me, ease of use (example: browser based config, xLights integration, etc...) are way more important than maxing out outputs.

    As an xLights developer, I will say that any controller that does NOT support virtual strings in some form or another (whatever they decide to call them) should not be recommended. Without virtual strings, there are a lot of things that the user will be required to manually configure and keep track of. It will work, but the user has to pay much more attention to things like start channels and such. In addition, without virtual strings, there are entire classes of configuration changes that will require complete re-rendering of your entire show instead of simple controller configuration updates. Also, doing some of that in xLights does involve slower render times which is something people would like to avoid. For example, if you have three props on an output and decide the middle one is too bright, with virtual strings, we can decrease the brightness on the virtual string in the controller configuration and not have to re-render anything. Without them, you would have to adjust the dimming curve on the model in xLights and then re-render your entire show. In addition, by adjusting the dimming curve, the render time does go down as xLights has slightly more work to do. (if a model's dimming curve is an identity, it's completely skipped). Also, displaying the preview involves more CPU time to "undo" the dimming curves for display. For the cleanest integration with xLights, virtual strings really are a must.

    Finally, as an Open Source Developer and main contributor to many open source projects including FPP and xLights, (as well as MANY projects at the Apache Software Foundation related to my day job), I would strongly encourage supporting the vendors that support the communities and contribute back. Thats more of a personal preference that others may not share, but I wanted to mention it. This also includes recommending vendors that are "friendly" to the other vendors. Dave Pitts and I are kind of competitors, but I'd also consider him a friend and he and I have bounced ideas off each other a couple time. Likewise with me and Alan Hanson. I provided a lot of information and suggestions to David Peace before he released his Pixel2Things boards. The relationships are really what make this community to me.

    Anyway, this is WAY too long at this point. However, I wear many "hats" and thought I'd provide my thoughts. I'm obviously very biased toward my own controllers, but I'm also the first to say that my controllers may not be the best for every use case. Being based on FPP, they are EXTREMELY powerful. There are tons of things you can do with them that you cannot do with any other controller. However, being based on FPP, they are also way more complex than any other controller.

  2. #62
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    Default Re: Help me decide on a controller

    Is there a link or something with more info on these virtual strings you speak of ?


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  3. #63
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
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    Default Re: Help me decide on a controller

    I use virtual strings on over half of my ports. It allows me to configure zig-zag per prop and have multiple different types of props on a single string. It also allows me to map channels from different areas into a single port, meaning I can easily move a prop from one port to another just by modifying the config on the controller.


    2020 Full sized show reworked for the new location. Only adding (famous last words) 13 RBLs that I finally got converted to using pixels
    2019 - Just moved into a new home (yet another change of plans). Will be dim but not dark. Too much to do at the new place to leave time for a show. Dim show (3000 pixels) had regular visits most nights.
    https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyX...ttrsZNARkUce0Q

  4. #64
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    Dec 2012
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    Framingham, MA
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    Default Re: Help me decide on a controller

    The Falcon v3 user manuals has a very good description... This is taken from page 75 of the F16v3 manual :

    Virtual strings are a way of dividing up a physical string or multiple strings connected to a single output port, so that it acts as if it were several different strings. This allows you to use non-sequential channel numbers, forward or backward numbering, add null pixels, as well as other options described below.

    Basically, it allows a physical port on the controller to be treated as multiple ports from a configuration standpoint. Instead of having to have all the channels in consecutive order, everything can be broken up and configured individually. For example, lets say you hook up 3 of Boscoyo's 48 pixel snowflakes onto a single port. Without virtual strings, all three have to be on consecutive channel ranges. All three have to use the same controller brightness, gamma, etc... If you login to the controller, you would just see 144 pixels configured on the port. With virtual strings, each snowflake can be represented by its own line. You could see 3 lines of 48 pixels, each having it's own set of settings. Each of the snowflakes can have whatever start channel it wants, they don't need to be consecutive. Each can have it's own null pixel if you need to add a null in the middle. It's definitely more "natural". Also, it allows much easier reconfiguration. For example in this case, lets say you see some flickering at full white due to the pixels being cheap 20awg wire or something and you decide you cannot run 144 pixels off the single port. However, you have a 99 pixel wreath near it with good wire and you think you can connect to the end that instead. In the controller, you can just move the virtual string for that snowflake to the end of the wreath. You don't need to worry about changing the start channel or anything and re-rendering things.
    Dan Kulp

  5. #65
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    Dec 2012
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    Default Re: Help me decide on a controller

    Quote Originally Posted by Litebrite View Post
    I didn't ask for best. I realize that's a relative question. I just asked why no one ever seems to even acknowledge the Hinkspix Pro or the Flex system stuff.
    If you notice, most of us simply tell you what we use and how we like the controllers we are using. If a user for the other controllers does not chime in, then that controller will be under represented in the discussion. I cant talk about the pros and cons of controllers that I have not used. I will apologize for my negative statement with respect to the origin of the AlphaPix (I should have not mentioned it at all since I do not have one). Many of us form opinions, but the best opinions are based on hands on experience and IMO that is the information we should present without bias against other products.


    2020 Full sized show reworked for the new location. Only adding (famous last words) 13 RBLs that I finally got converted to using pixels
    2019 - Just moved into a new home (yet another change of plans). Will be dim but not dark. Too much to do at the new place to leave time for a show. Dim show (3000 pixels) had regular visits most nights.
    https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyX...ttrsZNARkUce0Q

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