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Thread: New member with a few questions

  1. #1
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    Default New member with a few questions

    Hello all,

    Thank you for having me in your forum! I have been building up a collection of AC Christmas lights for a few years now. This last Christmas, I decided that I have probably reached the limit of what I want to do with static AC lights, and I am ready to jump into the world of the light show! So that is how I landed here and thanks again for having me.

    I have actually spent about a month now, watching a ton of videos and browsing forums to figure out how to get my start in this hobby. I have installed xlights, and I have already sequenced five songs for Halloween (I figure Halloween will me my test run before the Christmas show). I have also already put together two hardware enclosures. One of them has a 360W/12V power supply and a raspberry pi2 with a Falcon pi cap. The other houses a pixel2AC board, which I set up because I don't want to ditch my collection of AC lights just yet, and I figured that sequencing those AC lights would be a good way to get started without the huge investment of replacing my entire collection with pixels all at once. I have two 50-node strands of 12V pixels that I got from Amazon, and I have four WS2811 spotlights on order from Ray Wu's Aliexpress store. So, all of this is to say that I think I am well on my way to making this thing work. But of course, I do have a few questions. For expediency, I wanted to just throw all of the questions I have right now out there, but I will definitely be browsing the forum for individual questions as well, as time goes on.

    So, here are a few of the questions that I have, and thanks to anyway who is willing to chime in with your expertise:

    1. I know I should be able to run about 1600 pixels from that Falcon pi cap, but I will undoubtedly need to expand that eventually. Would it be possible to keep using the pi cap and expand from there? I don't think I can use an expansion board or differential receiver, but maybe an additional controller such as an F4? If an F4 controller is a viable option to expand with, does anyone have the dimensions of that board? I left some room in my enclosure and I would like to check if it will fit.

    2. Related to the last question, but my understanding of the difference between a controller, expansion board, and differential receiver is kinda fuzzy. Can someone clarify the difference between them?

    3. Does anyone have a good way to estimate the number of pixels needed for a roofline? I live in a 3-story duplex, about 25 feet tall, and I don't have a ladder to reach the top. I will probably have to rent a ladder if I hang roofline lights, so I want to have everything ready to go before I rent the ladder.

    4. Also related to the previous question, how is everyone hanging pixels along a roofline? I know about the pixel mounting strips from Boscoyo and Holiday Coro, but if you use those, how do you attach them to the roofline? Also curious about how people go about hanging lights around a window frame.

    5. Can someone please help to clarify the difference between f-amps and null pixels? Any advantages/disadvantages to each?

    I am sure I will have a bunch more questions, but those are the ones that pop into my head right now. Thanks, in advance, for any help, and I look forward to participating here!

  2. #2
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    Default Re: New member with a few questions

    Can't help on 1 or 2.
    3. Can you estimate the roof angle at the peak where the two roof planes come together? Measure the width of your house and divide by the sine of half the angle of the peak. For example, if the peak included angle is 90 degrees, half that is 45 degrees. The sine of 45 degrees is 0.707. Divide the width (in inches) of your house by 0.707 and you'll have the total length of the roof line. Then divide that number by pixel spacing to get the number of pixels you'll need (your choice - 3, 4, or 6 inch spacings are common based on viewing distance).
    4. There are multiple ways to hang along a roof line but it depends on whether you have an overhang or not. In my case, I don't have an overhang. I use aluminum hooks that slide under the shingles from which pixels attached to mounting strips and electrical conduit are hung.
    5. Null pixels act just like a regular pixel so you need to account for that when setting up your strings. An f-amp is transparent to your set-up, it just boosts the data signal to reach farther.
    Ed
    Happily retired

  3. #3
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    Default Re: New member with a few questions

    Quote Originally Posted by davej323 View Post
    Hello all,

    Thank you for having me in your forum! I have been building up a collection of AC Christmas lights for a few years now. This last Christmas, I decided that I have probably reached the limit of what I want to do with static AC lights, and I am ready to jump into the world of the light show! So that is how I landed here and thanks again for having me.

    I have actually spent about a month now, watching a ton of videos and browsing forums to figure out how to get my start in this hobby. I have installed xlights, and I have already sequenced five songs for Halloween (I figure Halloween will me my test run before the Christmas show). I have also already put together two hardware enclosures. One of them has a 360W/12V power supply and a raspberry pi2 with a Falcon pi cap. The other houses a pixel2AC board, which I set up because I don't want to ditch my collection of AC lights just yet, and I figured that sequencing those AC lights would be a good way to get started without the huge investment of replacing my entire collection with pixels all at once. I have two 50-node strands of 12V pixels that I got from Amazon, and I have four WS2811 spotlights on order from Ray Wu's Aliexpress store. So, all of this is to say that I think I am well on my way to making this thing work. But of course, I do have a few questions. For expediency, I wanted to just throw all of the questions I have right now out there, but I will definitely be browsing the forum for individual questions as well, as time goes on.

    So, here are a few of the questions that I have, and thanks to anyway who is willing to chime in with your expertise:

    1. I know I should be able to run about 1600 pixels from that Falcon pi cap, but I will undoubtedly need to expand that eventually. Would it be possible to keep using the pi cap and expand from there? I don't think I can use an expansion board or differential receiver, but maybe an additional controller such as an F4? If an F4 controller is a viable option to expand with, does anyone have the dimensions of that board? I left some room in my enclosure and I would like to check if it will fit.

    2. Related to the last question, but my understanding of the difference between a controller, expansion board, and differential receiver is kinda fuzzy. Can someone clarify the difference between them?

    3. Does anyone have a good way to estimate the number of pixels needed for a roofline? I live in a 3-story duplex, about 25 feet tall, and I don't have a ladder to reach the top. I will probably have to rent a ladder if I hang roofline lights, so I want to have everything ready to go before I rent the ladder.

    4. Also related to the previous question, how is everyone hanging pixels along a roofline? I know about the pixel mounting strips from Boscoyo and Holiday Coro, but if you use those, how do you attach them to the roofline? Also curious about how people go about hanging lights around a window frame.

    5. Can someone please help to clarify the difference between f-amps and null pixels? Any advantages/disadvantages to each?

    I am sure I will have a bunch more questions, but those are the ones that pop into my head right now. Thanks, in advance, for any help, and I look forward to participating here!

    Here’s my roofline installed with strips at Lowe’s under 2 dollars and some stainless staples . We had some storms come tru few weeks ago with 70mph gust and they still up no issues.
    Windows I’ll be doing pvc frame squeezes in with these clips I came up with

    Hard to estimate number of pixels without measurements but if you guess I’d guess bigger also depends on spacing of pixels 3” or 4” aswell .


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  4. #4
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    Default Re: New member with a few questions

    Quote Originally Posted by davej323 View Post

    1. I know I should be able to run about 1600 pixels from that Falcon pi cap, but I will undoubtedly need to expand that eventually. Would it be possible to keep using the pi cap and expand from there? I don't think I can use an expansion board or differential receiver, but maybe an additional controller such as an F4? If an F4 controller is a viable option to expand with, does anyone have the dimensions of that board? I left some room in my enclosure and I would like to check if it will fit.
    Two things you need to consider here. The PiCap can run that many pixels (800+ on two strings) using a lot of power injection. The question is should you really do that many. There have been many cautions on this since the timing of each string will be affected. Do a bit of research within the forums. I have not pushed my PiCaps past 350 pixels per output, so others need to chime in here.

    Quote Originally Posted by davej323 View Post
    2. Related to the last question, but my understanding of the difference between a controller, expansion board, and differential receiver is kinda fuzzy. Can someone clarify the difference between them?
    A. A "controller" is like the brain. It takes instructions from a source (player), and outputs those instructions to the proper output hooked to itself. These outputs can be on the controller board itself, or on a remote.
    B. An "expansion board" adds outputs to a controller. Either next to the controller, or on a remote. Expansion boards are usually either port expansions (such as 16 additional outputs alongside a controller), or multiple differential outputs (differential transmitter.)
    C. A "differential receiver" is a remote that receives instructions over a balanced line from an expansion board (differential transmitter) or a special port on the controller itself. Differential receivers make it handy to put props a good distance from the controller.

    Quote Originally Posted by davej323 View Post
    3. Does anyone have a good way to estimate the number of pixels needed for a roofline? I live in a 3-story duplex, about 25 feet tall, and I don't have a ladder to reach the top. I will probably have to rent a ladder if I hang roofline lights, so I want to have everything ready to go before I rent the ladder.
    Simplest is to know the length of the edge you are trying to put the lights on in inches, and knowing the spread between pixels you want to have. So a 10 foot section of roof (120 inches) at 3 inch pixels would be 40 pixels + 1 pixel at the starting point.

    Quote Originally Posted by davej323 View Post
    4. Also related to the previous question, how is everyone hanging pixels along a roofline? I know about the pixel mounting strips from Boscoyo and Holiday Coro, but if you use those, how do you attach them to the roofline? Also curious about how people go about hanging lights around a window frame.
    This one is dependent on what you have to hang on. If you have gutters, hooks. If you have shingles, some sort of shingle mount. Every instance is different. Don't forget to add in weather to the answer. If you live in high wind areas or even just have bursts from time to time, your hooks may have to be beefed up.

    Quote Originally Posted by davej323 View Post
    5. Can someone please help to clarify the difference between f-amps and null pixels? Any advantages/disadvantages to each?
    Both do approximately the same thing - rebuild and send the digital signal in order to get longer distances between pixels. SPI, the signalling between pixels, does not travel well. Meaning the signal degrades over longer distances. Amplifying the signal is sometimes needed.

    A "null pixel" is a standard pixel that you just don't light.
    An "f-amp" is a special amplifier that does not have a pixel at all.
    Note that f-amps usually will get you much farther distances because of its regenerative qualities. Null pixels do work, but I prefer the f-amp.
    Live, Laugh, Love.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: New member with a few questions

    Quote Originally Posted by davej323 View Post

    3. Does anyone have a good way to estimate the number of pixels needed for a roofline? I live in a 3-story duplex, about 25 feet tall, and I don't have a ladder to reach the top. I will probably have to rent a ladder if I hang roofline lights, so I want to have everything ready to go before I rent the ladder.
    If you need a rough estimate for roofline lengths you can use the aerial view on google maps, and right click on your roof to measure the distances. It won't be exact but at least you can get an idea on how many strings you may need.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: New member with a few questions

    While the PI Hat can easily drive in excess oof 600 pixels (the level I have tested to), you need too answer a question: Do you want real motion refresh rates (max string = 680p) or ok refresh rates (max string - 1200p) or choppy refreshes (max string greater than 1200p). I use real motion refresh rates in my show so my pixel strings do not exceed 600 pixels per port on my controllers.


    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

  7. #7
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    Default Re: New member with a few questions

    Thank you so much for all the replies, guys!

    I like the idea of getting a rough idea of roofline length using Google maps, and I will try that tonight. I was also thinking that I can use the width of the building and the estimated height of the attic at the peak of the roof to derive the length of each side of the roof using the Pythagorean theorem. I will try both methods to see how closely they match.

    I do have an overhang, but no gutter along the front edge of the house where the roofline lights would be. I am thinking I can use pixel mounting strips attached to PVC pipe, and attach the PVC pipe under the overhang, unless someone sees any potential problem with that method?

    One thing I am still not clear about is how I might use my existing pi cap setup and add some kind of expansion. Can an F4 controller still be added?
    Last edited by davej323; 01-30-2020 at 10:34 PM.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: New member with a few questions

    [QUOTE=wilmar;521730]
    Here’s my roofline installed with strips at Lowe’s under 2 dollars and some stainless staples . We had some storms come tru few weeks ago with 70mph gust and they still up no issues.
    Windows I’ll be doing pvc frame squeezes in with these clips I came up with




    Wilmar, do you happen to know the name of those strips from Lowes? And how did you come up with those clips? I like them! I might want to do something similar for my windows.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: New member with a few questions

    [QUOTE=davej323;521777]
    Quote Originally Posted by wilmar View Post

    Here’s my roofline installed with strips at Lowe’s under 2 dollars and some stainless staples . We had some storms come tru few weeks ago with 70mph gust and they still up no issues.
    Windows I’ll be doing pvc frame squeezes in with these clips I came up with




    Wilmar, do you happen to know the name of those strips from Lowes? And how did you come up with those clips? I like them! I might want to do something similar for my windows.
    I designed the clips for 3 d printer to print out it’s on Thingiverse I’ll post link in a sec


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  10. #10
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    Default Re: New member with a few questions

    [QUOTE=davej323;521777]
    Quote Originally Posted by wilmar View Post

    Here’s my roofline installed with strips at Lowe’s under 2 dollars and some stainless staples . We had some storms come tru few weeks ago with 70mph gust and they still up no issues.
    Windows I’ll be doing pvc frame squeezes in with these clips I came up with




    Wilmar, do you happen to know the name of those strips from Lowes? And how did you come up with those clips? I like them! I might want to do something similar for my windows.
    https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:4133712


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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