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Thread: Flickering Pixels (i.e. bad blinky-flashy)

  1. #1
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    Default Flickering Pixels (i.e. bad blinky-flashy)

    Hey everyone,

    I've been using Renard SS24s for my lights for a few years and this year finally decided to make the leap to pixels. I purchased a couple pixel strings, boards and parts for experimenting earlier this year and had no issues, but after assembling a few of these newer boards, I am experiencing random flickering of pixels. A couple pixels at a time will flicker every couple seconds. It is not the same pixels and doesn't do it in a predictable pattern. It almost seems like they're getting some kind of 'noise' through the data line.

    I purchased 3000 pixels (60 sets of 50) and tested them immediately upon receipt. Only half of one set was unresponsive, and I was able to repair it. I don't have any reason to think that there is an issue with the pixels themselves.

    I also purchased 24 ESP8266 ESP-01 units. I ended up receiving a mix of ESP-01 units and ESP-01S units (more on that later).

    I purchased 24 ESP Pixel Pops Tiny boards from ukewarrior. I have no reason to think those have anything to do with the issue I'm having.

    Finally, for electronics, I followed the parameters of the Pixel Stick/Pixel Pops page on the DIYC Wiki, but I may have taken some liberties to try to cut costs a bit. I built a couple units back in February and am having no issues with those ones, so I'm guessing one of these parts is where the issue is. I will detail my purchases here:

    DIYC Part (from Pixel Pops Wiki) Sept 2020 Ordered Part (Mouser #) Sept 2020 Notes/Mouser Desc *Updated* Jan 2020 Ordered Part *Updated* Jan 2020 Part Mouser Desc
    One ESP8266-01, this is not so much a part, but a complete subassembly. From Amazon See above From Amazon (Different) ---
    D1 - One diode. This must be: 1N4148 --- Omitted for Pixel Pop Tiny --- ---
    ESP-01 - One female socket header, 2 rows of pins, 4 pins in each row. This functions as the socket where you plug the ESP8266 module into 992-4FX2-254MM Headers & Wire Housings Headers & Wire Housings 2.54MM 0.1" 4-PIN DUAL ROW FML HEADER Same Same
    One six pin header. Readily available 2.54mm (.1") pitch. (distance between the pins) --- Omitted for Pixel Pop Tiny --- ---
    One tactile switch. 6mm x 6mm. Also readily available. These often have choices as to the height of the push button. --- Omitted for Pixel Pop Tiny --- ---
    R1 & R2 - Two 1/8W or 1/4W carbon film or metal film resistors. 330 Ohms. 660-MF1/4DC3300F Metal Film Resistors - Through Hole Metal Film Resistors - Through Hole 330ohm 1% 100PPM 71-RN55D3300FTR Metal Film Resistors - Through Hole 1/8watt 330ohms 1% 10ppm
    C2 - One polarized Electrolytic capacitor. Any value from 10uF to 220uF will do. 10V or above. Pay special attention to the diameter and spacing of the leads. The diameter can be no more than 5mm and the leads should be spaced at 2mm. 667-ECA-1CHG100 Aluminum Electrolytic Capacitors - Radial Leaded Aluminum Electrolytic Capacitors - Radial Leaded Al Lytic Cap Radial NHG Series 105C; 10uF 16 VDC 667-ECA-1CM101 Aluminum Electrolytic Capacitors - Radial Leaded Aluminum Electrolytic Capacitors - Radial Leaded 100uF 16V
    C1 - One MLCC monolithic capacitor. 2.54mm lead spacing. 0.1uF, any voltage over 24V. (Usually these are 50V rated) These are typically the 'yellow blob' style capacitors, verses the ones that are shaped like a flat disk. These do NOT have a + & - indication, unlike the electrolitic capacitor noted above. 80-C320C104M5R Multilayer Ceramic Capacitors MLCC - Leaded Multilayer Ceramic Capacitors MLCC - Leaded 50volts 0.1uF 20% X7R Same Same
    U1 - One 3.3v voltage regulator. This must be: LD1117V33, which has a TO-220 style package. 511-LD1117V33 LDO Voltage Regulators LDO Voltage Regulators 3.3V 0.8A Positive Same Same
    IC1 - One 5.0v voltage regulator. This part is optional and should only be installed if you are planning to drive 12v pixels. --- Omitted; Not running 12v --- ---
    Q1 - One Mosfet. This must be: 2N7000 or ZVN3306A, which has a T0-92-3 style package 512-2N7000 MOSFET MOSFET N-CHANNEL 60V 200mA 522-ZVN3306A MOSFET MOSFET N-Chnl 60V
    A five pin screw terminal header. 5 positions total. This connection should have 3.81mm spacing of the mounting pins. 649-220327-D051B01LF Fixed Terminal Blocks Fixed Terminal Blocks 5P 3.81MM TERM BLK FIXED HORIZONTAL Same Same

    For testing purposes, I initially powered the pixels by USB plugged into a USB wall adapter, but am now using a PC power supply.

    I have tried to narrow down which component may be the issue by swapping various parts off the working units, but have not had much success. One difference I observed between the ESP-01 and the ESP-01S is that they will experience different types of flickering. The 01S will have more pixels flickering at the same time and almost seem to 'build up' to the point where many pixels flash frequently. I also noticed that the WLED firmware seems to flash less frequently than the PixelStick firmware, but some flashing still exists.

    I'm happy to provide more info to help diagnose this issue, and I'd be very grateful for any insight anyone could offer while I continue to troubleshoot.
    Last edited by davwav02; 10-09-2020 at 10:50 PM. Reason: Update Table

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Flickering Pixels (i.e. bad blinky-flashy)

    is the flickering on strings of 50 or is it when you connect more strings together?
    Which components changed between February and now?
    What size wire is in the pixel strings?

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Flickering Pixels (i.e. bad blinky-flashy)

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeKrebs View Post
    is the flickering on strings of 50 or is it when you connect more strings together?
    Which components changed between February and now?
    What size wire is in the pixel strings?
    The flickering occurs when I have a single string of 50 lights plugged into a controller.

    I'll have to check my February mouser order to find out which parts are different (fair question though).

    I'll also have to check about the wire gauge. I'm not having issues with the new pixels being hooked up to the February controllers, if that helps...

    Sent from my LM-G710 using Tapatalk

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Flickering Pixels (i.e. bad blinky-flashy)

    Could be some grounding issues or a number of different things, probably. Although it might be a bit more than your situation, the title of your post immediately made me think of the video from the Virtual Christmas Summit : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ttEAyiyTAI&t=40s "Ever Wonder Why You Pixels Flicker and How to Fix It "
    https://RudolphSearch.com - Making it easier to find info across the Christmas Light forums!

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Flickering Pixels (i.e. bad blinky-flashy)

    What is the connection between the pixel pop and the first pixel? This sounds a lot like a missing ground in one of the hops.


    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

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Flickering Pixels (i.e. bad blinky-flashy)

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeKrebs View Post
    is the flickering on strings of 50 or is it when you connect more strings together?
    Which components changed between February and now?
    What size wire is in the pixel strings?
    -I updated the table in my initial post to show the parts I ordered earlier this year. Turns out the order was January 2nd and not February as I previously stated.

    -I am unable to determine the wire gauge from the product description.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Flickering Pixels (i.e. bad blinky-flashy)

    Updating as I troubleshoot.

    -Have continuity between four out of five terminals (VCC-In, GND-In, GND-Out, VCC-Out)

    -Determined I have full continuity between +5V (Red) and GND (Black) from PC power supply
    -Disconnected PC Power supply
    -Full continuity between VCC-In/VCC-Out and between GND-In/GND-Out with nothing crossing between VCC and GND with no power supply connected

    -Connected 5V 2A Power brick
    -188 Ω between VCC-In and GND-In with brick connected
    -210 Ω between VCC-Out and Gnd-Out with brick connected

    -Full continuity (1.1 Ω) from GND-In/GND-Out to GND pin of connector at end of set
    -Full continuity (1.1 Ω) from VCC-In/VCC-Out to VCC pin of connector at end of set
    -No continuity from DATA-Out to DATA pin of connector at end of set
    -193 Ω from VCC-In to GND pin of connector at end of set
    -211 Ω from GND-In to VCC pin of connector at end of set
    Last edited by davwav02; 10-09-2020 at 11:54 PM. Reason: Updating

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Flickering Pixels (i.e. bad blinky-flashy)

    Here's a clip of the lights connected as noted in post #7


  9. #9
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    Default Re: Flickering Pixels (i.e. bad blinky-flashy)

    Your component issue may be the pixels them selves . Try using 5v data rather than the questionable 3.xx that the esp-01 is delivering .
    You will require a 3.3v - 5.0v level shift device or one of the other data amplification options .

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Flickering Pixels (i.e. bad blinky-flashy)

    Quote Originally Posted by davwav02 View Post
    Here's a clip of the lights connected as noted in post #7

    that is noise and marginal data signal levels. do you get any pinking when set to all white?


    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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