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Thread: Newbie needs help

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2021
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    Red face Newbie needs help

    Hi all. I've had big Christmas displays going back to the early 2000's with numerous wood figures that I drew, cut out and painted myself, as well as covering the house and yard with lights and am big on DIY'ing everything I possibly can, so I am comfortable with soldering and wiring,etc. I've wanted to do the big Christmas light shows but back then LOR seemed to be the only way to go and I couldn't afford it and as the kids got older and didn't want to help with setup, I gave up on my dreams. But my 23 year old son wants to do it this year so I'm in the planning stages. I have spent the last 2 months researching and reading everything I can, including the forumks and Wiki and am to the point that I'm confused and unsure of what to do.
    My plan is to buy pixels for the Mega Tree ( 24 strings/75 nodes, with 24 strings/25 nodes for the "skirt" and a 36" 270 pixel Star); a few mini trees and and probably for the window/door outlines. I'm not sure if I will use pixels or Strips for the arches. Eventually, we'll do pixels everywhere but it's just not in the budget this year.
    For the "show", I was going to use Xlights, a Raspberry Pi, and FM Transmitter, but I'm not sure if I will go with a Falcon F16v3 and expansion boards, the Falcon F48 and Smart Receivers. or the Kulp 32 A-B which requires a Beaglebone Black.I guess my first question is, If I go with the Kulp controller with the Beaglebone do I still need the Raspberry Pi?
    My biggest issue is with the "other" lights. I have read and searched for answers but the more I read or watch, the more confused I become to the point that I don't know what to do. I replaced my incandescent lights a few years ago with a bunch of standard wall plug in LED 5mm lights that I am going to use to outline the roof and house, and C9 lights to outline the driveway(runway)but I don't know what to use to "control" them. From what I gather, I think the way to go is with a Renard but I'm not sure, much less which one? If so, can I use the Raspberry Pi with it too, instead of my computer to run it? Can I use Xlights for sequencing or do I have to learn Vixen too? And how do I wire the lights from the controller? For power, do I plug them into the wall with extension cords like years past or can I put pigtails on them and use Power supplies like the Pixels?
    Any help and suggestions is greatly appreciated.
    Thanks,
    Val

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Location
    Chambersburg, PA
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    Default Re: Newbie needs help

    Hi Val,

    Welcome to the Madness that is Animated Holiday Lighting.

    As far as which Pixel controller to use, all of your choices are good. With both of the Falcon controllers you will need a RPi or some other similar small computer to run the show. I am not totally familiar with the Kulp controller, but I would presume the BBB integrated into the controller will take the place of the RPi.

    Your AC Lights are typically controlled through Renard or DMX protocols. There are a variety of different "Renard" controllers, but that is NOT a brand name, rather controllers that run on the Renard (or DMX) protocols. With this type of controller you plug your light strings into the Solid State Relays (SSR's) which can be integrated into the controller or remote units similar to the Smart Receivers for pixels. Controllers and SSR's are plugged into your wall for power and Yes the RPi can run these controllers.

    XLights and Vixen are similar but different software programs for sequencing the lights, both are VERY good and powerful. You only need to use 1 of the programs, although I would recommend playing with them both as the work flows are a bit different and you may find one more intuitive than the other. I personally chose XLights and I have been extremely happy with the system and support I receive.

    Good Luck and feel free to ask lots of questions. You will find there are many ways to accomplish what you hope to achieve and there will be many opinions on the best way to accomplish them. That is part of the reason why new folks can get so confused when reading the forums.

    Remember, HAVE FUN.
    2012 - 1st year 64 Channels - 7500 LED lights - 5 sequences
    2013 - 128 Channels - 10,000 LED lights - 7 sequences (2 New)
    2014 - 201 Channels - upgrading 8 Arches to dumb RGB - 8+ sequences (1+ New)
    2015 - 240 Channels + 8 Universes - sequences TBD
    2016 - No Display
    2017 - Back in the Game - 240 Renard Channels + 12 Universes
    2018 - 256 Renard and 9 Falcon Outputs of Pixels - 16 sequences shown over 2 nights
    2019 - 256 Renard and 9 Falcon Outputs of Pixels - 16 sequences shown over 2 nights
    2020 - Emergency Conversion to Falcon F48 with limited wireless

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Lebanon, Illinois, USA
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    Default Re: Newbie needs help

    Just to confirm TomL8345's assumption - Those Kulp boards that have a RPi or Beagle Bone attached do indeed run Falcon Player. They can be used as a stand-a-lone, or as a master, or as a remote. They can also be put into bridge mode and used as any other controller.

    Players can be a full computer (such as a laptop or desktop) or they can be one of the credit-card-sized computers (Raspberry Pi or Beagle Bone Black (or green)).
    Live, Laugh, Love.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    Location
    Sauk City, WI USA
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    Default Re: Newbie needs help

    Take a snapshot of your house from the viewing angle people will look at it. Dim it down a little bit (a good bit) and print 10 copies on the biggest paper you have. Get out the crayons, markers, colored pencils etc. Start drawing on the picture the discrete elements you think you want to control. You don't have to control everything you put out. But you do want to get the picture in your head. If you have a theme in mind, draw one or more with the theme in mind. So, lets say for argument you have 7 windows with single strands of lights and 5 strands on the roof. Now you know you only need 16 channels (controllers generally come in multiples of 8 channels). Then plan where the controller will go and if you can get power from the controller to the individual strands. Design is now done!

    Once you know how many elements you are going to control and where the controller lives, you can decide what that controller needs to look like. Maybe you end up with a 24 in the main yard and a 16 on the other side of the driveway. Then I would haunt the for sale forums here and the green site and buy an used controller that fits what you need. Buying a few extra channels is not a bad idea. It is nice to have a spare or two in case something goes wrong.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2021
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    Default Re: Newbie needs help

    Great idea. Thanks. I've drawn my house and yard out countless times but never once considered taking a pic and printing it.

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