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Thread: Complexity

  1. #1
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    Default Complexity

    Is this hobby becoming complex with so many choices and considerations that it's become overly daunting for new members and scaring them off? I've been around here for a long time and have a good understanding of power and wiring considerations, but am largely unfamiliar with the various software programs and controllers. I would have to spend a long time understanding them if I were to try and go for a mid-scale pixel display.
    Phil

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Complexity

    I think quite the opposite....
    There are more people willing to jump in with literally thousands of pixels in their 1st attempt at a display.
    Xlights has developed leaps and bounds to become the easiest tool to program pixels and with the addition of the controller visualizer makes configuring controllers a snap.
    Now of course this is dependent on the controllers used, but out of the gate the closest integration of software and controllers out there!
    The power requirements of a show are still a huge stumbling block for most users, and I hate seeing people trying to lump all those power supplies into one enclosure.
    Networking is still a bit of an issue for some, but I find most people know the basics just dealing with their own home network.
    The one side of the hobby I see declining is the DIY segment and this I really hate to see happening.
    Many displays are becoming cookie cutter in design using the same cutouts and props. Now there is nothing wrong with that as I use a few myself, but it is starting to look the same.
    On the controllers, I love building mine from scratch and have settled on Scott's design for the PB16. The most enjoyment I ever got from this hobby is building boards and seeing them work for the 1st time on power up.
    I think many of the newcomers are missing that and jumping to the blinking lights of a huge show with pre-made sequences.
    Phil

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Complexity

    I think the number of us that enjoy picking up a soldering iron and making something go is declining. We are in an age of COTS where the items to buy are so cheap or so complex it is not worth making them yourself unless you just want to do it anyway. IMO The ABC lights show has driven a class of integrators (as opposed to builders) into the hobby and thats ok. Kids love the shows and for me, generating that happiness is why I am doing this.


    2021 New Tune-to sign. New 40x27 matrix at the house. Retiring the Strip based matrix. Updating some of the old window frames to the new house. Adding two new songs.
    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. #4
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    Default Re: Complexity

    I'm taking it for granted that there are fewer and fewer people in this hobby that like to pick up and use a soldering iron, and most people are using pre-built hardware.

    It's just that the cost of entry is so much higher than it was 15 years ago (and I'm not talking about money). I'm talking about time both time to learn and figure things out, and also the really high expectations for size and complexity of the show.
    Phil

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Complexity

    Phil,
    That was the subject around the campfire the other night. The feeling that if you are going to do an animated show today, it seems to have to be "over the top" and "huge". The other thought was it has to be so "bright" and "overwhelming" to be considered "good".

    Those of us from "the time before..." were lamenting for the old days when a 400 channel AC light show was "huge", and the lights we used looked like Christmas lights. Oh well...
    Live, Laugh, Love.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Complexity

    Speaking as someone who is just picking this hobby up for the first time this year, I can say that some aspects were overwhelming where others came natural but it all depends on your background.
    For me choosing the right controller to make things as easy as possible was the biggest challenge! I wanted something stand alone and didn't want a dedicated show PC but also didn't want to break the bank on my initial entry into the hobby given all the other things to purchase. Once I got over that hurdle things got a little easier but still data overload.

    As I kept reading into things I would find my next roadblock, Power Injection, that seemed overwhelming until I took a step back to plan my approach. With PI and many other aspects of this hobby there's so many different ways to approach it which I think might scare people off. There isn't one exact way to do anything, rather you ask one question and you'll get 10 different answers that will all get you where you need to be. I think some people are looking for one clear path and one way to approach things and when they are hit with too many options back out thinking it's way to complex.

    The software was the easiest for me, but I have a graphic design background so xLights came almost second nature to me! So far I've enjoyed every aspect of this hobby and am so glad I'm finally taking the plunge! I'm not opposed to building things myself, albeit I don't want to pick up a soldering iron hah..... rather I'm using the soldier and seal sleeves which have been awesome so far! But I'm still not going totally cookie cutter and after my initial planning and data dive into the "How to" parts I'm building my first ever show with just over 2,000 pixels!

    I know that's still small in the grand scheme of things but probably more than an average starting point. I'm glad I started things as early as I did so I'm not rushing anything and already planning for future expansions.

    -Russ

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Complexity

    Phil,
    Yes, I completely agree with you.
    The rub is that a pixel display is going to be more complex than an AC one.
    It was pretty easy to understand that the controller turned a whole light string on and off.
    You could wrap your head around this.
    Plus, the whole issue of power wasn't an issue!
    Add to that the fact there are so many permutations of pixel controllers and wifi setups that as a whole, everything is a lot for a new person to grasp.
    Quote Originally Posted by P. Short View Post
    I'm taking it for granted that there are fewer and fewer people in this hobby that like to pick up and use a soldering iron, and most people are using pre-built hardware.

    It's just that the cost of entry is so much higher than it was 15 years ago (and I'm not talking about money). I'm talking about time both time to learn and figure things out, and also the really high expectations for size and complexity of the show.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Complexity

    "You can see by my outfit, that I am a cowboy...
    See by his outfit, he's a cowboy, too...
    You can see by our outfits, that we are both cowboys...
    Get yourself an outfit and be a cowboy too!"


    This is what the hobby has become. And nobody's to blame, really. It's human nature to like something someone else has done and then want to emulate it. The desire to make a light show has spawned many companies to "make it easier" for people to participate in the activity. The Free Enterprise System! Boscoyo, Holiday Coro, and others came up with good ideas for display elements and found ways to make it easier for people to put some dazzle in a display; other ,companies have provided the nuts-and-bolts products that enable/require the end user to have a larger DIY responsibility and those companies (such as my own DIGWDF) either have or are finding it hard to justify staying in business because people don't want to "work" at anything -- they don't want to have to "make" something when they can just "buy" it. We're living in a world of instant gratification now. 3G, 4G, 5G and now 6G phones with unlimited data plans... and while you're at it, be sure to get the temple adapter so you can mount your phone right onto your head, thus freeing-up your hands for two more phones so you can be your own network... People don't use phones to talk to each other anymore -- conversation takes too much time -- so we text, using phonetic spellings of words to save even more time...

    We've gone crazy.

    Now that we have the ability to control the color, hue and intensity of a single bulb, we hunger at the ability to do just that without any concern for the application of art into the process. People think that the ability to have total control of each bulb is the end result and the more bulbs the better...


    "My show's better than your show,
    My show's better than yours...
    My show's bigger than, I've got way more lights,
    My show's better than yours."


    The software tools to accomplish these extreme feats of ultimate light control are marvels of their own. Incredibly complex pieces of software that essentially just turn lights on and off. What used to be a simple bank of 8 mechanical relays controlled from the parallel port of a low-powered computer has morphed into lightning-quick simultaneous switching of tens of thousands of electronic relays running on a gigabit network and requiring careful (and often extremely expensive) electrical power planning and wiring. Yes, the desire to have the biggest, baddest, brightest, most obnoxious, in-your-face light display in the neighborhood is what we want! We don't want to entertain people, no -- we want to knock their socks off and broadcast to the world, "LOOK AT ME! I'VE GOT A LIGHT SHOW! I'M SOMEBODY!!!"

    We've gone crazy.


    Gilbert & Sullivan said it this way:

    "In short, whoever you may be,
    To this conclusion you'll agree,
    When everyone is somebody
    Then no one's anybody."

    http://digwdf.org/store/
    Even though the DIGWDF Store has been closed for two years, it's still awesome!
    User guides, documentation and other files are still free and available for downloading.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Complexity

    I still enjoy shows that use their props sparingly to tell a story.
    Those that have a few custom DIY props and use them in unique ways to bring out emotion.
    All the blinky flashy all at once gets boring pretty quick.
    I still go back to something like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3lVVIknzLWY
    John did that 6 years ago with HLS, so everything would have been very tediously mapped out.
    Haven't seen anything from him in years....
    Phil

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Complexity

    Leave it to Dirk to sum it all up.
    My take is this - in the beginning, if one wanted a show on the cheap, (you found DIYC) you built your own controllers, used someone's software (mostly Vixen), and bought lights at Wally World, or in a group buy. The controllers were pretty straighforward to build, and Vixen easy (in comparison) to learn. IMO, jumping in today is much more complex. For most, the tech is so complex today, that building your own controller is a non-starter. While Pixels come in many different flavors, they are basicaly the same guts, but of course there is the 5V vs 12V arguement, power injection to consider, etc.. The software developers (bless their hearts) have that 'bigger, better, faster, more features' mentality that can be pretty daunting to a newbie, let alone us old farts. I'm glad I started when I did. Unfortunately, as Dirk pointed out, for the most part, there is not nearly the creativity in the shows that there once was, due to the built in features of the current software.
    Last edited by rstehle; 06-07-2021 at 06:17 PM.

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