1. New to Christmas lighting? Get started with the AusChristmasLighting 101 Manual:
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Another Melbournian

Discussion in 'New Members Say Hello' started by Eizziljam, Jul 22, 2019.

  1. Eizziljam

    Eizziljam New Elf

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    Hi All,
    I've been a member of this site for a few years, I've talked about creating a display for ages but never done anything about it.
    I've read the manual but it overwhelms me - I struggle to understand all the stuff about amps and volts and watts from reading in. Luckily I have a friend who is a lighting designer but she is quite often on tour, currently working with Circus Oz, we had planned to do this together but she never knows when she will be in Melbourne so I decided to take it upon myself to learn. I had signed up to come to the Melbourne Mini but I was sick - it happened last year too!
    I've watched lots of the youtube videos of mini sessions but I need some more support on where to start.
    Does anyone have any handy hints on where to start? Should i learn about electricity first? Should i decide what I want and plan it out then figure out what I need to build it?
    I'm on the xlights fb page too and read lots of that stuff... I'm pretty tech savvy, and i'm a quick learner but I think I just need a kick start!
    Open for any help, suggestions, hints, links etc that anyone can offer!!
     
  2. AAH

    AAH I love blinky lights :) Community Project Designer

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    Welcome even though you've been here a few years.
    Decide on a simple prop and then grab the lights that you need just to make that. Make it and then work out the control of it. If it's a pixel prop then initially you can control it with a pixel tester then change over to a proper pixel controller.
    Ask questions in chat. Generally get a nice quick reply and you won't get the noob bashing that will quite often occur on FB.

    Try to find someone local who you can talk to in person and have a look at how things go together.
     
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  3. djgra79

    djgra79 My name is Graham & I love flashing lights! Generous Elf

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    Welcome to ACL :)
    Do you hve any lights at all currently or looking to start completely new? Depending on what you may have already you might be able to start there and get control of those. Otherwise pixels is the norm for most people. Perhaps share a picture of your house/lawn and pick a couple of items you'd like to do (for example, arches, window/roof outline, spinners, mini or megatree) and together we can help you in the process of what gear is required.Plenty of videos of inspiration here too.
     
  4. OP
    OP
    Eizziljam

    Eizziljam New Elf

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    I've got normal fairy lights and a couple of inflatables - nothing too special! A pretty boring static display - we have just recently finished a retaining wall of our front lawn so have a lot of potential and a lot of room in the front yard. I'm just thinking I'm starting from scratch. -
    I'll take a good photo tomorrow in the light!!
    Definitely keen for arches and roof outline - would love a mega tree - but i feel like that might be a bit ambitious for now.
    i do have some cool christmas tree wire things I got from bunnings a few years ago that would look cool with pixels on it!
     
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  5. battle79

    battle79 Full Time Elf Generous Elf

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    Location:
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    Welcome,

    Their are quite a few members that are scattered around Melbourne. If you looking to see someone's setup, just start looking in the display location section and then message people to see if they are able to help you out. Myself, I am in Chirnside Park if your local to the area. While talking of location, maybe set your own up, even a rough suburb pin is enough to help people when looking at possibilities for buying/selling/helping with physical setup.

    As far as initial setup, you need only a few items to start playing.
    1) A power supply - either 12V or 5V to match the pixels you buy
    2) Pixels - Again 5V or 12V - I'll explain difference later.
    3) Controller - Plugs into network (router) like a PC would, and outputs pixel data to lights
    4) Sequencing software installed on a PC - Either xLights or Vixen3. Other choices exist, but I wouldn't bother myself.
    5) Optional - Various pixel pigtails (connectors), weatherproof boxes, cable glands, power injection T's, ETC.

    Power supply, Pixels, and connectors all can be bought from Ray Wu, Ben Brown, Hanson Electronics, or various other vendors. Stay away from the American vendors as an Australian as you'll pay through the nose for shipping, and they all come from china first anyway.

    Controllers can be bought from various vendors, but I'd personally suggest a Falcon controller or Advatek.

    5V or 12V -
    5V is more energy efficient but you will need to power inject every 50 pixels or so.
    12V uses more power as it wastes some dropping it back down at each pixel, but you can run 100 or more before having to inject power.
    To inject power you just run another 12V and Neutral cable from the power supply to the pixels directly to pixel 50.

    Hope that helps,
    Rowan
     
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  6. OP
    OP
    Eizziljam

    Eizziljam New Elf

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    Amazing! Thanks!
    I've added my location I think - I'm in ferntree gully! Not that far from chirnside park!
    Thanks for the help - so would you say 12v is less fiddly and more worth it?
     
  7. djgra79

    djgra79 My name is Graham & I love flashing lights! Generous Elf

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    5v vs 12v is a constant discussion much like Ford Vs Holden, Apple Vs Andriod etc etc.
    Both have pros and cons.
    My 2c on the topic: 12v you can usually have more pixels before power injection is required, but generally the power supplies can only drive less number of pixels.
    On the flip side, 5v as battle79 mentioned above is a bit more energy efficient, but you will mostly likely end up with more power injection points/cables, but possibly less power supply units.
    Most of my display was 12v but I'm starting to convert to 5v.
     
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  8. roy

    roy the confused elf

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    Welcome, I too am new this year... I recon there are a few key things to think about before embarking...
    How much do you want to spend, it can be expensive, do a budget as it is a key factor in the layout of the house
    Before turning a light on you will need ;
    - A pixel controller (most go for falcon and best for support on this site)
    - A PSU power supply.. people get caught up on Volts but all I will say is both work, one can send power further (less injection) and no real price difference.. for ease go for the 12v
    - Some wire (18awg)
    - A computer and potentially a raspberry if you wish to play your sequences on something other than you PC (if you use your PC for other things in evening you may not want to tie it up)
    - Pixels, check out ray wu site to get a feel for ws2811 pixel prices
    - Soldering iron is a must as is cable strippers
    - FM transmitter (if you want to broadcast you music) and speaker for garden.

    then its down to what you want the house to look like, from boyosco type cutouts, to leaping arches to trees and a megatree.

    Its a lot of fun, highly addictive and a very supportive group... always someone on chat who is there to help.

    I did think recently the beginners manual should be titled.. what to do with $3000.00 and 300 hours to spare ... Doesn't have to be that much but it is addictive and adds up :)
     
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  9. bpratt

    bpratt Apprentice Elf

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    Once you decide on 12v or 5v for how you are going to power your pixels, for your first year, particulary if you already have plenty of Bunnings/BigW lights, just run your new pixel lights through a pixel tester.

    Your first year does not have to become the world's greatest light display. :)

    This means you don't need to learn how to use xlights/vixen straight away, it also means you don't have to buy a Falcon F16 <insert other brand/models of other controllers> right away.

    You can still buy all the props that you like, and get the guts of your display up and running.

    Likewise, you don't need to rush out and buy a FM transmitter or speakers out in your yard for this year.


    This is my first year with pixels, so I've got a stack of dumb led's here, and have been thinking of doing what I suggested above this year, although I will have a F16 to use on my display.

    It's up to you what you end up doing in your first year, but what you do this year will give you a big step up for next year though. :)
     
  10. OP
    OP
    Eizziljam

    Eizziljam New Elf

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    This is my front yard - excuse the lack of mowing! Its been too wet!
    What do you guys suggest
     
  11. abundy

    abundy Apprentice Elf

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    Mow the lawn!
    But you have a great site there as you can use the slope to tier stuff. There are no trees to get in the way as well.
    Arch's along the higher retaining wall. Mega tree in left corner. Depends how much you wish to invest.
    Build it up gradually each year.
    Just pick your voltage and your protocol and stick with it as best you can.
    Good luck.
     
  12. OP
    OP
    Eizziljam

    Eizziljam New Elf

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    The lawn will be mowed as soon as it stops raining long enough not to bog the mower!
    I know right.... perfect yard for a display! I’m thinking mini arches, mini trees and strip along the house line to start....
     
  13. AAH

    AAH I love blinky lights :) Community Project Designer

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    I'd go with pixels along the roof and house border and probably the windows as well. There's good symmetry there and it's easy to implement. An most importantly it's not dependent on the lawn being mown.
     
  14. OP
    OP
    Eizziljam

    Eizziljam New Elf

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    Might be a silly question - but what is the best option for pixels on the roofline etc?
     
  15. AAH

    AAH I love blinky lights :) Community Project Designer

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    For straight lines like that personally I'd go with pixel strip mounted onto conduit. As long as you aren't flexing and cracking the joints on the pixel strip it works brilliantly and it's a lot less work than nodes.
     

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