First year show - Struggling to build a shopping cart

Joshaaye

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Nov 1, 2020
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Hervey Bay
So it's been a while since I posted in here, and I know being the middle of July, I'm already leaving it pretty late, especially considering the impacts COVID is still having.
Tax return came back and the wife is happy for me to spend about $1,100 to get my first show up and running. (That's $1,100 before trips to Jaycar & Bunnings etc. for conduit, wire, heat shrink etc. - Expecting a few hundred dollars extra to be spent on everything to piece my show together.)

However, the $1,100 I need to stretch to get all my lights, Mounting strips, PSU/s, Controller and whatever else I need.

As my original display idea stands (pictured below). I'm realising my "Simple" display, is probably going to cost me A LOT more than I was hoping/planning.

So if I cull:
-Mega Tree + Star
- 4x Mini Trees
That's going to essentially reduce the pixel count by 50% and a lot less mounting strips.
1626510070716.png

Where I'm really struggling is just knowing the who/what/when/where to buy from. Unlike PC components, where I know the best brands, I know where I can save money without compromising too much etc. I am VERY much clueless with this.

What I'm wanting to know from you guys please, is what you would do if you were me and had my budget to get your first show up and running.

The Numbers:
Budget: Aprox $1,100AUD

Pixels required:
- Roof Outline - 742 @ 2" Spacing
- Windows & Garage Outline - 522 @ 2" Spacing
- Medium Arches & Singing Tree - 128 (4x Arch) + 252 (Singing Tree) = 380

= 1,644 Pixels


- I plan on running 12v Pixels
- Obviously I really want to support Aussie companies, but I get the feeling that may be a bit limited with my budget?
- I have a PC in the garage that will be running the show

I'm willing to accept any and all tips, advice, help & input. I'd reeeeallly like to try and accomplish at least everything (minus mega & mini trees) where possible.

Thanks in advance!
Ps. Thanks to the guys who have already begun helping in chat
Pps. Please keep responses in mind that I'm still trying to wrap my ahead around where I connect the flux capacitor
 

Notenoughlights

260,000+ twinkly lights
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Christchurch, New Zealand
This is what i've found to be the cheapest option for 1000 pixels, they have free shipping as well and it's fast if you don't want to wait.

As for consumables, heatshrink etc. I would suggest Alexpress, you will go through a lot if you make a lot of joins, I often purchase 50m rolls and they last me easily a year. Purchasing that much from Jaycar would probably cost you the same as the pixels. I would also suggest glued heatshrink to keep water out, suggested link: https://www.aliexpress.com/item/32859645890.html?spm=a2g0s.9042311.0.0.27424c4dRMvqeW

Optional extra for ease of putting up and taking down lights are pigtails for plugging props together, if you're planning to keep things standard, you can keep with the options that the suppliers of pixels offer(Sorry I don't have any links to these as I've struggled to find options that don't cost twice the price in shipping), othewise I've found some fairly robust small 3 pin waterproof pigtail connectors: https://www.aliexpress.com/item/4000002130043.html?spm=a2g0s.9042311.0.0.27424c4dSMYaIz
 

Joshaaye

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Nov 1, 2020
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43
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Hervey Bay
Cheers @Notenoughlights I really appreciate it. Luckily that exact 1000 pixel pack is what I have bookmarked. So I'm thinking 2 of them.

And great point about the heatshrink. Better to have it and not need it, than spend far too much money for way less at Jaycar :p
 

i13

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Jul 5, 2013
Messages
1,049
The reason that those pixels are cheap might be because they are resistor pixels. This thread explains the difference: https://auschristmaslighting.com/threads/12161/

The 18 AWG wire is nice to have between the pixels. You can ask for custom (in this case shorter) spacing which will reduce the voltage drop even further. It is important to have some headroom because suppliers are not always precise with this measurement.

If I wanted to make that display, I would use:
 

Joshaaye

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Hervey Bay
Thanks for the great info @i13 I think going with the HE123mk2 is probably going to be my best option for now to help save some $$ but still get a decent controller.
 

Joshaaye

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Nov 1, 2020
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Location
Hervey Bay
Shopping list so far: (Not complete but getting there)

- 20m of heat shrink $25? : https://www.aliexpress.com/item/32859645890.html?spm=a2g0s.9042311.0.0.27424c4dRMvqeW
- Pixel testing controller $3.50 : https://www.aliexpress.com/item/32261108366.html
- 2x 50m mounting strips (about 25m more than I need) $111 : https://www.aliexpress.com/item/400....store_pc_groupList.8148356.30.ad563c0a0kbNXd
- Controller HE213mk2 $120 : http://www.hansonelectronics.com.au/product/he123mk2/
- Pixels 2x 1,000 $670: https://www.lightitupleds-xmas.com....ect-1000/53?cp=true&sa=true&sbp=false&q=false
- Power Supply $36.10 - Help me please I have no idea about these: https://www.aliexpress.com/item/324...store_pc_allProduct.8148356.11.25bb66fb1ojDMh
- FM Transmitter $10.95: https://www.ebay.com.au/itm/192164502957?hash=item2cbde59dad:g:gE8AAOSwYl5fWz80
$95.73: https://www.ebay.com.au/itm/373617574882?hash=item56fd57c3e2:g:yQQAAOSwnSBekIoc
- Singing Tree $75: https://www.extremelightingdisplays.com.au/shop/christmas/singing-elements/chromacharacters/

Running total so far (Shipping not calculated): $1,051.55

I know I need heaps of pigtails, but no idea what to get or where to get them.
What else do I HAVE TO GET?
 

i13

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Messages
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I see a couple of things worth mentioning:
  • The HE213mk2 requires a BeagleBone. It can't be used without one. You'll need to install Falcon Player (free software) on the BeagleBone.
  • The $95.73 FM transmitter is at least 10 times more powerful than you'll need. I can't speak for the cheaper one but at that price it isn't too much of a loss if you don't like it. EDM seems to be a popular choice but that might need to be a future upgrade due to the price point: https://www.edmdesign.com
  • The power supply in that listing is not likely to be a genuine Mean Well although it'll still work.
A problem that needs more explaining is that a 350 watt power supply probably won't be enough to power that many pixels. The listing for the pixels has a wrong current of 66mA so I'll need to use some ballpark figures for this explanation.
Current per pixel at 100% brightness white: 0.0555A. This is likely to be an overestimation but it is better to be safe than sorry unless you can experimentally measure it.
Voltage: 12V
Number of pixels: 742+522=1264
Total current: 1264×0.0555=70.152A
Total wattage: 70.152×12=841.824W

You might decide to lower the brightness of the pixels to reduce the total wattage. It is not wrong to do this but be aware that you're relying on data to limit the current. The current won't stay limited if the data goes corrupt and the pixels flicker. Fusing is a good idea if you do it this way but be prepared to blow a few fuses here and there. Choosing 5V pixels is another way to lower the total wattage and this does not result in reduced brightness. The tradeoff is that 5V pixels require more power injection because they're more prone to voltage drop problems over distance. I personally think 12V makes sense for the roof outline for this reason but I suggest considering 5V on the future mega tree. Another option is to accept the higher wattage and get more power supplies and/or one with a higher wattage. If you can find them at a similar price and you plan to add to the display, I recommend the Mean Well RSP series over the LRS. The LRS has a low power factor which can trip your house's circuit breaker with a smaller load than it should. This is common in low-end power supplies in this hobby. I don't like the exposed 240V input terminals on both of these options but this is also common.

Edit: there is the HE123 as well: http://www.hansonelectronics.com.au/product/he123/
The Mk2 has a screen but I am not sure what other differences there are. I suspect that the screen shows the IP address which would be helpful plus maybe some other details.
 
Last edited:

Kotche

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Jan 14, 2019
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Hi @Joshaaye - I think we are both on similar starting points in this hobby, though it looks like you're planning to go bigger than I am at this stage.

At any rate, I started a thread a week or so back about some basics involving power injection. The resulting replies may be of some help to you, too, so check it out. And the thread has a cool handy-dandy diagram, to boot ;)

Also, I put through my first order just yesterday for some basics. I list out my shopping list here, including where I bought from. I can share actual links to each of the items I bought if that would also be helpful to you?
 

Joshaaye

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@i13 Thank you so much! These are the things I need to learn more about. Do you have any recommendations for a beagle bone?

I'm planning on running 30% brightness (which I think is the common trend as well?)
So if I'm following what you've said in the calculations correctly, technically 350w "should" be enough, 824w - 70% = 247.2w @ 30%? so if I grab a 2nd 350w that should be more than enough and if one fails, I (should?) be able to make do with 1 if worst comes to worse.



@Kotche oh wow thank you. I'll definitely check those out. It would be fantastic if you could share links etc. please. It's always good to hear from other people who are in the same position or who have just made it through where I'm at.
 

Kotche

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Here you go:
All but the controller I sourced from Aussie site Light It Up LEDs, partly because when ordering similar via Aliexpress the shipping costs were astronomical for the relatively small order I wanted, and Light It Up have zero postage for orders over AUD$99. I still need a whole bunch of smaller components (ie. crimping ferrules and connectors, heatshrink tubes, a decent solder station and a few more smaller tools), so I've still another ~$300 of expenditure to come.

Unlike yourself, I currently don't have any show components in mind. I wanted the above so that I would have enough to play around with and to help me learn some of the basics - but I also wanted what I have to be expandable for future. For this year, I will probably experiment with replacing the dumb rope lights on an existing motif with the pixels and incorporate it into my existing dumb light display.
 

Joshaaye

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Thank you. This is perfect. What coat are you roughly up to so far, before your next $300?

Also, what is the Mini blade fuse inline holder for? I haven't heard of them yet.

And yeah, I think I'll end up getting as much from Aussie suppliers as possible just due to that postage charge probably going to make the costs much worse and probably on par with the Aussies anyway.

I'm expecting another 300-500 worth of little bits and pieces, trips to bunnings etc. but easier to get the wife to agree to about $1,000 outlay for the bulk of things and then just grab a few more things each week as I need them.
 

Kotche

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That order came to about AUD$750, the costliest items being the controller, power supply, and the five pixel strings.

The in-line fuse holders are for power injection lines. You'll see it depicted in my diagram on the other thread I linked. It's there to safeguard frying the power unit and/or controller and so, given the expense of each, the fuse holder is cheap insurance.
 

i13

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Jul 5, 2013
Messages
1,049
@i13 Do you have any recommendations for a beagle bone?
The BeagleBone is not specific to the lighting hobby so it is just a matter of finding the best price for the same item. Hanson Electronics is an example of a supplier who sells them:

I would recommend having a second power supply as I have had them fail, albeit rarely. Having multile power supplies can also help when your pixels are spread over a large area. Voltage drop happens over distance. One way to mitigate this is to have multiple power supplies spread out around the display. You can either have multiple power supplies spread around the display, all power supplies in a central location or a combination of the two. It is a matter of personal preference. Downsides of spreading out the power supplies include requiring more 240V cables and more weatherproof enclosures.

I run my pixels at 100% brightness but this seems to have gone out of fashion in the last couple of years.
 

Joshaaye

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That order came to about AUD$750, the costliest items being the controller, power supply, and the five pixel strings.

The in-line fuse holders are for power injection lines. You'll see it depicted in my diagram on the other thread I linked. It's there to safeguard frying the power unit and/or controller and so, given the expense of each, the fuse holder is cheap insurance.

Oh okay, sweet as. Thats not too bad overall.

Ah yep, thought so. Haven't had a chance to go through the thread properly but did watch a video earlier and thought so, it was just referred to as a slightly different name
 

Joshaaye

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Hervey Bay
The BeagleBone is not specific to the lighting hobby so it is just a matter of finding the best price for the same item. Hanson Electronics is an example of a supplier who sells them:

I would recommend having a second power supply as I have had them fail, albeit rarely. Having multile power supplies can also help when your pixels are spread over a large area. Voltage drop happens over distance. One way to mitigate this is to have multiple power supplies spread out around the display. You can either have multiple power supplies spread around the display, all power supplies in a central location or a combination of the two. It is a matter of personal preference. Downsides of spreading out the power supplies include requiring more 240V cables and more weatherproof enclosures.

I run my pixels at 100% brightness but this seems to have gone out of fashion in the last couple of years.

Yeah 2 power supplies certainly does make sense. And so with the BeagleBone, when all costs are considered, it's not really too much extra to go up to a F16v4 controller.So it's got me thinking maybe I should just spend the big extra?
 
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