I thought I was a human being of average intelligence...

Discussion in 'RGB Lights - Intelligent Pixels and 3-Channel RGB' started by Slite, Jan 6, 2012.

  1. Slite

    Slite Full Time Elf

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    Obviously i was wrong :)

    I usually have no problem understanding technical stuff, but I must confess that Christmas lights has me wanting to curl up in a fetal position, put my thumb in my mouth and cry myself to sleep. :)

    Basicly what I want to do is this.... Have my PC control through sequencing software (I've downloaded and installed Vixen and see no problems with that) whatever I wish to throw at it: standard LED strings, LED Modules, LED strips and any combination of RGB stuff I can dream of.

    I want something "small" at first so I can test stuff out, but I want to be able to expand that in an easy way by just "throwing" new hardware modules at it.

    It's an extra added bonus if it doesnt cost me an arm and a leg either initially or to expand the system :)

    I checked out all of FastFreddy's posts and also looked at Davids videos, but I'm still a bit confused as to the simple easy question:

    "What EXACTLY do I need to purchase to start tinkering with this stuff" :)

    Also, a bonusquestion... is there any software that can be used to DESIGN the displays themselves? Not the sequeinceing, but the actual design, as in, I want this there, that there, and those will do this yadda yadda yadda...

    Hope I'm making sense here :)
     
  2. David_AVD

    David_AVD Good news, everyone!

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    OK, first of all you need to get the data out of the PC. We'll start simple and assume that the controllers will all have DMX input.

    Option 1 is to use a USB - DMX dongle (~ $90). This will get you one universe (512 channels) worth of DMX that you can send to one or more controllers.

    Option 2 is an Ethernet to DMX interface (~ $190). This will get you four universes (2048 channels) worth of DMX that you can send to lots of controllers. (spread over 4 physical DMX outputs)

    Now, you can use whatever AC or DC controllers you want as long as they support DMX input. You can have lots of controllers all fed from the same DMX output, but responding to different channel data.

    We'll stop there for a moment. OK so far?
     
  3. wjohn

    wjohn Apprentice Elf

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    I feel you pain....


    It was Boxing Day 2004 when I tripped into a site , computerchristmas.com. I saw posts about a board and a man called Olsen, things called SSRs, and I was hooked.


    Depending on how melancholy you want to be, thing were easier back then. Unless you were on of the brave who hand wired a Olsen based controller before the first group buy PCB arrived.


    Light choices, in the USA, were easy back in 2004. You had 100ct 120V strands, and you bought as many as you could find. Color was about the only option.


    Now in 2012, we have enormous choices. Vixen is still free, and used by 1000s of people around the world. Board designs have progressed and light choices has multiplied.


    String based lights are still going to remain the majority of many Xmas light shows, they are simple to control and display.


    Depending on your location, the first choice is AC strings (USA), or DC strings (AUS), then the type of controller. As david suggests, DMX is one option, the other option is serial connected boards such as the RENARD 64. Serial connected controllers have a lower entry price into DIYC as most PCs have a Serial Port, negating the need to buy a DMX dongle and Controller.


    Leave the RGB stuff till you have some time working with strings, controllers and sequencing. RGB options are many and varied. You could get into Pixels, Strips, or Floods in the first year, but it is a lot to learn and absorb. Keep it fun, Xmas is ere soon enough!


    Preview functions in the sequencing software such as Vixen help, and I still use a White board to help me design my layout.
     
  4. Bird

    Bird Proud LOR user

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    You may be of high intelligence but that don't mean you can pick up a new hobby quickly.|

    Don't be frustrated, it does take time to learn anything new, including making simple lights turn on and off at your command. :)

    This is was my 2nd year at blinking lights, and 1st year at RGB. I thought I was going to have a brain burn out with 2010 with one 16 channel controller. Couldn't figure out why I was not able to learn all I need to know in the first couple of hours after my package arrived from LOR.
    This year I was an expert in blinking lights so I bought 2 LOR RGB CCR's. After a week I was ready to scream.
    However, the blinking season was started on time and ran flawlessly the entire time.

    Bottom line, relax, step back, take a deep breath and start pulling your hair out. LOL
    I have been on this site about 2 months and still have not made up my mind what I want to do about DC lights. Which controllers, which RGB's, which display pieces, etc.

    As far as I am concerned, you have the best RGB people right here to help you out with DIY or ready to go setups.
     
  5. Bird

    Bird Proud LOR user

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    That is an excellent start-up question. To create your design is the very first thing you should do. You can not make an intelligent decision on hardware to control the lights until you know what elements you want to control and where the elements will be located.

    The first year I used the good old pencil and paper. Drew a rough sketch of the house and went from there.

    Now I put a photo of the front yard/house into the LOR software and design things in the software. This design is easy to change and can be used to program the lights also.
     
  6. Beacy

    Beacy It's so much better on the dark side

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    Welcome to the world of Christmas lights, remember that foetal you will find yourself in again in the future especially in early Dec when after 12 months of work you plug things in & it dont work for some simple little issue that you missed along the way we all do it.


    There is no software that will set up your yard for you, sorry that would make it boring.


    You already have Vixen which is one option, the only difficulty is that when you start cranking up the channel count which is easily done with pixels it is a pain to work worth when sequencing. Although V3 is coming at some stage personally I dont care how good it is I'm not risking it on Dec 1, someone else can sort out the bugs.


    Other option is Light Show pro, which is on special till the end of the month, there are those that have had problems with it but personally I love it and the main bug was fixed last year.


    The other option is LOR it does have limitations due to the requirement to use their hardware or mess with adaptors.


    Really that is your 1st step once you have set up the software start sequencing a song and you'll soon see what elements you need to pucrhase to fill the gaps


    The other option is
     
  7. lithgowlights

    lithgowlights Senior Elf

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    And I remember you from back then too John, but I started late 2005, but nid not do a show until 2007. Ahh Peter Olsen is such a nice guy - I still have a couple of elements from his show in mine today :)
     
  8. TimW

    TimW Full Time Elf

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    Not so sure about the serial port! (ah the nostalgia, John!) - but you can get cheap usb-serial port convertors that make these DIY controllers accessible.
    The lower entry price of DIY gear is also because its DIY. There has been a trend in the last couple of years to bypass that and buy controller elements, premade , preassembled boards etc. There are a lot of different definitions of 'DIY' around - pick the level you feel most comfortable with and go with it. You will pay more to get the prebuilt stuff (and I guess you should!)
    Have fun... and most of all be safe with the electrickery and heights that often accompany this hobby!
     
  9. tuppet

    tuppet Apprentice Elf

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    Step 1. Look up your nearest Mini. If you can make it (they are usually run mid year), register your interest - the easiest way to learn what the crazy lights people do is to ask them in person. There are also software and hardware demonstrations to avoid this kind of mental implosion closer to Christmas.

    Step 2. Select a system: Light-o-Rama (LOR) or DMX.
    If you're looking at FastEddy and DavidAVD's posts, then you're probably leaning towards DMX, which is the more diy option. Both allow you to add modules to expand your channel count, although both also have maximum channel counts (which can be dealt with later if needed).

    Step 3. Select software: LOR, LSP or Vixen
    Both LOR and LSP (lightShowPro) software suites allow you to both design/preview your display (draw some shapes and basic light layouts on top of an imported photo/drawing of your house) and sequence the show once you have a plan. Both are reasonably reliable, and both can deal with rgb. Vixen is also reliable, but is less intuitively RGB ready and doesn't have a show designer. If you stick with Vixen, the easiest thing is to print out a picture of your house and draw how you would like it to look, and then work out what lights you need to achieve that. We go thorugh a couple of these drawings each year as we modify our wishes to work within the actual timeframe.

    Step 4. Select Hardware
    You have a design after step 3, so you can have a guess at the number of channels (things turning on and off seperately) you want. Some people have thousands, others start with 16 and still make a fun show, it all depends on what you want to try out. This is where you start looking at pixels/rgb etc. Having a great show which is smaller than you dreamed of is sometimes more satisfying than having lots of stuff stressing you out because it doesn't all work first try and you don't have time left to fix it or get it looking 'right'.
    To run a show you need something coming out of your computer (dongle of some kind) and a cable connecting it to a controller of some kind which wires out to your lights. There are many ways of doing this, but that is at the core of all of them.


    The easiest way to destroy your brain and self confidence all at once is to jump to step 4. There is a whole year ahead of you, pace yourself!
     
  10. wjohn

    wjohn Apprentice Elf

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    Yes, that may be true! USB to Serial adaptors are available on eBait for sub $10, and a Desktop PC from a few years ago (with a serial port) has more than enough grunt to run Vixen sequences of 1000s of channels.


    Serial connected controllers are often discounted with the rush to pre-made controllers. Helix and Renard controllers number in the thousands and can easily control AC or DC loads.
     
  11. OP
    OP
    Slite

    Slite Full Time Elf

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    Thanks for all your tips, and yes, it does start to make a little more sense...

    So, lets say I wish to buy a "starter" kit, DMX seems like the best choice for me. What would you recommend that I got? Remember, I want to be able to axpand i easily.
     
  12. David_AVD

    David_AVD Good news, everyone!

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    Do you have any existing lights that you want to start with? If so, what type are they?
     
  13. OP
    OP
    Slite

    Slite Full Time Elf

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    At the moment I have nothing but regular 12 and 24 LED strings, and some 220V Ropelight. But the ropelight is most likely to be scrapped.
     
  14. David_AVD

    David_AVD Good news, everyone!

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    A USB-DMX dongle and DMX DC controller would probably be one of the easiest starting points.
     
  15. Beacy

    Beacy It's so much better on the dark side

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    I'm a big fan of David's AVD 48's used 8 of them this year as I had to replace some old boards half way through Dec (not AVD 48's) had them delivered overnight. Plus they offer far more channels for your$ than the LOR stuf
     

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