Looking for major advice for a MAJOR show

johnson8ryley

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I promise if you take the time to read this, it will be worth reading.

Brief background about me and my situation. I've been programming my family's show since I was 13 years old using LOR software/box and I'm now 23. We upgraded our show over the years and the last show we did, we had four 16 channel LOR boxes and 3 DIY E1.31 pixel arches. However, my dad and I stopped doing the show about 2 years ago as college took most of my time and I didn't have time for sequencing. Thankfully I'm now close to graduating with a degree in electrical engineering but I have a giant show/opportunity that I need serious advice for:

Long story short I live in the U.S. and I crossed paths with a local Halloween pumpkin patch owner. The pumpkin patch brings in $5-$6 million in revenue a year so needless to say, you can imagine how big the farm is, the amount of haunted houses, etc. The owner and I met through a friend and he immediately proposed an offer he had on his mind for years. He'd like me help to modernize his family farm/business and make it into an animated halloween pumpkin patch in October AND also a winter wonderland around Christmas. I'm sure most of you know what a winter wonderland park is like, but here's a good example of one with animated lights and activities in Arizona:
View: https://www.facebook.com/SchnepfChristmas/videos/994087130964716/?v=994087130964716

View: https://www.facebook.com/SchnepfChristmas/videos/832032363921660/


This farm is a massive 180 acre farm and the son of the original owner believes the future of pumpkin patches aren't just halloween patches. Most of them are turning their parks into a winter wonderlands with animated lights to music, mini trains that drive under archways, trees lit up as far as the eye can see.

This is where I REALLY need you beautiful Aussies help. Money is not an issue for this family/farm. My concern here is all technicalities and keeping this mildly affordable.

1) Software Choice I'm very familiar with LOR and I know the prices are $$$$, but it's a small price to pay if I'm comfortable with it. I understand xLights is free, but it seems slightly more complicated and I love how easy LOR is, but I NEED an easy solution to program RGB trees and pixel strips. Thoughts on sticking with LOR vs xLights4? I also think going with LOR boxes and software would be a much better commercial solution. But I need advice here on possibly having an entire show over 180 acres and what's my best bet. (Possibly use LOR as main software but design RGB devices in xLights 4 and export to LOR?)

2) Communication Protocols: based on some prior knowledge, I know that an E1.31 network can become sluggish if too many devices are connected to the show. I also have imagine that if we're running cat5/6 to the other side of the farm, there's going to be some lag in the display compared to the music, yes? I know there will be lots of RGB devices incorporated in the farm like pixels, strips, floods, and archways over a train, etc. I also plan on keeping costs low by NOT buying Cosmic Color Ribbons from Light o Rama. Ray wu use to be a great DIY source for me. But I also plan on using regular channel LOR controllers as well. Long story short, should I stick with LOR channel boxes while incorporating DMX/E1.31 devices through the LOR network? Again, Ideally I would like to stick with LOR for controllers at least, but would DMX be better/faster than E1.31? (Keep in mind the owner may want to use this setup for Halloween as well to control smoke machines, moving animatronics, etc.)

3) Mega Pixel Trees/Decorations In General: One of the items that I know will cost a lot are the RGB pixel trees. Again, I'm trying to stay away from $600 prebuilt 12 pixel strip trees. I can setup the trees myself, wire them, etc but are there any recommendations out there for pixel trees that aren't $600+?

4) LOR Controller Speeds. I found a page detailing that some LOR boards have better connections speeds than others (which is news to me). Since I want to minimize lag as much as possible, is it recommended I go with a cheaper, already put together board like the CTB16PCg3 based off these results? http://www1.lightorama.com/network-speeds/

Guys any help to all those questions would be tremendously helpful. I know LOR software pretty well but E1.31 network is still relatively knew and the sequencing has come a LONG way since I last programmed. I really want to do this though for this local pumpkin patch. It's very famous locally, I'll have a degree soon in electrical engineering and a minor in business. I've considered starting a business of my own to setup, design, and program christmas lights shows for residential or commercial customers. This is something I could see potentially taking off for me if it works. But I need some serious advice about the bold items I listed above. Mainly so I can give the owner a ballback estimate of the costs but also so I can have a grasp on the whole situation.

P.S. I'm familiar with how to use J1sys controllers for RGB but if there are cheaper or better pixel controllers you guys recommend, please also let me know.
Also if there are other light recommendations or design recommendations, I'm open to looking into those as well!

You guys have always been the best on here so I appreciate any help in advance.
 
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keithsw1111

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LOR are great AC controllers but that is pretty much where it ends.

Many of the things you are talking about using are either dead or dying or have less helpful communities.

Try joining a Wednesday night xlights zoom call in the US (8pm eastern link on xLights page) or join the official xLights facebook group or look at shows like this View: https://youtu.be/BBzYQZUCwPI
(all done with xLights and Falcon controllers).

Also try watching some of the xEssentials videos on videos.xlights.org covering not just the software but a lot of the hardware as well. This is great if you learn better from videos rather than reading.
 

johnson8ryley

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LOR supports DMX and E1.31 though, yes? They also make DIY products and commercial products.
Xlights programing might be great, but LOR is very easy to use (for me personally) and their controllers are compatible with e1.31 and DMX so I don't see how LOR is "dying" or weak.

Falcon controllers are very limited but their software export to LOR seems intriguing and that's about it.

The information I'm talking about is going off the 3rd edition of the Aus Christmas Lights 3rd edition. I can't imagine what I'm reading in the tutorial is "dead information" when it was just released last year. I'm looking for hardware that is mostly put together besides RGB strips which I can do myself. I don't want to buy controllers like like xFalcon where they only have 1 pre built together controller for $120+ more than what LOR offers as their pre built controllers. LOR supports E1.31 and DMX perfectly fine. My only conditions were: their speeds, if DMX and E1.31 would reach across the farm without lagging, and some additional info on cheap tall pixel trees.
 
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Mark_M

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I don't see anything from xlights that offers put together controllers.
I don't want to buy controllers like like xFalcon.
We'll get one thing straight. XLights is separate to Falcon.
XLights is just the software, it can interface with many different controllers, even LOR.
Falcon's aren't the only controller, there are DIY options available. Some can use an Arduino, Raspberry pi or Begalbone.
Most of us use Falcon because they are quality made and have very good ease of use. XLights has an integration with Falcon, one click and all the setup is done.

For what you're doing you'll be wanting a commercial controller that handles a huge number of pixels.


but would DMX be better/faster than E1.31?
E1.31 is another name for 'Streaming ACN'. There is also artNET. These take many universes of DMX.
DMX by its self can only support 512 channels along an XLR connector ('standard' of 5pin but 3pin is more common). So, what happens when you need more than one universe?
Now I just need one ethernet cable coming out the back of the lighting console to splitter boxes in the rig. Some big boy moving head lights can take 'ethernet DMX' in. If each fixture takes 1 universe of DMX that would be a nightmare if each cable went back to the lighting console.
Thus a non-feedback 'communication bus' like system saves on many cables.

But you're not interested in theatre lighting,
But like huge lighting fixtures that can take a universe of DMX, pixel controllers have ethernet in for multiple universes.

In terms of your question; Yes, DMX alone is faster because you're only doing a maximum of 512 channels. It will still be faster than E.131/sACN and/or artNET. But you'll need a cable coming back to the player (computer/standalone player) for each DMX circuit of 512 channels. That's a cable per 170-pixel nodes/bulbs!!!
You'd still have delay taking the signal from the show player and converting to that many DMX circuits.

E1.31/sACN does more universes of DMX than artNET. E1.31/sACN does 63,999 and artNET does 32,768 universes max. E1.31 is most common for pixels.

For pixels this means we can run many thousands off a single ethernet cable.

Great for us, but it can be slow.
This is where you manage the number of universes each line takes. Like in electronics; have 1 fat cable for 10 amps of power can be achieved with many small cables.

This hobby has had Falcon player (Made by Falcon Christmas) create a 'master' for Raspberry Pi's. One show player 'master' Pi can tell each 'slave' Pi how far through the song they are, the 'slave' Pi then sends out the E1.31 data for the group of controllers it handles. Team work keeping the lights synchronised on time.
*Raspberry Pi FPP states may need clarification. I am not an expert on this topic

(Keep in mind the owner may want to use this setup for Halloween as well to control smoke machines, moving animatronics, etc.)
Remember what I said about theatre lighting fixtures hat can take ethernet DMX in? They can also spit out a universe of DMX via an XLR connector.
Guess what the Falcon controller (and many others) can do the same! It can pass through a DMX universe.


Aside from protocols:
Their programing might be great, but LOR is very easy to use and their controllers are compatiible with e1.31 and DMX so I don't see how LOR is "dying" or weak.
@keithsw1111 and others have seen people coming from LOR to XLights and pixels.
There are many reasons people have for this, it could be cost.
How do you jude 'dying'? The forum slowing down? Number of people using it?

XLights supports LOR, it allows people to transition from complete LOR based system to one open source with cross compatibility.

XLights is more designed for pixels. Yes, it's different, but you'll get over that.
@keithsw1111 is one of the developers of XLights, you can't get more damn support than a developer constantly available to help!
Even better is XLights have paid for Zoom! You can video conference with others and share screens. You can talk with a developer! Crazy support avliable.
All for being FREE!!!!!
If money isn't an issue, then you can give a massive thanks to XLights team for their work on the program by donating to continue the project! Reward them for their hardwork done in their spare time.


I don't want to buy controllers like like xFalcon where they only have 1 pre built together controller for $120+ more than what LOR offers as their pre built controllers.
Look at what the controller can offer you. Falcon F16v3 (for example) can handle 16,320 pixels. For $200 that is a bargain, but it’s just the board.
You can always buy another brand of a pre-made controller. The reason why Falcon only have 1 pre-built controller is because the F16 is really the only single controller board they sell. A modular F48 would be a pain to mass produce a finished product.
Or you could look around at other companies. @keithsw1111 has a video above from Pixel Pro Displays. Ask them to sort the whole display out.


At the end of this whole conversation:
If LOR supports what you need; you've found your solution. IS it the best? Nobody knows, you'll just hear their opinion.

WE can only give advice for what WE know. If it's too much, ask a company like PPD to sort the whole lot out. You've got an engineers brain, you should be able to select the correct system.
 

johnson8ryley

My idol is ɟɐsʇǝppʎ
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@Mark_M I just realized my mistakes I made about xlights 4 and falcon controllers in my last post which I just corrected. Apologies guys, I was up till 5am doing most of this research. I updated my second response to @keithsw1111 to hopefully clarify my stupidity a little bit. I'll read your message in next.

@keithsw1111 I am genuinely open to suggestions! I've looked into xLights since before I stopped doing my own personal show 3 years ago. I was looking into switching to them while I was still using LOR. I still continued reading more into them last night. I do genuinely like their software.

As for Falcon though, I see they offer a prebuilt pixel controller with 16 outputs for 1024 pixels per output which is great! But I also need regular AC controllers integrated into the show as well. I know the farm owner will not want everything on the farm to RGB and will want a ton of standard lights mixed in with some RGB pixels. While it might be nice to have a falcon controller, I can't forsee that being my only one. I'm thinking with how large the farm is, I think I will have mostly small pixel controllers scattered throughout the farm that cost way less. Something like a ECG-D4 offered from J1Sys which is much cheaper. That way I can daisy chain all over the farm as opposed to multiple F16V3 pixel controllers.

When you say "Many of the things you are talking about using are either dead or dying or have less helpful communities." which were you referring to? Like I'm genuinely curious and looking for help because I have been out of touch with the community for 3-4 years now.
 

Mark_M

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As for Falcon though, I see they offer a prebuilt pixel controller with 16 outputs for 1024 pixels per output which is great! But I also need regular AC controllers integrated into the show as well. I know the farm owner will not want everything on the farm to RGB and will want a ton of standard lights mixed in with some RGB pixels. While it might be nice to have a falcon controller, I can't forsee that being my only one. I'm thinking with how large the farm is, I think I will have mostly small pixel controllers scattered throughout the farm that cost way less. Something like a ECG-D4 offered from J1Sys which is much cheaper. That way I can daisy chain all over the farm as opposed to multiple F16V3 pixel controllers.
There you go,
Or a Cheap WiFi based ESP pixel sticks. Grab a few wireless access points and hope wireless won't let you down.
Otherwise you can get smaller ethernet cable controllers like the Falcon F4 or use a Raspberry Pi with a pixel cape.

I can't seem to find much infomation on the ECG-D4 to know.
 

djgra79

My name is Graham & I love flashing lights!
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Have you actually downloaded xlights or vixen software and had a play? Both are free so you have nothing to lose.
You will find MUCH more support online both on this site and facebook for xlights software vs LOR. Same goes for Falcon controllers, as they appear to be one of the best bang for buck controllers out there. Yes there are other options that *may* suit you better, you just need to do the research.
IMO, sounds like the falcon F48 might be the type of boards to go with, as you can place smaller receiver boards spread out via cat5/6 cables. They were designed for commercial applications for big field type displays.
 

Mark_M

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Have you actually downloaded xlights or vixen software and had a play? Both are free so you have nothing to lose.
You will find MUCH more support online both on this site and facebook for xlights software vs LOR. Same goes for Falcon controllers, as they appear to be one of the best bang for buck controllers out there. Yes there are other options that *may* suit you better, you just need to do the research.
IMO, sounds like the falcon F48 might be the type of boards to go with, as you can place smaller receiver boards spread out via cat5/6 cables. They were designed for commercial applications for big field type displays.
I have an F48 for my display, works great. If distance between the props is 246ft/75m to a centralized location, I would go for it.
 

franky_888

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As for Falcon though, I see they offer a prebuilt pixel controller with 16 outputs for 1024 pixels per output which is great! But I also need regular AC controllers integrated into the show as well. I know the farm owner will not want everything on the farm to RGB and will want a ton of standard lights mixed in with some RGB pixels. While it might be nice to have a falcon controller, I can't forsee that being my only one. I'm thinking with how large the farm is, I think I will have mostly small pixel controllers scattered throughout the farm that cost way less. Something like a ECG-D4 offered from J1Sys which is much cheaper. That way I can daisy chain all over the farm as opposed to multiple F16V3 pixel controllers.
As far as I know, the prebuilt controllers only have the pixel outputs pre-wired, but all of the F16/F48 boards have DMX/LOR out that you can tap into (you'd have to wire these in yourself however)

From PixelController.com
DMX/Renard/Pixelnet Outputs
4 - Dedicated RS-485 outputs. 3 RJ-45 connectors and 1 3-pin connector (Not shown on image).

The Falcon F4 is smaller and only has one LOR output, but remember that 1 DMX universe is 512 channels, an LOR AC controller is either 16/32 (I think??) channels, so this is still quite a few daisy chained LOR controllers (16 32 channel or 32 16 channel) you can hook up to even the smallest board.


There's also the Avatek company that do similar
PixLite 16 Mk2 Pixel Controller
Jumper links allowing selection between “LOR” and “ESTA” wiring on DMX outputs

Downside of a Pixlite is you need windows software to setup and manage the controllers, falcon board have a built in web interface. PixLites only have one network interface , so you will need a network switch in a central location. Falcons have 2 ethernet ports on them as well, so you can create a 'bus' of them around your property.

As far as the type of lights are concerned, if you want AC you're going to need your LOR AC boards. What everyone above is trying to explain to you is that, as far as the control aspect is concerned, you'd be better off investing your dollars in more modern equipment that is *also* capable of running more modern lights as well as your existing lights.

I often advocate for new members to not be pressured into 'just buying a falcon and move to 100% pixels', but we do see it time and again where people invest hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars into old technology and then decide to throw it over their shoulders only a couple of years later to move to 100% pixels.
 

johnson8ryley

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XLights is more designed for pixels. Yes, it's different, but you'll get over that.
@keithsw1111 is one of the developers of XLights
Of course I offended one of the main developers from xLights 4...smh I apologize for that.

This hobby has had Falcon player (Made by Falcon Christmas) create a 'master' for Raspberry Pi's. One show player 'master' Pi can tell each 'slave' Pi how far through the song they are, the 'slave' Pi then sends out the E1.31 data for the group of controllers it handles. Team work keeping the lights synchronised on time.
Mark I understand what you're saying here and this makes absolute sense. I figured there was no way I could have a bunch of pixel controllers throughout the farm all going back to the central computer, without there being significant lag. So essentially you have a computer running the show connected to a master Pi controller that tells every "slave" Pi controller what to do. This reduces lag because then you have all your sub pi controllers going back to a main unit. I understand this, but where do I find these "master" pi controllers vs "slave" pi controllers. I'm still thoroughly reading Falcon's website but what products/product numbers are the "master" controllers versus just "slave"


Or a Cheap WiFi based ESP pixel sticks. Grab a few wireless access points and hope wireless won't let you down.
Otherwise you can get smaller ethernet cable controllers like the Falcon F4 or use a Raspberry Pi with a pixel cape.

I can't seem to find much information on the ECG-D4 to know.
Wifi Pixel sticks interest me, but I foresee problems with it being a 180 acre farm with possibly 200 people with cellphones on the property at one time. I just fear network interference or lag if pixel signals are being sent over wifi over large distances. Also, ignore my ECG D4 comment as that controller is DMX only.
Basically I need to find a main master PI controller and then a ton of smaller slave pi controllers that connect to that master PI controller.

Sorry this is all very new to me. My show with 3 pixel strips were ran off 1 J1sys ECG-P2 controller and that was it. Connected directly to my house's internet and it was as easy as that.
 

Mark_M

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I'm still thoroughly reading Falcon's website but what products/product numbers are the "master" controllers versus just "slave"
Falcon don't sell raspberry Pi's. But they offer for free 'Falcon (pi) Player' also known as FPP.
It's downloaded via Github.

Edit:
Here's the link to FPP software/operating system for Raspberry Pi or BeagleBone: https://github.com/FalconChristmas/fpp/releases
 
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roy

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I think you need to download the software and try. The real concern here is that if all this is new to you, would you really have enough time to learn the tools, decide on the hardware, design the layout, write the show and build it this year, even if you dropped your last year of Uni and went at this pretty much full time.
 

johnson8ryley

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MO, sounds like the falcon F48 might be the type of boards to go with, as you can place smaller receiver boards spread out via cat5/6 cables. They were designed for commercial applications for big field type displays.
Perhaps a silly question but what is the difference between going with an F48 versus an F16v3? It seems both have the ability to be a central main unit. The F48 seems pretty straight forward in terms of running cat 5 from each output on the board to smaller F4 boards throughout the farm while also allowing me to connect LOR AC controllers.

The F16v3 looks to also handle 48 universes but does so by directly connecting the pixels to the board itself while also needing power injection. Am I missing something here? It seems like going with an F48 as the main unit and running cat5 to all the receiver units would be the way to go, yes?

I think you need to download the software and try. The real concern here is that if all this is new to you, would you really have enough time to learn the tools, decide on the hardware, design the layout, write the show and build it this year, even if you dropped your last year of Uni and went at this pretty much full time.
I have xlights downloaded but have not played around with it much. If what @Mark_M said is true, it's not necessarily a big change, it's just a different software to get familiar with. There are plenty of resources out there if I get stuck using xlights and I'm confident if I was able to pickup LOR showtime editor when I was 13, I can learn xlights no problem. My concern mainly here is obviously the layout and equipment needed as it has changed entirely from what it was 3-4 years ago.
 

Mark_M

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Perhaps a silly question but what is the difference between going with an F48 versus an F16v3? It seems both have the ability to be a central main unit. The F48 seems pretty straight forward in terms of running cat 5 from each output on the board to smaller F4 boards throughout the farm while also allowing me to connect LOR AC controllers.
48 universes
Both do 96 universes.
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fcf5U7XByfE

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EcAXycWNSxM

The thumbnail of the F16 shows many more expansion boards, it operates with pixels with just the one board.
The F48 needs additional receiver boards.

The F4v3 is like a mini version of the F16v3. It takes E.131 in and outputs pixel protocols.
The F48 takes in E.131 and outputs its own thing to the differential receiver boards which then output pixel protocols.
 
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