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Looking to purchase my first pixel string - Please help...

Discussion in 'RGB Lights - Intelligent Pixels and 3-Channel RGB' started by luehmans, Jul 19, 2016.

  1. luehmans

    luehmans New Elf

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    Hi

    We have been into Christmas lights the past few years and want to venture into the programmable pixels as per one of the members who lives in Beaconsfield that puts on an awesome display every year.

    We have recently built a small display inside that we want to set up a 5m RGBW pixels on with a controller so we can have a play around with different things and sequences, as a basic trial for the xmas lights.
    I have been looking on ebay and can see that there are many different types and controllers etc.

    Can someone point me in the right direction of a basic setup that would include power supply, controller, RGBW strip, etc. Basically everything we would need to be able to set it up and have it fade through lights but also be able to play with some different software to make our own sequences and patterns so we can decide if we are capable of setting up a Christmas display using it.
     
  2. Rudolph

    Rudolph Apprentice Elf

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  3. OP
    OP
    luehmans

    luehmans New Elf

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  4. Rudolph

    Rudolph Apprentice Elf

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    might b easier to come onto chat alot there can help u
     
  5. i13

    i13 Senior Elf

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    Both of those that you linked to are called dumb strips. They are not pixels and there is no individual control along their length. You probably won't be able to use those controllers either in a computer controlled setup.

    These are what I use
    http://www.aliexpress.com/item/promotion-5m-DC12V-WS2811-150LEDs-10pixes-m-led-digital-strip-waterproof-in-silicon-tube-IP66-WHITE/32493161338.html
    and
    http://www.aliexpress.com/store/product/5m-30LEDs-m-DC5V-addressable-WS2812B-led-pixel-strip-waterproof-in-silicon-tube-30pcs-WS2812B-M/701799_32356282826.html

    The 5V strip has every RGB LED controlled separately while the 12V has them controlled in groups of 3. 5V suffers from more voltage drop than 12V. There is also the question of WS2811/WS2812B (which are interchangeble) versus WS2801. I haven't tried WS2801 because I'm happy with WS2811/WS2812B which are cheaper.

    Examples of good controller names are the PixLite and Falcon F16v2. There is a comparison page here http://nutcracker123.com/nutcracker/rgb_controllers/
     
  6. OzAz

    OzAz Full Time Elf Generous Elf

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    The purists here may kill me but...

    If you have plenty of spare cash you could always buy a Ready2Run product like http://www.holidaycoro.com/Four-Pixel-Arches-Kit-p/817.htm (Their shipping costs are ridiculously overpriced)

    That plus four 3 pin extension leads (10 or 20 foot as required)
    http://www.holidaycoro.com/3-Conductor-Waterproof-Extension-Pigtail-10ft-p/727.htm or
    http://www.holidaycoro.com/3-Conductor-Waterproof-Extension-Pigtail-20ft-p/734.htm

    or PixLite version http://www.advateklights.com/shop/6-mantis-pixel-mapping

    some PVC, xLights (free) http://xlights.org/, a PC and some spare time and you could have a fully functional 4 arch (or 4 window/door outline) display in next to no time.
     
  7. OP
    OP
    luehmans

    luehmans New Elf

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    Ok so done a small amount of research online from what has been suggested, will have to jump on when more people are in chat so I can get answers to questions as they come up but for a start I'm looking at purchasing the following.
    We have a lego display we want to light up initially as our test for this years Christmas display.

    LED's (6 x 1m and 1 x 4m) 60 LED per metre
    http://www.aliexpress.com/item/DC5V-1m-4m-5m-WS2812B-Smart-led-pixel-strip-Black-White-PCB-30-60-144-leds/32337440906.html?spm=2114.13010208.99999999.261.BXB9b5

    Controller
    http://pixelcontroller.com/store/index.php?id_product=38&controller=product

    Power Supply (unsure on what is required)
    http://www.aliexpress.com/item/60W-Dual-output-5V-12V-Switching-power-supply-AC-to-DC/628635968.html?spm=2114.01010208.3.68.PFrV4D&ws_ab_test=searchweb201556_7,searchweb201602_3_10057_10056_10055_10037_10049_10033_10059_10058_10017_405_404_10040_10060,searchweb201603_7&btsid=488c796d-4eba-4fe3-9e18-631f5a194457

    From what I understand the power supply simply needs 240v power so can buy any lead and cut it down to suit, the 5v will run to the falcon controller and I can run the 7 strings off separate channels so we can play around (Lego Display really only needs 2 strings but will keep each shelf separate so we can learn to program it).

    I assume xLights is suitable for this setup, or what software should I be using? Getting well ahead of myself here but is it possible to sync to music using xlights? for starters we just want to be able to basically program each string separately and play around. does the controller have to be plugged in to the computer permanently or does it have a memory that stores the programming it is running?

    From what I can see the string is able to be cut almost anywhere as it has joins between each LED which means we can make each string fit perfectly around a window and then just run 3 core to the next window on the same channel.
    With smart pixels can we select an exact pixel and program its colour, my understanding was we can basically program every LED individually via the software (Imagine it would be a huge job across a whole house) just so I can get my head around how complex we can get with the idea.

    Thank you, and appreciate all the help. Just want to make sure we start out with something suitable as there are so many options. is overseas purchases the only option for this sort of stuff or can you buy it locally where you can actually talk to someone and make sure your setup works together?

    Brendan
     
  8. keithsw1111

    keithsw1111 Full Time Elf

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    xLights can absolutely sequence your lights to music ... that is what most people use it for. Once you have your sequence designed it can either send the lighting instructions to the falcon controller over your home network or it can generate an fseq file which you can load onto a raspberry pi and using the Falcon Pi Player you can run your show from there ... although again the data is sent to the falcon board over your home network.


    There are controllers out there that you can load a sequence onto and just play it locally but when it comes to running a whole of house display you really dont want to go that way.


    With pixels you can cut, extend anywhere. With strip you are more limited depending on the specific strip you use.


    With xlights you can program every pixel ... although in practice you dont. You build a model of your house or your lego and then you drop and effect on it and it works out which lights to light up when. Check out the ample videos on this site or the nutcracker site or their facebook page for lots of introductory videos. Alternatively join us in chat in the evening and ask your questions there.
     
  9. i13

    i13 Senior Elf

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    30 LEDs per metre would be more than bright enough and you might want to get a waterproof strip. My preference is the strips in tubing. I haven't tried 60 RGB LEDs per metre due to 30 LEDs still being surprisingly bright. 60 will use up the controller's channel capacity faster and you can expect more voltage drop especially with 5V.

    The F16v2 is a great controller but that site only ships to the US. You might want to ask darylc if he still has any in Australia or else look into the PixLite range from Advatek.

    You need to add up your power requirements when choosing a power supply. You want a total of 10 metres of strip. Although the AliExpress listings can overestimate the current and power draw of the pixels, you probably don't want to run the power supply at 100% capacity so those values are probably safe to go with if you leave a bit of headroom. 10 metres multiplied by 18 watts per metre (60 LEDs) is 180 watts of strip so your power supply isn't powerful enough. Note also that it is a dual output power supply and the 5V portion is less than 60 watts.

    Using a separate network is often recommended for large setups.
     
  10. Wolfie

    Wolfie Full Time Elf

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    If you are going to shop on AliExpress, Ray Wu is the go to guy.
    http://www.aliexpress.com/store/701799?spm=2114.12010108.0.29.5aOUxT

    The pixel strips you chose are extremely dense. It depends on what you want to do with them however. Most folks go with 60/m or 30/m strips.

    These:
    http://www.aliexpress.com/store/product/5m-DC12V-60leds-m-20pcs-ws2811-ic-meter-20pixels-led-digital-strip-IP68-waterproof-in-silicon/701799_1921783413.html

    I presume you will be placing them outside so the silicone tube style is easy to work with, easy to cut and easy to seal the ends with hot glue or RTV sealant. The molded and encased strips can be one hell of a bear to work with where you need to cut to length. I personally steer clear of that type.


    The controller you chose is arguably the Cadillac of controllers right now. I have 3 and love them. There are cheaper options but the F16v2 will handle your display as it grows. It tends to also have a higher resale value if you decide this isn't for you meaning you will probably recoup more money selling it used. (Probably won't happen, but I throw it out there in case).


    I would also avoid dual voltage PSUs. Get seperate 5v and 12v supplies.

    This:
    http://www.aliexpress.com/store/product/12V-350W-switch-mode-power-supply-LED-power-driver-AC90-260V-input-DC12V-350W-output-constant/701799_1948832565.html
    and this:
    http://www.aliexpress.com/store/product/5V-350W-switch-mode-power-supply-LED-power-driver-AC90-260V-input-DC5V-350W-output-constant/701799_1948831534.html

    If you buy all one voltage pixel, then you only need one voltage supply. The controller (at least all I have seen) allow you to set them for operation off 5v or 12v. Most, like the F16 have dual banks so you can run both 5v and 12v pixels off the same controller. Most multi-LED modules are 12v. This year I am replacing all my 5v stuff with 12v so I can eliminate all my 5v PSUs and cabling. Nothing wrong with running both. I just chose to simplify this year and eliminating 5v and replacing it all with 12v is one step toward that. Many of the strips you wlll find out there are 12v so it makes sense to later look into 12v pixel strings but thats up to you. Good arguments on both sides.

    I don't know what voltage yall use over there, but all the common PSUs you get from Ray have a switch on the side for 120v/240v so you should be good to go whatever yall use.


    xLights or Vixen. Either or both. Try them both and see which one makes more sense to you. I ran my show last year on Vixen. This year I am going with xLights. I wanted to try both for a real show and see which one I like most to go with for long term. Both are free software so it costs nothing to give them a run. Both will sequence lights to music (or no music as you choose). That is what they are for.

    You can run your show from your PC but many people buy a Raspberry Pi (B+, 2B, 3 or yes the zero). You use your PC to make your sequences but then upload the sequences and songs to the Pi and the Pi actually runs the show completely independant of your PC. But thats your choice if you wish to go that route. Not a required piece of the puzzle. The software you want for the Pi is called FPP or Falcon Player. It was developed by David, the same guy who makes the Falcon F16 controller you picked out. FPP works with xLights very well and also Vixen. It will virtually all common controllers, not just the F16.
     
  11. fasteddy

    fasteddy I have C.L.A.P Global Moderator Generous Elf

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    The 12vdc 30 LEDs per meter would be my choice for outlines
    The benefit to this are
    1: a lot less voltage drop to contend with
    2: lower current thus not as thick cables needed
    3: the resolution of 3 LEDs per pixel with 12vdc is not noticeable from the street when used as outlines on a house
    4: less power supplies and power injection - longer distance between power injection
    5: cheaper so you can spend that saved money on more lights.
    6: less chance of a failed pixel
    7: less channels needed from the controller or software

    I see no reason to go to 60 LEDs/m as outlines as its just spending extra money on things that wont really be noticed by most and will also annoy the neighbours across the road with so much light wash from the 60 LED/m strip
     
  12. Wolfie

    Wolfie Full Time Elf

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    Yep. Most are the reasons I am switching to all 12v this year (or at least as close to 100% as I can).

    OP really didn't say what he wanted to do with the lights nor where they were being mounted. So its kinda a crap shoot whether 10/m, 20/m, 30/m or 60/m would be better.
     
  13. i13

    i13 Senior Elf

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    There will always be differing opinions on 5V versus 12V. I use both and have no plans to phase out either of them because they have advantages that suit different applications. The 12V strips are good for long runs of pixels where you don't need high resolution. 5V is good for shorter runs where you do need higher resolution. Based on the lengths you specify, I think 5V is likely to work well. You might just need to power the 4 metre strip from both ends, especially if you choose 60 LEDs per metre. You will need to take into account the amount of voltage drop in the cables leading out to the strips. You might want to have the power supply near the 4 metre strip and not have anything too far away from it. Thicker and shorter power cables have less voltage drop.

    If you were using strings (not strip) then the 12V is inefficient but may still have less voltage drop than 5V. 5V is a good choice for a large number of pixels in a small area near a power supply e.g. a matrix.
     
  14. fasteddy

    fasteddy I have C.L.A.P Global Moderator Generous Elf

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    The only time I have found that 5vdc strip can be good is with a matrix or a tree where everything is localised otherwise its a lot more work and cost for very little gain.
    With the strings then the 5vdc is better as you cant have a design of 3LEDs splitting the load for a pixel like the 12vdc strip does. The only way to make 12vdc efficient when using 12vdc is to use good efficient LEDs and then run them at 1/2 the current. Unfortunately many have reported that most of the Ray Wu 12vdc strings run at the full current so when compared to 5vdc then there is little to gain with 12vdc except for a little less voltage drop to contend with.

    Each has its purpose and use, what needs to be determined is what is best suited for each application
     
  15. i13

    i13 Senior Elf

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    Have a look at Mm's display in the video gallery. He uses 5V strips. They're short like you plan to get so the higher resolution helps and the price difference isn't too much of a concern when you're only buying a small amount.

    I have a similar situation on the front of the house here. There are 2 metre sections of strip so I chose 5V and voltage drop hasn't been a problem. For the 6 metre sections or things further from the power supply I use 12V. It is a personal preference thing and I agree it would have been cheaper to use all 12V. I just didn't want to sacrifice the resolution on the shorter sections.
     

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