Pixel software - going to build some lkeaping arches

Discussion in 'RGB Lights - Intelligent Pixels and 3-Channel RGB' started by impactoz, Dec 3, 2016.

  1. impactoz

    impactoz New Elf

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    So I drop in here every year.... to get ideas to add to my display....

    Every year I want to expand my mega tree into a live showcase of pixels and create some animations, but each year decide against because of time and cost... So this year I have decided its time to dip my toe into the world of pixels by creating some arches...


    I seem to have read everything here - and I am technical so I am good with the software / hardware - wiring up etc... But being late to the game, I cant find the simple answers...


    what software is best to use to program pixels, and how do you go about defining the layout of the pixels, so you can set a nice sequence...


    ie. If each of my arch had say 100 pixels, how do I set that up in software, and there might be 3 or 4 of them in the chain... As opposed to someone else having 90 pixels for an arch...


    Is it simply wire them up, and define it in the software that the start is pixel 1 and end is pixel 90 and that is a group - say A, Group B is say pixel 91 to 180 etc... So in effect when I start to play to program them, I really need to identify which led lights up and group them ?


    As I say - good on the co0nstructiuon, good technically, but having not used it before, I am wondering about how you configure the groups / sets and would like to play with the software to give it a try....
     
  2. ԆцряєсϮ

    ԆцряєсϮ Senior Elf

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    I would suggest having a gander at these tutorials. They'll tell you all you need to know to get up and running.
    There are no quick easy answers in this game, you have to put in the hours and hours of learning and reading and melting wires and magic smoke..........
    only then will you be ready grasshopper!


    after all if it was easy everyone would be doing it....


    Xlights is your software of choice and your learning begins here --> https://vimeo.com/123758528
     
  3. OP
    OP
    impactoz

    impactoz New Elf

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    Thankyou


    I am on the first level of enlightenment - great video and fantastic software !!!


    I have 40 Ws2811 Strings (50 in a string) being delivered next week, think I can do some damage with 2000 addressable bulbs along with my normal 10,000 that I put up each year.


    All I need now is a power supply and a good controller that works with xlights and I am set. Unfortunately time is against me being December already and most controllers seem to be sourced from Asia and they all suggest delivery late in December. So any suggestions for a controller that will be good for me and allow further expansion next year, and I can get quicker from an Australian source - please let me know!


    What am I going to do with my 2000 addressable bulbs... not decided as yet - so I replace my mega tree or do some arches or something else - I have the flexibility of deciding while I await the gear to arrive - love it - being wanting to do this for the past few years - ITS FINALLY HAPPENING. I knw I am going to get hooked on this!



    Update - found the PixLite controllers from Advatek who are perfectly based in Melbourne - so its off to order what I need now!
     
  4. Boof63

    Boof63 Full Time Elf

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    am using pixlite controllers, work very well, can get a run from controller to lights of about 6 metres before data quality starts fading, so recommend them highly
    cheers Boof63
     
  5. Andy2000

    Andy2000 Apprentice Elf

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    Would recommend Pixlite controllers. Australia based and great after sales service. Had no problems with mine with easy setup and great performance
     
  6. OP
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    impactoz

    impactoz New Elf

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    That's good to know. My pixlite controller arrived today and cant wait until the weekend to 'play'
     
  7. Wolfie

    Wolfie Full Time Elf

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    Fist, I have to say there is no "one best" software to sequence with. Each one has its pros and cons. Each one has a little different design philosophy and user interface.

    Last year was my first. I ran Vixen. It won with a random coin toss over xLights as my starter. This year I am running xLights. Not because Vixen didn't serve me decently. I decided I should see what both do and not do well. Then decide on which to commit to long term. There is a difference.

    My personal observations...
    Vixen:
    Has a familiar looking interface. Feels easy to use. And may have the edge for new users. It has nested trees so you can organize your models very fluidly. It includes some of the old nutcracker (what xLights used to be) effects. Many more have been added since they grabbed them. I love Vixen's candle flicker and I wish the xLights crew would add it in to xlights. Between the two, Vixen has a much better scheduler for running your show. I dislike the whole patching mechanism in Vixen. It feels very clunky and not very comfortable to deal with. Last year there were no layers, no vu meter as well as a few other things I wished it had. Vixen updates are few and far between. The Vixen crew have added some good new features this year.

    xLights:
    xLights has a lot more flexibility in its layer mechanism. Lots more effects with deeper advanced settings that Vixen. Laying out your scene is, for the most part, far easier than in Vixen. Patching is not really patching in xLights. Setting up channel numbers is simple, quick and importantly extremely easy to change or rearrange elements as you physically develop your display. Has a very confusing and cluttered interface. A lot of things about the UI are not obvious nor intuitive. xLights team release many updates throughout the year either adding features or fixing bugs. xLights has, as far as I am concerned, a steeper learning curve. xLights scheduler is, well, not very comfortable to use. It works. Mostly. But thats about it. Its probably the least capable of any section of xLights. Good thing is, if you use a RasPi and FPP to run your show, you won't ever need xLights' scheduler.

    If I were to choose (and that decision is coming next year after I test an update Vixen), xLights would be my choice. Its more capable. Its easier to layout a display. Avoids all the patching sillyness.

    My recommendation is to install BOTH. Yea, both. They are free so no loss here. Try both. See what you are comfortable in and roll with that.
     
  8. Phrog30

    Phrog30 New Elf

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    To add to Wolfie, vixen's effects aren't all location based. This was the deal breaker for me. I know they have made some changes recently, but still not a 100%. The effects in xlights are better. Xlights allows for importing from other sequencers. Vixen doesn't. Example, I was able to get a LoR sequence into vixen, but it was painful and all I had was a bunch of node level effects, which chocked the software. Xlights can import superstar files into native xlights effects. You can also import sequences as a data layer in xlights, can't do that in vixen.

    Vixen is beautiful software and a little more intuitive. Xlights is bland, but way more functional.



    Sent from my Pixel using Tapatalk
     
  9. OP
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    impactoz

    impactoz New Elf

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    So construction begins... You may say I am late in setting up.... But in our household we have several birthdays in January and our tradition is not to put up our lights until the kids birthdays are done, so that they feel special - mind you as they get older they don't mind...

    Anyway time to ask another silly pixel / xlights question...


    How do you wire up your mega trees...


    Is up and down or always up...


    As the data line continues on from the previous led, does the data line start at the bottom, and then goes up, then down etc... Or it could be starting at the top and then goes down and up... or does each strand always have the data going down...


    Id hate to wire up a mega tree and find every second string was being dispklayed up side down as I had the data line or leds the wrong way...


    Hope it makes sense ?
     
  10. keithsw1111

    keithsw1111 Full Time Elf

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    Generally up/down with every string the same length.
     
  11. Wolfie

    Wolfie Full Time Elf

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    In your case, they aren't Christmas lights. They are birthday lights :)

    Now thats sorted....

    Generally the megatrees are wired zig-zag. One going up, then back down. This repeats across the whole tree. Most people start the first strand at the bottom but thats not a requirement. Its more of a construction and wiring convenience. If you start the data line at the top, then you have to run all the way to the top from your controller. Sometimes you will have to put a buffer in line called a null pixel for long runs like that. By starting at the bottom, the feed from the controller goes to the bottom only and is a shorter run overall.

    My tree:
    [​IMG]

    Mine consists of 24 strands (will likely add 1 more making it 25 next year and will explain later why). Each strand is 60 pixels long at 3" spacing making each one 15' long. Nice round numbers ;) The tree is broken up into 3 groups of 8 strands each.

    Each section has its own power supply. Each string consumes 32.4 watts for a total of ~260w per section. Each PSU is 360w. That means I am running the PSUs only at 72% so nothing is stressed. Why not 2 PSUs? Well, whole tree consumes 777.6watts. Split that 388.8 watts from two PSUs. Yea, I could do that if I used dimming curves to 90% and each section would only consume 350w. But that means I would be running the PSUs at near 100%. Thats a lot of stress. Also would mean I need so supply 30a from each supply to the tree. Heavy cabling. Beefy connectors. More money. So, I chose 3 PSUs. Lower draw on each individual supply. Smaller cables.

    Each section is fed power using two cables from the PSU. This divides the power requirement even further and allows use of even smaller cables because each only has to supply about 11a. Easily in the 14ga range.

    Each section of 8 strands is one output on my controller or 480 pixels. The Falcon is capable of 680. Yes, I can put more strands on an output than I am. 24 isn't divisible by 680 evenly. Can't run it on 2 outputs because that would require 720 pixels per output and the F16 can't do that.. So I use 3. Matches the number of PSUs.

    See how this all works out? One PSU per section. One output from the controller per section. Nice easy logic to deal with. Two PI and a data cable per section. Easy stuff to make up and remember.

    Data for each section enters on the bottom of the first strand of that section and zig-zags up and down to the end of the 8th strand. In the controller, I simply tell it that the pixels zig-zag every 60px. The sequencing software doesn't have to think about it. I prefer to handle these things in hardware (controller) rather than software (sequencer).

    Sorry, its buried in snow right now but I flew the drone in behind it and snapped this the other day:
    [​IMG]

    And here is a power injection point (taken much earlier):
    [​IMG]

    Power travels BOTH ways! Data does not. Remember that. Each section is fed power between sets of 4 strands. Data comes in on cat5 (no power), you can see the gray cable in the background. Strands go up-down, then a PI, then up-down. Repeats again up-down, PI, up-down. From the PI point, power tavels backwards through 2 strands to the beginning and forward through 2 strands. Notice in the middle there are 4 strands between PI? Because it flows forward 2 strands, and back 2 strands, all 4 are powered.

    [​IMG]
    Here you can see the end of a down feed strand and the connector going to the PI wiring T. The T carries the data to the next up strand as well as injecting power going forward and backwards around the tree.

    Now, remember when I said I would likely add a 25th strand? The tree has a star:
    [​IMG]

    How do you recon data gets up there? How about power?

    A tree with even numbers of strands has the final strand coming down. Has to. Any number of strands. 16. 32. or my 24. So that means data has to go up to the star using an external cable either from the bottom of the last strand or from the controller. So, I got to thinking (too late for this year), add another strand to the tree making it 25. No big deal. But now the tree is nice even 1500 pixels instead of 1440. It also means the last section's final strand's data out will now be at the top! Right where it needs to be for the topper. This year I used a uAmp at the bottom to drive data all the way to the top for the topper so is it REALLY needed? No. Just something I am considering.

    Haven't committed to pulling the trigger on it yet, but its up for experimentation next summer.
     
  12. dkulp

    dkulp New Elf

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    Just to mention another reason for starting at the bottom and going up then down: at the bottom, the strands are generally more than 3inches apart which is roughly the normal spacing of pixels on a string. If you start at the top, you would have to cut them and splice some additional wire in there. By starting at the bottom, they go up, at the top, the lights are close together so no splicing, then back down.
     
  13. Wolfie

    Wolfie Full Time Elf

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    With a 16 strand 180, that could be true. My 24 strand 180 has no splices at the bottom. Connectors plug into each other both top and bottom. Of course I planned it that way :)

    My strands are 50px strings with 10 added to make 60. When I made up the strands, the ones going up had the 10 extras soldered to the end. The ones coming back down had the 10 soldered to the beginning. That put all the cut 10px pieces (and thus the ones with short wires) at the top. The bottoms of all the strands have the longer wires on them from the factory.

    A bit if pre-planning and thinking the whole project through before constructing it can save you lots of headaches later.

    And, most people other than myself, use pigtails. So by the time you solder pigtails on the ends of the pixels, you got at least 10-12" of lead there. Not an issue to make it 4-6" over to the next strand who also has a foot long tail on it.
     
  14. OP
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    impactoz

    impactoz New Elf

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    Thanks guys


    I am my first stage of the journey....


    3 days after I started I have my new mega tree up and running (sort of). Learned so much in that time (and a little help once from the chat here) - but I now have some strings hanging off a flag pole with some lights flashing via xlights...


    I had lots of problems - from bad wiring / connections / realising that 3 cable rgb pixel have no clock so I need to run the pixlit in its enhanced mode... Through to defining universes and the like.


    I wish I had started in July and not the week before xmas - but I am hooked now.... pixels all the way !


    Still not built those arches - maybe tomorrow, after I finish the mega tree and get some nice sequences... I started on a string of 50 pixels on each run down, but have decide to go to 75 - hate wasting channels... lol


    So just a little more wiring to do... and raise the flagpole - still have two sections unused - best $50 I spent on ebay!


    Thanks guys! Pics soon - but nothing like som of you experts - give me a year or two!
     

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