Small Scale System

RghTx

New elf
Joined
Nov 21, 2022
Messages
5
I live full time in an RV (40-foot trailer) and am looking to upgrade my Christmas light display to addressable pixels lights. Most of the videos I've seen are for large to very large shows and way too complicated discussion of controllers. I imagine my display will have less than 1000 lights, but expansion is possible. I would like to synchronize the lights with music. My questions:

Best (easiest) small controller? USA compatible a must.
Do I need to have wifi to operate? I would prefer a wired system from laptop to controller. I know it would be needed for downloads and programs.
Can connection from laptop to controller be through ethernet cable? I'm not the most computer savvy and don't know if ethernet must be used with wifi?
5v or 12v best?

Thank you.
 

TerryK

Retired Elf
Joined
Feb 9, 2020
Messages
590
Location
West Central Ohio
Welcome to ACL.

I suggest a Raspberry Pi. I prefer the 3B+ over the newer 4 models. Problem is, RPis are very hard to obtain presently. Add a Pi-Hat from Falcon and one can have a small controller for less than $100 US. One sees a good number of ESPixelSticks but judging from the Chat and Forum posts they seem to me to be a bit more 'finicky' to get working.

A WiFi isn't necessary but there are circumstances where it is handy. For the most part the RPis I have initial setup is via cabled Ethernet and all WiFi afterwards.

Asking about 5 Volt versus 12 Volt can quickly open a heated debate. I have some of both but if your display is expected to remain rather small I would probably lean towards the 5 Volt as those are more power efficient.
 
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RghTx

New elf
Joined
Nov 21, 2022
Messages
5
Welcome to ACL.

I suggest a Raspberry Pi. I prefer the 3B+ over the newer 4 models. Problem is, RPis are very hard to obtain presently. Add a Pi-Hat from Falcon and one can have a small controller for less than $100 US. One sees a good number of ESPixelSticks but judging from the Chat and Forum posts they seem to me to be a bit more 'finicky' to get working.

A WiFi isn't necessary but there are circumstances where it is handy. For the most part the RPis I have initial setup is via cabled Ethernet and all WiFi afterwards.

Asking about 5 Volt versus 12 Volt can quickly open a heated debate. I have some of both but if your display is expected to remain rather small I would probably lean towards the 5 Volt as those are more power efficient.
What is a Pi-Hat? Still new to the nomenclature. Thank
 

TerryK

Retired Elf
Joined
Feb 9, 2020
Messages
590
Location
West Central Ohio
A device/unit that plugs into the header connectors on the SBC (Small Board Computer). May be smaller, nearly the same, or larger than the SBC. The term Hat, Cape, or Cap are used 'somewhat' interchangeably. Kate's comment regarding Kulp boards; those generally use a BBB SBC (Beagle Bone Black).

The Pi-Hat I mentioned...
 

Indigogyre

Journeyman Elf
Generous elf
Joined
Jun 26, 2021
Messages
166
There are various other small controllers. I started playing with ESP32 based Dig-Uno and Dig-Quad which uses WLED and can be controlled with xLights also. You do not need to get a beaglebone or a raspberry pi either to run them. Just another alternative that has a lot of support.


 

Katekate

Full time elf
Joined
Jan 1, 2020
Messages
418
Location
Portland, Vic
I've heard of Kulp boards. Does wired ethernet lead directly from computer to the control board?
yes. you can get everything set up with it plugged into your pc, then you can disconnect and just power it on/off as needed.
 

TerryK

Retired Elf
Joined
Feb 9, 2020
Messages
590
Location
West Central Ohio
@RghTx : All good suggestions for a controller. As can be seen, individual preferences play a significant role. And, as would be expected, differences between devices may be an advantage or disadvantage depending upon the designer's (that's you) goal(s).

If you're new to the RGB pixels a few other thoughts. First, a bit of research before making hardware purchases to give yourself some time to determine what will work and work reasonably well for your display. Look for 18 AWG wire in pixel strings. Even with a small display you will likely need to implement power injection. There are different methods so again as mentioned some research to determine what works best for your display.

And last, please search the ACL Forum threads. Solutions to encountered problems (and opinions) can be found there. Cheers.
 

RghTx

New elf
Joined
Nov 21, 2022
Messages
5
@RghTx : All good suggestions for a controller. As can be seen, individual preferences play a significant role. And, as would be expected, differences between devices may be an advantage or disadvantage depending upon the designer's (that's you) goal(s).

If you're new to the RGB pixels a few other thoughts. First, a bit of research before making hardware purchases to give yourself some time to determine what will work and work reasonably well for your display. Look for 18 AWG wire in pixel strings. Even with a small display you will likely need to implement power injection. There are different methods so again as mentioned some research to determine what works best for your display.

And last, please search the ACL Forum threads. Solutions to encountered problems (and opinions) can be found there. Cheers.
Thanks, still researching. I'm from Lorain, Ohio.
 

bpratt

Full time elf
Joined
Mar 31, 2019
Messages
491
Location
Jimboomba, Queensland
Your RV, I'm assuming 24v for your running gear, and 110v for regular needs inside when at a park.

It's up to you if you use 12v or 5v pixels. You may find if running it from your 24v RV, it might be easier/cheaper to use 12v transformers, rather than 5v transformers.
 

Katekate

Full time elf
Joined
Jan 1, 2020
Messages
418
Location
Portland, Vic
you will likely want a dc-dc power supply if running off the vehicle systems, as the alternator voltage will be higher than 12v

with a small setup and limited electricity resources, the higher efficiency of 5v would be advantageous.

id get a 5v dc-dc power supply and go that way.
 
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