1. New to Christmas lighting? Get started with the AusChristmasLighting 101 Manual:
    auschristmaslighting.com/wiki/AusChristmasLighting-101

Starting out from scratch for this Xmas...

Discussion in '101 Display Basics' started by darrenr, Nov 15, 2016.

  1. darrenr

    darrenr New Elf

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    Hi,


    Awesome forum, so glad I've stumbled onto this cache of invaluable knowledge!


    I live in a street where Xmas lights are huge and every house is decorated. I'm coming from the traditional world of lots of 240v LED strings from Bunnings and Kmart and want to now move to the world of DC powered, computer controlled and I'd like to get this up and running in the next few weeks for this Xmas. I need to get a move on - fast!


    My intial feeling is the best way to start for this year is to try and use my current strings to keep the cost down for now. Chop off the supplied connected controllers and reconnect as dumb strings to new DMX controllers.Is this a good idea? Any instructions for wiring this or just experiement?


    I'd like to make smart power supply and controller purchases now (maybe spend some more initially) that will let me and grow my display into a large and farily complex one over the years (something akin to the "E1.31 and DMX Typical Layout" on page 79 of the 101 Manual.

    I do like the idea of E1.31 as distrubution as I have Cat 5 in my house and I'm running in the lounge room an Ubuntu server (currently for my home automation) and also a Mac - don't have Windows. Software recommenation? Or do I have to run Windows in a VM?

    I can see there's lots to buy to get this going - any advise on parts lists, recommendations, or a pointer to a good post to get me going quick would be appreciated.

    Cheers
    Darren
     
  2. OzAz

    OzAz Full Time Elf Generous Elf

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    Welcome Darren, I'm sure the gurus will be along later to provide more help.

    There's some info on connecting shop bought lights on this thread https://auschristmaslighting.com/forums/index.php/board,6.0.html I gather it's not as simple a matter as just chopping off the controller. There is I believe a DMX board that can control 2 wire lights http://www.hansonelectronics.com.au/product/dmx2-18/


    I'm sure I'm not the only one who will suggest holding off on your main purchases this close to Christmas.


    xLights seems to be sequencing software of choice here :D it's free and there's versions fro MAC and Linux.
     
  3. OP
    OP
    darrenr

    darrenr New Elf

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    reality check received :) will start to look at xLights, thanks.
     
  4. marmalade

    marmalade cats & pixels

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    This is my first year using e1.31 and xlights, driving pixels mixed in with dumb lights and static displays. We left it a little late as well (september) and now madly building elements, wiring etc until late at night and doing some simple sequencing in between. You really need 6-12 months if starting from scratch :eek:


    Because our display is quite open (no front fencing) and the dislike and concern about running cable everywhere, I've chosen to go totally wireless using ESPixelsticks to drive everything.


    Every element has it's own IP address, so mapping is very straightforward. This also allows positioning the displays much easier, only requiring runs of power cable (neatly enclosed and waterproofed within corrugated conduit) sitting on the lawn.


    The idea of a central ethernet/dmx controller is (I believe) going to be a thing of the past in the next year or two, due to the ease of implementing wireless comms. Each element/string/rgb flood will eventually be smart, requiring only a power run.


    2017 will most likely see some nice advances in comms hardware and lighting products, and the costs are also coming down each year as well, so it's a good time to get the bug :)
     
  5. scamper

    scamper Senior Elf

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    Well firstly welcome to ACL.
    And secondly, patience young padawan.
    I started researching my first year around 18th dec for the following year. and when I was done I was so impressed with myself, but at the same time, a little disappointed. It took a whole year to get the orders done, the construction done, the sequencing done and while I enjoyed the fruits of my labour, The display was still only small in the grand scheme of things.
    This close to xmas, I would maybe do what you do every year as far as a display, but maybe build some props that you can convert to synchronised displays later. Download and learn the program of choice and experiment on what does what in the program. You could try and order some bits that you will need, such as dmx controllers, power supplies etc, or better yet see if anyone has some stuff for sale locally, but realistically, you have missed the boat for this year.
    Don't give up, and match as many videos as you can to get ideas, and then start planning for next year.
     
  6. Wow lights in kal

    Wow lights in kal New Elf

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    Yes I think you should start thinking now for next year it is not as easy as it looks I don't think you will have the tim this year
     
  7. i13

    i13 Senior Elf

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    I agree that there wouldn't be enough time to get things up and running for this year. Hang around and keep reading every post on the forum and you'll gradually accumulate the required knowledge to put together a nice display.

    In my opinion DC control is the way to go for store-bought lights in Australia. The controllers are reasonably priced and DC control lets you control the channels within the light sets. The majority of my display is store-bought. Unfortunately the downside is that store-bought lights were never designed to be wired up that way. Each comes with its own little plugpack and the exact voltage varies. Getting all of the light sets running at the same voltage requires some hacking.

    Regardless of whether you aim for this year or next year, now is the best time to make a start. Sort all of your low voltage store-bought lights into two groups. One group has 8 function units AND only two wires going to the first LED. The other group will be those that either have 3 or more wires or no 8 function unit. Lights from each of these two groups require a different type of DC controller and the procedure for hacking them is different.

    Keep asking questions. Once you have your first shopping list, post it on the forums and get feedback before ordering.

    The manual describes relevant concepts which include the general layout of the E1.31 and DMX setup but some of the exact devices listed have been superseeded or discontinued.

    I disagree with the prediction that all central Ethernet/DMX512 controllers will be a thing of the past in a couple of years' time. In the last couple of years they have become more affordable and they are capable of controlling more pixels than ever before. The technology is improving, not dying out.
     
  8. OP
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    darrenr

    darrenr New Elf

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    Thanks all for the feedback - I feel very at home here! Will put this off to next year for sure, but will spend lots of time reading and work on the concepts, software and a first setup.


    thanks all, for the advice and the kind welcome!


    Darren
     

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