Usual Newbie Question

Discussion in '101 Display Basics' started by 900dukess, Dec 8, 2017.

  1. 900dukess

    900dukess New Elf

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    Hi all,

    I have stumbled across your forum after the usual goggling "xmas lights". You know the usual story I have done static lights for a couple of years and now would like to move in to pixel displays.

    Dont stress I am not trying to build anything for this year (2017).

    I have heaps of newbie questions and I am a little lost to amount of information available.

    I have read the 101 guide and feel I have a good understanding on what is required for a display.

    I would like to purchase some gear and have a bit of a "play" so to speak, the usual basic stuff like some pixel strips for a outline of my house, make some small spiral trees etc.


    I am after some advice if possible from a experienced person on what to purchase and where from.

    Starting with lights
    I don't want to run any of my existing lights, looking for a nice clean new display.
    To be honest I am little lost trying to navigate Ray Wu (wow there is some stuff available).
    Prob looking at 2 x 5m strips, 4 x 3m strips, 2 x 2 m strips for my basic outline.

    Maybe use the same strips for my basic spiral trees (3 trees),.
    so 3 x 3m strips.

    Oh yer I would like to run all 12 volts.


    Power Supplys.
    I think I have handle on this from the usual calculators, and order the usual 350w power supplies as required from Ray Wu or similar place.

    Cables / Connections.
    I assume connectors (pig tails from Ray Wu).
    But again which do i get?

    Controllers.
    Do I jump straight in the deep end so speak and get a Falcon F16V3


    or do you recommend anything getting a basic controller for starters?

    Also how do you order a F16V3 (is there a Aus seller, or is it only via a group buy)?

    Now this is going to sound like a complete newbie question, but which interface do i get from PC to the F16V# controller, or is it direct connection from PC (going to be using a standalone laptop running windows).

    Sequencer
    Prob going to use Xlights.
    I have had a quick look at the program (and online manual).

    Radio Transmitter.
    I wouldn't have a clue yet, haven't looked into it yet.
    I am hoping somebody will say, yes this xxxxxxxx one works great.

    Luck
    Umm, yer I think I am going to need some of this to work everything out.

    Budget
    Prob $2k

    Timeframe
    2018 xmas display

    Location
    I am in Northern Tassie.

    I know there are lots of unknowns with these questions, and I understand it is prob a busy time of year for everyone.

    I almost feel like I asking somebody to help build design and tell me what to purchase for a new install, I would however like to try and future proof myself.

    Thanks in Advance.
     
  2. i13

    i13 Senior Elf

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    This is an excellent first post

    Lights
    I suggest holding onto your existing lights even if you don't want to use them immediately. Older store-bought light sets are wired differently to the new ones and they're likely to be sought after by other members of this site (depending on when and where you bought them). Older store-bought light sets are easier and cheaper to hack than new ones and they can be controlled with their own DC controllers alongside pixels.

    I wouldn't rule out 5V forever but 12V is a good choice for long runs of strip. It is controllable in groups of 3 RGB LEDs.

    Controllers
    The F16v3 is a good choice. It is capable of running many more lights than you currently plan but the price per pixel for smaller controllers is generally much higher so you may as well get a big one and expand the show later. The F16v3 is available in group buys hosted by darylc.

    E1.31 controllers including the F16v3 connect via ethernet. You'll need a network switch if you want to use more than one at a time.

    Sequencer
    xLights is an excellent program. There are others like Vixen that work well although xLights is my personal favourite.

    Radio Transmitter
    Head into the chat as there are a variety in use. Note that (IMO) some of the common ones are too powerful (e.g. 100mW). I like the idea of a continuously adjustable output power so you can get it to go as far as needed but not much further.

    Budget
    Your budget is sufficient for this project, especially with the possibility of selling your old lights.

    Timeframe
    You're making a wise decision to start now in preparation for 2018. The first year is the most time consuming but it is very rewarding.

    Note: I haven't been very active here this year so this information may be a bit out-of-date.
     
    Ben F, 900dukess and Ellis like this.
  3. Junior

    Junior Apprentice Elf

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    What an amazing reply.
     
  4. Benslights

    Benslights Dedicated Elf Global Moderator Generous Elf

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    well said 13. yes chat is a great place to ask questions also
     
  5. keithsw1111

    keithsw1111 Full Time Elf

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    While I love the look of strip ... it's a royal pain in the ass to use. I would start with nodes ... maybe experiment with strip but expect failures and water ingress.
     
    900dukess likes this.
  6. i13

    i13 Senior Elf

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    That's interesting keithsw1111. I have found that strip works reliably. You just need to double-check the ends when it first arrives because sometimes Ray Wu (and maybe other sellers) doesn't use enough silicone to make the strip waterproof. I add extra silicone when this happens. I don't have an enormous number of strips but I regularly cut and join them and I've never had a strip with water in it. Another problem with strip is that it is prone to overheating when you solder it. This causes the joins to fail at a later date.

    I should have also mentioned pre-emphasis with transmitters. Avoid getting a Transmitter from North America or South Korea. They use a different amount of pre-emphasis compared to here in Australia. I haven't heard it myself but this can in theory make some components of the music play back at the wrong volume compared to everything else.
     
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  7. marmalade

    marmalade cats & pixels

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    ..having put a considerable amount of strip everywhere this year (over 150m), I side a little with Keith. Use nodes if you can get away with it.

    Strip is fantastic though if the ends and wires can be fixed in place permanently (on conduit or wireframes) 99% of my issues have been due to the wires pulling the pads off the flex, even when the end are capped and filled with silicone. So cable tie those suckers down. The other 1% is mistreatment where the strip has been stepped on or the components have had an intermittent connection. Time consuming to repair neatly!

    Whilst there are numerous fans of the falcon controller, also consider the advatek pixlites, for first timers they require less intimate knowledge of hardware and are more of a plug and play solution. This is based on the large number of people on the FB groups trying to get their falcons working for their displays this year, the tech on the falcons is great but it has a very steep and unforgiving learning curve.
     
  8. OP
    OP
    900dukess

    900dukess New Elf

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    Hi all,

    Thanks for your very informative replies.

    Also I must congratulate everyone who runs this site, and members. I have been watching the numerous youtube clips produced from the "minis", wow what a great resource.

    A quick update.

    Lights

    I have orders a couple of strings of node WS2811 lights (2 x 50 pixel strings of 5 metres each). Hope I have the terms correct.
    I have just ordered these from EBay (more than likely AliExpress reseller), but hey it was easy just to order a couple of lights from Ebay instead of making new accounts etc.

    https://www.ebay.com.au/itm/Wholesale-Black-RGB-Square-WS2811-LED-Pixel-Digital-Diffused-12mm-Light-IP68-12V/262643471210?ssPageName=STRK:MEBIDX:IT&var=561549438815&_trksid=p2057872.m2749.l2649


    Controller.
    I ended up ordering a Pixlite 16 controller
    http://www.advateklights.com/shop/pixlite-pixel-mapping/16-pixlite-16-controller.html

    I did this as I couldn't order a Falcon without doing so via a group buy and I wanted to have a play around with a basic setup.
    I was also a little impatient as I hope to have a couple of spare days in the new year to start making some lights go blinky blinky in the shed. (Just to prove to myself I can make it work before I order to much stuff).

    Sequencer.
    Xlights, wow what a program.
    I have had a little play with this i.e. made up my basic display in layout, imported a song and roughly (I mean roughly) added some timing marks.

    I have a few questions regarding Xlights, but I will start a new thread in that section when i get ready.

    Just for a laugh I made a Mega tree to have a play round with and my 7 year old son was having a look at what I was doing on the computer, well the next thing he is starting to add different effects via the nice and easy Xlights select and drop function for effects and he was starting to setup his own light sequence!
    Then he says "Dad can you build a big tree as well as the other lights".

    Hopefully I can get my couple of strings to work and then we will see what happens.

    Power Supply
    Decided to stick with 12v
    Just ordered this from a Ebay seller, I also do have some other 12v power supplies kicking around the shed if I need one (again just trying to hook up a couple of nights and make them go blinky blinky before I go over the top (is there such a thing in this hobby).

    https://www.ebay.com.au/itm/360W-30A-AC-240V-to-DC-12V-Car-Power-Supply-Adapter-LED-5050-3528-Converter-AU/252970160973?ssPageName=STRK:MEBIDX:IT&_trksid=p2057872.m2749.l2649


    Configuring the network
    Now to be honest this is where I am really lost!
    I don't have any prior experience in networks, and it has always been a bit of black magic so speak.

    However I am willing to give it a go.
    I want to connect my standalone Laptop (running Xlights) to the PixLite controller.
    I did watch one of the ACL youtube mini clips about networks and it mentioned about getting a switch.

    So I have ordered one of these
    http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/TP-Link-8-Port-10-100Mb-Ethernet-Desktop-Switch-Hubs-Network-Laptop-TL-SF1008D/271250470486?ssPageName=STRK:MEBIDX:IT&_trksid=p2057872.m2749.l2649

    I am not sure if it is the right type, but hey I thought I would grab one. I do have a couple of older ADSL Telstra supplied modem / router things sitting around doing nothing and by the sounds of it I think I may have used one of those but I want to try and keep it nice and simple.


    Again I still really don't have a clue about configuring the controller to the various universe things, but I will wait to it arrives (tracking says this Friday 15/12/17, but we will see).

    I assume I am going to need some help in this area, but I am trying to get my head around it.

    I prob understand a couple of your guys saying why I have ordered stuff from Ebay instead of directly Aliexpress (Rays).
    Well to be honest I haven't done a price comparison but it was just easy (yes i am a bit lazy)!
    I do however hope to make my couple of strings go blinky blinky when I want and if successful then look out Ray Wu's!

    Thanks again for the advice so far and again credits to this community for putting together excellent informative youtube videos from your mini's.
     
  9. keithsw1111

    keithsw1111 Full Time Elf

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    I suggest you jump into Zoom on a Friday night. Lots of guys who can talk you through the options, the pitfalls and even get you setup. What will take you hours to do some can do in minutes.
     
  10. OzAz

    OzAz Full Time Elf Generous Elf

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    that switch should be all you need. if you're unsure of networking keith's video may help
     
  11. i13

    i13 Senior Elf

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    It looks as though you're off to a good start. I see the logic in getting a few things to start with.

    Although Ray's items are listed on Aliexpress, many of us prefer to place orders via email (no Aliexpress account required).

    Networking was also a new area for me. I now know just enough to make the commponents talk to each other. That's all of the networking knowledge I (and you'll) need to get a display up and running. Musical ability and visual thinking are more important when designing a display because technical knowledge can be learned.

    The one thing that I would like to point out ASAP is that you might prefer the PixLite MKII if you plan to have a large display because it supports larger numbers of pixels per output. Power injection will be required in order to take advantage of this but power injection is recommended anyway so that a short-out can't damage your controller. Advatek has been known to allow change-of-mind exchanges.
    http://www.advateklights.com/shop/pixlite-pixel-mapping/50-pixlite-16-mkii-control-board.html
     
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2017
    900dukess likes this.
  12. Derf

    Derf Apprentice Elf Generous Elf

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    Radio Transmitter:

    Now I would read this wiki before you take any advice. https://auschristmaslighting.com/wiki/FM-Transmitters

    I personally use a 7 Watt FM Transmitter which is good for around 2-3KM's when located inside my home. WHICH IS WAY TO POWERFUL! You can use one of these (I got mine of ebay https://www.ebay.com.au/itm/FM-LCD-...098292?hash=item25c22694b4:g:RT4AAOSwMtxXsu1U )

    Now there is a way to reduce the power output on this model you have to do something when you power it on which I can't 100% remember. If you are in a built up area and there is no decent free frequency range I suggest going down to 1 Watt as when you power the 7 watt version on you get interference on about 1-2MHz for about 20-30 Meters which may interfere with your neighbours radio / speakers. Else wise I'm sure plenty of other members use different transmitters but I know quite a few do use 1 watt transmitters

    Thanks
    Derf / Jack
     
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  13. OP
    OP
    900dukess

    900dukess New Elf

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    Thanks i13,

    Unfortunately they have already posted the controller, so I couldn't change the order.

    I am sure I will need another controller so I will make sure I get the Pixlite MkII next time, or a Falcon controller If I can get one.

    also Thanks Derf for your link for the radio transmitter info and Ebay link. (I am holding of getting a transmitter for a bit until I get my lights going blink blink).

    My initial ideas for my first set up / lay out are growing by the day, hopefully I can get the basic couple of strings working so I can do a massive order and start making my models.
     
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  14. been

    been New Elf

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    merry cht=ristams
     
  15. OP
    OP
    900dukess

    900dukess New Elf

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    Well after lots of YouTube how to and watching the ACL mini video presentations I have managed to get one strip of lights to go blinky blinky as per my Xlights sequence.
    I must admit I did have a few frustrating moments in particular trying to get my head around network connections and addresses etc as I am absolute newb it that, but I got there in the end.
    Again a big thumbs up to who does the ACL YouTube content it was extremely helpful.

    Now just waiting for my Ray Wu order to arrive and let the real fun begin as well as sequencing.
     
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