Yep - another noob

Discussion in 'New Members Say Hello' started by larochford, Oct 10, 2016.

  1. larochford

    larochford New Elf

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    Hi all

    Probably a frequently asked question but I appreciate your help. I'm a beginner looking to start my first sequenced light display to music this Christmas. I'm not after anything intense at this stage (i.e doing the whole house) but would love to get one display up and running.

    We have covered our house in store bought lights and displays for the past 6 years, so I'm keen to start on the next phase of light displays.

    My goal would be to get a basic string or rope light sequenced to music and then build from there once I've got the basics down.

    Any advice on what the best starting setup would be? I've read the manual 3-4 times, so am hoping to put it to practice. I'm using an iMac for the sequencing side, if that helps inform the hardware/software options.

    Any help getting started would be great.
     
  2. keithsw1111

    keithsw1111 Full Time Elf

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    Being so late in the year your options are limited. A lot depends on how frugal you want to be and your level of comfort with electronics. The easiest way to get going is something pre-packaged like LOR but you are up for some serious $ and will likely want to move off it pretty quickly as the costs get insane once you move to pixels. Cheaper options exist but they require a lot more work and likely have longer lead times.


    The only software that runs natively on the Mac is xLights although most of the others can run under windows on the Mac.
     
  3. scamper

    scamper Senior Elf

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    My suggestion at this time of the year would be try and get some second hand gear off someone that is moving their older stuff on.
    It does happen as we grow we move down different paths and so sell off older gear.
    Not that it is bad, just no longer required.
    And yes, I believe xlights works on mac. Download that and start having a play around as that alone will take many hours of learning and syncing. the plus side is you can buy sequences for it and utilise them if you don't have time to do it yourself.


    Things you will need are.
    • computer or raspberry pi to play the show on.
    • Ethernet gateway to interpret the output from the computer
    • DMX lighting controller. either smart or dumb
    • lights
    • power supplies
    • cable

      To look and see if anything is for sale you can go into the members trading area and have a look there
    I feel you may have left it a little late if you were to order all your stuff from China though, as the learning curve is steep and delays in postage and inevitable mistakes will slow you down the first year.
     
  4. Fing

    Fing Full Time Elf Generous Elf

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    Hi
    welcome to the madhouse....
    1/ Macs are the only way to go ! :D
    2/ Xlights will run on the Mac and is a great bit of software.
    3/ If you've read the book and had a look around the ACL site I would suggest that you pick a project and jump in. Once you know what direction you are going things become clearer, and you can ask more detailed questions.
    4/ one of the beaut things about Xlights is that you can visualise it on the screen that way you can see what it is going to look like first. And even program it up while you are waiting on your order to arrive.
    5/ a few members use store bought lights connected to controllers, and I'm sure they will answer questions for you. Jump into chat and ask away !


    Cheers
    Fing
     
  5. Wolfie

    Wolfie Full Time Elf

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    I would suggest you try to get some SSR type gear. I mention this because you indicated that you have a substantial investment into traditional lights. With SSR gear you can switch and dim those. Might check into some Renard gear. No clue what's available on your side of the pond.

    Pixels require a different kind of controller and are not going to run normal rope light or off the shelf lights (for the most part, gece is an exception). So a pixel controller will be a new beginning for you. If that's your desire, rock on!

    Personally I run only pixels. But that's what I like. Having a substantial investment in traditional lights, I suggest you leverage those and focus on getting gear to sequence them. Then, next year you can begin your pixel adventure. There are a lot of folks out there that combine both technologies into one show. So you don't have to abandon what you already have in order to get to the next level.
     
  6. TheFordys

    TheFordys New Elf

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    Hi larochford
    I feel your pain as I too have gone over the manuals many times and I am still confused lol
    Wish there was a magic lights fairy that would magically arrive 1st December and its allllll done. That or I wish to win lotto and fly in one of the geniuses on this forum to set it all up and explaining how it all works as he is doing it. Hehe

    Sent from my GT-N5110 using Tapatalk
     
  7. i13

    i13 Senior Elf

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    It's probably a bit late to try and get this up and running by December. A good approach would be to spend the time learning and investigating options as it's never nice buying something and later finding out that it doesn't do what you want or finding out that there is something else that'll do the task better or cheaper.

    Try finding out who else is near you because we're usually very happy to show new ACL members around and explain how it works in person in December.

    The setup to choose depends on how you want your display to look. You mention a basic string or ropelight so I assume you want to control your store-bought lights. In my opinion, anything with 240V running the entire length is not worth keeping when converting to computer control. Sort your low voltage light sets into two groups. One group will have 8 function controllers AND only 2 wires going to the lights. The other group will be pretty much everything else. The first group with 8 function controllers AND only 2 wires going to the lights can only be controlled with this http://www.hansonelectronics.com.au/product/dmx2-18/
    or by using relays for ON and OFF control only.

    The other group can be controlled with pretty much any DC controller and this is my personal favourite https://auschristmaslighting.com/wiki/HD712
    It requires a little bit of DIY (see its forum thread) but I think it's worth the effort and only a small task in the scheme of things.

    The biggest task when converting store-bought lights is getting everything running with central power supplies because (despite what their plugpacks say) they want different voltages and require hacking to get them running at the same voltage. This is typically in the range of 27-32V DC so don't stock up on 24V power supplies. Ropelights may not be hackable. I went through this in 2013 and am happy to explain in detail.

    You can have pixels and store-bought lights in the same setup but not on the same controllers.

    Head into chat if you haven't already. It is an excellent place to get a lot of information even in short visits. I often log into chat in the late evenings and there are usually other experienced forum members there.
     
  8. scamper

    scamper Senior Elf

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    A simple analogy would be pretend the xmas lights are a computer
    The monitor is your lights (shows all the stuff)
    The computer box is the dmx controller (does all the confusing stuff)
    the modem is the Ethernet gateway (it takes the information and sends it to the box)
    The world wide web is the software you use (all the information required)


    I know this will either confuse you more or it may clear it up into something that is more familiar.


    The only problem with this is YOU need to define the data in writing the sequence in the software, But that is like when you get a new phone, You start with the basics and learn all the tricks bit by bit as you go (well at least I do)
    What I did was downloaded the different software, opened them and had a look, it all confused me no end, so I just read all the forum items I could at the time and at that time, Vixen 3 was in a major revamp and had heaps of people talking about it, so settled on that. I then watched all the video tutorials to feel as though I new what I was doing (note that word "feel") Then started setting up things that I wanted to make in the software and programmed them.
    I deleted them and started again many times and finally when I made the props I learned how to hook up the rest, with a lot of help from here
     
  9. TheFordys

    TheFordys New Elf

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    Ahhhhh I am getting the drift now of how to get started at least so thankyou. So I got just one more question and I reallyyyyy hope it's not too dumb of a question. Do you do all the programming on the computer with what lights you had in mind using and work out how you want each light to work with the music your going to use? So like the program you use shows what it will look like if you put in the details of where each set of lights is going on your home / garden etc? Then you move onto the next stage Then the next etc etc It's been a longggggg day and my head hurts trying to get all my christmas ideas finished in time for the 1st of Dec... lol

    Sent from my GT-N5110 using Tapatalk
     
  10. Fing

    Fing Full Time Elf Generous Elf

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    Hi,
    If you are using a Mac I would suggest Xlights as the program to use. And you are correct, Basically, you tell the program what lights you have and you position them over a photo of your house. You then import the music you wish to use, then set about programming the lights to turn on and off and change colours etc in time with the music, which is referred to as "sequencing". The software will produce a Fseq file which contains the sequencing information. This file can be played by the computer or can be loaded into another device to run the show. ( this is usually a Pi Single board computer).


    The computer, or Pi outputs the sequencing data via an ethernet connection (network) to a device(s) (often referred to as a controller) which interprets the data and turns the attached lights on and off etc.


    the tricky bit is working out what lights are connected to what controller in what location. each output of a controller will have an address (or addresses) and you need this information when you set up your computer program. So it's a bit of a snake eating its own tail exercise. It usually requires a bit of time working things out on paper first.


    luckily the program can be easily altered if you need to.


    does this answer you question or confuse you more? lol


    there are some great videos somewhere on the site that go thru setting up and using Xlights.


    Cheers
    Fing
     
  11. TheFordys

    TheFordys New Elf

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    Helps me out, hope it helps others too. Thank you I will start planning/learning for this once I have this years display up and running. Hopefully I can get it all working for next years display

    Sent from my GT-N5110 using Tapatalk
     
  12. keithsw1111

    keithsw1111 Full Time Elf

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    For next year the best thing you can do to come up to speed is attend your local mini in May/June.
     
  13. Charger

    Charger Apprentice Elf

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    I wouldn't give up on this year. Last year I was in the same situation - only ever used store bought LEDs. From memory I didn't order anything until early October and my lights were up and running by about the 5th of December. I ran into a few hiccups, but they were resolved eventually.


    My result exceeded my expectations, but Christmas lights were my life for about two months (that's what it is all about though)


    As mentioned there are some considerations with the store bought LEDs. Firstly the voltage difference between the lights. I bought a 30V power supply and that worked fine on the 30V lights as well as the 24V (even though it may not be encouraged)
    Also, your store bought LEDs will only work with a DMX controller if they have three wires going into the lights. I have seen some mention of work arounds, but that is too technical for me.


    If you go for it, just be sure to keep asking the questions. The help here is outstanding. Good luck.
     
  14. i13

    i13 Senior Elf

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    This is fine because the 24V lights usually have AC plugpacks that peak at around 30V DC. Always a good idea to calculate and measure the current draw for any hacked light set though. It's generally not a good idea to buy 24V DC power supplies.

    They will also work if there are two wires and no 8-function controller. Those with 2 wires AND an 8 function controller work with this instead of a regular DC controller but yes I still prefer the 3 wire light sets.
    http://www.hansonelectronics.com.au/product/dmx2-18/
     
  15. livetoride

    livetoride Full Time Elf

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    If you go the xlights route heres a video that helped me out alot when starting

    https://vimeo.com/130035888
     

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