Welcome to Lightsville

Welcome to Lightsville!

So you want to enter the world of computer-controlled Christmas lights?

There are several steps and choices that may or may not apply to you depending on what you want to do.

Typical elements of an animated Christmas display


First Steps: Do It Yourself or Plug And Play



The first choice you'll need to make is whether you want to go down the Do It Yourself controller route, or run with a commercial Plug And Play product. Although it is possible to have both DIY and commercial controllers running in a hybrid system, it is easier to start with just one kind of system.

Do It Yourself



The DIY route offers the following advantages:
  • Cheaper
  • Can usually customise something enough to meet your needs

However it also leads to these disadvantages:
  • Time consuming
  • Soldering and electrical knowledge required

Commercial (Plug And Play)



Compared to DIY, commercial systems offers these advantages:
  • Know that software exists that can run the boards
  • Warranties and support

The flipside is the cons which come with it:
  • Expensive
  • Not always going to find the exact product you need
  • Some setup still required (not completely plug and play)

Second Step: What lights do you want to control?



What sorts of lights you want to control will change the sorts of controllers you require. This applies to both DIY and commercial products.

Lights generally fall into two controller categories, 240v AC and low voltage DC.

240v AC includes:
  • Rope lights
  • Rope light motifs
  • Incandescent flood lights
  • Some indoor-rated incandescent lights
  • MyTBright LED lights and some cheap eBay LED strings.
  • Low voltage AC incandescents with adapter [avoid dimming or run risk of burning out the adapter]
  • Low voltage DC LEDs with adapter [avoid dimming or run risk of burning out the adapter]

Low voltage DC includes:
  • Most LEDs
  • Low voltage incandescents [supplied with AC adapters but incandescents will run on DC, albeit with a shortened life]


====Commercial range====
BrandControllerChannelsCost (US$)$ per ChOptionsNotes
Light-O-RamaCTB16PC (240v AC)16$141.90$8.87High Power Heatsink
  • Max 8 Amps Per Channel
  • Max 15 Amps Total Per Bank
  • Max 30 Amps Total Per Board
  • Controller ID set by Hardware Utility software
  • Cannot be operated in standalone mode
Light-O-RamaCTB16D (240v AC)16$219.95$13.75With Heatsink
  • Max 8 Amps Per Channel
  • Max 20 Amps Total Per Bank
  • Max 40 Amps Total Per Board
  • Controller ID set from rotary switch
  • Can operate in standalone mode


DIY range


ControllerChannelsCost (US$)$ per ChNotes
Renard24 (240v)24$Unknown$Unknown
  • Can be flashed to DMX
  • Parts purchased through Co-Op
Renard64 (240v)64$149.80$2.34
  • Can be flashed to DMX
  • Uses External SSR boards for DC an AC use
  • Parts purchased through Co-Op
Lynx Express (240v)16$102.11$6.38
  • Based on DMX
  • Parts purchased through Co-Op
Lynx Freestyle (240v)128$Unknown$Unknown
  • Based on DMX
  • Parts purchased through Co-Op



====Commercial range====
BrandControllerChannelsCost (US$)$ per ChNotes
Light-O-RamaCMB16D (5-60v DC)16$119.95$7.49
  • Screw-type connection
  • Max 4 amps per channel
  • Max 20 amps per bank
  • Max 40 amps per board
Light-O-RamaCMB16D-QC (5-60v DC)16$99.95$6.24
  • Quick-connect connection
  • Max 4 amps per channel
  • Max 20 amps per bank
  • Max 40 amps per board
AVDDC48 (12-36v DC)48$199.00$4.15
  • Screw Type connection
  • Max 2 amps per channel
  • Max 20 amps per bank
  • Max 40 amps per board
  • Shared V+ per 3 channels (ideal for RGB)
AVDDC24 (12-36v DC)24$129.00$5.38
  • Screw Type connection
  • Max 2 amps per channel
  • Max 15 amps per bank
  • Max 30 amps per board
  • Shared V+ per 3 channels (ideal for RGB)


DIY range


BrandControllerChannelsCost (US$)$ per ChNotes
Ren48LSDRen48Lsd (5-30v DC)48$44.67$0.93c
  • RJ45 Socket connection
  • Max 600 ma per channel
  • Avg 400 ma per channel
  • Max 20 amps per Board
  • Can be flashed for DMX
  • Parts purchased through Co-Op
Ren64XCRenard64 (5-40v DC)64$149.80$2.34
  • Can be flashed to DMX
  • Uses External SSR boards for DC an AC use
  • Parts purchased through Co-Op


Third Step: What Else You Need


===Light-O-Rama===
  • At least 1 or more AC or DC LOR controllers.
  • CAT5/CAT5e cabling long enough to run from your show computer to the first LOR controller. You will also need additional cabling for to addition controllers, daisychained
  • One of Light-O-Rama's adapters - either a DB9 serial to RS485 adaptor, or a USB to RS485 adaptor (boosted or not)
  • A Microsoft(R) Windows(R) computer with a serial port or USB port (depending on the chosen adapter above)
  • A lights sequencer - Light-O-Rama Showtime Suite II (S2) plays best with LOR hardware, but other software will work including LightShow Pro or Vixen.

TigerDMX


  • At least 1 or more AC or DC TigerDMX controllers.
  • A suitable USB to DMX adapter, such as the Enttec USB DMX Pro, or a Lynx DMX dongle
  • A Microsoft(R) Windows(R) computer with a USB port
  • A lights sequencer - LightShow Pro is the most recommended software but Vixen is a worthwhile free alternative. Light-O-Rama Showtime Suite II (S2) can be used only if a the LOR iDMX1000 LOR to DMX converter is used, but this set up is not recommended.

More Information


HolidayCoro Articles

See Also


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