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Gork68

Welcome a Newbie and offer wife help please!

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First off, hello my name is John and I am completely new and about to get into this hobby. I live in Tennessee and have been decorating the house for the kids for about a dozen years. I add to it every year because the wife has an addiction. After Christmas she will go shopping and buy new stuff or give me plans to make things... Every year she mentions that I should set it to music and automate the lights. She keeps mentioning more and more then she got an email from LOR about a sale and told me I have to do it... I have about 20,000 lights and everything is LED. I would use most of what I already have but want to add some RGB. I have a budget of $2,000 and need to get started. So my problem is what to spend money on. My initial thought was to get a starter package of a showtime central and a few controllers but it seems I could go a less expensive route than that. I think I would rather run it on one of my 9 servers in the house any way... I really like the idea of RGB to change color. I also really like the idea of a mega tree. we do a food drive for a local charity and it would be nice to advertise it on that. I have found a few places to purchase smart rgb lights but I am curious as to where most get theirs... some place reputable. I have been looking at holidaycoro

 

so to recap... Hi I am john, the wife is making me automate the lights and if you had $2,000 to start all over from the beginning, what would you buy? here is a pic almost complete... there are 2 new pieces I built next to the nativity that are not on or standing up - a camel and shepherd... TIA!

 

2nhge20.jpg

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When I started a synchronized display, I simply started with my design from the previous year, and add animation/music to it. RGB wasn't around then (at least in Christmas lights) so that wasn't something I had to contend with.

 

If it were me, and budget being something of a limiting factor, I would figure out how many controllers it would take to animate your current display. Then, if you have money left over, decide where to put the RGB. 

 

One thing to keep in mind, as it will impact your budget, is that your extension cord usage is going to go up, way up. Look for SPT1 or SPT2 wire and plugs so you can make your own. 

 

Just my two cents.

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I would start off by getting the LOR Advanced software and start playing with it.  Look at your current display (which is beautiful BTW)  and figure out how you want to animate it.  Remember that each item or string of lights that you want to control separately is a channel.  With your budget, I would think 32 - 48 channels is a good jumping in spot.  With 48 channels, you will probably need over 100 extension cords.   You are already pretty late in the game to start sequencing your own songs for this year so you will probably have to get some premade or shared ones.

Personally, I would wait on RGB till second year as there  is a pretty big learning curve for it on top of learning LOR and just getting the display to work.

Definitely go with the PC controllers instead of the Showtime ones to save money.

 

Welcome to the craziness.

 

Brian

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So where in TN are you. There's several of us between Knoxville and Chattanooga who may be willing to help. I'm in Knoxville and would be willing to. There's also some folks in West TN.

Now, as far as getting started. IMHO, as said above, animate what you have now for this year and then do the RGB stuff next year. I'm not trying to discourage you, I just know how much work is involved. Now, if you're planning the RGB offerings from LOR , you should be able to get some stuff done for this year.

Welcome to the addict....... er,....... I mean to say........ hobby.

Edited by Ron Boyd

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Thanks guys for the input and compliment Brian! I haven't played with the software but I am a software engineer and a band geek from way back, so I was thinking it can't be that hard... now you have me worried :o

 

I work from home so I have plenty of time but I think you guys are right. I will wait until next year to get into RGB and just automate my current display. I have multiple tubs of nothing but extension cords now... IDK if I have a hundred but pretty darn close if not.

 

Do you recommend the residential controllers or going for the pro series? We almost never get snow but we do get rain and not usually anything severe.

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Thanks Ron but I am just south of Nashville in Spring Hill so in the middle of the state.

 

I did already plan to purchase the advance software version but wondering if you guys recommend the superstar addon. I have decided that RGB will wait until next year so I guess this could too unless it is useful for more than just the RGB stuff.

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I have the residential controllers {CTB16PC's} and live in sunny {rainy} Florida.  

 

Never had an issue with them in the rain, well one time I did, I had opened one, didn't close the door fully and forgot to screw the screw back in fully that keeps the door closed tightly and weatherproof, dried it out after the storm and everything was back to normal.  

 

Learned the hard way to always make sure that the door is closed fully, and that the screw is screwed down tight!   Never had another issue after making that one mistake.

So I'd go with the residential controllers {CTB16PC's} and like other stated, animate your current display.  I haven't gotten into RGB yet, looked at it, but seems to have a harder learning curve than just animated basic LED or Incandescent lights to music.

 

And you may find, even though you know music as a professional, the LOR way of doing things has tripped up many folks in the music profession, as it may not work like you think it should, nothing like the platforms you may be accustomed too.  So there is a learning curve to making the lights synchronize to the music.

 

Fortunately a lot of us here do share our sequences with others, and that can at least give you a starting or reference point to get you learning and moving in the right direction with the software.

 

Good Luck on whatever you opt to do and go with, and welcome to the sickness, er hobby of lights animated to music.

 

BTW: You may also want to invest in an FM transmitter to get the music out to your audience, having an FM transmitter is basically a necessity in this hobby!  Just don't buy the "Whole House Transmitter", you'd be better off asking one of the other forum members recommendations for one.   I'd have recommended the one I use, but it's no longer manufactured any longer.

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Thanks guys for the input and compliment Brian! I haven't played with the software but I am a software engineer and a band geek from way back, so I was thinking it can't be that hard... now you have me worried :o

 

 

 

Do you recommend the residential controllers or going for the pro series? We almost never get snow but we do get rain and not usually anything severe.

 

I am an ex band geek also.  I was a soundman with my own sound company for about 15 years before life and a real job caused me to give it up.  That experience really did give me a leg up on this hobby and has helped a lot in my sequencing skills.

I do recommend the residential controllers.   I guess they call them residential and commercial now instead of PC and Showtime like I'm used to.

If you check the videos from my website and see any you like, I can share.

 

Bri

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thanks everyone. I have taken the plunge and bought 4 controllers and the advanced s3 license. I picked up the czh-05b FM receiver from amazon. I mapped out my current display and figured out the channels. I have already started working on my first sequence and its not hard at all but I can see this taking a good bit of time.

 

so now does anyone have any suggestions on my wife problem? I don't see her slowing down and in fact I believe once I do automate this she is going to be worse than ever... I told her I bought 4 controllers, software and FM receiver for about thousand bucks and her first response was what else are you going to get with the other $1000... :rolleyes: I told her to go shopping for LED lights to replace what we have because I doubt any of them are dimmable. oh well I guess it could be worse, I mean she does really enjoy helping me put up the lights and wearing her santa hat while doing it!

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Do you think she'd be interested in doing some of the sequencing?

 

Not having dimmable lights would be a problem since you'll definitely want to be doing some fades.  Most retail LEDs - Walmart, Target, etc - will fade okay.  (Martha Stewart is a brand to avoid.)  If you contact Holiday Light Express (HLE) and/or Magic In The Sky (MITS) they're both offering reduced prices right now (on the exact same lights).

 

But getting back to the fading, the fewer channels you have, the more you'll want to fade so it DOESN'T just look like a bunch of flashing lights.  If you can do two colors that's great because it gives you so many more choices than either on or off.  Once you get more devices - arches, poles, starbursts, etc. it's not as much of an issue.  But just starting out, be careful not to flash too much.

Edited by George Simmons

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Thanks George you have given me new hope... I obviously haven't tested any of my current lights to see if they are dimmable but I just assumed they wouldn't. I plan on testing them as soon as my controllers come in. I bought some Martha stewart ones once years ago and took them back immediately. those things are aweful! I have various ones from walmart, target, big lots etc... so fingers crossed that they dim ok :P

 

I bought 4 controllers so I have 64 channels. I made sections of the house and flower beds but am using most channels in the trees and nativity scene. Ya the wife is already laying in to me about not making the display strobe ;) I think she was a little disappointed that I will not be doing a mega tree this year but I assured her I will get a jump on it next year. She also wants me to make a 10x50 pixel matrix to hang above the garage door. no telling what else she will come up with before Christmas 2015...

 

as for sequencing... nah she doesn't have any time. My wife is a real estate agent and owns another business so always on the run. besides being a software engineer makes me the resident computer guy...

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I think you'll earn way, way more brownie points with a spiral tree rather than the same old boring mega tree that absolutely everyone has done to death.  Watching a spiral tree go around in a circle is a far more exciting experience than watching a mega tree go around in a circle.  Just saying...

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You have a lot to work with in your static display which looks very nice! Being your background, you'll have no problem learning this software and with all the help here in the forums from all who've been there, done that...you'll find yourself quickly onto a full show you will be proud of. It so well worth all the effort when you see it run for the first time, plus the wife, kids and neighbors...

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so now does anyone have any suggestions on my wife problem?

You don't have a wife problem. Many of us have the opposite problem: Our wives complain that we're spending too much money and/or time on this hobby. (Fortunately for me, my wife realized a few years ago that she was fortunate I have a relatively harmless hobby instead of sitting on the couch with a beer watching football.)

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Make sure you start setup even earlier because it takes a lot longer!

64 channels is a lot of channels to sequence.

 

Have fun and welcome to the madness!

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Welcome to the LOR family. Your static display is gorgeous. Hopefully you can make it even better with some synchronization.

I have the PC or residential controllers here in rainy Oregon and they worked last year without a hitch. So you should be just fine with them.

You have spent half your budget on controllers, sw and a fm transmitter (love my czh btw). I would recommend you look at Home Depot website and get some SPT wire and vampire plugs...unless you have 64+ extension cords that can reach your controllers. Home Depot seems to have the best everyday price....online only though.

You also need a tune to sign. Can be a sign or a lot of us use the holiday coro sign and plop some lights in for our freq. For me this takes up a LOR channel.

You could add some RGB floods this year but I really don't see a place for them in your yard that wouldn't make it look forced. Maybe light up the house but that would take more than 8 floods I think. Your nativity scene already has lights on it so it is not needed there. Basically, I don't see a place it would be enhancing.

On the other hand, a spiral tree would definetly look good. Google the webber spiral and take a look. Especially at some of the YouTube videos. It is an easy to build element. Step by step directions easily found on the web and the prop file for visualizer is available in these forums. Doable this year IMHO.

Also, superstar is for more than RGB or pixels. It will control any channel.

It is usable for you to play with (try for free) now. You can do everything it has to offer except export to the sequence editor. So as you get your sw up and running waiting for your controllers you can sneak a peek at superstar (it is already included in the sw download).

For me, it cuts programming time way way down. If you are just learning LOR sw you will not have developed the habits others already have which tend to block learning a new way. Whole yard fades, sweeps, morphs, twinkles etc are possible in seconds with superstar vice the hours in normal s3 sequencer.

Of course with superstar you have all the normal control of lights too...like color fades, twinkles, shimmers etc on each channel. Try it. For me it is worth the investment. And if you do go to RGB in the future it will help you there as well.

Lastly, when you get ready to start lookin at RGB lights, pixels etc don't forget to look at Ray wu's store. Just google him and you will get there. You can purchase completed matrixes that are ready to go without any building required as an example. Of course he has all the things you could ever need for RGB. Ship time is shorter than you think and it works best if you contact him before you order to get fedex shipping (I use DHL instead which is faster than fedex) cheaper than the web page shows for slow boat shipping.

I have ordered from several other vendors including LOR, sans devices, holiday coro, seasonal entertainment, christmasleds, diyledexpress, radiant and wireframedlites to name my favs. All offer different things I have found useful. All have delivered top notch customer service and support.

Good luck,

And enjoy seeing your display and how you would like to program/sequence it in your head for every song you hear.

It is a curse as much as a joy.

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so I have gotten 1 sequence done and starting on the second. I know what you are thinking... wow that is fast... well the first sequence was easy because I bought it - the greatest story ever told - from the sequence store... seemed like a nice sequence to use with my nativity scene. I made some adjustments and well yes it works out rather nicely! so I started on the second one - Mathew west, The Heart of Christmas - I am about a minute into it and in my head this is turning out really nice... my oldest son (11 years old) is home sick from school but is feeling better and wants something to do. I tell him, why don't you play around with the visualizer so we can tie in the sequence and see how it looks? He was very excited and eager to help. So he runs outside with his ipad and takes a few pictures. he finds one he likes and sets in on the visualizer. He gets done with 'decorating' the picture in visualizer and asks if I could play my sequence so far. well i'll be damned... this thing is so cool! Now my son is begging me to help with sequencing... I told him too many cooks etc... he's like daaaaaadddd please I wanna help. so I told him grab a song and start sequencing it. Now I don't know if what he comes up with will be any good or usable but who knows... the kid is really bright and creative. hell his might end up being better than mine! :D

 

so now the wife says to me... you know if JT is doing half the sequencing that will free you up to do some RGB and you have $1000 left in your budget... OH for crying out loud woman!!! LOL!

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Hey that's great that the kid is interested. My father and I did our display together for almost 30 years, it's defiantly a fun hobby to do together..

Plus the sequencing help is a bonus, last year I showed my wife how to use Papagayo for doing singing faces, now she's way better then I am at it and programming all the singing for the Halloween and Christmas songs. Big time saver

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Oh to have that money in reserve.

 

A couple things to buy would be a frequency sign so people will know what station to tune into to hear the music and a couple of outdoor speakers for those walking by. Could even pick up a cheap receiver to power them with too.

 

Otherwise, I'd honestly look at things for next year. RGB dumb strips, etc. What other props might you want or what changes do  you want to make to your display?

 

Nice to have a wife who will enjoy your new hobby. Best of luck!

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Most retail LEDs - Walmart, Target, etc - will fade okay.  (Martha Stewart is a brand to avoid.)

Ditto... I have heard that the Martha Stewart LEDs can get extremely hot when you attempt to fade them, and possibly start a fire. We had 8 strings (4 red, 4 white) wrapped around the the 2 columns by our front door to make them look like candy canes in 2012, and when I heard about that I immediately changed the sequences so they had no fades on those lights and, then in 2013 (Last Christmas) we replaced them with incandescent mini lights. 

 

-Chris-

Edited by cgreenfield

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so now the wife says to me... you know if JT is doing half the sequencing that will free you up to do some RGB and you have $1000 left in your budget... OH for crying out loud woman!!! LOL!

So at what point is someone going to nominate this woman for Sainthood. Let me be the first. WOW, usually I'm asking for forgiveness. GORK68 welcome to the madness. You are a very lucky man to have such a supportive family that actually wants to get involved with the actual sequencing. You have received some great advice above and I don't think I could add anything more constructive other than telling you to invest some of that money in a website because I'm sure all of us on this board that are drooling over that "wife problem" you claim to have are going to want to see the 50 or more sequences it sounds like you and your son are going to complete this month. At a minimum, I hope to see some great videos on YouTube. Come to think of it, maybe you will need to invest in a good video camera to capture those vides on. There you have it, my three ideas......Sainthood, website, video camera.

Good luck, have fun, and welcome. We are all anxiously waiting to see the final product.

John

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thanks John! yes I will probably make another website at some point... right now I am really busy as you all know ;)

 

I ordered a 1000' roll of spt-2 wire and hundreds of male/female vampire plugs. I think this was one of the best ideas! it's a lot cheaper this way when you need literally hundreds of cords but it's also really nice to cut them to exactly the size you want and need.

 

I am planning on starting to put everything up before Halloween... usually I start as soon as it is over. I am also putting tape labels on everything so I know where it goes and what it plugs into. another great suggestion btw!

 

The wife broke me down and I am in the middle of adding RGB this year... I am constructing 4 arches with CCR and building a tune in sign. Although she really wanted the mega tree, but I just don't see how I could complete that this year with sequencing. Maybe I am making it out to be harder than it is but it seems like too much for what little time I have left... I am also thinking about replacing my star on the nativity scene to RGB this year as well. not for color change as much as for the effects B)

 

I have gone over my budget though or will as soon as the electrician comes out and adds a couple more circuits for me... but I figured what the heck its for a good cause right? I think this will be the 5th or 6th year we have been collecting food donations for a local food pantry. the first year we collected 150 or so items. this number has grown every year and last year was over 3,500 items. my living room and front room looked like a couple aisles in krogers. I hope this year I run out of room :D

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I had to laugh when I saw "I am completely new and about to get into this hobby"... it becomes an addiction.  you sit and wait for Christmas stuff to get put out at the stores... (btw hobby lobby has it out now) ... my husband and I do this together and its alot of work...but to hear children squeal.... oh its an awesome feeling.  I get to do the sequencing and my husband builds my prop... I hear the music and I can see the lights blinking in my head.... we start planning the next show usually when the completed one is going on- I start programming in June (just because of my schedule) and the lights go up usually before Halloween.  this is our third year... spt wire and vampire plugs are the greatest invention.... we use alot of it.  but whether you have a spiral tree, mega tree, regular tree, static, regular lights, rgb lights... whatever, if they blink to music people will love it.  ohhh to have a $2000 budget for one year...  little thought.... if you are doing arches.... we used pvc pipe and used rope lights.  I personally like the look better than wrapping it with a gazillion lights.  plus it's easier to store. we use one 18 ft light per section.  My husband built a type of drill jig so when we wrap them we use a drill to spin...makes it a whole bunch easier.  your display is beautiful....cant wait to see the finished product.

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