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marsh28

A Basic RGB setup

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marsh28    59

I've been receiving a bunch of PMs & emails about how to set up a basic RGB network using Light o Rama.  In order to give a consistent explanation, I figured I'd outline everything here.  I apologize in advance for the length of this post.

 

First things first: Resources

I am not an engineer by trade and had no idea about soldering or anything else prior to entering the world of RGB.  With that said, it can all be easily learned and doesn't require all that much technical skill.  Instead, sufficient knowledge is all that's needed.  With that in mind, I would highly suggest anyone entering the RGB world to visit www.auschristmaslighting.com.  This web forum was developed by a guy named Fast Eddy many years ago and represents all his trials and experimentation.  The posters on this forum are EXTREMELY helpful and unlike places like doityourselfchristmas.com, where the posters can get tough on newbies, the guys (and gals) at auschristmaslighting.com are extremely helpful.  While on that forum, please also make sure you download the auschristmaslighting.com Introduction to RGB manual.  It is a GREAT resource and gives a very good explanation about RGB networks and how to set things up.

 

With that out of the way, I'll now get to my show and show you exactly what I purchased in order to set it up.  Below is a list of everything I use to run my show along with links to where items can be purchased.

 

1: Controllers: I control all pixels using e1.31 protocol which is controlled via an assigned IP address on your laptop.  The advantages of e1.31 are that unlike DMX, which limits you to only 512 channels, e1.31 allows you to control many MANY times more lights at a much smaller cost.  For my show, I use TWO e1.31 RGB controllers from SanDevices.

-to control the lights on the facade of my house I use (1) SanDevices e682 controller.  This controller is nice for places in your displays that require many separate RGB light strings because it has 8 outputs.  The e682 can control up to 10 universes of DMX channels.  That works out to  1700 pixels which is ALOT.  The SanDevices controller is purchased from the company website and costs just under $200.  

-to control the lights on my mini RGB trees I use a SanDevices e6804 controller.  This controller can control nearly as many lights as the e 682.  However, unlike that controller, it only has 4 outputs.  It is therefore better for more concentrated RGB elements like pixel mini trees and pixel matrices.  It is very cheap and costs $110 with shipping included.

Here the website for SanDevices.  http://www.sandevices.com/index.html

 

2: Lights: I buy all my RGB lights from China because they are cheapest and the exact same as those you'll purchase from US companies.  The most popular vendor is Ray Wu, although there are others.  You should note that when purchasing from Ray Wu and others, you'll see extremely high shipping prices listed on the website.  THIS IS NOT THE ACTUAL SHIPPING COST.  Instead, PM Ray directly and ask for an estimate on shipping with your order.  Also, NEVER pay directly through the aliexpress website these vendors use.  Instead, pay via paypal.  This way, you won't get screwed on shipping and the vendor will have to quote you a solid price.  With that said, here are the lights I bought from Ray Wu this year.

A) Lights on the facade of house: 12v 2811 IC flexible pixel strips.  http://www.aliexpress.com/store/product/5m-led-digital-strip-DC12V-input-WS2811IC-256-scale-10pcs-IC-and-30pcs-5050-SMD-RGB/701799_568458133.html

These are identical to the cosmic color ribbons LOR sells.  However, unlike the strips from LOR, they need a power supply which can ALSO be purchased through Ray.  Here's a link to a 12v 350 watt power supply from Ray's website.  http://www.aliexpress.com/store/product/12V-350W-switch-mode-power-supply-LED-power-driver-AC90-260V-input-DC12V-350W-output-constant/701799_1948832565.html

NOTE: it is VERY important you choose the correct power supply for your pixels.  If they're 12 v, you MUST use a 12 v power supply.  If you choose 5v (not as popular) the same applies.  The sandevices controllers can control EITHER 5v or 12 v pixels.

B) Pixel lights for mini trees: 12v 2811 IC "bullet" style pixels.  http://www.aliexpress.com/store/product/DC12V-input-12mm-WS2811-pixel-node-100pcs-a-string-IP68-rated/701799_735790044.html  Each individual pixel can be controlled.  I've had very good results with these pixels and no failures so far.  The spacing between nodes can be changed if you ask for it prior to ordering.

 

3: Connectors

A) Wire: because pixels are DC and low voltage, they experience voltage loss much quicker than traditional AC lights.  As such, you need to have fairly heavy gauge wire connecting your pixel strips to the controller.  If you don't use thicker wire, you'll have power issues, data issues, and will need to use power injection.  To limit these issues as much as possible, I'd suggest heavy duty 18 gauge alarm wire.  Monoprice always has great prices on this type of wire.  http://www.monoprice.com/Product?c_id=102&cp_id=10239&cs_id=1023902&p_id=4039&seq=1&format=2  When buying wire, make sure its "stranded" and not solid as stranded wire will be more difficult to solder and solder joints will give way more easily.

B) pig tails.  For 12v pixels, you need 3 core male and female connectors.  I recommend these from Ray Wu.  Again, I'd also recommend you use the highest gauge possible.  http://www.aliexpress.com/store/product/10pcs-lot-3-Core-BLACK-Waterproof-pigtail-20cm-long-each-male-and-female-male-connector-s/701799_1019853359.html

 

-Other than the above, the only other thing you'll need is a soldering gun to solder your wires.  Any old gun will work at they are cheap and radioshack.  Here's a good basic tutorial on soldering that should get you started.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9G9gaokqvM

 

The above is a basic "parts list" for my display.  I didn't include the DMX floods I use but those can be added to e1.31 by using a simple ettec DMX dongle.  This dmx dongle has no interaction with the pixels or controllers.

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JasonKing    4

Thank you for this information. I like many on here are wanting to convert to RGB and smart RGB this info helps greatly. Thank you and your Halloween display inspired me to do Halloween with LOR thanks again

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marsh28    59

No problem.  Again, the initial post was just initial information.  But it should give you enough information so you don't go in blind (like I did :( )


You should also note that if you don't want to go the DIY route, LOR sells RGB pixels very similar to those discussed above.  They are plug and play.  The only disadvantage is price.  However, the advantage is they can be easily set up and have a warranty.  Forget about a warranty with the Chinese vendors.

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JasonKing    4

I have been doing research on smart RGB. I am leaning towards holiday coro LEDs DIY floods but running it through LOR boards, I know nothing about the DMX. I'm still not sure if I want to use pixels or the ribbon (smart) on the rest of the house. I like the way they booth look. My house is about 60 feet off the road so I don't think it will matter much. I already made up frames for the eves, windows and doors so either can be mounted to what I've made.

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k6ccc    500

Marsh, one correction.  The SanDevices E682 has 16 outputs and if using unicast is will handle 12 universes.  BTW, one advantage that the SanDevices boards have over some other E1.31 controllers is that a universe can cross strings.  Some E1.31 controllers won't let you have a string that starts in one universe and finished in another.  No problem for the SanDevices controllers.  I'm running two E682s for Christmas plus two E6804s year round.

 

Also, the WS2811 strips are not identical to the ribbons used in CCRs.  The CCRs use a different chip and data stream format.  They look and function the same as the CCRs however.  Of course the WS2811 strips don't run under a E1.31 controller as they have their own.

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robo    12

Kinda off topic but I feel the hardest thing with RGB is setting them up in the visualizer and SE. Hopefully LOR can get a grip on it with their new release. When ever that happens.

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portcity_gt    40

What i did with your sequence (non smart pixels) is change your dmx addresses to lor and run them on a couple cmb24d's. I probably would have came out better leaving them E1.31 huh?

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1983ss454    117
Kinda off topic but I feel the hardest thing with RGB is setting them up in the visualizer and SE. Hopefully LOR can get a grip on it with their new release. When ever that happens.

Hoping so myself, I have read through the 101 guide several times, very helpful but one thing I was disappointed is its been hard to locate info on how to begin setting up sequence editor. Does anyone know if there's a tutorial video that goes over that? Haven't been able to find one

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marsh28    59

k6cc you're right.  I must have been using info from the old manual?  


Hoping so myself, I have read through the 101 guide several times, very helpful but one thing I was disappointed is its been hard to locate info on how to begin setting up sequence editor. Does anyone know if there's a tutorial video that goes over that? Haven't been able to find one

I've got videos on that.  I'll find them for you.  One thing to remember is that in order control DMX and devices and e1.31 devices you MUST have the Advanced version of the LOR software...

Edited by marsh28

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marsh28    59

Pixels are, in general, a pain to set up on LOR.  However, there are shortcuts.  Here's a great tutorial from John Storms on using a DIY program called Vegomatic that will help you set up your network.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XgX1Ite8TdQ


As to mapping the pixels out in the visualizer, I do it by hand.  Although time consuming, I think you get a more accurate depiction of your display that way.

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JasonKing    4

I'm lost as to pixels or ribbon? What's better, meaning more appealing to the eye from 60 to 70 feet away, more control? Programming? I not sure what way to go.

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marsh28    59

Jason, pixels are more like typical Christmas lights.  Ribbons have a more contemporary feel to them.  I like fades that look smooth so I put all of my pixels and ribbons inside PEX tubing to diffuse the light a bit.  This also helps with waterproofing.  As to what looks better?  Well, IMO, its a better idea to put pixel strips on the house because you can stretch your dollar more.  Also, you should note that the pixel strips/ribbons most people use (the 2811 ICs I posted above) actually consist of 3 groups of RGB leds that are controlled as one "pixel" grouping.  Thus, although those lights are listed as having 50 pixels per 5 meters, in truth they have 150 pixels per strip.  Its kind of hard to explain.  I'd suggest buying some, hooking them up, and seeing what you like best.  I'd do a small order so you don't but too much of what you don't want.

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Grinch    57

IMO I think the pixels maybe a little more rugged than the ribbon.  With the ribbon you have to try and keep the LED facing forward to get the best light.  So it really depends on where they will be mounted.  If on a  tree that you want to see through and have the lights in the back show like a traditional christmas light than I think the pixel will be easier.  If making a 12-16 ribbon tree than the ribbons might make it easier to keep straight lines.

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bob_moody    51

"The advantages of e1.31 are that unlike DMX, which limits you to only 512 channels, e1.31 allows you to control many MANY times more lights at a much smaller cost."

 

This might be a little confusing. It reads to me that what is being said is that E1.31 is a replacement for DMX to overcome the 512 channel DMX limitation.

 

E1.31 (Streaming ACN or sACN) is a protocol to transport DMX512 data over Ethernet. It doesnt extend the number of channels in a DMX universe (1 Universe = 512 channels)

 

I refer to

 

http://www.doityourselfchristmas.com/wiki/index.php?title=E1.31_(Streaming-ACN)_Protocol  -- "The simplest way to think about E1.31 is that it is a way to transport a large number of lighting control channels over a traditional ethernet network connection. E1.31 transports those channels in "Universes", which is a collection of up to 512 channels together"

 

and

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Architecture_for_Control_Networks

 

(I realize your not a fan of DIY Christmas, but it is a good reference)

 

 

Bob

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JasonKing    4
Thanks once again for the info. I think I'm leaning towards the ribbon (defused in the PEX tubing) on the house and arches. Pixels on the 2 bushes and 2 trees. Strung like traditional Christmas lights. Thanks again, my headache is slowly going away. FOR NOW!

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bob_moody    51

Jason,

 

Just a tip...

 

I use the strips in my arches (inside PEX tubing) and they are awesome...

I put them away last year and all was good ... this year .. I lost a pixel in the middle of one of the strips .. After replacing that strip .. the #1 strip is now dropping green in one of the last pixels..

I bought a couple of replacements.. one thing I forgot to check when I got the replacement strips .. Cool white vs warm ..

So my suggestion ...

 

If you need 4 strips .. but 6 .. you will have a quick replacement to get rid of the black hole created when a pixel dies and you will have a repair strip to get pixels from ...

Its dooable .. but not an easy task to repair a pixel in the middle of an enclosed strip ...

 

Bob

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marsh28    59

"The advantages of e1.31 are that unlike DMX, which limits you to only 512 channels, e1.31 allows you to control many MANY times more lights at a much smaller cost."

 

This might be a little confusing. It reads to me that what is being said is that E1.31 is a replacement for DMX to overcome the 512 channel DMX limitation.

 

E1.31 (Streaming ACN or sACN) is a protocol to transport DMX512 data over Ethernet. It doesnt extend the number of channels in a DMX universe (1 Universe = 512 channels)

 

I refer to

 

http://www.doityourselfchristmas.com/wiki/index.php?title=E1.31_(Streaming-ACN)_Protocol  -- "The simplest way to think about E1.31 is that it is a way to transport a large number of lighting control channels over a traditional ethernet network connection. E1.31 transports those channels in "Universes", which is a collection of up to 512 channels together"

 

and

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Architecture_for_Control_Networks

 

(I realize your not a fan of DIY Christmas, but it is a good reference)

 

 

Bob

Bob, I guess the better way to put it is that e1.31 allows you to have multiple DMX universes on the same network whereas your're limited to one with DMX.

 

I do like the doityourselfchrismas board but I've noticed it seems to attract a more hardcore crowd that can be a bit more snippy to newbies with a bunch of questions.  To me, its a better board to bounce ideas around on people. 

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jtomason    22

I am just starting to plan the addition of RGB for next year and have downed many a headache remedy absorbing it all.

For me, the most complex issue is planning. You have to know exactly what you want to do, and where you want to do it, because everything you will plan will likely determine how you will connect/power/control it. With straight incans/LEDs and LOR controllers, you simply put something somewhere and get an extension cord to your controller.... Not so with RGB.

So, I think for 2015, I am going to start out "medium", with HC pixel candy canes, WS2811 strip-in-PEX arches, and some window outlining with dumb RGB strips. I may also line the house with RGB floods - still thinking about that.

To give an example of the complicated planning involved (at least, when you have a budget, that is!): I am renting currently and cannot drill/mount anywhere. So my window outlining will have to be from the inside. Not a huge problem, I will build frames and mount the lighting to them, then lay them up in the windows. The problem? Controllers and wiring. I'd love to control each of the 4 sides independently, but that means a 4-channel controller, and I can't seem to find one. Two of the windows are close enough together to use a larger controller for the 8 channels, but the one window by itself? Not so much.

My elements will be far enough apart that I am reasonably sure that I will want to use E1.31 instead of straight DMX, but I'll admit that I am still confused at times over how to wire some of the dumb RGB controllers to the E1.31 bridges I see online. I also don't have a good sense for how long power and DMX runs can be, only that they are not long, especially for smart pixels. I am not sure for dumb RGB.

Fortunately, I have a year to learn more and experiment. :)

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NewbieDave    0

I'm wanting to do a RBG "dumb" outline. Just with the bulbs and minis not the tape. I'm gonna have LOR to run it. Can someone point me to the direction of building the controllers. They sell the 24 channel which i need 2 of them, but how do you mount them and get a power supply amd enclosure?? Thx.

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marsh28    59

I am just starting to plan the addition of RGB for next year and have downed many a headache remedy absorbing it all.

For me, the most complex issue is planning. You have to know exactly what you want to do, and where you want to do it, because everything you will plan will likely determine how you will connect/power/control it. With straight incans/LEDs and LOR controllers, you simply put something somewhere and get an extension cord to your controller.... Not so with RGB.

So, I think for 2015, I am going to start out "medium", with HC pixel candy canes, WS2811 strip-in-PEX arches, and some window outlining with dumb RGB strips. I may also line the house with RGB floods - still thinking about that.

To give an example of the complicated planning involved (at least, when you have a budget, that is!): I am renting currently and cannot drill/mount anywhere. So my window outlining will have to be from the inside. Not a huge problem, I will build frames and mount the lighting to them, then lay them up in the windows. The problem? Controllers and wiring. I'd love to control each of the 4 sides independently, but that means a 4-channel controller, and I can't seem to find one. Two of the windows are close enough together to use a larger controller for the 8 channels, but the one window by itself? Not so much.

My elements will be far enough apart that I am reasonably sure that I will want to use E1.31 instead of straight DMX, but I'll admit that I am still confused at times over how to wire some of the dumb RGB controllers to the E1.31 bridges I see online. I also don't have a good sense for how long power and DMX runs can be, only that they are not long, especially for smart pixels. I am not sure for dumb RGB.

Fortunately, I have a year to learn more and experiment. :)

Planning is KEY with RGB.  This especially true since you need to know exactly where each pixel will be on your house so effects look good.  This was my first full year of using e1.31 and I quickly learned that I needed to map everything out before I even bought anything.  I ended up creating a very simplistic grid that maps out, by hand, where each pixel is located.  It may look kind of stupid but it helped immeasurably with my setup.  It also was a great help when sequencing.

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I am just starting to plan the addition of RGB for next year and have downed many a headache remedy absorbing it all.

I will build frames and mount the lighting to them, then lay them up in the windows. The problem? Controllers and wiring. I'd love to control each of the 4 sides independently, but that means a 4-channel controller, and I can't seem to find one. Two of the windows are close enough together to use a larger controller for the 8 channels, but the one window by itself? Not so much.

Fortunately, I have a year to learn more and experiment. :)

If your planning Rgb dumb strips, 4 per Window you'll actually need 12 channels. Each Rgb dumb strip needs 3 channels 1 for red, 1 for green & 1 for blue

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jtomason    22

If your planning Rgb dumb strips, 4 per Window you'll actually need 12 channels. Each Rgb dumb strip needs 3 channels 1 for red, 1 for green & 1 for blue

 

Sorry, I meant 4 "outputs" since i usually see the controllers with RGB+...  You are right on the channels.  

 

Maybe I should just do 2 of these and control all 4 sides on all 3 windows...

 

http://www.holidaycoro.com/27-Channel-DMX-Controller-for-RGB-Lights-12v-DC-p/24.htm

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firemun    0
On 12/22/2014 at 3:15 PM, marsh28 said:

3: Connectors

A) Wire: because pixels are DC and low voltage, they experience voltage loss much quicker than traditional AC lights.  As such, you need to have fairly heavy gauge wire connecting your pixel strips to the controller.  If you don't use thicker wire, you'll have power issues, data issues, and will need to use power injection.  To limit these issues as much as possible, I'd suggest heavy duty 18 gauge alarm wire.  Monoprice always has great prices on this type of wire.  http://www.monoprice.com/Product?c_id=102&cp_id=10239&cs_id=1023902&p_id=4039&seq=1&format=2  When buying wire, make sure its "stranded" and not solid as stranded wire will be more difficult to solder and solder joints will give way more easily.

B) pig tails.  For 12v pixels, you need 3 core male and female connectors.  I recommend these from Ray Wu.  Again, I'd also recommend you use the highest gauge possible.  http://www.aliexpress.com/store/product/10pcs-lot-3-Core-BLACK-Waterproof-pigtail-20cm-long-each-male-and-female-male-connector-s/701799_1019853359.html

 

 

Just curious, why do you recommend 4 conductor wire when you have 3 conductor connectors?  Am I missing something??  Thanks for the good info!!

 

jeff

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