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Speedster

Some questions before I start setting up lights with my LOR for the first time

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Hello everyone, for the past 2 Christmases I used a kit called the Spectacular Light & Sound Show.  It's actually pretty good, but I've always been so much more impressed with light shows using the LOR (I bet that many of the youtube videos that I keep watching are from some of you!). 

So during the LOR Summer Sale I purchased the ShowTime Central TSO Edition (which came with ShowTime Central with miniDirector, FM transmitter, an SD card with 12 TSO songs & light sequences, a light controller preset as Id #1, and a bunch of other hardware that I don't need to use with ShowTime Central).  I also bought an extra light controller (preset as Id #2).  Everything arrived last week and I did a quick test and everything seems to be working properly.  As I started planning my outdoor setup, I had several questions & concerns that I hope some of you can help me with.

  • It's recommended to put the ShowTime Central controller on a high shelf in the garage, but unfortunately I don't have that option because our garage is downhill and too far away from the street and from the front of our house.  I've been told that the ShowTime Central controller will operate properly and hold up in rain, snow, and the freezing temperatures of Wisconsin winters.  However I'd rather figure out a way to keep it indoors and somehow snake the data cable out to the front of the house where the light controllers will be located.  If I put the unit in the basement on a shelf near a basement window in front of our house and tape the FM transmitter's antenna to the window pane, will the FM transmitter work effectively, or is that too low for it to work properly?  
  • If I put the ShowTime Central controller in the basement, I'm thinking of snaking the data cable through the exhaust hose of the dryer and through the vent that leads outside so it can be connected to the first light controller.  Can the data cable withstand the heat & humidity from the dryer exhaust, or would I have to shield/protect it with something?  If so, what should I use?  If this is not a good idea, how would you suggest to snake the data cable from inside the house to the front yard without drilling a hole in the wall?  (Going through a partially open window & screen is not an option because it will be too cold here to do that.)
  • I want people walking up and down our street to hear the music from the FM transmitter, so I'm trying to find a waterproof outdoor radio/boombox that I can leave plugged in outdoors for 6 - 7 weeks for this purpose.  Are there any that you recommend?  I'm having trouble finding one.  If a waterproof outdoor radio doesn't exist, what would be the best way to have the songs be heard by passers-by?
  • I'd like to incorporate leaping arches in my display, and it seems that the light controller with Id #3 is used for that purpose.  Since I already have controllers with Id numbers 1 & 2, do I have to buy a 3rd controller set as Id #3 to get the leaping arch effect, or can I just assign Id #3 to my 2nd controller to get the same effect?  (So my 2 light controllers would have Id numbers 1 & 3 instead of 1 & 2.)
  • Is it OK to cover the light controllers (possibly with a Rubbermaid bin) to protect them from the rain/snow/cold, or will they overheat if covered?  (I'm thinking they probably won't overheat if covered, since temperatures here could be in the 40s to below-zero from mid-November to the first week of January.)
  • I'm going to need LOTS of extension cords that vary in length from 10 - 40 feet.  Where do you go when you have to buy bulk quantities of extension cords?

Thanks in advance, I appreciate any advice/suggestions you can provide!

Edited by Speedster

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To answer a few of your questions,  LOR controllers are not really fussy, as I well know, being from New Hampshire.  The only suggestions I can make is to make sure they don't get buried in a snow bank or hung in a way that water will drip into them. Hang them cords down and you can put a piece of tape over the hole where the data cable goes in.  I never have. 

You can easily change controller #2 to #3.  The order doesn't matter.  Each controller only looks for the data intended for its ID and ignores the rest. 

However many extension cords you think you will need, double or triple it.  Look into buying a roll of spt1 or spt2 and vampire plugs to make custom cords at the length you need.  In the long run it is less expensive and less bulky to store.  I have 8 totes full of standard cords. It's not economical for me to change.

Brian

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20 minutes ago, Speedster said:

It's recommended to put the ShowTime Central controller on a high shelf in the garage, but unfortunately I don't have that option because our garage is downhill and too far away from the street and from the front of our house.  I've been told that the ShowTime Central controller will operate properly and hold up in rain, snow, and the freezing temperatures of Wisconsin winters.  However I'd rather figure out a way to keep it indoors and somehow snake the data cable out to the front of the house where the light controllers will be located.  If I put the unit in the basement on a shelf near a basement window in front of our house and tape the FM transmitter's antenna to the window pane, will the FM transmitter work effectively, or is that too low for it to work properly?  

Yes, the controller will survive just fine in the weather.  As for the FM transmitter, try it well in advance.  if it works, great.  If not, you can improve it.  But test it well before you go live (like, now).

25 minutes ago, Speedster said:

If I put the ShowTime Central controller in the basement, I'm thinking of snaking the data cable through the exhaust hose of the dryer and through the vent that leads outside so it can be connected to the first light controller.  Can the data cable withstand the heat & humidity from the dryer exhaust, or would I have to shield/protect it with something?  If so, what should I use?  If this is not a good idea, how would you suggest to snake the data cable from inside the house to the front yard without drilling a hole in the wall?  (Going through a partially open window & screen is not an option because it will be too cold here to do that.)

It's a Cat-5 cable and certainly long term running through the dryer vent would not be a good idea.  With that said, it would likely work fine for a season.  There are tricks to eliminate the issue with running a cable through a window.  The easiest way is to cut a piece of wood to a size that it fits in the bottom of the window so that when you pull the window down it sits on the top of the wood.  Then drill through the wood to run your cable.  You can add some rubber insulation if desired.    Do a Google search for running a coax cable through a window and you'll see lots of things that hams have done to get coax cables outside.  That should show examples of what I'm talking about.

40 minutes ago, Speedster said:

I want people walking up and down our street to hear the music from the FM transmitter, so I'm trying to find a waterproof outdoor radio/boombox that I can leave plugged in outdoors for 6 - 7 weeks for this purpose.  Are there any that you recommend?  I'm having trouble finding one.  If a waterproof outdoor radio doesn't exist, what would be the best way to have the songs be heard by passers-by?

Others will give you ideas on your concept - many people do that.  In my case, I have two 75 watt per channel audio amplifies on a shelf in my bedroom closet.  Then there is conduit out to where I have four speakers permanently installed in my yard.  The speakers are designed to be installed outdoors.

42 minutes ago, Speedster said:

I'd like to incorporate leaping arches in my display, and it seems that the light controller with Id #3 is used for that purpose.  Since I already have controllers with Id numbers 1 & 2, do I have to buy a 3rd controller set as Id #3 to get the leaping arch effect, or can I just assign Id #3 to my 2nd controller to get the same effect?  (So my 2 light controllers would have Id numbers 1 & 3 instead of 1 & 2.)

Yes you could.  Note that you have to have a Basic Plus level LOR license to control a controller with unit ID #3.  You could also modify the sequence so that the controller for the arches are unit ID #2.  If you elect to do that, it's easy to do, but you may tear your hair out first, so ask how to do it.

45 minutes ago, Speedster said:

Is it OK to cover the light controllers (possibly with a Rubbermaid bin) to protect them from the rain/snow/cold, or will they overheat if covered?  (I'm thinking they probably won't overheat if covered, since temperatures here could be in the 40s to below-zero from mid-November to the first week of January.)

Should not be a problem - especially in your temperatures.

46 minutes ago, Speedster said:

I'm going to need LOTS of extension cords that vary in length from 10 - 40 feet.  Where do you go when you have to buy bulk quantities of extension cords?

Do a search for vampire cords.  Build your own cables to length.  Far less expensive than buying extension cords.

 

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1) It will hold up fine in your climate. You can mount them outdoors without problems just remember how much snow you may get. Don't want them to get buried.

2) Your showtime central is also in a box correct? If so place that puppy outside as well

3) Look into getting those speaker rocks and other speakers. They do have outdoor speakers. 

4) Depending on what you are controlling from Units 1&2 you can just assign leaping arches to one of those.

 Think of it like this.

You will have to set up a channel configuration. It looks like a large graph sheet. Each block will turn on and off a light. You just set your arches up there.

5) You can put a bag on the controllers. No reason why in the cold weather. Just zip tie or lock them shut to keep the door from accidentally getting opened.

I retired to AL but wish I was up in the frozen tundra

JR

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my 2c on FM Transmitters.

Don't be too fussy or concerned about location or antennas. Doesn't really matter where the device is as long as you can extend the antenna as high as you can. 

Mine came with a fairly long wire antenna (assume yours has too), the transmitter is at about waist height, the antenna loops over the rails of the garage door system. Despite the antenna not even being straightened out, and despite being looped around metal objects, reception in the viewing area is fine. I can even still get reception about a 1/4 mile away and I can't see my house from there.

 

It often amazes me that some people get real concerned about FM Transmitters and get high power ones and/or make fancy antennas for them. Bottom line is, reception only needs to be good to where people are going to be watching your lights. Which is usually in their cars across the road from your property. So unless the best viewing for your lights is half a mile away then don't worry too much about your FM transmitter. :D   (Disclaimer: I do realise there are differences in FM Transmitters and some will produce a much better quality sound, with less noise)

As @k6ccc said, test it now. Set it up where you think is good for you, play some music through it then park your car across the road and see what the reception is like. 

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I have to agree and disagree with Oz on the fm transmitter issue. He is correct that you don't need the best or strongest fm tranmitter as you really only need to go a couple hundred feet. However, many people have complained that the fm transmitter that comes in the LOR kit is not all that good as they can't even reach the end of their driveway.

I have always recommended the CZH as a basic transmitter for an amateur show as it is reliable and has good range on low power for around $50.

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12 minutes ago, Mr. P said:

I have to agree and disagree with Oz on the fm transmitter issue. He is correct that you don't need the best or strongest fm tranmitter as you really only need to go a couple hundred feet. However, many people have complained that the fm transmitter that comes in the LOR kit is not all that good as they can't even reach the end of their driveway.

I have always recommended the CZH as a basic transmitter for an amateur show as it is reliable and has good range on low power for around $50.

My FM transmitter that came with one of my purchases worked great the first year. I could listen to my lights about 1/2 mile away (straight line distance) in the Veterans park close to my house.

Then I brought it out for Halloween last year and I could barely get to end of my driveway.

A month ago I broke it back out for my tree testing and discover a loose antenna wire in the transmitter. It appeared whoever installed it at factory barely had any wire stripped. Probably last years weather was enough to break the wire that was connected.

Now all is well again

Jt

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I also disagree with OzAz.

RF Transmission is a Science (and an art)

Antenna length is a formula using the specific frequency. (band) (Yaggi's take this down to the frequency, to squeeze a bit more performance) Low SWR is the goal

Element placement creates the Polar radiation pattern

The 'art' is knowing Where to place it, considering physical factors.

 

 

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I remember those days in the Army having to set up dipole antennas and having to figure the lengths.

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Thanks everyone for all the great info, advice, & suggestions!  Since it seems that the ShowTime Central box will be OK to put outdoors in cold temperatures, I'll put it on a stand in front of our house behind a bush and cover it with something.  Then I won't have to worry about snaking the data cable from the basement to the front of our house, and the FM transmitter should work just fine for the cars that get close enough to see our house.

I'm thinking of getting a 3rd LOR light controller, since I always tell my family "We don't have enough lights out there".  I'm assuming that when I order it, I can specify that I want it preset with Id #3 to save me the trouble of having to do that via the software.

I'll check out those outdoor speakers, but if money gets tight (due to buying another LOR light controller and more lights, lol), I might just put an old boombox on the covered part of our front porch, wrap it with a garbage bag, and cover it with a small bin.

I actually have 1 1/2 large bins full of outdoor extension cords & triple taps from being possessed by Clark Griswold a few years ago.  So I might not need as many extension cords as I thought.  I might just need to buy 15 - 20 additional extension cords.  (I'll need more if I buy a 3rd light controller though.)  Making my own cords would definitely make sense if this was the first year that I was doing a big light display though.  And I might still do that anyway, especially if I buy that 3rd light controller.  If I decide to make the additional ext cords that I need, where is the best place to purchase SPT-2 zip cord and vampire plugs?

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