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Posts posted by sjmiller

  1. I had an idea to add what I call an exploding star to my display this year using RGB Pixels, it took me a few tries before I finalized the design. I ended up using 1/8th inch by 1/2 inch hot rolled steel to form the stars. Welded the pieces together, then attached 166 2801 pixels using 3 cable ties per pixel. The video below was taken in my shop, the pixels are BRIGHT and washed out the camera.




    I have it out in my display, I need to build another one to balance out the display.



  2. I have a question about multi color mega trees and the visualizer. I have a mega tree that I use 9 channels for blue, then nine strings of red, white, and green each color on their own channel. When I use the Tree Wizard I specify 9 channels with a density of 4, then I assign blue 1 through 9 in the fixtures to their own channel, and each of the other colors to the same channels (10,11,12) - is that the right way to do it?

  3. Lots of great comments here, I'll add a few more. This is my 4th year doing a display with LOR, ten 16 ch controllers and one 8 ch controller. I wouldn't "stress" myself out trying to get something going this year. Download the S3 demo software and pick a song you would like for next years display. Watch the LOR Videos about sequencing, build an animation of your house - and sequence the song. I did this in Dec. 2008 - and had my first display up in 2009. The first thing I learned is that 16 channels were not enough, nor was 32 - ended up doing 48 channels my first year. The next thing I learned is you have to think about your power budget. What kind of lights are you going to use and do you have enough available plugs/amps to support the display. My original 3 controllers and 10,000 mini-lights were popping the breaker - so I had to run extension cords to split up the the controllers to lighten the load on the plug/circuit. That's when I made another decision, I was going to transition to LEDs - 100 mini-lights draw about 100 watts, 100 LEDs draw about 4 watts. Today I have about 25,000 LEDs and about 5,000 mini-lights. The mini-lights are on wireframes that I need to redo with LEDs. You will need extension cords, tons of them. Don't buy them - build them, you can buy Vampire plugs & recepticals from most of the Christmas supply sites (Creative Displays is my vendor of choice) and SPT-1 (Lamp cord/wire) at your local Lowes or Home Depot.

    This is a great forum, everyone is here to help!



    Last but not least - Have Fun! People are going to enjoy your display, they are going to be greatful for the time and effort you put in.

  4. What a great question!

    To start with - you're in the right place to get a lot of information and advice. I don't know how much time you have spent here in the forums reading posts.

    When I was first considering an animated display I spent a couple of months on these forums and kept seeing: Welcome to the hobby, obsession, addiction - which didn't make sense at first. I was going to buy a controller animate my display - and be happy! HA! Four years later I'm up to 10 controllers, and I add new features and controllers to my display every year - as well as now doing a Halloween display.

    The first thing you should do is view the LOR tutorials on sequencing a song, then download the LOR S3 Demo software. Pick a Christmas song you can stand to listen to a couple of hundred times (download Audacity and convert the song to .wav), build an animation in LOR that represents your display - and sequence the song. In my case the planned 1 controller didn't give me the visual effects I wanted - so year 1 I started out with 3 controllers... and I found that it took a lot longer to sequence then I thought it would. I plan on 30 to 60 hours per song for sequencing.

    Now that you have sequenced a song for YOUR display you'll know how many controllers you want to start with - and how many lights you "used".

    Figure out what you're budget will be for the next year, and plan, plan, then plan some more...

    What % of your budget will be for controllers - will you buy fully assembled or kit?

    You'll need an FM Transmitter to broadcast the music - EDM is the leader in quality product.

    How are you going to have the music playing for your display - I put a boombox
    outside, or you could put stereo speakers.

    Depending on your preference, ican or LED - power may be an issue, I used the spreadsheet that http://www.Quarzthillchristmas.com has available to plan my power consumption per controller when I was using primarily mini-lights. I happen to like how LED lights have that brightness that pops out of the display - and have converted most lighting to LED.

    My note on LED strings from the box stores, I no longer buy them. It's a gamble whether they will fade, twinkle or shimmer. Most of the box store lights have replaceable bulbs, the conductors in the socket are copper and the leads on the LED are solder tinned - dissimilar metals corrode when exposed to moisture. I tossed 10 strings this year, all bought last year - and I'm still not done putting up my display.

    Buy your lights during the pre-season sales, I happen to be a fan of Creative Displays - 30% discount and excellent service/support. Sale is going on now.

    Part of your planning needs to include the next biggest $ expense, extension cords. Most buy SPT-1 bulk wire and use vampire plugs and receptacles. Label both ends of your extension cords - next year when you put up your display you can sort the cords by feature and quickly assemble the display.

    Last but not least - time management.

    Even after reading the forums for a few months, I didn't really comprehend what it took to do an animated display.

    It's not what I would do differently, it's that I didn't know what to plan for.


  5. When I've had that problem in the past, it was because I had used the same channel twice (via a typo) in the sequence. Click on Tools, and select Chennel Property Grid - it will list out what contoller channels are being used for each display element.

  6. Problem fixed.

    When reflowing the solder joints on the opto didn't help the problem - I updated my ticket. The next thing to do was reflow the solder joints on R15 & U4 - problem fixed!

    Great support in both the forums and with LOR.


  7. Wanted to keep everyone in the loop. I opened a ticket with LOR. The first suggestion was to short the middle leg (A2) of the triac to the Gate pin (right leg). The triac fired and the light string turned on.

    The next test was to measure the voltage on pin 1 of the opto isolator - as soon as the probe touched pin one - the lights turned on - and I have been using the Hardware Utility to run tests for the last few hours - I can't get channel 1 to fail :-(


  8. This is an interesting message thread - with a lot of mis-information.

    There are those that don't like LEDS because of their brightness and color saturation, that is a preferance.

    Fact, using a Kill-O-Watt meter, a string of 100 mini-lights uses 97 watts, a string (depending on color) of 100 LEDS uses between 3 and 4 watts. How can you say that there isn't a cost savings?

    An incadescent light will take milliseconds to get up to tempurature, an LED "lag time" is in the nano-second range.

    As for the 1/2 wave or full wave rectifier LEDS, full wave is better - lights are on full time and look brighter.

    I use both, the 1/2 wave are cheaper and I get them from the Big Box stores. My full wave LEDS are from Creative Displays, they are a better quality, and they work with LOR.

    Last year I bought a bunch of the Martha Stewart LEDS from Home Depot - they are total crap. They don't fade and you need a snubber or they stay lite.

    If you have part of your display in constant motion - don't use 1/2 wave LEDS there - there will be the 30 hertz flicker - but wait, your TV is updating it's screen at 24 hertz... flicker?

  9. I had a heck of a time my first year of sequencing, the music was always getting out of synch with the lights. One of the more experienced LOR people in these forums told me to convert my mp3 to wav using Audacity and use the wav file for sequencing.

    That was the trick, I now covert all songs to wav before starting to sequence - have never had the problem since.


  10. I don't know how to grab a link for an old message I posted about antennas, using the little test whip provided by EDM for your full time broadcast isn't really a good idea for a number of reasons. Here is a post from a few years back:

    Hi All,

    Antennas are not magic, and you can dump a boat load of money to buy one that you can easily build on your own - on the cheap and achieve the same results.

    Linda - unplug the rabbit ears and never use them again - you can burn up your transmitter (in RF talk the Voltage Standing Wave Ratio (VSWR) can bounce back so much energy as to burnout the final stage amplifier).

    Here is a link to a site that walks you through the construction of an open half wave dipole antenna: http://braincambre500.freeservers.com/open%20end%20half%20wave%20dipole%20antenna.htm

    If you had to buy everything - maybe $10, and you'll probably have to turn down the power of your transmtter.

    Since Linda provided the specifications for her radio: Output Impedance : 50 Ohms she should use rg-58 (50 Ohms) instead of rg-59 (75 Ohms). I would also recommend using solid copper wire (12 or 10 gauge) instead of wire hangers...


  11. I built and used this controller last year - and all channels worked. I was going to use it for Halloween - but channel 1 wouldn't turn on, Channels 2 through 16 work fine. so I used another of my controllers.

    I did the hardware reset, no luck.

    Using the Harware Utility Console I hooked up lights to channels 1 & 2 and turned the channels on. The lights to Channel 2 turn on - ch 1 is dark.

    I used a DVM to measure the voltage from neutral to A1, A2, G of the triac.

    Ch 1 Ch2

    A1 0vac 120vac

    A2 120vac 120vac

    G 0vac 120vac

    Would this point to the triac or opto isolator as the problem?

  12. Thanks for the quick replies, I have the CTB16PC V1 controllers. I did the reset,

    - Turn off Power

    - Remove jumper from block 2 on J0

    - Applied power for approx 10 sec, removed power

    - replaced jumper, applied power

    - the hardware utility found the unit at address 1

    Channel 1 still won't turn on, a random check of other channels (2, 4, 6, 8, 9, 11,13,15) all worked.

  13. I have a controller that I used last year and all channels worked fine. I'm starting to set up for Christmas and Channel #1 won't turn on, 2 through 16 work fine. I pulled the connections from channnel 1 and hooked the pigtail to channel 2 and it works so it's not the wiring.

    In reading through the forums it looks like triac problems are usually indicated by the channel not turning off, does this also sound like a triac issue?



  14. In my humble opinion, if the controller is on sale order it as a spare for this year. According to your schedule - there are only 2 weeks for "everything" - adding 16 channels to multiple musical sequences is a big deal.

    It all depends on how much time you have available.

    HeHe - Welcome to the addiction, my first year - I planned on 16 channels, ended up with 48. Four years later I'm using 48 for Halloween, and 160 for Christmas....


  15. PaulXmas wrote:

    Test your lights "BEFORE" hanging them!

    Most excellent point, I test my lights with an extension cord in the driveway before hanging (also take my Kill-A-Watt reading for the string) , then again with an extension cord after hanging, If they test out I connect them to the controller - and use the Hardware utility and make sure I can control the string.

    I have had light strings fail after testing good on the drive way and hanging them in my trees. So now I'm trouble shooting show computer to controller, controller to plug, when it's a bulb that came loose while hanging.

    The minute or so it takes to test after hanging a light string - saves at least 1/2 hour of controller trouble shooting.

  16. This is my 4th year of doing LOR animated displays, controller kits 9 & 10 were delivered today. The cool thing about this "hobby" is that as you start putting together your first show - you have this forum as a resource. My experience is that the members here will do their best to help you out when you run into issues.

    Santas Helper hit on an important point, DO NOT try to hook everything up - and turn it on expecting it to work as designed - it won't (been there done that). Pick a part of your display, install everything - and run your show, when that is working move on to the next part of your show. I use the LOR Hardware Utility to validate that my show computer can talk to the controller - and control the lights connected to the channels.

    Take things in small chunks - build, test, build, test build, test.

    When everything is said & done - remember that the people that watch your show will be in AWE.

    Enjoy your first show build!


  17. Hi Todd,

    Welcome to the insanity :P As others have mentioned, the pre-season sales on lighting are long over, however Creative Displays (www.creativedisplays.com) is running some sales on discontinued or over stocked items.

    I will take exception to the advice to not mix SPT-1 (10 Amp zipcord) and SPT-2 (13 Amp zipcord). Use the SPT rating for the lighting application, SPT-1 would be fine for all applications using LEDs. SPT-2 may be required if stringing incadescent lights (C7, C9, floods) together.

  18. I think "in over your head?" is how this hobby/obsession works. My first year I thought 16 channels would be enough - ended up with 48. Revamped my display in year two to add 196 channels of DIO. Year three I dropped the DIO and added another 64 channels of LOR (1 controller saved as a backup). This year I'm adding another 32 channels (ordered the controllers 9/14).

    Last year I added an animated Halloween display - it was a major hit with parents & kids - we had never had so many "trick or treaters" or compliments.

    I think that is the thrill of going through all of the work and expense it takes to put up a Holiday display - watching all of the kids & parents make the journey over to enjoy/watch it.

  19. No snubbers, each arch segment is only 50 LEDS so there shouldn't be a capacitance build up issue. The channels are not programmed to turn on, yet they do.

    I guess I could hook a set of mini-lights to each channel on one of the arches to see if that makes a difference.


  20. Chick,

    Welcome to animated lighting. You have already clued in on your best resource - these forums are a gold mine of information, and people more then ready to help.

    It's a learning experience, hang in there - at times I wondered how I was going to get done what I had planned.

    Planning is #1 on the list - you mention 32 to 64 channels. Divide your house/lawn display up into the number channels you think you will need. Eight mini-trees, I use 400 lights per mini, one channel color and one channel white (16 channels - 1 controller), 2 arches - I use 7 channels per arch (14 channels - 1 controller), three trees wrapped - I use 4 colors per tree (12 channels, 1 controller), You have what - 6 channels for the rest of the display.

    Plan your display and download the software and start creating sequences, that will drive how many channels you'll really use.

    On the wiring side of things, just plan on building custom extension cords using SPT-1 and vampire plugs/recepticals. For example - this year I did three 7 channel Mini-arches and decided to save wire by using 7 hot wires and one ground with Molex connectors. I buy my wire at Lowe's for $42 for 250 feet, and my vampire plugs from CDI for $.52 each.

    Here is the price/time breakdown of building a custom wiring harness with Molex connectors versus 7 custom extension cords,

    Molex solution:

    wire - 4 35 foot strands at $.17/foot = $23.80

    Molex connectors - $4.29 (4 conductor connector) times 2 = 8.58

    Vampire plugs/recepticles = 14 X $.52 = 7.28

    Total cost = 39.38

    Time to build - 4 hours

    Extension cords:

    wire - 7 35 foot strands at $.17/foot = $41.65

    Vampire plugs/recepticles = 14 X $.52 = 7.28

    Total cost = 48.44

    Time to build - 50 minutes

    I saved 3 hours and spent $9 more - The time element was more important


  21. I bought 4 new controllers for this years display, and built 3 mini-arches (7 channels each - LED). One mini-arch is on controller #6, and the othere two are on controller #7. I created an animation sequence that I run as a clean-up sequrence during my show and the mini-arches work fine.

    I don't have the mini-arches programmed into any of my song sequences - yet parts of all of the arches light-up during the play of the songs. It's unpredictable, and not always the same channels.

    I've checked and double checked the rj45's, AC power, I don't see anything that would cause this - any ideas?


  22. I have a CTB08 (Controller # 5) I mounted in my garage and use 4 channels for my hedge mesh lights and the lights outlining my garage door. After running for a week and a 1/2 - it stopped controlling lights. The status led is on solid, it blinks when I disconnect the rj45, and goes back solid when I reconnect the rj45.

    I pulled the unit and connected it directly to the RS-485 Converter - the Hardware Utility can't find it, and I can't force an ID change - yet the status led shows it's connected. What's next - how can I reset the unit?


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