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Any Guidance - Thinking about joining the madness


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This is something I have always wanted to do as I grew up seeing the Osborne Family Lights when they had them in Arkansa and now they are the lights at Hollywood Studios at Disney-world.


I currently live in a small single story mill house so it will be a smaller show for a few years until I move which I figured would be great to start here and grow as my family grows..been married for 2.5 years now.  My breaker is near the back door and its easy to access it under the house so I will probably have one or two new circuits added so I can have plugs in the front of the house which I currently don't have.  


So I have stayed up a couple researching everything I possibly could and wanted to ask a few more questions/bounce some things off to all who would provide any feedback.


I am not in a hurry to purchase right now as I am planning for Halloween and Christmas 2015.


So far I know I am going to purchase the following when the time is right(sales):


1 - Residential Series 16 Channel Starter Package with USB Booster Upgrade and Software Basic Plus Upgrade

1 - Residential Series 16 Channel ad-on

1 - FM Transmitter that is not from LOR(will research more later on to which one)

A Bunch of Lights :) Will check sales after Christmas

SPT 1/2 Wire

Will make my own CAT5 cables


This is where I am right now as far as my wish list but also have a few questions as I probably will add more.


1) Is there anything else y'all think I need to buy or get to start?

2) I do not live in a neighborhood but on a moderately busy street...but have an empty lot and a building that is closed at night across the street that will help if/when people stop.  Is there anything else I need to be aware of when doing this?  IE check with town hall or other special permissions?

3) I have researched RGB lights as I like the effects and more control you can have with them with my favorite being the chasing/running effect.  Saying that, is there a way to achieve this without RGB on a single strand.  I have seen how people have placed multiple strands on poles and used the chasing effect with in the program.

4) With RGB lights.  I understand that they have their own power supply and usually come in about 16 feet(at least the ribbon).  If you were to place these around the top of a house would the lights be connected into one setting on the controller or would each strand be on a separate setting on a controller...basically can strings be tied together and still achieve RGB effects?

5) Anything else at the moment?  I am a planner so looking at this for next season so I have time to do it right, but not huge.


Thanks for the help and advice!




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Hi @feiling,


Welcome to the madness! :D


What you are thinking of starting with is good but as far as the USB booster is concerned I'm pretty sure that's only needed if you will be using the Easy Light Linkers (ELL's) to wirelessly connect the controllers. If you are using cat5 cable to connect them stick with the standard USB adapter or upgrade to the high speed red one. I had/have the whole house transmitter and it pretty much sucks but keeping it around as a backup. I went with the EDM transmitter from South Africa and am very pleased with the performance of it.

As for the RGB ribbons, for chase effects you will need "smart" pixel strips. The "dumb" ones will change colors to whatever you want but you will only be able to change the whole strip/ribbon. The smart ones give you the ability to change colors of each and every pixel. I have heard/read of people connecting two CCR's together but I think there is a problem with both the programming of that and power drops after the first ribbon. Basically each CCR will have it's own controller and power supply. The controllers of the CCR's are daisy chained just like the regular controllers are via cat5 cable. If you get into non LOR RGB you can run the ribbons from a central controller and power supply but these will be run on DMX and communicated differently than regular LOR commands.

If you have an empty lot after dark for people to park in I think you're golden. I have the same setup currently but will be moving next year. I have had a show for 5 years and never had a problem from the policy with parking people over there. We live on a busy street and I have sometimes worried about 10,000+ blinking lights possibly causing distracted driving but thank the Lord we've never had a problem. I would think you're fine especially if you have permission from the company owning the lot, you may want to patrol it after show hours or early the next day to make sure no viewers left any trash.

There's a lot to learn and there are many great people on this forum who are here to help. Check out the video tutorials on the LOR website, as they are very helpful.

Good luck and have fun!




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Welcome to the sickness. After Christmas sales are great, you will get a lot of lights for a lower price. During the year, stop at yard sales as I have found lots and lots of extension cords for sale and dirt cheap. You may as well get the advanced version of the programming now, you will need it for the RGB strings, both dumb and smart. If you grow, more than 2 controllers, which once addicted, will happen, you have to have advanced to run more than I think 2 controllers. Decide now if you are going to go all LED or with the old incandescent lights. Planning your power supply depends on that. I am all LED and don't pull enough amps to warrant pulling power from all over the place for the controllers but have done so just to avoid any problems. Check with thrift stores as they too are a source of Christmas supplies and of course, Christmas music on CD that is fairly cheap to purchase. With the RGB lights, yes they have their own power supply and if you plan to run long runs, you will need a power boost along the way as 12 volts does not travel well, especially after lighting up 300 lights in 16.4 feet. I have been told that the LOR RGB's can be run in line with the standard controllers, but have had others advise that I get, which I did, another dongle to run just the RGB's. LOR advanced, not sure about basic, will run both at the same time, you just have to set it to do so.


Plan your display carefully. Where to put plugs, where to put the controller to get the shortest runs. Take notes so you can refer to them. Light o rama has some good tutorials, but the guy who does them drives me nuts with his double talk, back and forth. An 8 minute video could be done in 3. Look up "listentoourlights" on you tube. Mr. Storms has some really good video's and I learned a ton from watching them.


Good luck with the light show.

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Might look at getting what is a "Kill-A-Watt" This will help you determine how much amps you are pulling on a circuit. Consider keeping a 15A circuit down to 12Amps. Making your own or buying in a store you Cat 5 cables. Would be very helpful to have a decent Cat 5 cable tester. Try to get one that not only test for continuity but also scans continuously. The last feature wil help you find an intermittent short or break. Oh and see if you can pick up a dental pick you dont have one yet.

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Might look at getting what is a "Kill-A-Watt" This will help you determine how much amps you are pulling on a circuit. Consider keeping a 15A circuit down to 12Amps.


Unless you are running all LED's..then don't think you would really have an AMP problem...at least I never have..  :D

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Well you can put to many LED on one circuit. I hold to the 12amps on a 15 amp circuit. So about 2 years ago when I added 36 strands of 100 cnt C6 bulbs. I moved off of my first circuit. How did I figure out that  I was getting up to 12Amps? Why with a kill-a-watt. But your right, you can put a lot of LED strings on one circuit.  By the way Jim, I daisy chained the 120V to my controllers. Using SPT and QC connectors. I just have to remember to keep the ribbed wire on the hot side.

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. I just have to remember to keep the ribbed wire on the hot side.


Hmmm..I always thought the ribbed side was for the Neutral side!!  LOL

Edited by jimswinder
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Are you sure about the ribbed wire on the HOT?,  I thought and just did a quick search on the net and found multiple sites with the ribbed on the Neutral???  

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Some mfg's tin plate the copper on the ribbed side. So old school is to make that the hot side.

For what we do, it really doesn't matter much.

Most buy the cheapest we can find, so both conducters are usually just insulated bare copper - no tinned copper.

Just try to keep your polarity from one end to the other.

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THe best way to start is to get a sheet of paper out and plan the display (Lighting Plot). I did this and it did save headaches as well, I started with 1 controller last year (16 channels)  and this year went to 1600 channels. I will say with RGB and LED, it is easier to put more out on the display without going circuit crazy. I am currently running 11,500 lights on 2 circuits. with 6 LOR Controllers, and a seperate DMX network.


LED is more expensive up front and there will be loads of companies (www.christmas-leds.com) that do Presales for lights at a lower cost. I will tell you that 16 packages of Red, Green, Blue, and White came to around 1200.00, not to mention the controllers.


I do like the RGB WS2811 and Intelligent Leds. They add to the channel count quickly, but there is a lot that can be done with them. I myself am some what of a light control freak. In my christmas fantasy, EVERY Light is controllable. :)


If You Join our wonderful madness: The rewards: Happy Faces oohing and ahhing about the display. The downside: The blinky flashy addiction can result in long hours at the computer and the budget being devoted to "fixing" little things (meaning more lights.. more controllers... bigger display.. LOL )



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Run...while you are still a free man!!!!! 


Somebody had to say it :lol:


Do LOTS of reading her on the forums and links to specific things you need to learn more of.  Watch the tutorial videos available from the top of the forum.  If you are going to get into the DIY side of the addiction, you have lots more reading to do.  You will want to spend time looking at light sources and then asking if this is REALLY what you want (include links).  Ray Wu in China may start becoming your best friend.  If in doubt about something, do some research to try to find the answer (you learn better that way) and if you can't figure it out, ask here on the forums.  Many of us here are very willing to help and each of us has our specialties (AC controllers, DC controllers, Servos, ELLs, audio, FM transmitters, DMX control, E1.31 and the various controllers for that, networking - just to name a few).  Assume that none of us know it all so there is no one person that can answer every question, but many of us know who can answer that particular question.


Have fun with it.  There are parts that you will hate and parts that you love.  Some of the hate parts can be fixed (or at least partially) by spending some money, but there will be some drudgery parts to it.  But the joy you create when your show is running really make it worth while.

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2nd words of advise  (the first were RUN, but somebody else already took them)


Start Small, I can't stress this enough.  Do not attempt to jump into 1000's of channels from the get go.  You will not have fun.

Looks like you are looking at 2 controllers, that is a good first year goal.   If you can solder well, you can save some

money building your controllers from the PC kits, or even just assembling the pre-soldered ones.


Read up on Radio transmitters, there are several good solid performers out there, Don't cheap out on the transmitter

nothing ruins a show more than bad sound or weak coverage.


If I was starting fresh, like you are, I might have gone straight into Pixels, especially with the prices coming down and several very good choices of hardware.   LOR offers several ready to run systems for Pixels, but you pay for that.  If you enjoy building the hardware,

The DIY community is excellent and has some very advanced solutions at reasonable costs.



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1).  I would second the notion of starting small.  This was my first year and I started with 32 channels.  I thought it was going to be easy but it was not.  Starting smaller also give you time to build things right for the future (window frames, mini-trees, etc.).  Right now I'm at 32 channels and just under 4000 lights.  It was a push to get everything running after Thanksgiving.  Looking back, I think 32 channels was just about perfect (I have 3 young kids to look after too).  I decided to start fresh with sealed LEDs from HLE... best decision I made so far.  They work flawlessly and they'll last longer than my old icans. 


2)  Start sequencing asap.  I downloaded the LOR software and sequenced 2 songs without a license to make sure I enjoyed that aspect of it.  I did, so once the summer sale came around i purchased my controllers along with the software license.


3)  Have fun and be creative.  I did a lot of research and asked a lot of questions.  Don't get flustered when the answer turns out to be 'have fun and do what you want/like'.  


All-in-all, we haven't had a ton of traffic (yet), but my entire family gets a rush looking out the front windows and seeing a family enjoying the show from their car. 

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