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Newb with lots of questions


dblack
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Greetings, newb here. I have been reading on the LOR site and browsing your forums. I've learned a lot of good info, but I'm looking to start planning for next year and am still a bit overwhelmed when it comes to what I need to buy and do. I'm trying to keep things simple and not break the bank in year one.

  1. My plan is to use already created sequences and a director (no laptop). I don't want to get into building sequences in year one. I'd also like to be able to just keep the lights and on if we aren't running a show.
  2. My house is a split entry and my initial thought is:
    • Outline 4 sections of lights on my roof
    • Outline 4 upper level windows
    • Outline 2 lower level windows and 2 garage doors
    • Need ideas for the remaining 4 channels
    • 1 mega tree with 16 strands
    • Optional: 3 RGB floods

I realize I could do the above (minus the RGB floods) with 2 AC controllers and different strands of single color LED lights; however, I think I'd prefer to use dumb RGB.

  • Is that a good/bad idea? Will it get too expensive compared to LEDs. I'm not sure what to look at for dumb RGBs, but I'd prefer traditional looking Christmas lights as opposed to ribbons or strips if that's possible for dumb RGB.

Given the info above, can someone educate me on the most efficient and cost-effective way to achieve these goals. I'll have more questions based on responses, but I'll start with the above. 

Thanks for your help!

 

Edited by dblack
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Most of the prebuilt seq won't have the RGB component quite like you described. What you'll want to do is look at the sample videos of the seq you want and see what RGB is already programmed. LOR does have starter kits and starter seq sets as well. The first year you may want to just do that so you can see how it all operates and to play with your setup. Then you can start playing with programming and getting further into RGB if that's what you like. You will find folks on here gravitate towards their likes and stay with RGB or AC or even a mix. There are pros and cons with all of it.

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You could do your whole plan - all in smart pixels - and still use Traditional AC Sequences... 

Smart Pixels allow control of every single bulb - Dumb Pixel allow color change at the string level... And other vendors offer "Smart" RGB Floods..

When comparing costs between AC & Pixels, Pixels may cost a little more up front (mostly because of cable extensions), but you do not need to purchase 8 different color light strings for the holidays..

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I would also suggest skipping the dumb pixels. I went to dumb strips in 2011 and promptly replaced them the following year with smart pixels. You have a whole year to learn the computer skills required  for basic sequence manipulation and the initial download is a fully functioning demo. it just wont control lights until you buy a license. 

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Appreciate the feedback.

If I go the smart pixel route am I going to have to get into cutting and splicing of wires? 

Second question, if I stick to traditional LEDs, what's the secret to getting the proper length segment? For example, I buy a 15 ft. set of lights but my roof section is only 9 ft. Do I just double up until I use them all up?

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That is one advantage of smart pixels over traditional leds. Smart pixels can be cut to length very easily whereas traditional leds cannot, you would have to blackout or hide traditional leds. Would you have to splice smart pixels? That all depends. If you need longer runs some strings come with connectors on both ends but the majority don't. It is very easy to solder ends especially with the newer solder connectors.

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50 minutes ago, dblack said:

If I go the smart pixel route am I going to have to get into cutting and splicing of wires? 

Pretty much yes.  Learn how to solder.  It will benefit you massively.  There are some workarounds, but in the long run, you are far better to solder.  I don't recommend the little tubes that you can buy that have a solder blob in the middle where you stick the two wires in and heat it with a lighter or better, a hear gun.  Yes, they will electrically join the wires, but it is NOT a good mechanical connection.  Also recommend using heat shrink tubing as opposed to tape to cover the solder joints.  Also very useful for marking cables.  If you learn the resistor color code, there is a standard color for each number from 0 to 9.  Put a short piece of the right color heat shrink tubing near the end of the wire or cable and it is well marked, and you can read it from a distance as opposed to a number written on tape.  If you need more than single digit,  use two colors, but absolutely standardize on direction of digits.  In my case, if there are two color markings, I ALWAYS put the first digit towards the middle of the cable.  If that does not make sense, I can show you a photo.

BTW, one HUGE advantage of strings as opposed to strips.  Strings are very easy to cut or join together.  Strips are easy to cut, but MUCH harder to waterproof once cut.  Depending on what you do, joining two strips can be fairly easy up to a royal pain (mostly related to waterproofing).

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Is it a true statement that the pixels will draw more power than traditional LEDs?

That's the other piece of the puzzle I'm trying to work through. I currently only have 3 outlets outside - one on the porch, one on the right side of the house, and one in the back on the deck. I'm not sure yet if they are on the same circuit or separate, but regardless I'm probably going to need to run a few dedicated outlets in my garage that I can run extension cords from.

 

 

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Short answer is that unless you are running MANY thousands of pixels, power consumption is not a problem.

Remember that for pixels you are operating at 5 or 12 volts, so although currents are higher, the total power consumption is about the same because the voltage is lower.  Let me give you an example.  My pixel tree and star is 2870 pixels .  If I were to run them all at 100%, and bring every pixel on in full 100% white, it would draw about 800 watts from the DC power supplies, and somewhere around 900 watts from the AC line which comes out to about 7.7 amps.  That 2870 pixels in full 100% white would also brightly illuminate the entire neighborhood and damn near blind anyone looking at it.  Without checking that is likely more power than 2870 LEDs on AC strings, but it is massively more light.  In reality most of us run large concentrations of pixels at far less than 100% - with a corresponding reduction in power consumption.

 

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First, welcome to our madness. Next, you are wise to start your planning now as this is the time. There's a lot that goes into it but as mentioned by everyone else already, it all has to do with planning. So, my usual suggestion is to start with a photo of your house printing several copies on plain paper. Next, draw your strings of lights, props and whatever you are currently considering. Decide how you wish them to appear....single color, different colors, changing colors, chases/patterns and whatever all else you are considering. Doing this will dictate your hardware requirements. Most of us suggest that you start small the first year. There's a serious learning curve with the software but as soon as you have that plan, then you can get busy with the software.

Next issue is are you going to do sound to the front yard? Are you going to do an FM radio transmitter for all those in cars? If yes on the FM, then you need to let them know what frequency and of course you need to acquire a transmitter.

Lastly, for now..lol, depending on the hardware, you'll need to plan your cabling, connections and etc...understand that LOR has both RS485 controllers and E1.31 controllers which is TCPIP. Both types use Cat5/6 cable but they ARE NOT compatible if you connect the wrong protocol to the wrong controller. The magic smoke will come out and greet you and possibly in more than one place.

  • Haha 1
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Magic smoke, you crack me up. I have over 15,000 LEDs and only use two 20A circuits. More than likely your outside outlets are on at least two separate circuits, but again that's a guess. BTW, one of those 20A circuits also has my landscaping lights on it too (again all led). So, just saying, it takes a lot.

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Ok, more questions and I think it may be easier to work from a picture of my house. Assuming I want to go the smart LED route, let's start with my roofline knowing that the next iteration of my picture will move onto windows or something else.

  1. Would I buy 4 sets of these: https://www.wowlights.com/ProductDetail.asp?Category=35&Product=739, cut and splice to length and run 4 extensions to a controller on the porch? Remember, I want to keep as simple as possible, so someone mentioned using smart LED with AC sequences, so I'm trying to think in sets of four (hence the 4 different color lines).

Christmas Lights.jpg

Edited by dblack
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Start with a basic rule of thumb.

1) Trying to cover a large area with a single controller is not a great idea as voltage drop and signal quality suffer . Target 20' as your goal controller to first node. (leaves some Fudge room. A sort string has more fudge.)

2) 50 nodes (bullets) on 3" centers is about 12.5' . 100 nodes is doable without Power Injection if running 12V

3) Don't try and use every node if you cut. Keep those as MATCHING spares, when you need to repair a string.

In this, the length of the AC cord is not important (if properly sized wire)

Looking at your plan

A Pixie 2  put it near the red and white intersection (make it a Pixie4 and you can do that window later. That might  be closer to the reds window so 20' extensions work.)

Red is 1 port (maxed to 100)

White is a port (50)

A Pixie 4 Above the door (tuck it under the eve where Green and Blue meet)

Green is a port (a bit under 100 nodes 👍 )

Blue is 2 ports, no more than 100 on any port

You have a spare port (future Greens Window? Door)?

 

 

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Number of Master Props: 12
Number of Sub-props: 0
Number of Hidden Props: 0
Number of Bulbs: 1,607
Number of Channels: 4,821
Number of Groups: 0

Number of RGB Pixel Props: 12
Number of RGB Pixel Bulbs: 1,607
Number of RGB Pixel Channels: 4,821

preview-2022-12-28.jpg

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37 minutes ago, TheDucks said:

Start with a basic rule of thumb.

1) Trying to cover a large area with a single controller is not a great idea as voltage drop and signal quality suffer . Target 20' as your goal controller to first node. (leaves some Fudge room. A sort string has more fudge.)

2) 50 nodes (bullets) on 3" centers is about 12.5' . 100 nodes is doable without Power Injection if running 12V

3) Don't try and use every node if you cut. Keep those as MATCHING spares, when you need to repair a string.

In this, the length of the AC cord is not important (if properly sized wire)

Looking at your plan

A Pixie 2  put it near the red and white intersection (make it a Pixie4 and you can do that window later. That might  be closer to the reds window so 20' extensions work.)

Red is 1 port (maxed to 100)

White is a port (50)

A Pixie 4 Above the door (tuck it under the eve where Green and Blue meet)

Green is a port (a bit under 100 nodes 👍 )

Blue is 2 ports, no more than 100 on any port

You have a spare port (future Greens Window? Door)?

 

 

I watched a video earlier on power infusion and that seems a little complicated to me. Are bullets the preferred light for a roofline as opposed to the smart C9 LEDs?

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Smart C9 Pixel Bulbs for roof line - those numbers are based on 3" spacing (as long as your measurements are correct for the lines drawn)

Figuring one controller on each side of driveway... and still have room for more Pixels. You can also run 50' if using good extension cable

Edited by Jimehc
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3 minutes ago, Jimehc said:

Number of Master Props: 12
Number of Sub-props: 0
Number of Hidden Props: 0
Number of Bulbs: 1,607
Number of Channels: 4,821
Number of Groups: 0

Number of RGB Pixel Props: 12
Number of RGB Pixel Bulbs: 1,607
Number of RGB Pixel Channels: 4,821

preview-2022-12-28.jpg

Well, that's pretty much what I was going for, except with the tree on the left side of the yard and including the two windows on the right side of the house, too (they are a little hard to see). What would be the recommended controller setup there, if we build on what TheDucks said above?

  • A Pixe 2 where the red/white set of lines meet, or a maybe a Pixie 4 to get the two roof lines and the two rightmost upstairs windows?
  • A Pixie 4 where the green/blue set of lines meet. I'm not real sure about the power infusion for the blue line.
  • Maybe a Pixie 2 for the two left windows?
  • And maybe a Pixie 4 to get the garage doors and middle window (I'd probably outline it as one instead of 2)?
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3 minutes ago, Jimehc said:

Smart C9 Pixel Bulbs for roof line - those numbers are based on 3" spacing (as long as your measurements are correct for the lines drawn)

Most I've seen seem to be about 6"

My current incandescent lights that we had put up are 12" apart, and so I just counted how many lights there were to estimate how many feet of lights I'd need.

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For Pixel Bulbs - they come 4 - 8 - 12 (Mine are 8" spacing) and it costs more to purchase smaller controllers - rather then a larger one - just to space closer to prop.. And you cane surely run more then 20 feet of extension

dblack-2022-12-28.jpg

Edited by Jimehc
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Could I buy, say a Pixie 2, a director, the (pro?) software and 2 strands of smart bulbs to play around with and learn. Is that all I'd need, aside from Cat5 cables and connectors.

That seems relatively inexpensive compared to some of the residential AC starter kits.

Edited by dblack
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Essentially, yes. Don't forget a power supply to match the pixel voltage and a case for it and the card.

That's basically how I started with pixels in 2011 with a four port controller and a string of 100 pixels strung around the den. I use a PC though, which in my opinion has more control options. I did already have 32 AC channels when I started to add pixels 

Remember though  that a 16 channel AC controller will cover more territory than a couple of pixel strings.

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4 minutes ago, PhilMassey said:

Essentially, yes. Don't forget a power supply to match the pixel voltage and a case for it and the card.

That's basically how I started with pixels in 2011 with a four port controller and a string of 100 pixels strung around the den. I use a PC though, which in my opinion has more control options. I did already have 32 AC channels when I started to add pixels 

Remember though  that a 16 channel AC controller will cover more territory than a couple of pixel strings.

I could try a PC first I guess and save the director cost.

In terms of covering territory, what is better for rooflines and windows? Am I going to be significantly more expensive with pixels and multiple smaller controllers vs. 1 AC controller and LEDs.

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35 minutes ago, PhilMassey said:

Essentially, yes. Don't forget a power supply to match the pixel voltage and a case for it and the card.

That's basically how I started with pixels in 2011 with a four port controller and a string of 100 pixels strung around the den. I use a PC though, which in my opinion has more control options. I did already have 32 AC channels when I started to add pixels 

Remember though  that a 16 channel AC controller will cover more territory than a couple of pixel strings.

Pixie2 is internal powered and RTG.  Note: its output is  5A @12V with no upgrade.  (nothing wrong with this, just a bit different from the other RTG pixel packages

Best to use LOR nodes (they sell a Pixie2 with 100/200 nodes packages) with it.  Consider the look  if you are to use regular powered (~3A / 50) nodes  on a Pixie 4-16 elsewhere.

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38 minutes ago, dblack said:

I could try a PC first I guess and save the director cost.

In terms of covering territory, what is better for rooflines and windows? Am I going to be significantly more expensive with pixels and multiple smaller controllers vs. 1 AC controller and LEDs.

Where do you want to go. AC uses (>16 sets of them) one color choice for a string. With the low power of LED (look at the 'you can connect xx together' on the box. That is well within 1 port capacity. You could probably get away with 2 of those plugged into the AC dangle at the controller. That is a LOT of bulbs.).

FWIW I built my own Pixie4 package for $130 which included 400W PSU, CG1500, dangles for network  and outputs.  (400W is overkill for a Pixie4, but it is my standard for others)

My most complex is 2@ CMB24 and a Pixie4 with 2@ 400W and dangles for $550. All board connections are done with ferrels.  IMHO learn to DIY whenever possible. There are lots of folk here with skills they are willing to share.

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1 hour ago, TheDucks said:

Pixie2 is internal powered and RTG.  Note: its output is  5A @12V with no upgrade.  (nothing wrong with this, just a bit different from the other RTG pixel packages

Best to use LOR nodes (they sell a Pixie2 with 100/200 nodes packages) with it.  Consider the look  if you are to use regular powered (~3A / 50) nodes  on a Pixie 4-16 elsewhere.

So I could get this: https://store.lightorama.com/collections/rgb-packages/products/pixie-2-bundle

If I go with bulbs, are these strands meant to be cut? For example, if you look at my picture, to get the white line lights, would I cut this strand down to 12 ft. and put a connector on the end and just plug it into the Pixie2? And for the red line I'd pretty much use the whole 2nd strand?

Can you explain the 5A @ 12V comment.

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