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How any channels do people usually start with?


sjmiller
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In 2008 I bought the GE Mr Christmas 6 channel controller, for years my static display has been the biggest in the neighborhood - 2008 topped that.

I have been reading the LOR site for a few years - and decided I wanted to do my own sequencing. I started out thinking 8 channels would work, half way through sequencing my first song - I decided I needed 16 channels...

I'm putting the finishing touches on my second song sequence - and now I'm thinking that I should start with either 24 or 32 channels.

I have purchased the starter pack, controller(s) are next...

How many channels did you start with?

SJ

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I am just starting out too. I currently have a single 16-channel unit, mainly at the moment to help me learn the software, so I can operate some real lights. I would expect to add a further one or two 16-channel units for my first attempt. This will obviously depend on the number of lights I have available.

Regards,

Alan.

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I started last year with 8 channels on Dec 27th. I got the 8 channel from my wife for Christmas with the starter kit. Although I received it on the 25th, my wife ordered one of the parts incorrectly. So, thanks LOR they shipped one out right away. When I set up on the 27th, it was a breeze. Now I had installed the trial 2 months prior and had been working on several sequences.

Over the coarse of the year I bought several 16 channel controllers and ended up with 72 total channels this year. Big jump from 8 to 72 channels. There was much more work with having 72 channels but was perfect for me.



I would say it is safe to say that 16-32 would be a good starting point. I think if someone started off with 72 or 80 channels there first year, it might be a bit much and may get frustrating/overwhelming.

Although we all want 500 billion channels, I found that learning to do things correctly, working at a comfortable pace, spending time to read and understand all of what LOR is offering, sequence with precision, style and class, and more far out weighs the amount of channels.

I would rather have 72 channels and do it right with comfort than have 120 channels and not have the time to make it look and operate smoothly.



Bottom line, work with as many channels as you can afford and operate smoothly.



Have a great time !

Tim

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I probably did things a little differently by starting with 176 channels in 2008. BUT, and it's a HUGE BUT, I basically used Richard Holdman's sequences by just changing around timings and adjusting his channels to my display. That saved a HUGE amount of planning and time.

Thanks to him, I was able to focus on building my display. Arches, window wreaths, wire frames, a 6'2" Bethlehem Star, etc. were all built this past year by myself and my 8yr old son and to some extent my 6yr old daughter. (Even though it's hard work for them, they really showed some pride when people were enjoying our display and they got to say they helped build this and that.) :)

I'm 99.9% sure I would have NEVER thought to start out with soo many channels had it not been for Richard's available sequences.


I would imagine 32-64 channels being a great first year if you plan ahead right from the previous Christmas.

-Jeff

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My first year of animation was 80 channels. However, I preface that with the fact that I previously had a static display, then made the leap to animation.

Looking back, I can't imagine building my 2005 display from scratch. I simply took my 2004 display, and added 2 new elements, then animated everything.

Everyone is going to have a different opinion, but I think it is easier to animate an existing display versus building one from scratch.

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Its funny how you think you are going to start with just 16 or 32 channels. I had no lights what so ever and jumped in. Now I am looking at 80 channels, lights, cables ect. Just to give you an idea what i am getting into. I purchased $450 in lights and wire angels, snowmen, ect. That was at least purchasing the lights at 50% to 75% off. Now I am up to adding about $400 for zipcord, connections and STROBES from CDI. On top of that another $650 in controllers, $150 for a FM transmitter and maybe 100 miscellaneous expenses for tomato cages ect. First year expenses about $1750. Hopefully the following years the cost will go down by adding slowly to the display. I am just glad its will be spaced over the next 6 months so the wife don't see how much it really costs. 2010 adding a mega tree and 3 more controllers.

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I *really* recommend starting on a modest scale. You won't be overwhelmed by the initial effort required, can figure out effects which you like (and some you don't), and how it will intregrate into your display.

I started with 32 channels in 2004 and gradually added until I have about 240 now (which is probably about my maximum).

For years ahead I'll repurpose my existing controllers by changing some of my display elements (really, one of these years I will have mini trees!), and I can significantly enhance my display by increasing the number of songs in my show - focusing much more on the artistic effects.

After all, for most of us it's supposed to be a hobby and fun - not a year-round stress-fest filled with deadlines and crises.

Just my two cents, though with the conversion to LEDs in 2009 I expect those two cents will go much further. :-)

Rick

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I started in 2007 with the GE six channel unit and a very small display. In 2008 I bought a 16 channel PC kit, had fun putting it all together and now I am planning on buying three more kits on sale this summer. I have bought many more lights with the after Christmas sales, now I need more extension cords.

I thought I would start small with 16 and build from there since I hae been sequencing everything and not borrowing from other member. I also plan on adding a FM transmitter this year. We live 10 miles out of town and I want anyone driving by to be able to hear and see the light show.

We had lots of positive feedback for the small display we had in 2008 and it was just on the house windows, doors, front stairs and eaves with a couple 6 foot trees, candy canes and loopy pops. Everyone liked it but I know I can do much better.

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I think you are approaching the question from the wrong direction. First figure out what your display will be. Once you know how many items you want to control, that will give you a good indication of how many channels to get.

Note that the suggestion to start small is a good one. But you still need to figure out what display elements you want to control to begin with. Make sure to leave 'holes' for your desired future expansions. One way to do this is to just not use anything extra at the start; the other is to combine elements together to begin with and separate them to additional channels later. For instance, let's say you have 6 reindeer. You could control one of them and just not put up the other 5 the first year, or you could control all 6 with one channel the first year (subject to power limitations). Or control 2 sets of 3. In future displays, each deer might be on its own channel.

Really, the very first thing you should do is to set up a representation of your display in the LOR visualizer with a guess at what your initial display will look like. Then pick a song and try some programming to see how your preferred programming style will fit that set of display elements.

I thought sure that the 'common' starting set of 32 channels would be fine, but once I started programming, I found that I could not do what I wanted to do and so added 16 more channels. So for me, 48 channels was the minimum starting size, but someone with a different programming style could have done quite well with 32 or even 16. Unless there are mega-trees or arches or other channel hungry 'super' display elements, of course.

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You will find answers all over the map on this one. I believe in the addage, crawl, walk, run.

Unless you have money to burn, this is not an inexpensive venture once you start adding up all the boxes, extensions, lights(especially if you go LED), and other display infrastructure items.

I started with 16 channels my first year and was at 128 this past year, my fourth. I also already had a good sized static display and basically animated my static display the first year.

I think the people that jump in with over 48 channels often get overwhelmed when they see how much really goes in to building these displays.

This is just my opinion and it's worth every penny you paid for it.

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I started 3 years ago with 16 channels. I am still at 16 ch, but i am very comfortable with programing and making changes. This year I added a laptop. I had so much fun taking my laptop outside and programming with the lights on. That is a blast!

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I am just starting out also. As a matter of fact I don't even have my first controller yet.I added the lights and sounds of christmas to my static display this year and that is how I ended up on the LOR web site.I have plans of just starting with 16 channels and I am going to get the 1602 MP3 with one of their pre-programed sequences for next year. I am not real good with computers and all the sequence stuff has me a little shy. The more I read on here though the more I think I will have to add another 16 channels (plus learn how to build a show). I really like the effects of the arches but if I understand right ,just two arches about 5ft tall ,can eat up 16 channels.

Being real new to this computer light show stuff, it sure is nice to have a site like this to come too. I have soooo many questions and being able to read others posts and find answers and get some really good ideas is just really great. Thanks to all on this site



Monte

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I started with 64 channels, but 26 of those were for a mega tree and 24 were for mini trees. Those were the two new elements I added to my static display. That left 14 channels to animate the existing display. It was pretty overwhelming at first, but Don did a lot to help by sharing one of his existing sequences and video of that sequence. After watching his video and the sequence at the same time, it did a lot to clear up my confusion and made my sequencing easier. After this year, I think I have reached the maximum number of channels for lights as I want to go in a different direction next year with the dio/servo board and experiment with some audio-animatronics. Eventually, I would like to add something along the Disney Country Bear Jamboree theme to my display. Although I have about 350 channels now, some of those controllers are "duplicates/clones." The cost of extension cords made it cheaper to just to use another 16PC kit rather than run multiple extension cords. (I have 200 front feet in my yard, plus another 200 feet of neighbors yards on each side). So, I would say that if you do a single color mega tree and a dozen mini trees, allow one controller for each of those and then allow another controller for your existing decorations. That would be forty-eight channels and when you start sequencing, that may seem overwhelming at first.

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In planning for my first year (12/2008 show) ... I honestly started with a 16 channel design. After drawing out what I had (in 2007 static) I realized I needed 32 channels to avoid doubling and tripling up on items.

Then I started to analyze my power situation and learned a lot about distributing the power across a large yard. That combined with an increased awareness of the cost of extension cords, let me realized that I needed 48 channels.

I highly recommend downloading the Quartzhill Christmas speadsheet and entering in your lights and trying to map out your items into <1 or 2> 30A controllers. The spreadsheet will help you stay within the 8A/channel, 15A per (ch-1..8,ch-9..16), 30A total ... and also aim to keep you under 80% of max power rating. That spreadsheet helped me determine what I needed and the impact on my power usage by having more controllers vs. less. In fact, extension cord cost savings alone can sometimes justify buying another controller vs. buying lots of cords, incl. the more expensive 15A supply cords to feed to controllers. I was able to save on cords by have 3 controllers close to the GFCI outlets, so no expensive supply cords needed.

So of course, I finally ended up going with the PC kits and decided to optimize my layout, minimize extension cords and have enough spare channels to serve as backup, if one controller should fail. This included putting on controller on on the roof, which made hooking up the roof a cake walk ... with very short cords, on average.

So long story short, I ended up with 96 channels and only used 67 channels, since things were so spread out. It resulted in very short extension cord lengths and a very optimal power distribution. In fact, not a single GFCI fault or even a single fuse blown.

But getting back to your original post, I would NOT advice going that big in the first year ... unless you are a total "go big" type personality and can afford to do it, both emotionally, time-wise and money-wise.

I would advise stating with 16 or 32 channels for most folks.

I see myself going from 67 channels (w/ 29 spares) to around 160 channels in 2009. But so much of the planning, initial setup ... is now done, so most of my expansion will fall into high-channel use projects like a megatree.

I am hoping to have my neighbor join me in 2009 ... and I will advise him to start with either 16 or 32 channels. Unless he bought a lot of stuff, 16 channels should cover most folks going from static to LOR in the first year. If you have a lot of power hungry C9(s), then two controllers gives you the ability to spread out the load a lot easier ... even if you don't use all 32 channels. Plus it gives you spares and backup capability.

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In December of 2007, my mate sensed that after a couple of decades of static displays that I was burning out and she sent me a link to LOR's video page with the note: "Maybe we should do this." That was all it took. We initially decided on 32 channels and I got busy sequencing. It didn't take very long for that discussion to become 32 vs 48, then 48 vs 64, then 64 vs 96, and then 96 vs 112. To make a long story shorter, we ended up with 144.

Yes, I can already hear the gasps from some of the "old timers" around here as they get ready to warn that a newbie shouldn't bite off that big of a chunk. And for people who are unsure of what they're doing or what they want to do, that's no-doubt good advice. Brian Mitchell is right when he says that many people don't realize all they're getting into with a lot of channels. I sure didn't. At least not at first. But what I was doing on the visualizer looked so good that I was totally hooked and determined to make it all work. It honestly took almost all my spare time during the past year to get the job done. But when it all went live on Thanksgiving, the goosebumps lasted all night. Aw heck, who am I trying to kid - I still had goosebumps the last night of the show...

I realize that tackling something like 144 channels isn't for everyone, but it worked for me. I think it's important to know your own limits. Some people thrive on stress, others crumble. The more channels, the more stress to be sure. But unless you change everything each year, whatever you get done this year is already there for you to build on next year. And as you get more experience, sequencing becomes easier and faster and better looking. So the bottom line is set your sights as high as you feel comfortable with and then go for it!

As someone already said, that's my advice and don't complain for getting what you paid for.

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This year was my first year with LOR (like others I have always had a large static display.) and I started out with 104 channels. Sequencing was a brezze. I did run into a few problems, but it was only minor stuff.

Go with the amount of channels you think you will be comfortable with.

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First off - I want to thank everyone for the reply!

They all added perspective that I needed, I'm leaning towards 32 for my first go at it in 2009 - then taking it from there.

The common thread I see is that we all had fairly large static displays to start with - I had a small 4,500 mini light display with 9 reindeer and a santa sleigh. Throw in a 16 foot live Christmas tree... animation is a natural next step.

I have an ornamental metal working and welding shop in my garage (hobby), and work with computers for a living. I will design and build all future christmas display elements - Santa riding a Harley seems like a cool project.

This is a cool forum and look forward to keeping in touch with you all in the future!



SJ

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George Simmons wrote:

As someone already said, that's my advice and don't complain for getting what you paid for.


Thanks boss:P

If I go back (quite) a few years - I worked on real time missile test systems, programmed missile tests, programmed avionic test systems, and taught programming.

I love the interaction of music and visual - when I hear a christmas song I like, I want to translate that into a display that will rock the socks off a person watching it.

The first two songs I have animated - I can listen to again and again, it took me about 40 hours to do Sugar Plum Fairy, and I'm about 70 hours into Celtic Christmas.

There are places in both of these songs that I want to do special animations - I'm tapped out with 16 channels, so I think I wll start with 32...

SJ
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My first year (2008) I used a 16 channel LOR setup with 4200 lights total (very small display).

Now that I have a better handle on things, I plan on going with a total of 96 channels this year.

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First year ('08) lights up we had 32 channels. We watched it a couple of nights, and decided we needed more color and elements. So another 16 channels were added and sequenced into 5 of the 6 songs in the show.

With more planning we could have made better use of the 32 channels. Many do. And there's some amazingly detailed and precise shows using 16. Someone out there has very good advice in there signature: it's not how many lights or channels you've got, it's how you use them.

In the end we're happy with how it turned out. Nothing like a bunch of middle and high schoolers in your front yard doing the dance from "Linus and Lucy" to your show to tell you you've done good.

Consider the first year a great learning experience no matter how many channels or lights you have. I was editing videos of our show yesterday and saw lots of things I'd tweak. Watch it, study it, enjoy it. And take notes for next year.

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DanCampbell wrote:

... I was editing videos of our show yesterday and saw lots of things I'd tweak. Watch it, study it, enjoy it. And take notes for next year.

This is something we noticed as well. For some reason when you watch the lights live and in person, you don't catch certain timing "issues". Once we had a video of our display, I went in and changed things in *every* sequence of ours. Most of them were small things but a couple we were like... "How did we think that looked good?". :D

I wish I would have gotten video of our show after the changes as well but time wasn't on our side for that.

-Jeff
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2008 was my first year. I went with 176 channels. I started out at about 100 or so. The a friend of mine bought a condo and had extra Christmas stuff (6' fake trees, cords, etc) that I gobbled up. Then I went nuts up to 176 channels. It was a lot of programing. I had 6 songs out by Thanksgiving opener. I did three more in the next 3 weeks. As you can tell I don't sleep much. So it made a total of 9 songs out.I am programming now for next year. I reconfigured now I am programming 336 channels for next year. I have to rework a lot of last years. I've got one song done in the new template.

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