A D'Lighted Blog
A World Full Of LED Pixels - Part 1
For starters, a basic understanding in TCP/IP and DMX technology will be needed. Lots of that information is shared on two well-known sites; Do It Yourself Christmas and Aus Christmas Lighting. With the addition of those two communities, here are some guides/tutorials that will help too. Seasonal Entertainment’s DMX Tutorial and the Aussie Christmas Lighting 101 guide are prepared by well-known and respected lighting enthusiasts.
High Country Lights have been looking into this feature for a few years but more so since the advancement of software this past year. With a lot of reading, trying and testing, follow us as we travel down a bumpy and wide road to the destination.
Our first thing to determine was a pixel controller/bridge. This unit will control each of the pixel’s three colors of red, green, and blue ( RGB). Two of the most popular units on the market by the DIY enthusiasts are SanDevices E68X series and Joshua 1 Systems’ EGC-P12R. Both units have the same basic function with each one having different perks. This is huge. Because, some enthusiasts will be using the GE Color Effects found in department and home improvement stores. I decided to use the SanDevices E68X series because of the wide-range of support for different pixel types. But, the latest firmware upgrade to the Joshua 1 Systems’ EGC-P12R opens the door for more pixel types as well. In the end, both are reliable and make the lights function to the effect you're looking for. I plan to obtain an EGC-P12R to use as well.
Next, we determined what type of pixels to use. Since there are two types, smart and dumb, we will be using smart. After hours of testing, days of reading, and planning the application they will be used in, the decision was made to use the TLS-3001 type. Why? They have over 4K dimming levels, plus gamma correction. This is very helpful to display video and/or high resolution pictures. But, if the TLS-3001 pixels prove not likely to be reliable, the WS-2801 will be the secondary choice. Both these pixels are 5 volts DC.
Having the correct voltage through the entire strand of pixels can be a hassle especially near the end of a 50 count. Since our pixel controller can handle 680 pixels, we are having them custom made to 42 per strand, 672 per controller, with 20ga wire. This will allow all pixels to be true white especially the last few where voltage drop can be a problem. And, our DMX addresses will work out evenly.
The power supply will have to be large enough to carry 680 pixels fully on. I calculated one 300 watt power supply should do the job. This will ensure the pixels will get adequate voltage along with the pixel controller as well. Some users typically have Meanwell units. Instead, I purchased mine from DIY LED Express $10-$15 cheaper.
With these electronics outside in the elements, some type of enclosure is needed to shelter them. Enclosures would need to be weather proof so no water can get inside. Any type of will work as long as it’s rated NEMA 3R or higher. Many Christmas decorating enthusiasts use Demarcation enclosures. They’re light weight and provide room for wires, power supply, and pixel controller. Measurements are 12.25"X12"X5.25".
We talked all about the hardware types but what about software? Right now, light sequencing software is still in the developing stages to be capable of handling thousands of channels without bogging down. Light-O-Rama’s “S3” supports RGB effects with their RGB products. As of late April, their software cannot output E1.31. Light Show Pro has the option to output many protocols but some bugs still reside within the software. LSP has an option to make a matrix of pixels to scroll words and images. Madrix on the other hand will do everything imaginable, very costly, but cannot synchronize with music. It can run together with Light-O-Rama’s software to give your pixels full of life. Light Factory will be providing a non-profit "Pro" version of software that's capable of outputting up to 100 DMX universes.
Here's another addition to the game of pixels are the DIY Light Animation's Smart Strings. Smart Strings uses a standard Lynx dongle. The data is sent to a hub then to the pixels. RJ, DIYLA owner, said this is cheaper than other types of DIY systems. I currently dont' have any plans to use these types of pixels in my show, but some people have with success.
I hope this article will help you along the way of your pixel planning. They’re so many right ways and wrong ways out there, it takes time to understand the pros and cons. Keep one thing in mind. If you use any information in the article above or on the site, it’s considered DIY experiment and use at your own risk.