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Starting with Pixels - How to put it all together

Started by bjarmstr, April 02, 2015, 11:11:34 PM

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I have read a lot about different controllers, protocols, power injection etc.  Wow, there are too many choices out there! I have no experience with any of this equipment other than owning a few arduinos.  My original idea for this year was: 
The red stars are flood lights used to illuminate some plywood cut-outs.  The green line is a continuos line of lights under the eaves.

I have purchased:
1) 5 Strips:  Smart / Pixel RGB LED Strip 30 LEDs/m 10 Pixels/m Waterproof Tube (16ft-6in/5 meter Roll) - 12v / 2811 / 36w  (to do the roofline)
2) 1 String: 20 Count Smart / Pixel RGB LED Rectangle Module / 12v 2811 / 6" Spacing  (originally I was going to cut this to try making 3 flood lights)
3) 100 Feet of 4 Conductor 18 AWG Extension Cable for Dumb / Pixel / Smart Lights
4) Rain Proof Power Supply - 12v / 33 amps / 400 Watts
5) 1 Komby Sandwich and one RF1_12V receiver
6) a Raspberry Pi

And my plan was:

After surfing some awesome light shows, I decided that I need some wall washer floods this year.  Not sure what protocol/wattage etc would be best.  That led me to think about future additions like lights around the windows, 2nd story roofline and the veranda pillars/railing. I started wondering if using  only single universe controllers might not be my best approach.  I saw a post about the Falcon-16 Beaglebone and started thinking down this trail.  Maybe I should put this controller on my veranda and run the whole show from there (then I have lots of future expansion for lights on the veranda rails and pillars).  Are there advantages to having the ShowComputer (RapsberryPi/Beaglebone) integrated with the controller?   But if I add lights around the upper windows and roofline then how do I get power/data there?

So I guess one question is, do I build something that works for just this year or do I build something that has more future capability?  It would be great to see a few examples on how people have built their whole system,  Not just what controllers are being used, but how things are connected together (including the power). 
I would also love some thoughts on options to setup my system. 


David Pitts

Welcome Jean,

Sean and I met Jean and her husband at the last Denver meeting. She has done a wonderful job documenting her light show goal for 2015. If we could all give her a warm welcome and try to come up with the most economical solution for her that would be great. Seems like she has gravitated towards the Komby gear and I know we have a few Komby experts here.

This thread below on DIYC started by our very own MaterDaddy is about a small inexpensive board that attaches directly to the PI to output straight to the nRF module. This could possibly replace the Komby sandwich that could free up some cash to buy more RF1's.

Link to Ray Wu floods.
PixelController, LLC


Thanks Dave for the welcome.  I have madly been researching more but still find that I am still struggling with how the different parts interact with each other.  I am trying to make sure that I purchase items this year that will be compatible with my future upgrades.

Let's say (feel free to point me in another direction) that I put a FalconBeagle16 (FB16) on the front corner of my veranda next year and use it as my player/controller.  With this I can drive lots of strings for my pillars and railing. 

1) Can I still use my Ethernet port to run my komby geer? (I don't really understand how the FB16 board "attaches" to the Beaglebone)

2) Can I use Materdaddy's PiKomby on this FB16 or will it just be for a Pi? (how will the PiKomby "attach" to the Pi)

3) How many feet away from the controller can a dmx cable power a 10W RGB flood light?

Millions more questions but I will hold it at that!
Hope everyone had a great Easter.  We had fun skiing and also tried field archery (in addition to our Easter themed activities).

David Pitts


1) The Beagle bone attaches to connector on the back of the F16-B.
2) The Beagle Bone has a place to mount nRF module (module used in Komby stuff).
3) The DMX signal from F16-B can be ran a couple hundred feet. The power would need to be supplied to floods somehow. The F16-B does not provide for power on the DMX line.

PixelController, LLC


If you are just starting with pixels, my advice is to stop worrying about the long term future and buy what you need for now.  There will be lots of updates and maybe even version upgrades before you need more advanced hardware.  Go slow and learn the basics.  The only thing I do is to allow for extra channel growth and extra ports, ie. buy an F16 instead of and F8.  Used equipment sells well if you want to go to something more complex and while I have been interested in both the Beagle stuff and the F16v2 they have gotten way more complex than I need, so I have stepped back from ordering those things.  I could change my mind next year and they may not be available, but something even better may then be coming down the pike.  Worry about this years show is my advice.  I have bought, used and sold a lot stuff in all the years I have had this addiction and not lost hardly any money.
Jim Nealand
Kennesaw, GA all Falcon controllers, all 12v Master Remote Multisync with Pi and BBB P10 and P5


As Jean said worry more about what you need this year.  I did as you are thinking and ordered a couple of these just in cast a couple of those just in case and now they are just sitting as unused money tied up in stuff.  i could sell it and may when the prices are a little better than co-op prices towards the fall as like Jean said you can often sell them for what you are in them and hardly loose any money.

With the extra long distances you can go now, I find Cat 5 cables cheaper than new controllers, but I keep ordering more cables as I never seem to have the one I need when I need it!


Thanks for the good advice. I do need to focus on something smaller instead of trying to understanding everything.  I will get my Komby gear running this year and next year I can figure out a controller/system for larger string counts.  It is hard to stay small though with all the amazing things I see going on around here!

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