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Review of Technicolor Strings

Started by Steve Gase, September 26, 2013, 09:30:09 AM

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Steve Gase

Reposted from the DLA forum...  for more discussion, see

Review of Technicolor Strings
by Steve Gase, Sept. 25th, 2013

Today I received a shipment of Technicolor smart strings from Ray Wu.
The following is a collection of observations that can may guide you in your own selection of smart LED strings.
Ray Wu offers Technicolor strings in various configurations.  The string design is available from many manufacturers and vendors.  The variations in chip, and chip speeds may introduce compatibility problems.  The WS2811 12v chip is compatible with DLA Smart String controllers, but ONLY if the chip speed is consistent with the DLA firmware.  At this time, only Ray Wu is known to produce WS2811 strings with the correct speed, compatible with DLA.

Among the customizations available from Ray Wu, the WS2811 chip can substituted with the TM1804 chip.  Using the TM1804 adds additional cost to the string because the chip itself is more costly.  Since DLA has supported TM1804 since the beginning of the SSC, this might be considered a "safer" choice.  Based on observations below, using TM1804 is unnecessary.
Other chips and voltages are available from Ray Wu for non-DLA applications.  Ray Wu can also alter spacing, lead wire length, and tail wire length to your specifications.   Customizations usually will not add to the cost, but they may add to the manufacturing/delivery time.
The 13.5mm 3-core water-proof connectors used by the Technicolor strings are compatible in size and fit with the connectors used in DLA SSC coops.

A "standard" Technicolor string has a 76-inch lead wire, has 5" spacing from the center of one LED to the center of the next LED, and a 6" tail wire.

Using a 50-count WS2811 string, and the SSCv3 in test mode, I observed 2.76 amps during a "full white".  If you extrapolate this out, using all 1365 pixels in a 4096-channel pixelnet universe will consume 905-watts... using the 80% rule for planning, you'd need a power supply that delivers 1150-watts of 12v power for this "max" configuration.

A 100-count string will use 5.5 amps... which exceeds the 4 amp rating of the SSC and cat5 wire used for power delivery.  Power Injection at the end of the 100-count string will be necessary.

The benefits of the Technicolor smart strings include:

  • injection-molded case to prevent water intrusion (strings have been submerged and frozen without ill-effect)
  • black UV-resistent wiring and plastic (this has a downside in identifying the wires)
  • water-proof connectors at each end of the string
  • extensions on the case to allow zip-tie mounting
  • flat back on the case to allow consistent directional mounting
  • each case is marked on the side with the direction (pointing from input end to output end)

For my tests, I had 50-count and 100-count strings, each with 12v WS2811 and TM1804 chips.
I also tested each with DLA smart string SSC controllers: v1, v2 (altered to v3), and v4... with latest firmware (as of 9/25/13)

In short -- all combinations worked as intended.    I used xLights to vary intensities, and generate various effects and color mixtures. Each configuration was tested for 10+ minutes before moving to the next test combination.

Gotchas... Pin Usage:
The string includes pre-wired 3-conductor water-proof connectors.  The wiring scheme MAY be different from a scheme you have implemented in your own 3-conductor smart string setups.  The scheme documented in the DLA wiki is INCOMPATIBLE with the new Technicolor strings.  Care should be taken in your wiring and your mixing of other smart strings and controllers to prevent damage of the lights and/or controllers.
Adding to the confusion is a black-and-white photo with mark-ups which is found on Ray Wu's site.  In this picture the output connector is correctly described, but the input connector is wrong.

The correct connector pins and wire definitions are captured below in a picture. 

The Ray Wu TM1804 and WS2811 strings each used the identical pin-outs.

Gotchas... Color Order:
The order of Red, Green, Blue is different from other smart string pixels offered by Ray Wu.  The current LYNX Smart String Utility can be used to alter the color order, and future versions of this software will improve the selection process.  If "String" is selected for the Smart String Device Type, then the colors will appear as BGR (blue, green, red) and will mismatch most sequence software.  If "Square Modules" is selected, then RGB order will be presented.

Color order is consistent for both TM1804 and WS2811 Technicolor strings.  Using BGR or "Square Modules" will fix this for both chips.

Gotchas... Weight:
When first holding a bundle of Technicolor strings, you may notice that they are heavier, likely due to the improved casing.  I compared a 100-count Technicolor string with a 100-count older smart string.  Technicolor: 2-lbs 7-oz   Older string with connector: 1-lb, 5-oz.  Weight of the strings may impact your method to hang the lights, and also the appearance -- as they are more likely to bow inwards.

Gotchas... Power Injection:
Some users are planning to use power-injection to limit dimming at the end of the strings.  Using 2 of the three pins on the output connector will simplify this task.  Ray Wu also has T-connectors that can be used for this purpose.

Ordering information:

50nodes DC12V WS2811 LED technicolor pixel;waterproof, full color

100nodes DC12V WS2811 LED technicolor pixel

100nodes DC12V TM1804 LED technicolor
(custom, no link available)
  |  110K channels, 50K lights  |  Nutcracker, Falcon, DLA, HolidayCoro


On the new pixel PCB the GND and DATA have been swapped on the cable only not the connector. It's now Data,GND,+12V so there is less chance that the Data and +12V will come in contact.

Steve Gase

oh... come... on....

any chance of having a consistent way to deal with pixels???   :(  |  110K channels, 50K lights  |  Nutcracker, Falcon, DLA, HolidayCoro


It's only a problem if you splice old and new. The connectors have not changed. Let me check to see if Ray had a mark added to the mold so you can tell the difference.

Steve Gase

Prior to TC strings (2+ years ago), we were using the wire colors matching the old bullet strings (red-gree-blue) to the old 3-core connectors (red-green-blue).

Later, Ray changed the 3-core connectors to (yellow-blue-brown)... so we revised the instructions to allow the new and old wire colors still to work with each other.

Then the TC came out with pre-wired 3-core connectors -- and they did not match.  So... we had a new standard. 

Now you say we will have a new (3rd) pinout. 

I appreciate the efforts to "fix" the TC issues, but it would be better to select one of the existing pinouts instead of creating a 3rd. 

The issue is compatibility with the old strings, the TC strings, and the new strings -- and their use of SSC, Zeus, Falcon, and anything that might have already been fitted with a 3-core connector.  |  110K channels, 50K lights  |  Nutcracker, Falcon, DLA, HolidayCoro


Steve, he's saying the connector Pinout will be the same but the position of data and ground in the 3-wire cable itself will change.  Instead of 12v then data then ground they'll have 12v then ground then data in the flat 3-wire cable itself.

With the size of the PCB I assume there isn't really another option to separate 12v and data.  I think the new wiring actually makes these the same as the other pixel types such as the bullet nodes if I recall correctly.

Steve Gase

That's great!  I didn't understand it was just the wiring.

Timon, never mind....   :-X  |  110K channels, 50K lights  |  Nutcracker, Falcon, DLA, HolidayCoro


I have looked at the strings on various forums about problems with these strings.  Have these now been fixed?  Looking to use these strings in next year's display.

David Pitts

Quote from: doubleeaz on December 30, 2013, 05:28:06 PM
I have looked at the strings on various forums about problems with these strings.  Have these now been fixed?  Looking to use these strings in next year's display.

They are in the process of being fixed but not yet. There is still extensive testing that is being done by Timon. I would not buy anything until he gives his approval.
PixelController, LLC


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