How I Do My RGB Pixel Sequences

Just a few things I think about before programming the lights and how I approach the programming process.

This is more of a philosophical discussion (and possibly controversial) about how I approach sequencing a song. There are many things to think about when you sit down to not only program the patterns for the display, but even in picking the music you’ll use and what you intend to do with your design.

If you plan to post videos of your display to video sharing sites like YouTube, you need to take copyrighted content into consideration. A lot has changed over the years about this. In fact, this year, I created a custom soundtrack for my medley (my main song that gets most of my sequencing attention). I call it my oompa loompa song because it sounds funny. The term, not the song – well maybe the song too.

Many musical artists are allowing use of their music for this purpose, but there are others that need releases before you can post them and that usually involves purchasing a license. Fortunately, some awesome artists see this for what it is and understand that by allowing you to post videos using their copyrighted music, you are actually advertising for them so they allow it. I can’t tell you how many songs I have purchased because I saw a display using someone’s music and this goes to the artists’ bottom line. A win win for everyone involved. End rant.

If you use hip hop songs, keep in mind that visitors may have better sound systems in their cars than you have in your home so the neighbors may complain about loud music outside your house. I use this genre in a couple of songs, but run those sequences early in the evening. Also if your musical tastes lie outside the mainstream, that’s fine to use, but know that it may not translate well to your visitors. It might be a fun experiment to try however.

I generally run the high energy sequences between dusk and let those run for two hours. Then, I’ll switch to a more traditional playlist for a couple of hours in the evening that encourages lower sound levels. Lights are off at 10pm to encourage youngsters to go to bed on school nights. You can run playlists longer on weekends and/or on Christmas Eve. I don’t run my lights early in the morning for commuters, but if you have a lot of traffic, that might be a good idea too.

Finally, and this is the controversial part, should you have a single bush flashing or program the lights so that all of them are on? I am in the “all lights on” group most of the time, but will occasionally have some of them off. Potato potaato.

Garage Outline with RGB Pixels

Using Boscoyo strips, we outline the garage with RGB pixels. I cover a couple of different ways to insert the pixels into the strips and what we did over the weekend.

Boscoyo strips are ~1-inch-wide strips of plastic with holes for pixels every three inches. They are available in black or white and 3″ or 1″ centers – I use the 3″ version. They work great for holding pixels in straight lines and can be rolled up for storage at the end of the lighting season. I use them for many of my props.

When outlining a window or garage door opening, the vertical lines are simple. Secure them at the top and then use ball bungees at the bottom. The ball bungees are stretchy so they have will take up the slack and hold the strip in place. Plus, they are fun to say.

Horizontal lines will need some support. Boscoyo also makes ChromaTrim corrugated plastic mounts for 12MM RGB pixels suitable for mounting to something like 1/2″ EMT, but I used the strips themselves this year. I’m not sure I’m sold on my horizontal mounting method.

When setting up the pixels in software, I used the wrong numbers of pixels so the patterns were off center. Once I realized my mistake, I adjusted the numbers and the patterns looked right. Fortunately, that only took about 2 days to figure out!

Outlining a Fence with RGB Pixels

I’m outlining a fence with RGB pixels. I ran into an issue with the mounting design and took a different approach. It’s amazing how a small number of lights can look really great in your display!

My original design was to hide the mount and pixel bases behind the fence and mount the pixels on PVC pipe, but the weight of the pixels and wire ties was too much for the PVC. I decided to go with one inch EMT because it is more rigid and mount them on the outside because the top of the fence isn’t straight.

I also tried using hot glue to the base of each pixel, but it doesn’t bond well with the EMT. Wire ties worked fine and allow for fine adjustment of each individual pixel. I strapped both sides of each pixel. I recommend using a wire tie tightening tool for this. They are fairly inexpensive, but make tightening and cutting wire ties a breeze – even one-handed!

I also added pigtails to each ten-foot section of EMT to make storage easier. It may look a little unsightly during the daytime, but they become invisible at night.

This outline is 175 pixels in length which exceeds the recommended number of pixels for a single string – 100 for 12V pixels and about 50 for 5V pixels. However, I run them at 30% brightness to keep the neighbors from being blinded by the flashing lights so I did not see issues that would need power injection.

North Pole for P10 Sign

I got the North Pole (almost) completed.

This is the last episode for the P10 sign build. The sign acts as a “tune to” sign and general information about the display, namely a pointer back to this blog. It will run simultaneously with the display, but will run independently of any sequences playing at the time.

An optimization I’d love to add is current time and temperature. The BeagleBone Black does have internet connectivity so I am sure something like that is possible, but I may have to get creative with a solution for that. This will have to wait until I have more time to play with it and time is running out. I still have a lot to do to get everything ready for this year’s show.

I’ll be sure to post an episode about it if I can actually pull it off!

Falcon F16V3 Pixel Controller

The Falcon F16V3 Pixel Controller is the latest in a line of awesome controllers from David Pitts.

This video covers all the features of this new board along with an Expansion Board and a Differential Expansion Board plus Differential Receivers. If you run pixels in your display or are thinking about running pixels, seriously look at getting one of these controllers.

In RGB Pixel lighting, a pixel controller converts the E1.31 output from a computer into serial data the lights need to work. This is a specialized controller specifically designed for RGB pixel lighting.

Some other items you might need or want are a MeanWell 12V power supply or 5V depending on your pixels and possibly a Raspberry Pi 3 (board only) or Raspberry Pi 3 (full starter kit). The controller does have hardware to allow it to run Falcon Player and early reports are that the new firmware supporting that functionality looks good though I have not been able to test it yet. I will update this post once I’ve done that.

Be sure to check out other videos on my channel for more information about using pixels and be sure to subscribe for more videos. Thanks!

FPP 1.9 Stretch BBB Installation Procedure

Updated with a simpler step to flash the eMMC.

This covers all the steps needed for the full installation of the latest FPP 1.9 Stretch image for the Beaglebone Black. It includes the software tools you’ll need to download to format the SD Card and write the image to the card for both Windows and Mac.

Latest images are available at http://dankulp.com/bbb

If you have a brand new BeagleBone Black, I’d almost say one of Dan’s images is required. I started with the old 1.5 image and upgraded to 1.9. The panels skipped every other line. I started over with one of Dan’s newer images and the problem went away.

The high-level (TLDR) procedure is:

  1. Format a 16GB micro SD card with SD Formatter. Free download available from sdcard.org.
  2. Download the latest image from http://dankulp.com/bbb.
  3. Write the image to the SD Card. Multiple options/tools available.
  4. Boot the BeagleBone Black to the SD Card. New users, see note below.
  5. Flash the eMMC.
  6. Boot from eMMC and finish configuring the BeagleBone Black.

Note: If you are familiar with setting up a Raspberry Pi with Falcon Player, this procedure is different. The Raspberry Pi setup is a software installation where the BeagleBone Black setup is a software image. On an image, the software is already installed, you just need to boot it. The BeagleBone Black takes about 30 seconds to boot. Once it has booted, you are up and running.  I suggest you flashing the eMMC to boot off internal memory, but it isn’t required. That just lets you use an SD card for the data and leaves the single USB connector open for a USB WiFi card. Your own personal needs will determine what you actually need to do to complete the setup. If you aren’t sure, try following the steps in the video.

I did discover a bug with the 2×2 vertical panel configuration.  I had to set the Falcon Player arrows backwards for that configuration to display properly. The 2×2 horizontal configuration worked fine with the correct settings.

One other thing I added was an Edimax USB WiFi adapter http://amzn.to/2jsMJjo. I tried a couple of other USB adapters and they would not work. The Edimax worked flawlessly.

P10 Panel Enclosure Build

This is how I built my P10 Panel Enclosure for my DIY North Pole sign.

The enclosure started out with a 1″ x 6″ x 8′ White PVC Trimplank from Home Depot. I used a 10″ x 84-Tooth Laminate/Non-Ferrous Metal Cutting Saw Blade to make the cuts. They are expensive, but I already had one for cutting acrylic sheets and it cuts through it like butter. The miter cuts were tricky to line up and I probably could have done a better job with that. The blade cuts a 1/8″ slot which I used to hold the clear acrylic securely.

I drilled 1/8″ holes in the bottom plate every 4″ on both sides to let moisture drain if needed.  Eyelets through the top are sealed with silicone to prevent moisture from coming through the top.

The electronics  (power supply, BeagleBone Black & a SanDevices E6804 pixel controller sit on a tray I made from 1/4″ PVC facia board (don’t have a link for that). It makes mounting the electronics easier and raises them up a little in case moisture gets inside the enclosure.

P10 Panel Setup

In this episode, we go through setting up the Beagle Bone Black with an Octoscroller and connect 4 panels in various configurations. I also go through the xLights and FPP settings.

The general steps to setting up these panels are:

  1. Install Falcon Player onto the BeagleBone Black
  2. Install the Octoscroller
  3. Connect your panels to the Octoscroller
  4. Power everything up
  5. Configure Falcon Player for your setUp
  6. Test your panels

The video walks through each step and demonstrates a working configuration.

P10 RGB Matrix Kit Unboxing

I got a P10 LED Matrix Panel Kit to make a “Tune To” sign for the display. This video starts as an unboxing video and then…

I bought this P10 panel kit from DIY LED Express. It came with:

  • 4x16x32 panels
  • 1x BeagleBone Black
  • 1x 16GB micro SD car & adapter
  • 1x octoscroller
  • 1x 5V power supply
  • 4x ribbon cables
  • 4x mounting brackets
  • 2x panel power pigtails
  • 1x power wire
  • assorted hardware

I ran into trouble while making the video so I had to cut this one short so I could do some research on the issue. I got everything working in a 2×2 configuration with the panel oriented horizontally, but was having trouble when I turned the panels vertically. I’ll do more research and report back next week.