Started setting up the display this week because I have a lot to do (new stuff) and weather may not be great as we get closer to Thanksgiving. I didn’t make a ton of progress, but am set up for the weekend work.
HAPPY THANKSGIVING! It took much longer than anticipated to get everything set up, but it’s done! Almost showtime!
SetUp day is when I set aside time to actually set the display up for the season. Ideally, I’d have all fabrication done and just need to set everything up. I don’t believe I’ve EVER had an ideal situation – I’m always fabricating something. So not ideal, but it just adds to the time required to get everything ready.
I started off fixing the power injection problem I had last year on the mega tree because I did it wrong. You should transfer data and GROUND (or negative) between strings. I only transferred data which allowed stray voltage to affect the lights. Turning brightness down to 30% solved most of the flickering problems, but it did not eliminate them. So I’m putting new ends on each of the twelve strings so they can be used interchangeably and I’ll wire them up as needed.
The first prop to set up is the lights along the back fence. The fence faces a street so I have a string of 175 pixels mounted to EMT. I tie-wrapped each node to the EMT. I highly suggest getting a tie-wrap tool for stuff like this. It makes tightening and cutting the excess much easier.
The new window outlines needed some fabrication and my solution was to use rebar for the cross pieces. The vertical Boscoyo strips stay straight by themselves, but the horizontal strips need support. I tie-wrapped each horizontal node to rebar using an alternating pattern of bottom two holes and top two holes in the strip. That seems to keep the pixels straight. I used masonry bits to drill holes in brick for the eyelet standoffs and the windows are now outlined.
The mega tree was fairly easy to set up this year since it didn’t require any fabrication. I used the ASAP pole design from last year and was able to string the tree while it was horizontal. Once the strings were attached, the tree was pushed upright. I connected the ends (bottom) of each string to an 8-foot PVC ring with Ball Bungees and staked the ring to the ground at several points around the ring. This adds support (once the mast was cranked up) and does not need guy wires. Granted, the tree is less than 15-feet tall, but a nice gust of wind will topple it without the support from the stakes.
It took several hours to fix all the electronic issues I had, but some of that was anticipated due to the new stuff. I had planned on filming that part, but I quickly realized it was going to be a longer process that I thought. Reconfiguring the controller was the easy part. Finding that I had not connected pigtails to the controller or not having wire connected well took some time. Then there was the large 288-pixel wreath with a bad ground that took and extra day to resolve.
All in all, it was fun setting up the display. A few challenges to overcome, but I’m ready for showtime!
Good luck with your displays and Happy Thanksgiving (if that’s something you celebrate where you are)!
I’m rebuilding my main RGB pixel power and data distribution box, leaving room for expansion for next year.
I try to run most of the lights from a central controller box underneath the mega tree. I created a box last year that worked great, but did not have room to expand so I rebuilt it this year using some lessons learned form last year. I also got some new cable glands to hold onto the wires protruding from the box. They don’t make it water tight, but they do hold onto the wires well so they won’t get pulled away from the controller if I happen to accidentally trip over the wires.
I also used a different layout for the internal components. I left room for expansion as I’m sure I’ll add more pixels next year and will need more power supplies. All electronics are mounted to a 1/2″ piece of MDF. The board can not be removed once the wires are attached, but provides a solid base for everything and adds a little weight to the box.
I mounted the controller and expansion board to a piece of PVC “wood” left over from the P10 sign build and oriented that vertically to save some room. It makes it a little hard to make connections, but since that won’t happen a lot, I felt the tradeoff was worth it in space saved. The box is tall enough to add a second controller on top if needed.
I used fuse blocks for power injection distribution for safety. Last year, I totally bypassed power distribution on the controller, but felt I could use it this year for props that don’t need power injection. It does make managing power among the four power supplies a little trickier, but given enough thought and planning, it can be done.
I’d still like to build a small cover for the box as I’m using trash bags and straps to secure it. A cover in the shape of a Snoopy house or Christmas present would hide the box and provide some protection from rain or snow.
We went to a polo match last weekend and we continue sequencing the song we started last time. Set your clocks back an hour and we have less than three weeks to get ready for showtime!
Richard left a comment on the previous video to use two or three layers of random effects so I add those in this video. Excellent suggestion. It gives xLights the opportunity to fill in more effects when it chooses one that is probably better suited for adding on top of another effect as opposed to acting as a complete effect.
I also completely changed out some effects and created a standard pattern for parts of the song that repeat – like the chorus. In other words, the same group of effects are used in the song where the melody repeats. It sounds the same and looks the same.
As happened last time, I needed to go through and tweak some of the settings for effects. xLights randomizes everything and with some effects, some settings either don’t do much or look weird when set “incorrectly.” Fortunately, you can see what changing a particular setting does in the preview window for immediate feedback. Very quick and very cool.
I play the full sequence again at the end so you can compare the two versions. I may make a few tweaks here and there once I look at the sequence on the display, but I will run this as is in the show this year.
This technique is new to me this year, but I do like it as adding props simply requires a re-render to get some pattern on the new props (which usually takes seconds depending on the length of the song). I hope this helps.