January 5, 2022

Let’s go over the parts and pieces that make a typical animated light show and how they go together.

When creating an animated Christmas light show you may be wondering what exactly you need to accomplish this.

The Basics

There are a variety of parts that you need to make an animated Christmas light show to music. To start you will need pixels.

Pixels

Pixels are the lights themselves. There is a red, green, and blue LED inside them, and they can mix with pretty much any color between red, green, and blue. Most of the pixels that people use are the node style pixel and you can find them sold in most locations that have lights. You will find these to be incredibly affordable in comparison to stage lighting pixels.

Pixels come in strings and have plugs on the end to connect to a power source. The plugs are what are called x-connect plugs. These plugs will plug into a controller, which is another necessary item for your Christmas display.

Controllers

A controller can be a variety of things. There are a couple things you need to know about modern controllers. One thing to be aware of is that most controllers have a built-in show play. This is an FPP program that allows you to build shows on a controller which has taken place of the need to schedule your show on x-schedule.

Most of the time controllers do not come pre-built, although you can buy them pre-built if you prefer. You will need to place your controller onto a mounting board, leaving the wires to exit the bottom of the box which will then be connected to your lights.

Power Supply

Next to the controller you will need a power supply. Wires will connect your power supply to your controller which in turn gives your controller power. The power will then flow through to your lights via the controller.

Limitations

You will find that there is a limitation with pixels. Pixel data is really only designed to go a short distance. To get around this minor inconvenience you can set things up to have a lot of little controller boards spread throughout your yard or you can try putting a receiver to use.

Receivers

Most pixel controllers today now have long range plugs on them. Long range plugs have ethernet output so that you can connect them to your main show play or to your long-range receiver.

Long range receivers feature two ethernet ports which allow you to jump to multiple receivers. As the hobby has grown the types of receivers available have become a bit more complicated so you need to make sure that you use the smart receiver mode with your receiver board and ensure that it is matched to the controller you have to be sure that everything is compatible and works smoothly.

Connecting Controllers

When it comes to connecting your controllers, you may choose to chain your controllers together via wires in the wire ports. The benefit to this is that unless something physically happens to the cable it will be a very reliable method.

Another method of connection that some controllers offer is wireless connection. These are capable of both storing your sequence data on the device and sending information between them to sync. As long as you are not in a terribly congested wireless area this method typically works quite well.

Closing

In general, you want to keep as few controllers in the system as possible to keep things as simple as you can. This eliminates the hassle of having multiple things to either fail or cause difficulty during your show.

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