March 24, 2021

Twinkly brand lights have made their way into home improvement stores. They’re cool, but are they even useful to us in the Christmas Lighting hobby? Let’s Discuss!

There are some pros and cons to using the twinkly system as opposed to xLights. Each can give you a stunning result for the effect you’re seeking all depending on the amount of effort and money you intend to invest in your lighting.

What Is Twinkly?

Twinkly is an interesting system! If you’re just starting out as a hobbyist and don’t want or need anything overly complicated this might be the perfect system for you. You can do some incredibly cool stuff without needing to put on a fully animated show to music.

What Makes Twinkly Special/Different?

This system is beautifully simple! You just open the app, press a couple buttons, take a pic of where all of your lights are located so that they app knows where they are and voila! You can then simply draw on the screen to run prebuilt effects and it does everything automatically for you with minimal effort. As long as you’re not moving your lights to new locations, it’s going to look perfect.

Pros & Cons Of Going With Twinkly

Aside from the simplicity of setup and running this system, another benefit is that you can find this in pretty much any hardware store. They may run fairly more expensive compared to regular lighting, but there is no easier way to get started with putting on an amazing light show.

Another interesting feature of Twinkly is that you can access it from the Cloud so that you can easily update your clients lighting. If you are a landscaper or electrician for a house or business, Twinkly Pro could spell perfection.

One downside of Twinkly is that you can’t use them in xLights, but alternately you can put them to multiple controllers and also use them with an automatic music visualizer. If you’re looking at pixel stuff and you find that you just want your lights to flash and create some simple animations that don’t need to be scheduled by song then Twinkly may be more than enough for you. Overall, the cost may be a little steeper than were you to build your own display with pixels and xLights, but it will be significantly simpler.

Running Effects From xLights

XLights might take a little more TLC when setting it up and running it but the biggest feature is being able to create custom lighting to go with any song for a visual display that is exactly the way you desire it to be.

How To Make A Custom Model

We’ll now go over step by step how to create a custom model in xLights to coordinate your perfect lighting vision as you choose.

First, go into xLights and create a new blank file with no layout, just the controller. (You don’t even have to have any models set.) All you do is go to “tools”, then “generate custom model” and record your video on a camera or phone to go along with your test pattern and then put the two together.

A quick pro tip is to go with a camera source if possible because phones sometimes tend to have difficulty videoing light sources without shadows or glare.

After your video is created, proceed by entering your light count, enter the start channel (which would be the xLights start channel) and then hit “run capture”…”run pattern”…and begin recording with your camera and select “ok”.

After your video is run through head over to “process tab” and choose your model type, locate your media file and run it through. It will show you the video of everything running and give you two options to choose from; manual or automatic. Choose automatic and hit update.

Once this is done you may find that you have to run it through a few times and tweak necessary things as far as the settings to make everything to your liking. Then save it and test out your beautiful creation!

The Difference Between The Two

When it comes to the setup and running of the two programs, Twinkly and xLights, one of the main differences is that Twinkly is a fairly straight forward and easy setup whereas xLights is a bit more DYI.

Things To watch Out For

When it comes to xLights another quick tip that will save you headache is to make sure to keep the video steady, perhaps using a tripod for the very best results.

It may take a minute or two longer to set up xLights but it does give you the flexibility to program everything to music and have a finer level of control all around.

Cool Part Of XLights

One of the coolest parts of xLights is that if you take the time to put all the nodes in the right places and clean it up, you can have the pixel nodes any which way you like, take a video while in custom mode setup, and ultimately get almost the same results as Twinkly but for less cost. The bit more effort while saving some money might make it totally worth it.

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