Welcome to Lunar Den Lights

Lunar Den Lights is a technical blog primarily covering RGB “Pixel”-based holiday light shows. It provides a backstage view of our current light show: Oak Hills Lights. You will also find some 3D printing information, as we use some 3D printed components in our light show, and that is one of my other hobbies. This actually started out as a gag site where I tried to find the cheapest way of building electronic gadgets, but it’s grown a bit from those early roots. More about that on our aptly-named About page. Please be sure to read the disclaimer page, it’s …

Continue reading

GitHub

Since this Web site isn’t working very well for posting my Arduino code and PHP scripts for FPP and xLights, I’m moving all of them to GitHub. There is a new GitHub link in the main menu. I’ve also pinned the official FPP and xLights projects there as-well. I’m going to move everything over there as I have time.

Continue reading

New xLights API, Package Script

Late last year, the xLights developers started adding API functionality to xLights so you can script repeating tasks. For example- you can roll your own batch-render or batch controller upload scripts now. The API is still being developed, but I asked the devs to include an option to package a sequence as part of it, and they followed through! As of v. 2022.1, packageSequence is now included in the API. The reason I asked for this is it saves a lot of end-of-the-season tedium for me, and I’m sure others. Since our layout changes fairly significantly each year, along with …

Continue reading

Time to start ordering pixels!

It’s time to start ordering pixels for this year’s show! I order all of our pixel strings starting now through about April. I add at least 1000 to what I feel we will need this year, and then split it up over a few months worth of orders. This gives us all the pixels we should need by May or June at the latest, while largely insulating us from any supply chain or transportation issues. That said… (Following is my opinion. Take it or leave it.) Beware of… Pre-Buys: Many US vendors will have “Pre-Buy” deals soon, where you can …

Continue reading

Bad Pixel Totals for 2021

We had a lot more bad pixels than last year. A lot of shows reported significant bad pixels this year due to production problems in China over the past two years (due to COVID-19). I believe ours are a combination of that, and just the bad weather we have had this season including extreme rain and wind. Most of our bad pixels have been on our Mega Tree, which gets whipped around in the wind pretty badly and is by-far the most “exposed” of our show elements. While they did not contribute to strand failures due to our power injection …

Continue reading

Oak Hills Lights Power Consumption

Okay, the numbers are in… From Thanksgiving Day through New Year’s Day we used a whopping 92.19 kWh of electricity. At $.12/kWh that’s a total of $11.06! We did have a Raspberry Pi controller (Show Runner) and a small network switch running on separate (un-switched/monitored) power. Given the maximum wattage of the power supplies running them, they likely contributed less than $1 more, so we will say $12 for a grand total! 🙂

Continue reading

Adam Savage and Solder Seal Connectors

I’ve posted before about how awesome “Solder Seal” connectors are. One of my heroes when it comes to builds and electronics is former Mythbuster Adam Savage. Well, he just released a new video about them that I wanted to share. He does a better job of showing how to work with these things than anything else I’ve seen, including some of my own that I’ve tried to put together…

Continue reading

New Sequence: Decorations

I really love how this turned out… …so, I’m going to share it. I want to thank the xLights Singing Faces project for the lyric tracks. Everything else was just me having fun with mostly whole-display effects. I’m giving this away. As-is, no-warranty, no-support. There are lots of resources for importing sequences online, and xLights pretty much handles everything automatically from the zip file now anyway. 🙂 The only unusual things in our layout are:SparkleBalls – Those are the cup balls along the roof line.SparkleThings – Those are the half cup-balls in front of the display.(Both of these generally translate …

Continue reading

Quick Update

We’ve been hard at work getting things set up for our show this year. Too busy to do many build updates right now, but they will be coming. As of now we’ve got almost everything set up except for the new virtual matrix/video projection screen, front roof outlines, and SparkleBalls. We have all the parts, just not a lot of time to work on them and no daylight left after work now. We are also still polishing our sequences for the new show elements, and we have added a LOT more of them this year. Our “live” playlist is on …

Continue reading

Ammo Box PSU Build w/ WoW Diff.

I love these Wizard of Wire differential receivers. They connect directly to a Mean Well PSU, and the angled design means they still fit in a standard Harbor Freight or similar plastic ammo box. There is one problem though… The pixel ports and power injection ports are fused at (and are rated for a maximum of) 5A each. That’s great for 12v folks, since the typical PSU they use is 29A, but for us 5v folks with typical 60A PSUs- this leaves us well-short on power. So, here’s what I did to fix the problem: First, you need a big-ass …

Continue reading

A couple of FPP matrix display scripts…

Updated November, 2021: Script Updates and related text changes. Our show has a long matrix display above our carport/driveway that displays general show information, along with our “Tune To” FM frequency to listen to the music, and song information. Usually in order to do this- the information needs to be built into the musical and lighting sequences. Sequencing to music for these shows is tedious and time-consuming enough, without having to deal with what text to display in each one. Another problem is if you need to change any of the text- you have to re-build and re-render every sequence …

Continue reading

Quick Build – Wago Bus

This is one of those: “I’m going to see if this works…” builds. I needed some power busses for the top and bottom of our mega tree. The biggest down-side (and only, in my opinion) to using 5v pixels is you need a lot of power injection. We are using 75px. strands, so applying the “50 pixel rule“- I’m injecting at the top and bottom. That means for 24 strands- I have 12 injection points on each end. I thought about wire nuts, solder, or a whole lot of splices, but decided instead to go with my favorite electrical connector- …

Continue reading

More Power!

So the front of our house has a bunch of convenient outlets, but they are all run off the same 15A GFCI breaker. Knowing that likely wasn’t going to be enough power for our show, we ran quite a bit of our 2020 show using extension cords from a set of 20A outlets we have in the back of the house. This obviously wasn’t very convenient or probably safe. Each extension cord also had a relay box on it, which worked well, but provided multiple potential failure points. This year I wanted to have dedicated outlets just for the show …

Continue reading

ASAP Jr. Mega-Tree Pole Change

Just a quick post on this. For our Mega-Tree, I bought 1.5″ and 1.25″ galvanized conduit for the pole. We also have a hole in the ground for it already. I’ll post more details about that build once we set the tree up this year. It quickly became obvious that these poles would be WAY too heavy to just prop up and drop in the hole, especially when everything was fully extended, including the pole for the star. So- I decided to use the most-excellent Monkhouse ASAP Jr. setup for it. http://www.magicchristmas.org/asap-jr.html I ran into a small problem though. The …

Continue reading

“Permanent” FPP Master Controller and FM Transmitter

While revising almost everything for our show this year, I decided to more-permanently install our master FPP controller (Raspberry Pi 3B+) and FM transmitter. The controller lives on my desk most of the rest of the year because I use it to test new FPP versions, and I wanted to move it out of the way. I also might use it for other lighting projects during the off season. The FM transmitter was always awkward to keep outside because of its attached antenna, and the need to keep its PSU some distance away from it to cut down on any …

Continue reading

Colorlight Controller Box Builds

Last week I posted about my P10 Column Build. One big problem I had was the Pi-P10 controllers I tried to use just didn’t work. They had a terrible amount of flicker, and I was unable to find any actual support for them. So- my next most expensive option was to switch to Colorlight cards. These are purpose-built cards made specifically to drive portions of very-large P10 or similar LED displays. They are reasonably inexpensive (around $26 as of this post), and while they are a bit of a pain to configure- once configured they should “just work”. One oddity …

Continue reading

Raspberry Pi 5v Power Regulation

We have a lot of Raspberry Pis that run various elements of our shows, and powering them from “wall warts” in enclosures isn’t always practical, especially since we are already running 5v power everywhere. The problem is- if you power them using the GPIO header, there is absolutely no internal voltage regulation. So- a voltage spike or other anomaly can fry your Pi. Many of us tend to run our PSUs a bit higher than 5v too, in order to compensate a bit for voltage drop. What I decided to do is use cheap buck converters/voltage regulators you can find …

Continue reading

xConnect: I was wrong, and I admit it…

Last year, I wrote a post about how there is no reason to use “proprietary” connectors like xConnect over the JST connectors that most bulk pixels already come with. I still believe JST connectors with a dab of dielectric grease are perfectly fine for joining strings of pixels together in props, or mid-strip on a tree, and that is what I am still doing. At the time- I had purchased a bunch of “LED Connectors” from China that I thought were xConnect, because the connector itself looked like all of the pictures online, and the pinouts were the same. So- …

Continue reading

Re-Using 12v PSUs for 5v Pixels and LED Panels

Last year there was a lot of debate among Pixel junkies about 12v pixels, in part due to a bad production run from a popular Chinese supplier that resulted in fires. I did my own (controversial) analysis and decided that I would eliminate the 12v pixels we already had in our show (on our roof!) and work with nothing but 5v from now on. I’m no authority on this subject and a lot of people insist on 12v pixels because that works for them. My personal belief is that 5v pixels are safer and more efficient, even though they do …

Continue reading

Column Matrix Builds

Last year, we lit up two of our three front porch columns with PVC pixel “poles”. These worked really well: Pixel Columns This year we are making several changes. First, we got rid of the flat-tree in the middle of the front of the porch, so I needed to light up the middle column. Second, my lovely wife planted some new shrubs in front of the porch, which will end up growing in front of the columns. I decided I wanted something that sat up higher, but made up for being shorter by having more detail. After working on the …

Continue reading

Add an OLED to a Raspberry Pi

It’s kind of silly since they spend most of their time closed up in a weathertight box, but I really like the little OLED screens on the Kulp controllers. They give me a quick indication if the controller is working, so I can at least rule it out (for the most part) if there is any kind of a problem. I figured it was probably pretty easy to put an OLED on a Raspberry Pi, and there are Caps that do just that, along with buttons and additional outputs. After seeing settings for OLED support in FPP, I decided to …

Continue reading

2021 July Update

It’s been a busy Summer, and we are probably getting off to a late start this year, but we have finally started getting ready for December! Well, we will actually start setting up after Halloween, so we can start our show again right after Thanksgiving. Here is what we plan to do this year, which has been updated a bit from my previous posts: The red numbers are things yet to be built. All are at least partially done at this point. Fortunately we got most of the materials for this year’s show before the cost of building supplies skyrocketed, …

Continue reading

Info Matrix (2021)

Last year we did a “Tune In” Matrix under our carport roof. It was my first DIY matrix, which actually turned out and worked pretty well after going through three revisions. It was functional, but just didn’t fit in well with the rest of our display and I wanted something with more resolution. I decided this year to “play” with P10 display panels. These are more-commonly used to build things like RGB scoreboards, billboards, and other advertising displays. Actually P5 panels with twice the resolution are used most often in these now, but I chose to go with the less-expensive …

Continue reading

2021 Mega Tree

I’m going to step through this process as we work on it, so this is a build-in-progress, which probably won’t be done until Fall. So far, it’s just in the planning stages, and we have the first part of it: We also have Boscoyo strips and pixels for it, but haven’t started putting those together yet. The plan is for a 75 x 24 pixel (1800 total) Mega Tree that will be 13′ tall (without the star). With the star it will be closer to 18′ tall. It will be 270° since we are on a corner lot and want …

Continue reading