I thought I would share the controller diagram for our show this year. Hopefully it will give you a bit of an idea of what goes into something like this hardware-wise.
This is a large PDF that you can download if you would like, otherwise it scrolls in the box below…
This just shows network (blue) and differential (green) connections, and not power or the actual pixels and props.
The Show Runner (FPP Master) is permanently installed. It runs the playlists and scheduler and is connected to the FM transmitter (not shown in the diagram). It controls the power to the FM transmitter via a GPIO relay, so the transmitter is only on when a show with music is running. It tells the other controller computers what to do via a dedicated Ethernet and WI-FI network.
The Power Control is also permanently installed and controls power to the whole show. We shut down the power when nothing is running for safety and to save a bit of electricity.
The computers that run the show are all small SBCs (Single Board Computers) like Raspberry Pis and Beagle Bones. They aren’t much larger than a deck of standard playing cards. They provide the “brains” for the controllers. The actual controllers are all attached to them using their GPIO interface. You can find out more about all of this on our Terminology Page.
The differential receivers allow us to send pixel data, which can usually only travel about 15 feet, up to several hundred feet. Each one supports four “channels” of data. They connect to the controllers using standard Ethernet (network) cable. They each have their own power supplies and pixel outputs.
Not shown, mostly because I ran out of room, is an audio monitor that also runs on a Raspberry Pi. It’s just connected to some little computer speakers and allows us to hear the audio of the show closer to the house when it is on. It connects to the rest of the system via WI-FI.
All of the controllers run variations of Debian Linux, and most run FPP (Falcon Player) which is purpose-built for running light shows like this.