Category: Blog

Random thoughts and ideas. Not worth a full article. May not have pictures!

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 …

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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 …

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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! 🙂

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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 …

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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 …

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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- …

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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, …

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2020 Show Post-Mortem and 2021 Plans

Well, it’s mid-January and things are still getting organized and packed up as we plan for this year’s show. The roof outlines won’t be coming down until the weather improves, but almost everything else is either hung up somewhere or crammed into a tote for storage. We even already got our first order of pixels and my wife (Kim) bought us a box of new coro props to get started on. I thought I would review this past year’s experience and share some of our plans… I feel our first real pixel show this past year went really well overall. …

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New Terminology Page Added

This time of the year, a lot of enthusiastic new folks start investigating Holiday Pixel Lighting. They hit the online forums and YouTube videos, and sites like this one, and are immediately bombarded with a lot of acronyms and terms they likely don’t know. I decided to put together a Terminology page in hopes it helps some of you out there. It’s in the main menu above, or you can check it out here: Terminology Also, be sure to check out my Pixel Resources Page: Pixel Resources and Links

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What Happened?

Yes, I changed the name (and the look)… This site was initially started as joke, called BubbaLectric.com. It was supposed to represent a series of my cost-cutting (cheap!) and unsophisticated hobby builds, using satirical “BubbaTronic” branding. Since I first set it up- I’ve grown the site with a lot more practical information about my builds and projects than I had originally planned. I’m still a big proponent of “cheap”, but I’ve also had to acknowledge as I gain more experience that cost-cutting isn’t the best plan for some of this stuff. I decided I want to continue to keep this …

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5v vs. 12v Pixels

This is one of the most divisive arguments you will find online among folks in the Pixel hobby, perhaps more-so than where to buy your pixels and what connectors you “HAVE” to use. Here is my take on it… First- this is all my opinion. I will very likely take a hit in several online forums for posting this. For some reason a lot of folks think 12v is the only way to go, and I disagree. Don’t do anything based solely on my advice. Do your own research and make your own decisions- as I said above- this is …

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Resources and Links

I just added a Pixel Resources page with links to the vendors and sources I’ve relied on this year. I decided it would be best to collect them all in one place. Also, I wanted to share links to our Oak Hills Lights project, which started all of this… Twitter: @oakhillslights Facebook: @oakhillslights YouTube: Oak Hills Lights We’ve had a few glitches here and there, but everything has gone well so-far. I’ll be posting more after the season is over, and ongoing…

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Ch-Ch-Changes…

So, I think I’ve made it through a big learning curve with regard to Master and Remote FPP setups, and controllers in-general… First I found out that the Kulp K16A-B controller is fantastic as a stand-alone controller, or as a Remote, but NOT as a Master. For some reason it just has media timing issues that appear to be unresolvable unless they eventually get fixed in firmware or FPP. If you want a very-expandable single-controller to run your whole show (and it likely can)- then it is still a great option. It also works outstandingly well as a Remote. Update …

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Up and Running!

Oak Hills Lights officially started on Saturday night, Nov. 28th! It’s been an uphill battle the last couple of weeks, as I noted in my previous post. The problems have primarily been syncing issues, scheduler issues, and problems with our WiFi SparkleBalls. Our display is running now through Jan. 3rd. Current hours (subject to change based on traffic and impact on neighbors) is 6-9pm Sun.-Thur., 6-10pm Fri.-Sat. It’s a repeating playlist that lasts about an hour. Syncing Issues The real problem is the BeagleBone SBCs that run Kulp controllers appear to poor audio timing, making the audio run slower than …

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Update. Frustration!

Okay, so to get a few things out of the way… The Redneck Matrix Mark II was fairly quickly replaced with Redneck Matrix Mark III. I needed more resolution to make text more readable, since I’m using it for tune-in and song information. I didn’t do a build post for it because it happened pretty quickly. I switched to using this stuff: Associate (Commissionable) Link(s): …and I can’t recommend it enough for doing matrixes. It fits the pixels perfectly and you can choose whatever density you want. It was a LOT easier to deal with than the metal mesh, and …

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Oak Hills Lights Quick Stats

Our display consists of 4560 actual LED pixels (not including the projector virtual matrix). This is considered a “small” show in the pixel world. LED pixels contain three colored LEDs- Red, Green, and Blue in a single sealed epoxy “bulb” that can create millions of colors. Including the virtual matrix in the window next to the carport, which uses a rear-projection video system, we have 19920 pixels. Each pixel requires three data channels, so that is 59,760 channels of data driven from four SBCs (Single Board Computers) running FPP (Falcon Player) software. Kulp pixel controller boards, custom-built microcontrollers, and additional …

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Quick Update

We got all of the remaining lights up last weekend, including our flat-tree (which I guess we can’t really call a “mega tree” since it isn’t freestanding). I spent the week chasing down problems/bugs in xLights and FPP, along with controller, cabling, and bad pixel issues. I finally got everything working yesterday (Friday). Fortunately I took a week off to mess with this stuff. I’m hoping to post more build information, stats, etc. and some videos once we are ready to go with a full show. We are still tweaking sequences and testing things. Wireless has pretty-much utterly failed me. …

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JST Connectors

UPDATE: I revised my thinking on this after realizing I was dead-wrong about xConnect connectors. See it here. This started out as a side-note for my Pixel Data Cables story. I decided it needed it’s own write-up… I’ve seen a lot of hate for these online, usually from people who have spent a small fortune on “xConnect”, “Ray Wu”, or “Paul Zhang” pigtails and other connectors. If you buy cheap pixels from China (which most of us do)- unless you actually buy them from a “big name” seller- they will likely have JST “SM” connectors on them. When I first …

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Pixel Data Cables

I’ve seen a lot of debate about this, and of course everyone does things differently. I just wanted to show what I am doing for my cables this year. So- you have a fancy new controller, like a Kulp K16A-B: You stick it in a box with power supplies, terminal blocks, and maybe an FM transmitter and WiFi. Now what? You need to get data and power to your pixels! Pixel data is precious in our world, and unfortunately it is short-lived and can’t travel far. A lot of people try to get power and data in the same cable …

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Roofline Update

The weekend before last I posted that we had started working on the rooflines. (It’s happening…) Well, besides all of the strips being too long, which caused installation and configuration issues, I discovered that WiFi was woefully inadequate for it. Unfortunately because of my design- I had controllers on both ends of the roof, and was unable to get a strong enough WiFi signal on one side, without it being too weak on the other. Just too much “house” to go through, regardless of where I put the WiFi antenna. It doesn’t help that we have very-thick plaster walls and …

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New FPP (FalconPlayer) Software Released

Just in case anyone missed it- there is a new release of FPP! The official release announcement: FPP 4.3 Released! Images can be download from: https://github.com/FalconChristmas/fpp/releases/tag/4.3 Enhancements VirtualMatrix updates to allow 1:1 pixel perfect output VirtualMatrix can now display multiple matrices on one framebuffer in 1:1 mode Optimized memory usage for BBB48String and BBBMatrix for lower CPU usage Add volume control on remotes Bridge mode timeout – if no data received, blank the data BBB Matrix – Support for newer 1:2 scan P10’s Disallow empty IP and Netmask if using Static IP Add interface names associated with IP in title area …

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Another 3D Printer…

So, I’m still pissed-off about this, but I have to say that so far I’m impressed with the printer… As I said in a previous post- Anycubic’s store took my order and my money for an Anycubic Photon printer back in mid-August. It was supposed to arrive in mid-September, and didn’t. I sent them emails asking for the shipment status- and got nothing. Finally, I decided to buy a competing product (with overnight delivery) from Amazon. I sent them an email to cancel the order and refund my money. Again- no response. I contacted the payment processor they use (“Shop”), …

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WLED

Really-quick if you haven’t looked at WLED in a while- give it another look. I was experimenting with ESP32 NodeMCUs and had to find an alternative to the venerable ESPixelStick firmware, which simply doesn’t run on ESP32. A few online forum members suggested WLED as an alternative. I had “played” with WLED a long time ago, and while it worked- I wasn’t very impressed with it, and at the time it didn’t support SACN/E1.31. Well- it does now. So far- here are the advantages: Compiles on almost any MCU hardware. Several pre-compiled binaries available if you don’t want to compile …

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Multicast Hell

I wanted to write about this in case it helps anyone else… On one of the Holiday Lights forums I’m on, there was a big discussion about Unicast vs. Multicast for WiFi NodeMCU controllers. A group of “in the know” people insist that the only way you can run a large display with NodeMCU-based WiFi controllers is to use Multicast. So- even though Unicast was working perfectly fine for me, I decided to future-proof my display by switching to “recommended” WiFi hardware and moving everything to Multicast. This resulted in a hellishly frustrating weekend whereby I watched my display completely …

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