G.E. Hattitude Quartet

Meet the biggest single prop we’ve bought to date: The Gilbert Engineering Hattitude Quartet! This thing is almost 4′ in diameter, and consists of a wreath/spinner and close to a dozen singing face options (with or without Santa hat). We wanted a new “centerpiece” above the porch, to take the place of the star on the the flat-tree we made in 2020. We are going to have a free-standing Mega-Tree in 2021. The frame is made of PVC and 3D printed parts from Inspire Light Shows. It will be mounted using the same brackets and hooks we used for the …

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FrankenPower Mk. III

FrankenPower Mark I-II used mechanical relays that were connected to conventional outlets. They were bulky, probably not very safe, and had to be placed in a tote to try to keep them protected from the weather. One of the original mechanical relays failed almost immediately upon use. Mark III uses an 8-channel SSR board and a much different enclosure- a “Weatherproof” cord box I found at Menards: I built it primarily using the following components: Associate (Commissionable) Link(s): Along with WAGO connectors and cheap 10′ extension cords from Menards. I cut the extension cords in half, and will use the …

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New 3D Printer: Creality Ender 3 Max

I updated an earlier post about my ANET A6. It had a thermal overrun issue and almost caught fire (well, at least it produced a LOT of smoke). After struggling with that printer pretty much since I built it over 3 years ago, I decided it was time for a fresh start. I salvaged much of it, which may go into a future project. For now though- I needed a new 3D printer! I posted a query on one of the 3D printing forums I’m on where folks print a LOT of parts almost continuously for a “Good reasonably-priced (cheap) …

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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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Star Stake Quick Build

We’ve already started working on some things for next year… We found these metal stars at Hobby Lobby over the weekend. We already had a couple-dozen of these “Quick Light Post” metal light pole/stake things from Menards. They sell them every Christmas, but they never seem to show up online. I’ll post a manufacturer link ASAP. “Quick” just refers to this article- it took a lot more time than I had planned and a lot of zip ties to pull this off, but in the end- I have a 20-pixel mini-star on top of a 5-pixel stake. I’m planning to …

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Tool Tip: Zip Tie Tightener

Just a quick tip here. You can often find these on sale at Harbor Freight for a few bucks: They are utter garbage when it actually comes to stripping wire. BUT- they are excellent for getting the last few clicks out of a zip tie! Just slide the tie in the side and butt the nose up on the zip head, and give it a squeeze. Works on all sizes, but is really helpful for small ones that you want to get good and tight.

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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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“Dolphin” Connectors for Pixel Repairs

I mentioned in an earlier post about Scotchloks ™ that I was also going to check out “Dolphin” connectors. I don’t have any experience with them, but I have seen them used as an alternative to Scotchloks in Tele/Data-com applications. I bought a pack of them on Amazon. These are “IDC” (Insulation Displacement Contact) connectors similar to Scotchloks. You are supposed to push the wires inside and crimp the whole connector. There are metal plates with teeth inside that pierce the insulation and grab hold of the conductor. They come filled with sealant (there are “dry” versions available too) to …

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ESPixelStick ESP32 Build (Alpha)

First off, FYI- there is a new release of ESPIxelStick v.3.2 that fixes the Mac flashing issues that have been a problem for v3.1. If you are running the original ESPixelSticks, or NodeMCUs based on ESP12, like D1 Mini or similar- get that release as it is pre-compiled and just works. https://github.com/forkineye/ESPixelStick Note: I am just covering my experience and outlining the process of compiling (building) the firmware for ESP32. I am not covering the basics of how to use the Arduino IDE to install libraries and compile/flash code to an MCU. There are other resources for that. This is …

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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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Scotchloks ™ for Pixel Repairs

Quick Update (December 2021): Corning purchased 3M’s communications products division, so now these are sold as Corning Brand. I’ve been using these “UY2” connectors for emergency repairs this year (2021), and still have a few repaired strings left over from last year. I haven’t had any issues with any of them. Older ones are showing some UV discoloration, but the connections themselves are still solid. I’m actually recommending these now for “field” repairs, although solder seals or soldering/shrink tubing are still more permanent solutions that will likely last significantly longer. Be sure to get real Corning brand though, I’ve seen …

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Vankyo Projector Power Control

I posted earlier about the dirt-cheap Vankyo projectors that some people use for their displays (for rear or front projection). These things are about as cheap as you can get for reasonable quality. One problem with them is there is no way to control the power without either physically pressing a button on top of it, or using the remote control that comes with it. There are no USB or serial control options, so the “Projector Control” plugin for FPP won’t do any good. I decided that what I needed was an “IR Blaster” running on the Raspberry Pi that …

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Cheap Rear Projection

A few of the sequences I downloaded/purchased this year actually have video files. I also wanted to try out a Virtual Matrix, since it just wasn’t going to be practical to build a large enough one this year for what I wanted to do. So- I decided to try a rear-projection setup. First up- the projector. I didn’t have one, and needed one cheap. Someone on one of the forums I’m on mentioned these: These things are small and cheap. I got one for $75 on-sale last week from Amazon, although they are usually around $100. Here is a current …

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Quick-Hack: Jumper

Can’t find your baggie of circuit board jumpers and need one in a pinch? Do you have some Scotchloks and some jumper wires (that you CAN find)? Then just do this: Now, granted, I could have just used the jumper wire, but I didn’t really want an extra foot of wire wrapped around in the enclosure this is going in. It could get tangled up with the rest of the wires, and the jumper could possibly get pulled out, so this seems like a good solution to me. 😀

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MAX485 Differential Transceivers

I was digging into how Differential Receivers for LED lighting systems work, and was told about these MAX485 Transceivers on one of the forums: These little boards cost around $1 each, and can be used to extend a WS2811 (Pixel) data signal for hundreds of feet (probably close to 1000 with proper shielded RS-485 cable). You don’t have to use the Differential ports on your controller- you can extend any pixel port. My understanding is that the 4-Port differential systems used on Falcon and Kulp boards use similar technology- the transmitter side is built-in to the boards, and they use …

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Mega-Tree (-ish?)

Well, sort-of. There is some debate over what actually constitutes a “Mega-Tree” in size and construction. I’ve been calling it a Mega-Tree, but technically it is a “flat tree”. So my wife started working on musical sequences and was skimming YouTube for inspiration. She found a display she REALLY liked, and determined that our little Mini Mega-Tree was just not going to be adequate for what she wanted to do. I had just gotten in a new order of pixel strips and pixels that were supposed to be for finishing some other projects, so… We have a 46″ Boscoyo star …

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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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