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DIY programmable Christmas lights, components overview

This article is about the components needed for creating your own DIY programmable Christmas lights. If you already have some components like addressable LED strips you can use them or purchase additional ones to make your exterior even more beautiful and attractive. You should be careful and figure out if your selected components are compatible.

Components

The main components to start your own DIY programmable Christmas lighting are:

  1. Addressable LED strip
  2. Pixel controller (Controller specifically designed for LED strips)
  3. Media content (or effects generator)
  4. Power supply

Summary about addressable LED

An addressable RGB LED strip is a long flexible strand of LEDs each of which can be individually set to a certain color (hence: addressable). By varying the level of red, green and blue (RGB) per LED many color combinations can be made. Usual LED strips consist from LED + IC chip. The chips between the LEDs listen to commands from a controller. This can be an Arduino or other micro-controller or a controller specifically designed for LED strips (aka pixel controller). If you don’t know which LED strip to select there is a tons of information in internet about different LED strips and it’s characteristics.

Let’s assume that you have already selected the best from your perspective LED strip.

Pixel controller

Let’s try to figure out how to light up the LED strip with the help of a pixel controller.

Why not just use an Arduino or Raspberry PI?

Arduino and RPI for Lighting

Arduino Mega has direct support for LED pixels and digital LED strips with drivers type: WS2811, TM1803, TM1804, TM1809, TM1812. The WS2812B uses a one-wire control interface with strict timing requirements (timing requirements so strict that it is typically impractical to have interrupt-based events running on the controlling micro-controller while it is updating the WS2812B LEDs). You could spend some time developing your own lighting firmware on OctoWS2811 library for Tensy device ( Arduino compatible ) if your want to create it from scratch.

Raspberry PI could work directly with WS2801/APA102, LPD8806, P9813 and with WS2811 and WS2812 pixels via Scanlime Fadecandy USB interface. But, LED strips on WS2801 chip is expensive, so Raspberry PI is not a best deal for that.

Let’s see which pixel controller is already available on the market.

Joshua 1 Systems

nECG-DP2

Joshua 1 System, nECG-DP2

Input Protocols:

  • Unknown ( but Ethernet connector is presents )

Outputs:

  • 8 universes ( two outputs with 680 pixels per output )

Additional information:

LED strip chip supports:

  • 4-wire (ex. WS2801)
  • 3-wire (ex: WS2812)

ECG-P2

ECG-P2_1

Input Protocols:

  • ArtNet
  • sACN

Outputs:

  • 8 universe ( two outputs with 680 pixels per output )

Additional information:

LED strip chip supports:

  • WS2801
  • LPD6803
  • TM180

ECG-P12 Series

ECG-P12D_1

Input Protocols:

  • ArtNet
  • sACN

Outputs

  • 12 universe ( 12 outputs with 170 RGB pixels per output )
  • 2 universe ( DMX512 )

Additional information:

LED strip chip supports:

  • WS2801
  • LPD6803
  • TM180x

SanDevice

E682

San Device, E682

Input Protocols:

  • ArtNet
  • sACN

Outputs:

  • 6 universe ( 1020 RGB pixels )
  • 2 universe ( DMX512 )

Additional information:

LED strip chip supports:

  • WS2801, WS2803, WS2811
  • TM1804, TM1803, TM1812
  • SM16715
  • TLS3001
  • LPD6803, LPD1101
  • USC6909, UCS6912
  • SM16716
  • MBI6020
  • GE Color Effects
  • P981x
  • D705

DMXKING

LeDMX4

dmx_king_4

Input Protocols:

  • ArtNet
  • sACN

Outputs:

  • 8 universe ( 1360 RGB pixels )

Additional information:

LED strip chip supports:

  • WS2811/2812/APA104, APA102, WS2801,
  • LPD880x, LPD6803 and compatible LED strips

Advatek Lights

PixLite 4

pixlite4

Input Protocols:

  • ArtNet
  • sACN

Outputs:

  • 16 universe ( 4 outputs with 680 pixels per output )
  • 1 DMX512 output

Additional information:

LED strip chip supports:

  • TLS3001, SM16716, LPD6803,
  • WS2801, WS2811, WS2812, WS2812B,
  • TM180x, MBI6020, INK1003, APA102

PixLite 16

pixlite-16-controllerInput Protocols:

  • ArtNet
  • sACN

Outputs:

  • 32 universe ( 16 outputs with 340 pixels per output )
  • 4 DMX512 output

Additional information:

LED strip chip supports:

  • TLS3001, SM16716, LPD6803,
  • WS2801, WS2811, WS2812, WS2812B,
  • TM180x, MBI6020, INK1003, APA102

 

Deskontrol

Art-Net LED Controller for LED pixels

art-net-led-controller-for-led-pixels-4-universesInput Protocols:

  • ArtNet

Outputs:

  • Different models has 4, 6, 8, 12 universes

Additional information:

LED strip chip supports:

  • APA102, WS2811, WS2812, WS1812B, WS2801, WS2803,
  • UCS1903, UCS1903B, UCS1909, UCS1912, UCS2903, UCS2909, UCS2912, UCS5903, UCS7009
  • LPD1883, LPD1886, LPD6803, LPD1101, LPD8803, LPD8806,
  • TM1803, TM1809, TM1812
  • LX1003, INK1002, INK1003,
  • P9813, P9816

Falcon

F16v2 Pixel Controller

f16v2-beta-boardInput Protocols:

  • sACN

Outputs:

  • 64 universe ( 16 outputs with 680 pixels per output )
  • 4 DMX512 output

Additional information:

LED strip chip supports:

  • WS2801,WS2803,WS2811,WS2812,APA102,
  • TM1804,TM1803,TM1809,TM1812,
  • SM16715,INK1003,
  • TLS3001,TLS3002,CY3005,
  • LPD6803,D705,LPD1101,
  • USC6909,UCS6912,
  • 1903,SM16716,MBI6020,GE Color Effects, P981x

Light-O-Rama

LOR-PixCon16

pixcon16-pixel-controller-1

Input Protocols:

  • sACN

Outputs:

  • 32 universe in DMX mode or
  • 16 universe in SPI mode or
  • 4 DMX512 and 16 SPI in combined mode

Additional information:

LED strip chip supports:

  • WS2801, WS2811/12/12B/APA104, APA102
  • TLS3001, SM16716, LPD6803,
  • TM180x, MBI6020, INK1003

Summary

How to select the necessary one? All systems provide more or less the same functionality but you need to select how many universes you need, depending on your LED strip chip you need to select the best controller at the best price.

Manufacture Model Universe Price
Joshua 1 Systems nECG-DP2 8 universe 65 $
Joshua 1 Systems ECG-P2 8 universe 85 $
Joshua 1 Systems ECG-P12 12 universe 175 $
DMXKING LeDMX4 8 universe 129 $
Advatek Lights PixLite 4 16 universe 114 $
Advatek Lights PixLite 16 32 universe 199 $
Deskontrol Art-Net LED Controller for LED pixels 4 universe 164 $
SanDisk E682 6 universe 180 $
Deskontrol Art-Net LED Controller for LED pixels 6 universe 208 $
Deskontrol Art-Net LED Controller for LED pixels 8 universe 237 $
Deskontrol Art-Net LED Controller for LED pixels 12 universe 309 $
Falcon F16v2 Pixel Controller 64 universe 200 $
Light-O-Rama LOR-PixCon16 32 universe 219 $

Media content generators

Software

Software for generating media content (aka effects) provides an ArtNet/sACN flow from your PC to the Pixel Controller. There are many software programs for that purpose that are commercial and free. For using such software you should have experience in lighting configuration or good motivation for learning.

Free

  • FreeStyler,
  • DMXControl,
  • PC_DIMMER,
  • Q Light Controller +,
  • Vixen Lightning,
  • PixelInvaders,
  • Manolator,
  • Glediator

Commercial

  • Madrix ( free demo version ),
  • LightJams,
  • Magic Q,
  • Illumination 110,
  • Venue Magic,
  • White Cat Lighting,
  • ArKaos,
  • Resolume Arena,
  • Modul 8,
  • grandMA2,
  • Light Show Pro

Mobile

Mobile software provides ArtNet/sACN data flow from mobile devices.

  • Luminair (Apple iPhone/iPad)
  • LightingPad (Apple iPhone/iPad)
  • ArtNet DMX Controller (Android)
  • Controlador ArtNet DMX (Android)

Standalone

If you need to use a standalone (without a dedicated PC) or outdoor version of media content generator and have good robustness and the possibility to control it remotely, you can use devices for ArtNet data recording. ArtNet data could be recorded from any software/hardware and then replayed manually or triggered outside.

Power supply

Each RGB LED draws approximately 50 mA when it is set to full brightness and powered at 5 V. This means that for every 170 RGB LEDs you turn on ( its equal to 1 ArtNet universe ), your LED strip could be drawing as much as 8.5 A. Be sure to select a power source that can handle your strip’s current requirements. Also, you will need additional power supply for media content generator (PC or ArtNet recorder).

You can select the needed power supply from a small preferred list in the following:

3 thoughts on “DIY programmable Christmas lights, components overview

  1. this blog has been amazingly helpful!!! It really means alot to find all the relevant information necessary to start using adressable LED strips.Your work is greatly appreciated. 🙂

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