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Joker4452

I need TONS of advice!!!!

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For years I put up over 15,000 lights in a static display, then I saw my an animated show in person, PC member fxdawg's show. I was afflicted with the bug in December 2009 and joined here and have been reading and lurking since. Things did not work out for a 2010 animated and my "depression" went as far as me not even putting up a decent static display this year!!! It was just not the same it if was not "dancing"

2011 is the year!!!!

I have no clue where to start. I planned a Mega, but what I wanted to do seems to be above my price range for one year.

What do I do, I figure to start with 32 channels of LOR, but I am open to other controllers if I can do more with them for a lower price. I am currently gathering lights and extension cords and other things needed to build the show.

Are there any suggestions for an 8-16 channel mega? Any suggestions for making a good show with only 32 channels? Any suggestions at all?

I am from the same scholl as other people here, Go big or do not go. My bank account just says otherwise and I dont know how to go small...any suggestions for anything would be VERY usefull.

Joe

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Joe, welcome! If you look around @ some of the vid's I think you'll be surprised that you can conquer quite a lot with 32CH. We started last year with 48 and that was a lot to bite off as a 1st timer. I wouldn't go so deep this 1st season so you don't frustrate yourself. Start with the 32, video tape them this year, watch them and learn from what you did and what you can do better. Its an eye opener to watch back @ your vid's. I was able to record like 30+ video's and in watching them OVER & OVER, I'm seeing where I could of improved. I also wanted a mega but not for the 1st season, I opted with mini trees and 10ft arches. Those arches are fabulous to watch, they grab everyone's attention. I'm still going to avoid the mega this year, going with whats called firesticks and a robin wheel. Much easier to configure, IMO. The goal will be to add 1 or 2 elements each year. Good luck!

Bob

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Joe,

You and I have talked specifically about the mega tree so I won't go into that here, but let me tell you how I got started.

For years, I did a static display, I ran conduit thru my front yard trees so that I had power in the yard and no extension cords. I hooked that all up to a big water heater timer at the breaker panel so that it would automatically turn on and off. It worked great for years! 40 amps and lots of lights.

I live in Phoenix and for those of you who don't know, it is common to have 72 degree Thanksgiving days and mid 60 degree Christmas days. Doesn't feel very Christmasy, and if you get busy with kids and work, the holidays fly by and you find yourself wondering where they went.

4 years ago, my wife and I were at a Costco and they were selling a GE Mr. Christmas. I decided to buy it and hook it up to the 6 bushes by my front door and leave everything else static. I was amazed at the mental change it had on our family! We now felt like it was Christmas from Thanksgiving thru New Years! It is our excuse to celebrate with no snow!

My big mistake was going on-line that Christmas and researching Computer Controlled Christmas lights! I am not afraid of electronics or soldering irons, so originally I was going to build my own controller and run it off of a parallel port. After a little more research, I found LOR and D-light. At the time, I chose D-light due to price and ordered a pre-build 16 channel controller. I also purchased their sequencing software. When the controller arrived I started looking at it and my yard and quickly discovered that I easily needed 16 more channels. Finances allowed it, so I purchased another one.

While I was looking at the website to order another one, I noticed that the had 8 channel board kits. Thought it might be fun to do with my boys, so I ordered 4 of them and the parts and started soldering away. When all was said and done, I had 48 channels my first year, but only because I could afford it.

Then panic set in. How was I going to sequence this? Would it look good? Did I have enough time? Did I have the drive to do it?

Thru different forums, i found people that would share sequences and I borrowed a few, modified them for my channel counts and used them. In fact, I use those same files today modified as my hardware has changed.

Last year, I decided to try my mega tree. I was inspired by the one the Mr. Weber built, but I liked many aspects of the older style tree's. I started calculating controller costs, light costs, power budgets, height of tree, placement, etc. I finally decided on the tree that I built. To make it a little different, I put it on top of my house. I will tell you, it was a huge project that cost a fair sum of money. I had 2 other projects that I was going to attempt for this year, but ran out of time and the drive to do them. The stress of the mega tree build and sequencing almost took all of the fun out of Christmas lights for me.

I finally had to sit down and work thru what I was trying to do with the lights. The answer, Have a fun hobby that I could enjoy for years! Once I came to that conclusion, I quickly understood that my desire to add elements, try RGB, Fireworks poles, Bellagio Poles, BigClive RGB floods, etc, etc, etc. Fare exceeded my budget and time available to build new things.

At that point, I finished up my mega tree and did what sequencing I could in order to have a nice display for this year. I received many compliments for the tree and my show and that re energized me for next year!

I am currently planning what I want to do for next year, However, I realize that I cannot do it all. I would like to finish my RGB floods, the fireworks poles. I would also like to build a lynx controller, an SSR4 with DMX, some wireless modules, build some window frames with 5050LED strips running off a a cheap DMX controller with coroplast diffusers, play with RGB pixels.......The list goes on:)

Having said that, I plan on purchasing equipment when they go into coop, so that i have them. I am going to focus on sequencing some new songs and learning Light Show Pro, and I am going to enjoy the 2011 Christmas Season. I am amazed at all of the cool things that people come up with on these forums and wish I could do all of them right now! Reality does not allow me to do that! I work, have 4 children, one attending college next year, and just can't do it Physically, financially, etc.

My advice to you is start small! Buy your LOR 32 channel startup kit. It is not a bad purchase! Buy some Lynx Express boards and build your own! Pick the software you like, most of them can be downloaded and tried for free! Find one you like! You can't really make a bad decision to start. I see many people who have bought LOR to start that either create a multi controller environment later, or decide to sell their LOR equipment and go with DIY. They usually get their money back out of the LOR equipment so it is a win/win prospect.

Spend time sequencing and getting the hang of it, you are your own worst critic and it takes a while to get good at it! Find people who will share sequences so that you see some tips and tricks and have a working show by 2011!

Jump in, start small, and learn from experience.. I almost guarantee that once you have a display up, you will find thousands of things you would rather do slightly different or change. These things will all be items that you can't even imagine right now.

Jump in, get a starter kit going, and remember this is a hobby that is supposed to bring us enjoyment! I know that most of the people I talk too don't do it for the money:)

I hope this helps!

Mike.

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I agree with Bob and Mike.

You might want to look at LOR site and see some of the videos that others have submitted. Some of categorized by channels, so you can see some 32 channel videos to give you some kind of idea.

http://www.lightorama.com/ShowtimeShowcase.html

If you are handy, look at the DIY kits; they come in different options and are less pricey than their commercial grade boxes.

Also, for your ease of use, LOR and other sites offer some free sequences for your use and to learn from them

http://www.lightorama.com/SequencesStandards.html - standard setup for LOR sequences

http://store.lightorama.com/sequences.html - Free TSO sequences and some you can purchase

http://lightoramasequences.com/component/option,com_remository/Itemid,42/ - sequences that others have uploaded for free of use

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hey , i think there is a compliment in there somewhere!! LOL, sorry that you caught the bug!! get ready, its a blast and a pain all at the same time.

why not buy 16 or 32 channels and do a mix of animated and static? that is always an option. if there is anything I can do to help, do not hesitate to ask! I had another buddy that 2010 was his first year, he started with 64 channels, and now he has quite the bug as well.

be sure and buy the PC version of the LOR controllers, buy the complete kits, the ones that are already soldered, that just need final assembly of cords and strain reliefs (if you arent comfortable building them, let me know, ill build them for you!!)

let me know what else I can do. its always nice to have another animated display in the area to send folks to see!!

-troy

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I have taken the advice of a few people and looked at some displays that are in the channel range i was looking at and it seems with enough brain power and lights it should be a decent show...just have to find the brain power and extension cords, and can never have enough lights..any thoughts on elements...the things I like are channel hogs

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Hi Joe,

Welcome the a fun addiction! It can be fun and maddening all at the same time. While I've only been doing this for 5 years I'd like to offer some suggestions. The mantra "go big or go home" is a great soundbite, and you have gone big in your static display. However, in regards to the animation, why not reframe the "go big" to mean that whatever animation you do will be done well (the "big" would be the attention to detail in the programming).

Some practical ideas, start with what you have and grow from there. Decide what you'd like to animate and then use the rest of the static display to "frame" or highlight the animations. For my mega-tree I use a 16 channel tree (8 red/8green); it's very doable. Another crowd favorite are the mini-trees. My mini-trees consist of 3 strings of minis wrapped around a florist frame probably cost $8 per tree. One channel per tree.

I, like you, don't have the budgets of some of the bigger shows, and I have grown to 30,000 lights and 118 channels. While it may seem small, I do know that people enjoy and look forward to it. I don't look at this as a contest; I see it as a community! Everyone has their niche. Jump in, grow and who knows, one day you may find you've become the "big display" guy. Rome wasn't built in a day.....and I'm pretty sure Holdman's wasn't either. Good luck!

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The best advice i can offer is don't PROCRASTINATE!!! I got bit by the bug in Dec'09 and decided to go LOR for 2010 with the intentions of hitting the ground running.Well, we know how intentions are. I didn't start my build for a 128 channel show until 2 weeks before Thanksgiving.Talk about a "crash" course in decorating!!!LOL Didn't get everything up and running until 1am the Wednesday before Christmas. Plan what elements you want for your display and start NOWWWW!!!! Welcome aboard!!! Cliff

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I clicked on all the links and, unless I'm missing something Tino, you're saying that you are "Bella's Lights" and that you did it with 32 channels. If I have it right, that is FANTASTIC! Your show was really well done and should be an inspiration to anyone who thinks they hundreds of channels to do it right. It is also very special what you are doing for Bella. That too is an inspiration! Too bad MS is so far away, I'd love to come see your show.

Mike

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I have taken the advice of a few people and looked at some displays that are in the channel range i was looking at and it seems with enough brain power and lights it should be a decent show...just have to find the brain power and extension cords, and can never have enough lights..any thoughts on elements...the things I like are channel hogs

I also agree with sasmuse. Its the quality of the show that gets the most applause, not the number of channels or lights. We are all in it together.

On your comment on the brain power and extension cords, if you use a LOR network, start off with an old laptop to run your show. You don't need to buy a fancey new one with all the bells and whistles. For extension cords, the cheapest way is to use SPT cord for your runs from the controllers to the various points in your display. Use the heavy duty cords for the power to the controllers.

You can find some more information on SPT cord and how to use them here http://christmaslightshow.com/home.php?cat=29

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hi i am a newbie this year too! did our 1st show this past christmas. we had 16 channels. you will be surprised how much you can do with 16 channels. we has 6 arches - 6 sections each 6 channels, 3 white holdman tree 3 red,green,white lites. 3 channels. 18 mini trees, 6 white, 6 green, 6 red. 1 channel controled 3 trees of the same color. we had them in a wagon wheel circle and could do lots of patterns with that. 6 channels. and lights on the house were 1 channel. most people loved the arches, they just could not understand how they worked!! you can build lots of mini trees cheap. i got tomatoe cages at menards for $1, 2 strings of lights after christmas sale 67cents each, a few zip ties and a mini tree for under 3 bucks. start early and have fun! i would be happy to try and explain anything better if you want! good luck!!

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a few zip ties and a mini tree for under 3 bucks. start early and have fun! i would be happy to try and explain anything better if you want! good luck!!

She brings up a good point about zip ties, BUT, dont spend that much. Get your networking, cables from:

http://www.monoprice.com/products/product.asp?c_id=105&cp_id=10520&cs_id=1052001&p_id=5755&seq=1&format=2

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I think I love you..that site is great...i know where my money is going to be spent...thanks

awwww...why thank you :) But I'm married :-P

Glad I can be of assistance

Edited by Paul D

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I'm going to echo the "don't get too big too quick" mantra. 3 years ago I started out with 64 channels. Luckily I had taken everyone's advice and started programing the sequences really early. Two years later (year 3) I finally have the 200amp service installed and I ran my new exterior lines so the power is out at the display.

I found a cheep computer at Best Buy for $150. I use it only for the show and sequencing, no internet browsing or game playing. At the end of the season, it gets packed into the attic with the decorations.

Acquire mass quantities of extension cords. This has been the second most expensive part of the hobby for me(LOR kits are #1). I became well versed in extension cord pricing. I learned that anything below $.14/foot is a good deal at a retail store. (this year I found a 3pack 6' SPT extensions for $2 and I'll use them for the controllers) Also, this is the first year I put my controllers outside. Next year I'll be moving them right up to the display elements and then I'll really be cutting down on the number/length of extension cords.

Download the LOR/software you want to use NOW and get started with your sequencing. It really takes time for you to get the lights to do what you want them to do.

My first year, I wanted to have direct control over EVERY ELEMENT in the display. But the truth of it is that I really don't utilize that ability in every song. I wish I would have known that when I first started, I would have only gotten 2 controllers. I started with 6 mini trees and 2 colors on them. Used 12 channels but I could have made 24 mini trees and shared 2 trees per channel. Plan your display so you can get the effects you want but optimize your use of the channels. Share/mirror your channels the first year so you can put up more lights. I'm doing 6 light propellers for 2011 and will mirror the channels for them.

Keep track of your display elements and how many amps you'll be using. Last thing you want to do is trip the breaker by pulling too many amps. I made a simple Excel spread sheet that shows:

Controller #

Channel

Display Element

Lights on Element

Amps on channel

Total amps per controller

(it figures out my light count, max Amp draw, and serves as a wiring guide during display setup)

Good luck!

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OK, so I have been reading and taking it all in!!!!

SPT for the extension cords, saves money. 32 Channels is not a bad thing!

Power consumption may be the biggest issue I have, my house is an older house, 110 years old. The wiring was replaced a few years back, but the electrician didnt pay attention to what got hooked into what breaker and there are circuits that have 4 rooms connected to them. 100 amp and in need of an upgrade. Is there any way to splic the power between circuts so I do not have to upgrade the power panel this year?

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OK, so I have been reading and taking it all in!!!!

SPT for the extension cords, saves money. 32 Channels is not a bad thing!

Power consumption may be the biggest issue I have, my house is an older house, 110 years old. The wiring was replaced a few years back, but the electrician didnt pay attention to what got hooked into what breaker and there are circuits that have 4 rooms connected to them. 100 amp and in need of an upgrade. Is there any way to splic the power between circuts so I do not have to upgrade the power panel this year?

32 channels is pretty good to start out with, but once your display grows, so does your channels, and your going to find yourself in need of a TON of extension cords.

As far as your power consumption, you should be fine with just 32 channels this year, but I would recommend getting a license electrician out so you can explain your situation and your future plans so he can give you some options to work with. You might want to look into upgrading your service being that this is an older house and may not have the required power to service your future needs.

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As far as your power consumption, you should be fine with just 32 channels this year, but I would recommend getting a license electrician out so you can explain your situation and your future plans so he can give you some options to work with. You might want to look into upgrading your service being that this is an older house and may not have the required power to service your future needs.

Agreed, I found an electrician to install a 200amp service box that was already at my house but not hooked up (by the prevous owner). He charged around $1,200 but this included the set up of the 2nd panel I was planning on for my upstairs service (Duplex). I have experience wiring so all I needed him for was to just disconnect and connect the new box.

November 2010, he returned and charged me around $300 to run the new service wire from the meter to my new box upstairs. Then the ispector charged $75. I then went further and spent $60 on two 60amp exterior sub panels and ran the wiring($250) myself 2 sides of the house. The 3rd sub panel (30amp) was installed on the front roof. Total in electrical costs I've spent in 3 years over $4,000. But, I'm also adding in the cost of re-wiring my house as I did this.

This year, you may be fine with electric. It would be helpful if you were able to install 2 new independant lines to run your display with. 1 line for each LOR card and you should have no problem keeping one controler under 30amps (under 15amps on each side) That way you would not run into to many problems. But I can tell you that when I'm running my show and all 31000 lights are on, I'm pulling around 105amps. But when I started with 4 countrollers I was only pulling 60amps max. That was with 18,000 lights. With what you're planning, 2 lines will be plenty to start with. It would help if you knew a bit about wiring, any experience?

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I know tons about wiring, I planned on doing the work myself and having a family friend do the meter pulling so I can upgrade to 200 amp service. I need to rewire the house anyway and need to put some out door outlets in for more than my lights.

I just know from looking at my panel there is a few things that may be issues.

My living room, dining room, entrance way, and basement (lights and outlets, not the furnace or dryer) are all on 1 circut. and those just happen to be the rooms that I could run wire outside from.

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SPT for the extension cords, saves money.

SPT is a great way to go but it really doesn't save you any money(cord cost plus vampire plugs). It does however give you the ability to make custom length cords. As your display elements grow, the ability to have custom length cords is more important than the added expense. Keep checking at places like lowes and hd. I picked up 76(40') green extension cords last summer for $3.99 each.They also had 75'ers for 7.49 at the same time.

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I am from the same scholl as other people here, Go big or do not go. My bank account just says otherwise and I dont know how to go small...any suggestions for anything would be VERY usefull.

If I can't afford a steak, I'd rather have a perfectly made hamburger than starve...

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