It's all about the blinking...
See a comparison of the hardware used to run the displays between 2007 and 2019.
Ordered the PIXAD8, an 8 output pixel controller that will be used to control the Rose Garden lights. This E1.31 driven controller is ideal for the small items like the rose garden, or maybe leaping arches and the Pixel Star, leaving the E16 for the Megatree, with a few spare outputs for later expansion.
Made another small order for Pixels today. These are supposedly IP68, which is fully waterproof good for full underwater use. While I will still add some additional waterproofing, these will be used for leaping arches and are currently being considered for use on the Megatree and Rose Garden. (Edit: These later turned out to be 5V 6803 chips with an IP rating lucky to be 65, instead of 5V 2801 IP68, so I sold them for 1/2 price to someone at the Sydney Mini and vowed never to use that supplier again)
I am also considering the Stellagreen pixels, which are a much higher quality product, but the price is also higher as well.
Today I started looking at the ten Minitrees for their update. Each minitree contains 150 red, 150 blue, 125 white and 125 Purple globes, for a total count of 5500 lights and a total of about 485 watts. The original minitrees looked like this:
Because these are about 3 seasons old and never been repaired, the Red, Purple and Blue colors have badly faded, and there are sections of lights in need of repair. Or I could string plain RGB LED's on them.
Thats 100 RGB LED's in the same 4 colors as the old lights looked, and a 20 watt for white, 7 watt for Red, Green or Blue per Minitree, so a saving of 285 watts peak load. It was at this stage I thought the minitrees looked pretty ordinary, as the led's looked, well, scrappy. So I had an idea.
This is bird mesh, available in a 16 square meter pack in black for $5 from bunnings, which was tied and cabletied over the minitree. I found out, after this picture, that 2 layers is more effective as you can hold the LED's in place more tightly.
Well I bit the bullet and ordered some parts today. I also purchased some Stellagreen pixels, as well as a number of 5 and 24v powersupplies, connectors, and RGB Pixels for the minitrees and around the windows worth a further $1430.
The change in pixel suppliers, and number bought, has caused a change in the layout of the display, but I think that the changes should be for the better.
My items from China arrived today - YAY, leaving one order left to arrive. This order contained 5V and 24V Power Supplies, 380 connectors (2, 3, 4 and 5 pin, plus 2 pin "T" connectors), and 2000 RGB Led's in strings of 50. 250 led's have been waterproofed, with 1750 left to do - ergh!
The above image shows the 350 Watt 5V (250 Watt real capacity) and 350 Watt 24V supplies, 3 bundles of 100 2, 3 and 4 pin plugs and sockets, 50 5 pin plugs and sockets, 30 3 way 2 wire splitters, and the 40 bundles of 50 RGB LED's. So far 500 of the led's have been tested and I have had 1 failure, and that is just of a green LED, the red and blue work, but it will be cut out and replaced anyway, as some of these lights will be shortened and others lengthened to suit the windows on the house.
To test the strings, they are strung across the shed with slight tension on them. This finds any bad connections or cables and allows the checking of each LED for brightness and any flickering when bumped or pushed.
Because these are cheap, they are not really waterproof at all, and one supplier actually said that the IP rating of IP68 (Dustproof & good for immersion in water beyond 1 meter without problems) is perfect for my needs as long as I keep the lights away from water or heavy rain - yeah that's going to happen. Between the wires, especially when the wires are pulled, there is a reasonable gap which would easily allow water in, corrosion to start, and eventually lead to failure of the lights.
To fix the issue some Selleys waterproofing is brushed on both sides of the cable entry, and especially between the 2 wires to ensure that we keep out as much water as possible.
The cable is left in the stretched position for at least 48 hours to allow the sealant to harden enough so it wont easily be dislodged through normal handling. The sealant takes about 5 days to completely cure.
Busy few days with 24 sets of LED's sealed and hung to dry.
This is 18 sets of lights to be left hanging for the next week or so on the side of the shed. Another 6 sets will be moved across tomorrow and they will be left for at least one week to ensure they are dry.
Now this is an old floodlight set with horrid cabling and plenty of sources for water ingress around the cables.
Rear view of the old floodlight set.
Top view of the old floodlights.
An upgrade of the floodlights was started today. There are 2 main reasons for this are that I wanted plugs for DMX in and out, and Power in. Here you can see the 2 input cables - 2 pin for 24V DC Power and 4 pin for DMX and 12V in for the power supply for the 3 chanel DMX board.
These are the plugs used. Waterproof with an o-ring seal and screw connector. I bought 100 2 pin (24V Power), 100 3 pin (DMX), 100 4 pin (DMX/12v, RGB strings, Pixels) and 50 5 pin plugs (RGBW Ropelights) and matching sockets for them all.
I have had issues in the past with water damage inside the lights which took close to 3 hours to repair today, so a small packet of silica gel is placed inside each light as part of the upgrade.
This shows the DC in, DMX/12V In on the top light and DMX/12V out on the bottom light. You can also see that the thin pressed steel bases on the bottom of the lights has been replaced with a thicker piece of steel which holds the light much more secure than the original, minimising the "bouncing" of the lights due to wind.
Front view of the upgraded floodlight. Cables between lights are held inside UV Stabalised clear hose, and although clear will harden and crack much quicker than a darker color tube, this was cheap, at $5 for 4 meters. If it starts to weather I will cover it in tape, as it is only out for 5 or 6 weeks a year anyway.
Rear view of the upgraded floodlights. The grey is simply a combination of dust and a bit of sun fading from previous years.
Closeup of the upgraded lights showing the plugs and sockets. I will add some additional silicon around the cable entry once a few lights have been completed.
Side by side comparison of the old and new floodlights. This upgrade, when done on all the lights, will speed up the floodlight install from about 8 hours to maybe 2 hours for all 26 floods.
Completed the 3rd large 4 light frame today and then started on the individual floodlights today. These have a DMX in and out as well as Power in and out, as well as the standard bag of silica gel inside it. 3 of these completed today.
All the RGB floodlights have been upgraded and tested, with just 3 white floods left to repair as they were damaged last year. Picked up 100 meters of 4 wire alarm cable today as well, and this will be used to extend the RGB LED's on the minitrees, and cable to the leaping arches and other pixel items as needed. Initially 3 meters will be added to each minitree to allow cabeling back to the controllers to be located in a box at the base of one of the trees.
Also started the upgrades of the minitrees today, with 2 now complete, including the collar arrangement to allow quick install and packup of them at the start and end of the season thanks to a simple $3 section of steel tube, and 4 bolts with nuts welded on the side of the tube. It has all been sprayed with black paint to blend in with the existing trees.
Oh and my Stellagreen pixels arrived a few days ago and to say they are impressive would be a gross understatement. Most LED's run at 20mA per color (so 60mA for white) to give maximum brightness, and as the current is reduced the brightness falls off too. The Stellagreen pixels run at 9mA per color, less than half a normal set and I cant really see a difference in brightness at all.
Above shows the Stellagreen pixels on the workbench and Chinese pixels on the star. The Chinese pixels need to be sealed (about 15 minutes per string), and hung for a week to dry before they are reasonably waterproof, whereas the Stellagreens could be used underwater as supplied without any issue with leaks at all.
A closeup of the Stellagreen pixels (LED side down) and the Chinese pixels (LED side up, clipped to frame). The use of these pixels more than halves the power needed to drive them compared with the Chinese pixels, so this further reduces the power consumption of the display.
7 of the 10 minitrees are completed, and I am starting to sort out the channel assignments for this year. A case has been started which will hold 10 of the 3 channel DMX DC SSR's and a 5V power supply for the minitrees. This will help with testing of the gear, but the video below gives an idea of what they can look like. This is just 4 of the Minitrees and a set of Stellagreen pixels running a simple test chase.
This is just 4 of the Minitrees and a set of Stellagreen pixels running a simple test chase. The brightness was set at 100%
A closeup of the minitrees.
The minitree controller is now completed, and here are a few images of it being made.
Here is the power supply and external vent in place. The power supply is mounted to the top of the mounted on the top of the case.
A closeup of the air outlet. This is before the pipe entry was sealed and painted.
Here are the 10 SSR's in a block ready to be mounted in the case.
All the gear mounted in the case and tested. Fuses for the 5V outputs are on the side, and 1 is left for the 240V input which will be added as soon as I get the correct 240V cable length to go back to the front deck. The red cables are DMX in and out, and the other 10 are for the minitrees.
The Stellascapes E16 controller is now completed, and some testing has taken place, and here are a few images of it being made.
Because of the size of the E16, the Power Supply has to be mounted on the bottom (back wall) of the case, and have similar venting to the Minitree case. The case here is upside down as the cable entries are on the top, but should be on the bottom when installed in place.
The Cables are in place for the 16 outputs to the Stellagreen Strings.
Here is the E16 snugly mounted in the case.
As a test, I strung 8 sets of Stellagreen pixels up in the shed. and ran some simple test sequences.
And of course the video of it in action.
All 10 minitrees are complete and tested, and the megatree has been tested for size in the yard.
Here is Jacob sitting amongst the minitrees being tested today. The total draw is a little under 100 watts and they are extremely bright. Much of today was involved in giving the trees a burn-in test for about 4 hours.
Another big couple of days with the controllers being built. Todays final controller was the one for the 8 windows and 4 garden shrubs, complete with 5V power supply and 36 channels of DMX control, all on a ventilated case. 5 hours of load testing has completed this controllers build.
STILL waiting on Lithgow Bunnings to get back to me in regards to a 300 meter rope order. I have been waiting almost 3 weeks for a reply, and repeated requests have resulted in "I'll call you later today" from them, with no calls back. Heck, all I want is 300 meters of black rope between 4 and 6mm diameter.