Advanced Pixel guide

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This is the 3rd Wiki in the series, If you have not read the other two please start with the basic guide.

I have my lights and controller now what?

So you have your lights, controller, and power supply, lets see how all these work together. First off inspect everything as it comes in, make sure nothing is visibly damaged. Once again as stated over and over in this community - You are working with electricity that has the potential to harm or even kill use electric safety for all aspects of this project for your own safety as well as your viewers Lets start by connecting the lights to the controller (work backwards applying power at the end makes sure if you accidentally touch something nothing gets fried).

Dumb RGB - In these you will find that you have 4 wires (unless your using rgbw which has a fifth wire for white)

Note your color of wires may differ though they are the same functions.

Red = + voltage

Blue = ground attached to all the blue elements

Green = ground attached to all the green elements

Black = ground attached to all the red elements

Your board should have labels on the outputs stating color order. Make sure the + voltage is applied to the correct wire, diodes generally limit current to one direction applying the + voltage to one of the grounds will make it so none of the lights will light. If you haven't noticed there is no direction here as far as which way the string goes, in dumb rgb it doesn't matter you can feed the string from either side. Another note there is a limit as to how many strings you can hook together before the voltage drops, unlike rgb pixels we cannot just inject more power as this will overpower the grounds from the board and will make the entire string series light wrong. Instead we use a power amplifier, [1] . These are available inexpensively around the net.

RGB Pixel Pixels are either 4 wire or 3 wire, generally the industry is moving towards 3 wire. 

Note your color of wires may differ though they are the same functions.

Red = + voltage

Green = data

White/black = ground

Blue = clock (only on 4 wire pixels)

Once again your board should be labeled with output number and pin lay out. Triple check that the wiring to the board is correct. In RGB pixels direction does matter, there should be some notation on direction, on strips big arrows on the strip point the direction of data flow, on other types of pixels the arrow may be on a small board inside each light. If you have the lights hooked up backwards they will not work.

Computer to controller board There is a myriad of ways that the boards hook up to computers, check with your board to see how it is to be hooked up, Note renard and dmx input may use the rj45 (ethernet) jack but cannot be hooked up to the ethernet port on the computer, a dongle from the usb port to convert it to rj45 is needed.

Hooking up the controller to the power supply Boards vary from one to another, read up on your specific board as to where power is applied to. All boards have a power input ensure that the + is hooked up to the power supply's V+ output and the - or ground is hooked up to the power supplies V- IMPORTANT on the power supply there will be an ac input that will be labeled something like L,N,and a ground (could be a inverted tree looking symbol) these are for the ac side and should not be connected to the board.

Hooking up the power supply to ac As stated above a 3 wire plug is needed generally in ac circuits black/brown is load or line this wire should be hooked up to the L, white/blue is neutral this wire should be hooked up to the N terminal, and green or yellow/green striped is ground, this should be hooked up to the ground terminal. If in doubt use a meter to check continuity to each pin on the plug.

Powering it up. If you have everything connected correctly when you plug in the power supply you should have the following happen, lights on the controller should come on and some blinking (read your boards documentation as far as what lights on the controller board should be working) If your rgb lights are lit at this point something is wrong, see troubleshooting below to pinpoint what is happening and corrections.

You now can follow your boards documentation as to how to set the board up correctly to control the lights.

Choosing the right show computer for me

Laptop/desktop A lot of people opt for this option

If you have a spare computer that will not be used during the duration of your light show this is an excellent way to run your show. The benefits of this is you have a full blown computer running a scheduler (usually attached to a sequencer) it is interfaced at the laptop/desktop. Drawbacks - computers tend to be expensive 300+ dollars each so if you don't have a spare already there are other options available.

Falcon player/lor show director These are gaining popularity in the community

These are inexpensive SOC (system on a chip) computers that can fully run your show. The added bonus of these is their low cost and ability to synchronize them means that you could avoid ground clutter of cables by placing several of these throughout your show and let them handle controller boards close to them. The draw back is they wont have the full access right at them, either by using web interface or switches on the back is how they are interfaced.

Serial communication from computer to board

As touched on above, serial uses a usb dongle to convert the serial data on the serial bus to transmit it to the boards. Generally most pixel controller boards today are going e1.3x.

Most dumb rgb boards and some older rgb pixel boards use direct dmx input, A bridge of some sort is required before these boards when using e1.31 as your protocol.

If using renard PX-1 for pixels or any renard board with dc ssr's to run dumb rgb, renard uses a modified pinout. See renard documents on how to modify the usb dongle or cat 5 cable to correctly input the signal. http://doityourselfchristmas.com/wiki/index.php?title=Renard_Data_Cables

Again even though the jack on the board is the same as a network cable these boards cannot be ran directly from the ethernet port on your computer.

Networking for lighting a basic knowledge of network setup for E1.3x set ups

This will cover a basic knowledge of networking (enough for you to get things set up)

A breif overview Internet Protocol (IP) is a standard for communication of computers. It divides the information up into packets then addresses the packets to ensure that the packets get to the correct computer. These packets can go through many different computers and servers before arriving at the correct computer. E1.31 (there is a new protocol out, E1.33 but it is not fully implemented yet) puts dmx data into the packets and sends them just like any other data being sent.

Things that we need to be aware of - we are sending a bunch of packets out every second our show is running, this can interfere with our home network if the show is ran over the home network. Its best to set up the show on its own network.

What we need to make a network run. (this is not going to cover everything)

All "ports" on the network need to have a unique address (ip address). Each address is 4 numbers from 0 - 255. The first 3 will be the same for all ports on that network changing one of them will change the network. The last number will change to identify each computer/board.

Valid network | Invalid network

192.168.1.1 | 192.168.1.1

192.168.1.2 | 192.168.2.1

192.168.1.3 | 192.168.3.1


In the example above the first group can talk to each other, they share the same first 3 numbers and the 4th number changes so they can address each other. In the invalid we are changing the networks, each computer/board is then a single computer/board on its own network.

With this in mind we can use this to create our own network. You can find out your home's network by looking at the ip address assigned to it from your router. Most routers use 192.168.0.xxx with the router being 192.168.0.1 Yours may be different. So as long as we change 1 of the 3 first digits in the ip address we move the show to a different network. If you have a wireless and ethernet connection on your show computer you can set them to two different networks allowing your show computer to stay on the home network via the wireless and the show data out on the ethernet.

There is also things like dns, subnet mask, mac address, and a myriad of other things that are needed for a true network to function. Briefly here they are:

Mac address - each ethernet port has a unique mac address, usually manufacturers are assigned a start mac address number and they then change the last numbers of it for every card they make. Most ethernet equipment has these set inside a chip on the ethernet board generally we do not need to worry about it.

Subnet mask - this allows for each network to have more than 256 computers hooked up to it, by adjusting the subnet mask a packet can be routed to up too several hundred thousand computers on one network. Since our show will have less than 256 boards the subnet mask is not needed/changed and default is fine.

DNS - This is primarily used on the internet. It allows for you to type walmart.com into your browser and the dns converts that into the correct ip address for walmart's website. This is not used on our small network we will be sending info either directly to an ip address or to all the ip addresses on our small network. If a dns is asked for in your board / computer setup you want the dns to point to the first IP address on the network. (192.168.1.1 if our network was 192.168.1.xxx)

Static vs dynamic IP addresses - Most modern routers have a DCHP this automatically assigns the next IP address to a device as its connected to the router. In this your computers IP address on your home network may change every time you start up the computer. This is fine for a computer where we are sending and receiving without direct control of the data. In our little network though we are going to want to control what IP address everything is. Turning off DCHP and setting the IP address we want that board to be every time it connects is setting it to a static IP address. This is advantageous as most of the modern boards use a browser based interface, to get to that you must know what IP address to direct your browser to.

Unicast vs Multicast - You have probably seen this on your boards description xx universes multicast and xx universes unicast. All this means is in multicast we do not specify what IP address the packets are sent to, instead the network router rebroadcasts that packet to all the boards on its network. The boards then receive the packets and decide based on universe number if the board is to use it or not. In unicast we specify that packets are directed only too a certain IP address. In this way the router just sends those packets to the IP address referenced in the packet. If we are using unicast then static IP addressing is a must.

As stated this is a general knowledge of networking and not a degree. If you wish to know more about networking or are having difficulty in setting one up ask on the forums where more specific help can be given.

I hooked everything up right and still is not working (basic troubleshooting)

First things check wiring again, check directions on rgb pixels (those arrows can be awfully small on some of those nodes).

Now for some basic troubleshooting.

First don't send any data, is the board/lights correct, for example if you have no data going to your board but all your rgb lights are red then you probably have a dumb rgb lights hooked up to a rgb pixel board (its wired + on + and ground on the red ground) replace the rgb dumb lights with rgb pixel lights to correct this.

Verify that all the led's on the board are lit correctly for not receiving data.

Next turn the board on in test mode, make sure all your rgb lights are lighting correctly. If none of the rgb pixels work try flipping the strands see if you are inputting data on the outs. If some of the lights work or all do but the colors are wrong its a setup issue, refer to your boards manual to verify setup is correct.

Next run a test pattern from the computer, now lets see if data is making it from the computer to the board. If you don't receive the data or not all the lights are lit etc, check the configuration of the computer/network to ensure the packets are going to the correct ip address (e1.31 unicast) that the universe numbers are correct (e1.31 both) and that channel counts inside universe's are correct (e1.31 both). Or if you are running serial make sure the usb dongle is configured correctly (renard needs you to swap a couple pins on the output of the dongle or swap the wires in a custom made cat 5 cable), make sure the computer is outputting the data to the port of the usb dongle.

Next run a test sequence, if the lights are incorrect, check the "patching" in the sequencer verify start channels of all props/models.

If these steps did not solve the issue post on the forums for some help