Just some information I hope is helpful to you
There are a few things you need to get started in the wonderful world of Pixels
First and Most important... Make sure you do not overwhelm yourself. I have seen many folks excited about starting a show and they go big the first year. Will that work? It might but there is a danger of becoming frustrated and that causes some quit and sell all of their stuff within the first couple of years.
I would start small, like with a Mega Tree or outline the house and windows. Learn it without all of the stress and it will be fun!
QUESTION : What kind of Lights should I buy?
The most Common Pixel is the Bullet style that is shaped like a bullet and the square style which… you guessed it, is shaped like a square.
The most common pixel type is the WS2811 which almost ALL controllers can control.
So when you are ordering you most likely will be ordering some like this
12V / WS2811 / IP68 / Bullet Pixels / 18 gauge Black wire / 4 inch spacing / 100 Count / with Pigtails
QUESTION : What are REGULATED lights and why should I buy them Instead of Resistor?
Resistors work by Reducing the Volts down from a specified Amount of volts... in this case 12V. The resistors take 12 volts and bring it down to 5. That is what they are made to do... 12 volts and take it down 5 volts. If you put a higher voltage through a Resistor a higher voltage will hit the leds and burn them out.
Regulators will take ANY voltage (that they are rated for) and reduce it to 5V so in theory you can put a higher voltage through them and it will only allow 5V to get to your leds. In theory this allows you to have longer runs without power injecting BUT higher Voltage amounts coming in to it can cause a regulator to get hot and eventually burn out so they are only warrantied for anything up to 12 volts. In the future this might be a fairly big advantage BUT today there just is not. The warranty doesn’t cover higher voltage usage
They BOTH do the same job, just in a different way.
The pro to the regulator? A bit more power can go a little further without power injection. The cons... Plug it in the wrong way and your string is toast, Put higher voltage than 12 volt though it and you have no warranty, higher price, and if they are built without safegaurds they can be burned out very easily. High quality Regulated Pixels use Resistors to make sure the power going to the regulator is the same and keeps the power from spiking... without this design they are prone to burning out
The Pro to Resistors... They are cheaper and work very well... The cons... Can’t send higher Voltage through but the Regulators are not warranted to handle higher voltage anyway so it is kind of a wash there :)
AN IMPORTANT THING TO KNOW... just because a pixel is advertised as either Resistor or Regulator doesn’t mean that it is the same as every other pixel that has that equipment.
Like anything else there are different levels of quality when it comes to the chips, and ways that pixels are put together.
There are different levels of Resistors and Regulators so be careful when looking at pixels even though they are advertised as Regulated or Resistor because the fact is there are some Resistor pixels that are better quality than some regulated ones and some Regulated pixels that are better than Resistor pixels. Infact, In 2021 some low cost Regulated Pixels caused a few fires so be REALLY Careful when you buy.
Another fact is that Regulated pixels that are of the same quality as resistor pixels cost more so when you see a Regulated Pixel being advertized for less than the normal price on Resistor pixels I would think not twice but three times or more before purchasing them... Chances are that they are not the quality you would want.
Are Regulated worth the cost? They both have about the same failure rate so in my experience opinion? I would not spend $3.00 more a string for them.
Now… there is nothing wrong with using them at all, they work but I would not spend the extra money.
QUESTION : What Pigtials should I Pick?
Getting the job done
For sealing up and sending the power and Data Through? Absolutely nothing. I have even seen a claim from one US vendor that theirs is higher quality than the normal pigtail… Well… I know the factory they get it from is this a pure out falsehood.
All pigtails from the US vendors I have seen are all good quality and do the job quite nicely.
If they all do a good job then why the different ones? Well...In the beginning it was a way to lock you into a vendor. If you bought from one vendor with that used a certain type of pigtail different from the rest? You were locked into buying from them or you would have to change all of your controllers and strings… not worth the trouble.
Now? Well many Factories in China pretty much make pigtails that can match any vendor and create strings with them.
I Personally I HATE this because I have to sell strings with 5 different pigtail types and it is a pain!
Size and Configuration
Xconnect - 13.5mm - Male(Input) end has threads on it and the Female (Output) has the Screw Cap
Ray Wu - 13.5mm - Male (Input) has the Screw Cap and Female (Output) has the Threads
Paul Zhang - 18.5mm - Male (Input) has the Screw Cap and Female (Output) has the Threads
Holiday Coro - Plain old Xconnect
There are many others out there… DIY, Light O Rama, and others I have not heard of I am sure.
Which one to Pick?
If I was starting out today? XCONNECT. This is a universal standard and no matter who makes it they SHOULD work together. Give you freedom to buy from anyone :)
QUESTION : What Controller should I use?
You will need a controller that connects the data from your computer into the data your lights can work with.
There are a three controller companies I would recommend…
Falcon Controllers - www.pixelcontroller.com
David Pitts has many products to help you with your show but the Controller board that I use exclusively is the Falcon F16v3. It has 16 outputs and is LOADED with features. You can also get a 16 port expansion board so you can have 32 outputs from one inclosure.
If you like to build your own you could Join us at the HOLIDAY LIGHTING THINK TANK on facebook and there are many people that are willing to help.
If you would rather have one pre built for you then head over to www.CCLcontrollers.com. Ricky does a great job building custom controllers!
Kulp Lights https://kulplights.com/
These controllers are based on the micro computer BeagleBone. They are excellent products as well.
For a smaller controller that also runs WLED which allows you to run lights off of your phone. My favorite vendor is ESPArtStick. He makes great controllers
It seems there is a lot of Vendors selling controllers now but when it comes to show, you only want high quality ones and not somebody who is just copying what is already out there.
QUESTION : What Software Should I Use?
At this time there is only one that I will recommend… Xlights
It is free (They accept donations) and it is the most full featured software for this hobby and there are not limitations on Channels.
You can find it at www.xlights.org .
QUESTION : Where do I get Props?
I like to make my own but many times I can get props from a couple of sources that make my life a lot easier!
There are others but i can’t think of them at this time… sorry about that.
Check out both companies and between the two you can get just about anything you need.
If you have any other questions please feel free to let me know.