Arduino based Christmas Lights display - 2019
Well, coming up on my 3rd year doing Christmas lights.
This year I've only added a few items, and will change my layout accordingly.
A friend gave me a 6 foot metal tree frame for lights, I've turned this into an RGB Pixel tree, with a custom tree topper star on top. This new tree consists of 410 WS2811 RGB LEDs
I've also added 6 hand made Spiral RGB Pixel trees, 4 consisting of 50 LEDs each and 2 consisting of 40 LEDs each.
The Spiral Pixel trees are Tomato cages, flipped upside down and fastened together and then I welded a spiral around to secure LEDs to (video coming soon). I also made an additional 4 Pixel arches to add to my existing 4 from last year.
In all, nearly an additional 1,000 RGB pixels have been added this year across 11 new props, as well as an additional old school LED tree topper to match one I had purchased last year for some strand trees.
Another addition to this years show is the use of Falcon Pi Player running on a Raspberry Pi 4 4GB as my new "show player", an additional 12v 50amp LED power suppler and lastly a dedicated 20 Amp outlet/breaker run in the garage for the lights.
In all, the show will be running on 10 of the Arduino Nano controllers and 1 Arduino MEGA (for the relay box / old school strand LEDs), running at 912600baud in the generic serial setup and powered by a 40amp and a 50amp 12v power supply arrangement.
I have abit of testing and the flu to shake before I can start putting items up around the house (I feel like I'm behind the schedule). But look for more pictures and videos soon!
Ok, huge updates for this year.
Lets start with the lighting control from the Arduinos.
A few of the props this year are reaching 400+ LEDs, and the Arduino Nanos I have been using to control the RGB LED strands no longer have the power to push that many LEDs smoothly. Sades and transitions are very choppy.
I discussed this with a few other folks at the DoityourselfChristmas forums and we came to the conclusion that the COM port speeds of 115,200 just wasn't fast enough to push that many LEDs at once, thus I've swapped a large portion of my controllers over to Arduino Unos. These new controllers can handle COM port speeds of 921,600 and make a HUGE difference in how the show works!
Thus I now have 6 Unos, 5 Nanos and 1 Mega running my light show this year, all connected to a Raspberry Pi 4 4GB
I was able to light up most of the display last night and found I have a few issues I need to work out, and I also have a few more items to setup.
The star on the roof flickers and gets dirty data at times, the LED layout is also incorrect and needs fixed. (this prop has worked fine the past 2 years, so I'm sure its something simple like a ground connection or otherwise)
The right half of the spiral trees don't light up at all (may need an FChannel amp to carry the data signal between the gap of Tree 3 to Tree 4)
"Fence line" channel 1,2 and 3 light up in the test, but not in the sequence. (I may have to revisit the channel mapping in Vixen)
Fence line channel 7 doesn't power on at all, this could be a bad extension cable.
The big tree and arches discolor when trying to use full white, this could be a power drop issue in the PSU. I have a second PSU I'm going to split the load between.
The star on the big tree flickers abit on red and white (possibly a power or ground issue)
The Tree Topper stars aren't mounted yet for the 2 strand trees. (I have to make a base to mount each on)
The walkway lights are not swapped over to the Christmas controllers yet.
The Meteor lights aren't wired up yet.
The Bells on the Garage are not lighting up.
The radio station LED grid isn't up yet.
Ok, I ran my first full tests last night of all the songs and everything is working!
I still have some power issues on the far side of the Spiral trees, not sure if I need to add another Power Supply, or run a 3rd power injection into the trees, but for now its "good enough".
I did remove the Pi 4 and Falcon Pi Player this year and went back to my original Windows 10 PC with Vixen 3 as the show player.
FPP had several issues on each reboot where the controllers and associated USB ports would mix up each reboot and I had to turn each one on and off to determine what was what. That and eventually it stopped recognizing 3-4 of the arduino controllers all together.
I swapped it back out for the Windows PC and everything worked like a charm, including controller mappings upon reboot.
Sadly we did have some near 50mph winds come thru a couple of nights before Thanksgiving, this caused some delays in testing as a few props were broken or blown down and needed replaced or repaired.