First Details For 2010

There hasn’t been an update since New Years Day, so I figured it is time for an some news.

Regarding the 2010 display, there will be changes but most of it will be behind the scenes. The biggest change is the introduction of DC controllers which is safer and more reliable for syncronising LED lights to music than the 240v AC alternative. The controllers operate under the same proprietary Light-O-Rama protocol as the CTB16PC controllers used during 2008 and 2009, so I’m hoping there won’t be too many bugs to squash when I receive them.

A few new additions will be added though! Three new rope light shapes were bought during the after-Christmas sales, and soon I shall be ordering new LED lights for the verge tree, putting an end to the unreliable incandescent fairy lights in that section of the yard.

Lights Are On

Yesterday was the launch of this year’s Christmas display. It went off mostly as intended, although the ‘sticking’ issue returned on one section of the mega tree once again. I’m hoping it will be corrected for tonight.

A video from the launch is now available on the video page. Pictures and videos of individual songs are not available just yet, but they will be soon.

Last Test Before Launch Reveals More Issues

Well tonight the lights were set to turn on at 8:30 pm for a few minutes to find out whether the digital timers were set up properly. Whilst some of them were a little too slow, this was nothing compared to the problems the mega tree suffered.

The ‘sticking’ problem has returned. This is where certain strands of LEDs on the mega tree turn on and ‘stick’ in the on state until the power is physically cut off by switching off power to the controllers.

So the fast fix… another trip to the shops, another $50-$60 to be spent. I guess this is to be expected, but on the eve of opening night and less than 24 hours to go, I’m feeling a bit frustrated. I’m sure the smiles of little (and big!) kids tomorrow night will make this all worth it though.

Mega Tree Fixed.. Magic Cave Now Has Issues

The sticking issue that the Mega Tree encounted seems to have been fixed now but I now am having lights on the magic cave fail – either staying on or not lighting at all. The white colour works as intended but the blue and green don’t.

Switching one of the colours to a spare channel on a different controller don’t seem to fix the issue, but running these colours directly (not through a controller) do work, so I’m a little puzzled as to what is causing the problem.

Update: disconnecting the faulty set and starting the connection process from scratch appears to have fixed the issue. Using a test set on the original mega tree channels however shows it is faulty.

Mega Tree Test Returns Problem As Expected

As expected, the the half completed mega tree brought the light sticking issue with it from 2008. The cause in simple terms is that the LED light strings on the tree draw so little power that the light controllers have difficulty ‘seeing’ the light sets, so fail to switch them off.

The solution is to raise the power use for each affected channel.. making up a DIY light fitting that plugs in to a regular powerpoint would cost $6 or more for the parts plus time which is at an absolute premium, so the next best thing is a whole bunch of budget mini rope light shapes for around $7 each.

Recent Test Yields Pleasing Results

Last night, the lights which were up so far were turned on just before dusk to do the first full on computer control test.

Results were better than expected, although not perfect. With two different types of controllers being used this year, (Light-O-Rama CTB16PC’s and DIY Olsen 595 Switches) there appears to be a very slight delay with the former, of only a fraction of a second. This is fixable by adjusting the light patterns in the sequencer (Vixen 2.5.0.0) so that all the channels of light that use the LOR controllers send out the message a fraction before messages are sent to the Olsen 595 controllers. This, I hope, will correct the problem. Testing will continue leading up to opening night, which this year is Tuesday December 1st from 8:00 pm (lights on from 8:30 pm).

Set up over the past week has been slow due to record breaking heatwave conditions, but while there’s a break in the very hot temperatures I shall get to work setting more decorations up.

New Lights Are Here, DMX Tests Underway

The new green LED lights arrived sooner than expected just last week. I was not expecting to get the lights until mid September, however they have now been labelled and put away for a few months. I did take a few photographs of them though!

Initial tests of running the ‘Light-O-Rama’ branded controllers with DMX seem to work reasonably well, though I did experience some technical difficulties with ‘access’ errors a couple of times. What I concluded was that the software must be trying to control the lights more than once (think of it like two or more people trying to drive the same car).

Regarding the webcam, I’m expecting that it should be functioning again around early to mid October. By then the ‘show’ computer that drives the lights and music will be in place in a new spot that should hopefully make managing the webcam possible as well as running the show.

New Lights Order Submitted

This is just an update to say that I have submitted my order for new lights this year. Most of them will be green LEDs, although I also will be adding a small amount of additional blue and white LEDs as well. Cost of new lights will be around $850 AU.

I expect expenditure for the year will be in the low to mid $1000’s with the possible addition of a DMX controller and necessary extension cords.

Gremlins Sorted .. I Think

Until recently, the display was not running correctly due to various problems such as power loads and miscellaneous computer issues. I was starting to become disappointed with this year’s display.

However, the display has now been operating for two days without the gremlins from earlier in the month, so I believe the issues are sorted at last.

I hope to get video footage captured and uploaded within the next couple of days. Pictures have been uploaded and more will follow soon.

Season Greetings to all.

Opening Night Just Days Away

The 1st of December is so close now.

Today the computerised lights in the garden and on the roof were finally able to be tested. The result was surprisingly successful. I was expecting there to be some problems taking some time to fix.

So now the base and pole of the mega tree have been put up ready to have lights strung from it tomorrow (Friday) and Saturday, leaving the Sunday following as the final testing day.

The streaming webcam should be in operation during the count down and light up ceremony on December 1st allowing you to view the display if you can’t make it in person (though I must say it is much better in person!). Music will begin playing at about 8:15 pm with the lights turning on right on 8:30 pm ACDT (UTC+10:30).