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.

Roof Lights Almost Complete

Yesterday the 240 volt cables needed for the rope light train and stars were installed in the roof once again and today the five LED red/white roof triangles put up.

If all goes to plan, the rope light train and star motifs will go up tomorrow followed by all the roof lights being connected to the show computer on Wednesday or Thursday.

The three windows now have lights around them as do the three verandah poles.

Regarding the streaming webcam, I’ve calculated that I should be able to turn it on on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday nights of December for three hours (such as 8:00 pm to 11:00 pm) without running out of internet bandwidth like last year.

Set Up Has Begun

The first of the display was put out today. The data cables (ethernet patch cable) for computer control have not yet been put in as planned.. they were supposed to go in last weekend but will finally be installed tomorrow.

The next job after that will be laying out power cables to various points in the roof, and putting up lights on the roof.

Less Than 3 Weeks To Go

Time is ticking! There are now under 3 weeks left until I need to begin setting up the lights, cables, computer, etc.

In terms of those ‘leaping features’, I do not think they will be in this year’s display. I haven’t settled enough on how many arches I need and how big they should be, so I’d rather put it off and get it right.

I am nearly done with sequencing the lights to this year’s soundtrack. The opening night track is all done, as well as three regular songs. The fourth song is about a 30% complete.

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.

Mid-Year Update

2009 marks the tenth year of decorating, and this year’s display is well into the planning stages with two songs completely sequenced and a third one to follow shortly. All up, there will be four songs in total (not including intermission, opening or closing tracks).

I am pleased to say that the talented Carrie Lyn Infusion single titled Suite Christmas Rush will again be in the playlist this year. The song can be purchased for personal use on the CDBaby website for just US$1.

To keep the suspense I will not be naming the other songs just yet – you will have to check back closer to showtime.

At this stage I am thinking this year (2009) will be the last year that I try to do things ‘bigger and better’ for some time. I would like to continue doing a display each year, but just not on such a massive scale due to the amount of time it takes to get things right.

Also, the webcam is currently down and has been for quite a while. The situation is that the Windows XP driver for my capture card (WinFast TV2000 XP Expert) is incompatible with a new computer causing blue screen of death errors every couple of days. So until a fix can be found or a new capture card can be installed, I’ll have to keep the webcam offline – sorry.

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.