We often get asked about the lights that we use. No, you cannot just go to a local store and purchase them. The LED lights we use are comprised of a RGB LED driven by a WS2811 chip. To make the lights work, I use a program called xLights to sequence a song. This then converts that into data that can be ready by my controllers.
The controllers then send out a data signal to the pixels. Now, if you search for these lights, you may see many call them ‘smart pixels’. In reality, they are not that smart. The lights themselves have no idea where they are. All they know is that they receive a block of data, and the top line tells them how to light up, they pull that off the stack and send the data to the next pixel. Data only goes one way – while each pixel also has a 12v and ground that can be connected at any point through a string of lights.
It is the order that each pixel is wired on a prop and how it is set up in xLights that ends up telling each light the exact bit of data it needs to light up at exactly the right time in exactly the right place.
In years past, it was time consuming to match up the lights, their outputs on the controllers, the settings on the controllers, the controller settings in xLights and how the props were setup in xLights. I should note that xLights is free – but has a developing team constantly striving to make it better. These days, it has a option to ‘visualize’ how the strings or lights are connected to the controller. This basically means that to get a light to know how to light up – it needs to be wired how the prop is modeled in xLights, then xLights needs to be told what output it is on what controller and everything else is taken care of.
When everything works together, the lights come on, do their thing and are able to be enjoyed by the community. Have any questions? Feel free to ask. I am happy to share what I have learned while enjoying this hobby.