Monday, June 10, 2013

LED Lights

My first venture into LED lights was with the IKEA DIODER RGB lights, they came with a small little controller that has a colour wheel and that's it, I used those for years, then when I finally renovated my room last November I knew I had to upgrade to something a little better, so I set out on a journey to research LED lights.

Unfortunately I found that this was one of those things that there isn't a whole lot of good information easily laid out on the internet, so it was a long and difficult process before I finally decided to purchase something.

So after much research I decided to go with digital RGB strips as my primary LED strips, and I would use just regular RGB strips on my display cabinets. To control everything I would use DMX, a protocol that I am familiar with from my days in theater lighting, this would also allow me to have lots of control over the lights.
Standard RGB strip

Digital RGB stip
So lets dive right into the hardware starting with the strips, I got 6m of standard RGB stips with an LED every 3.33cm (, these would be for my display cabinets, for the perimeter of my room I got 15m of digital RGB stips with each group of 3 LEDs individually addressable (

Now onto drivers, the standard RGB strips in my display cabinets are run by 2 PX24500s each using 3 DMX channels (one for Red, Green, and Blue), they are connected with DMX over RJ45 cables, but they are not network capable, on the other side you have your power in (V- & V+) as well as your output (R, G, B, & V+), the nice thing about simple RGB strips is that you can wire them in parallel as I have. I got them cheap at $20 a driver so I got 3, the 3rd one I don't currently use, although I am planning on adding lights to my very dark book shelf in the future.

The digital strips are run by 2 LT-DMX-1809s, these will use as many addresses as it needs, in the case with my strips it's 3 channels for every group of 3 LEDs (one for Red, Green, and Blue) you just set the starting address. The are connected with DMX over XLR, on the other side you have power in (DC+ & DC-) and to connect to the strip there's DC+, Data, Clock, & Gnd, however my strips connect to the Data twice and not the clock at all. I got these bundled with my strips so I have 3 of them as well, but since you can daisy chain strips I only need 2 in my room, I currently have no plans for the 3rd driver other than a spare.

Cabling, even though the connectors are XLR they're carrying data and not audio so you can use standard ethernet cable, this makes creating your own very easy, and since the PX24500s use RJ45 I can just make an XLR to RJ45 very easily.

Here's a simple diagram of how I have everything laid out

Now onto the fun part, the controller, I knew I would be interacting with this everyday so I wanted something nice, after looking at many options I finally decided on the STICK DE3 from Nicolaudie ( I really splurged here, but it is really nice, full touch interface, capable of 2 DMX universes, network conected allowing control from both a computer and my android devices, unlimited scenes via upgradable microSD card, etc., it's just a really nice controller designed specifically for architechural LED lighting applications.

There are actually 3 programs that work with the DE3, ESA, ESA2, and ESA Pro, I'm using ESA2, which is the only one I can get to connect over a network, the other two work with USB. The software itself is nice and has lots of features, you can see from the first image how I have everything patched, my cabinets use the first 6 channels, then you have all the lights of the first strip, second strip, and third strip. You may notice that there isn't any room left in this universe to add anymore digital strips, although I don't even have any physical room to add any in the first place.

The scene editor lets you edit each scene on the DE3 manually.

To automatically create effects you can use the scene builder, the pictures doesn't really work with my setup.

Then finally you write all your patches and scenes to the STICK-DE3 so that it will work without a computer.

All in all I am very satisfied with my setup, it took lots of  research and work, but the solution that I finally decided upon gives me lots of control and is relatively easy to change the lighting and expand in the future.

I'll leave you with a video of it all in action.