fairy lights

mf720

Member
Joined
Dec 10, 2008
Location
New York
Hi all,

I've done some searching around the site, but I didn't see exactly what I was looking for. I apologize if I'm asking something that's been answered. The production I'm working on is Frozen Jr. (in a middle school). The director wants Christmas / Fairy lights that will be strung along the house walls and that will light up when Elsa motions and does her ice-magic. I'm imagining a sort of chase followed by solid on. I was reading something about a shoebox dimmer... is this the type of thing being referred to? https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/298689-REG/NSI_Leviton_D4DMX_MD3_Digital_Dimmer_Pack_Programmable.html

If I plug a couple of strands of Christmas / fairy lights into something like that, will I be able to at least turn the lights on and off? I'm not sure how to get the chase effect in there, also, though.

Thanks for any help,
Melissa
 

RonHebbard

Well-Known Member
Premium Member
Joined
Jun 12, 2004
Location
Waterdown, ON, CA
Hi all,

I've done some searching around the site, but I didn't see exactly what I was looking for. I apologize if I'm asking something that's been answered. The production I'm working on is Frozen Jr. (in a middle school). The director wants Christmas / Fairy lights that will be strung along the house walls and that will light up when Elsa motions and does her ice-magic. I'm imagining a sort of chase followed by solid on. I was reading something about a shoebox dimmer... is this the type of thing being referred to? https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/298689-REG/NSI_Leviton_D4DMX_MD3_Digital_Dimmer_Pack_Programmable.html

If I plug a couple of strands of Christmas / fairy lights into something like that, will I be able to at least turn the lights on and off? I'm not sure how to get the chase effect in there, also, though.

Thanks for any help,
Melissa
@mf720 Do you already own a DMX controller or are you intending to operate the Leviton dimmer on its own using its built in chases?
EDIT: Adding a second query; Are you envisioning chases within each stand of Christmas lights or chases between each of your strings?
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
 
Last edited:

mf720

Member
Joined
Dec 10, 2008
Location
New York
@mf720 Do you already own a DMX controller or are you intending to operate the Leviton dimmer on its own using its built in chases?
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
I already have a DMX system and an ETC Ion light board. I was thinking of keeping the fairy lights separate from the stage lights, but if there's a way to do it all on the light board, that could work too.
 

RonHebbard

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Premium Member
Joined
Jun 12, 2004
Location
Waterdown, ON, CA
I already have a DMX system and an ETC Ion light board. I was thinking of keeping the fairy lights separate from the stage lights, but if there's a way to do it all on the light board, that could work too.
@mf720 The dimmer pack you're considering would add up to four additional dimmers to your existing system. You presently have an ETC Ion; how many dimmers are in your system, likely fewer than the Ion is capable of controlling, if so, the NSI dimmer should give you up to four additional dimmers WITHOUT having to use any of your existing stage lighting dimmers.
The more you refine your queries, the more posters will be able to finesse their replies.
Let me employ Control Booth's 'Bat Call' to summon a few others to your post.
@Amiers @sk8rsdad @FMEng @jonliles Would any of you care to comment before we get into specifics of the Fairy Light strings, dummy loads, yada, yada??
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
 

mf720

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Joined
Dec 10, 2008
Location
New York
We're currently in the process of getting new lights and rigging, but I'm going to agree and bet that we will not be at full capacity on the Ion, and will, therefore, have fewer dimmers than the Ion can control. Considering the size of the auditorium, I am imagining that we will need to daisy chain at least two strands into each other, depending on the lengths I can find, obviously. In that case, we'd need a chase starting in one strand that could then move to the next strand that was plugged into it. If I can find one really long strand (say, 75 or 100 feet) then chasing from one to another strand probably won't be necessary. I'd love if the light could basically emanate out starting from near the stage on either side and continue along the walls, and then stay on.
 

jonliles

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Location
Marietta, Georgia, United States
I keep several cheap shoebox dimmers and a Chinese wireless DMX transmitter set around for just this reason. It’s an inexpensive method to add just a handful of circuits where and if I need them. Just add the wireless DMX to one of the IONs universes and patch away. The close the sender is to the receivers, the best chance of consistent operation. I usually put mine in line with universe one that controls our main rack.

Christmas Lights, or Fairy Lights though, aren’t usually enough of a load for the lights to dim all the way out. There is often enough of a voltage leakage in the circuitry that the lights will slightly glow (and I am not referring to any existing lamp warming logic found in older boards). To stop this ghosting, you need a larger load, either more fairy lights, or a 100W to 150W of incandescent clip lights should do the trick.

You need the total resistance to add up so that the forward voltage drops to nothing to overcome the voltage leakage from the cheap packs.

Want a chase? 2 strings, 2 channels, simple chase classic marquee chase. Want more steps in the chase? Use more channels in the shoe box dimmer.
 

Amiers

Renting to Corporate One Fixture at a Time.
Joined
May 28, 2009
Location
Phoenix, Az
So

you could use a shoe box dimmer but you will only get strands to chase not the individual lights themselves. So it will look very chunky and visually unappealing.

Now you could take all the strands and peg them into the set and peg every however many strands you run in a manual chase layout then just run the shoebox dimmer via the console and run the channels as fast/slow as you want. Works well if strung properly and doesn’t look as chunky.

As mentioned above you will need to put some sort of load on it as a the christmas lights will glow on a 0 Load. The shoebox dimmer has 2 outlets so just plug anything in from a light bulb to a laptop PSU

You could do the the same thing with fairy lights just might need 2 strands instead of one because they don’t pump out as much light and your stage wash might drown them out.
 

mf720

Member
Joined
Dec 10, 2008
Location
New York
So

you could use a shoe box dimmer but you will only get strands to chase not the individual lights themselves. So it will look very chunky and visually unappealing.

Now you could take all the strands and peg them into the set and peg every however many strands you run in a manual chase layout then just run the shoebox dimmer via the console and run the channels as fast/slow as you want. Works well if strung properly and doesn’t look as chunky.

As mentioned above you will need to put some sort of load on it as a the christmas lights will glow on a 0 Load. The shoebox dimmer has 2 outlets so just plug anything in from a light bulb to a laptop PSU

You could do the the same thing with fairy lights just might need 2 strands instead of one because they don’t pump out as much light and your stage wash might drown them out.
Thanks for the feedback. Forgive me, but could you elaborate a little more? I get that you're saying I'd only be able to get a whole string of lights to chase another whole string, but I don't quite understand your solution. "...take all the strands and peg them into the set" is where you lost me.
 

mf720

Member
Joined
Dec 10, 2008
Location
New York
As another note, I'm sure my director is going to want to try just buying a set of lights with one of those little remote controls that have the different effects (chase being one of them) on it. However, those remotes have to be so close to work and are so unreliable. I'm trying to find a better way...
 

RonHebbard

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Premium Member
Joined
Jun 12, 2004
Location
Waterdown, ON, CA
As another note, I'm sure my director is going to want to try just buying a set of lights with one of those little remote controls that have the different effects (chase being one of them) on it. However, those remotes have to be so close to work and are so unreliable. I'm trying to find a better way...
@mf720 That was another of the many variables dependent upon the specific strings of Christmas / Fairy lights selected:
- Different strings may, or may not, include their own internal chases to be contended with.
- Different strings may or may not respond well to being powered via any dimmers / non-dims controlled via any / all / most of the following solid state devices: SCR's, TRIAC's, IGBT's. Virtually all would play nicely (Not catch fire) with any non-dims switched exclusively via what's come to be referred to as an "air gap" relay or "air gap" non-dim, basically real (good old) mechanical relays which make clicking sounds when actuated.
- There are a ton of variables between strings of Christmas / Fairy lights to be taken into consideration when posting any kind of precisely accurate reply to your query.
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
 
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gafftaper

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As another note, I'm sure my director is going to want to try just buying a set of lights with one of those little remote controls that have the different effects (chase being one of them) on it. However, those remotes have to be so close to work and are so unreliable. I'm trying to find a better way...
Unfortunately the effect you are describing can really only be done by buying lights that have a chase function built into the string at the factory. Which means coming up with a a way to trigger them all at once using a cheap remote that is highly unreliable.
 

Brad.O

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May 2, 2016
Location
Minneapolis, MN
Individually addressable LED strip lights (about $35/5m) and a simple Arduino processor to control can produce almost limitless effects and could be hardwired for on/off functions. Do some looking at what the Christmas guys are doing on YouTube for ideas and build-programming directions.
 

ship

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Location
Illinois
What me not on the Bat Call?

https://products.bulbrite.com/search?keyword=810066 is a really cool product, but multiple strings of X-Mass lights can certainly do the effect. There is controllable X-Mass lights, but they are normally dumb in having to cycle thru the pre-programmed control each time they are turned on (and doubt dimmer warming would be sufficient to retain what you set - if not be bad for the string especially if LED.) Dummy load will probably be needed by control of dimmers unless LED dimmers which might or might not also work. This solution by way of electronics dpt. designed dummy loading resistors to at least 75w, or a ghost load of say a clip light somewhere off stage. Both will work, but a resistor dummy load by way of a school class (even if not needed always), figuring out how to make a dummy load for a show brings everyone together and will be a good project to work on for realistic results = also more people interested in the seats. I recommend a resistor panel for the lower than 75w norm for all dimmer loads be looked into school class built. Not just the show, but also the simple electronics education and sucking in more people to theater.

More difficult to design for in three strings making one chasing and arranging them, but say three strings placed together or spaced apart are now separate in control for that chase. If different colors placed together can work etc. in options. There is RGB digital options available also, but normally with large expense and larger node area not like a fakery effect.

If you have dimmer channels and control available... better option than buying more dimmers especially over manually controlling a chase effect.