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Recommend a controller for cheap RGB LED strip lights

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by Ravenbar, Mar 16, 2019.

  1. Ravenbar

    Ravenbar Active Member

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    Every year I handle the lighting for my old HS's spring musical. The last few years they've fallen in love with the cheap RGB LED strip lights. IN the past, we've used the IR remotes to control them with limited success. This year, I've only got 4 stair steps to light as such, I'd like to be able to control them through light the board. Unsure if I'll need 4 channels(if we buy amber LED strips) or if I'll need a 12 channel controller(if we use RGB LED strips), or more if we go with something else.

    Recommendations? I don't want to break the bank as this is coming from my personal money, but at the same time I don't want something that's going to fail either.
     
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  2. Jay Ashworth

    Jay Ashworth Well-Known Member

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    There are DMX controllers for RGB LED strip. If you can put all the strips on one channel (both artistically, and power budget-wise), it'll be cheaper.

    Check eBay for ones made out of chineseum.
     
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  3. Ravenbar

    Ravenbar Active Member

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    The preference is to handle each step separately(I.E. 12 cir for 3 colors, 4 steps), so we can use them in effect cues to create a chase effect. In the past, we've use christmas lights and I've used 3 circuits to control the, this year they've added a 4th step, and I only have 3 cir available. They want to use LED strips as they give a brighter punch this year.

    Looking for recommendations as to what RGB LED controller to get
     
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  4. Jay Ashworth

    Jay Ashworth Well-Known Member

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    I can't *recommend* this (or any of the related items around it; I have not put my fingers on them), but specification-wise it seems to meet your requirements (up to 30 color channels, 2A per, up to 24V).

    https://www.ebay.com/itm/123239501419
     
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  5. Crisp image

    Crisp image Well-Known Member

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    That is the sort of thing I use. Work quite well
    Regards
    Geoff
     
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  6. Dan Fischer

    Dan Fischer Member

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    We are using 2 of these as we speak for a production. They work great, just FYI the sequence of the LED strips we're using was different than the phoenix connector outputs on the modules so be aware plus you'll need to buy a real 12V power supply. We are using 2 - 32 channel DMX LED adapters so bought a power supply for each.

    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01CCBG1SO/?tag=controlbooth-20

    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00D7CWSCG/?tag=controlbooth-20

    LED strips are on the stairs in the attached pic.
     

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  7. Ravenbar

    Ravenbar Active Member

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    That's pretty much the same power supply I've ordered, but I went with 30amp(3ch x10amp) controllers as the single color strips we've ordered draw 6amps per 5m(~16ft) and the longest run is about 24ft.

    Any pictures of how you've got the controller/power supply set up? I'm concerned about the exposed 120v screw terminals on the end, as I'm setting this up in a school and don't want anyone getting zapped.
     
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  8. Dan Fischer

    Dan Fischer Member

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    Here is a pic. It’s not the cleanest wiring job in the world but it’s hidden underneath a set of rolling stairs for our show. There at plastic flaps that cover the screw terminals. Hope this helps.
     

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  9. jm_in_tx

    jm_in_tx Member

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    I get called every time someone in town needs LED strips for some sort of effect. A friend of mine who works with a local design-build staging company gave me a ton of leftover strips and several controllers like this (Amazon). 3 outputs, 3 addresses, no muss, no fuss. Since 90% of what I do is community/volunteer theatre, I make good use of the stuff gifted to me (being an engineer helps too -- in the attached photo, LED strips frame the whiteboard and both transom windows).
    Important things to think about:
    1) There are common anode strips (most common) and common cathode strips. Controllers are one or the other. The link above is a common anode controller which means that the LED anodes (+ terminals) are common and the controller connects them to ground -- so you distribute +12V to the strips and the controller handles the 0V (ground). I can provide a diagram if you'd like (I presented this at USITT a couple of years ago).
    2) There are different kinds of strips that operate at different voltages. The most common is 12V (common anode). They are usually referred to as "5050 LEDs" because the pixels are 5mm square. Beware of WS2812 strips, they are not simple RGB LEDs, they require a more complicated controller because you provide them with +12V/Gnd and send a data stream to them telling them what colors they should be. They are super fun to work with and I have a universe of them doing St. Patrick's colors in front of my house wirelessly via SACN right now.
    3) You can estimate your current requirements pretty easily: each LED chip has an R, a G & a B LED in it -- fully illuminated, they each draw about 20mA each, or 60mA per "pixel" -- If your stairs are 1m wide, that will be (for example) 30 LEDs x 60mA = 1.8A -- scale appropriately and remember that the 60mA happens when the LEDs are full (100%) white (255-255-255).
    4) Since the power supplies are made of Chinesium (thanks @Jay Ashworth), I fuse the input and output of each power supply I use. Simple in-line cartridge fuses work fine. The power supplies you buy on EBay or Amazon will *usually* self-current-limit so the fuse on the output protects you against a power supply overcurrent protection failure. NB: I've done this lots of times and never had a Mean Well power supply fail on me but I fuse anyway.
    5) Don't mount your power supplies on anything flammable (like wood). Find something inflammable to go between the power supply and the plywood (because it's almost always plywood, right?). If my power supplies are under a riser or something, I get a stage weight and put the power supply on it -- keeps things cool.
    6) Be careful of your wire terminations. Use crimp fork lugs to connect to the power supply. And never (never ever) "tin" (as in with a soldering iron) a twisted stranded conductor before clamping it under a screw terminal or crimping it into a ring/fork lug. Solder is a weird substance and will "flow" under pressure, reducing the contact force and increasing resistance to the point where things can get hot and cause a hazardous condition. Crimp connections are your friend.

    Good luck! I love playing with LEDs. They are full of Glowy Goodness.

    --Jeff
     

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  10. Ravenbar

    Ravenbar Active Member

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    Thank you. Order came in today and these have the flip down cover. Wasn't shown in any of the pictures so I assumed there wasn't anything there and the power supplys were designed to be inside some type of enclosure.

    I'm a little confused about what you said and how it applies to my situation(I understand it for normal RGB light). I'm running 5 strips of single color lights(no common anode/cathode, just a red and black wire coming off each strip). They draw 6 amps per 5m strip. The controllers I've got have (3)10amp channels(30 amps max per controller) with a common anode. I've also got 30 amp power supplies for each controller.

    Most of my wiring stuff is at the school so I'm going to jerry rig a setup tonight putting wires under screws, just so I can make sure everythings works as intended. All I've got around are some RGB strips cutoffs so I'll solder some leads onto one and test using that.
     
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  11. Jay Ashworth

    Jay Ashworth Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, common-anything doesn't apply to single color strips.

    And I can't take credit for chinesium, alas, Jeff; I stole it from my broadcast engineering buddies... :)
     
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  12. Ravenbar

    Ravenbar Active Member

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    How bad is it to just put wires under screws for the actual install. Been looking around and haven't found any fork terminals in that will fit the slots the screws are in. Everything I have on hand and that I can find at a store is too wide to fit in the slots the terminals screws are in.

    I've got an assortment of uninsulated terminals out in my stuff at the school I haven't checked yet but that's been picked pretty clean(mostly whats left is hooks that I haven't found a use for.)

    I've gut and stripped computer power cords for the 120v feed to the power supplies and I've got high temp 12ga wire for the connections from the power supplies to the controllers. From there on, someone else is handling it, as one of the teachers way to help with the show is to wire the LED's. I almost get the impression I'm encroaching on his territory already.
     
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  13. RonHebbard

    RonHebbard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    @Ravenbar Crimp on an insulated fork then snip off one side of the fork to create an effectively narrower crimped connection lug. As ALWAYS; measure your actual current and work within your ratings.
    Toodleoo!
    Ron Hebbard
     
  14. jm_in_tx

    jm_in_tx Member

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    I guess I failed to read the fine print as well as I could have. Must need new glasses or something.
    I'm a bit of a stickler for crimped lugs on wires but sometimes you just need to go with what you have.
     
  15. Ravenbar

    Ravenbar Active Member

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    I crimped on lugs and snipped the sides(on the 12v to controller connections) as RonHebbard suggests. For the 120v connections, I found some forks that would work in my selection I had in my workbox. I've always felt that was a bit of a "hack" move(I seem to do a lot of aftermarket accessory wiring on my vehicles) but as this isn't a permanent install, I'm not that worried.

    Funniest part was the director, who runs lights for most of the year, was confused by my email about what I ordered and had ordered a 5pk of 2a wall wort type power supplies to power the lights. They tested (2) full strings of LED's powered via one of them and somehow it worked. Per published values, that was 6x the power supplies rating. Unsure how long they tested for. Connections were via (2) pairs of alligator leads being center feed(power comes in in the center alligator leads went both ways to the strip power connections. My responsibility goes as far as the control box outputs and the IT guy who does the LED's most years will be handling it from there.
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2019
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  16. Ravenbar

    Ravenbar Active Member

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    Slight issue. I was making the last connection and brushed an extention cable(hooked to controller, but not LEDs) end across the connections and now the controllers are locked full on. Not sure if it was the 12vdc or 120vac connections it brushed.

    Already ordered new controllers.

    Backfeed one of the outputs. LED's still work so didn't blow them. Any hope of fixing the controllers? Odd part is it blew both controllers, which means it must have gone through the ethernet cable connecting them.
     
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  17. Crisp image

    Crisp image Well-Known Member

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    Did smoke escape? if it did there is no putting the smoke back in and they are toasted.
     
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  18. Ravenbar

    Ravenbar Active Member

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    Not sure. Didn't see any smoke. Saw a spark as I picked up a loose wire, now they don't seem to work, if the controllers have power, the lights are on. . They seem to have limited life if I use the test function.

    I know what connections on the board took the hit and am doing an autopsy right now. Seems the switching mosfets would had to have taken the hit. Confusing part is that neither controller is working. Judging by the board, I'd say it definitely was 12v. If it was 120v, I'd expect traced blown off the board or obvious damage to the circuit board.
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2019
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  19. Ravenbar

    Ravenbar Active Member

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    Upon further investigation, it appears the mosfets are fine and it's the control chip that's taken the hit. So yup, unit is toast.

    Still not convinced the other one is also. Didn't bring that one home. Seems hard to believe the other unit took that hard of a hit via a RJ45, when both units still passed DMX data through. I hooked a small dimmer pack up downstream of them after and it responded as expected.
     
  20. RonHebbard

    RonHebbard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    @Ravenbar Two comments / thoughts:
    1; EASY to believe you can release smoke via CAT cables; thin and of light gauge though they may be, they're still capable of passing considerably high / perilously hazardous voltages even if of comparatively low currents.
    2; Are your control chips socketed by any lucky chance?
    @Ford Any chance we can drag you into this thread??
    Toodleoo!
    Ron Hebbard
     

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