Introduction: Rgb Pixel Christmas Light Show Part 1

About: I love all things programming from making a Led blink on a arduino, to controlling a whole Christmas light show from my phone with raspberry pi and other hardware. If you'd like to see the light show, check ou…

In this instrucable, i'm going to show you how to build a RGB pixel light show. There is ALOT to cover. In fact im probably gonna split this up into about 3-5 different instrucables. This one is going to be about the basics. You have alot of reading and learning ahead of you. Don't worry tho, i will be here to help you. Now this project can cost $100s or even $1000s of dollars. I would love if you read these instrucables, but if this sounds way to hard for you, i do have a simpler project that isnt as cool as rgb pixels, but there are much easier to use. You can control these light with a arduino. The cost would also be less than $100. I will link that instrucable here. Now without any more delay, let's get started.


RGB pixels

RGB pixel controller

computer with sequencing software

raspberry pi, beagle bone, or a small computer that you dont use alot.

power supply


lots of free time (optional)

some tools

some computer networking background (optional)

a house to decorate

Step 1: What Is a Rgb Pixel

Before we continue, we will not be building or programming anything in this instrucable. This is just the basics and you do not need any supplies until the next instrucable. So what is a rgb pixel? a rgb pixel is a light bulb that has 3 leds inside it. 1 is red, 1 is green, and 1 is blue. That's how you get rgb(red green blue). Rgb pixels need 2 things to run: power and data. Power is usually 5V or 12V DC. There is some that use 24V, but i will only be talking about 12V and 5V. Now, data. The data is sent out by a controller that outputs spi data to the pixels. The controller takes data from a computer, raspberry pi, or beagle bone. So basically you send data to the controller, the controller takes that data and turns it into spi data, and sends it to the pixels. That is how you use pixels.

I will link some pixels from wired watts (a great pixel store) below.

12V bullet pixels5V bullet pixels12V square pixels5V square pixels

Step 2: Where Do I Get Power From?

To get the power to the pixels, you will need a power supply. They are usually $20 - $30. I will link some power supplies from wired watts below. Now if you are going to use 12V pixels, you will need a 12V power supply. 5V pixels need a 5V power supply. If you connect 12V to 5V pixels, they will burn out. 5V on 12V pixels will make the pixels turn red or not turn on it all. The power supply takes 120V or 230V AC from a standard outlet and turns it into 12 or 5V DC. You will need to cut the end of a extension cord off and strip the wires inside. Then plug each individual wire into the right spots on the power supply. The power supply i linked below have 3 V+ and 3 V- plug ins.

12V power supply 5V power supply

Step 3: What Is a Pixel Controller

Like i said earlier, a pixel controller takes data from a computer, and turns it into spi data for the pixels. The best controller i can recommend on earth is the Falcon Pixel Controller. But there controller prices are $125 or $200. The $125 which is the f4v3 can support 4096 pixels. The $200 f16v3 can support a huge 16,384 pixels. The f48 works differently then the others and is still $200. I will link the store to the controllers below. I can not explain these controllers as well as Jeff Lacey from canispater christmas. He is basically the king of pixels and goes into great detail of the f16v3 and the f48. I will link his videos below. He does not have a f4v3 video tho. I 110% recommend you watch his videos. I will also ink his youtube channel below. There are some cheaper pixel controllers out there such as the san devices. But i will not be talking about those in these instrucables. I will put a link below to for those controllers too.

falcon f16v3 videofalcon f48 videocanispater christmas youtube channelpixel controller llcsan devices

Step 4: How to Program the Lights

To program the lights you are going to need a computer with sequencing software installed on it. One of the best sequencers is Xlights. They are free and run on Windows, mac, and linux. There are many others but i will be talking about xlights. In the next instrucable, i will be showing you how to install it and use it. I will link the website below. Xlights also has a zoom room, so if you need help, you can log into there. Now you will be spending most of your time in xlights making your sequences. A sequence is a file where you will synchronize music (if you want to) to your lights. Most people start working on there light display in july by begining there sequenceing. The deadline to start working on your display is usally holloween. If you don't start then, your show wont be as cool as you can imagine.


Step 5: Music

You still with me here? So you want to have music with your lights. You dont have to do this, but if you do, your show will be awesome. You now need to figure out how you will get the audio to the people watching your light show. There are to ways people do that. 1 is to just seat speakers out in your yard and run them at a low volume so the people can here it, but not so loud that your neighbors call the police! You can also play your music on a FM radio station which will allow people in a car to turn on there radios and listen! Well how do you do that? You will need a low power FM transmitter. You basically plug the transmitter in to a power source, then into your audio output, and select a FM stations not being used, then the transmitter will send out the music to the station. To find a radio station that is not being used, go here, enter your location, then it will give you open fm radio stations. Just don't use a high power transmitter. You could get into trouble with your government. I will link 2 transmitters below. Transmitter 2 is probably a better deal. It's cheaper, it has a distance or 1300 feet in open air, and probley wont get you in trouble with the government. transmitter 1 has no description.

Transmitter 1transmitter 2

Step 6: How Do I Tell My Lights When to Come On?

There are 3 different ways to schedule your lights. You can use a less powerful computer, a raspberry pi, or a beagle bone. I will be talking about how to use a raspberry pi. But if you use a computer, you would use a program called xshedule. I have not used this tho so i dont know how it works. If you used a raspberry pi or beagle bone, you would use a program on it called falcon player. I will go more into more detail on this in part 3. You would then connect a ethernet cable from any of these devices, to your controller. That is how you would get the data from your computer to the controller to turn it into spi data.

Step 7: I Have a Confession to Make

I have never used a pixel before. In fact i havent even bought any yet (but i will soon.) I havent even had a light display open to the public before! I tried to in 2019 but failed. See the video of it tho in the instrucable linked in the first step. So 2020 will be my first rgb pixel light display. So we are going thru this hard battle together! The only reason i know most of this stuff is from canispater christmas. I have one more video for you from him: beginner rgb pixels. Its basically everything i told except in a video. I hope you enjoyed this instrucable. Stay tuned for part 2 about how to sequence your first song. As soon as it's out, i will link it here: Rgb pixel christmas light show part 2: xlights