October to December

See a comparison of the hardware used to run the displays between 2007 and 2020.

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Jan-May Build
Jun-Sep Build


I have been busy with the Lithgow Highland Ball in the last few days, but I have managed a few bits on the display. The SSR's have all been tested, a couple of minor issues repaired, and the 2 Renard 64 XB's installed in the case. After deciding to ditch the old way to do the Zero Crossing (needed for dimming) on this board, I added the components, flashed the 16 Pic chips and then installed them for a test.

It was about then I realised I still needed 5V DC just to power the boards, which is supplied by an external PC power supply on the other cases, but instead I decided to modify the board so the 12V AC ZC signal also supplied the 200 to 400mA that the board needs to run. Now one transformer runs one board via a 5V regulator, and a second transformer supplies the other board.

Box 3

The above image shows the four 300VA transformers, 96 Channels of SSR's and the masses of cabeling connecting it all. The 2 boxes at the top contain the controllers (More pics below).


This is the front, showing the connections. Only half have been connected up at the moment, with the rest waiting for more Cat 5 cable to arrive. All cable is 1mm or 1.5mm not for current, but to minimise heating of the wire within the case. Each transformer, in this case, supplies 24 channels. Normally this is too many, but because many of the lights in this box are running at about 0.5 ot 0.6 Amps, making the total draw on each transformer close to its limit of only 12.5 Amps.

Top of Vixen 3

Here is a top view. Channels 1-64 are on the right, and 65 to 128 are on the left. That silvery thing is a nice chunk of Aluminium sheet used as a heatsink on the voltage regulator to keep it nice and cool.

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Well today the Vixen Case 3 was completed & tested in 30C temps for 6 hrs thanks to a roaring heater in the shed. I still have to organise a power supply for the case fans, but I should have that done in a day or two.

A few people have commented on the building of a Controller, so here is a step by step pictorial of one being built.

Bare Board

This is a Bare board supplied by John from Victoria.

Step 1

Here some of the IC Sockets have been added.

Step 2

Some of the LED's, Caps and resistors have been added, along with the Crystal and parts of the ZC setup (Lower Left).

Step 3

Zener diodes, and the RJ45's along with the 2 power supply capacitors have been added.


Here are 2 boards complete with chips. The grey wire lower left is the power supply. Rather than the standard 1/2 wave rectifier, I went full wave and placed a 1000uf Capacitor on the inlet and outlet of the 5V regulator. Even at 800mA, this gives extremely minimal ripple on the DC voltage.

The colored dots on the chips indicate the type of program in them. Green is the latest version of the code, no dot is a previous version of the code, and the pink is a PWM version designed for LED's such as the LED floodlights I will use this year. All code will be updated to the latest code as I test the boards.

Vixen 2

Vixen 2 (Above), a 3 Transformer box from last year, is in the midst of being overhauled. The old Renard code is being upgraded to the latest version, and the first board, a Grinch/RenC is being replaced with a Ren 64. I am having a little trouble with this board, but I hope to find the fault soon.

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The small issue with the new Ren64 XB was found - a missing resistor on the Zero Crossing circuit cause it to misfire about 50% of the time. That single missing part took over 2hrs to find, even though it was staring me in the face lol

The new Renard code was modified to support PWM code (for the LED Floodlights) and 5 chips were programmed to support the new LED Floods and the mod to provide power from the ZC setup was completed on that board as well. A test with all the Floodlights will be completed tomorrow to ensure the power supply can handle the load required.


The above pic is a small 5V DC supply (Supplied from 12V AC within the case). Similar to the ones on the individual Ren64 boards, but this one is designed to power the 12V DC fans in the cases. 12V fans run very quietly on 5V DC, but the tradeoff is they also spin a lot slower, so only deliver about 1/4 of the airflow (Update: These have since failed, so a variable voltage regulator was built to supply them with 11V DC). In this case it is not a real worry, but next year I intend to re-design the cases to have 6 transformers and 128, or 144 channels in each case (2 Ren64 & a ren 16), and appropriate numbers of outputs for each case.

Vixen 2 & 3

Here are the completed Vixen 2 (Right, 3 Transformers), and Vixen 3 (Left, 4 Transformers) cases, with the controllers sitting on the top. Next year I'd LOVE a donation of 3 or 4 identical cases without power supplies, so I can get the gear looking as good as I can.

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Gave a massive test to the DC SSR's in the LED Floodlights today. The system ran a sequence for 6 hours without a hitch. The 5V supply for the Ren64 XB got warm, but thats all. Here is a quick video of it.

Well one of the last parts of the display to be done is the Bethlehem Star, so I continued putting the lights on it today.

Star 1

Although it's not clear in this image, here is the star. So far there is some 225 lights installed, and I estimate there will be another 225 lights to squeeze on the frame tomorrow.

Star 2

Here are the lights shown in the darn. There are 3 channels in total - the 8 straight points are 1 channel, the horizontal and vertical V's are another (3 of 4 shown here), and then the diagonal V's which should be done tomorrow.

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The Bethlehem Star was completed today, and is 135cm high, 90cm wide and contains 405 lights on 3 channels.

Star Completed

This is the Bethlehem Star complete with lights.

Illuminated star

This is an illuminated image of the star. 405 lights, each is 1.5V 0.09W, and held in place with plastic Light Clips.

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OCT 18

The last week has been a real mix of work on the lights as well as videoing a Wedding for a friend.

I have updated all 3 cases so that they are fully self-contained in terms of 5V for power for the boards, 12V for powering the fans (Updated from a 5V supply which did not work - they kept failing!), and a ZC setup for the 2 boxes containing Ren 64's. The Ren-C/595 box got a similar treatment, with the H11AA1 optocoupler ZC setup, and 5V power supply.

I have been working on the only point of failure in last years display - the strobes on the megatree. A new ZC circuit was built into the box containing the Grinch/Ren-C, and the Ren-C chip was flashed with the latest version of the code which also fixed a few issues which I had hast year with lights on dimly when they should be turned off, as well as flickering on occasion. I have flashed all the spare chips with that version and will swap out the 2 in the Ren-C/595 box later this week.

I made up 3 serial cables for the 3 inside boxes and tested all 3 to confirm they work fine.

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OCT 23

Finally updated the other 2 regulators for the fans in the cases. All 3 cases, plus the LED strobes were connected and tested today, and it all worked perfectly. I later added the Ledtriks and that too was working great, but I still have to buy some perspex for the front - just waiting for a few small pieces as a demo to see which is best suited for the setup.

Completed sequencing of 2 songs so far, with the Ledtriks files & real-life testing left to do next month. I have 4 more songs left to do, plus a few small "Fillers".

As an example of the work needed, a 2.5 minute song has just under 1.35 MILLION individual blocks that I have to work with. 150 seconds, 20 samples per seconds, 449 channels, which totals 1,347,000 blocks. Add to that dimming (100 levels per plock), that can add up to a lot of work, and it explains why it takes 4+ hours per minute of final show.

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OCT 25

My candle is almost done! Well I have managed to build the frame, work out how to cut the rope light to size, and cut one piece for the top of the candle.


This image above was to get the size right, as well as work out the ideal size based on the rope light I am using as it has to be cut into smaller pieces as this will be made in 2 channels - one for the candle and one for the flame at the top.


This is the completed frame, sprayed with Cold Gal and then 2 coats of black paint. I'll add the rope light to it tomorrow once the paint has had time to harden. The whole thing is about 160cm in height and, with the rope light, has cost a total of about $18 and 4hrs of my time (2hrs to build & it should be about 2 more to put rope on)

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OCT 26

Here is the completed candle. 2 Channels, 1 for the white & 1 for the red flame.


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Total of 2009's spend

Ledtriks, Triks-C, SSR's: $75
SSR boards: $100
Ren 64&16 boards: $40
Futurlec Order 1: $434
Ledtriks LED's: $83
Floodlight LED's: $171
2x Floodlight bases: $35
Pegboard for Ledtriks: $65
Allegro replacements: $83
Mouser Order 1: $259
Ledtriks frame wood: $45
800 White LED's: $40
4 Chan DVR card: $23
CCTV Camera: $30
12 floodlight bases: $180
Floodlight and DC SSR's: $60
Futurlec Order 2: $53
Lights: $320
Spraypaint: $80
Steel: $100
Ropelight: $30
Lights: $200
Spraypaint: $20
Lights: $630
Rope: $36
Light Clips: $156
Futurlec Order 3: $90
Cat 5 Cable: $180
4 port serial: $35
Cable: $26
Cable: $50
Spare Ren 64 XB Boards: $20
Futurlec Order 4: $183
Serial cable parts: $25
Security Cameras: $1035
Electrical upgrade: $40
Ledtriks front panel: $205
Ledtriks back panel: $50
Lollies: $200

Total: $5,482