In this week’s episode, we have some special guests from ENTTEC: Crystal and James. We break down the basics in Pixels, what you need, and how to use it.
Main Segment (1:08)
On this week’s Episode, we have special guests from Enttec: Chrystal and James. We’re going to cover the basics of how to get started with LED Tape and Pixels.
If you haven’t yet, I would recommend checking out www.churchstagedesignideas.com where different church stage ideas are shared almost daily. This site is great for those working on a budget but wants to design a great stage. One of the key tools is using LED Tape which we will dive into in this episode.
What is LED Tape?
James: LED Tape is exactly what it sounds like. It is a strip of tape that has a bunch of diodes on it. It can be as sophisticated and simple as you want it to be.
You can normally create different colors with LED Tape. Just like an LED Fixture you can create and use different colors. You can use different combinations of green, blue, white, etc.
What gear do I need?
LED Tape or Pixel Tape doesn’t have a DMX you can just plug in. You’ll need a box that can communicate the “language”.
Crystal: There are a few different boxes that you can use. The best way to start is to know what “language” your Pixel or LED Tape speaks. This information should be available with the documentation.
For Pixel Tape you may want to use a box that would be called a Driver or Encoder. This box basically acts as an encoder that can speak the equipment language. This box would handle your tape’s data, LED, effects, etc.
Constant Voltage Tape (RGB Tape) also needs a box or driver but its main focus is on Power because the “language” is Electricity.
What types of LED tape are there?
James: There are two very basic types of tape: RGB (Constant Voltage) Tape and the Pixel Tape.
The RGB Tape or the Constant Voltage Tape you have a green, red, blue, and neutral to connect to the box.
For the Pixel Tape will have three instead of four connections: Power, Voltage, Common, and Data. Each LED has its own processor.
What is pixel tape, and other pixel products?
There are other kinds of LEDs that you can use other than Tape.
Crystal: There are diodes, dots, Christmas light style, circle, etc. These can take any form factor and the sky really is the limit.
As far as shapes you can do just about anything.
How do you make this stuff work?
We covered the types of Boxes but how does it work?
James: With Pixel Tape it can get really big, really fast. But to keep it simple you can use DMX without losing any signals. The signal remains strong. But with Tape the longer it is the more the tape would fade out. You can visually see the color variation.
In the industry, the length of the Pixel Tape and keeping the connection strong seems to be an area that people struggle with. The rule of thumb is that every 4 – 5 feet of Pixel Tape you want to set up a new connection to keep the colors strong.
Crystal: What James is referring to is known as Voltage Drop. You can Google Voltage Drop Calculator to help prevent this issue. Most Tapes are 5, 12, or 24 Volt. So, if you have a choice to use less power the 12 Volt is actually your best option.
Software – can you use a regular lighting console?
Now, how can you control these? Will a Standard Lighting Console work?
James: Yes, you can use a lighting console. Any DMX Console can technically control any DMX Light. One of the ways we look at Pixels is how many Pixels per meter are you working with?
Some companies have 30, 40, sometimes more per Meter. Super high density will fill up your DMX Channels in less than 3 feet. So you want to utilize your equipment and software to the best ability.
David: Say I use DMX’s and I just bought pixel tape. I have 300 channels of tape, can I do that? Or should I do that?
Crystal: You can do that but you don’t want to do that. Because now you have a lot of Faders to control now. Pixel Mapping can be complex and with so many channels it gets confusing. So you want to have a console or software that is designed to handle Pixel Mapping.
A Pixel Mapper will give you Virtual Control. It groups the Pixels together, group the RGB, and set up your shapes.
David: ENTTEC offers ELM that was designed to work with LEDs, working with shapes, and so much more. This is meant for working with Pixel Mapping. Out of other software that I used, the ELM is the best for working with Pixels.
James: We actually have a Free Demo that you can try, test out, and see if it is what you need.
Getting in Control of Your Pixels
David: Whether you are using ELM or any other Pixel Mapper, how would you get control of that with your Lighting Consol? How many channels would that take with your lighting console?
Crystal: With ELM you address your driver (give it a number). You have eight or sixteen channels will control your entire LED creation. One channel would control red, the other green, and so on. The same would go with your media, lights, etc.
James: The way we would set it up is: Coming out of the DMX Box with DMX Cables, into the DMX Input, into a USB Device, that takes in the DMX Signal into another computer where ELM is installed.
Live video input and pixel port
David: It may sound like a lot of programming but I saw a Church using ELM to input show Live Video. You can bring various types of media as well as Live Video through Elm.
Enttec has a Pixel Port which has the ability without ELM to bring in 17 DMX Channels. You get a media server control over your tape without using lots of DMX Channels.
Crystal: Basically, how the Pixel Port works is doing the attributed fixture. The Pixel Port gets an Address making it become a DMX Fixture with 17 Channels. It triggers just like everything else.
James: The Pixel Port is like a Home Depot style. It has the power supply is built in and can be daisy chained.
One of the most important things to remember is to put your money towards the Driver. It’s the brain of your system that can be upgraded and used for many years. You can do good with cheaper tape as long as you have a strong Driver to back it up.
Some related articles that can help you get started: