08 March 2013

Why won't everyone just agree on some standards already!

Over the past several years, there has been an explosion in the quantity of RGB items.  In general this has been great and opens an entirely new world to Holiday Lighting people - but it's not all roses.  Why?  Well, there are a number of issues that still exist because there are just about zero standards for RGB.  Here are some examples of "grey" areas:
  • Terminology - What exactly is a node - is it the 8mm tricolor LED or one RGB light in a string irregardless of it's physical form factor?  What is exactly a pixel - is an individually controlled RGB light or is it just a light that is RGB?
  • Wiring standards - Why does one vendor use black for "common anode" and another uses yellow?  Why does one vendor use blue for the data signal and another vendor uses yellow?
  • Interconnect / Plugs - What about wiring with waterproof connectors - what is the dimensions and pin outs?  There are half a dozen different methods for wiring DMX + Power over CAT5 alone. 
  • Pixel protocols - What is better 2801, 6803, 1804?
  • Voltages - Is 5v better than 12v for RGB lights?
  • DMX output - Is E1.31 better or is using just a straight dongle for DMX output?
  • Dimensions - Modules, nodes, strip and other forms of RGB lighting often come in varying dimensions.  Heck, even some vendors vary it from production run to production run.  The days of a standard mini light or C7/C9 seem to be over!  Is the spacing on a string going to be 3", 3.5" or maybe it will vary in the same string.
What does this mean for you?  First, it means you'll need to work a little harder and completely understand the pros and cons for each product or solution.  It also makes it hard to compare and contrast one vendor to another as there are no specific standards for products. 
When I produced the widely viewed RGB video series in 2010, I struggled over a number of issues, namely what terminology to use and with the assistance of a number of prompent people at the time. We were able to produce a naming solution that is now documented in our Knowledge Base.  While our terms might be the same or different than other vendors, we try to make it as clear as possible what we are refering to throughout our website and product descriptions.
I'd like to hear from you (see below) what your frustrations have been while navigating the world of RGB and what suggestions you might have for vendors to make it easier for you to understand this new world.


  1. I am totally with you… Where is the standardization???
    Try finding a DMX512 controller to work with 50W or greater RGB LED. The RGB LED’s require 28V-38V for Green and Blue! Yet all the DMX512 controllers are 24V… do you use a Boost or step up transformer etc? How can they sell LED’s requiring one voltage and not match DMX controllers voltage? Then you have the heat issues… many housing manufactures say they can handle the heat… and you find out their version of handling the heat is about the same temperature as your range top! Just because they say it can handle the wattage does not mean the heat. Ratting of the LED at 50W does not mean output of the LED in lumens… it means how much power the LED draws… make sure you read the lumens output! And why doesn’t the LED’s list their thermal requirements or what their thermal output is?
    Man … This is NUTS!

    1. There is a good reason for this - LED's are much more efficient at lower output levels. This is why you don't see a heat sink on small 5mm/8mm LEDs but if you purchase a 120v LED replacement bulb, it has complex heat sinks. So, as a result, the majority of controllers are designed for low current/wattage output where LED's are most efficient. Where you will see high output controllers is in purpose built designs such as stage lighting but these lights tend to be VERY expensive and outside the cost range for most holiday lighting people.

      There are also disadvantages to large floods - not only are they more expensive, less efficient but you loose control because now you might have two floods to light up your entire house but try sequencing a "wave" or chase over the face of your house - it's nearly impossible with two but if you had 4,6,8+ floods, now you can do some intresting things.

      There is another problem with large output floods, when used on residential houses - houses are not flat. They have protrusions, angles, porches, etc. So, if you have one large flood, you'll end up with LOTS more shadows and poor coverage. When you have a number of smaller floods, you can angle them to get good coverage over the face of the house.



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