August 26, 2019

If you have worked with regular Christmas lights you may notice there are just a couple of settings such as off or on. With incandescent lights the only control you have is to turn them on, off, or dim them!

When it comes to pixels you may notice how bright these lights can get – so this brings up the question of “what percentage should you run your pixels at?”

This is a question I get a lot but there is no hard and fast answer to it. There are a few determining factors that you want to consider when deciding what percentage you should run your lights at.

How Bright are the Pixels?

Different brands and types of pixels actually have different brightness levels, but how can you tell the difference?

If you are working with different types of pixels in your setup the best way to see the different brightness levels is setting them up, turning them on, and see how the pixels next to each other. This will help you see the brightness difference in your lights.

It may be helpful in your current setup as well as future setups to make note of the different brightness levels with brands or the type of pixels you are working with.

Pitch or Distance of the Pixels

The next determining factor to take into consideration is the pitch or the distance between the pixels.

When the pixels are closer together you normally won’t have to run them as bright. But when you have pixels that are farther apart you may need to run them brighter compared to pixels that are closer together.

Distance From the Viewer

The last determining factor is how close are the lights from the viewer? The lights that are closer to the viewer will most likely not have to run at a higher percentage because it will be closer to the viewers.

The lights that are farther away from your viewers will most likely be run at a higher percentage because they are farther away from the viewer.

At What Percent Should You Run Your Lights?

Once you have reviewed the factors above and have an idea at what you are working with now you may be asking what percent should I run these lights?

A good starting point is running your lights at 50%. This can be a good number because in most cases it isn’t overly bright and you don’t lose too much resolution when turning them up or down.

As I mentioned earlier the brands and types of lights you are working with are really going to affect the outcome.

Some brands really push for the level of brightness which when working with Christmas lights really may not matter. Other brands push to be just good enough to make an impact.

The best way is to go through your lights, see how they look and compare next to each other, and make notes of the differences so you have an idea of what you are working with. Once you know this you then can go into your controller and optimize the settings for your lights.

You can adjust the settings for the lights that are going to be closer to the viewer can be turned down, the lights that are farther from your viewers will need to be bumped up a bit.

At the end of the day, your goal is to have your display brightness even throughout the setup. You don’t want your lights to deprioritize other lights in your display. When your display brightness is even it does make for a cohesive and smooth looking display.

  • Sorry, I know this isn’t the best place to post my particular question, but I’m desperate. Simply, I bought 14,000 WS 2811 bullet pixels and the person I relied on for guidance came over, and after he left almost half of the pixels no longer work. His suggestion has been to test 7,000 pixels one at a time and splice the good ones. Now I know I made a bad decision selecting a tutor. I’ve been doing lighting, starting with similar midi sequencing protocol for 30 years, but I have never had time to learn more than what I HAVE to know meaning I don’t understand a lot that I should.

    My question: With 70 x 100 pixel strands that only have a few pixels scattered throughout that light, how can I find the actual point where the flaw is without testing all these lights? I have found I can sometimes snip a few here or there and some will work, but I cannot find any similarities from one to another.

    Can you help? Any suggestion that won’t take the rest of my life to correct would be most appreciated. BTW, VERY, VERY good work on your series.

    • The best way to troubleshoot bad pixels is to follow the data and how it flows. Usually, when a pixel goes bad, it stops passing data to the next pixel. Say, for example, you look at a pixel that is off (and it’s supposed to be working). Either that pixel is bad, the one before it is bad, or both are bad. All of the pixels after that point probably work fine – they’re simply not getting any data passed to them!

      There is truly no reason to test each pixel. Just test/replace all pixels where it stops working. Then, you will generally find that the line of pixels after that point WILL light up again 🙂 , making this a much simpler job than you thought it would be.

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