Glossary of Terms

Channel: A channel is a control circuit or a piece of data or a signal grouping used to provide individual control for any one of multiple parts of a lighting display. To control a typical pixel through the DMX protocol, for example, three channels of data would be used. One channel for each LED, Red, Blue, and Green (or in some instances Red, Blue, Green, and White - which would use 4-channels).


Controller: A Controller is any one of many types of electronic devices designed to control, typically through software, lighting or other devices connected to it. They are made by a number of different manufacturers and, depending on that manufacturer, may operate in any number of different ways. You will have to refer to your specific manufacturer’s specifications and manuals for specifics on the operation.


A/C: An A/C controller is a piece of electronic equipment typically controlled by software, which is able to turn on and off and occasionally, depending on the type of device connected to it, dim or brighten, any of a variety of A/C lighting devices or props attached to it.


Pixel-Dumb: A Dumb Pixel Controller is a piece of electronic equipment typically controlled by software which is able to turn on and off and, depending on the type of dumb pixel connected to it, dim or brighten, any of a variety of Dumb Pixel devices or light strings attached to it.


Pixel-Smart: A Smart Pixel Controller is a piece of electronic equipment typically controlled by software which is able to turn on or off, dim or brighten and adjust the color of individual pixels attached to it.


GFI/GFCI: A GFI or GFCI is an acronym or Ground Fault Interrupter or Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter which is an electrical device which is placed in a home (or commercial) electric system to protect from receiving possibly fatal shocks from the current in the wiring in the home (or commercial) facility. A GFI works by comparing the current on the hot, or input, side of the power line against that of the neutral side of the circuit. If any difference is detected which exceeds a preset limit, the GFI will cut off power in that circuit within 20-30 milliseconds reducing any possibility of human tissue damage. The National Electric Code specifies that may be exposed to any amount o moisture should include GFI protection. GFI protection can be provided at the outlet, only protecting that outlet and anything downstream (outlets following it) in the circuit; or it can be provided at the circuit breaker, thus protecting the entire circuit connected to that breaker.


Alternately, an AFI/AFCI, or Arc Fault Interrupter is available. It works similarly to a GFI but is used to detect electrical arcs which may be the source of a fire. It does not check for the type of problems which a GFI is meant to detect. It cannot replace a GFI to protect from human shock fatalities.


In many instances in our lighting hobby, lighting equipment or extension cables on the ground, in the snow, or in the rain, can cause GFIs to cut off power because of shorts in the circuit caused by moisture. A variety of solutions are suggested by members of our community - including removing the GFI protection. Please note that we cannot, and do not, recommend that GFI protection be removed from a circuit which is powering down. Preventing the issue causing the circuit to power off should be eliminated.



A network is typically thought of, with respect to, the lighting community, as an interconnected group of hardware devices used to control lighting displays by sharing information and resources between those devices. A variety of protocols (or transmission methods and formats) may be used.



        DMX: DMX is short for “Digital Multiplex Signal.” It is a standard for digital communication most commonly used to control stage lighting and effects, as well, it is used to control home and commercial lighting displays. It is sometimes referred to as DMX512 because it can be used to control up to 512 individual lighting channels.

        Ethernet: Ethernet is a standardized system used for connecting a number of computers (or in our case, lighting control devices) to form a network with a signaling method with controls the passing of information to various devices in a manner in which each device is addressed individually to prevent sending the same information or control signals to two or more devices at the same time (unless those devices are given identical identifiers or names).

        E1.31: E1.31 is a communications standard or protocol for sending DMX (or DMX512) data over standard Ethernet network connections.

        RS485: RS485 (sometimes known as TIS-485 or EIA-485) is a communications standard or protocol defining drivers and receivers used for serial communications. These signals are particularly effective in transmitting over long distances and in electrically noisy environments.




        Cable: Cable is a bundle of insulated wires having a protective casing and used to transmit electricity or data signals between various pieces of equipment. In our hobby, when we use the term cable, we typically are referring to Cat5, Cat5e or Cat6 data cables. The differences between Cat 5, Cat5e and Cat6 is the speed of data which can be transmitted through the cable with Cat5 meant for 10/100 Mbps (Mega-bits Per Second), Cat5e for 1,000 Mbps and while Cat6 also supports 1000 Mbps, it is engineered to reduce crosstalk or interference within the wire itself.

        Hub: A Hub is an electronic device that allows multiple devices to communicate over a network. Hubs are the most primitive o the network devices and broadcast all data to all devices.

        Router: A Router is an electronic device used to deliver data in a network from a source device to a variety of connected receiving devices based on the addresses assigned to those individual devices. It delivers the appropriate date only to the correct devices.

        Switch: A Switch is similar to a Router in that it performs the same functions. Switches are capable of limiting the traffic to and from ports on the device so that each connected device receives sufficient data traffic.

        Wireless: Wireless is an ambiguous term used to describe several technologies. It is, in most of those cases used to describe the transmitting of data between devices on a network with no hard-wired connection between the devices. There are several forms of wireless technologies available, including, but not limited to, Wi-F standard, Bluetooth and others. Some are proprietary to individual hardware devices.


Pixel: A pixel (also occasionally known as a node) is actually short for “picture element.” Originally used to define a small dot that lights up on a computer screen or television, it has become used to describe any light up element capable of displaying multiple colors of light in a light display. When used alone, the term Pixel is generally thought to mean a Smart Pixel in which each individual pixel in a string is directly addressable through software so that each individual pixel may be made to display a different color (or nothing at all) at any given point in time. (See also: Dumb Pixels) Pixels typically are supplied in strings, often as multiples of 50 or 100
pre string, but may be supplied in any quantity per string, or individually. They come in several standard shapes and sizes. Typically a pixel will be comprised of multiple LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) which produce Red, Blue, Green and on occasion White light. By combining those colors the pixel is capable of producing a wide variety of colors of light. For example: To light the pixel as Red power would be applied to the Red LED. To produce Blue, only the Blue LED would be energized. To produce Yellow, both the Red and Green LEDs would be activated, thus producing the Yellow light.


        Bulb Pixel: A Bulb Pixel has gained its name because of its similarity to old fashioned light bulbs. It is similar to a Bullet Pixel in that it has wires protruding from the base of the unit and LEDs protruding from the top. However, the LEDs are covered by a lens cover which gives it the distinctive bulb shape. Typically the cover is etched with patterns to break up the light into multiple beams which appear to sparkle when lit.


        Bullet Pixel: A Bullet Pixel has gained that name because of its shape of the individual lighting unit. It is tubular, and shaped like a bullet, with wires protruding from one end of the tube and the LEDs which produce the light protruding from the other end.


        Dumb Pixel/Node: A Dumb Pixel (or Dumb Node) is typically a string of pixels with the same characteristics a smart pixel defined elsewhere except that all pixels on the string are controlled as one unit and are not directly addressable as individual pixels


        Flat Pixel: See Square Pixel


        Ribbon Pixel: A Ribbon Pixel is a strip of individual smart pixels, typically in groups of three pixels which are addressed as one, which is installed in a flat ribbon-like plastic or rubber carrier. Frequently, a strip of Ribbon Pixels is covered by a transparent vinyl or rubber covering to provide a waterproof or water-resistant covering.


        Square Pixel: A Square Pixel (sometimes also called a Flat Pixel) has gained that name because of its shape. It is flat and square with wires protruding from either side of the unit and with the LEDs protruding from the top of the unit.



    A/C: A/C is short or Alternating Current and is typically used to describe lighting or mechanical devices powered by standard house power (in the United State this is 110-120 volts; in Europe and elsewhere it may be 220-240 volts).


    D/C: D/C is short for Direct Current and is typically used to describe lighting or mechanical devices powered by batteries or step-down transformers, or directly from power supplies which produce D/C current. It is usually o a much lower voltage than A/C. In our lighting displays, the two most common D/C voltages are 5-volt and 12-vol though others occasionally are seen.


    Injection: Injection (or Power Injection) is a method of adding additional connections to a power source to provide more power in a distributed manner to make up for power lost through the transmission wires. For example, if a set of pixels are widely spread in a display, too much power may be lost through the resistance of the wire supplying power to those pixels resulting in faulty behavior. Injecting Power into that string of pixels allows them all to receive power within proper tolerances and to perform properly.spread in a display, too much power may be lost through the resistance of the wire supplying power to those pixels 



     A Prop is typically a display unit or fixture in a specific, and usually recognizable, shape or form. or example: a Tree, a Snowflake, a Candy Cane, etc. these may either be static (lit all of the time) or controlled by our software to perform in a synchronized fashion with our displays. Blow Molds (plastic light up figures), Wire Frames ( metal frames bent to define a specific shape), or Coro Props (corrugated plastic sheets cut, and sometimes folded, to define a specific shape). Many A/C Prop styles are also seen in displays with Pixels instead of A/C lights.


A/C Prop: An A/C Prop is one of any number of A/C powered units which can be turned on or off (and depending on the lighting source, sometimes dimmed or brightened). In our typical lighting Thes may include, but are not limited to:


Arch: An Arch is typically a curved and symmetrical structure lined with either A/C lights or Pixels.


Mini-Tree: A Mini-tree is any of a variety of smaller conical (or tree-shaped) props filled with lights. Typically a Mini-tree is thought of as a tree less than 8-feet in height; though most often in the 3 to 6-foot range. A Mini-tree may be lit with pixels or A/C light strands.


Mega-Tree: A Mega-tree is any of a variety of larger conical (or tree-shaped) props filled with lights. Typically a Mega-tree is thought of as a tree of greater than 8-feet in height. A mega-tree is often made up of vertical strips o lights, but may also be lit with strings of lights wrapped in a spiral manner (sometimes also called a Spiral Tree).


     Pixel Pole or Fire Stick: A Pixel Pole, also sometimes called a Fire Stick, is typically a vertical assemblage of Pixels (or occasionally A/C lights) which is long an narrow, pole or columnar in shape. The lights are often programmed to shoot up the pole to simulate a sky-rocket shooting up from the ground.


      Matrix: A Matrix is an assemblage or grouping of pixels, most usually in a square or rectangular format, on which patterns, picture, videos, or text may be displayed during a light display. On occasion a Matrix may also be built is a specific shape, like a circle, or a lowing ribbon. etc. For the purposes of discussion on this site the term Matrix will be used to describe an assemblage o individual pixels in a variety of shapes, but typically in a square or rectangular shape. It will not be used to describe a Panel (P5 or P10) defined elsewhere.


    Panel: A Panel is a self-contained grouping of Pixels in a rectangular format with a typically high density of pixels. It is often known as a P5, P10 panel; the numbers defining the density of the pixels in the panel (occasionally other pixel densities are seen). The Panel performs the same as a Matrix but has much greater clarity due to the high density (the tight arrangement) of the pixels in the panel. In a P5 panel, the pixels are spaced at 5mm intervals; it is typically 160mm X 160mm in size. A grouping of P5 panels will supply 40,000 pixels per square meter. A P10 panel has Pixels spaced at 10mm intervals; it is typically 320mm X 160mm in size. A grouping of P10 panels will supply 10,000 pixels per square meter. For the purposes o discussion on this site, the term Panel will be used to describe a pre-made assemblage of high-density pixels. It will not be used to describe a Matrix; defined elsewhere.


    Singing Face: A Singing face is a method of creating an animation of a human, animal, or cartoon object face which sings (or speaks) the lyrics (or text) in the currently playing soundtrack of a lighting show. There are two basic types of Singing faces:

        Coro (or Wire Frame) Face: A Singing Face may be made from coroplast with holes to accept pixels (or A/C lights) in a pattern representing the face to animate. By switching between various channels of lights, the Singing Face is made to appear to create human-like mouth speech movements.

        Pixel Face: A Singing Face may be made from images displayed on a pixel matrix, panel, or mega-tree. A series o images are created which represent a variety of mouth shapes which are switched to appear to create human-like mouth speech movements.


    Snowflake: A Snowflake is any prop made to resemble an actual snowflake. It may be light by A/C lights or Pixels.


    Spinner: A Spinner is typically a set of radiating spokes, usually forming a circle or portion of a circle. It may be lit by A/C lights or Pixels.


    Star: A Star is any prop made to resemble an actual star, and may have a varying number of points. It may be lit by A/C lights or Pixels.


    Circle: A Circle is any prop built in the shape of an actual circle or ring. It may be lit by A/C lights or Pixels.


    Outline: An outline is typically the term used to describe a set of lights, either A/c lights or Pixels, which allow the edges and/or eaves of a house or building providing a defined edging to that building or house. It may be done using A/C lights or Pixels or, on occasion, a combination of both.


Projection Mapping: Projection Mapping is a technology in which video projectors or used to display images on a surface o a building or house (or other objects) after mapping the shape and dimensions of that surface into a software program. The projected images or video serve to artificially alter the viewer’s perception o that surface. It may include, but is not limited to, producing optical illusions, adding movement to static objects, or to mimic alternate realities.


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