Pixel Protocol Converters

An Affordable DIY Approach to Small Pixel Projects

DIY RGB LED Pixel Matrix

With the recent expanding interest in pixel based display items I started looking about a year ago at other options.  Pixels give you an incredible amount of control over your display with each bulb being individually addressable, but the cost can escalate quickly.  There have been many different Hardware solutions introduced in the last couple of years and the progression has been so fast it's been difficult to keep up.  It seems like darn near every vendor or retailer has jumped in to have some sort of pixel option for this year and they all have their advantages and disadvantages but for me it all came down to one thing... software.  LOR has yet to jump into support for large scale pixel items and only recently made available the Cosmic Color Bulbs, their pixel solution.  Other software that handles pixels effectively is either very expensive or very buggy.  What's a decorator to do?  I made the decision that I would attempt to do some limited investment and design for the display with pixels but I was going to wait to do more until the software caught up.  Now, I've been using the Firefli strings from D-Light for three years, but at $160 each I was looking for something I could do larger scale and on a budget.  After seeing what "FastEddy" did for his Coro Candy Canes last year it fit the bill for what I was looking for.  It was simple, it was inexpensive, and it was adaptable.  I decided to give it a go and what follows is a very basic chronicle of what I was able to put together.

  • Instructions downloaded from www.lightuplawrence.net for free of course!  Christmas Lighting is an obsession that is meant to be shared!
  • A $16 Protocol Converter. Ali express, $16 each , make sure you specify what protocol.  I've used both the 2801 and 6803 types.
  • RGB LED Pixel Strings.  Ali express, $2.00 each or $40.00 for a string of 20.
  • 2 pairs of 4 core waterproof pigtails.  Ali express, $0.76 each 
  • Small waterproof enclosure, I got mine from Excess-Supply.com
  • Small diameter heat shrink tubing, best prices at mouser.com
  • Larger diameter heat shrink tubing, best prices at mouser.com
  • 1 can liquid tape, $6 at Lowes

I'm not an electrician, an expert in electrical things, nor do I have any training or degrees to qualify me as such.  ;)  I'm just a guy who figured out what works for his display.  Take this information as such.  If it works for you, GREAT!  I've accomplished what I set out to do.  If you see a problem with what I'm doing or have a question, please e-mail me.  I'm always excited and willing to learn something new.  I can't assume any responsibility for the outcome of your project if you chose to follow these instructions, or the fallout thereof.    If you think I'm an idiot, kindly smile to yourself, click your "back" button three times, and have a nice day!

  • Needle Nose Pliers
  • Wire Nippers
  • Wire Strippers
  • Small Philips screwdriver
  • Butane Torch
  • Soldering Iron with pointed tip
  • Flux core solder
  • Exacto or other utility knife
  • Sharpie Marker
  • Voltage Tester
  • Bench-top Power Supply



The pictures in this How-To show the 6803 Protocol Converter and it's particular wiring.  The pixels shown are also 6803 12V as I was looking for a replacement to my fireflis.  Similar pixels are available in the 2801 protocol and the 2801 converter differs a bit as the wiring colors may be different.  Make sure that you pay attention to the diagram that you receive with yours to ensure you have the correct wires connected.  You don't have to use the same enclosure I did either, as you can see the actual protocol converter itself is quite small, this was one I had on hand and it worked quite well.



On the incoming side it's no different than any other DMX Device.  I'm using my same wiring standard with these that I have used on everything else in the display.  You can reference my RGB DMX Wiring method in a separate How-To.  As you can see labeled in the picture, there are two wires for 12V D/C Power, and two wires for DMX Data.  After stripping and tinning each lead we'll move onto the outgoing side.



As you can see, the outgoing side of any of these converters has only three wires. (the green isn't used)  The reason there's only three is that the 12V Positive Power lead comes directly from the input pigtails, so does the ground.  No power supplied to the pixel string comes through the converter, only the
clock and data wires.  Again, strip and tin the leads of these three outgoing wires to prepare for the next step.



Here you can see that we've joined all the ground wires together from both the incoming and outgoing pigtails as well as from both sides of the converter.  In the second photo you can see that we join the positive DMX wires from our pigtails to the yellow DMX  +IN wire on the converter and the negative DMX wires from the pigtails to the White DMX -IN wire on the protocol converter.  Cover each of the joints with heat shrink tubing and hit it with your torch.  Leave the positive wire un-soldered until the next step.


Our outgoing 4 core pigtail is next, the ground wire should already be connected to all of the other ground wires from the previous step.  Next we want to solder the blue outgoing 12V wire to all the other blue incoming 12V positive wires from our incoming pigtail as well as the red 12Vpower wire on the protocol converter.  Cover them with heat shrink and torch it!  The last step is to connect the Red "data" wire on the outgoing pigtail to the blue data wire on the converter and the green "clock" wire on the outgoing pigtail to the red "clock" wire on the converter.  Again, heat shrink them and you're good to go.




That's it!  The converter is wired and ready to go.  Without a DMX signal these little converters run through a color cycle the same as the small $6 DMX Decoders do.  A few notes on these:  The start address is DMX Channel #1.  That isn't changeable.  (there is a programmer that will do it but it's expensive and hard to find)  For the price I'm just going to use them as Channels 1 through whatever and be happy with it.  ;)  The programmer can be located remotely from the pixel string but will perform better the closer to the beginning of the string that it is located.  Additional power may need to be injected along your pixel string as chances are good you will exhaust your power before you run out of channels.  These are not a perfect end all be all solution to pixel control and will not replace a dozen CCRs or an E681,etc. for large scale pixel control.  They are a cost effective solution for smaller pixel projects and can be an easy and approachable solution for someone looking to get their feet wet with a pixel display.




For purposes of this How To I am showing the Firefli type pixels that use the 6803 Protocol but again, it's the same method for 2801 and it's the same regardless ot the pixel type.  It may be pixel nodes (the mini light look a likes) modules like these, or even strip.  It doesn't matter the format, it's the same 4 wires.  Two for power, two for data.  If you look inside this particular pixel, you can see that each of the wires is labeled on the PCB.  The black wire is ground, blue is clock, green is data, and red is 12V +power.  All I did was solder on a pigtail to the string and connected the corresponding wires per the colors of the Protocol converter.  In this case, Black is always ground.   The Blue clock wire of the pixels connects to the Green wire of the pigtail.  The Green data wire connects to the Red wire of the pigtail, and the Red 12V +power wire connects to the Blue wire of the pigtails.  I also use pigtails to connect multiple pixel strings together, it just gives me the ability to swap or change them anywhere anytime, but you could solder them directly together as well.

Video Wrap Up

YouTube Video

YouTube Video