This is a fYI for those fighting to connect 12V WS2811 LEDs to an ESP8266 controller. I spent a couple of hours trying to get my lights to light. There are several solutions available including adding a level shifter, a donor LED, etc. My solution ended up being much simpler.
From what I read, the problem is the 2811’s won’t trigger off the 3.3 v on the data line. It occurred to me that putting the suggested 300-500 ohm resistor in front of the first LED might be the cause. Every resistor in a circuit creates a voltage drop. Maybe my 490 Ohms caused too much of a drop. To test, I simply removed the resistor. BINGO. Lights! Everything works perfectly.
I’m sure that it’s a good idea to run a resistor on the data line and I plan to put a smaller one in place.
Just wanted to share a solution I haven’t seen after a LOT of research.