Introduction: Lightweight Interactive LED DJ Panels

Picture of Lightweight Interactive LED DJ Panels

Hello there! Brian Allen here, Training/Technical Specialist at Elemental LED bringing you my very first Instrucatable. I've always been somewhat of a music fanatic (ok...ok, so that may be a slight understatement), whether it's listening, creating, or incorporating lighting of some sort.

I was chatting with some close friends of mine who DJ this last summer about building some sort of an interactive DJ booth that would create a light show based on the music being played,much like the artist Pretty Lights. Their interest along with my own inspired me to finally come about building such a beast.

What we have here is a series of 5 LED panels that correspond with different beats, or decibels(dB), to create an instant light show. Some people have referred to my build as somewhat of a visual equalizer at times, it all depends on the type of music you like to jam to!

The trick was to build something that would have a grand appearance without a large cost that you would normally pay for at DJ or lighting stores while remaining lightweight so one can easily transport.

Overall I took roughly 25 hours for the project from designing to building. Once your done, it's as simple as selecting which mode(s) you want to use along with your iPod, smartphone, stereo, or in my case- turntables.

Here I'll walk you through the steps to build your own! I built mine to a specific size for my purpose but feel free to change it up and create your own dimensions.

Step 1: What Your Going to Need to Create Your Masterpiece

Picture of What Your Going to Need to Create Your Masterpiece
Materials List:

The first group of materials you can purchase directly from us, Elemental LED!
This next group of materials you can pick up from various hardware or department stores
  • 50' - 1"x1" Square Acrylic Tubing (I had mine pre-cut to size by TAP Plastics, they're great! Reasonably priced and pretty fast at getting your finished product to you as well.
  • 40 - Flat "L" Brackets
  • 70 - 6/32 x 1 1/2 long Truss Head Screws
  • 70 - #6 Lock Washers
  • 70 - 6/32 Hex Nuts
  • 20' - 1" Wide Velcro
  • Canvas Material of your choice, I used a king sized bed sheet and cut it to the dimensions I needed.
Tools Required:
  • Safety Glasses! It's never a bad idea to cover those valuable assets of yours!
  • Power Drill
  • Soldering Gun or Iron, I recommend using one with a wattage of something between 25-45 watts as it will prevent you from damaging the solder point on the strip.
  • Solder, using a thinner solder is recommended.
  • Drill Bits, this will depend on the size of the hardware you chose, I sized mine to work with the 6/32 Truss Head Screws
  • Vice, it's always nice to have something to hold things still as your working on them. *Not required though.
  • Tape, the stronger the better, I'll explain this when we get to it.

Step 2: Assembling Your Frame

Picture of Assembling Your Frame

First you want to lay your acrylic tubing out and make sure that everything is square. TAP Plastics did a great job at making sure the cuts were precise.

You may want to hold the corners in place with some tape to prevent movement while working on them.

Next you want to place your "L" Brackets on each corner and mark where you need to drill the holes for bolting/screwing everything together.

The top of the 6/32 Truss Head screws should face the front of the panel while the lock washer and hex nut go on the reverse side.

DO NOT place your LED strip lighting on the frame just yet, I hadn't taken any pictures of this step before it was done unfortunately, I will let you know when it is ok to do so.

Step 3: Your Finished Frame

Picture of Your Finished Frame

When you are done assembling your frame it should look similar to this, again DO NOT apply your LED RGB strip lighting or velcro at this point.

Step 4: Time to Apply the RGB LED Strip Lights!

Picture of Time to Apply the RGB LED Strip Lights!

Ok! We're finally here, you may now apply your LED RGB Strip Lighting. Though you may want to read over step 5 to make this easier.

Be sure to cut each piece to size before applying, the strip lighting cannot conform to the sharp 90 degree corners and will need to be soldered. The reason why is the extreme angles will actually damage the internal "trace" wiring on the strip and may break the connection.

This is OK due to the 120 degree beam angle of the chips. You shouldn't be able to notice an empty section of an inch or so at each corner.

It's also a good idea to solder on your RGB solder connector end to the beginning of your LED strip before applying it to the frame.

The reason why I used waterproof connectors and extension cables was due to the form factor and strength of them over the non-waterproof versions. Since these panels travel a lot, the cables had to be sturdy as well. They aren't too much more than the standard versions anyways. *This does not mean your panel will be waterproof.

Step 5: Time to Tackle Those Corners!

Picture of Time to Tackle Those Corners!

Here's where things can get tricky. If I had to go back and do this again I would strongly advise doing what we here at Elemental LED call a "Dry Fit".

That means cut everything to length, measure how  much wire you will need for each corner and solder the corners together before applying the tape to the frame.

Soldering it in place can mean working at some uncomfortable angles.

You'll also notice I have tape over the solder connection where the LED panels will plug in. This is to minimize damage from stressing the connection when plugging and unplugging each panel.

It couldn't hurt to cover your corner solder connections as well if you would like.

Do Not apply your velcro at this stage.

Step 6: Stretch That Canvas

Picture of Stretch That Canvas

We can now cut our sheet or canvas to size and get ready to apply the velco.

I placed the velcro on the frame first to make sure the attachment points would be good anchors for stretching the material evenly.

Make sure when you make your measurements the sheet or canvas has enough material to wrap all the way around from the front to the back side of the frame.

To minimize cost I used 4" strips of velcro placed as you can see in the picture. I plan to actually stitch these on as the adhesive will only last for so long. There isn't much reason to take the canvas or sheet off once it's applied either.

When you place your velcro on your sheet, take the time to make sure they will match up with the pieces you placed on your frame or you will have to do it again!

Here you can see how the power attachment for the panel comes out of the lower corner- which side it will come out is up to you.

You can also take the time to trim the corners for a more refined look here.

Step 7: Assembling the Controller Madness! Muahaha

Picture of Assembling the Controller Madness! Muahaha

We'll now go over how to assemble the controllers to make these puppies work.

The main controller you will need is the Apollo Jammer, this is what your iPod, smartphone, MP3 player, or turntables will plug into.

You can see here we have it going to a standard DMX Decoder via an XLR Cable, this was required in my case due to the fact that I purchased clearance decoders. As I mentioned, if you stick with the standard DMX Decoders that Elemental carries you will not have to create this "crossover" or "adapter".

From the standard DMX Decoder it then goes out via RJ45 (otherwise known as an Ethernet cable) to the next decoder in line.

Not pictured here is the power connection to each decoder. This will be demonstrated in the next step.

*Your Apollo Jammer will also require a power connection, you can either run this off of your main power supply or the included 12 watt power supply you get when purchasing. I use one power supply to minimize things being plugged in.

Step 8: Powering Your DMX Decoders

Picture of Powering Your DMX Decoders

Here you can see where the DMX Decoder will need to be powered from the 300 Watt 12vDC power supply.

Mine has multiple taps which helps when connecting multiple decoders. You can purchase an 8-Way Terminal Block if you need more attachment points.

Your waterproof RGB extension cables will go between the decoder and LED Panel. This will allow you to keep your controls out of harms way if you have a lot of company over enjoying your show.

Step 9: What It Should Resemble When Fully Assembled

Picture of What It Should Resemble When Fully Assembled

Here's a flowchart I put together in case there was any confusion on the previous steps.

Step 10: Cleaning It Up

Picture of Cleaning It Up

It's time to clean up your control panel, I was slightly embarrassed at how I mounted all my decoders and Jammer so I disassembled it before I took any pictures.

You can take the time to use MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) or something similar to make a panel that everything will mount to in an organized fashion.

I have plans to make a very nice one when time permits, I'll be sure to update this step with a picture once I do. I apologize for the lack of imagery here, but use your imagination and you can come up with something that will suit your needs.

UPDATE: 10/15/2012

Still not the finalized control panel, but I had to put something together to re-shoot the video which I should be updating in the near future as well. Hopefully this will give you a better idea of how it all fits together.

Step 11: The Finished Panels

Picture of The Finished Panels

After creating your panels you can use them for all sorts of things. Occasionally, when they're not constantly being borrowed by friends, I like to hang them on my wall like artwork and hook it all up to my stereo so it creates some fun interactive wall art.

Step 12: Adjusting the Controls

Picture of Adjusting the Controls

Depending on how you will want your panels to interact with your music of choice, you will need to chose a mode for the Apollo Jammer which can be found in the manual on our website.

I would suggest using mode 4 on the Apollo Jammer for a setup like this to create the most adverse effects, as it corresponds to DMX addressing the best. *Any other mode will make all the panels do the same thing at once.

After selecting your Apollo Jammer mode it's now time to set your DMX Addressing via the dip switches on the decoders. Instructions for doing so can be found in PDF form on the Elemental LED website here.

Step 13: Enjoy the Show!

UPDATE: 10/23/2012

Finally got around to making a better video! I hope you enjoy watching the panels in tune to the music of;

Gramatik - So Much For Love

The Glitch Mob - We Can Make The World Stop

Pretty Lights - Total Fascination


I hope you've enjoyed my tutorial and have a great time building your own!

If you have any questions don't hesitate to ask.

Thanks for stopping by,

Brian Allen


RollandE (author)2017-07-09

You wouldnt' want to buy the led lights from Elemental anyways. $1000 for the leds is very expensive you can get them on ebay for about $20 for 5 meters.

SeanB135 (author)2016-05-04

It appears that none of the links to Elemental work. Are they out-of-date?

DeeK12 (author)2016-02-14

so awesome

gleemonex69 (author)2015-02-16

I finally finished this project after about a year in the making. Since my budget was very low, I had to get all the things together slowly over time. I also modified it so that I installed in a wood frame based DJ facade. The pictures are of what I built and being used during a Christmas party. Unfortunately, they left the lights on so you really couldn't see the LEDs. But the video I uploaded to YouTube speaks for itself. Thank you for making this instructable.

irtiqae (author)gleemonex692016-02-01

awesome stuff man!

jeremy.lueck.7 (author)2014-09-23

How strong and sturdy are the plastic tubes for frame? Can a client lean on them when talking to you? That is the biggest problem I have with my DIY facade. They lean on them all the time. I am now building a much stronger one with aluminum, but I like your clear tubes. Need to know how strong they are. Thanks and great job.

rbuesst (author)2014-08-23

what is the price for the full setup?

gleemonex69 (author)2014-06-24

The link for the DMX settings takes me to a 4 channel version, but no indication on how to set them.

gleemonex69 (author)2014-06-08

Are these 5050 RGB LED?

pixel5 (author)2014-05-13

I think I pooped a bit from perfectness. is it possible to make each panel react to different sounds (eg middle and two outside beats and bass and in between highs and rhythm)?

Elemental LED (author)pixel52014-05-13

Why yes it is possible! You would simply need to address each panel differently, depending on the address selected you will come to different effects. For my example I duplicated DMX addresses in order to have the outer panels in sync with one another.

pixel5 (author)Elemental LED2014-05-14

brilliant! thank you so much!

gleemonex69 (author)2014-03-19

Is this possible with only four panels? If so, how would you arrange the bass, mids and highs?

It can be done with 3 if you basically follow the instructions only setting up the left 3 or right 3 panels.

Seeing that this revolves around "Bass", "Mid", and "High", it would need to be done in multiples of 3, this would mean a 4th panel would replicate another panel in the system.

shaddoty (author)gleemonex692014-03-19

low, mid low, mid high, high

gleemonex69 (author)shaddoty2014-03-21

Can DMX be set that way? I don't have experience with them

adarshnarsaria (author)2013-10-21

do we have any cheaper version of this project???

Iggybigee (author)2013-09-04

I would love to do this but it's so expensive. Is there any areas of the project where I could cut back the cost?

iamm99 (author)2013-07-29

I was wondering if I can use myDMX (a light application on PC) just to change the color, brightness and flashing and stuff like that

Elite Rage5 (author)2013-07-28

Do you think a computer supply would work? I keep seeing lighted led fans that i think would look sweet.

As long as the power supply output is 12vDC you should be fine. I believe the output of some computer power supplies varies from 5-12vDC depending on taps/connectors.

iamm99 (author)2013-07-20

can you take away the jack and just take te dmx cabel it to a miks or myDMX on pc? or must you have the jack?

Elemental LED (author)iamm992013-07-29

I'm not entirely sure what your asking, the DMX setup would essentially work with most DMX controllers but it all depends on what your trying to procure as far as results.

gleemonex69 (author)2013-06-18

Awesome build, can't wait to build one. I tought about using 1.5" PVC piping for the frames and stretch a fabric over it. Would this make it too flimsy and then I would need to build supports?

Though I've worked with PVC quite heavily in the past, I've never built a frame using it. I would immagine it to be possible but supports would be definiate at the corner points.

If being lightweight isn't too much of a hinderance for you, I considered using Unistrut, or power strut, to build my frames. It would be a higher cost but extremely durable.

oross (author)2013-05-06

Could you use some white Asate instead of sheets ?

Elemental LED (author)oross2013-05-06

I'm not entirely sure what Asate is, however a coworker of mine mentioned that a material that goes by the name of "Homewrap" may be a decent alternative. Essentially it's a large, commercial, heat shrink wrap that's used on automotive to building applications.

bloodyzero (author)2013-03-30

is it possible to change the color combination. instead of blue red and pink, green blue and red? or any other combination of RGB light? I read about the apollo jammer setting 4 and the DMX dip switches but i dont fully understand the customization possibilities.

Elemental LED (author)bloodyzero2013-04-03

Of Course! I have mine set to those colors because I liked them the most. You can randomize them, change the frequency to color ratios (which are predetermined in the settings, but you still get a good handful).

You can take a look at the instruction manual for more information on the dip switch settings.

Basically each panel has a decoder; depending on what setting you "address" the dip switches to determines what colors it will output in response to which frequencies. There's more available than listed in the instructions, but it take a little bit of time to play with them all and get a good idea. If your looking for other color combinations you can simply swap the colored wires to "force" different colors. I.E. if the decoder says one setting is typically Red but you want Green, simply swap the Red and Green wires.

CrazyRockinC66 (author)2013-03-28

How did you make these stand on there own?

The panels are actually resting against the table for the DJ equipment and some of the speakers for the system. In a way it's nice to be able to hide the speakers behind something more appealing.

CrazyRockinC66 (author)2013-03-16

How much did this roughly cost to make?

I had a lot laying around from previous projects, considering that I probably spent close to $450 for what I needed to complete the project. I have a previous post below which lists the total cost of the project @ ~$1700 if you built it exactly as I did.

thelostspore (author)2013-03-15

awesome, about how much do you think it costs per panel?

You could probably assemble a 2'x3' panel for as little as $100-150. It would depend on the density of your RGB strip light as well as how much you utilize per panel. Mine was ~10' per panel, which I think I could have been scaled down to 2 sides rather than the entire parameter. I've seen a couple similar projects done with just the bottom 2' section of a panel with decent results. The advantage to having the entire parameter is that it give you a "pulsating" effect that's pretty cool.


ashodhiyavipin (author)2013-01-15

Being a student I know this is out of my budget. But I was wondering if you would be willing to give up information about what Apollo Jammer and DMX Decoder schematics look like. or what do they help in achieving in this? What I can understand is that they drive LED's using the signals fed by Apollo. and I think Apollo splits the audio signal into highs, mids lows. Am I correct in guessing this? Is it possible to replicate this using some other equipment. I know that I am asking a lot as you people are making these to make profit and not turn away customers. But I am still learning and have a basic knowledge when it comes to electronics. I am programming student.

I'm sure you can probably create something on your own, unfortunately I'm not as skilled in micro electronics as I wish I was and access to such information is limited.

However I've seen some great tutorials on indestructible and the web for doing something similar to what you requested.

Essentially the Jammer actually takes the audio input signal and assigns certain dB levels to corresponding colors. You are correct in assuming that there is a defined range for the Low, Mid and Highs. Of course this all depends on the type of light/fixture/components you have attached to the Jammer.

Hope this helps,


samalert (author)2013-01-07

How about putting each panel in Infinity Mirror it will look GREAT ! a very different dimension to those lights too

Elemental LED (author)samalert2013-02-27

I actually looked into this but it would have made the cost of the project soar to unexpected heights. Maybe sometime in the future.


zigzagchris (author)2012-12-21

This is beautiful, As a frequent sound engineer at a venue and a theater lighting designer this is a fantasy of mine. Congrats,I really like how you mapped the lights. All the dj light controllers iv used just change light with the bass and this is how I always pictures they should work.
I also appreciate your appreciation for glitch mob.

Thank you, always appreciate the kind words from a fellow audiophile.


YourLord (author)2012-10-22

Very Nice! I love it

minderbinder (author)2012-10-14

$2000 is much more than I expected when you said it didn't have such a large cost (you can probably tell that I don't often shop for these types of things). Any suggestions or ways the price could be lowered in terms of materials? Obviously smaller sized or fewer panels would reduce the price. Awesome project though!

I just did a quick compilation of the items we sell @ Elemental LED which came to $1770. The majority of cost is the RGB strip lighting, which will run you upwards of $1000 list for 4 spools. You could use standard density RGB which would save you roughly $200. I really wanted my panels to be as bright as possible so I spent the extra money.

As far as other materials go, a price conscious builder could consider using wood and basic wood screws for the frame, with staples to attach the canvas/sheet. This would be a fairly basic and cost effective way to build frames.

Thanks! I was definitely thinking I'd make three or five very skinny frames since I wouldn't need that big of a setup. Would any type of strip/ribbon LED lighting work? Also, if I am using a smaller amount of the LED ribbon, could I use a smaller power source or would you recommend just using the same thing? Thanks!

It all depends on how bright you want your panels to be, as long as you use RGB strip lighting you should be in the clear.

On the note of using a smaller amount you are correct, simply take the amount of strip light you have, I.E. 4 feet @ 4.4 watts per foot = 17.6 Watts, you should add an extra %20 to that number to determine your power supply needed. So, 17.6 divided by .8 = 22 watts, in turn you should source a power supply that has a minimum of 22 watts or more for your project.

The reason why I suggest the extra %20 is due to the fact that your power supply won't be "working" as hard as it would be if it were maxed out, this will extend the life of your system overall as well.

aeszok (author)2012-10-15

I followed up until step 7.... where on earth do we get all those bits and pieces for cheap, like a 300W 12V power brick? Hmmm, might have to duck into the shed and just grab one of the many I have hanging up there. Nice instructable though, very concise.

Elemental LED (author)aeszok2012-10-15

If the bits and pieces your referring to are the Ethernet patch cables(white cables going between the decoders), they came with the decoders when I purchased them. They're also available at stores like Radio Shack or easily found online for cheap.

The DMX cables you can purchase from Elemental LED as well if you need more, the standard decoders with the XLR ports we carry come with both a male and a female DMX 3-Pin connector that you can simply make your own cable depending on length with a 3 conductor wire.

As for the power supply, I had one laying around, which helped with my overall cost of the project.

You could probably search online for cheaper power supplies, keep in mind they most likely wont be backed by the pleasant warranty that Elemental LED offers.

Fabrichi (author)2012-10-14

Price is the only issue for me, which i thought maybe i can use regular lights/colored lights with gels and such. Because the apollo jammer is specific to LED is there something else that can do the same thing just connect to regular lights?

hertzgamma (author)2012-10-12

Great job there!

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