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Picture of MX3 - Professional LED Panel
Sorry for this vanishing, I had to unpublish it as other stuff wasn't live :-(

Please vote for me in the contests :-D Thanks

Remember this http://www.instructables.com/id/The-Much-Larger-Board-of-Many-Ping-Pong-Balls/ ?
And this http://www.instructables.com/id/The-Board-of-Many-Ping-Pong-Balls/ ?

Well this is the third generation, and very much improved, LED display.


Dat vid doe - Finally not filmed on a potato, but still filmed by a potato though :-)


First though, a bit on why it was made.

Essentially, it was because of practical problems with the previous display, shown through use at functions .etc.

1. It was not very bright at all, don't ask me how, but I managed to get the power consumption down to 1.13 Watts whilst it was still functional; I hope this shows how poor the brightness was. In professional usage, this creates many unacceptable conditions, the most severe of these is caused when other lights hit the panel and wash it out, they don't need to be pointed at it, just beam leakage and haze can do it. This washes out the panel and changes the colour balance to the eyes.

The new panels are 200W, a significant improvement, and will output 4200lm each. These are very visible even in daylight and the colour remains good even adjacent to significant arrays of movers in haze.

2. Rigging was problematic. It could be used freestanding on the floor with its stand, but anything else was a non-starter. Want it hanging from a truss? Want it in a different aspect ratio? Want it smaller? Want a different height stand? Not possible.

The new panels have standard mounting hardware on the back. They can be mounted in any orientation, in any arrangement, using standard rigging methods, such as hung trussing, tank-traps, trees, and H-bars.

3. Control was ridiculous for professional usage. I had a folder of various combinations of code. Mixtures of my transmission code, solderlab's embedded code, my embedded code, various generation scripts, and so on. Various different non-standard protocols make the control needed for professional applications impossible.

Data is streamed over Art-Net, the standard lighting data protocol for these types of panels. sACN can also be used. This allows use of industry standard software such as madrix. This is phenomenally flexible, powerful, and professional. It makes control and advanced programming extremely easy, and can be remote-controlled from a regular lighting desk with DMX.

4. Reliability and rigging time was an issue. As the units were not enclosed, rigging involved much troubleshooting (mostly wires shorting). There was not much (or really any) proper mounting for anything.

The new panels are fully tested and enclosed. They work reliably without randomly poking wires hoping to find a short :-P

5. Ping-Pong balls and wood are flammable. Whilst the panels do not get hot, other stuff in venues will, making it a big fire hazard.

With a full metal enclosure, this is almost entirely mitigated. However, for ease of hole-drilling, the front board is still MDF, but treated to be more fire retardant than the aluminium case :-)


Whilst all these issues are no problems for installation (custom mounting) or for a few occasional discos or functions (what it was designed for), it is not practical as a full-blown professional video panel.

Whilst the previous display was great for what it is meant for, professional usage requires a bit "more", as detailed :-D
 
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Step 1: Planning and Preparation

Picture of Planning and Preparation
I am going to put all the nerdy, techy details, and performance data on my blog, so I won't put them here. However, if you are going to build some of these, then it is a big, expensive project, so you may want to change some things, so here be a few things that you may want to change.

Pixel Density
Obviously having a smaller pixel density is cheaper, but it is generally worse. Sometimes you can want an extra low density for effect (over 100mm), but you need high-brightness, mufti-LED modules, which are more expensive. You can also on'y go so high with pixel density before the modules themselves are too big (You can use the new WS2812 leds, but they can have reliability issues, and require more complex drivers). Make sure you allow for the wires as well, as they generally come out of the modules at an angle, not perpendicular. A higher pixel density also created problems with power distribution, so bear that in mind. More pixels also make it brighter, however, this mainly applies to casting light, not visibility in direct light. This will only apply if you are far enough away for the pixels to "merge" into a continuous image (ie you can't see the individual pixels in your computer screen, but they are there. If this you are too close for this (and you probably will be if you are building your own), then you are best just getting brighter modules, however, I have never had any problems to do with visibility. And obviously you also get more resolution...
I went with P50 (50mm pitch), enough resolution for text on one panel, but low enough to get a cool effect)


Shape
If you are making them relatively small, and a lot of them, then you can use squares. I used a rectangular 4:3 ration, which is quite good for general purpose, you can have a long banner, or a slightly rectangular shape with only two of them. You can also use them on their own in either portrait or landscape to good effect. They can be separated and vertically orientated on the back of a stage for a cool effect, either side of a drum kit, separated behind a dj, and so on. It is also an ideal ratio for tings like equalizers. If it is just for one band/dj, or an installation,then think about weird shapes. Right angled triangles either side of a drummer or dj, arrows or deltas tessellating with a gap behind a stage, arches, the list goes on. Needless to say this stops them from being general purpose :-)


Size
Smaller panels make it more expensive to cover a given area. However, it makes handling easier. For rigging speed, there is a happy medium between small and large, it is quicker to rig a smaller panel, but you need to rig more of them. I was initially going to make twice as many panels, of half the size, but it is more expensive, and would have made rigging slower. I would not go bigger than my panels, as they may not be able to support themselves gripping to a vertical scaffolding pole, they would also be to heavy for most people to lift on their own (the size I used can be easily lifted by one man, but twice as bid would require two or more(. Any bigger and it would also not fit into a cherry picker or scissor lift.



After you sort out this stuff, you need to buy stuff, more specifically the stuff below

Electronics and Electrical

Serial LED Pixels, make sure you buy spares as many will turn out to be defective
5v Power supplies (if you use the pixels from me, then it is 10A per 150 pixels)
Raspberry Pi and SD card, 1 per panel
Neutrix ethercon and Powercon TRUE1 duplex connectors.
Wire and solder (lots...)
Screw terminals

Mechanical and Build Stuff

Sheet metal
Screws
Paint
Plywood and fire retardant treatment (if you can't be bothered drilling a few hundred holes in sheet metal)
Square Tubing (is it only me who thinks that this is a stupid name, I even googled it trying to find a better one :-D  )
Standard Scaffolding Clamps


I think that's it, but don't count on it, you may find while reading through that I missed something off (very likely), if so comment and I will change it :-)



Read about the nerdy techy stuff at
dashroom66.org

Had no pictures for this, so this is completely irrelevant, just looks cool, and is perhaps a hint to my next instructable :-D

Step 2: Thanks To

Picture of Thanks To
Al Cringle - Fabricated all the metalwork, very, very well :-D
Gareth Tomas - Helped with the build, a lot
Howard Dean - The never ending source of industry knowledge
The OLA project - For their awesome ArtNet for RasPi code


An extra special thanks goes to Madrix, for sponsoring this project with £1000 of their awesome software (seriously, just download the demo and see what I mean)

Step 3: The Metalwork Bit

Picture of The Metalwork Bit
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Unfortunately, for this bit you need the help of your friendly local fabricator and their array of nice metalworking stuffs, unless you just so happen to be the friendly local fabricator with an array of nice metalworking stuffs, in that case, knock yourself out :-D

Unfortunately again, the shape of panel will change this bit, so I will just go over design principals.

As you will soon realize, I have absolutely no metalworking knowledge, I am just repeating like a parrot what was picked up from Al, who, in the biggest possible way, does know what he is talking about, but please forgive me for all the wrong stuff below (memory of a goldfish...)    :-)

Whatever your shape is, you will need at least one square tube support in the center going the longest way, as it will be onto this that the clamps will be attached, that and it is needed structurally :-)
This should be welded to both the back and any sidewalls it touches.
Try to get as much of the sidewalls as possible on the same piece of metal as the back. (Bend the side walls in, with a lip to screw the front onto)
2-3 inches is a good length for the depth/sidewalls, as it needs to include excess wire, and the transformers.etc
Screw the transformers onto a big, thick bit of metal to act as a heatsink, and then screw that to the case.

This is best illustrated with a picture, the shortest sidewalls are separate and welded on, the longest (vertical) ones are the back bent into shape


Oh, and you need to drill lots of holed in some wood/sheet metal for the front, not a big job at all...   he says

Step 4: Pixels

Picture of Pixels
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Thread the pixels through the holes drilled in the front panel, usually a snaking pattern is best. Make sure you note the data direction, by convention the male connectors are "in", but the lovely Chinese factories often ignore this. Many modules have a little silkscreen arrow on the PCB to indicate the direction. After you link all the chains together (they tend to be 50 or so pixels per strand).

Next you need to add the common ground. This bit is very important, and when done poorly can be the cause of many signal problems. The best way to get an idea is to look at the second picture. Get some THICK wire (important because voltage drop will affect both power and signal) and strip intervals (same as LED spacing) with a Stanley knife (roll the wire with the knife to cut 2 circles, then slice a vertical line between the two so you can remove the piece. Run this down the longest side and solder the ground wires to it (you will need to cut the ground wire between the pixels).

You then need to do the same for the Vs line. The best way to do this is to do the same thing AT THE OPPOSITE SIDE (maintain constant voltage across the LEDs, preventing colour distortions). If you are feeling lazy, you could just use the supplied power injection wires, but there is a significant difference if you do. If a job is worth doing, it is worth doing right.

Step 5: Rasi and Transformer Stuff

Picture of Rasi and Transformer Stuff
All the pixels are driven by a raspi running a hacked-up version of OLA (opendmx.net)
I will release an SD image in a few days on my blog, so you can get one there if you want.

OLA has excellent documentation, so I will keep this short so you can read theirs. The main thing is that there is a fork called SpiMux (https://code.google.com/r/hypher-spimux/source/browse/README) created by "Hypher", that uses a shared buffer to allow more than 1 universe of DMX to be outputted to the pixels (SPI)
I couldn't get it to compile, so I made a few dodgy "hacks", that, with me being an appalling coder, I am sure some of you can do better, but in the meantime, either compile it yourself or use my image.



After this, and after you configure it, you need to wire it up. Wire the data wires from the pixels to the SPI lines of the Pi. Wire the pixels' and RasPi's power lines into the power supplies, and wire the mains from the power entry connector to the power supplies. I will leave this up to you, as your physical construction may vary, but I will say this, more screw terminals=better, allow stuff to be removes easily, and you can use the last "out" connector from the pixels to make a quick-connector for the data going to them.

Screw on the front panel, and you are done (meaning ready to test)


:-D

Step 6: And Yer Done :-D

Picture of And Yer Done :-D
Assuming it all works, all you need to do is set up madrix, and have a play :-)     (if it doesn't then fix it :-P)

Madrix warrants a separate instructable, but they have their own user guides which are very good.


I will leave you with some videos

2 Panel Test


My sister had a birthday party in the garage, and I volunteered to put up some lights
Below is me filming it, the video didn't come out well (note the big strobe at the bottom, just looks like camera flicker)
The panel is actually the most visible thing in the room, but thanks to my shoddy camera work, the beamlights wash out everything
The "Busking" wasn't that good either, due to it being done in the small hours



There are a few more videos on my youtube channel if you want to watch them.

Thanks,
George
ShadeBoyy6 months ago

There is no code, how I can program the led to do it? These is something you miss I think

This is artnet-based device. You only need to plug it to LAN and setup OLA... Then use artnet software like madrix to paint something... I am using Glediator, it's free

sashabeep made it!4 months ago

Thanks for instructable and e-mail support :)

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supamann1 year ago
how much did thus cost to make
DaShroom (author)  supamann1 year ago

Roughly £1100 each, but this could be knocked down easily with lower grade parts

jwindberg1 year ago

I'd love to talk with anyone about software to drive one of these things. I've gotten pretty good with the hardware, and using the ws2801 driver from adafruit, I can make the lights blink, and have even modified a version of conway's life to run the leds. WIth an arduino I can scroll words. However, the raspberry pi image download listed here won't boot for me. It just turns blue, then blue/orange, then shuts down. No text, no error messages, nothing. I'd much rather understand what I'm doing than just get answers, but I'm not sure I get all the acronyms being thrown around. I'm also not about to spend $1000 bucks for windows software to drive this toy.

IMG_20140121_223218.jpg
DaShroom (author)  jwindberg1 year ago

The image is fine (I have 8 things working fine with it atm), try with a different tv, sometimes they are incompatible, Otherwise it might not have been written to the SD card correctly, try again with another SD card, and possibly a different image writer. You could also try re downloading the image, in case that went wrong.

If all that changes nothing, try SSHing into it (8.0.10.1), making sure that you have the correct network setting for your computer to talk to it. If that works then it is just a problem talking to your tv.

Also, as said before, madrix falls under "the best money can buy", there are other things that will talk to it for much less or free (mainly MagicQ) as it is a standard protocol that pretty much all lighting software (and much hardware) talks to.

Its probably best if we carry this on via email, rather than clutter up the comments. My email address is george@dashroom66.org

Thanks, and your build looks SWEEEEEEEEEEEEET :-)

I've downloaded three times, I've used three different sd cards, I've used two different raspberry pi boards. I have a standard dvi monitor pluggedd into the htmi port, which works fine for every other raspberry pi image I've built, and I have never seen anything like this.

Why do you figure the ip address would be 8.1.10.1? That would not be valid in my home network.

All I get is the blue fade screen, which changes to blue/orange, then it shuts down.

No startup text, no way to ssh into it. zip.

I even grabbed a different image file just to prove that my process was valid. I burned and booted the adafruit version. It worked fine.

DaShroom (author)  jwindberg1 year ago

This panel is not a domestic standalone thing like others, it is build to professional standards, using standard control methods. As such, it won't work without data (as per all professional panels) and you cannot say that it is broken without setting up an ArtNet system.

The ArtNet standard uses certain ranges of IPs, this is one of them, and it is set as a static IP in the image. Any IPs not used for WAN are valid for LAN use. You need to configure your computer to be configured to be able to talk to this. What do you mean there is no way to SSH into it, there is one way to do this...

This is also a lighter image that does not include as much "stuff" as the adafruit image, so that could be the source of your woes with the graphics.

As said before, please talk to me over email, it is cluttering up the comments for everyone else.

Here's the rectangle version, based on a raspberry pi.

IMG_20140121_223852.jpg
jwindberg1 year ago

Ok, I finished the hardware. I have a 40x30 board, covered with 300 ws2801 controlled leds, all powered up and driven with a Raspberry PI.

I even wrote a version of conway's life for it.

I had read either here or on your blog about getting it to work with artX/scanX or whatever and was going to follow those instructions once I got the hardware complete, but you seem to have removed those instructions.

Where can I get the info I need for the software to go on the raspberry pi and what software are you using on your pc?

DaShroom (author)  jwindberg1 year ago

Hi,

Sorry, I got snowed under with work, and never got round to writing the other blog posts, uploading the image, or realizing that the OLA link does not work.

the image is located at dashroom66.com/MX3-1001.img

I used Madrix, but artnet is a standard protocol, so it can be used by most pixel mapping software

What software did you write/put on the raspberry pi?

I've found a couple of python libraries for writing to the led strip in python, but I'm not sure what I'm looking for to tie that in.

Does Madrix speak artnet? Is artnet some other software, or is it a protocol?

If I run Madrix on a pc, how do I connect the rasperry pi to the pc, and how do I connect Madrix to software on the raspberry pi?

Your link doesn't work, or your whole site is down for maintenance.

DaShroom (author)  jwindberg1 year ago

Sorry, try now, forgot to change permissions :-(

Should be fixed now

As detailed above, it is a prebuilt custom OLA image (google open lighting architecture)

ArtNet is a standard protocol, spoken by madrix, along with other professional lighting software and hardware.

Any chance of some pics :-)

I found thus page on how to "install" ola into raspberry pi image, but I'm having trouble finding out any docs on what to do with it.

http://www.opendmx.net/index.php/OLA_Raspberry_Pi

How would it know about my leds?

I'll do some more googling, but its a bit mysterious at this point.

DaShroom (author)  jwindberg1 year ago

You don't need any of that, the image is ready to go, just plug and play. It is already configured for ws2801 leds.

Just finished the third try at creating a boot card from your image file. My display shows a blue/black square for a minute or so, that changes to a blue/orange fade square, then the screen goes black. No boot, no nothing. Any idea what's going on.

So, your image failed.

Let me know if you find time to actually post instructions to your instructable. I'd rather learn how this works then get given the solutions anyway.

I cannot imagine that your image is preconfigured for my ws2801 lights in the array that I built them, in the quantity I used, so there has to be more to this.

I'd love to use software to control this thing, but for some reason, madrix doesn't even have a link to buy there software, so I can't even figure out how much it might cost.

I'm back to doing my own programming in python.

DaShroom (author)  jwindberg1 year ago

That image is running my panels. The problem will lie elsewhere. Without data being fed to it it won't do anything.

ArtNet is just DMX over ethernet, each pixel is assigned three addresses (1-512) and a universe number, not coordinates.

Eg pixel one is Universe 1, Red is Chanel 1, Green is 2, Blue is 3. The second pixel is Universe 1, R4, G5, B6, and so on, until the number reaches 512, when you go into the next universe. The order is just how the chain is run. This is then "patched" in the software, where you map each channel to a position. Without a data source, nothing will happen.

The madrix license costs £1000, though there are many other alternatives, madrix is by a colossal mile the best.

MagicQ has free pixel mapping support

cd_edwards1 year ago
thought the whole point of an instructable was to instruct. not much instruction here.
DaShroom (author)  cd_edwards1 year ago
As this is a very advanced an expensive project, I have tried to put emphasis on the design decisions so that they can be modified and customized for individual needs, and more advanced tips, as they will be of most use to people who attempt this. I have other LED matrix instructables that are at more of a beginner level, and are more "step-by-step" as it were, accordingly. If you are looking for a more beginner / "step-by-step" instructable then I suggest you start there.
I agree with Edwards.

I wanted to see how you did that, but I can't.
So, to me looks more a way to bring people to your site (where there is not more information by the way).

Please add all the details.
Thank you.
mwacuff1 year ago
Please tell me more about your custom LED pixels! Include as much detail as possible (sources, part numbers etc.). If you prefer to post on your blog, that's fine with me.

Very nice work.
DaShroom (author)  mwacuff1 year ago
The technical details are on my blog.
As for part numbers, schematics.etc, I can't offer much help as it as a case of me randomly asking a factory to change things, and then more and more things, rather than me producing a proper design and schematic (could you use this LED part instead, can you change the wires to this gauge...)
It was actually quite a fun experience, as I got to have a lot of something made in china, not just a prototype
The WS2801 was still the main IC
jlester11 year ago
Are you still selling kits? Your dot com site seems to be "under maintenance" with no information on kits.

THanks, and great boards!
DaShroom (author)  jlester11 year ago
Thanks :-)

I have actually taken it down again to re-gear it as I have started to become more commission based.
I still sell kits for the electronics parts of the previous boards, but there is not a lot to make up a kit for this, though if you want I can sell you the parts (regular WS2801 pixels)


Thanks, George
ak47freak1 year ago
Nice project!!

You told us HOW YOU built it but you didn't tell US HOW TO build it.

I'm guessing that this project interests alot of us here that have advanced knowledge of this kind of thing and would like to replicate your project quickly with help from you. we could build it from scratch, but having an informed starting point is always better.

Some questions we might want to know, did you have custom driver circuit boards made and if so what about the plans for them, the programing script you used, circuit layouts, power requirements and how did you wire everything? you know the kind of stuff that gets our creative juices pumping.

looks like an awesome project to have fun with.
DaShroom (author)  ak47freak1 year ago
I assumed that people who want to build LED panels would find the more generalized advice, such as design processes.
This is not a difficult project to replicate, just expensive, which also factored in the decision to make this more of a "so you want to make/design a..." rather than "how to..." style instructable.
However, it appears that there is a demand from people who want to build one exactly the same, so I might make another "baby-steps" guide in that case.
In answer to your question...
1. There are no custom controller driver boards (just the pi), however the pixels are custom (see my blog), but you can just use any WS2801 pixels as a drop in replacement.
2. Power averages 100W per panel, but can peak at double that (wire doesn't look like it is that thick, does it :-D ) Using regular WS2801 pixels would reduce this
3. I wired the pixels in a horizontal snake (bottom-right), as suggested in the instructable, and the rest of the wiring is detailed above.
About how much do you think it cost to build each panel? Thanks
DaShroom (author)  Harrison70421 year ago
The cost you can make them for varies. I used my own custom LED pixels, which are very expensive, but you can use any WS2801 pixels, it will just not be as bright, or have as good colour uniformity.etc The cost for parts for the physical body will also change, such as depending on where you live, and what you have lying around. The pair cost me around £2000, but you could easily knock that down significantly with different pixels (and I mean significantly)

Thanks, George
kraftmatic1 year ago
Amazing work! Congrats on all the improvements.
DaShroom (author)  kraftmatic1 year ago
Thanks :-)
ywaran1 year ago
How to connect them to the pc that my question
DaShroom (author)  ywaran1 year ago
Either ArtNet or sACN, although ArtNet is recommended and is the standard protocol
ywaran1 year ago
how to connect them
DaShroom (author)  ywaran1 year ago
There are connectors on the strands, as you can see in the picture
chrwei1 year ago
you talk about "your blog" but don't seem to link it.

you talk about the alternatives to the pixels you use, but never say what you actually use.
DaShroom (author)  chrwei1 year ago
Sorry, I thought I linked it, but apparently I messed it up :-(
I will fix it now
www.dashroom66.org
nerd74731 year ago
how can none of my instructables get featured?