Introduction: Make a Massive 4096 LED Display for Retro Pixel Art

***** Updated March 2016 ******

There are a couple ways you can go on this project, build everything from scratch or leverage a kit version. I'll cover both methods in this Instructable. This Instructable covers a 64x64 or 4096 LED installation but the PIXEL LED controller board also supports 32x16, 32x32, and 64x32 installations. See here for a list of supported LED panels.

Step 1: Getting the Materials

Materials

  • 4 sets of 32x32 RGB LED Matrix panels (Dimensions 7.5" x 7.5") or 2 64x32's, supported panels here
  • PIXEL Maker's Kit (a custom IOIO board designed to control HUB75 LED matrix panels)
  • Free Apps for Android, PC, Mac, and Raspberry Pi with included pixel art content, free apps here
  • 5V power, rated at 20A minimum, an old PC ATX power supply is one option
  • 3 16.5" x 16.5" acrylic sheets (I got mine from my local Tap Plastics shop)
  • 4 5/8" hex stand-offs with 2 screws for each end
  • 32 4-40 5/16" panhead screws
  • More info about this project at http://ledpixelart.com

The panels used in this project are originally meant for large-scale building and scoreboard LED displays. You'll find several kinds out there from Adafruit, Sparkfun, Ali Express, etc. Unfortunately while they make look the same, there does not seem to be any standard for LED matrix panels and each manufacturer can use a different chipset causing them to behave differently. So be sure and only use the verified and tested LED panels listed here.

A special thanks to Ytai Ben-Tsvi, creator of the IOIO board, for all his invaluable help on this project.

Step 2: Mounting the LED Matrix Panels

You'll find mounting holes on the back of the LED panels. Unfortunately each manufacturer's mounting holes will be different so you'll need to make your own template. The holes in the mounting template will probably be 1/8" but I'd recommend drill a couple sizes bigger to leave yourself some margin for error. The pan head screws you will use will still cover up the larger hole so it won't be noticeable.

Once you've got the LED panels mounted to the back piece of acrylic. Then add the hex stand-offs and attach the front panel acrylic pieces. It's up to you what color you go with on the front acrylic panels. I used a frosted white acrylic front panel on the bottom and a translucent black front panel on the topic, this gives the LEDs enough diffusion while hiding the LEDs when the display is off.

Step 3: Connecting the LED Panels

Instructions here on how to wire up the LED panels with the IDC ribbon cables.

To power the panels, you'll need to make your own custom cable. The LED panels take 5V and you'll want a power supply rated at 4A per panel so that's 16A in total so get a 20A to be on the safe side.

Step 4: Get Some Cool Pixel Art

The apps for this project are free and come included with some fantastic pixel art that was commissioned just for this project that you see here. You can find some really nice pixel art in 64x64 resolution on sites like pixeljoint.com and wayofthepixel.net to name a few. Tumblr has some great pixel art too. Of course, you can also make your own art. Still images should be in .png format and animations in animated .gif format. There are a few nuances to working with the LEDs, the main one being low contrast colors don't look good on the LEDs as the brightness of the LEDs tends to wash everything out. Here's a content guide with some tips for creating art for the LEDs.

Step 5: Get the Apps

Apps are available for this project for Android, PC, Mac, and Raspberry Pi. You can find the apps for this project at http://ledpixelart.com/support/get-the-apps/.

The best app experience is Android which offers the most functionality. There are three main Android apps, one for pixel art designs (you can add your own too), one for scrolling text (including phone text messages), and a pixel art editor to create your own designs.

Update: March 2016, an iOS app is in the works.

PIXEL has two modes: interactive and stand alone. In interactive mode, the Android, PC, Mac, or Raspberry Pi is driving PIXEL what to display based on the application's logic. In stand alone mode, an animation or still image is written to PIXEL's onboard SD card and then the animation will loop with no connected device required. Long tap from the Android app to write an animation or still image to the local SD card.

Android users can connect to the IOIO board which controls PIXEL over Bluetooth or USB. PC users can connect via Bluetooth or USB. Mac and Raspberry Pi users can connect via USB.

Raspberry Pi apps here.

Also note that in the software you can change the physical configuration of the LED panels. For example in this Instructable, I have them in a 2x2 square. But you can also have them 1x4 vertical or 4x1 horizontal. 1x2 vertical (2 panels) or 2x1 (horizontal) is also possible.

You'll find the source code for all the apps on github here (not the main branch, use the board_v2.5 branch).

Comments

author
StephenR147 (author)2017-04-11

Am I able to split the connection to the panels 4 different ways in order to duplicate the panels to 4, 64x64, assuming I power the panels seperately?

author
alinke (author)StephenR1472017-04-12

ah ok, let me test it , we added support for it but actually never tried it so not sure it works, will let you know.

author
StephenR147 (author)alinke2017-04-19

Hey, thank you for checking! Any luck in your testing?

author
alinke (author)StephenR1472017-04-19

Sorry late reply , did check and unfortunately support for that is not there , it could be added but some android library work would need to happen , sorry don't have the bandwidth to do that at the moment , the code is open source however

author
alinke (author)StephenR1472017-04-11

64x64 is the max resolution supported by one pixel board. If you need higher than that , then google hub75 controlllers which typically require a pc , those are used for large LED walls.

author
StephenR147 (author)alinke2017-04-12

thank you for replying! I'm not trying to run more than 64x64, I'm trying to duplicate the display output 4 times, for all panels to display the same thing. Trying to make a cube (without top and bottom). Please let me know, thank you!

author
donkei (author)2016-10-29

Hi, can I make a 'non-standard' display configuration? eg. 32x48?

author
alinke (author)donkei2016-10-30

Hi, sorry only 32x32, 32x64, and 64x64 are supported. The work around would be to go 64x64 and only light 32x48 and have the rest of the LEDs black but not sure if that will fly for your installation. Note too that PIXEL makes use of HUB 75 LED panels, I'm not aware of any of those in 32x48

author
Gaige Kerns (author)2016-02-10

Is it possible to use the

Niyakr Outdoor Rgb Full Color P10 Led Panel/P10 Led Display

I just bought it off the internet.

author
alinke (author)Gaige Kerns2016-02-10

sorry that one is not supported, supported panels here http://ledpixelart.com/pixelv2board/

author
Gaige Kerns (author)alinke2016-02-10

What board do you suggest if I was to use the other board instead of the one you used.

author
alinke (author)Gaige Kerns2016-03-22

The ones here have been tested with the PIXEL board http://ledpixelart.com/pixelv2board/ so it just depends on the size and pitch you need for you installation. If you want P10, I've tested the 32x16 P10 LED panels, the ones on the page work fine from AliExpress.

author
JaunS (author)2016-03-21

Hello, would I be able to do this same project with 4 panels of 64 x 64 pixels ? Is there a way to do this ? I'm trying to make a very large display. Thank you in advance !

author
alinke (author)JaunS2016-03-22

Hey there, the PIXEL board only does 64x64 max unfortunately. You'd need 4 PIXEL boards with no way to sync them so not a good fit for your needs. For the higher res, check out something like this https://www.adafruit.com/products/1453. I haven't use those myself but I think you'll need a PC as well for that setup.

author
JaunS (author)alinke2016-03-22

I see. I was wondering if there was another board similar to that of adafriit a but cost less. I have about a $400 budget. I am going to buy about $200 - $250 worth of panels and so there's not enough fund for the adafruit drivers. Are there any alternatives ? Thank you for your time and effort.

author
alinke (author)JaunS2016-03-22

I'm not aware of any but it's also not my area, you'll just need to Google around. The LED panels you're working with use a wiring standard called HUB75 so you can add that to your google search.

author
temper (author)2014-03-07

Is it not possible to amplitude modulate each individual LED? Obviously a much better display would be possible if so.

author
dmassote (author)2014-03-06

hello. great project. I would like to know if it is possible to downsize to 1 led square (1x1). Thanks.

author
alinke (author)dmassote2014-03-06

Yep, the software supports 1 , 2 , or 4 LED panels.

author

Nice display. It would be cool to havefhor of those and put them togethr and make it 4x larger.

author
WakeUpWolfgang (author)2014-02-21

one thing I want to do it 737,280 RBG LED display. 1024x720 Make it be to play TV or blu-ray/dvds

author
alinke (author)WakeUpWolfgang2014-02-21

that would be cool for sure, this particular projects supports a max of 64x64 or 4096 LEDs, something like this http://www.adafruit.com/products/1453 would be along the lines you're looking for.

author
Icesphere (author)2014-02-20

I love it! Also is that a pic of Hellsing?

author
alexandrmalov (author)2014-02-20

Абалдеть!!!

author
dan3008 (author)2014-02-18

Wow, amazing... Such a beautiful way of displaying retro art :)

Got to make one (after payday lol)

author
Tarun Upadhyaya (author)2014-02-17

Brilliant :)

author
jessyratfink (author)2014-02-17

Absolutely amazing!

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Bio: Al is a wearable tech entrepreneur and creator of a line of smart phone controlled LED handbags http://catclutch.com With 22 years of experience ... More »
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