Introduction: Lightweight Interactive LED DJ Panels

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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

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

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

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!

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!

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

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

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

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

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

Step 10: 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

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

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
Make It Glow

Second Prize in the
Make It Glow