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Know how to program a 8' x 30' RGB LED light wall? Answered

I have a unique LED lighting application that I need some help with. Attached are photos to aid my explanation.

I have a custom-built light wall that is 30 feet long and 8 feet tall. It consists of 8 individual wooden panels that are approximately 4' x 8' in size. Each panel contains 16 strips of RGB LEDs that are arranged in a pattern that resembles a 16-segment digital clock matrix. Within this matrix it is possible to spell all letters and numbers. Each of these 16 individual strips of light within each panel are referred to as vectors or channels.

The exact LED product currently in the boards: http://www.superbrightleds.com/moreinfo/rgb-bars-and-strips/wfls-rgb150-150-high-power-rgb-led-weatherproof-flexible-light-strip/647/

In order to spell out what I want to say, up until this point it has required manual blacking out of each vector with individual black plastic strips. As for color changing, each of the 8 panels is controlled by a remote that allows for 7 different individual colors or a handful of preset color changing sequences. Each of the 8 panels is controlled completely independent of the others. This was never the original vision behind the light board, however.

The goal has always been to program the board to allow it to function as one dynamic unit. I need live control, perhaps through a MIDI controller, as well as the ability to run pre-set scenes and sequences. Sound reactive would be nice too. With each panel containing 16 channels, in total there are 128 channels across the entire wall. If I am not mistaken, this number seems likely to fit in well with DMX programming.

As it stands now, all the channels are wired together in each board to create only one color at a time, and I am aware that the boards need to be rewired so that each vector/channel can be controlled separately. I know there are some RGB strips that allow for control of each individual diode within the strip, but I am fine with having each whole strip being capable of just one color at a time. I imagine this simplifies the programming quite a bit.

In terms of the computer program, I have a couple of features that would be ideal. First is the ability to type words and have them appear live on the board, possibly even scrolling across. Being RBGs, the ability to control live color changing/blending is also a must.

I am searching for both the hardware and software needed to fulfill this vision. I am capable of rewiring the boards myself, but am uncertain what specific style of plugs/connectors would be needed to connect each of the 8 panels to the master board/controller. I am also uncertain what type of board/controller is required. If you have any leads on products that are capable of fulfilling this application, please let me know. If you are capable of programming a custom program (if only a custom program would be suitable for this project) or know someone who is, again, please let me know. I'm also interested in what you think the budget would be.

If there are any details I have left out that are essential to your determination process, contact me and I'll fill in whatever blanks may exist. Hope to hear from you soon, and thank you for your help.


You might like to ask the makers directly.....

Feroz. Electric

What board are you actually using to drive the strips now ? You must need quite a bit of current !

The controller doesn't really need to be more complex than an Arduino, though programming it with a laptop is probably the best way to do the actual setting. You could run the things from a laptop with some custom software to talk to an Arduino.

The power supply being used for each board is rated for 100W @ 12V. The exact specs are here:


Each of the 8 boards is being controlled via remote, and the amount of LEDs per board (10 meters) requires an amplifier in addition to the controller. I feel that to accomplish my goal, however, that these controllers can be removed and replaced by something else entirely.

The remote controller:


Would the DMX controller you recommended be capable of controlling all 128 channels through all 8 boards, or would one be needed for each?

Also, I've never worked with an Arduino, but I understand that now is the time to learn. As for the custom software, do you have any recommendations where I should begin with that? Thank you for your response.

This thing is a huge undertaking: you have 16 x 8 strips, with three channels per strip. I make that 128 strips , with three channels per strip, or 384 channels ! That means you need two of the units I identified PER CHARACTER. That's a cool 3600 USD.

Trouble is, this IS a big project - like I said, getting each channel down to only 9.37 is going to be impossible to beat, if you actually cost your own time and effort at more than sub-slave labour rates.

Steveastro has really good advice on these...a big dmx controller/expander would work -

I really like these serial chain-link capable drivers.

controls 3 channels at 12ish volts @ 150mA each channel 450 total.

Each of these strips if I understand is 124ma per foot (total) so each driver can run 3-4 feet of strip. They need common positive connection.

@128 quantity, you can get them for 6.74 each or 862 dollars total.

Overall reason: one arduino can control hundreds of bars at very many fps at 30bit colour precision, at reasonable cost (comparatively).

Lastly, the bigger brother; http://macetech.com/store/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=1&products_id=35
the octobar, is 8 shiftbars on one board (to simplify things greatly!). They are 50 each, controlling 8 rgb vectors each, bringing total cost down to 16 units = 800; I would email macetech and ask if they would consider a volume discount.

As for dmx or other control software, most computer light automation software will output in dmx - and arduino can listen on serial and pretend to be a dmx interpreter. You may run into ram limitations on a simpler arduino (128*3*2 byte integers, per frame of colour) - such as the uno, but the leonardo, mega, or my new favourite, the Teensy 3.0 (arduino compatible) easily has the resources to get through a project this size.

Its one heck of lot more hassle. I'd ask the Chinese for price on the DMX units first.....

I contacted the DMX manufacturer and can get them for 87.00 apiece plus shipping, total $1558 for 16 units. Almost cut the cost by two thirds!

Depending on what interface/controller/software I use, the total cost looks like it should be less than $3000, including cable and wire, which is much more in range.

And the DMX route is more understandable to me. I'm open to learning more about arduinos, but as of now I'm starting from square zero there.

Ok, so we're basically on the same page here. I understand that this project is huge, but that's fine. There's already about 6000 invested in the board, and I'm just trying to get a handle on what it will take to bring it to the next level.

So let's say each board has been rewired and contains two DMX controllers each. Do you have any ideas what sort of master board/controller they could all run to, and what software program(s) might be able to run the whole show?

I'd use a PC and something like Freestyler

You'll need a cheap PC-DMX interface too, but they don't run to much at all, compared to the drivers !!!

WOW. That's a great discount. Now its a nobrainer. Each channel costs you just over 4 dollars !!

I have to disagree with my friend Frollard, and promote the DMX route, even if you don't build every component of your own solution.

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