Large Scale Low Res LED matrix project
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Large Scale Low Res LED matrix project

by Jkrickus on Wed Jun 09, 2021 12:04 pm

Hey People, I need some help getting started with an art project that I have been working on for a while. I will keep this short for now, so please read and let me know if I'm in the right forum. If there is a better forum please advise.

Trying to create an interactive experience (mainly for kids, possibly installing at a local hospital) that allows them to manipulate colored blocks on a turntable that are then scanned from above (video camera) and the video stream is fed into a large scale low res matrix of RGB pixels located in another building across from the hospital. It sounds like a simple concept , but the effect is very engaging with the participants. There is something in the agency the kids have to manipulate an outcome physically removed from where they are that really entertains them.

We have done some prototypes of this sculpture, but only in a gallery where we could wire it all together and the distances were not great. We used WS2811 led stings built into sculptural elements and controlled them with an Entec Pixel Octo controlled by Entec's ELM pixel mapping controller. The setup worked well, but a bit pricey(software licensing and video interfacing gear, dedicated computer) I really want to simplify the design and make it only as efficient as it needs to be using more DIY components.

I have a little experience with Arduino, enough to know that what I want to do is possible. What I want know is what should I be looking at for the LED matrix control? Picture the buildings windows across the street having a NEOpixel element in each window. How can I get them wirelessly connected to each other to act as a large low res matrix? (I'm assuming I will be able to setup a dedicated Wifi network at that building).

And secondly, what are some options for the scanning of the colored blocks and getting that data into the controller of the matrix across the street? Our current design involves a turntable embedded into a play table that the kids arrange blocks on and then the blocks travel through a tunnel (like an MRI tube). So any gear we use to detect the blocks will be installed inside the tunnel element) I started with the idea of a video camera over head, but I also thought about embedding chips in the blocks that could be read by a sensor. One of the problems we had with the video camera was getting the correct color rendering outputting to the leds. I thought maybe if we had different colored blocks with distinct chips embedded, then I could somehow use that data to ensure maximum color saturation. I'm just not sure of what's out there as far as transmitters and sensors.

I'm not looking for plans or schematics, just some advice on products available and things I have not thought of. If anyone has some ideas I'd appreciate the help. I love projects like this, I just want someone to push me in a good direction to get started. It's like going to the hardware store and sometimes you just want to be left alone to look all the different parts , but other times you want a knowledgeable sales person to help point you in the right direction.

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Re: Large Scale Low Res LED matrix project

by adafruit_support_mike on Thu Jun 10, 2021 9:04 pm

It sounds like your project has several functional blocks, and there are multiple hardware options for each. That means the first job will be narrowing down the range of options.

If you're already using WS2811s, one obvious option would be to use a FadeCandy:


It's a very capable WS2811 driver that was originally developed to run lighting for an installation at Burning Man. It has a client-server control interface that will work over Wifi and can run on a Raspberry Pi.. it's still a dedicated computer or two, but they're only $35:


A FadeCandy system can play real-time video, and a RasPi has a dedicated high-quality camera you can use to scan the blocks as they come by:


The FadeCandy works through a programming environment called Processing which is designed for computer/microcontroller interaction. You can use that to modify or generate video that goes to the WS2811s. Both the FadeCandy software and Processing are Open Software available online at no cost.

We have a couple of tutorials that show how to work with the FadeCandy and the client-server code:

https://learn.adafruit.com/lightship-le ... -over-wifi

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Re: Large Scale Low Res LED matrix project

by Jkrickus on Thu Jun 10, 2021 9:42 pm

Hey Mike! Thanks for the quick response and great info.

I will start looking into those options and return with more questions if needed.

Thank you!
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Joined: Tue May 28, 2013 1:53 pm

Please be positive and constructive with your questions and comments.