RGB LED Control – Superbowl XLV

We were honored this year to work with costume designers of the halftime show.  Since most of the project relates to DMX recording & capture (and only almost included our 8-bit RGB nodes), a description has been posted elsewhere on our site.

Take a look… It was a lot of fun to work on these designs.

New Year’s Eve Tree

Just fooling around with cheesy transitions in the video editing program.  At any rate, the New Year’s Eve guests thought the tree was fun, even though (especially since?) the patterns displayed weren’t as subdued as what played throughout the Christmas season.

On a happy note, the waterproof E16 chassis withstood a week of nearly continuous rain, snow, warm and freezing weather between Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

Thanks, everyone, for your support and comments throughout the year.  It’s been a wild ride for sure.

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O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree!

Late last night my amazing wife returned from delivering Christmas goodies to the neighbors.  She held out the five fingers on her right hand and asked, “Do you know what this is?”

Instinctively, I flinched, expecting a heart-stopping, up-close-and-personal demonstration of how cold her hands actually were.  This has happened before.

“That’s how many of the neighbors complained that you don’t have any lights up this year.”

Through an ironic and frustrating turn of events, I’d been too busy to hang or program anything for Christmas 2010.

Fortunately, today’s schedule was totally open.  I found enough inventory in the workshop (an E16 ethernet bridge + 16 strings) to assemble a nifty little triangle tree.  It measures 12′ tall and 11′ wide at the base.

After letting it run for a few hours, I checked the control statistics (the E16 contains an internal webserver which allows for easy field configuration and feedback) and was pleased to see that one point one million Art-Net packets had been successfully received and processed for each of the E16’s four universes.


Stills (click to enlarge):


(Note that YouTube was supposed to swap out the regular audio for a bouncing happy Christmas track.  But I don’t think it’s working for all playback locations.  Do you hear music or just road noise?)

From the Field

Florida Artist Jeff Slack built this amazing star for a local church service using 4 strings of RGB nodes, a T3 controller, precisely cut art glass and lots of patience.  It appears to be about 4′ in diameter.

Jeff's Christmas Star

Landy in Oklahoma (and author of the nifty and free .Matrix Art-Net Pixel Mapping Software sent over these fun clips.  His system includes 8 node strings and a couple T3 controllers.

Christmas Lights – 4 – Christmas Jam from Landy Bible on Vimeo.

Christmas Lights – 3 – Mad Russians Christmas from Landy Bible on Vimeo.

Christmas Lights – 1 – Christmas In The Air from Landy Bible on Vimeo.

Thanks, Jeff and Landy, for sharing your work.

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Federation Square – Melbourne, Australia.

We recently supplied about 2400 nodes and 4 E16 controllers to a lighting designer working in Melbourne, Australia.  This project is an interactive community display located in the city’s Federation Square.  It runs evenings through the end of December.

Mrpackethead captured some test video clips of the tree in action.  These, I’m sure, represent only a tiny fraction of the tree’s different looks.

They even have a webcam which points toward the main area.  When I checked this link this morning, I could see the tree flashing merrily away in (nearly) real time.

If you find yourself in Melbourne this month, it’s definitely worth a visit.

More Video

Mrpackethead presents 84 strings * 42 pixels = 3,528 RGB nodes (10,584 DMX-over-ArtNet channels), synchronized and ready for a summer (down under!) yard party.

Madrix software runs on a quad core 3.4 Ghz Windows 7 beast of a computer.

Video captured with a Canon EOS 7D & 10-22mm zoom lens.

Video clip #2

2010 RGB Nodes – Video Clip Gallery

A collection of clips collected from around the Internet.

mrpackethead’s Comet Star is 5 meters (16 feet) tall and 2.5 meters wide.  Each tube uses 48 DMX channels to control 16 nodes inside a translucent waterproof enclosure.

24 strings (folded in half) makes a 48 x 21 grid of light.  Driven by Art-Net and a pair of E16 controllers.

Finally, the guys over at JS_Riddler.com (makers of some cool software which connects to an ENTTEC Pro USB dongle) sent over this demo clip:

If you’ve done something neat with your controllers and nodes, feel free to send over a link to photos, video clips and project information.

RGB Node Delivery Dates, E16 Production Photos and More.

What an amazing few weeks.

The only real way to describe interest in this project is ‘humbling.’  We’ve seen orders and inquiries pour in from around the globe.  Here’s a public ‘thank you’ for your interest and your trust.

I’ve included in this post several odds, ends & items of interest.

1.  Comment Spam

All comments on this site are held for moderation, unless something you’ve written has been previously approved.  A few days ago, this gem turned up in the queue:

My partner and I harmonise with all your data and can hungrily look forward to the following updates. Simply expressing thanks will never merely end up being enough, for the exceptional readability within your writing. I will straightaway seize your rss to keep up-to-date with all messages. Great work and much success with your business endeavors!

Sadly, it also contained links to an Internet get-rich-quick scheme, which I’ve thoughtfully deleted.

Moving on…

One of our customers sent a link to this YouTube clip.  He’s got a T3 bridge and string of RGB nodes connected to a Light-O-Rama iDMX-1000 controller:

E16 Production

The E16 Ethernet Controller went through 21 different PCB revisions before the final design was approved.  Of those 19, we ran actual circuit boards for 3 or 4.  And for each those designs, 3-4 board sets were populated and tested.

For these short runs, this was all done by hand.  Looking back on the process, it’s probably fair to estimate 3 hours per board for applying solder paste, loading components, cooking the board, then testing.

Yesterday mrpackethead snapped a few quick pictures at the factory where the E16s are now being produced.  The assembly robots (sadly, because of the factory schedule, we apparently were stuck with the slow one) churn out a panel of 3 logic boards every 4.5 minutes).


Field Installations

If you’ve already purchased nodes or controllers, we’d love to see your end results.  Feel free to add a comment to the bottom of this page with a short description, plus links to your own site, video clips or still images.  Some time in the future, we’ll condense the relevant replies into a new article.

Node & Controller Availability

In an attempt to wind down the bulk of production, shipping and tech support before December begins, we’re strongly urging that all node and controller orders be placed by Saturday, November 6.  Request a quote here, visit the online store here.

This gives us time to place our requests with the factory for more bits and pieces, should we run out of local stock.  Having played the ‘Pay FedEx a Fortune to Deliver Heavy Heavy Boxes Around the Globe at Lightning Speed’ game before, and having then been presented with the freight bill…

Note that November 6 isn’t by any means a hard deadline.  We’ll do our best to fill any order that comes in.  But life will be easier and much less expensive – for all parties – if we’re given time to work.

In Summary…

  • T3 Controller works with Light-O-Rama’s iDMX interface
  • Robots, even the slow ones, are blindingly fast
  • Send in your project photos and links
  • Order soon for best delivery



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E16 Controller Drives 16 Strings of 8-bit RGB LEDs

To simplify testing the E16 controllers, we made a simple 42 x 16  grid of holes on 2″ centers.  Backing material is a 4′ x 8′ sheet of double-thick cardboard.  The 16 strings of RGB nodes easily fit in the holes.

After configuring a Madrix patch to output four consecutive universes of Art-Net data, I grabbed this quick video clip.

The rainbow pattern runs at about 40% intensity, to avoid over-exposing the poor camera even more.

The E16 also features a Test Mode, which drives the strings with different patterns.  No ethernet connection is required.  This makes it easy to confirm basic system operation.  String #1 displays 1 red, 1 green, 1 blue and 1 white LED.  String 2 displays 2 red, 2 green, 2 blue and 2 white LEDs, etc.

E16 Test Mode - String ID Pattern

After about 10 seconds, the test mode switches to a ‘walking stripe’ pattern, where each entire string is driven in alternating red, green, blue and white colors.  On a 1 second tick, the pattern shifts from string to string.  Thus, it’s easy to confirm operation of each color on each node.

'Walking String' test pattern.

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Testing and Shipping

An enormous stack of 8-bit RGB LED Nodes

Though we’ve asked the factory to thoroughly test each string of RGB nodes before shipping them to us, I double-check that each color in each node works properly in our shop before sending them out to our end customers.

In this case, 185 strings of 42 nodes were tested today.

For them to be tested simultaneously (they weren’t, but just for fun…) the following calculations are required:

  • 185 strings x 42 nodes / string = 7,770 nodes
  • 7,770 nodes * 3 channels / node = 23,310 control channels
  • 23,310 control channels / 512 channels per universe = 45.5 DMX universes
  • 23,310 control channels * 21 mA per channel = 489.51 Amps at 5.0V DC