RGB LED Panel Magic

Some time back I got some of these SparkFun LED panels. I hooked one up to an Arduino and got impressive results, although just driving the pixels took pretty much all the power that the Arduino had. I had this plan to use a Parallax Propeller chip or maybe something from Xmos to create a fast moving animated display. But I never got around to it.

Then I found out about the SmartMatrix Shield for the Teensy 3.1 device. This sorts out all the wiring and power supply issues (all you need is something that can spit out 5 volts at a couple of amps). The Teensy is a quite amazing machine. It pops a 72Mhz processor with 64K of RAM and 260K of ROM onto a platform the size of an Arduino Pro. The development tools integrate straight into the Arduino environment and the deployment to the device works wonderfully, far better than a "proper" Arduino.

TodayI set about building my display. Everything fits into an 8 inch picture frame that I got from HobbyCraft.

You can see it all above. The Teensy and the SmartMatrix Shield are at the bottom of the picture. I've also attached an SD card and an IR receiver that allows remote control of the display.  There's a really good set of step-by-step instructions on the AdaFruit site. I designed and printed some corner brackets to position the panel inside the frame, you can get them from Thingiverse here.

The Teensy runs the Aurora software which is completely wonderful. it produces some really lovely displays. I've had to hack it slightly to get it to work with a remote control I happened to have lying around. The display is excellent, and photographs just can't do it justice.

One other nice surprise was that I did all this on my old Surface Pro that is now running Windows 10. It took all these strange programs and usb devices in its stride and just worked. I'm looking forward to adding some more visualisations and searching down some animated gifs to play on the device.