Looking back on my blog, I realized it is lacking in tutorials. One I’ve wanted to share for some time is about LED pixel mapping. It’s less expensive than you may think, and easy (mostly).
Over the years, prices have dropped, more information has become available, and the software has gotten so good, that there’s no reason not to try it. In this tutorial, I will try to give you a crash course into LED pixel mapping with three popular softwares. Mad Mapper, VDMX & Resolume. At the bottom of the page are links for future reading. There are plenty of awesome ways to do this, think of the tutorial below as one of them. Leon, a.k.a. @Wow_elec_tron on Instagram shares a great bit of information about LED pixel mapping with ESP8266 boards / battery powered wearables.
LEDs, what you need to know.
Addressable vs Non-addressable: Addressable means you can control them individually.
Voltages: They usually come in 5V, 12V or 24V. 5V is great for wearables (battery powered). 12V is great all around (you most likely have a 12V power supply lying around already / think external hard drive power supplies). 24V is great for longer runs. A lot of industrial lighting is 24V to avoid injecting power more often.
Power injection: If you start with fewer LEDs and a decent power supply, you should be fine. LEDs draw power, and the more LEDs you have running the more power they will pull. Eventually you will run out, or if the run is too long, the power will drop off at some point. So we say “inject power” (youtube video about it) to add more juice. Most LED manufacturers will say add power at the beginning and end to be safe. If you notice your LEDs are off color or flickering when testing, you’ll want to whip out a multi-meter and figure out what’s going on.
Technology to get started
- 5 Meter roll of WS2811 12V RGB LEDs: ~$15-$21 (Other LED types available).
- Advatek Pixlite 4 MK II: $129.
- Ethernet Router: ~$20 + Ethernet Cables: ~$10
- 12V 6A Power Supply: ~16
- DC barrel plug(s) or adapter: $~10 I like these 18AWG ones: Amazon If you want to use your own wire: Aliexpress DC or / and Aliexpress DC
Wiring the PixLite is easy. Everything you need to know is printed on the circuit board. See the white box that reads “Output Pinout” at the top. It shows | + | Ck | Dat | Gnd |. Run the wires from your LEDs so that the + (5V, 12V, 24V) goes to the plus. You can ignore Ck the clock for now. Dat (or Data) sometime Do on the LED strip. And finally ground or Gnd ( or sometimes written as ( – ). I take the Red, Green, and White wires from my 3 pin JST SM connector (usually included when buying a 5 meter roll), and with a tiny flat head screw driver, I tighten them into place.
Then there is the + and – that goes into the Pixlite from my 12V power supply.
You can check the polarity on the back of the power supply.
Before you plug in the barrel plugs of the 12V DC power supply to the Pixlite, lets download the Advatek Assistant to your Mac or PC: https://www.advateklights.com/resources/download-category/software/
Make sure your computer is connected to the router (wifi or ethernet; Ethernet is preferred). The Pixlite should be connected to the router via ethernet.
Plug in the DC barrel connectors. LEDs on the pixlite should flicker. The LEDs need not be plugged in at this point.
In the assistant click on refresh adapters. From the drop down, select the network the pixlite is connected to. For example, my home network (wifi) is 192.168.1.69, but the router for the pixlite is 192.168.8.60.
After selecting the correct network, click “Search”
My Pixlite IP is 192.168.8.46, Firmware V2.0.25. Double click on the listed controller.
A pop-up window should now give you control over the device. You can update the firmware, change the types of LEDs, execute test patterns, and more.
To start, I am going to click on Control, and make sure my Ethernet Protocol is set to ArtNet. Then I will go to LEDs and change the Pixel IC to WS2811. The rest I can leave as default for now.
Click OK, and the pixlite should save these settings and restart.
After it restarts, I like to unplug the power to the Pixlite entirely, then plug in the LED connector. Notice that LED strips have an arrow on them showing the correct direction. Also, 12V (or +) Do (data) or Ground (GND, – ) should match what is going into the Pixlite.
I plug the LEDs into OP1 and then hold the Fact IP button on the pixlite for 3 seconds. This triggers a test pattern.
If you’ve wired the LEDs correctly, and the connection is good, then the LEDs will light up and cycle through RGBW. You can change this pattern with the Advatek Assistant.
Now Open up Madmapper, Resolume, or VDMX. (Note: I recommend reading through all of these even if you’re only interested in a particular software. There might be something written in one that will help you in another.)
Goto Madmapper > Preferences. DMX Output. Set the Output Device to ArtNet and choose the correct Interface (for example, mine is 192.168.8.60)
If you are loading up a project for a second time and it says “Offline” next to the status for you device, click “Clear Offline” and see if it updates. Without a static IP or dedicated router, your Pixlite might change IP addresses and Madmapper is holding onto the previous defaults from your saved project.
When done click OK and navigate to the Madlight Tab (It looks like a lightbulb) From there click on the DMX+ Icon.
This will create a fixture. Your LEDs might light up, but we still have more configuring to take care of first.
If I set my Fixture Library to Generic – Pixel RGB. You may discover that your colors are wrong. It is very common for RGB LED strips to work in a different order, BGR GRB, etc. We can either change this in the madmapper fixture editor, or with the Advatek Assistant (LEDs > change RGB Order). If I am using the same setup over and over, I’ll use the assistant, but if I’m switching out various types of LEDs, I’ll change it in Madmapper.
Here, I’ll do it in Madmapper, because I also need to update this fixture to match my LED strip length.
Where it says “Fixture Library” click Edit.
Click + to create a new fixture. (You can try others, or this one I’ve exported for you: 5 Meter WS2811 BRG.mmfl) Either way it is good to understand how to change it.
In my case, this WS2811 Strip turned out to be BRG. I can do this quickly by watching the pixlite test pattern, but if need be, try switching the color output on the LEDs (Source something green and if it is green, something red, etc.. Then change the color order until you get it right. Have faith and you’ll figure it out.
The other thing to note is that I changed the Pixel width from 252 to 100. Even though there are 300 LEDs on this 5 meter strip of WS2811, this type of LED strip controls the LEDs in groups of 3 at a time. 300/3 = 100. If you want more control over LEDs, there are other strip designs that let you control 1 pixel at a time.
If I select my fixture and change my material on the right side from Checkerboard to Line, I should see the new light pattern move across my LEDs. If the Pixel Width of the LED fixture is wrong (too short, or too long) then it won’t be a smooth transition from one end of the LEDs to another.
I saved this as an example project if needed: ExampleWS2811LEDProject.mad
Open VDMX, click templates from the top toolbar > simple video mixer. (Or pretty much any template).
Now click on VDMX5 in the top menu bar and open up Preferences. Select DMX and make sure ArtNet network is selected. Make sure the Output (Sending) ports are correct. I had to change mine from Universe 7 to 0 because that’s where my controller starts. Close the window.
Now, click in the top bar: Window > Workspace Manager.
Navigate to Plugins and click on the + in the bottom window. Select “Video to DMX”
I set my pixels per universe to 100 to match these LEDs, and the Output Dims to 100 X 1. The Pixlite can support more pixels per universe and you can configure the output dimensions however you like, but this should give us the same effect that we had before with the defaults in madmapper.
Drag and drop a video clip into the media bin or for a test pattern try to use something controllable such as ISF Lines: https://www.interactiveshaderformat.com/sketches/3179
Notice that VDMX only has RGB as an option, so if you need to change the color order, do it on the PixLite controller with the Assistant software.
Here’s an example VDMX project. (I think you need to own a software license to open it). VDMX Video to LED example.vdmx5
In top menu go to: Output > Advanced
Click the plus ( + ) sign to create a new DMX Lumiverse Output. Click on the fixture editor (I’ve included a pre-made fixture for resolume included in the project file .zip below), but it’s simple to make your own. Click the + type in a name, make the pixel width 100, Height 1, Color Space BRG and leave the rest default. Hit close.
Resolume> Preferences > DMX Preferences, click New Output. Here I am manually entering the IP address of 192.168.8.46 . Select the Lumiverse
Load in an FFGL source such as Lines and see if your LEDs light up. 🙂
Resolume project file and Fixture: ResolumeWS2811
Types of LEDs:
- Australian Christmas Lighting forum, lots of info on different LEDs and controllers: https://auschristmaslighting.com/
- Resolume tutorial written by Leon: https://resolume.com/support/en/diy-pixel-lab
- LED strip ratings: