“Have you ever driven around your neighborhood during the Christmas season, to observe all the wonderful lighting displays neighbors have put up, and come across those houses whose lights are synchronized to music?(If not, you should really check out some of the awesome videos of light-show houses on YouTube! You can check out mine too!) I’ve always wondered how I could make a light-show like those houses, and I’ve finally discovered the “secrets of the trade.”
There are a few different components that go into making a really high-quality light-show on your house, and in this instructable I will be focusing on one essential part: the LED lights themselves. While many light-show makers use LED panels/matrices and “mega-trees” to display complex effects, I decided to take a more minimalistic approach and create simple vertical LED bars that can be easily stuck into the ground using stakes.
I chose this design because I wanted to be able to really create emphasis between the different columns rather than having them blend together on one panel, so that I could create cool lighting effects where the light flies up each “stake” in sequence across the lawn. This effect is somewhat hard to describe, so I’ve attached a .gif to show you what I mean.
NOTE: These “stake-lights” as I call them are intended to be used with other components of a DIY light-show, but they may be used stand-alone as well.
Before you begin building these lights, it is a good idea to get familiar with the idea behind the control of WS2812B lights, as well as the DMX and E1.31 protocols.
DMX stands for digital multi-plex. It is a lighting control protocol that is composed of “universes” of individual channels of data, where each channel has a value ranging from 0 to 255 and each universe is composed of 512 channels. DMX is commonly used in stage-lighting setups, but it is also useful for controlling individual pixels in more advanced lighting set-ups, such as the one I will show you how to build in this instructable.
E1.31 (also known as sACN, or streaming ACN) is a standard designed by ANSI (American National Standards Institute) to allow networks of lighting devices to communicate with each other wirelessly. E1.31 is a 2016 follow-up to ANSI’s E1.17 standard which was originally published in 2010. Basically, E1.31 is a protocol for transferring DMX-512 packets of channels over a network.
WS2812B LED Strips are composed of individual pixels of LEDs, each with a red, green, and blue light emitter, which are individually addressable, meaning that they can each be set to a different RGB color value, instead of all the LEDs on the strip having to always be the same color. This individual addressability is accomplishing by incorporating tiny computer chips into each LED pixel. These WS2812B LED Strips can be chopped and rearranged because each pixel receives data for the entire rest of the LED chain. The first pixel receives data for the entire string of LEDs, reads the data intended for it, displays the corresponding RGB value, and outputs the rest of the data (for all the pixels after it) to the next pixel.
The reason why I decided to incorporate all these different communication protocols is because I wanted to be able to use these WS2812B lights in a light-show, controllable and pre-programmed from a computer. The computer can output E1.31 data (which contains DMX data) to devices on the same network. The ESP8266 Wi-Fi board can pick up this data, read the DMX data from it, and then convert that DMX data into a signal which the WS2812B LED Strip can understand.
All that said, let’s get into it!”