What your new apartment really needs is an upgrade to that beaded curtain - why not liven it up with a massive ~1,500-LED* NeoPixel curtain? NeoPixels + Raspberry Pi + Fadecandy == AWESOME!

* (technically, its 1440 LEDs but you can make your curtain any # you want!)
This project will show you how you too can build this massive and enjoyable flexible display. If you're interested in any other kind of large-scale NeoPixel project, this guide will help with all your detailed questions with Phil Burgess' hard-earned tips and techniques.
The curtain is powered by a massive 5V brick supply, a Raspberry Pi Model B+ and three Fadecandy NeoPixel driver boards! You can display any kind of images, video, or effects thanks to the wireless server system. Data is beamed from your desktop to the curtain over WiFi to the Pi server.
Fadecandy is a powerful NeoPixel driver designed by Micah from Scanlime. Calling Fadecandy “a NeoPixel driver” is only half the picture. It’s a combination of hardware and software working together to create subtle, expressive LED art, far more nuanced than the usual frenetic blinky rainbow fade.

Fadecandy is:

  • Scalable. Each board drives up to 512 NeoPixels (8 chains of 64 pixels); add more boards for more pixels. Massive installations become practical.
  • Open source hardware, software and protocols. Program in your “native tongue”…Processing, C, Python…
  • USB-connected, offloading the low-level task of NeoPixel communication; the host computer is free to dwell on art and animation, not shuffling and timing bits. A client/server architecture can further spread the task on a network — one system synthesizing visuals, another working with the USB devices.
  • Designed with visual quality in mind. Temporal dithering provides smoother colors. Gamma and color balance can be finely adjusted.

We’ll demonstrate Fadecandy’s flexibility rather literally, with a hanging “soft” NeoPixel array containing nearly 1,500 pixels (1,440, to be specific). It’s programmed using the Processing environment on our favorite laptop on a WiFi network, with a Raspberry Pi computer as a go-between.

Here Be Dragons

Rawr. This is a “Skill Level 5” project* — one requiring a heap of tools and techniques that only come with lots of prior making.

It’s not quite a step-by-step guide. There remains a lot of hand-waving…gaps that can only be filled by your own improvised methods. Adafruit doesn’t offer all of the parts shown; you need your own resources. And it’s expensive. And there’s risk.

Our goal was a dramatic NeoPixel/Fadecandy showcase project. Maybe you won’t build one of these exactly. It’s here to fuel your own ideas!

* We don’t really have a numeric skill level system…it’s a nod to the Estes model rockets of my youth. Attempting a rocket project far beyond one’s experience usually ended in heartbreak. If this looks too daunting, we have lots of other NeoPixel projects that are much more approachable!

Some of the elsewhere components include:
  • Scary bigass 5V DC power supply
  • Heavy-gauge copper wire
  • Fuse holders, 25A fuses
  • Heat-shrink tubing: 1/2" clear, plus several smaller sizes
  • Lumber, fasteners, adhesives, acrylic
Tools include:
  • Quality soldering iron
  • Multimeter (w/continuity test mode)
  • Heat gun
  • Woodworking tools (e.g. bandsaw, sander)
  • Safety glasses, fire extinguisher, common sense
Sources for parts have included:
  • Online electronic/industrial distributors (Mouser, Jameco, etc.)
  • Craft store
  • Auto parts store
  • Well-stocked independent hardware store
  • Electronic/industrial surplus store
These lists (and the featured products at right) don’t cover everything. Read through, I may have missed some items, or you might have ideas for substitutes of your own.

This guide was first published on Aug 11, 2014. It was last updated on Mar 08, 2024.

This page (Overview) was last updated on Jun 30, 2014.

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