Introduction

Author Gravatar Image M. SCOTT
Individually addressable LEDs are everywhere. In the quest for a smaller, cheaper, smarter LED, the latest and hottest technology is the NeoPixel, AdaFruit's term for the WS2812. This is an amazing little chip that integrates red, green, and blue LEDs with a controller chip into a single package.

NeoPixels are inexpensive, bright, easy to use, and you can use them to build projects of almost any size. They show up in costumes, sculptures, vehicles, and signs. The saturated colors and frenetic blinking of these lights can be hard to escape at parties and festivals.
These LEDs are capable of so much more. I believe that LED lighting can be nuanced, with wide ranges of brightness from blindingly intense to barely visible, saturated hues to subtle off-white. Getting this range of expression from LEDs can be super tricky, especially when the only tool you have at your disposal is the Arduino IDE.

Fadecandy is a project that tries to solve this problem, by making LED art both easier to build and more expressive. At the core of the project is the Fadecandy Controller, a tiny board that lets you control up to 512 NeoPixels (as 8 strands of 64) from any computer or embedded Linux board with USB. It includes unique color dithering and interpolation algorithms to get the most out of each pixel.

Fadecandy works with any WS2811 or WS2812 LEDs, and you can program your LEDs using many different environments. This tutorial covers one particular LED module and one particular programming environment. We'll be programming an 8x8 NeoMatrix in the Processing language.

You'll be doing some programming and some basic electronics assembly. If you aren't familiar with programming or electronics yet, don't worry- there are plenty of tutorials on learn.adafruit.com to help you if you get stuck, and you might even find someone near you who would love to help you get started.
Last updated on 2014-04-05 at 07.22.31 PM Published on 2013-11-20 at 07.16.06 PM