Hackerspace light wall plays video at 30 fps


The folks at The Quad Cities Collaboration and Hackerspace (QC Co-Lab) were trying to find something to build for their first big project, and had to look no further than the wall for inspiration. The north end of their facility is home to a huge 15×17 glass block wall that happens to face a well-traveled roadway.

They decided that turning the wall into a huge LED display would be a great way to attract attention from passers-by, so they picked up some GE Color Effects lights and got down to business. Once they found out that the technical college next door was putting on an open house, the race was on to get the light display assembled as quickly as possible to maximize their exposure.

The team mounted the 255 LEDs in vacuum-formed reflective cones, which were attached to wooden frames before being installed behind the glass wall. An Arduino drives the entire display at a smooth 30 frames per second, a task they say tests the very limits of the board’s capabilities.

They finished the job in time for the open house, and as you can see in the video below, the display looks great.

Nice job QC-Co-Lab!


  1. Graham says:

    Oh man, I got rickrolled by a hackerspace. D’oh.

  2. Vonskippy says:

    What was it supposed to be – even with my glasses on all I saw was a big swirly blob of color?

  3. Siosilvar says:


  4. Cyril says:

    15×15 pixels….
    Arduino FTW!!1!

  5. Havel says:

    Nyan cat ftw! :D Nice!

  6. hpux735 says:

    It would be much easier to see the video if they used some gamma correction. There simply isn’t enough contrast between the adjacent colors with the hypnotoad and dear old Rick

  7. blah says:

    Neat! But how do they get the whole building to rotate like that?

  8. Graham says:

    Is it just me or does it look like there are spots for 2 more rows at the top that are unlit?

    • aarku says:

      Yeah it says it’s 15×17 but only 15×15 are lit for some reason.

      • Phil says:

        We’ve been too lazy to cut-solder-seal the last string of lights. And the vacuum-sealer has been kinda burny. All in all though, it’s laziness. I’ve been (not) working on connecting zigbees to the thing so I can play tetris on it.

      • DKP says:

        The wall is physically 15×17. Due to pin and programming limits, the display will run at 15×16 max. At the time of filming, the bottom two rows were pulled out to fix some wiring and a small structural issue.

        In its complete form, the display is shifted up two rows, with the bottom most row black.

  9. Hirudinea says:

    This setup would look great on a Christmas Tree, well next year anyway.

  10. kevin says:

    Oh, I thought he was harvesting power from marshmallow peeps…

  11. Now if it was legal to blast the audio for Nyan Cat over and over outside… I would pull over for that. The display looks great!

  12. Pilotgeek says:

    Full motion video on a 16mhz arduino? Bah, they got full motion video working on an 8088 IBM PC:


  13. heatgap says:

    The guys over at my local space Hive13 did this with an arduino on a much smaller scale. This light wall is epic! Sure they could fiddle with the contrast to make the videos clearer but honestly if I had just built a huge epic lightwall that remotely worked I’d be plopping it on youtube as fast as I could. I’m sure they will tweak it guys!

  14. supershwa says:

    Heh that was Nyan Cat or Shrodinger’s? :p

    Pretty cool work guys.

  15. mmalluck says:

    @ Phil: Did you consider upgrading to an arduino mega? It’ll give you some additional serial buses you can use with the zigbee. I’m debating doing the very same thing for my set-up.

    The code you guys provided is going to be very helpful. Hats off to you guys!

  16. Sharon Kay says:

    This is so cool! What a great way to catch some attention!! I’m with another hackerspace that told me about this … I’m voting for you guys!

  17. Nitin Gadia says:

    a shout out from Ames :)

    How much did this cost?
    What is the cost of lighting it? I assume it’s just a few watts for the lights themselves?

    Also, check this out:


    – make sure you see the person’s latest version :)

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