Rather than rely on existing graphics libraries, [en0b] set about using a high-quality GIF for the animation. The original file was 8 MB, which was far too big to fit on the Pico. After some finagling in an image editor and with the help of a custom Python script, however, [en0b] managed to fit the 127-frame animation at 240 x 135 resolution into the 2 MB Flash onboard the chip. With the microcontroller hooked up to the 1.14″ IPS “Pico Display” from Pimoroni, the final looks great and faithfully recreates the aesthetic seen in the film.
[en0b]’s technique could reliably be used for displaying any GIF that you can cut down to 14 to 16 colors without losing too much quality. It’s not the world’s highest-end graphics format, but it does the job for little animations like these.
We’ve seen similar builds before too, using more heavy-duty hardware to build a magic 8-ball in much the same way. Meanwhile, if you’ve got your own neat little GIF hacks or Pico projects, don’t hesitate to send them in!
In place of the normal clear window in his PC case, [Will] has mounted a black acrylic sheet that has had all of the “code” characters laser-cut from it. Behind that is an array of WS2812B LED strips, nestled into vertically aligned channels that keep the light from bleeding out horizontally. A sheet of frosted plastic is sandwiched between the two, which helps diffuse the light so the individual LEDs aren’t as visible.
All of the LEDs are connected to a NodeMCU ESP8266 by way of a 74AHCT125 level-shifter, though [Will] notes you could certainly use a different microcontroller with some tweaks to the code. As it stands, the user selects from various lighting patterns using two potentiometers and a button that have been mounted next to the panel. But if you were so inclined, it certainly wouldn’t take much to adapt the firmware so that the lighting effects could be triggered from the PC.
There’s going to be a new Matrix movie in theaters next month, and you know what that means: we’re about to see a whole new generation get obsessed with the franchise’s iconic “Digital Rain” effect. Thanks to modern advertisement technology, expect to see lines of glittering text pouring down the displays of everything from billboards to gas pumps pretty soon.
For those of us who’ve just been looking for an excuse to break out the old Matrix screensavers, you might as well get a jump on things using this handy Arduino library for the ESP8266 and ESP32. Developed by [Eric Nam], it lets you start up a digital rainstorm on displays supported by the TFT_eSPI library as easily as running digitalRainAnim.loop().
You can even install the library through the Arduino IDE, just open the Library Manager and search for “Digital Rain” to get started. You’ve still got to hook the display up to your microcontroller, but come on, [Eric] can’t do it all for you.
Looking at the examples, it seems like various aspects of the animation like color and speed can be configured by initializing the library with different values. Unfortunately we’re not seeing much in the way of documentation for this project, but by comparing the different examples, you should be able to get the high points.