Anybody who has ever seen a video wall (and who hasn’t?) will be familiar with the idea of making large-scale illuminated images from individual coloured lights. But how many of us have gone the extra mile and fitted such a display in our own homes? [vcch] has done just that with his Deluxe Smart Curtain that can be controlled with a phone or laptop.
The display itself is made up of a series of Neopixel strips, hung in vertical lines in front of the window. There is a wide gap between each strip, lending a ghostly translucent look to the images and allowing the primary purpose of the window to remain intact.
The brains of the system are hosted on a low-cost M5stack atom ESP32 device. The data lines for the LEDs are wired in a zig-zag up and down pattern from left to right, which the driver software maps to the rectangular images. However, the 5V power is applied to the strips in parallel to avoid voltage drops along the chain.
If you’d like to build your own smart curtain, Arduino sketch files and PHP for the mobile interface are included on the project page. Be sure to check out the brief video of what the neighbors will enjoy at night after the break.
Don’t you just hate it when dev boards have some annoying little quirk that makes them harder to use than they should be? Take the ESP32-CAM, a board that started appearing on the market in early 2019. On paper, the thing is amazing: an ESP32 with support for a camera and an SD card, all for less than $10. The trouble is that programming it can be a bit of a pain, requiring extra equipment and a spare finger.
Not being one to take such challenges lying down, [Bitluni] has come up with a nice programming board for the ESP32-CAM that you might want to check out. The problem stems from the lack of a USB port on the ESP32-CAM. That design decision leaves users in need of a USB-to-serial adapter that has to be wired to the GPIO pins of the camera board so that programs can be uploaded from the Arduino IDE when the reset button is pressed. None of that is terribly complex, but it is inconvenient. His solution is called cam-prog, and it takes care of not only the USB conversion but also resetting the board. It does that by simply power cycling the camera, allowing sketches to be uploaded via USB. It looks to be a pretty handy board, which will be available on his Tindie store.
To demonstrate the add-on, he programmed his ESP32-CAM and connected it to his enormous ping pong ball video wall. The video quality is about what you’d expect from a 1,200 pixel display at 40 mm per pixel, but it’s still pretty smooth – smooth enough to make his interpretive dance moves in the last few minutes of the video pretty interesting.
Four times the holes, four times the trouble. With the fate of repetitive motion injury looming due to the need to drill 1,200 holes, [bitluni] took matters into his own hands and built this nifty DIY hole punch for light-gauge sheet metal.
A little backstory will probably help understand why [bitluni] needs so many holes. Back in May, he built a ping pong ball LED video wall for Maker Faire Berlin. That had 300 LEDs and came out great, but at the cost of manually drilling 300 holes in sheet steel with a hand drill. Looking to expand his wall of balls to four times the original size, [bitluni] chose to spend a few days building a punch to make the job more appealing. The business end, with solid bar stock nested inside pieces of tubing, is a great example of how much you can get done without a lathe. The tool is quite complex, with a spring-loaded pilot to help guide the punching operation. When that proved impractical, [bitluni] changed the tool design and added an internal LED to project crosshairs from inside the tool.
The tool itself is mounted into a sturdy welded steel frame that allows him to cover the whole aluminum sheet that will form the panel of his LED wall. It’s pretty impressive metalwork, especially considering this isn’t exactly in his wheelhouse. And best of all, it works – nice, clean holes with no deformation, and it’s fast, too. We’re looking forward to seeing the mega-LED wall when it’s done.
Glowing and blinking things are some of our favourite projects around these parts, and the bigger, the better. [Thomas] wrote to us recently to share the design and construction of a large LED wall at the Oregon Museum of Science, and the results are nothing short of impressive.
The concept involved a large LED wall that would be completely hidden when switched off. The team decided to approach this by hiding high-brightness LED panels using APA102 strings behind milky-white plexiglass panels covered with a woodgrain print. The screen has a total of 90,000 pixels, arranged in a 408×220 resolution display.
A lot of bespoke LED displays have some pre-coded patterns, or perhaps some basic reactive features. In this case, FPGA grunt was brought to bear on the problem and the display accepts standard HDMI input. Four Spartan 6 Mojo FPGA boards split up the task of addressing the panels, each receiving the same HDMI signal, but only crunching the pixels relevant to their area of the display. To make sure clean SPI signals get to each panel, special RS485 driver chips are used to send the signal over a differential pair from the FPGA, before breaking the signal back out to standard SPI at the destination.
One of the most popular uses for the Raspberry Pi in a commercial setting is video walls, digital signage, and media players. Chances are, you’ve probably seen a display or other glowing rectangle displaying an advertisement or tweets, powered by a Raspberry Pi. [Florian] has been working on a project called info-beamer for just this use case, and now he has something spectacular. He can display a video on multiple monitors using multiple Pis, and the configuration is as simple as taking a picture with your phone.
[Florian] created the info-beamer package for the Pi for video playback (including multiple videos at the same time), displaying public transit information, a twitter wall, or a conference information system. A while back, [Florian] was showing off his work on reddit when he got a suggestion for auto-configuration of multiple screens. A few days later, everything worked.
Right now, the process of configuring screens involves displaying fiducials on each display, taking a picture from with your phone and the web interface, and letting the server do a little number crunching. Less than a minute after [Florian] took a picture of all the screens, a movie was playing across three weirdly oriented displays.
Below, you can check out the video of [Florian] configuring three Pis and displays to show a single video, followed by a German language presentation going over the highlights of info-beamer.
On display at the PAX East gaming expo, the keys on 160 Logitech keyboards make up the “pixels” of a video wall showing a short film inspired from side-scroller video games. It’s the work of the production company iam8bit. Details on the system are scant, but we can learn a little from close observation of the video.
There’s no denying that giant video walls are awesome, but creating one usually means a fairly complex setup with either multiple computers or very expensive video cards. Now, with Pi Wall, you can make a video wall as large as your wallet will allow with only one Raspi per monitor, and a single master pi to control the whole shebang.
As long as you have a few displays with an HDMI input, it’s easy to turn them into a giant monitor. Just plug one Pi per monitor into a network switch, have a Pi (or other Linux box) transmit a video to all the video tiles, and sit back and enjoy the show.
Right now there is an installation guide for creating a Pi Wall, but there are a few limitations; this software only works with the video player provided with the Raspberry Pi, omxplayer. If you’re looking to create an enormous display for a flight simulator or what have you, you might need to do a bit of tinkering under the hood.