The Pixblasters Video LED Controller

Alasdair Allan
a year ago

There are a few tools that pretty much every maker has in their tool box. We all have an Arduino or two on the shelf waiting for the next project. It’s also pretty likely that we might have a roll of NeoPixels or two stashed away for emergencies.

The WS212B-based LED strips have become an almost ubiquitous solution when flashing coloured lights are needed. Despite this, it can be hard to connect large numbers of them together into a single display, which is where the Pixblasters MS1 video controller board might come in handy.

Similar to other controller boards we’ve seen before, the board is FPGA-based. Interestingly, however, it’s been designed to look like an ordinary monitor to the host computer, which means you can connect it to a normal laptop, or single-board computer like the Raspberry Pi, and drive up to 16,384 LEDs at 60 fps without any programming or soldering.

That also means that the LED ‘display’ can be used to show anything that a normal computer monitor can without much effort. It’s not a unique capability by any means, but it’s interesting to see it being made available off the shelf.

“Multiple MS1 controllers can be easily chained to drive immense video displays built of hundreds of thousands of perfectly synchronized LEDs. The MS1 displays any visual content with absolutely no programming required, and with no burden on the driving computer that is free to run digital signage players, media players, and other software at the full speed. The LED displays controlled by the Pixblasters MS1 can be remotely managed by the Digital Signage software anywhere in the world.”

While there is no pricing or availability information on the board quite yet, if you’re interested in keeping track of the project, it is coming soon to Crowd Supply.

UPDATE: The Pixblaster is now live on Crowd Supply priced at $219 with free shipping inside the United States, and an extra $15 for world wide shipping.

fpgahardwareled lighting
Alasdair Allan
Scientist, author, hacker, maker, and journalist. Building, breaking, and writing. For hire. You can reach me at 📫 alasdair@babilim.co.uk.
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