Technical and Artistic

Custom LED Design

7 Lessons Intermediate

About this course

Watch the original video from YouTube for the inspiration, basic plan and how-to.

Specifics - Building the Frames

These particular frames are about 1m x .5m for the larger box, and .5m by .2m for the smaller box.  Of course, that is scaled for a small studio, so I would probably build them larger for a "real" stage.  On the horizontal, I left a few centimeters of extra length so that the strips would land in the middle of the wood, which is made from simple 1x2 furring strips.

I used meters to measure because LED tape is generally sold in 5m rolls, so using meters is the most efficient and easy way to not waste tape!

I used scrap blocks to connect the horizontals and verticals from the back.  There are many ways to attach wood together, but this is fast, cheap, and when we paint it all black and stand 20+ feet away, nobody will see it!

Specifics - The LED's

For this project I used a cheaper LED tape from BTF LED on Amazon.  The tape in stock at the time was 12v tape with 30 LED's per meter and 10 pixels per meter (each controllable pixel = 3 LED's).  

Having less pixels can be both good and bad.  Sure, you don't get control of each "dot" of light...but you also use 1/3 of the control channels, and from 20+ feet away, it may not be noticeable!

It's a waterproof tape, so it doesn't have any adhesive backing (boo), so I used small strips of mounting tape to attach them to the set.

Parts list:

Total cost: depends a lot on your size of stage, but I estimate a full-size 2-tier box to be about

  • 5m LED's - $20
  • Wood - $6
  • Wire, connectors, adhesive, etc: $10

$36 + Your choice of pixel controller.  Could be cheaper with non-pixel tape, etc.

Assembly and Soldering Notes:

  • Like all projects, be careful to line up the LED's between sides of the boxes.
  • Take note of where your wires come/leave each box, and be consistent with it!

If I Had To Do It Again:

There are a few things that I would change.  

  • I would strongly consider using square pixel nodes or another non-tape pixel product, as these are WAY easier to work with.
  • I may consider doing a LED strip connector at each corner, rather than connecting the corners with bare wire.  This would allow me to take apart this design and re-use the individual strips (mounted on the wood) in another design.
  • Technically, for LED strips you should mount them on some sort of metal substrate (like "Trim Channel" from a hardware store).  But, these are super-cheap pixels, so I don't really care, and they're cheap enough to throw out if there are issues.

Got questions? Let us know in the forums!

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Course Structure

Why Even Use Custom LED On Your Shows?

Begin with this lesson to learn some of the pros and cons of using custom LED products in your show:

"Dumb" RGB LED's or "Smart" pixel LED's?

Now that we've figured out that we do want to use custom LED's in our lighting, which type of LED should you choose?

Working with "Dumb" RGB LED Tape

Follow these videos to learn how to work with "Dumb" RGB or RGBW/A LED's.

Working with Pixel Tape

Here comes the fun part!  Working with pixels is now less expensive than it's ever been, and it's a whole lot of fun.  Here is the complete guide as to what you need, and how to make it all work together!

Configuring Pixel Products

Last, we've got an appendix of sorts, to show you how to configure some of the interfaces I've covered in this action plan.   Definitely worth checking out before you buy!