ESP-8266 Art-Net NeoPixel module

As explained in a previous post, for the EEGsynth we want to use a neopixel array that can be controlled wirelessly using the DMX512 protocol. I purchased a number of Adafruit neopixel rings with 12, 16 and 24 elements respectively. Each RGBW pixel contains a red, green, blue and white LED. For the 24-pixel ring that means that there are in total 4*24=96 LEDs of which the intensity can be set.

The ESP-8266 module is a versatile WiFi module that comes in many versions. During development I especially like the NodeMCU version, which mounts the ESP-12 module on a development board with USB connection, and the even smaller Wemos D1 mini board. The Wemos D1 mini is hardly more expensive on Ebay than the simpler bare-bone ESP-8266 modules.

The hardware connection is simple: I connected Vcc and GND directly to the Wemos D1 mini board, and connected pin D2 to the data-in of the first pixel. Although the Neopixels are specified for 5V, in my experience the Adafruit rings also work fine at 3.3V, both for power and for the serial control signal. Each LED can take up to 20 mA when fully bright, which means that all LEDs of the 24-pixel RGBW ring can take up to 24*4*20 = 1920 mA, or close to 2 A. However, not all LEDs will be at full intensity at the same time, and driving them with 3.3V rather than 5V further reduces the current. I encountered no issues powering them over the USB port of my MacBook.

For the EEGsynth we want to map a small number of control signals to aesthetically pleasing light effects. E.g. it can control the hue, the frequency with which the array flashes, or the speed with which a bright bar rotates along the ring.

I implemented the firmware as an Arduino sketch that combines a number of features. It incorporates ConfigManager for the OTA (over-the-air) configuration of the WiFi network to which it should connect. Once connected to the local wifi network, he ConfigManager also allows updating specific settings in EEPROM over a POST call to a specific URL. Settings include the number of pixels of the attached Neopixel array, whether they are RGB or RGBW, and most importantly: the mode with which the controller maps the control signals onto the LED behaviour.

The firmware listens to the Artnet protocol messages that it receives as UDP packets. The Artnet packets can be sent by the EEGsynth outputartnet module, but also by general purpose Artnet software, such as JV Lightning DmxControl, LightKey or QLC+.

The first mode that I implemented allows for full control of all LEDs. It maps the DMX512 channels like this

mode 0: individual pixel control
channel 1 = pixel 1 red
channel 2 = pixel 1 green
channel 3 = pixel 1 blue
channel 4 = pixel 1 white
channel 5 = pixel 2 red
etc.

The simplest overall uniform color mode is implemented like this:

mode 1: single uniform color
channel 1 = red
channel 2 = green
channel 3 = blue
channel 4 = white
channel 5 = intensity

This allows 3 channels (for RGB) or 4 channels (for RGBW) to control the color, and one channel to control the intensity. The intensity channel is in principle redundant, but makes the control much easier.

I implemented many more modes, including blinking/flashing of one or two colors, segments that can be moved over the ring (of which the color and position can be controlled), segments that automatically move around the ring (of which the color and speed can be controlled). The modes are all documented in code and in the README document included with the Arduino sketch in my Github repository.

The video below demonstrates one of the modes, controlled by the launchcontrolXL module of the EEGsynth. This shows the ESP-8266 Artnet neopixel module connected both to a 24-pixel Neopixel ring, and to a 144-pixel LED strip. I will document the hardware details of the LED strip in a follow up post.

On my YouTube channel you can find more examples, including a special Christmas tree mode 😉