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What is Pixelblaze?

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Pixelblaze is an advanced LED pattern development engine. It makes it fast and fun to write new patterns with its web-based live editor and highly optimized expression engine. Pixelblaze can store dozens of patterns and lets you write new ones by entering mathematical expressions that update live as you type. No more time consuming compile, upload, test cycles! Pixelblaze is optimized for speed and can produce hundreds of frames per second for extremely smooth animations.

Pixelblaze uses APA102 LEDs (aka DotStar) exclusively. These LEDs are state-of-the-art and provide rock solid updates, faster refresh cycles, and the possibility of a dynamic range well beyond 0-255.

How Does it Work?

Pixelblaze has WiFi built-in and serves up a web page with a pattern list and pattern editor. Changes in the editor are compiled on the fly and updated in Pixelblaze so you can see your changes live.

On the chip, the LED pattern engine uses high speed fixed point math and pipelines data to the LED strip while the next pixel is being calculated. Frame rates of several hundred frames per second are possible, yet the engine can generate patterns for arbitrarily long strips of LEDs (at a reduced frame rate).

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Pixelblaze has an HDR color mode that can produce incredibly high dynamic range of intensities. This means patterns can still look beautiful at very low light settings, adds subtle tones between transitions, and can be driven with a range that is not possible on other LEDs and is not available in most LED driver libraries.

 
 

Why Pixelblaze?

I created Pixelblaze because I wanted a better, faster way to write patterns for LED strips. I've used dedicated LED controllers and microcontrollers like Arduino, and I always felt that the compile, upload, and test iteration was cumbersome. Getting fast frame rates meant using cumbersome fixed-point math libraries as most of microcontrollers are much slower when working on floating-point numbers. 

It was designed to be embeddable and integrated into LED art pieces, and a button (or other input) can be connected to cycle through patterns. Because it's 100% programmed over WiFi, the pattern can be written or updated AFTER it has been installed without needing to attach any cables.

If you've used Arduino to generate patterns for LED strips you'll appreciate the live compiler and lightning fast fixed point math engine.

Who Can Use Pixelblaze?


Pixelblaze is easy to use, and can be used as a pattern selector without any math. Out of the box, or embedded in a art piece, Pixelblaze is usable by anyone.

Pixelblaze really shines in the hands of someone that is familiar with programming and is comfortable writing mathematical expressions in a C-like syntax. If you are already doing this with a microcontroller, Pixelblaze was made for you.
 

 
 

Specs

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  • ESP8266 @ 160MHz
  • Powered by micro-USB (1.8A pass-through) or 5v back-feed from the strip
  • 3.3v Regulator for the ESP8266
  • Level shifters to drive APA102, APA102C, DotStar
  • 5mm screw terminal for attaching LED strip with 5V, data, clock, and ground
  • Can drive LEDs at anything from 500khz to 20MHz (selectable)
  • Preloaded with dozens of patterns and examples
  • 3MB of pattern storage can hold dozens of patterns with previews
  • One input with pull-up for changing patterns or entering WiFi setup mode
  • All IO necessary for loading new firmware are broken out to a header, so you can load your own firmware if you prefer.