Water Bottle Lite Bright

The Lite Brite in use at the CLC conference

The Lite Brite in use at the CLC conference

In April this year, Watermark hosted the Church Leaders Conference, and our team executed the craziest set design we’ve ever attempted: a fully functioning, low resolution LED wall made from 6,912 water bottles and WS2812 LEDs. The design itself was simple enough; the execution was extremely challenging. There are pros and cons to this entire process, but I hope this is helpful in case you’re ever crazy enough to try something like this.

Warning: dry details ahead. Skip past this if you’re just looking for the pretty pictures.

The final product is two side walls 24’w by 8’h and one center wall 32’w by 12’h. The walls consist of 24 panels measuring roughly 4’x8′ and containing 288 water bottles each; 12 panels for the center and 6 for each side. The panels are made from 1×4’s and 1/8″ MDF with holes for the bottles on one side and the caps on the other. Each water bottle (held in place with hot glue on the cap) has a WS2812 LED fastened at the cap with staples. The cap acts as a diffuser, and we sprayed the bottom of each bottle with Rust-Oleum Frosted Glass to catch the light. Pixlite controllers receive artnet from an Arkaos media server and send data to each LED. Arkaos has an LED Mapper feature that will take a video and scale it to fit an LED array. That will probably need to be another post all on its own.

Recommendations:

  • Use a CNC. It took 4 guys 2.5 hours to cut holes by hand for half a panel (front and back) for our test rig. In contrast, the CNC did full panels in less than an hour.
  • Make your panels 17wx10h pixels. A universe of DMX accommodates 170 pixels, and a 17×10 grid also makes a 1.7 ratio. I can’t tell you how much time this would have saved me in addressing and configuration vs the 24×12 grids we made.
  • Plan for tons of time. CNC cutting the panels took just under one hour to cut a front and back panel. Plan accordingly; this will not come together overnight.
  • Don’t do this to save money. While a prebuilt wall this size would be extremely expensive, time is also very expensive. We did this as an illustration and got a low-res LED wall as a side effect.

Before I hit “post”, I need to mention community and thank Nick Rivero and Seth Thiesen. Both of these guys were a huge help and fielded questions as I set up Arkaos. If you don’t know other church tech guys, join something like CTLN or just start following some guys on twitter. Go to Leadlab or just visit another church. You can do this stuff alone, but why would you? If you’re in Dallas, message me on twitter, and let’s grab a burger.

*iPhone pictures don’t quite capture this, but I hope these are helpful. Enjoy.