Precise prototyping tool for LEDs?

Hi guys, I am looking for a software program that will allow me to easily create a precise mock up of LED sequences. For example: pulsing, dimming, animation with 8+ LEDs…etc. The output needs to be precise, probably down to the millisecond, so we can provide exactly what we want to the coders.

I think flash could work, but I was looking for some thing that may be more intuitive and not as heavy on coding.

Any ideas on software that might work?


Sounds like something that would be easier to do in real life with an Arduino where you can program to the specific ms.

With any type of frame by frame animation tool you are ultimately going to be rendering it to 30 or 60fps.

The proper way to provide this would be to create an animation to validate for yourselves, and then provide the technical documentation as a graph/waveform with time/voltage or pattern that indicates what they need to program. The reason I suggest Arduino is that many LED’s do not power up in a truly linear fashion. Depending on how much voltage is applied you may actually need to over compensate or under compensate the voltage values, which is where prototyping in real life will help.

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Things like this: NeoPixel Stick - 8 x WS2812 5050 RGB LED - COM-12661 - SparkFun Electronics could make your job relatively easy. This would have enough PWM outputs to properly drive each LED.

If you have a team of developers they can probably help you get the kit set up pretty easily.

I’ve had to do this exact process for several projects in the past, using the real LED’s was much more valuable than anything I could have done in an animated demo for several reasons:

1 - You learn that the LED’s aren’t linear and understand how to adjust
2 - You can see the impacts in real time, and quickly tweak the Arduino with peers in the room. Updating the Arduino on the fly can be done in seconds. Re-rendering an animation or re-laying out an after effects file not so much.
3 - When you are finished, you will already have basic code of the timings and settings required to handoff which minimizes the confusion. If you have the developers write the Arduino code in the first place that’s half the battle.
4 - People can get a true feeling for the product, when I was doing this we learned that the real behavior required it to be performed in under 200 ms for it to appear correct. That would only give you 6 frames of a video @ 30fps which you would have to keep playing over and over. Keeping the Arduino on a loop or triggered by a switch makes it easy to see.

Something like this? Kinda limited to 3 LEDS. But still probably in the same vein.

That’s more of an analog controller for manually tweaking the voltages for the LED’s. A standard Arduino will let you write very simple code (example here: and hooking up LED’s can be done with pretty minimal skill. If you have an EE floating around who can help if you have any more complex tasks, but most of this can be done using a breadboard and simple plug and play connectors, no soldering required.

Here is an example of some old specs I provided to go along with the source code. This explains transition states between different modes for an LED. The waveform indicates a smooth ease in and out (vs a linear transition) and when the LED should jump from state to state.

Thanks guys, looks like I should buy an Arduino and some leds. Would the Ardunio Uno R3 be a suitable board for this project?

That should work, but the R3 only has 6 PWM pins, if you decide you want precise control of the 8 LED’s for things like fading.

You can see a list of boards that have more PWM options here:

Came across this today. Looks like a great way to play around with Arduino. before committing to actually ordering parts.

Totally forgot about that tool. Yes, it’s a great introduction to Virtual circuits.

Here’s a quick little example I hacked together as an example.

You can layout your real LED’s the same way (with as many as you want) and then apply whatever logic you’d like to the behavior.

So if a board has 6 PWMs, would I only be able to control 6 LEDs? This is probably a elementary question but I know nothing about the details yet. Other than PWM stands for pulse width modulation :slight_smile:

Or would the number of LEDs be limited to the number analog inputs?

Also thanks for the virtual site, i will play around with that.

Any thoughts on these questions?

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Sorry thought I responded to that one. The easiest thing to do would just be to buy a board that has more PWM channels. PWM is what lets you control the precise voltage going to the LED’s.

You can learn to do multi-plexing in your second project. :wink: