LED Control

Advanced WS2812/SK6812 RGB/RGBW LED controller with on-the-fly Python animation programming, web code editor/control interface, 1D, 2D, and 3D display support, and E1.31 sACN support for Raspberry Pi

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LED Control



Technical Details

Framerate Note

The theoretical maximum framerate for 150 RGBW LEDs is 800000 Hz / (8*4) bits / 150 = 166.67 FPS. All built-in animations run at over 50FPS on a Raspberry Pi Zero, and will run faster on any other Raspberry Pi model. The framerate is limited to 60FPS by default to reduce CPU usage.


Hardware Setup

  1. Obtain a Raspberry Pi (any model), a WS2812B or SK6812B LED strip (SK6812 RGB/White LEDs are highly recommended), and a suitable 5V power supply.
  2. Connect the LED strip to your Raspberry Pi:
    • Pi GND to LED GND
    • Pi GPIO18 to LED Data in
    • Power supply ground to LED GND
    • Power supply 5V to LED 5V

    See this Adafruit guide for other ways to connect the LED strips or for using a level shifter.

Know what you’re doing with electricity. Addressable LEDs can draw a lot of current, especially in long strips. You should use RGBW LEDs for the reason that they look better and require much less power when displaying whiter colors (a good quality 5V 4A power supply can comfortably handle 150 RGBW LEDs at full brightness).

For large installations, each group of up to ~200 LEDs should be connected to the power supply with its own adequately sized wires. Don’t expect to get good or safe results by daisy chaining strips together. Furthermore, when using a high current (20+A) power supply, a short circuit somewhere along the LED strip will likely not draw enough current to trip your power supply’s over-current protection due to the resistance of the flexible PCB. This is a serious fire hazard, so each individually powered group of LEDs should be protected with its own fuse or circuit breaker rated to ideally no more than 10A. See this guide for good information on powering hundreds or thousands of LEDs.

Addressable LED strips usually come with seriously undersized power wires and barrel jacks or JST SM connectors rated for only 3A, and it would be a good idea to replace these appropriately.

For more information on which GPIO pins LED strips can be connected to, see here.

If You Really Want To Use RGB LEDs

You should budget at least 50mA for each LED at full brightness, which means 7.5A for 150 LEDs (5 meters of 30 LED/m strip, 2.5m of 60LED/m strip…). In practice, your LED strips won’t draw this much current, but your power supply should be capable of handling it.

The flexible PCBs and connectors used in these LED strips are not really designed to handle these currents, and begin to heat up when passing as little as 2-3A. Again, each group of up to ~150 LEDs should be powered through its own adequately sized wires.

Software Setup

Python 3.7 or newer is required.

  1. sudo apt-get install scons swig libev-dev python3-dev python3-setuptools
  2. git clone --recurse-submodules https://github.com/jackw01/led-control.git
  3. cd led-control
  4. git checkout tags/v2.0.0
  5. sudo python3 setup.py develop
  6. sudo ledcontrol --led_count 150 (add --led_pixel_order GRBW if using RGBW LEDs)

Common Issues

LEDControl and the Raspberry Pi audio subsystem cannot be use together since they both use the PWM hardware. On some Linux distributions, you must disable the audio kernel module by commenting out the line dtparam=audio=on in /boot/config.txt or by creating a file /etc/modprobe.d/snd-blacklist.conf with the contents blacklist snd_bcm2835.

Command Line Configuration Arguments

Web server and LED hardware parameters must be specified as command line arguments when running ledcontrol.

usage: ledcontrol [-h] [--port PORT] [--host HOST] [--led_count LED_COUNT]
                  [--config_file CONFIG_FILE]
                  [--pixel_mapping_json PIXEL_MAPPING_JSON] [--fps FPS]
                  [--led_pin LED_PIN] [--led_data_rate LED_DATA_RATE]
                  [--led_dma_channel LED_DMA_CHANNEL]
                  [--led_pixel_order LED_PIXEL_ORDER]
                  [--led_brightness_limit LED_BRIGHTNESS_LIMIT]
                  [--save_interval SAVE_INTERVAL] [--sacn] [--no_timer_reset]

optional arguments:
  -h, --help            show this help message and exit
  --port PORT           Port to use for web interface. Default: 80
  --host HOST           Hostname to use for web interface. Default:
  --led_count LED_COUNT
                        Number of LEDs
  --config_file CONFIG_FILE
                        Location of config file. Default: /etc/ledcontrol.json
  --pixel_mapping_json PIXEL_MAPPING_JSON
                        JSON file containing pixel mapping (see README)
  --fps FPS             Refresh rate limit for LEDs, in FPS. Default: 60
  --led_pin LED_PIN     Pin for LEDs (see
                        https://github.com/jgarff/rpi_ws281x). Default: 18
  --led_data_rate LED_DATA_RATE
                        Data rate for LEDs. Default: 800000 Hz
  --led_dma_channel LED_DMA_CHANNEL
                        DMA channel for LEDs. DO NOT USE CHANNEL 5 ON Pi 3 B.
                        Default: 10
  --led_pixel_order LED_PIXEL_ORDER
                        LED color channel order. Any combination of RGB with
                        or without a W at the end. Default: GRB, try GRBW for
  --led_brightness_limit LED_BRIGHTNESS_LIMIT
                        LED maximum brightness limit for the web UI. Float
                        from 0.0-1.0. Default: 1.0
  --save_interval SAVE_INTERVAL
                        Interval for automatically saving settings in seconds.
                        Default: 60
  --sacn                Enable sACN / E1.31 support. Default: False
  --no_timer_reset      Do not reset the animation timer when patterns are
                        changed. Default: False
  --dev                 Development flag. Default: False

Color Correction

By default, the color correction values on the web interface are set to (255, 190, 170) which is a good starting point for SK6812 RGBW LEDs, but not all LEDs are the same. You should adjust these values as well as the global color temperature while using the “Test Color Correction” feature, which displays the white point of the RGB subpixels in your LEDs, even if you are using RGBW LEDs.

Built-In Color Palettes


Built-In Animation Patterns

Animated GIF previews of all built-in animations can be seen at animations.md.

E1.31 sACN, Music Visualization, and LedFx Use

LEDControl can function as a E1.31 streaming ACN receiver, allowing the connected LEDs to be directly controlled over the network. LedFx is recommended for music visualization over sACN.

  1. Follow the instructions to install LedFx and set up your computer’s audio output.
  2. Add your LEDControl device in LedFx: Select e131 as the device type, use the hostname or IP of your Raspberry Pi, and enter the number of LEDs you have attached.
  3. Run LEDControl with the --sacn command line flag. An option to enable sACN receiver mode will appear on the web interface.
  4. Enable sACN receiver mode in the LEDControl web interface.
  5. Configure a music visualizer effect in LedFx.

While sACN receiver mode is enabled, the LED refresh rate is determined by your sACN server. There may be noticeable latency when using sACN on congested networks or if other software on the Raspberry Pi is using its network hardware; this is a known limitation of sACN.

Pixel Mapping

LEDControl supports pixel mapping, which allows 2- and 3-dimensional animation patterns to be mapped to any physical arrangement of LEDs. Currently, pixel mappings can only be specified with a JSON file containing an array of points representing the positions of each LED, using the --pixel_mapping_json command line argument. --led_count does not need to be specified when pixel mapping is used. The points must be in the same order that the correresponding LEDs are connected, and the units used to define the pixel mapping do not matter (negative and floating-point values are allowed).



  [-3, 3, 0],
  [0, 3, 0],
  [3, 3, 0],
  [3, 0, 0],
  [3, -3, 0],
  [0, -3, 0],
  [-3, -3, 0],
  [-3, 0, 0]

Animation Editing

Animation patterns are defined as Python functions that work similarly to GLSL fragment shaders or DirectX pixel shaders. The LEDControl web interface allows editing and creation of patterns using a subset of Python.

Patterns are compiled using RestrictedPython and run with a restricted set of builtin functions and global variables. This should prevent filesystem access and code execution, but the scripting system should not be considered completely secure and the web interface should not be exposed to untrusted users.

Pattern Function Guide

Each animation frame, the pattern function is called once per LED/pixel with time, position, and previous state as inputs to determine the next color of that pixel.

# cycle_hue_1d
def pattern(t, dt, x, y, z, prev_state):
    return (t + x, 1, 1), hsv



Time in cycles (an arbitary unit that represents one animation cycle as a floating point number). Calculated by multiplying real time in seconds by animation speed in Hz (cycles/second). Time is reset to 0 every week (168 hours) of uptime to prevent any math/overflow issues that may occur. By default, time is also reset when the animation pattern is changed or recompiled, but this behavior can be changed with the --no_timer_reset command-line flag.


Delta time in cycles.

x, y, z

Normalized (0 to 1) value representing the position of the current LED in arbitrary units (after mapping LED indices to positions and scaling). By default, LEDs are mapped to the x axis only. One position unit represents the scale factor multiplied by the length of the axis. At a scale of less than 1, one position unit represents a fraction of the axis length and the animation is tiled to fill all the LEDs.


Previous color state of the current LED as an HSV or RGB tuple. Initialized to (0, 0, 0) when the program starts.

Return Values

Pattern functions must return a color in tuple form and either hsv or rgb depending on the format of the color. All values are expected to be in the 0 to 1 range, except for hue. Hue values less than 0 or greater than 1 will wrap. RGB values will be clamped to the 0 to 1 range.

Supported Python Globals

Color Palette Access

Color palettes are interpolated in the HSV color space. 1000 interpolated values are stored in a lookup table to allow for fast access to any color in the palette.


Returns the color from the current palette corresponding to a value t between 0 and 1. Values of t less than 0 or greater than 1 will wrap.


Returns a color from a mirrored version of the current palette that wraps seamlessly. Functionally equivalent to palette(wave_triangle(t)), but performs just as well as palette(t).

Wave Functions

All waveforms have a period of 1 time unit, a range from 0 to 1, and a peak (f(t)=1) at t=0. These wave functions are implemented in C which gives a suprisingly significant performance improvement over Python’s builtins.


Returns the instantaneous value of a 1Hz sine wave at time t.


Returns the instantaneous value of a 1Hz sine wave approximated with cubic easing at time t. Appears to spend more time near 0 and 1 than a true sine wave.


Returns the instantaneous value of a 1Hz triangle wave at time t.

wave_pulse(t, duty_cycle)

Returns the instantaneous value of a 1Hz pulse wave of the specified duty cycle (range 0 to 1) at time t.

plasma_sines_octave(x, y, t, octaves, lacunarity, persistence)

Custom optimized “plasma” implementation that returns a sum of several octaves of sinusoid-based waveforms creating a non-random noise effect. Essentially fractal noise, but using sinusoid functions as a basis instead of pseudorandom noise. This creates more detailed and better looking plasma effects than simpler implementations. For each successive octave, the frequency (how fast the wave changes with space and time) is multiplied by lacunarity, and the amplitude is multiplied by persistence. octaves must be an integer. See the usage notes below.

plasma_sines(x, y, t, coeff_x, coeff_y, coeff_x_y, coeff_mag_xy)

Basic optimized function for creating RGB plasma animations (see https://www.bidouille.org/prog/plasma). Returns sin((x + t) * coeff_x) + sin((y + t) * coeff_y) + sin((x + y + t) * coeff_x_y) + sin((sqrt(x * x + y * y) + t) * coeff_mag_xy). Not recommended unless you want it, plasma_sines_octave generally looks better.

perlin_noise_3d(x, y, z)

Standard 3D perlin noise. Use time as one of the arguments to make the noise vary with time. Returns a value from 0 to 1.

fbm_noise_3d(x, y, z, octaves, lacunarity, persistence)

Standard 3D fBm (fractal Brownian motion) noise.

Additional Utility Functions

clamp(x, min, max)

Returns min if x < min and max if x > max, otherwise returns x.


Returns the floating point component of x (x - floor(x)).


Asymmetrical exponential “impulse” wave function f(t) = t * e^(1-t). Peaks at t=1.


Returns a normalized RGB tuple for a color temperature in Kelvin.

blackbody_correction_rgb(rgb, kelvin)

Tints an RGB color (normalized RGB tuple) to a color temperature in Kelvin. Returns a normalized RGB tuple.

Using Plasma Utility Functions

plasma_sines and plasma_sines_octave both return the instantaneous value of a 2D periodic function at time t and position (x, y). The typical way of converting this value to a color is to assign the RGB values to expressions of the form a * wave_sine(b * x + c) + d, where wave_sine is a function that returns a sinusoid waveform with range 0 to 1. This is done in the code for several built in patterns.

Below is GLSL code for testing and experimenting with these plasma functions in 2D. This code can be easily run on Shadertoy.

float wave_sine(float t) {
  return cos(6.283 * t) / 2.0 + 0.5;

float plasma_sines(float x, float y, float t,
                   float coeff_x, float coeff_y,
                   float coeff_x_y, float coeff_dist_xy) {
  float v = 0.0;
  v += sin((x + t) * coeff_x);
  v += sin((y + t) * coeff_y);
  v += sin((x + y + t) * coeff_x_y);
  v += sin((sqrt(x * x + y * y) + t) * coeff_dist_xy);
  return v;

void mainImage(out vec4 fragColor, in vec2 fragCoord) {
  // Normalized pixel coordinates (from 0 to 1)
  vec2 uv = fragCoord / iResolution.xy;

  float v = plasma_sines(uv.x, uv.y, iTime, 1.0, 0.5, 0.5, 1.0);

  float r = 0.8 - wave_sine(v);
  float g = wave_sine(v + 0.333) - 0.2;
  float b = 0.8 - wave_sine(v + 0.666);

  fragColor = vec4(r, g, b, 1.0);
float wave_sine(float t) {
  return cos(6.283 * t) / 2.0 + 0.5;

float plasma_sines_octave(float x, float y, float t,
                          int octaves,
                          float temporal_freq_persistence,
                          float amplitude_persistence) {
  float vx = x;
  float vy = y;
  float spatial_freq = 1.0;
  float temporal_freq = 1.0;
  float amplitude = 1.0;
  for (int i = 0; i < octaves; i++) {
    float vx1 = vx;
    vx += cos(vy * spatial_freq + t * temporal_freq) * amplitude;
    vy += sin(vx1 * spatial_freq + t * temporal_freq) * amplitude;
    spatial_freq *= 2.0;
    temporal_freq *= temporal_freq_persistence;
    amplitude *= amplitude_persistence;
  return vx / 2.0;

void mainImage(out vec4 fragColor, in vec2 fragCoord) {
  // Normalized pixel coordinates (from 0 to 1)
  vec2 uv = fragCoord / iResolution.xy;

  float v = plasma_sines_octave(uv.x, uv.y, iTime, 8, 1.5, 0.5);

  float r = 0.8 - wave_sine(v);
  float g = wave_sine(v + 0.333) - 0.2;
  float b = 0.8 - wave_sine(v + 0.666);

  fragColor = vec4(r, g, b, 1.0);


To build the C extension module:

swig -python ./ledcontrol/driver/ledcontrol_rpi_ws281x_driver.i && sudo python3 setup.py develop