LED hat

Hello, I'm quite new so let me introduce myself. My name is Vincent and I'm trying to make something fun with my life, enough of that now.
The device that I'm looking to create is a top-hat with around 500 red LED light's on it (That will say 360 degrees around the top part of it). I want to be able to animate the LED light's to make ex. faces that appear on the hat or text. (I'll probably put up some sketches of the hat pretty soon.)
I would be very pleased for responses since I'm a "noob". I also have some questions:

  • Should I use an "arduino" board or any other brand?
  • What program is suitable for a "noob"? (I'm currently on windows.)
  • How can I control what animations play when it's not plugged in to a computer?

That's it for now, Thanks!


Get yourself four MAX6952 or MAX6953 LED matrix driver chips.
Each one controls 140 LEDs, so that will get you control of 560 LEDs.
Easy to use I2C or SPI interface can ‘talk’ each MAX part individually.

You will program the Arduino to play whatever animations you want.
With that many LEDs, maybe add some external memory to store the animations, the Arduino can read the patterns and light the appropriate LEDs.

Or,get yourself a pile of shift registers and start wiring.
There are 8 shift registers going down the side to control this 8x8 array.

Ok thank you, But isn't there a simpler way to animate the LED's? Like an individual program. They guy that I'm getting inspired by seems to have that, He makes BMP files that the LED's seem to follow so that is what I'm looking for right now. Also how should I make the circuit if I'm going to connect 500 LED's to different chips?

The guy that inspires me: http://uiproductions.blogspot.com/

You will wire up your arduino to 4 of these chips, with A0/A1 wired as 00,01,10,11 so each can be addressed individually.
You will connect each LED to the Row & Column as the matrix shows.

As to writing a program to animate the resulting 4 x (10 x 14) = 40 x 14 panel of LEDs, or 20x28, or 80 x 7, there are different ways to do that.
One is to make an array in memory, 80 x 7 say, then rotate a pointer thru memory and write that out to the MAX6963 so it looks like the pattern is rotating thru the display.
That will be a little more straightforward then the time it will take to wire up all the LEDs to the controller chips I think.

Another option might be to find the "Anode Column, Cathode Row" version of this, and wire up 16 of them as a test bed so have something to test code on while you wire up 560 LEDs.
Here are smaller ones

I would be very pleased for responses since I’m a “noob”.

Not wanting to put a damper on things but don’t you think this is a bit outside your skill level?
While it is possible to do there are no ‘off the shelf’ solutions I know of and you are going to have to write some code of your own as well as do a lot of very compact wiring.

I did see someone at the 2009 Maker Fair in Newcastle (UK) who had a similar top hat, he said it took him over 8 months to build and he nearly gave up several times.
You just catch glimpses of him here:-

But here is a still, it is from the bit when I first walk in the tent.


I guess you're right, this is a bit out of my skill level. Probably gonna wait with this project... Anyway, thanks for the help :slight_smile: