10x Stage led light sticks 2m each @$37 USD each

I have not seen another project like this so I thought that I would share… We are a kids camp in Waikato New Zealand and always looking for ways to spice up the stage lighting and I started playing with WLED and this is where I ended up…… 10 x 2m long light sticks, each with an instance of WLED and an ESP32 each all synced up (mostly) and I think it is a great addition.
In the interests of sharing here is the important parts of the build. As I am in NZ I bought everything off aliexpress. I decided to buy everything for a complete project so I bought the usual leds, esp32 etc, but I also bought 10xusb chargers, 10x 3m usb cables, bolts, 10x plastic boxes, 10x USB connectors etc. The bases were from recycled items that I already had.
LED Strip https://www.aliexpress.com/item/1005005880356788.html
ESP32 https://www.aliexpress.com/item/1005005495948290.html
LED channel https://www.aliexpress.com/item/1005003039361222.html
USB C connectors https://www.aliexpress.com/item/1005006051258967.html
All up I spent about $600NZD ($370USD ish) so they cost me about $60NZD ($37USD) each. Not bad for a 2m long light bar.
I always have questions when I look at another person project so here are the answers to some that you might have and some thinking behind some of the decisions.
Could it be done cheaper? Yes! But I wanted the max impact that I could get so that meant 144 leds per meter as opposed to 60. The channel was the best that I could find in 2m lengths.
Why 10x controllers? I know that you could connect multiple leds to 1 ESP32 but I wated the max flexibility that I could have with placement.
Why the USB C connectors? The connectors are power only so in the box they are soldered to the led strips and also the esp32 so the power is not passing through the esp32. Because there are 285 leds (I needed to cut 3 off each strip to fit them into the channel) it is approaching the power limits of the passthrough of the esp32. This means that the power for the led strip is coming directly from the usb power brick.
What is with the funny ring bolts on the base? Well I wanted to make it easy to store and flexible so the bases are removable. The rings bolts are so that next time we can potentially hang the lights from the lighting grid or something different.
Does the remote work? Yes I have a remote working too (sorry no pics but can get them if you are interested)
Do you have network issues? I have not seen any wifi network issues. The wifi here is using commercial grade access points so that could have something to do with it
Why 5v not 12v lights? Simplifies the connections as the esp32 uses 5v and so do the led’s. and usb adaptors a easy!
Sync issues – at first the sync was not reliable but there is a setting to resend the sync packets, once I increased this to 4 I have mostly fixed the sync issues
Sound reactive – I would like to have the sound reactive working but for some reason I could not get it to work with sound and the sync across all of them… problem for another day
Playlists – if you have a random playlist it does not take into account the time that you have set for each preset, it appears to do something different, eg a preset set for 60 sec will change after something like 10 sec. Not sure if this is design or a bug.
Playlist error – I have created a playlist call Fast Fade which uses the Fade effect with the speed increased. With this preset, and only this preset, the master (that sends the sync packets) turns its self to black while the other 9 lights work correctly, not sure what is happening here and need to do some more investigation
The future
XLights – I would like to get the ability to have and effect roll across all the 10 lights and the only way that I can see to do this is with xlights. I got 2 light to work but ran out of time and I don’t want to have to create massive syncs to music to make the lights work… maybe in the future
Audio reactive – I have a spare esp32 so might have a play to see if I can sort it all
Signal splitter – I also bough one of these https://www.aliexpress.com/item/1005005218269868.html that splits the signal from 1 esp32 to multiple led strips. I sill need to work out how to supply enough voltage to make them all work.