One strip and 4 zones

I have an esp8266 flashed with the latest WLED software.
MQTT is enabled and I communicate with NodeRed.
Then a LED stripe with 400 RGB-W LED’s. ( SK6812 RGBW Similar WS2812B)
I want all 400 LED’s to play a colored effects & palettes such as 36>Icefire or 99>Ripple Rainbow.
If then from Node Red a command is sent to MQTT e.g. left, top bottom right, or 1,2,3 4 (here I am absolutely flexible) the effects & palettes are to be fade out slowly and immediately W-LED of the ranges 1-4 approach. The range 1 =1-99, range2 100-199, range3 200-299 and range4 300-399.

The whole would then be a band where an effects & palettes runs. If now a MQTT event occurs the respective range becomes white.

The whole thing is a reaction game. In the middle stands a person and must perform an action in this area when white lights up. The time is very short, then the command of MQTT is canceled, white goes off and the effects & palettes go on again. After the playtime is over, MQTT sends the off command and all LED’s go off.

My question now is how to connect the 400 LED’s to the esp8266.
I have read that the ESP supports a maximum of 3 strips. So do I need 2 ESP or can I implement the whole thing with one strip and 4 zones?
I know NodeRed, MQTT is also OK, but from WLED I have no idea what is possible and ask for support before I start to cut the strips and swing the soldering iron.
The control in Node Red is simple, but I do not know how to setup WLED.

Use ESP32 if you need 4 strips.
But your set-up can be achieved using single strip with 4 segments and controlling those.

And MQTT is not well suited for such approach.

Ok thanks and why is mqtt not good for this.
What would you take insted?

You are not guaranteed a good response time using MQTT as your data transfer mechanism. It’s not designed for real time interactions.

WLED is excellent at driving strips of all kinds and provides you with a rich API to get effects.
It’s “button handling” and user interface has been intentionally set to match the most common needs.
It doesn’t have (nor needs) a programming language type interface that is likely necessary for what you’re describing (so far).

I would guess you’re into custom programming of an ESP-32 device or perhaps dedicate one device as the LED driver using WLED and another to handle the user interaction and the “conversation” with the 1st device to get the LED sequences you want. Depends a lot on how difficult it is to model all the possible user interactions and the desired results you want to see.