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Blinken Tools FAQ

This page has been created as a collection of links and pointers to tools useful for working/playing with LED displays.

Documentation of File Formats and Network Protocols

  * Documentation of Movie File Formats
     * FileFormats
     * The BML and BBM format are the "best" protocols. BML is XML-based and BBM is binary and faster.
  * Documentation of Blinken Network Protocols
     * Protocols
     * The MCUF protocol is the "best" protocol.
     * The MCUF protocol is also used on serial ports by simply writing the payload of the UDP packets to the serial port. Serial port settings are usually 115200,N,8,1 or 57600,N,8,1.

Existing BlinkenMovies

At the current time, there is no central repository for existing BlinkenMovies. Stefan has collected some old movies from Projekt Blinkenlights and ARCADE here:

  • blms.tar.bz2 - BlinkenLights movies (18x8 pixels), black & white only (no grayscales).
  • bmls144.tar.bz2 - BlinkenLights movies (18x8 pixels) with grayscales.
  • 18x8-3/ - 18x8 movies in colour (created by BlinkenArea).
  • bmls.tar.bz2 - ARCADE movies (26x20 pixels).

Creating Blinken Movies

  * Movie Editor
     * Blimp
     * Source Code:
        * requires BlinkenLibJava
        * requires JFlexiPix

Converting Blinken Movies

  * Library and command line tools for Blinken Movies and protocols
     * all tools output a short help when called without arguments
     * Source Code:
        * please install libgif-dev and libmng-dev packages before compiling
  * Convert between different movie formats / GIF / MNG
     * BlinkenConv -i input.bml -o output.bbm
     * BlinkenConv -i input.gif -o output.bbm
     * BlinkenConv -i input.bbm -o output.mng
  * Generate test movie "dots" 18 x 8 pixels, 256 grayscale levels
     * BlinkenConv -t 18x8-1/256 dots 100 -o test.bbm
  * Generate test movie "lines" 18 x 8 pixels, 24 bit RGB
     * BlinkenConv -t 18x8-3/256 lines 100 -o test.bbm

Network and Device Output

  * Send Blinken Movie to via network
     * BlinkenSend -d -i test.bbm
  * Receive a Blinken Movie stream from network and output it on serial port
     * BlinkenOutput -l -d /dev/ttyUSB0 -s 115200,N,8,1
  * Output Blinken Movie to serial port
     * BlinkenDeviceOutput -d /dev/ttyUSB0 -s 115200,N,8,1 -i test.bbm
  * Output from Blimp to network
     * start Blimp
     * select "Output", "MCUF" from menu and enter destination IP:port
  * Output from Blimp to serial port (experimental)
     * configure serial settings of serial port
        * e.g. "stty -F /dev/ttyUSB0 cs8 -parenb -cstopb"
     * start Blimp
     * select "Output", "MCUF file/device" from menu and enter serial device, e.g. "/dev/ttyUSB0" (Linux) or "COM42" (Windows)

Converting Video Files to Blinken Movies

  * convert part of a video file to MNG file
     * what it does:
        * crop out rectangle of width 100, height 200 with top-left corner at 150,0
        * scale cropped part to width 25, height 50 (must be same aspect-ratio as cropped part)
        * output as MNG
     * compile MPlayer from source with libmng-dev package installed for MNG support
     * mplayer -vf crop=100:200:150:0,scale=25:50 -vo mng:output=test.mng test.mp4
     * optional: use BlinkenConv to convert MNG to Blinken Movie
  * play MNG file with MPlayer
  * compile MPlayer from source with libmng-dev package installed for MNG support
  * mplayer -demuxer mng input.mng

Scrolling Text

Stream Output from Blimp to TicTacLights in OS X 10.12

Instructions sent in by Benjamin Issleib.

 cd /tmp
 git clone
 make install
  • Execute BlinkenOutput:
 BlinkenOutput -p MCUF -f "18x8-1/8" -d "/dev/cu.wchusbserial620" -s "115200,n,8,1"
  • Done! You can now enable MCUF output in Blimp with the parameter "" (just MCUF, not "MCUF file/device").