The idea for .fred came while working on the scale model project shown here.
The lights were controlled by four wired proprietary boxes. Because the lights were installed in rows as opposed to vertically from the bottom up, data had to travel more than five meters from the control box to the first pixel in upper strings. This created major challenges in reliably transmitting 5V data that distance.
This model has twenty ws2811 RGB LEDs per floor. Lights were permanently installed with power lines feeding the lights on every fourth level. Every eighth floor a new data line runs from a control box sitting under the display table.
The approach used did not have a contingency for failed pixels. Prior to delivery the scale model shop creating it had to crack open the side of the model to replace pixels with failed green LEDs. When illuminating the towers to white the associated windows with faulty green displayed as vibrant pink.
Upon delivery, three more pink windows that could not be repaired on site. The model was never able to display perfect white architectural lighting.
.fred and a more practical approach to installation could have saved this project months of work and tens of thousands of dollars.
By vertically installing addressable LEDs with 60 pixels/ meter, each level would have access to either two or three pixels, not just one. In the even of a failure an adjacent pixel can replace a failed pixel.
Using RGBW addressable LEDs would also help alleviate the problem of faulty pixels not displaying clean white.
Vertical tracks with addressable LEDs stuck to a re-purposed tape measure would allow for data and power to always start at the base of the model closer to the controller. The metal tape measure track keep lights in place all the way to the top of the tallest model, and can be removed and replaced easily with a small space for the track to bend and slide.
Replacing wired controllers with wireless .fred controllers make installing on site as easy as plugging the model into the wall.