February 27, 2011
The Lol Shield Theatre
lol shield close-up

This should be out front of robot hospitals

Hello and welcome to Lol Shield Theatre – Behind the Scenes!

This is a project that I put together after wondering what I could do with the blinky, shiny, wonderful Lol Shield.  Who couldn’t love an Arduino covered in tons of leds? (Rhetorical question, the answer is people who hate fun.)

The Lol Shield Theatre is a combination of software and hardware, a web site and an arduino Lol Shield.

If you’d like to jump right into the fun without lots of boring exposition, head straight to: http://falldeaf.com/lolshield/.

Otherwise, let me take you through the steps that made this project possible. First I built a web app that allows you to create and view animations using 9 x 14 pixels, the same amount of pixels on the Lol Shield. The interface is pretty much all javascript, no crazy flash and Jquery was an enormous help in this project. The site builds an xml file that is stored in a database and can be reached through a rest API. There’s two feeds, one for humans and one that is read by my Lol Shield code.

This site looks a bit (exactly) like this:

Show page on Lol Shield Theatre

Here's where you'll view other peoples animations and vote down their work out of jealousy. (It's cool, we all do that)

The create page on lolshield

This is the build page where you'll have to figure out how to make animations pretty much on your own. Reading instructions are for suckers.

Next, I wrote two pieces of software, one is an Arduino sketch that uses the Lol Shield library, downloadable here. The other is a python program that communicates with my site and then to the Arduino through the usb or serial port.

Here is all my code: LolShieldtheatreProject-update

The Arduino sketch just needs to be uploaded to any shield compatible Arduino. Check out Lady Ada’s lovely tutorial if the previous sentence  frightened or confused you.

The python program connects to the Lol Shield Theatre site and downloads animations using an API with the following options:

API: http://falldeaf.com/lolshield/robot_xml.php?

  • feed= ( pop, new, all, user ) – for the most popular, the newest, all/random animations or animations from a specific author, respectively
  • user= ( ‘author name here’ ) – Set the feed to pull from a specific author (you?); feed must be set to user
  • items= ( int ) – The maximum number of animations to pull down

It’s run from the command line and needs three arguments, or use -h to get help:

  1. -u : This is the url of the xml feed that has the animations. (http://falldeaf.com/lolshield/robot_xml.php is the default)
  2. -t : The amount of time to wait before updating from the next with new animations, it will default to 30 minutes
  3. -d : This the device to try and use i.e. ‘/dev/ttyUSB0’

Have a look at the shield in action:

Another Desk shot of my Lol Shield

Yah, that's my girlfriend IM'ing me and yes she's real, I'm a nerd with an awesome girlfriend, no big.

Desk shield

Another lol shield shot, I'm waiting to move into a new home so that crappy, belkin, wireless stick is how I connect to the internet, now. Seriously :/


HI, Human. Do not be scared. There is a high probability that you will be spared in the coming robot apocalypse.

George Washington Carver

A stately looking George Washington Carver

I felt a bit like George Washington Carver on this project. He worked hard to invent uses for the peanut in an attempt to make them more valuable; which helped poor southern farmers. Lady Ada, Sparkfun and Jimmie P Rodgers aren’t poor *or* farmers, they’re all cool people. And while, just like the peanut, the Lol Shield is awesome on it’s own merits, hopefully I’ve just made it more valuable! :)

And just to make sure I overdo it with media, here’s a link to the overlong video showing how it all works! :)

Update: Holy cow I made it on Lady Ada’s blog! http://www.adafruit.com/blog/2011/03/02/the-lol-shield-theatre/

Check out these cool animations that her readers have made :)

Update 2: Jimmie Rodgers got a chance to see my project, neat! Even cooler he had a pro-tip for me to fix my LED ghosting problem. “Oh, and if you want to get rid of the ghosting LEDs, just cut out either the resistor or LED connected to pin13 on your Duemilanove Arduino.”



Hey thanks for reading this far! Maybe you'll be interested in more of my projects? Check out my homepage :)


  1. RobotGrrl
    Posted Mar 02 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

    Wow, fantastic project!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It will be fun to see what people make.

    Can you add a rotation feature? Would be great for portrait purposes. :D

    • RobotGrrl
      Posted Mar 02 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

      Oh and we have the same wacom tablet! Sweet!

      • Posted Mar 02 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

        Hey Thank you for saying so! A rotation feature is an awesome idea. I had a few others; Besides rotation, translation would be cool, too. And being able to clone and re-arrange frames would be helpful. I’m definitely gonna do some updates, thank you for the compliment and the advice!

        P.S. I love my wacom, I even have a cintiq at work! … so anyways, we’re pretty much wacom bff’s now.

    • Jessabella
      Posted Apr 06 at 1:41 am | Permalink

      Thanks for this site. I’m loving it. As someone who has never touched an Arduino(Diavolino) before this week, Lol Shield Theater has been a huge help!. Between creating test animations, and then playing with the code. I am learning a ton.

      P.S. RobotGrrl, if you are who I think you are, I met you at a HackerSpace in Sunnyvale 2012 :) Small world.

      • Posted Apr 10 at 9:58 am | Permalink

        I’m glad the site is useful to you. Thanks for dropping by! :)

10 Trackbacks

  1. […] The Lol Shield Theatre. Falldeaf writes – This is a project I’ve been working hard on. It’s a web app, python program and arduino sketch that work together to make it easy to make animations, vote on them, then view them on an Arduino Lol Shield, like the type you sell on your site. Hope you like it! Filed under: arduino — by adafruit, posted March 2, 2011 at 8:21 am Comments (0) […]

  2. […] Lol Shield Theatre – [Link] Tags: Arduino, Led, Lol, Shield Filed in Arduino | 1 views No Comments […]

  3. […] This is a cool project that is based on the LOL Shield for the Arduino. […]

  4. By Lol Shield Theatre | iGadgetView.com on Mar 05 at 12:00 am

    […] This is a cool project that is based on the LOL Shield for the Arduino. […]

  5. […] This is a cool project that is based on the LOL Shield for the Arduino. […]

  6. […] In a really slick fusion of hardware, software, and the power of the Internet, he has created what he calls, “Lol Shield Theatre”. […]

  7. […] In a really slick fusion of hardware, software, and the power of the Internet, he has created what he calls, “Lol Shield Theatre”. […]

  8. […] In a really slick fusion of hardware, software, and the power of the Internet, he has created what he calls, “Lol Shield Theatre”. […]

  9. By The water scarecrow of death on Dec 22 at 4:53 am

    […] technical, advanced or interesting project try Hack-A-Day , or even some of my other write-ups: web based LED Matrix drawing application for Lol Shield, mostly from scratch mp3 player. This article is a bad example of DIY’ing and hopefully some […]

  10. […] The LOL Shield theater is a great project done by falldeaf where you can create animations on your site and use your computer serial through a python script to gain access to your animations online. Here is a great article that explains the process and links to all of the files here: http://falldeaf.com/2011/02/the-lol-shield-theatre/  […]

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