Arduino controlled auxiliary saddle bag lights for a motorcycle.
Project showcase by david schneider
If you really want to do animation, you are going to want RGB or RGBW LEDs. Like I said, the white on the RGBW is really bright so those would be my recommendation. Of course you'll need to put them behind a red lense. These LEDs follow the WS2812 protocol and each LED is individually addressable to control color and brightness. If you are using other LEDs, you'll need relays or an shift register to control them.
As for the step-down power supply, you'll need one for the Arduino (Just an R/C BEC). The step down power supply will be used for powering the LEDs. You may need multiple power supplies for the LEDs. It depends how much power you need. My setup I have 2 power supplies for my 2 banks of LEDs.
More to your question, Arduino is 5V logic. LEDs are also 5v. If you are driving basic LEDs, then you'll need a step-down power supply (12 to 5v) and then use the Arduino to signal one or more relays to drive the LEDs. The power and switching to the LEDs can't come directly from the Arduino.
If you give more specifics of what LEDs you are using and what animations you want, I could give you a better answer.
$300US is ridiculous for what you want to do! A $3US arduino nano will do the job. Even a name brand arduino will be WAY cheaper . We are talking about WS2812 LEDs that are individually addressable. That's the Arduino's job to signal the individual pixels. The power supply will be separate and sized to the LED power requirements. There is a memory limit of the number of pixels ( I don't know the limt), but if that is an issue, just add another Arduino, one for the left and one for the right LED matrix.
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