Adding Ambilight clone system to your home theater just got a big price cut

Whenever we get a tip claiming a project is cheap and easy we raise a cynical eyebrow. But [Yonsje] isn’t telling us a story, his Amiblight clone really does boil down the complexity and slash the price.

For the uninitiated, this is a clone of the Philips Amilight system that has been an option with some of their TVs over the years. It puts RGB LEDs on the back of the frame, pointed at the wall. They are tuned to the edge colors of the display, linking the color of the ambient light in the room to the colors on the screen. We’ve seen a ton of clones over the years, just search our blog for “Ambilight”.

Like the others, this iteration depends on you playing back video from a computer. [Yonsje] is using an Arduino with his own shield to connect to the HTPC. NPN transistors in the shield drive the RGB LEDs. The real cost savings is in his lighting source. A Deal Extreme RGB LED bar costs just $11.30 including shipping, and can be cut into six different segments for even spacing around your television. Check it out in the clip after the break.

Comments

  1. Brian says:

    I’d really like an ambilite clone, but I won’t dedicated a PC and it’s electricity draw to it. Can someone smarter than me please design on around an IC?

    • dext3r says:

      Totally agree with you. The clones that use the PC are awesome but I’d much rather use an FPGA or something to do the video rather than a dedicated PC.

      • Panq says:

        Even an FPGA is overkill for a more basic ambient-lighting-matches-screen circuit. As someone pointed out in the comments from another one of these posted here a while ago, you could just use an integrating opamp and the analogue composite video from a VGA connector, just summing up how much signal there is on each of the R/G/B lines, and setting light level accordingly.

        Getting the separate edge colours for something like this would definitely require *some* video processing, but I’m sure you could do it with a relatively cheap microcontroller. It’d be worth it for platform-independence, I think.

    • defyboy says:

      Agree Also, I would love to see a standalone ambilight clone. All 3 of my new-ish LCD tv’s of varying brands have composite A/V output, I would love to see something interface with this

  2. hacky says:

    Sorry, I don’t see the color of the tv’s sides reflected in the leds. It really needs at least 3 channels I guess.

    But a nice start though. I can imagine adding more channels will be simple, but somehow more expensive.

  3. peet says:

    most of the time its just blue?!

    great thing anyway! would love to have one :P

  4. Josh says:

    I like to keep seeing people working on this project. While these are great hacks, I am still waiting for something more polished before I build one.

    I plan on using an slim pc with XBMC on it for my media station. I would love a way to interface an Ambilight clone with that system. That being said, I do not want to give up other perks to gain this one. I think the true goal of these Ambelight clones should be a universal system that can be use on many systems, Normal DVD player, BluRay, PS3, XBox360, Cable TV, and computer.

    The only way I see this even being possible is if you put something between the line in to the tv. Ideally an HDMI cable in to the Ambilight Clone and then out to the TV / monitor. If someone were able to do it with multiple input formats such as HDMI, VGA, S-video, Composite and Component would blow my socks off. Even if it only had HDMI and VGA it would blow me away.

    But to get back to my point, another nice hack that adds a little more information to the growing collection of Ambilight Clones.

    • that1guy says:

      There was a magazine that did a build of a VGA-based solution that involved splitting up the RGB signals, amplifying them, feeding them into a clocked high speed ADC, and trigger an ADC reading via the pulse output of a VGA timing synchronizer chip. Then a PIC would read the RGB values, do some math to find the “zones” of the edges of the screen, and then send the color and brightness information to a separate PIC to do the RGB driving. It was pretty cool and I wanted to build one, but now that everything uses HDMI or DVI at the very least I probably won’t. Problem with HDMI is you have to get it to work with HDCP content as well so that really limits your options. Basically the only way is to synthesize it with an FPGA. I would be really interested if anyone was working on anything like this.

    • John Laur says:

      If you can make it work with RGB VGA you can make it work with HDMI (Even with HDCP) by using an HDFury.

      I have no idea how the HDFury continues to escape notice. They are both cheap and readily available. I have been using them for years.

    • jjrh says:

      Look at boblight, http://code.google.com/p/boblight/
      It runs on linux, and there is code to interface with a arduino and tlc5940 for 4+ channels. The only issue is that (for me atleast) a ATI card on closed source drivers wouldn’t work in full screen. It worked with the open drivers, but xbmc ran too slow for my liking. I just ran out and bought a cheap nvidia card.

      You can also build a 2 channel one easily with a ULN2003A, which is what I did first before I made my four channel one.
      http://siliconrepublic.blogspot.com/2011/02/arduino-based-pc-ambient-lighting.html

      One thing that I really like about boblight is that it’s very easy to interface to boblightd so you can control the individual lights easily. I wrote a quick program in python do make a mood light for when my tv is off.

      Boblight also supports input sources though I haven’t played around with it myself. Only problem is HDMI. I have been meaning into looking into HDFury. Basically I would get a HDMI spliter, standard input card.

      I used these exact lights from deal extreme, they are very easy to cut to the correct lengths. The only thing I noticed was a few of them came with their wiring wrong which initially confused the hell out of me.

  5. I’d be more interested in the software side of it. Too bad it’s some random german software. A python script would be cool and easy to customize

    • Whatnot says:

      It’s not ‘some random german software’, it’s the most well-known non-philips standard and support is built right into VLC media player.
      (although the ‘real’ ambilight for computers from philips also works in VLC right out of the box)

      I can understand you’d be happier with a python thing though, but I would not be surprised there are atmo modules available for python.

  6. xrazorwirex says:

    As a Television technician during the dawn of the plasma television, PLEASE do not bring back ambilight….

  7. Willy says:
  8. echodelta says:

    I have heard for over 50 years about the horror of watching TV with the lights out. This makes it worse.
    The hack I want would balance the light in the room to kill any luminance change throughout the room as the TV editing tries to dazzle and strobe the viewer into convulsions. This should be mandatory in screen design when light levels are low enough, especially with children. Also in public places, bars etc. In the days of movies this editing was not done, now it’s sceneflashsceneflashscene pow!

  9. Eirinn says:

    I like the idea, but the colors are completely off! It shows pink when the screen is mostly orange and light blue where black and dark blue is.

    It looks nice, but it’s not anywhere near the ambilight.

    Cool backlighting though.

  10. bunkie says:

    Look for the term Illuminant-D

    Where Ambilight and all the other flashy color fakers came from – with the reaosning behind it (excuse the pun)

  11. I went to IKEA last week and noticed their DIODER have soft fade now, so i bought one.
    And when i got home and picked it apart i got a bit surprised, it actually use standard components.
    I have some stuff here: http://gallery.slashhome.se/main.php?g2_itemId=5723

    In my sense it’s a pretty good price for what you get (keep in mind there are 36 RGB-LEDs and a wallwart in DIODER).

    My idea is to replace the PIC-mcu with an AVR (I’m not very in to PIC) like at90usb162 to be able to control it from PC (but it would cost me the use of the pot).

  12. svofski says:

    If the lights are mostly out anyway, can’t you just use 3 visible light photodiodes with RGB filters (I’m sure I’ve seen RGB sensors in some LEGO kits?) placed at some distance away from the TV screen? The average RGB is guarranteed, for free, no wiretapping, no DSP.

  13. Whatnot says:

    Dealextreme only accepts paypal, so that’s a way too high a price to pay.

  14. BenB says:

    Hi,
    I’m using a HTPC with hardware video acceleration (ION2).
    will the software work for me?

    thanks,
    BenB.

  15. weirdalyanksyou says:

    i like this alot super easy build your perfboard is a little messy but in all i give it a B+

  16. Sasha says:

    The thing is, DealExtreme has by far the worst prices for LED products on discount websites. Aliexpress, eBay, etc, have much lower prices, with the same free shipping. The lowest price I’ve seen for a 5050 RGB LED strip is 2.80$/meter.

    It’s not that I don’t like DealExtreme (after all, I’ve already bought dozens of things from them), but some of their things aren’t competitively priced.

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