Ambilight clone uses video pass-through; needs no computer


To the best of our knowledge all of the Ambilight clones we’ve covered over the years have one thing in common. They need a computer to do the image processing. This one is different. The PCB seen on the left right is all you need for the video processing. The project is called SCIMO and is the handiwork of a hacker named [Keiang].

There are only few times that the DRM built into the HDMI standard has pissed us off. This is one of them. Because of HDCP and licensing issued revolving around HDMI [Keiang] didn’t use HDMI pass through. Instead he uses an HDMI to S-Video converter. This board acts as an S-Video pass through, analyzing the signal using an STM32 ARM chip before the video signal continues on to the television. It still produces a respectable picture, but wouldn’t it have been cleaner if he could have gone with the HDMI standard?

UPDATE: Thanks for the comments on this. It looks like the TV is getting an HDMI signal. The board is fed by the HDMI to S-Video converter which itself is getting HDMI in parallel with the television thanks to a splitter.

Where other examples use Boblight on a PC for processing this manages to do so as a standalone embedded system. It also offers quite a bit of flexibility when it comes to choosing the LEDs, supporting pixels that use DMX512, WS28xx, or TM18xx protocols.


  1. Per Jensen says:


    • Mike Szczys says:

      Yeah, seriously. Why doesn’t the WordPress spell check include the title line? Fixed.

      • Whatnot says:

        Now that you mention it, in firefox you can actually change a setting to do spell-check on single line input boxes. (which is deemed annoying since those are often for names and e-mail and addresses and such which would not be in the dictionary, so it’s disabled by default.)
        Maybe other software also has that as a ‘hidden’ option.

  2. Allan Sommer says:

    Could one use a HDMI splitter with it?

    • muriani says:

      He actually does use an HDMI splitter. One side feeds the TV, one his Ambilight clone.
      The LED controller is the only thing that uses the S-Video, and that’s just because it’s far easier to process that than to break HDCP and tap the HDMI signal.

  3. Matthias_H says:

    So where exactly would you see the difference between HDMI and S-Video? IIRC this device doesn’t pass any video through; it just forks some off to drive the LEDs and nothing else.

    • gabe says:

      What exactly are you complaining about? as far as i know, pass through is just another way of splitting the signal to two ends…. but it’s a fancy, probably trade-marketed, name for a split (one goes to the receiver, the other goes to the TV, but all in one box)

  4. Mike says:

    So is the PCB on the left for non standard hands?
    It uses a splitter or S-Video from the receiver, the write up gives the impression that you get S-Video from this to input into your TV.

  5. Chip says:

    Ah, yeah, he’s not doing S-Video passthrough at all. There’s a diagram on the page that shows the video source going to an HDMI splitter. The TV is still getting HDMI, it’s just the ambient lighting board that’s getting S-Video. Could probably do something similar if your receiver has multiple outputs.

  6. Kamnxt says:

    I thought the PCB is on the right…

  7. macona says:

    I have been waiting for this. I want one.

    • Caleb says:

      I would prefer a true pass through device but this is a good start!

      • macona says:

        I just dont think that will happen unless some outside the US builds it that does not have to deal with DMCA and use the cracked DHCP.

        • Whatnot says:

          Uses LED strips with 60 LED per meter (slightly more than a yard), so s-video is fine to run in parallel to produce the light effect.

          • macona says:

            Yep, though the 200 led limit might be a problem for me unless I can find it with less leds per meter. I have a 100″ Planar XScreen I would love to use it with. It is a projector screen that has a bezel like a lcd or plasma tv. It would be perfect to mount leds behind, but with that circumference I would need somewhere around 7 to 8 meters LED strip.

          • Sweeney says:

            30 LED per meter strip is common and should be near enough for a 100 inch screen.

        • blufires says:

          Just host the site outside the USA, where software patents don’t apply, and upload progress on the project annonymously through TOR.

  8. biozz says:

    wait .. svideo passthru?
    the TV gets the HDMI and the mood lighting gets the svideo and thats MORE than enough

    • macona says:

      No s-video pass through. Hackaday got that one wrong, it just takes a s-video signal and processes that. More than enough for the low resolution needed for the leds.

  9. steaky says:

    I thought HDCP had been cracked as the master key went around in 2010. I guess this is murky waters as he’d be in legal trouble if he wanted to sell a device that disabled HDCP.
    But I see no mention of him selling the ambilight clone, so maybe he could skirt around it.

  10. RBJensen says:

    Could be splendid if it was offered as a kit on Tindie…

  11. jordan says:

    come on hackaday, get your shit together. your inability to word things correctly is really annoying.

  12. DarkHarry855 says:

    good stuff thanks info

  13. hackrid says:

    really nice project. but where is the source code???

  14. Whatnot says:

    I’m impressed with the results video, nice locality but not too much to the point that it would become too much, and not too overly bright either.

  15. Temo says:

    This is so cool!

  16. Galane says:

    I don’t see the point of having a flickering distraction going on around the edges of the TV.

    It’s a modern version of the TV Lamp.

    • Edd says:

      Did you watch the video? Look how awesome that looks!

    • echodelta says:

      The only good this could come to is to do the opposite and keep the room light constant to kill the flashing of video that editors do to strobe viewers, which is proven harmful to children and sensitive viewers. For a night scene it would ramp down in a few seconds.

  17. seba says:

    anybody knows if this is for sale? I want to buy one for my TV its great!

  18. As a side note: we made an iOS app which creates an Ambilight-setup by just using Philips Hue bulbs and an iPhone/iPad. More info here:

  19. Carsten says:

    Shut up and take my money ! :)

  20. Alan says:

    I would gladly give them my money for one then i don’t have to switch the p.c on just to get lighting effects and the responce time looked spot on

  21. Hitek146 says:

    You guys do know that some 1×2 HDMI splitters provide HDCP-free signals on their secondary port when connected to an HDCP compliant sink on their primary port, right? And, from what I understand, most 1×4 splitters provide an HDCP-free signal on(at least) the third and fourth port. I connected a Dell 22 inch LCD computer monitor with a DVI to HDMI cable to my DirecTv DVR, and got a protection message on the screen. I connected the Dell LCD to the fourth port of my 1×4 HDMI splitter, and got HD video from the DirecTv receiver through the DVI port on the same monitor.

  22. BRFX says:

    I think he can actually sell this without no legal implications, and I would buy 2 of them. He is realistically just using a down-converter, like a digital converter box, but uses a splitter not to reefed the TV rather feed the LED’s. The TV get’s un modified signals from the Set-Top Box, Cable Box, or DVD/Blu-Ray player and the S-Video signals are not being used to rip the content to an external Drive or illegally duplicate the content.
    IMOHO the use of LED’s to display the content, really is not doing anything illegal.
    I actually tried this out, my Dish(satellite tv) receiver has HDMI out, RCA out, and Component video out, I used an RCA to S-Video adapter to hook it up to my other tv, to see if I could watch both at the same time and it worked. So even if he sells a model that only uses S-Video Input I would still buy it. Or if he adds a S-Video bypass like if you did not have HDMI no need to convert just go straight input to s-video I think many will still be able to use it in other applications.
    Does anyone know if he has any plans to sell this?

  23. hashish says:

    HDCP refers to high bandwidth content protection. By downsampling the image to about a quarter of the resolution, I highly doubt the content applies to HDCP rules.

    Now that being said, Kickstart this immediately. Look at the success of Lightpack and that’s PC/Android only. The number one comment was: “Does this work with a regular TV?”. Obvious answer no, but this is such an elegant solution. Just design the unit to include the HDMI-S-video converter and the signal processing all in one.

  24. Video Games says:

    should be a lot better with HDMI.

  25. Mikie69x says:

    What ever happened to this?

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