Adalight: Ladyada’s Ambilight

The latest and greatest ambilight clone, the Adalight, comes from the fruitful mind and cluttered workbench of the sometimes Hack A Day contributor [Phil Burgess].

We’ve seen a few clones of the Philips ambilight tech, but [Phil] knocked this one out of the park. The hardware is a string of 12mm RGB LEDs connected to the Arduino of your choosing. After attaching the LEDs to the rear of the TV using anything from, “laser-cut acrylic to nothing more than a pizza box,” it’s on to the software.

The Processing sketch performs a series of screen captures and averages the pixels around the perimeter of the screen. Reportedly, Carl Sagan’s Cosmos looks fantastic with the Adalight but there might be a better option.

[Phil] used 25 LEDs on his Adalight, more than the usual 6-10 we see on other Ambilight clones. Check out the video after the break to see the Adalight in action.


28 thoughts on “Adalight: Ladyada’s Ambilight

  1. I’d love to see the performance on this while playing a Radiohead concert dvd. On second though it might just be a lot of flashing and not many color shifts. Nevermind! I probably should even have submitted this comment. lol

  2. Ambilight systems are quite awesome. But I am not a huge fan of using a computer to update the LEDs.

    It should be possible to grab the video frame using the Video Experiment shield (if you get HDMI and NTSC/PAL output at the same time from the source). My popcorn hours does that.

    Then handle everything on the Arduino itself.

    1. My understanding of the video experiementer shield is that it only is able to pull in a monochromatic frame, not color. That being said, if you could specify like red monochrome/green etc and capture them one at a time averaging wouldn’t be difficult… maybe? haha

      1. I’ve looked into off-the-shelf dev boards that have an FPGA and HDMI passthrough and so far the only ones I’ve found are in the hundreds (or thousands) of dollars and not what I’m looking for.

      2. I think without HDCP there would already be such devices to choose from – FPGA or not. I got somewhat excited when the NeTV was introduced but that doesn’t cut it either because it just injects encrypted video overlay to encrypted HDCP signal. No usable holes in the licencing.

        There’s no way around HDCP if you want such device to be available to others. I don’t know the licencing prices but I’d guess it’s not “consumer friendly” at all. that1guy’s comment also suggest that.

        If it’s possible, I for one would want such a device for non-HDCP content only but I’m sure that would be pain to sell and offer support – “It doesn’t work!!!11oneone”

        HDCP decryption using leaked keys would certainly be possible but if you produce such rogue device, you don’t tell anyone. Decrypting copy protection to get pixel information for additional lighting is against humanity and the death penalty will ensue. You don’t rob poor defenseless industrialists.

      3. @JA12 –
        HDCP is a non-issue here. If a content stream requires HDCP capability and that requirement is not met, the video stream is -not- denied. What you get instead is a lower resolution video stream (480P, I believe).

        … and unless you have hundreds of LEDs on your Adalight, even 480P is massive overkill. The image in the tutorial demonstrates this… each pixel “family” along the edge of the video is going to contain thousands of pixels.

        You could quite literally get the same accuracy using one -field- of a NTSC signal. A composite video feed will give you the same quality and performance as HDMI. Remember, the TV does not know what you are feeding into the dedicated “LED controller”, so it does not matter if the device sees failed HTML down-resolution, composite, etc.

      4. @JA12

        I read your comment, and all the ones proceeding yours. The sub-topic that was developing was standalone parsing of HDMI. If you were veering off-topic, don’t be discourteous if people assume you were still on-topic… that compounds the your etiquette. This site has a “be nice” policy.

      5. @ScottInNH

        Well then, I apologise for assuming that degenerated 540p on a full-hd television would be an issue on a commercial product and thought you were answering to the wrong reply tree. My bad.

      6. @ScottInNH

        Now I noticed it. You said HDCP is a non-issue when you answered to the original comment but my comment was for Diego’s reply.
        I completely forgot that HaD comment tree doesn’t follow the conversation correctly, just few levels.
        We’re both right and wrong. So instead of politely calling you an idiot, I really am sorry about the confusion :)

  3. Phil –

    Just some feedback — you are embedding Vimeo wrong.

    If you directly hotlink the SWF Flash file, you deny the Vimeo website the opportunity to auto-negotiate video containers. Not everyone has Flash installed, and one or two people in the world actually have iPads. :-)

    To fix:
    1) Go to
    2) Press ‘Embed’. Put that in your tutorial’s content area instead of the SWF link.

    in the meantime folks, if you weren’t able to play the video just search Adalight on, and it works. People with both Flash and a supported browser can optionally click the ‘Show HTML5 video’ to the bottom right of the video… that’s the future, video in the browser natively (hooray!). :-)

  4. While this is very nicely done, I just don’t see the point of Ambilight in the first place. It seems hugely distracting from the picture in my opinion. I’d rather just watch the TV without it.

    1. Retailers claim it’s better for your eyes but really the best thing you can do is put a 6500K LED light behind your TV. IMO the ambilight is really just for the cool/flash factor (and it’s very cool and flashy!)

    2. As that1guy alluded to, it may be easier on the eyes because it provides more consistent lighting.

      It might be because I have a small 42″ flatscreen TV, but I can’t watch it if the room is pitch black. I need some kind of ambient lighting (even if it’s just a night light). Otherwise my eyes keep adjusting to the bright screen and the dark room and it ends up feeling too bright.

      (Yes, I know I can probably dim the TV brightness manually, but I never remember to do that, and can’t find the button on the universal remote).

    3. it’s actually pretty nice since you don’t need to turn on a lamp. For the most part you don’t actually notice it (and if your using boblight there are many settings for speed and such so it doesn’t flash as much which is more distracting.)
      I don’t quite get the need to use processing, I had used some processing code initially for my ambientlights and it used way more resources than it should of, and also ran rather slow. Boblight supports as many channels as you want, and I take it the lights used in this project are individually addressable.

      I might look into the individually addressable lights which are cool, but 4 channel rgb strips are pretty enjoyable to me right now. Might be neat to use both.

      I agree with the others though that a device that does HDMI passthrew would be ideal.

    4. I’ve never seen an Ambilight so I’m not sure how it is supposed to look/work, but the *only* way I can see it having any effect is when the bezel disappears and the image fades completely into the background.

  5. I have a 100″ Infocus XScreen projector screen that would be perfect to do a project like this, but that’s something like 26 linear feet around the screen to fill with leds. Ouch $$$.

    Plus relying on the computer to crunch dose not sound fun.

    But at least there is a mac version!

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