This instructable is my new approach on an ambilight clone. It all developed from my first try. Here you can find the old instrucable, which is OUT OF DATE and only linked for historic purposes. You will not need anything explained in the old instructable.

Enough about that old one.

At the end of this instruction set you will have a low cost (?) ambilight clone, with as many channels as you like. I will, for instance, show you how to build a 30 channel LED TV light, which adapts to the colors of your screen. If you are impatient, checkout the last step of this tutorial to see the very low quality video.

Hardware you will need:

- LED RGB SMD strip
- Microcontroller (Arduino Duemilanove Clone for example)
- (Two) TLC5940 PWM Unit
- maybe a cooler or a heatsink
- 12V power supply
- a few resistors

- electronic stuff (cables, soldering iron, breadboard, ...)

Software it takes:

- Boblight
- Windows or Linux
- Programming Software for your micro controller

Skills you will need:

- ability to solder
- maybe the skill to think a little bit technically, so you don't ask that many questions here in the comments :-)

This project is perfect for users that didn't have to do anything with electronics yet, but want to make something useful and uncomplicated to get started with.
I promise, this project is realizable for everyone who has got the attendance to follow my instructions step by step. It is really easy and if you only have some electronic skills and this is not your first project, it is even easier and you can modify it as you like.

So let's get started...

First of all, I want to explain the main principle of the completed unit.

1. You connect a computer to your TV and to the ambilight unit via USB.
2. You start the Boblight software
3. You start a movie.
4. Boblight analyzes your screen image and calculates some mean values of specific areas of your screen
5. Boblight sends these color-values via USB to your ambilight unit.
6. The micro controller within that unit takes the received color-values
7. According to the values the micro controller changes the LED strip colors

Steps 4 to 7 will be repeated up to about 50 times / second until you tell Boblight to stop.

Step 1: LED Strips

I will stay in metric scale, because it is much better than this crappy inch, feet and mile thing. You can convert centimeters to inches by dividing by 2.54, but I guess you know that    ;-)

Before we can start soldering all the stuff together we have to order it. Let's start with the LED strips responsible for the illumination. We need to control the color of the strip. By adjusting only three colors (Red, Green, Blue) it is possible to create many many colors. Your TV works similar. Google for RGB if you want to know more about that. So we will need LED strips which have got 3 channels. One for color red, one for color green and one for color blue. If you power up the red channel, the strip will glow in red, if you power up the red and the blue channel it will be pink or something (mix of blue and red). By adjusting the voltage of the channels it is possible to create all the colors we need.

There are so many different RGB LED strips out there: 60 LEDs per meter, 30 LEDs per meter, common anode, common cathode, waterproof, length of 3 meter, length of 5 meter, etc.

Common anode or common cathode?

You HAVE to take common anode (all 3 channels share 12V) because of the TLC5940 and that is really important. You could destroy the TLC5940 chip if you try to connect it to 12V.


As long as your TV isn't waterproof and you don't want to use your new ambilight under water, there is no real necessity to buy waterproof LED strips. It may be better because of insulation issues. You will tape the strips onto the back of your TV so make sure, you either buy waterproof strips, or the back of your screen is not conductive, because otherwise you could get in big trouble as soon as the contacts of the strips short curcuit. My screen backside is not conductive, because it is painted, so I decided to save the money and use non-waterproof strips.

60 or 30 LEDs per meter?

Another question is, how many LEDs you want per meter. The TLC5940 chip, which will control the color of the strips, is capable of serving 120mA per channel. I would not exceed that value.

I measured 15 LEDs on one strip. Here are my results: If you power up all three channels completely,  the strip takes 240mA and glows completely white. The red channel takes 90mA, green and blue 75mA each. 90mA is close enough to 120mA maximum, and we still have a little buffer of 30mA. So the TLC5940 chip is capable of driving 15 LEDs on one channel without getting too close to the maximum.

Now back to the question what to buy.
If you want to use a strip with 60 LEDs per meter, the maximum length of one strip is 25cm, because than you have exactly 15LEDs. If you decide to buy a strip with 30 LEDs per meter, you can double the length of one strip to half a meter to have 15 LEDs. Shorter strips, of course, are always possible. It's not just a question of current flowing, but of brightness. Maybe your room is often dark and you don't want that many LEDs shining behind your tv. In such a case 30 LEDs per meter would be completely okay and you don't have to pay the extra price for 60 LEDs per meter. To get to the point, I used strips with 60 LEDs per meter, because I ordered them to compare both solutions.

After all of your ordered LED strips arrived, one of the first things you have to do is to cut the LED strips into smaller pieces and solder cables to the ends.

Here is my setup:
I have got a 127cm (50") TV screen.

The outer dimension:
Width: 118cm
Height: 74cm

I wanted to have 10 areas all in all so I had to cut the whole long thing (5 meters) into 10 shorter strips. The question was how long shell they be? Just to get an idea, I attached an image so you can see where I taped the strips to the backside of my tv screen after I finished the project. As you can see, one piece has to have the length of 25cm to make sure there is enough light, small distances between two strips and they do not overlap. That corresponds to the results I measured for the maximum current. So at the end I still had 2.5 meters of LED strip left, which was resold on ebay.

Power Supply

As already precalculated each one of these strips takes 240mA on full white light. If you multiply that value by 10 strips, we get 2.4A.That is pretty much in my opinion: About 30 Watt.
I ordered my 12V power supply from Ebay. It can serve up to 5A and only costed 9 euros. Now I have a nice security buffer and the device doesn't overheat.

Soldering cables to the strips

My strips can be cut every 3 LEDs (so 5cm) and there are premade solder joints. Look at the second image I attatched to this step just beside the letters B R G on the strip. Sometimes there is even some solder on it so you don't need to care about that. If not, just take a needle and make a small hole into each of the joints and the solder will hold really good.

Just solder one cable to each channel and one cable for common anode (12V). Every strip has to have four cables. I used old network cable because it was long enough to cut it into pieces and has got 8 cables in it. That is very good because we need 4 cables per channel and I wanted to make pairs to cut down the number of cables behind my tv. The cable also has got a nice coating so I only have one bigger cable instead of 8 individual ones per pair. Now I have got four pairs of strips and two single (bottom). Make sure your chosen cables are long enough so the controller unit doesn't float behind your screen.

You can either leave the other side of the cable as they are and solder them directly to the controller unit or solder some pins to it so the strips are exchangeable, if one gets destroyed. That's up to you.
<p>Wonderful. Almost what I was looking for just added to favorites.<br>Do you know any project that could replace the computer on USB for any HDMI in+out connection?</p>
<p>Do anyone saw that new high quality, high resolution, standalone AMBILIGHT for TV that do not require a PC?</p><p>https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/153779262/lookledtv</p>
<p>Great tutorial. I have tried this tutorial and also bought 50xWS2801 LEDs and i must say the result was worse with WS2801 LEDs.</p><p>The <br> so called better resolution might be more accurate in analyzing regions <br> but they look so wrong and distinct. They just don't produce a nice <br>gradient effect like the LED strips (10cm-25cm) do. I also think WS2801 <br>LEDs are not bright enough (that might be the reason why there are so <br>many youtube videos with 150+ LEDs producing 450 channels! Not enough <br>light).</p><p>On the other hand the WS2801 is really easy to setup. No soldering whatsoever.</p><p>Anyway once again great tutorial.</p><p>Now i will try with 3 TLCs for 48 channels.</p>
<p>Adafruit has something similar to this...</p><p><a href="http://www.adafruit.com/product/461" rel="nofollow">http://www.adafruit.com/product/461</a></p>
<p>Hi, GREAT TUTORIAL! I folowed everything as you said. I'm also using 30chanen, 10 stripes, 25cm per stripe, 2xTLC5940NT, arduino uno...Now I'm stocked on the step where I need to connect RGB stripes on out pins...but I do not know which one of my strip should be connected on first 3 pins of the first TLC5940NT...which one of my strip is going on out pins 4,5,6...and so one? Please help me, I will be greatefull! THX</p>
<p>So I have everything setup and the sketch has been uploaded to the Arduino Uno. When I try to run boblightd.exe I get a error message &quot; com1 : Permision Denied&quot;. Any suggestions?</p>
<p>If you are sure about COM PORT that you are using than I guess you need to put it betwen &quot;&quot;. It should look like this &quot;COM9&quot;</p>
​I'm new to this so i have couple of question<br><br>1...Do i need RGB LED strip with specific ICs or any RGB LED strip would work and if there are couple ICs please mention them. For Example :- 3528 or 5050<br><br>2...Can i use MPS430 Launchpad instead.<br><br>3...What is channel.
Its been a couple years since you posted this, I was wondering how this has worked out? <br>Im trying to build a similar setup, but I plan on using 3 5490s for 16 RGB channels (48 channels). Im using 12v strips with 2 sections of 3 LEDs from 60LED/meter strips. It should be 40mA @12v per channel. im hoping to avoid heat sinks. I too chose to use ethernet cables, they are so very convenient for this. <br>My parts list is pretty easy, 3 TLCs, 3 1k resistors, and 1 10k resistor, 8 sections of ethernet cable 16 sections of 6 LED strips.
<p>I'm getting the same error com8: permission denied. Have you found a solution to this yet?</p>
com8 sounds like a windows thing, I cant help you with that, I dont know about the permission denied, but maybe you have something else on com8, not the microcontroller.
There were no other comments listed when I posted my comment. Now its showing lots of comments, and I can see that the author no longer has their unit. <br> <br>I did get mine built, and I ran shorter strips at 40mA. I did have a lot to trouble getting this code to work with my setup, but I was able go through the boblight files, and get things working. I set mine up on a 32&quot; tv, and used much shorter strips, running lower current, and have no heating issues. I may re-do the strips to 3 sections running at 60mA, because I think it will look better, and hopefully, it will not run too hot.
Thank you much, very well explained, easy to follow for my fist project, extremely happy with outcome on breadboard, only problem i had was using Boblight, figuring out how to get every color lit the same on every strip was daunting. Cudos my friend, Awesome tutorial.
Can i alsow play videogames?
Hi. I am new to electronics and i have one question. <br>Are this 390 resistors necessary for project to work? I can't find them, and online shopping sites don't ship to my country.
I fixed my problem. I was connecting to pins 13 14 and 15 not pins 1 2 and 3. For anyone that is wanting to test out just the hardware on their device there is a basicuse.pde in the tlc5940 folder under examples. It will flash RGB on all leds hooked up to the TLC5940. It also works with 1 or 2 TLC chips automatically.
Hello I am having some trouble testing this out. I have all the parts and I am trying to test out just one TLC chip that has two LED strips hooked up. I have tried this in linux and in windows. I don't get any errors in boblightd all seems to be fine there. In linux it is outputting the RGB colors in the terminal that it is setting but the LEDs don't come on at all. When i first plug in the arduino the LEDs flash if I don't have the 10k resistor hooked up but other than that I get no activity. Do you have a sketch that tests the hardware? Or any other advice?
I uploaded the basicuse.pde from the TLC examples folder and the LEDs work. So I am not sure what the issue is.
Hi, ledtvlight. thank you for this instruction. It was my first project with an arduino, and i felt very happy when run it on my computer. <br>Everything work fine, exept my led often blink. It s tire for eyes, how i can fix this? <br>Would you help me with this problem, please?) <br>I use simple LEDs - 5V/20mA, power from adruino 5V pin. <br>When I use only one LED all works without blinks. <br> <br>
The Arduino board cannot supply enough power. You need a driver.
For me to match the colors as wired in &quot;breadbord diagram&quot; and respecting what was labeled in my led strips I had to change config so that the 1st color (channel) was green, 2nd blue, 3rd red
For me to match the colors as wired in &quot;breadbord diagram&quot; and respecting what was labeled in my led strips I had to change config so that the 1st color (channel) was green, 2nd blue, 3rd red
Could you please write an arduino skech to test if the lights are working, cycling through colors. I would if i could but i dont understand arduino skechs
I have 2 monitors plugged into my pc and so was wondering can boblight react to just one monitor I specify/the main monitor.
I'm getting ready to wire up all of my led sections to the TLC5940 chips and I feel like I'm missing something here. I'm assuming that I wire up the sections based on their positions to the pin assignments in the boblight.conf file. E.g., pin &quot;17&quot; would be the Upper Right-Left section Red channel, which according to the Instructable should be the first channel on the second TLC5940 (I'm guessing pin 1), but the Blue channel for the same section is &quot;16&quot; in the boblight.conf file...is this pin 0 on the second chip? Because elsewhere it says we're not using pin 0 of the TLC5940s. <br> <br>If someone who has this running can give me some quick guidelines on how the sections are wired to the TLC5940s, I'd greatly appreciate it.
I've experienced the same issue with my project and it was Widows 8 causing the incredible latency, like windows 7 aero situation boblight not working effectively with Windows 8. With Win 7, and aero disabled, all is fine now...
everything good. I done this ambilight but Timeout is 15 seconds.I How I to fix it
Within the source code I guess. I don't know what you mean exactly.
hi this is a great bit of kit and i found it really easy to build! thanks. only problem is i'd been tidying all the cables at the back with the HDMI unplugged before plugging it back in when the LEDs were running and they suddenly cut off. i'm guessing i've shorted something out somehow but i've no idea what? any ideas? thanks
Sometimes the backside of your TV is made of metal and connected to ground. Try to insulate and separate your LED-construction from your TV backside.
Hi, <br>I ve been working on this project for a while while waiting my necessary items form ebay. <br>And I wonder if the project will work if I use 470 ohm resistors instead of 390 ohm ones? <br>I will apriciate the answer :) Thank you.
No Problem.
Has anyone tried this project with Windows 8?
Thank you for your rapid response :) . Yes I have and the strip itself works, the arduino is also working( tried a for loop sequence that goes thru all the channels). I think the problem is in the boblight itself, could this be possible? Next I'm trying to see what kind of data arduino is getting from boblight with another arduino tracking it's feed to the tlcs. What kind of tricks do you have in mind when the problem is in the software?
Hi! <br> <br>I started an ambientlight project few months ago. I have done the same steps as you have. My system is working fine except for one strip, it doesn't get the blue signal in. The address of the colour is ucon 22. Every other colour of all the strips work just as they should. The problem is not mechanical and the strip is working fine. Can you help me with my mysterious problem? My arduino is same as yours Duemilanove Atmega328. <br> <br>Thanks
Have you tried the blue channel manually by setting it to 12V without any device just by plugging it into a power supply? If that is working I would try to write a little arduino sketch that only switches from one channel to another and see, if the problem is on your arduino, the devices after your arduino or on your pc.
Hi <br> <br>Was anyone able to get their ambilight working with Mega 2560, I don't seem to get it working even after trying various connection. I am a n00b so would really appreciate any help. <br> <br>thanks in advance
thanks for this tutorial. i have a general question: <br> <br>If i understood you right, then each of your area (each stripe) can have only one color at a time. So your 10 areas shine with a maximum of 10 colors behind the screen? <br> <br>I compared your solution to the adalight project, you posted the link somewhere in the comments. this solution uses 25 single LED pixel which can be controlled individually, so there are at max 25 different colors at the same time? This is done without the need of the TLC5940, just by connecting 3 wires to the arduino. How is that possible? <br> <br>I am am little bit confused. In your project you have to wire each channel to an TLC5940 out. In summary you will have much more LEDs shining which gives you more brightness, but the adalight project gives you an higher resolution with just 3 wires? <br> <br>Maybe you can shed light on this? <br> <br>Thanks
Yes you are completely right. An adalight does the same and even more as you noticed. On adalight every single LED uses its own chip to decode the signal sent by another chip controlled by an arduino. You don't have to do anything on your own. If you only want a TV backlight just use it. But if I just wanted that I could have bought a Philips TV. But I wanted to learn, build, understand and so something on my own, so that's because I went this way.
Great job on this instructable! Very well documented and easy to follow. I am actually going to use this as a basis for my own &quot;Ambilight&quot; unit. <br> <br>Is this unit still functioning as intended though? I see that you installed a cooling fan, but it still seems like the TLC5940 chips would overheat regularly, especially when showing a bright white color. <br> <br>Page 15 of the TLC5940 datasheet shows the power dissipation calculations. In order to stay within the 2.456W allowed by the chip, i would expect that your voltage on each of the 15 channels (per chip) averages out to no more than 1.5V. Is this true? <br> <br>I understand if you don't feel like measuring that right now, but if you can say that it's still working as built, that's good enough for me! Maybe I'm reading the datasheet incorrectly? Thanks for the help.
Hi, sorry I sold my unit and built another one that I sold, too. Both people still use their systems and they never complained about anythin. <br> <br>I don't have any of these on my own any more and I'm not going to build another one. As I say to everyone, if you just want an Ambilight, just build Adalight's solution. If you want to build something and learn about electronics try my tutorial.
I got Boblight to run after I modified output from com3 to &quot;com3&quot;. However, I still don't see any light. I'll need to test more.
Finally got it working! :)<br>I had misplaced a couple wires to the Mega board but now it's smooth and shiny. Still needs some tweaking but at least it works now.
Hi, can you please help me? <br>I've a Mega board and I get no light at all, which ports you used to connect? <br>You used some capacitor with 10uF like someone did some comments below? <br>Thanks in advance.
Hi ledtvlight, <br> <br>First of all I want to say that I love this project and it's my favorite one. =) <br> <br>Ok, now I've everything assembled and I've a problem that I can't figure out. <br>I ordered one Arduino Mega 2560, I read that there is some people with problems with it and I'm one of them. <br>For the reason that the Arduino is not the same of yours, I have connected by a different way. So on the breadboard everything's connected by the same way, but for the reason that your assembly is not working for me, instead I used different connections between Arduino and the breadboard. <br>I opened the folder pinout from TLC librarie and checked the Arduino_Mega.h, so I've tried without sucess this connections: <br>VPRG (Mega pin 50) -&gt; VPRG (TLC pin 27) <br>XERR (Mega pin 10) -&gt; XERR (TLC pin 16) <br>SIN (Mega pin 51) -&gt; SIN (TLC pin 26) <br>SCLK (Mega pin 52) -&gt; SCLK (TLC pin 25) <br> <br>MOSI (Mega pin 51) -&gt; SIN (TLC pin 26) //Just don't get this two connections <br>SCK (Mega pin 52) -&gt; SCLK (TLC pin 25) <br> <br>OC1A (Mega pin 11) -&gt; XLAT (TLC pin 24) <br>OC1B (Mega pin 12) -&gt; BLANK (TLC pin 23) <br>OC2B (Mega pin 9) -&gt; GSCLK (TLC pin 18) <br> <br>What can be wrong? I get no light at all. <br> <br>Thanks in advance!
can i use 1/4 watt resisors or i need to use other? <br> <br>btw, great job
Hello, <br> <br>I believe that I am having a problem with my Tlc5940, but I'm not sure. <br> <br>The problem that I'm having is that every time I try to run the program, my LED strip stays a bright white color. I have tried changing what is on the screen, but this has not helped. <br> <br>I am only using 5 LED strips and 1 Tlc5940, so I have changed all files as described in this Instructable. <br> <br>When I try to run the example sketches for the Tlc5940, I have the same problem. <br> <br>Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you
I don't understand how to install it on linux and i don't find the arduino code.
As you are using a linux, I guess you know that it sometimes takes longer and more exertion until a programs does what you want it to do. <br> <br>Actually I do not know what your problem is. Can't you find the source code of boblight? If so, use this svn and compile it yourself. <br> <br>svn checkout http://boblight.googlecode.com/svn/trunk/ boblight-read-only <br> <br>If you are using Ubuntu (incl. LinuxMint) or Backtrack just search for it in your repositories: <br> <br>sudo apt-cache search boblight <br> <br>Or just use the software center. <br> <br>According to your problem finding the arduino code: <br>It's located in the attached zip-file within the main folder and called ambilight.pde. Arduino changed its file extension after my project was finished to *.ino, so *.pde is the old file extension. <br> <br>I hope I could help you and you enjoy my project.
As you are using a linux, I guess you know that it sometimes takes longer and more exertion until a programs does what you want it to do. <br> <br>Actually I do not know what your problem is. Can't you find the source code of boblight? If so, use this svn and compile it yourself. <br> <br>svn checkout http://boblight.googlecode.com/svn/trunk/ boblight-read-only <br> <br>If you are using Ubuntu (incl. LinuxMint) or Backtrack just search for it in your repositories: <br> <br>sudo apt-cache search boblight <br> <br>Or just use the software center. <br> <br>According to your problem finding the arduino code: <br>It's located in the attached zip-file within the main folder and called ambilight.pde. Arduino changed its file extension after my project was finished to *.ino, so *.pde is the old file extension. <br> <br>I hope I could help you and you enjoy my project.

About This Instructable


92 favorites


More by ledtvlight: 30 channel LED RGB Ambilight Clone LED TV LIGHT
Add instructable to: