Introduction: Building Your Own Ambient Color Lighting Bars

Picture of Building Your Own Ambient Color Lighting Bars
This instructable covers how to build, mount and control LED light bars to provide for full color ambient room lighting as well as "ambilight" style video effects.

Note that the flickering of the leds is not as noticable in real life as it is in the video. This is due to the PWM of the lights being off from the camera rate.

This is fairly easy to build as long as you have patience. Although there is a lot of soldering, it's easy to do on the strip board. I recommend having some programming experience if you build this.

You will need:

A controller - I used an LED-Wiz. I plan on switching to an arduino later, but this got me up and running quickly and easily. This controller is capable of driving 32 channels at 500ma, since each led requires 3 channels at 20ma (Red, Green and Blue) this gives me support for 10 light bars with 25 led's each (500ma / 20ma = 25 led's).

RGB Leds - I bought a pack of 200 off ebay for about $65. They are poor quality and there's some variance in the color between them but they were cheap and do the job just fine. I chose to go with 10 bars of 19 leds to give me a few spare led's in my pack. The ebay auction I bought had the title "200X Diffused 5mm Common A Manual Control RGB LED 8Kmcd"

Stripboard - I found stripboard at my local electronics supply store for $6.

Some other people have found it online here:

Resistors - See Below

Wire - I used ribbon cable from my local store, it came in a 20 wire width which i tore into strips of 4 wires.This is the same type of cable used in floppy drive and ata33 cables.

Mounting hardware - I used vinyl siding from Home Depot, see step #5

Power Supply - You may be able to use your computer, see step #6

Software - See step 7. A computer is REQUIRED and the ambilight effects will only work with video being played from the computer. Unless you are using a video capture card to watch TV, it is not possible to have the effects from another source.

Calculating the resistor sizes:

The easiest way to figure it out is to use the online calculator here. My led's were listed as being 20ma forward current with green and blue at 3.6v - 3.8v and red at 2.0v - 2.4v.
Open the calculator and click on "Parallel leds" at the top. Entering 5 for supply voltage, 3.6 for voltage drop, 20ma for current and 19 led's gave me a value of 1 watt 3.9 ohm. Notice that the red led is different so it requires a different resistor.

The store I was at did not have nearly enough 1 watt resistors so I decided to just go for 500mW ones instead. The calculator says the resistor dissipates 503mW in my situation so I should be safe and thus far they have been reliable. I do not necessarily recommend this approach.

If you have questions about the build, please post them as comments instead of messaging me. I've received many questions that are similar and if they are posted in the comments it allows others to learn from them as well.

Step 1: Cutting the Stripboard

Picture of Cutting the Stripboard

To start off, I picked up a large piece of stripboard from my local electronics store. I cut this into pieces measuring (in holes) 4x57 as shown in the picture.

I cut it to this size without considering that I'd want to mount the resistor fully on the board, so you may want to make it a little larger like 4x62. If you mount the resistor fully on the board make sure to cut the copper trace beneath the resistor.

I drew lines along it with a sharpie, cut it most of the way through with a dremel, then it snapped fairly cleanly. A quick run with the dremel's sanding bit and they were ready.

Step 2: Insert the LED's

Picture of Insert the LED's

Inserting the LED's is pretty straightforward. I recommend drawing a line on the board the denote which contact is for the anode. The anode on my led's was the longest leg so a black line from a sharpie made it easy to make sure they went in the right away.

The spacing between the holes in the stripboard does not match the spacing on the led's so they could not be flush with the board. I pushed them in pretty firmly and they stayed in place fairly easily.

Step 3: Soldering the LED's Into the Board

Picture of Soldering the LED's Into the Board

The easiest way to solder them is:
1) Go through with a pair of cutters and trim one leg off each
2) Solder this leg to secure the led to the board
3) Cut the remaining legs and solder them

The solder does not want to adhere to the stripboard in between the copper so it's actually fairly difficult to do this wrong. Be patient and try to avoid leaving the soldering iron in one spot for too long or you may damage the LEDs / board.

Step 4: Soldering the Resistors to the Wire and Then to the Stripboard

Picture of Soldering the Resistors to the Wire and Then to the Stripboard

I found it was easier to solder the wire to the resistor, then solder the resistors in.

Strip the ribbon cable, leaving one of the wires with more shielding for your common anode, since this will run directly into the board instead of through a resistor. Solder the resistors in the correct order and cover with tape or heatshrink. It does not matter which way the resistors go.

Next solder the entire set to the stripboard. I did the anode first, followed by the resistors. The resistors are easier to do if you bend them at an angle first before putting in, then you can fold the leg down onto the stripboard and just solder it in.

Congratulations, you just finished one! I'd recommend testing each one immediately to make sure you haven't soldered any LED's in backwards ;)

Step 5: Mounting

Picture of Mounting

To mount the bars, I took one to home depot and found a piece of vinyl siding shaped like a U_ that it would fit into. I cut it into strips longer then the board, then cut off the extra mounting piece leaving just the U shape. I lay a strip of scotch mounting tape/foam down inside it and pressed the board in, then tucked the cable in between the plastic.

At this point I also ran some white electrical tape around the entire contraption so that the ends are not open. It's not the ideal solution but it works for now. If you are really determined, you could probably cut pieces of siding to fit into the ends as caps.

To mount the entire things on my wall I used the mounting tape again. Just two little small squares on either end were sufficient.

Step 6: Wiring Up the Controller

Picture of Wiring Up the Controller

Common anode goes to the 5v in and the cathodes go to the different ports. I stuck it all in a box and cut a hole in the side.

I'm running the power for my controller off the power supply for my media pc. The power supply is rated for 20A on the 5V line, but this system requires around 12A. The controller is not capable of powering off usb unless you are doing under 500ma total and this is way beyond that.

191 led's * 3 colors * 20ma = 11460ma. 11460 = 11.45A, plus a bit for the controller.

I initially powered this off my 550w power supply in my pc but with this on my 5v line drops to 4.85v from it's normal 4.98v and my usb devices start to act very sketchy. I grabbed a spare 400 watt very cheap no-name power supply which I had sitting around and it died after running this for 15 minutes. I recommend a decent brand which is separate from your computer.

If you want to use an external power supply, you can connect the green wire in the motherboard connector to a ground (any black) to power it on without a pc. You can find more details here or on google.

Step 7: Software

Picture of Software

The LED-Wiz controller comes with some decent software for doing animations and testing:
- LED-Wiz
- LedBlinky
- Luminaudio

I've found a open source program called BobLight which was designed to do Ambilight effects using a custom controller. I've taken BobLight and modified to work with the LEDWiz under the name ShadLight.

In addition to this, I've also added support for sending it a new "command string" via UDP. This is to allow for a php interface on a different machine to set the colors. I run this program on my media PC at all times and use the web interface (on my fileserver) via my blackberry to remote control it.

ShadLight was my first attempt at C# programming and the php interface was hacked together pretty messily. I do not recommend leaving either of these exposed to the internet, definitely put an .htaccess on the php.

Download everything here

Command setting - This is a comma seperated list of settings for each port. 48 is maximum brightness. LR,LG,LB are the red, green and blue ports for the left side of the ambilight and RR,RG,RB are the right side. See the PBA command in the led-wiz developer documentation for more information. This allows you to set your room to be one color, disable a few lights and still have ambilight working on specific light bars.

PHP Configuration - All you need to change is the hostname at the top of the file. PHP must be compiled with sockets support for it to send UDP packets.

Making your media client work:
Windows Media Player (WMP) Classic (with Boblight): Start WMP Classic, go to view and select options. In the options menu go to playback and select output. In the output screen select under DirectShow Video VMR9 (renderless)**! Now restart WMP Classic and open a video (either DVD, avi, divx or something else). The Momolight system should now work with WMP Classic using the Boblight software!

Windows Media Player (WMP): The only way to get Momolight working with standard WMP is by turning of overlay (for example by turning of Hardware Acceleration with your video device). This also only works together with the Boblight software.

VLAN player (with Boblight): Setting the video output in the video options menu to OpenGL will enable AmbX lighting effects with playback of video’s (DVD, divx, etc) with the VLAN player.


Mousepotato01 (author)2017-04-08

May I have a link for shadlight please the links provided in Instructable and form do not work.

BlackZero (author)2016-08-23

Can anyone provide the software "ShadLight"? Unluckily the download links are down...

kamhagh (author)2016-01-06

aren't you supposed to use an resistor for each led? That way they don't get to max brightness and they will have different brightness and also some colors are not gonna turn on!

kamhagh (author)2016-01-06

aren't you supposed to use an resistor for each led? That way they don't get to max brightness and they will have different brightness and also some colors are not gonna turn on!

JoseG5 (author)2014-11-20

So is the software working on this or not? I have Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit, if someone could provide a updated download list for the software it would be much appreciated.

nicolasrenold (author)2012-01-23

I found the "stripboard" also can be called Veloboard... can be purchased here in the longer sizes required by this instructable:

sjoobbani (author)2011-10-10

I built something similar to this before reading this instructable.. the way mine works though is... different:
The audio is inputed through a 3.5 MM jack, which goes to my audio mixer.. nothing fancy there, different channels, volumes, balance, etc. Then one feed goes into my speakers, so I can hear my music, the other feed goes to a control box where the signal is amplified or.. un-amplified, then it goes to a second box which i can switch between blue & green LEDs, and Orange/red LEDs.
the cool thing is that I can have it set up to react to Bass or any or all frequencies in the music.. :D

TECHMASTERJOE (author)2011-08-02

OK here you all go
here people a link to the same he has posted as everything i just fixed 64bit support............
i keep getting asked a lot so here is my all around led-wiz fix all pack as well
the site is like 2 days old so be nice i am not a web site builder.
i fix hardware not software BUT i can fix the simple things.
remember to right click shadlight.exe and under compatibility set disable desktop composition
this way it will shut off windows Aero when you start it and back on when closed....

i have a simple code script for you shadow if you want to add it that will make shadlight kill Aero by it's self i was just to lazy to add it to the org pack
i fixed 64bit and that will stop the Crash on Start every one has

i might add it later if i do you will see a added readme file inside tell then it's the same as Shadows just fixed 64bit
if anyone needs me

if you don't know how to irc good Chance this project is over your head but i will still help if i can.

TECHMASTERJOE (author)2010-07-27

PC 1 runs wizlight and my webserver as well as 10X 2TB HDD (14% free atm) and MediaPortal...... the pic's at photobucket are crap that my phone uploaded as my sis has yet to return my 12MP SLR or my camcorder... ah... god... family sometimes you just can't stand them...(¤!¤)...................AND YES I AM A ANIME NUT.... i eat sleep breath Anime and Manga own over 4,200 DVD's and over 900 blurays as well as 2600 books i have worked at Anime eXpo the LAST 3 years and a member of the SPJA from the start about 9 years ago.. i speak Japanese no i am not from japan or even close.... i am Irish/German speak them to fyi it's called "Gaeilge".... witch is not bad for some dumb kid from long beach California LAWL

made some very small changes (now less then a 2ms delay in "movie" mode)
and cut down cpu usage at the same time lawl "got more for less"
might be to fast for some use movie 10, movie 30, or movie 10+fast scene detect.
(delay works by fading change over X number of frames)
movie10+FSR works by letting brightness change as fast as it can and only fading color data (can look a tad washed out if color is set less then 40)
FSR base starts at 128 up for smother down for faster inc delay is based on capture timer witch is in ms
fyi--people 8ms = 60fps -----------
this will most likely be the last update tell i beat cancer.---im just to sleepy to even use the 4 ledwiz i have setup in my room.....yes that's 40 RGB channels each channel is a 3watts star lawl----------
ledblinky with music really makes my room move
--------if you like this software REPLY that-s the only way i know people are using it-------

here is new link to reg patch it has a copy of shadlight with it that's patched for 64bit and will turn aero off if it's active (will turn back on after shadlight is closed)----
i will post a 2nd link on to all my apps i have made
even to a 10channel ver for use with the ledwiz

the site runs off a server in my house so it's a bit slow PM me if links die
or if has a error (torrents tend to kick it off)

ragravity (author)2010-10-28

This is AWESOME! I've been wating to build an ambilight type system for a while. has anyone got this towork on XBMC yet?

TECHMASTERJOE (author)ragravity2011-04-21

works fine with XBMC for windows and Mediaportal

if you want a linux app pm me and give me about a week

TECHMASTERJOE (author)ragravity2010-11-23

RGB LED + LED-WIZ + the APP i made and posted links to will work fine with XBMC
thats how i use it still working on my I2c setup with 32 RGB channels i have not forgot it's not as easy as you think
i have a working 12 channel setup with messy code but it's 16bit per color at 6X the fq as led wiz works well but is unstable when done i will most likely post it as my own guide but it will be a lot harder then this led wiz setup i made the led wiz setup just like his in about 2hrs
my kit might take a bit and cost more as it's meant more for house lighting
my goal is 9watt LED's ran with AT328 and RF to a USB / ethernet brain
(arduino with ethernet and bluetooth atm)

the idea is to have as many lights you want and have as much range as you can get
my lights cost almost 40$ to build each and about $80 for brain
1. no limit on # of lights
2. 2048 steps per color ya that's how crazy it is
3. color correction using icm profiles
4. each light fits in standard light cans
5. 6db ant with a max range of 1000 feet to brain

TECHMASTERJOE (author)2011-04-20

you must run as admin for com files to install

queeqwueeg (author)2011-03-22

Can someone send me a copy of the fix so this could work in windows 7? This is amazing work you did! I am trying to get to work myself, but most software is only workable in windows xp or vista.

Nomadsanity (author)2010-10-13

Do yourself a big favor, solder each LED to the board as you put it it. This way you don't have to try to get your iron around all the other leads to get to the one you want. I have built several bars of this type and unless you want to have an exercise in patience, do this solder step one LED at a time.

TECHMASTERJOE (author)2010-07-25

sry delete old posts but save room... ........ locked down the installer a bit ....... fixed all probs with 64bit now is save for 32/64....... saves to "C:\super-wiz" ..... added start menu shortcut for wizfix.bat cleaned up shortcut names. will work WITH OR WITH OUT AERO.... BUT will use a Hell of a lot of CPU when AERO IS ON so i recommend turning it off... added both vertical and horizontal starts and stops for all out puts for people with room lights but no tv ambi this will make it so they only match the top or bottom or just set field to 0-100 (starts from top of screen) and will be the same as it was before it still uses old GDI32 (but hands off to user32.dll to speed it up)

Sh4d0w (author)2010-06-20

Nice. I want to take this project to the next level, but I've been pretty busy as of late. I've started modifying the app to run over a network, since I no longer have my led's plugged into the same box that I play media on.

TECHMASTERJOE (author)Sh4d0w2010-07-20

if at all possible i would like a copy of a network ver i might pay i have adrino but im supper new to it so my main light are still ran by 3 led-wiz setup's .... it works well but the PWM FQ and 48 step limit just sucks feel free to pm or email me anytime....... all my lights run off a custom made H-bridge type controller take's 48 RGB inputs and boost peek output to 22 amps per channel at 2x drive FQ has a pwm fan and heatsink for high loads. new update's...... moved to 30 watts per channel of LEDs (10X3 watt RGB leds per can light in my house) im ok with html and php but in truth i suck at VB i'm ok with C# so if you can help me with software i might pay for your hardware and you think you can add a TOP & bottom output for your shadlight been over 3 times can't seam to get it to work when i do if you like to miss with me feel free ..... wish to help push this project out more been fighting cancer so home more now with nothing to do..

NEVER mind i got the reprogramming down i just missed 1 part now has support for network and split the screen in to 8 parts added support for up to 5 ledwiz's at a time and changed the port setting over so it can be changed by the XML for now it's still 1337 but will change soon and will play law files based on CMD command (i have it flash green 2X every time utorrent finishes a file)

bleedscarlet (author)2008-12-11

I'm totally lost. my copy of shadlight won't even run, immediately errors off. Anybody else having this problem? I built the LEDs and all, testing them using the ledwiz software, and that works just fine, but beyond doing it all manually, I can't do anything with this :(

mu.n8ball (author)bleedscarlet2009-11-12

Did you ever figure this out? Mine also immediately errors off.

bleedscarlet (author)mu.n8ball2009-11-12

I never figured it out. I found after LOTS of research the controller used in this project is limited and kind of old.

If I were to do it again, I'd use an Arduino and write my own protocol. Back when I first tried this I was just coding for myself, now that I actually code professionally it only makes sense to code the stuff I want on my own :p

babelfish42 (author)bleedscarlet2010-05-12

dude please do becasue my coding skills fall under leetarded and im using an arduino. someone needs to write a better instructable on this on the software end becasue this is a remarkably useful tool.

I just got mine to work last night... you have windows XP and .net framework 2.0.5__ right? After a couple restarts mine just worked suddenly.

holy crap, I'll give that a try right now. updating my .net framework now

Sh4d0w (author)bleedscarlet2008-12-24

Erfgh, Not sure. My C# knowledge is non-existant, I just hacked this together. I've got all the parts compiled for my home-built controller which will support a lot more and be easier to work with. Once I do that I might port shadlight over to VB so that I can actually make a decent app without learning C#.

Just upgraded to avail :(

b-train (author)2010-05-08

Looking at your room 2 words come to mind.

1st is GeeeeekkkkkK!!!!!
2nd is COooolllll!!!!!!

Very nice 'ible, im quite impressed.

cracksmurf (author)2010-05-05

Can someone make an understandable tutorial on how to get the software side of all this working? I've downloaded all of the programs above. With the GenLEDBlinkyInputMap.exe or LWSEND.exe I can test individually each port on my led wiz. Luminaudio has me lost, as well as trying to get any player to interact with the led wiz.

Mainly I attempted with MPC. Made the VMR9 (renderless) change. Running shadlight i get no light output.

Also, I am confused about what I have to do to get the web interface for color control up and running.

Please any help would be appreciated.

LethalCorpse (author)2010-02-07

The variability in LED brightness will likely be due to the fact that you've got them in parallel, using a single resistor for many LEDs. LEDs don't play nice when you do this to them. Very small variations in their forward voltage drops will result in big variations in their forward current, and hence in their brightness. If the LEDs are very closely matched, you'll just notice differences in light output. If they're very badly matched, you'll find that one LED will get almost all of the current supplied by the very small resistor. This will cause it to blow, then the LED with the next lowest forward voltage drop will get all of the current. You can take out an entire chain in just a few seconds. To solve the problem give every LED its own resistor (for RGB LEDs, this means three resistors per LED). Assuming 3.7V for the Green and Blue, and 2.2V for the Red, that means 68ohm and about 150ohm respectively on a 5V supply. Resistors are cheap - use them.

TECHMASTERJOE (author)2010-01-15

i tracked down most of the probs people have and made a quick fix
this will get it working in vista and windows 7 as well (1/2 sec lag or so but dose work )

just remember to run the batch as a ADMIN or is a no go
this will get LuminAudio working right in vista to

shad will not run it will lock up if vista AREO is running look at screen shot to set compatibility and 99% of the time this 3.5 will fix most probs

Esparoba2 (author)TECHMASTERJOE2010-01-25

You sir, are my hero! I already found out thet with Aero turned on Shadlight will lag. Bu i haven't been able to run Shadlight properly. You did a fantastic job here, keep it up!

djpain (author)2010-01-11

 its changing very fast...isnt there a way to make it smoother?

TECHMASTERJOE (author)2010-01-08

i have it all setup and working in vista ult
feel free to change my room color
it still needs work
but am using 20 of in pairs of 2 8 pairs around my room
and 2 on my 42" vizio trueled

Justinph5 (author)2009-11-13

I have a larger scale version of this, spreading out the led's more, and need some help/advice/comments.

It is pretty much a 120' length that I want lit, with rbg leds spanning across. The led's will be paired(paralleled) in two's, and every other pair will be on a different channel (example: chan1, chan2, chan1, chan2) so I have separate control over every other pair.

For each channel I can have 12 pairs (500ma), each pair uses 3 channels (rgb) and I have 120 pairs, so 30 channels.   I plan to use a computer power supply as a dedicated power supply for this (5v/30amp) to run it.

My questions are these.  First, do you think a 14/4awg running to 12 pairs 120' away would work? Do you think this whole setup will work, and if so, whats the weakest part? Finally, do you think anyone else is crazy enough to spend this much time on it LOL?

This is for a commercial project, so I am really hoping it's manageable. If anyone doesn't understand let me know and I'll draw it out for you.

Reper38 (author)2009-07-27

Hey ! I'm starting to make this project but I wonder something... Is it possible that every single light bar is controlled by one specific part of the screen and how to do that ? For exemple, there are 10 light bars and if I want : 1 on the right down side of the screen 1 on the right up side of the screen 1 on the left down side of the screen 1 on the left up side of the screen 1 on the top left side of the screen 1 on the top middle side of the screen 1 on the top right side of the screen and 3 on the bottom like the up side of the screen Of course each light bar has to be the dominant color of the part of the screen it represents (am I clear enough ?) Is it possible or not to do that with this instructable ? THANKS a lot for your help

drewlw (author)Reper382009-09-03

I figure that you would be able to control every strip individually since each LED has its own channel. The only speedbump to this is that you would probably have to modify code for it to be able to sample and output 10 color areas.

barkers30 (author)2008-08-15

I just come across this today and it's exactly what I've been looking. I was just wondering about the external supply though, would you be able to use something like this instead:

An additional info you could provide on wiring an external power supply would be much appreciated.

the_babou (author)barkers302008-08-16

does anyone found a better power supply than a computer one wich must waste energy for nothing used like this ?

purpulhaze (author)the_babou2009-08-04

Possibly could find something better suited for the job but don't expect it to be as cheap as a computer power supply.

the_babou (author)barkers302008-08-16

in NO way, the external supply must be able to provide about 50watts that mean about 10 A (I may be wrong, tell me if i am) in this configuration, you external supply on ebay can only deliver 2A, it will burn in a few seconds ! ! ! !

barkers30 (author)the_babou2008-08-17

Ah yes, of course. Might help if pay a little closer attention. Just thought that it would be a simpler way.

the_babou (author)barkers302008-08-18

i am also looking for a better power supply, i will post here if i find something ;-)

ibuildcoolstuff (author)2009-07-21

So your powering this controller of an ATX type power supply with the 5V output at 20A right? Also, how many watts is your power supply that you are powering this off now? Lastly, does the 5 volt positive wire from the power supply go into and then have another wire come out of the 5v input on the Led Wiz?

modfrenzy (author)2009-07-13

Sh4dow your overdrawn dot net site is down. I really want to see version two before I start this project. Wondering how it's all coming together. Also on this instructable how did you do your light strips, were each strip just a single color or was it RGB?

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