Building your own ambient color lighting bars

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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.
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JoseG54 months ago

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.

I found the "stripboard" also can be called Veloboard... can be purchased here in the longer sizes required by this instructable:
sjoobbani3 years ago
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
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.
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Sh4d0w (author)  TECHMASTERJOE4 years ago
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.
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)
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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)
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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)
ragravity4 years ago
This is AWESOME! I've been wating to build an ambilight type system for a while. has anyone got this towork on XBMC yet?
works fine with XBMC for windows and Mediaportal
if you want a linux app pm me and give me about a week
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
queeqwueeg4 years ago
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.
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you must run as admin for com files to install
Nomadsanity4 years ago
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.
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 :(
Did you ever figure this out? Mine also immediately errors off.
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
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)  bleedscarlet6 years ago
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-train4 years ago
Looking at your room 2 words come to mind.

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

Very nice 'ible, im quite impressed.
cracksmurf4 years ago
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.
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.
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
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!
djpain5 years ago
 its changing very fast...isnt there a way to make it smoother?
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
Justinph55 years ago
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.
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