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Building your own ambient color lighting bars

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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:
http://www.futurlec.com/ProtoBoards.shtml
http://www.allelectronics.com/make-a-store/item/ECS-4/SOLDERABLE-PERF-BOARD-LINE-PATTERN/-/1.html

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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JoseG56 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: http://www.veroboard.com/4x10-4000l-phenolic-pitch-01-254mm-p-28.html
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............

http://techmasterjoe.com/apps/shadlight.rar
..........
i keep getting asked a lot so here is my all around led-wiz fix all pack as well
http://techmasterjoe.com/apps/wiz-fix.zip........
.
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
irc.rizon.net
#TechMasterJoe
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.
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
but
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.
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 3.5.....no avail :(
b-train5 years ago
Looking at your room 2 words come to mind.

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

Very nice 'ible, im quite impressed.
cracksmurf5 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

http://techmasterjoe.com/installers/wiz-fix.zip

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 +.net 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
http://joecolor.tk
it still needs work
http://www.ledlight.com/5050-led-module-water-proof-rgb-positive-anode.aspx
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.
Reper385 years ago
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 Reper385 years ago
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.
barkers306 years ago
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: http://cgi.ebay.com.au/12V-5V-AC-Adapter-FOR-HARD-DISK-DRIVE-Power-Supply-A057_W0QQitemZ320285880089QQihZ011QQcategoryZ111429QQcmdZViewItem

An additional info you could provide on wiring an external power supply would be much appreciated.
does anyone found a better power supply than a computer one wich must waste energy for nothing used like this ?
Possibly could find something better suited for the job but don't expect it to be as cheap as a computer power supply.
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 ! ! ! !
Ah yes, of course. Might help if pay a little closer attention. Just thought that it would be a simpler way.
i am also looking for a better power supply, i will post here if i find something ;-)
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?
modfrenzy5 years ago
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?
awalk1455 years ago
I love this design! Looks badass, I'm hoping to start building it soon. Do you still not have an ETA for the second version bc I would like to wait and see how you went about it before starting on the old one Great work man!!
I love it! That is all that I can say!! I love it!! Now I have to do this.. lol.. I wanted to do something like this in my place, but the pricing for the equipment to do this is just outrageous, so I will have to look into this and give it a few stabs... if I bleed.. that is alright... lol... I love it!!
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