It’s possible to add an ambient backlight system to your computer screen or TV using widely available open source code, and it’s very affordable.
Ambient backlighting, like Philips Ambilight, is a technology that extends the colors displayed on your TV screen to the wall behind the TV using RGB LEDs.
This creates a more immersive experience when watching movies or playing games because the screen looks bigger as you extend the colors you are looking at in your peripheral vision.
However, ambient backlit televisions and monitors are not widely available and increase the price of the television dramatically.
Aftermarket products, which add similar functionality to your existing television or computer monitor, exist, but they are expensive and can cost the same as a cheap monitor.
We have found an open source alternative that can be built using an Arduino board and addressable LED strips. We decided to give it a try.
The project is called Adalight WS2812 by Wifsimster and uses Arduino code to emulate a Lightpack device that can be used with different software.
Addressable LED strips are available from electronics suppliers and are available in various configurations.
The project required LED strips based on WS2811 or WS2812, and we found one that runs on a 5V supply with 60 LEDs per meter that seemed suitable for the job.
Since we wanted to fit a 27 inch computer screen, we measured the perimeter and needed just under 2m of lights.
It is advisable to get as much coverage as possible around the edge of the screen.
The LED strips can be glued to the back of your screen using glue, or in our case, thin double-sided tape.
You need to make sure that the LED strips rotate around the screen in a circular fashion so that the output of one strip can be connected to the input of the next.
These strips can then be welded together using short wires or connected using 90 ° connectors provided for this purpose.
LEDs require proper power depending on the specification of the light strip. In our case, a 5V power supply was needed as we are using 106 LEDs at a maximum of 30mA each, a current of just over 3A.
We had a 3A power supply and decided to just limit the brightness of the combo setup to match the power supply.
An Arduino board is needed to process the serial data sent from the computer and send the digital signal to the LEDs to change colors. We used a cheap Arduino Nano clone which worked perfectly.
We used two wires to connect the Arduino board and the LED strip – one for ground and one from a digital output pin on the board to the digital input pin on the LED strip.
Once all the hardware is configured, the Arduino board can be programmed using the code provided. It should be changed with the correct number of LEDs and the correct pin number for the output.
From there, the backlight can be configured and controlled using any software compatible with Lightpack.
We used a modified version of Prismatik for Lightpack devices, which captures your screen and converts the colors on the edges to a specific hue to send to each LED.
The overall result is spectacular, especially when watching bright YouTube videos or playing games.
The configuration described above can be designed for around R600, which is much cheaper than commercially available products.
Building our own ambient backlighting system was easy and should be within the reach of an electronics novice.