DIY | Ambilight [2012-2022]

Setting my trusty old Ambilight setup to rest .. for now. I originally made this in 2012 and has still been in use in 2022.

DIY | Ambilight [2012-2022]
The original setup from 2012

From 2012 to 2022 this setup brought light in to my living room(s). Time has a bit driven past this one, although still working and usable. I have to say, that this has been one of the most maintenance free builds I've ever done, it's just been working care free. One bigger update/upgrade was made in 2017, to drive the RGB pixels from any HDMI source.

This is not a detailed/full build guide, this is more of an retrospective. I think you can still find similar detailed instructions to actually build something similar, if you do a bit searching.

Original Setup

The original Ambilight build was quite simple in hardware, I used Arduino Uno, two strands of 25 pixel Digital RGB LEDs (WS2801), a 5V 2A power adapter and 2.1mm female DC power adapter jack.

In this original setup the RGB pixels were driving by my Media Center. The Media Center was a requirement, only content played from it, could guide the lights. So you can image that my Media Center was packed with "everything". It was equipped with an internal DVD/Blu-ray reader,  two Digital Devices DuoFlex twin DVB-C2 tuners and Octopus CI, which also was acting as a bridge between the tuners and the CIs. Two CAMs and two similar cable paycards for each tuner card. This setup allow to view/record 4 channels at the same time (possible even 8  channels depending for the channel packs, but 4 was more than enough).

On software side I first started with Windows Media Server as the main frontend, but later on changed to Kodi for all my media content. While Windows Media Center was able to handle the tuners itself, Kodi however needed something to handle the tuners, tuning the channels, channel changes, schedule recordings, and for that I used ArgusTV reliably for years and boblightd for the ambilight. With Kodi and ArgusTV however I was able to automate commercials skipping, which back then was just awesomeness. After the introduction of smart TVs, CI+ and various streaming services this setup started become more and more obsolete.

Making the frame with Wall Mount in 2012
Original setup from 2012

LED Grid and color re-calibration tests in 2017

Updated Setup in 2017

In 2017 I decided to add the possibility to drive the ambilight also from different HDMI sources (game consoles and Android TV box to bring some new smartness and streaming services). While doing this change upgrade, I also did some software setup changes in the background, Boblightd was changed to Hyperion, Kodi was changed to Plex. ArgusTV along with the tuner cards were dumped as the new Android TV box had 2 tuners built-in, yes les than the old 4 tuners, but at that time there was a significant change happening towards streaming services. This setup was still working today, although the TV as a main TV in living room has been replaced already a while ago, and the screen found it's place in my sons room as an Xbox screen.

Upgrade in 2017, adding support for any HDMI source
The LED grid in HyperCon configuration tool for Hyperion
Testing the out the LED grid and calibrating
2017 final setup

Retiring the ambilight, kinda ..

Why retiring working setup .. well mainly due to the current component shortage, I wanted to use the Raspberry Pi and Arduino for something else, yes it's an old one, but enough for the project I am doing. I did however left all the other components in their places, took a backup image of the Raspberry Pi, so there remains the possibility to still resurrect this later on. I have to add that the real champ of this project is truly the TV, this Samsung TV has lasted over 10 years and is still looking good, although old tech, which is the reason it got replaced in the living room.

Have to say this was a fun project, and originally really changed the way I experienced TV, it made watching TV really more immersive. I learned a lot about the project, RGB LEDs, Arduino, Raspberry Pi, coding, compiling, color calibration and so on ..

Grid and color calibration back in 2012