Philips Hue Play Light Bar SportsWhen it comes to home theater lighting, most people don’t think about smart lighting at all. After all, aren’t we supposed to be watching television, movies, and playing games in a fully dark room? The answer is—no.

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Why you need more than a single overhead fixture in your home theatre

When you have a very bright screen and a very dark room, it can cause eye strain and fatigue. Having ambient light that’s soft (or subtly coloured) can not only minimize strain, but it can also add ambiance to your media room—and just look plain cool too.

How much ambient light should I add?

The Canadian National Institute for the Blind actually has suggestions for how much light you should have in your gaming or TV room to avoid potential problems down the road, suggesting the area surrounding your TV screen should be 20 to 40% of the brightness of the TV itself.

What do I need for smart theatre lighting?

So how do you get some additional lighting in your home without re-wiring the whole room? Easy: smart lights. Adding things like Wi-Fi controlled smart lighting, behind-the-screen bias lighting, or even smart lights that can mimic what’s happening on the screen can go a long way to enhancing your overall viewing experience.

How to control your home theatre with your voice

Voice control is only a command away with the addition of a smart digital assistant too. Asking Siri, Alexa, or the Google Assistant to “start movie night” can lead to a series of perfectly adjusted lights, the TV being turned on, and even your popcorn maker powering up (if you have it connected to a smart plug!).

Need a primer? Read Ted’s great blogs, What can Google smart speakers do?, and What can Echo smart speakers do?

Check out the full lineup of personal digital assistants here.

How to get smart lights that mimic your TV

Philips Hue Play Bar DIsplayIf you’ve always imagined your media room lights responding to what’s happening on screen, you can start celebrating because there are lighting products that can do just that. Philips Hue Play is a light bar kit that can be placed behind or beside your TV or computer screen. Then, using the Philips Hue Sync tool for Mac and PC, you can set the lights to automatically mimic the colours and the mood of what’s happening on screen.

Hue Play works by communicating with your computer and your smart lights to match and enhance the colours on screen. It’s important to note that this will not work directly and solely with your television set. It requires a computer to play the video so that it can match the screen. You need three key pieces of technology for this to work: Philips Hue lighting, a computer, and a compatible smart TV.

“Bias lighting” can help your home theatre

Bias lighting is the term for lighting that offsets screen brightness.
You can find several different options for bias lighting, primarily from Philips Hue and LIFX. Also called light strips, these kits are easy to stick behind your TV or to tape around the edge, and they provide fully controllable lighting that you can adjust with your smartphone.

What types of lighting should I add to my home theatre?

Overhead Lighting

You’re probably not about to have a pro re-wire your overhead fixtures, but that’s OK because you can easily make your home theatre lights smart by replacing the original bulbs with smart bulbs.

Swapping regular halogen or incandescents with smart light bulbs, such as WeMo, LIFX, or Philips Hue will allow you to dim or brighten the lights as much as you want, conveniently from your smart phone, which becomes a remote control. Of course, you can also adapt the colours too. Watching an underwater documentary? Turn your smart bulbs navy blue to give you that undersea glow. Checking out a beachy rom-com? Pink and orange lights might be just what the director ordered.

Lamps

Lamps are an easy and inexpensive way to add ambient light to your home theater. Gone are the days where you’d need to pull on the little metal chain, or fiddle for the turny-thing. Today, lamps come with smarts built in. Philips Hue makes a variety of lamps that can work both via AC power and using rechargeable batteries, like the Hue Go Lamp, here.

Wall Installations

There’s another class of smart lighting that shouldn’t be forgotten: wall panel LEDs. There are two products here that are worth nothing because they’re the most popular: Nanoleaf and LIFX.

These wall panels are easy to use and set up and install in minutes—and best of all can be easily removed and reconfigured without tools (or wrecking your wall). Plus, you can build them into fun shapes or letters if you want, too.

Adding smart lights makes your home theatre an oasis

I’ve recently upgraded the lighting in my home theatre to give me more options. I added a dimmer switch to the wall so the overhead fixture can be adjusted. I also added a nice lamp with a smart bulb at the back of the room to offset some of the brightness/contrast issues. I installed LIFX light strips behind the TV for bias lighting, and, finally, I added Philips Hue Play light bars to the TV for when I want to have the lighting match what we’re watching. It’s great for movie night!

Expanding your home theatre with smart lighting is easy, quick, and doesn’t have to be expensive. Shop smart home lighting at Best Buy.