Over the weekend I decided to pull out some of my cheap strip LEDs and put them to good use with a little bias lighting!
What is bias lighting?
Don’t feel bad, up until a few days ago I hadn’t heard of it either! Bias lighting is the effect that can be achieved by placing a light source behind your television. Surprisingly, this has been around for a very long time but is only now becoming more main stream with things like the Phillips Ambilight+Hue system, as well as more and more manufactures placing some form of lighting directly in the rear casing of TVs. But there’s no need to buy a $2000 TV just for some lights (average price of an Ambilight TV at time of writing).
How does bias lighting work?
Well the short form is, you place lights behind your TV and quality supposedly gets better. But what’s really going on?
Take a close look at the optical illusion above. If you look at the grey bar in the middle, you’ll probably notice that the right side looks darker than the left side. You might be surprised to find out that the bar is actually the exact same shade all the way through and does not change. Our eyes perceive the right side as a darker grey due to the lighter background. This is essentially one of the things bias lighting does. By placing lighting behind your TV, your contrast should appear much more dominant.
The other thing it helps with is eye strain. During light changes our eyes adjust to either allow or block light. Ever notice that when you wake up in the dark and look at something bright, it can be somewhat painful? This is because our eyes iris’ are fully open to allow in the most amount of light possible. By adding light very quickly, our eyes do not have time to adjust and too much light is let in (which can be painful). By adding a consistent light source behind your TV, the light changes are less stressful on the eyes making a more pleasant viewing experience.
K, I want it now!
The great news, its super cheap and easy to do it yourself.
I started with taking my 40″ Dynex off the wall and laying it face down on the floor. If you like your TV, it’s probably a good idea to place something soft underneath so you don’t scratch the screen (this is my “cheap” TV so I didn’t care that much).
Next I took my strip LEDs (cool white of course) and stuck them to the back of my TV. I did actually measure, but of course I only measured once and one section didnt line up too nicely… luckily it wont be seen once back on the wall.
Now its just a matter of soldering the strip lighting together with some wire. In my case (see above) I don’t care a whole lot about the back of the TV so I chose to solder the lights after they were attached to the TV. If you aren’t a fast solderer or if you are worried about melting the plastic on the TV, I would suggest pulling the lights back up a little bit away from the plastic before soldering. Once you have them soldered, you of course want to test them before hanging the TV again. Using a simple 12v power supply directly to the LED lights should power them up.
Does it really make a difference?
This is a trick question… beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I’m certainly not a media expert. Personally, I do feel the blacks were blacker while watching a movie, but color wise I’m not so convinced that there was a major change. I did notice that my eyes did not feel as strained as compared to watching a movie in dark, which is a nice feeling when you’re just trying to relax. In the end, for the 30 minutes it took to complete and the $5 in supplies (thank you eBay) it’s totally worth it just for the “nerd factor” alone!
UPDATE – MAY 30, 2016: Ian Barlow in the comments below has posted a website for a much more serious DIYer looking for a more professional setup with bias lighting. Make sure to check it out here!