Discovering Philips Hue Movie Sync

One of the features many might light to take advantage of with a smart lighting setup, is movie syncing. This gets your lights synchronised with the overall colours showing up on your TV screen to give an immersive effect.  In this article I explore how to do that with Philips Hue.

UPDATE (12-July-2018): Philips have now released their new 'Hue Sync' tool. See my post 'Philips Hue Sync' to learn more!

Movie sync is one of the main advertised features of Philips Hue, so I was interested to give it a try.  Naturally my first place to look, was the Hue app.  Here though, I could find no mention of movie syncing, (or music sync for that matter).

So, on to the Hue website to try and find out how to do this.  In the support section, searching for 'Movie' yielded .. no results. Hmm.

To be clear, Movie sync is not a 'buried' feature from a promotional perspective.  The Philips Hue website puts this functionality front and centre on many of their webpages, so it's curious that there's no information on how to actually do this.

I turned to Google.  Here it became clear that getting movie sync running requires a little third-party magic.  Various solutions exist for doing Hue movie sync.  If you're playing your movie via a computer, you could try some software.  For example. I found an app called 'ScreenBloom' available for Windows & Mac.  If however, you're not using a computer, your options can become a bit more cumbersome.  The only other option I could find is to use an app like 'Hue Camera'. This uses your smartphone camera, to detect the colours on the screen. It then relays the relevant instructions to the Hue bridge to have it change the colour of the bulbs in the room.

This approach is less than ideal.  First, it means you have to prop your phone up somehow at an appropriate angle to stay focused on the screen.  You'll probably need to plug your phone in to a portable charger to avoid running out of battery part way through your viewing experience. Also, there's a 'lag' between changes in on screen colour, and changes in the Hue lights.

Of course, you won't be able to use your phone during your movie, but then - you were focussing on the movie anyway, right? ;)

It works, after a fashion, but it's not a particularly elegant solution.  That said, there are probably fairly few other options available short of TV (or other hardware) manufacturers jumping on the bandwagon and building Hue support right into their TVs.

There are of course plenty of ways you might be watching media on your TV these days.  I could forgive set-top boxes or Blu-Ray players not having smart lighting support built in.  However even more 'tech' oriented approaches to playing media like streaming boxes (we have a Roku) don't seem to incorporate this functionality, not for Hue, or any other smart lighting system.

Hopefully, this will be an area that evolves over time, but for now, more heath-robinson approaches will have to suffice.  Naturally there are plenty of other solutions alongside the apps I found, for a variety of different platforms.

One final note is that, with our limited three-bulb setup (to be expanded soon!), the experience isn't overly immersive.  I'll report back on this topic in future after further expansion, but for now, I'll keep at it and see how far I can get.