Philips Hue Sync

Philips Hue Sync is a great way to synchronise your lights with your PC or Mac for games, music and movies.  If you use your PC or Mac for any of these, then the tool could be a great way to enhance your entertainment experiences.

If you remember my previous post - Philips Hue Entertainment Integration News - you'll know that Philips introduced an 'Entertainment' feature to help users synchronise their Hue lights to their entertainment experiences.

The idea is to create a two part solution for linking your entertainment hardware with Hue. This is a step up from the previous scenario. You'll remember from my other posts 'Discovering Philips Hue Movie Sync' & 'Discovering Philips Hue Music Sync', the only real options were to use third party apps, and the solutions were crude at best. 

Part one sees the introduction of an 'entertainment' element within the Hue app and system.  You use this to define one or more Entertainment Areas.  These areas mark out where you've positioned your lights in a room, relative to where you sit, and where you might have your TV or screen positioned.

The second part relies on entertainment hardware makers getting on board.  All they need to do is add Hue functionality to their products.  Through this integration, you'll be able to connect your product to Hue, choose the appropriate entertainment area from any you might have defined, and then you can start taking advantage of synchronisation.

At launch, Philips had lined up a hardware partner; Razer (makers of the pro gamer line of products).  However, Philips have now launched their own software to allow you to link your PC or Mac to their entertainment feature too.

The idea is simple. Load up the software, and Hue Sync will synchronise whatever is being displayed on your screen (or music playing) to your lights.  

You'll first want to define an entertainment area in the Hue App on your phone. Head to settings, go to 'entertainment areas', then tap 'create entertainment area'. Hue will then walk you through the process of defining the entertainment area. The only odd thing here is that when you drag the lights around the representation of your seating area on screen, you aren't shown the name of each bulb. Instead you are reliant on the light itself flashing as you drag it. 

Tip: after you have created your entertainment area, you can edit its name.  This is especially useful if you plan to create more than one.

You can download the software from the Philips Hue website here. Installation is a simple next-next-finish affair. It's available for PCs running Windows 10, and Macs running Sierra / High Sierra. 

When you run the software for the first time, it first needs to discover and connect to your Hue bridge, using the familiar process of first finding it, then requesting that you push the button on the front of the bridge to confirm the connection. This is a one time job. Then, you select your entertainment area as previously defined.

That's it! You're then shown the main control window.  Here, you can choose between four different ways to control your lights; Scene, Games, Music and Video.

  • 'Scene' is a way to activate the four basic White ambient light scenes built-in to Hue (Read, Relax, Concentrate, and Energise)
  • 'Games' is appropriate for when you want to sync your lights with games played on your PC or Mac
  • 'Music' lets you synchronise your PC or Mac audio with your lighting (and you get to choose from five different colour palettes for this)
  • 'Video' is appropriate for when you plan to watch movies or TV shows.

For Games, Music and Video, you get to choose the 'intensity' of the sync - Subtle, Moderate, High and Intense.  In addition, for Games and Video, you get to choose whether it's just the colours on your screen that are used to sync with the lights, or your audio too.

Hitting the 'Start Light Sync' button turns on the synchronisation process, which is immediate, and synchronises anything on your screen. However there is one dissapointing exception.  Hue Sync can't 'see' protected content... that includes streaming services like Netflix, regardless of whether it's played through the app, or the browser.

Essentially services like Netflix have copy-protection enabled.  It's designed to prevent people from 'ripping' a movie or TV show by simply using a screen-capture program.  However that also blocks Hue Sync from detecting the colours, and doing it's job.  Maybe this is something that can be fixed in time - however I suspect it would require some work on the part of the streaming services.

When trying a different source, the whole thing worked well.  Lights around me synchronised with the colours on screen, and different lights were switching to different colours depending on where I had 'placed' them in my Entertainment area definition.  Basically, with the exception of the above problem with protected content, it just works.

Of course, the holy grail of built-in integration with Smart TVs remains illusive.  The only TV manufacturer that I'm aware of that does this is -of course- Philips.

For now though, the Hue Sync software (alongside the Entertainment feature) is a step forward, especially for those who use a computer as the primary way of enjoying entertainment. Gamers may love this especially.

If you try it, let me know what you think!  I'll be keeping an eye on this software to see what new features get added over time!