This App Turns Your Philips Hue System Into Dynamic, Atmospheric Home Theater Lighting

The Philips Hue connected lighting system offers a lot of useful features out of the box via the stock Philips Hue app for mobile devices, but they also offer an API that lets developers take things even further. The new Hue Camera app from developer Erwin Zwart is a great example, as it brings live atmospheric lighting to your home theater setup using just your iOS device’s built-in camera.

The $4 app doesn’t require support built-in to the show you’re watching, as do the special setups Philips has arranged with certain shows like 12 Monkeys working in tandem with broadcast partners like SyFy – instead, it grabs the colors being shown on your screen via your iPhone or iPad’s camera, meaning it can work with anything being shown on your TV. Movies from Netflix, live TV, video games, slideshows and more, it’s all compatible; you can even just point your camera at a favorite painting for a static tone match.

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It is most impressive when working with live video, as it does a good job of keeping up with changing action happening on screen, in my experience. I also used Hue Camera with a projector setup, with the image displayed on a white wall, and it worked as well as when pointed at an actual TV screen. Settings let you adjust the speed with which it transitions between colors, and the intensity of the hues it uses, but I like the default settings the app ships with best of all.

There is a downside: I now want to find a small stand or tripod to get an older iOS device outfitted with this app set up pointed at my home theater screen permanently, since it really does add a lot to the movie watching experience. Hue is handy enough with its basic feature set, but stuff like this really helps add a lot of value for existing owners.