Why would you want to spend the extra money on color-changing smart lights instead of the usual cheap LED bulbs? So you can use them to throw a killer party, that’s why. Here’s how you can use Philips Hue lights to turn a boring living room into club-style lighting.
For this project, we’re assuming you have at least one Philips Hue colored light bulb (although the more the better). You’ll also need a third-party Hue Disco iOS or Android app. Hue Disco switches the colors of your lights to the beat, giving your room an atmosphere that matches the tone of any party you throw.
Disco Hue is $3.99, but it’s powerful enough to cost a few bucks, and if you’re on Android, you can always cover the cost by answering a few surveys. The app can be a bit intimidating at first, but if you want to create a custom lighting scheme for your home, it has all the tools you need.
First, choose your lights
When you first open Hue Disco, you will see a lot of options and sliders. This can all get a little overwhelming, so first we’ll deal with the most important thing: choosing the light bulbs you’ll be using for your party. If you’re like me, you may have installed lights in rooms where you won’t have guests, such as your office or bedroom. You can only select the lamps you want to invite to the party from the Lamps tab at the top of the screen.
On this page, turn on the switches next to each light you want to include in your party setup. For convenience, if you have a lot of lights, you can drag the ones you need to the top.
Please note that you can use any model of Hue lights for your party. However, regular white lights and colored background lights will only flicker. If you want to use a stroboscopic effect, you can use these bulbs (and they can be pretty fun), but full color bulbs give you the most flexibility.
Once you have selected your bulbs, you can return to Disco or Moods mode.
Use the disco mode to make music incendiary music
Disco Mode lets you choose the color scheme that your lights will glow in. You can switch colors based on a preset BPM to match your music, or let your phone listen to the ambient sound and try to match it. You will also find the strobe mode on this page. On the left screenshot below you will see the regular Disco Mode. If you touch the center button at the bottom with the lightning symbol, you will enter the strobe mode and see the screenshot on the right.
It’s a little overwhelming, so we’ll take a look at each feature and how to use it. Most importantly, there are three buttons at the bottom. Here are three types of disco mode you can use:
Beats per minute (BPM): this mode will cycle your colors in disco mode based on the beat you set. To enter this mode, press the BPM button several times. The faster you press the button, the higher the BPM and the faster the light will change color. This is an easy way to set the color cycle to match your music. The only downside is that if you change your music to something slower or faster, you’ll have to reset Hue Disco each time.
Strobe: this button, labeled with a lightning bolt, initiates a fast strobe cycle. By default, the strobe mode will flash white, but you can change the colors and even the artificial black light (which is actually just purple, but hey, that looks cool).
Basic disco mode: On the right you will see a blue button with a play symbol. This will run your colors in disco mode, using your microphone to determine when to change colors. When the volume in a room reaches a certain decibel level, your light will change color. This allows your lamps to automatically adjust to the music, but it may take some tweaking to make it look right.
If you don’t care too much about giving your lights a special look, you can press one of these buttons to start riding your bike and it will look pretty good. However, you can do much more and make your party stunning by changing a few settings. Here are the settings on the disco mode screen (screenshot on the left above) and what they do.
Microphone sensitivity. This slider adjusts the sensitivity of the microphone. In basic disco mode, this will determine if your lights will change. If the volume is higher than the level you set, the light will cycle through the colors. If it is lower, there will be no change. Note that this does not change how often the lights change, they just change.
Change amount: this slider determines how much the lights change. While the main disco mode is active, you will notice that this slider reacts to your ambient sound in the same way as microphone sensitivity. By adjusting this and the microphone sensitivity sliders, you can set the beat that your lights change to match your music. Ideally, if you can find the right balance, you can set it up and forget about it during the party.
Disco theme: Here you will see a gradient slider that shows what colors your lights will go through. By default, this slider shows a full rainbow of colors. You can drag each end to the part of the gradient that you want to restrict your lights to. If your party has a specific color scheme, this allows you to coordinate your lights with your decorations. Below the gradient markers you will see a drop down menu. By default, it is labeled «Color Gradient». Click on it and you can choose from other color themes like 80s Disco or Reggae or create your own themes.
Brightness: adjusts the brightness of the lighting. You can drag both ends of this slider to set the brightness range if you want a little variety in your lighting.
Color: this slider will adjust the saturation of the colors you see. If you drag it to the left, you’ll get white lights with a slight tint of color. If you drag it to the right, your lights will display deep reds, blues, greens, and any other colors you’ve included in the Disco Theme section.
You will also see two options below the color slider. One of them is an unlabeled dropdown that lets you choose between Smooth, Snap, and Mix. Smoothness will gradually fade from one color to another. Snap changes colors instantly. Mix will randomly choose one of these two transitions each time the lights change color. The second option is an auto-disco switch. If you turn on this switch, the application will automatically select the options on this screen, changing the settings periodically.
If you enter the strobe mode, your lights will flash. You will also be presented with another set of options.
Random order: by default in strobe mode your lights will flash in the same order. Turning this switch on will randomize the order in which your lights flash.
Black light: this will add black flashes to your strobe, although this is a bit of a misnomer. Technically, tint lamps are not capable of emitting ultraviolet radiation like normal black lights. However, it will flash a vibrant purple that still looks pretty rosy. This switch will only add those purple flashes to the existing swatch. So, for example, if you use the white preset (see below), your lights will flash white and sometimes purple. If you want your lights to flash exclusively purple, use the Black Light preset at the bottom of the screen.
Speed: this will affect how fast the lights flash. Even the slowest setting is still pretty fast, but if the default strobe is too harsh, you can turn it down.
Color presets: below these settings you will see six preset buttons. White, Rainbow, New Color, Custom Color, Theme, and Black Light. White speaks for itself. The rainbow will cycle through each color. New Color will choose a different color to flash every time you press this button. The custom color will allow you to select one color for the flash. Theme allows you to choose from preset color themes to cycle through. For example, you can select the Police theme to flash red and blue alternately. Finally, the black light flashes purple.
Phew. There are plenty of options here, so don’t worry if you’re feeling a little overwhelmed. If you’re not sure what to do, you can simply select a color theme, press the Auto Disco or Strobe button, and let the app decide. In most cases, the default settings will look pretty good, but if you’re not happy, you can easily tweak it.
Use mood mode to create a more relaxed environment
Disco mode is very interesting for a fun party, but if you prefer a more subtle lighting pattern, you can go to the «Moods» tab. Moods are designed to cycle more slowly in the background rather than in time with the music. Like Disco Mode, you’ll find a big blue play button at the bottom, though thankfully there’s only one play mode.
Most of the settings on this page are the same or identical to the settings on the Disco tab, so we won’t repeat them here. However, you also have a few new options.
The Mood Theme: It’s similar to Disco Theme, but you’ll find different presets to choose from. Some of these themes, such as Sunset and Love Shack, include additional customization options such as those below, while other presets, such as Christmas FX and Rain Drops, only allow you to adjust brightness, brightness, and cycle speed. As with Disco Themes, you can also create your own.
same color: this setting determines how often all lights in your setup will change to the same color. If you select «Always» from the dropdown, all lights will remain the same color. If you select «Never», each light source will change during each new cycle. You can also select «Sometimes» or «Often» if you want your lights to match periodically.
Cycle time: Here you can set how often the color changes. This can vary from every second to every 90 minutes.
Transit time: determines how quickly colors change from one to another. Tap the drop-down menu to select Smooth, Medium, Fast, and Snap. Unlike Disco mode, the Snap transition is not instant, but it is the fastest transition in this mode.
In my experience, moods are a bit more useful than disco mode, if only because you don’t have to match them to any music. You can dim the lights with a color scheme to keep things interesting without blinding anyone or risking your light show by dancing to its own slightly lagging rhythm. It all depends on what kind of party you want! Play around with the settings to match the mood you’re going for.
It’s also important to remember that Hue Disco uses your phone to control the lights, so you can’t let your phone die during a party. If you are using your phone’s microphone, it must also be in the music room. If you need to keep your phone on or can’t guarantee it will stay charged, you can use an old device to control your lights. Otherwise, just keep it on the charger and relatively close to the speaker.