Lighting

How to Dim Your Hue Lights When Watching Movies in Plex

Why manually dim the lights during movie time when your media server can do it for you? With a little tweaking, you can set Plex Media Server to automatically adjust your Hue smart bulbs with custom lighting schemes for movie time, intermission, and the end of the film.

We’re pretty big media center fans here at How-To Geek, and we’re passionate about good lighting, especially during movies—you are watching TV with a bias light, right? So when we found out that we could tie our Plex Media Server experience together with our Hue smart bulb system, we set the system up the very same day, and we think you should too. After all, if you want to capture that perfect movies-at-home-experience you need more than just super cool automatic trailers, you need good lighting too.

With Plex and Hue linked together, you can enjoy lighting integration that includes: dimming the lights (or shutting them off altogether) when your movie or TV show starts, dimmed lights when you pause the movie (so you can find your way to the bathroom or to get a snack), and a post-movie lights-up function to brighten the place back up. Even better yet, you can tweak the whole thing to only kick in if it is after dark (so your smart bulbs aren’t flicking on and off in the middle of the day when people watch TV).

Sounds pretty great, yeah? If you’re already using Hue bulbs in the same room as a Plex client, adding this feature is a no-brainer. Let’s look at how to prepare, installing the plugin, and configuring it.

Step One: Prepare Your Network

There are three things you want to do in advance that will make the entire setup process so much easier: assigning a static IP to your Hue Hub, checking the name of your Plex client, and writing down what you want to happen with your lighting scheme while before, during, and after you start a movie.

Give Your Hue Hub a Static IP

Even if you don’t routinely use static IP addresses on your home network, this is a time you have to. Later in the tutorial, we’re going to tell the plugin where to find the Hue bridge—and if that Hue bridge gets a new address every time you reboot the router, you’ll be stuck updating that address in the plugin settings. To avoid that (very easily avoided) headache, you need to assign a static address to the bridge.

How you assign a static IP address varies slightly from router to router, but before proceeding you need to give your Hue bridge a permanent address—you’ll find the bridge listed in your router’s assignment list as “Hue-Bridge”. If you’ve never set a static IP address assignment on your router before, check the manual for additional assistance and assign an address outside your router’s DHCP assignment pool to the bridge.

Check the Name of Your Plex Client

In addition to telling the plugin where to find the Hue bridge, we also need to tell it which Plex clients it should respond to. Take a moment to look in the settings menus of every Plex client you intend to pair with the Hue lights (e.g. if you have a Raspberry Pi running RasPlex in your living room and bedroom, and both rooms have Hue lights, you’ll want to check both of those clients).

Unless you’ve changed the name within the client application itself, the name is usually the hostname of the device it is on (the Plex client on my home office computer is identified as J-Office, for example). Write the device name down, we’ll need it in a moment.

Plan Your Lighting Scheme

What lights do you have in the media room and what would you like them to do? Do you want all the lights to dim? All of them to turn off? Some of them to turn off and some of them to dim? The bias light behind the TV to turn on and set itself to a nice crisp white color temperature?

What about when you pause or stop the media? Write down what you want to happen now, so when we get to the giant everything-in-one-menu configuration page for the plugin, you can…well, plug in all your choices in one swoop.

Step Two: Install the HelloHue Plugin

Prep work behind us, it’s time to install the plugin. If you’ve never installed a Plex plugin before, don’t worry—the process is pretty straightforward. First things first, visit the GitHub page for the HelloHue plugin and click the green download button to grab a copy.

Save the resulting .zip file to your computer and open it. Inside you’ll find a folder labeled “HelloHue.bundle-master”. Extract that folder to the plugins directory of your Plex Media Server. The location of the plugin directory varies by operating system:

  • Windows: %LOCALAPPDATA%\Plex Media Server\Plug-ins\
  • macOS: ~/Library/Application Support/Plex Media Server/Plug-ins
  • Linux: $PLEX_HOME/Library/Application Support/Plex Media Server/Plug-ins

Once you have copied the bundle, rename it to “HelloHue.bundle” by removing the “-master” suffix. Then restart your Plex Media Server.

After the server has restarted, head over to Plex’s web interface. Look in the left-hand sidebar for the “Channels” entry seen below and click on it.

Even though the Hue control app isn’t a channel in the traditional sense (like the other media entries you see here, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon), the Channel system is a handy thing for hobby programmers to hijack because it’s got a nice interface we can use to adjust the plugin settings.

There are two ways to access the HelloHue plugin. You can click…

How to Make Your RGB Gaming Gear Actually Useful

RGB lighting in computer hardware, especially gaming-branded gear, is a divisive subject. Either you think it’s really cool and you want it in all your stuff, or you have good taste. (I kid, I kid.) But despite the rather flashy nature of LED-soaked “battlestation” gaming setups, there’s actually a surprising amount of utility to be found deep in all that rainbow-colored extravagance. Even if you aren’t a fan of the aesthetic, it’s worth considering the next time you’re assembling a gaming PC.

Here are a few of the useful things you can do with those flashy lights.

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Create Game-Specific Keyboard Layouts

This one’s a bit of a no-brainer, but creating a lighting layout for specific games can help you remember the key bindings for various titles. It’s especially helpful if you often play different types of games, going from a WASD-heavy shooter to a hotkey-laden MOBA game to a custom-bound setup for a deep strategy or simulation game.

Using color groups for different kinds of actions is generally the best way to go here. Setups typically break colors into movement, basic attacks, special attacks, healing and other modifiers, and custom macros (see the title photo of this piece). More robust programs offer pre-made RGB themes for popular games, which can be downloaded and installed.

Display System Information

There are plenty of ways to show your system’s operating information, like current CPU temperature or fan speed. But…