Aputure releases the Amaran SM5c – a 5 metre long RGB “smart pixel” LED strip to brighten up your set

Nov 18, 2022

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Aputure releases the Amaran SM5c – a 5 metre long RGB “smart pixel” LED strip to brighten up your set

Nov 18, 2022

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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Well, this is a bit of a change of pace for Aputure. While they’ve released many lights under the main Aputure name as well as the Amaran brand over the years, the new Amaran SM5c seems to be more comfortable in the smart home sector than the filmmaker or creative sector. It’s essentially a 5-metre addressable (or “Smart Pixel” as Aputure calls it) RGB LED strip. Aputure says it’s designed for creators to cater to “a new subset of consumers”.

It’s exactly what it sounds like, an RGB LED strip with a 60 LED per metre density providing 300 LEDs (for a total of 100 pixels) across the whole 5 metres. It’s primarily aimed towards creators who want to dress up their set a bit with effects. They say it’s not designed to be a key light, fill light, as a white light source or to light skin tones. It’s purely an effects light and even has a built-in microphone to respond to its surroundings.

YouTube video

The Amaran SM5c is a single strip of 5 metres, but it can be extended up to 10 metres by adding the SM5c Extension. 10 metres is a respectable length for an RGB LED strip. Even though individual LEDs only draw milliamps of current, when you’ve got 300 of them, that adds up very quickly. If you need more than that, you’ll want multiple strips.

Fortunately, multiple strips isn’t an issue because they can be controlled by Aputure’s familiar Sidus Link app and features Pixel Control, first shown off in the Aputure Nova P600c and MT Pro tube light. This is the first Amaran product to feature this capability and the first to be compatible with Pixel Control in the Sidus Link app with the new firmware update.

Unlike more traditional LED strips you buy on the likes of Amazon, the Amaran SM5c offers individual control over each LED in the strip, allowing you to set different parts of it at different colours. Most RGB LED strips you can buy on Amazon or AliExpress typically run 12v and have the same colour across the entire strip. So, if you want to separate things out as shown in the image above for different areas of the strip’s length, things can start to get complicated very quickly.

And, yes, I know, I hear you all thinking it… “But what about the WS2812B LED strips?” and yes, it’s true, they’re completely addressable LED strips, too, but they typically operate on 5v, usually limiting the maximum length to lower than 10 metres due to the current draw. And you also have to either get some kind of commercial controller for it or roll your own with an ESP32 or Arduino or something to get any kind of custom functionality – and you’re going to need to know how to code, too.

And if you want similar levels of wireless control with those lights that you’d get with the Amaran SM5c with Sidus Link, you’re pretty much writing your own smartphone app, too. Yes, there are a few apps out there, but they’re typically limited to specific commercially available controllers.

Without having seen them in person, the fact that there are 300 LEDs and 100 “pixels” suggests to me that these are powered from 12v and the strip is essentially 100 groups of three RGB LEDs. I don’t mean that each “pixel” is comprised of 1 red, 1 blue and 1 green LED but that each group contains three LEDs all capable of producing red, green and blue simultaneously. Having a higher 12v supply over the WS2812B’s typical 5v requirement massively reduces the current required, the heat generated, and allows for that full 10-metre length. And yes, I hear you saying it again, there are 12v WS2811 LED strips, too!

One interesting feature of the Amaran SM5c that would potentially be tricky to incorporate into a DIY alternative is the fact that it’s reactive to sound. It has a built-in microphone that you can set to listen to the sounds going on around and react accordingly, lighting LEDs up as the volume and intensity changes. The microphone built into the controller does need to be fairly close to whatever your sound source is, though, so bear that in mind.

The other feature that would be difficult to replicate yourself are the 21 built-in Pixel FX effects.  Nto to mention all of the usual effects like Fireworks, Fire, Paparazzi, Faulty Bulb, TV, Pulsing, Cop Car, Lightning and Party Lights – all with adjustable colour – through SidusPro FX. The LED strip is also covered by a frosted diffusion layer to help create a soft glow and reduce glare. This is much more pleasing to the eye and the camera than a bare LED strip.

I’d actually be quite curious to see a set of the Amaran SM5c lights in person, side-by-side with 5v WS2812B and 12v WSB2811 LED strips to see how they differ in brightness output, colour and power requirements. Because while you might be able to cobble together a DIY alternative to this, the time you might have to put into it isn’t necessarily going to be better value than just buying the Aputure one. Even if you can match the features and light quality – and go to the expense of all the extra bits you’ll need to buy like a microcontroller, power supply, diffusion, etc.

The one potential drawback of the Amaran SM5c over the DIY alternatives, though, is that the strip cannot be cut into smaller segments. It’s also not IP rated or weatherproofed if you wanted to use it in an outdoor situation. But one benefit it does have is that if you’ve got Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant on the Tuya Smart App, you can control your SM5c with your voice!

Overall, it looks like a well-thought-out product with a very good price point for what it offers. And as mentioned above, while you might be able to buy the bits to build your own for a little less, is it really worth the hassle if it’s just going to be set dressing for your vlogs or live streams?

The Aputure Amaran SM5c LED 5 metre LED strip light is available to pre-order now for $89. The Amaran SM5c LED Strip Extension is also available to pre-order now for $39. Both items are expected to start shipping very soon.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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5 responses to “Aputure releases the Amaran SM5c – a 5 metre long RGB “smart pixel” LED strip to brighten up your set”

  1. David Giertta Avatar
    David Giertta

    Uhm. Fair to raise the advantages over ws2812/ws2811 and “having to code” a microcontroller. Just.. that is an outdated comparison, by years.

    Two things to google:

    WS2815 (12V, up to 144pxs/m, double data channels for redundancy, vomes in ip30, ip65, ip67. Oh.. at a fraction of the price)

    WLED; free, community based led control suite with a heap of features, smart home integration, sound reactive effects etc. that installs from browser directly to most ESP32s (which are dirt cheap) and intuitively gives full control to any novice in minutes.

    1. Kaouthia Avatar
      Kaouthia

      Looking at WS2815, it’s a fraction of the price because it’s a fraction of the length at the LED density you suggest. At 144/m, it’s about $27-30 for 1 metre looking at the average price on Amazon right now. For the same pixel density as the SM5C (60/m), yes, it’s cheaper for the WS2815 at around $50, but you still need to sort out a power supply and controller, bringing it up to about the same price as the SM5C.

      Also “having to code” and “having to find code somebody else has written that isn’t buggy and figure out how to install it when you’ve never done it before” are pretty synonymous to non-tech people. Time is more valuable than saving a few $ to a lot of people. :)

  2. davidgs Avatar
    davidgs

    I’m really trying to find a way to control these things that isn’t the Sidus Link app because, well, I hate that app, and I want to control them from my Mac, not just my iPhone.

    If you come across any ways to do that, I’d be happy to hear about them!

    1. Kaouthia Avatar
      Kaouthia

      I’ve got one here that I want to experiment with, too, but I haven’t had the time to really have a good play with it yet. No promises, but I’m hoping I can get some kind of control outside of Sidus Link, too. I’ll keep you posted if I find something. Would be great to be able to have my PC control it along with other lights. It’s a pain in the ass when you’ve got a bunch of different lights from different companies and none of them talk to each other, lol.

      1. davidgs Avatar
        davidgs

        I’m in the process (slowly) of reverse-engineering the bluetooth. If I could get the Tuya app to work I’d reverse-engineer the WiFi, which is easier. I’ll let you know how I get on.