Well, that’s a little change of pace for Aputure. While they’ve released many lights under the Aputure main name as well as the Amaran brand over the years, the new Amaran SM5c seems to be more comfortable in the smart home space than the filmmaking or creative space. It’s essentially a 5 meter long addressable (or “smart pixel” as Aputure calls it) RGB LED strip. Aputure says it’s designed for developers to cater to “a new subset of consumers.”
It’s exactly what it sounds like, a RGB LED strip with a density of 60 LEDs per meter providing 300 LEDs (for a total of 100 pixels) over the full 5 metres. It is primarily aimed at creators who want to spice up their set with effects. They say it’s not designed to be a key light, a fill light, a white light source, or to lighten skin tones. It’s purely an effect light and even has a built-in microphone to react to its surroundings.
The Amaran SM5c is a single strip of 5 meters but can be extended up to 10 meters by adding the SM5c extension. 10 meters is a respectable length for an RGB LED strip. Although individual LEDs draw only milliamps of current, when you have 300 of them, that adds up very quickly. If you need more than that, you’ll need multiple strips.
Thankfully, multiple strips aren’t a problem as they can be controlled via Aputure’s well-known Sidus Link app and feature pixel control first shown in the Aputure Nova P600c and MT Pro tube light. This is the first Amaran product with this feature and the first to be compatible with the new firmware update with Pixel Control in the Sidus Link app.
Unlike more traditional LED strips that you buy from Amazon, the Amaran SM5c offers individual control of each LED in the strip, allowing you to set different parts of it to different colors. Most RGB LED strips that you can buy on Amazon or AliExpress are typically 12V powered and are the same color across the entire strip. So if you want to separate things like in the image above for different ranges of strip length, things can get complicated very quickly.
And yes I know I hear you all thinking… “But what about the WS2812B LED strips?” and yes it is true they are also fully addressable LED strips but they typically operate at 5V which makes the maximum length is usually limited to less than 10 meters due to power consumption. And you’ll either have to get a commercial controller for it, or roll your own with an ESP32 or Arduino or something to get any sort of custom functionality — and you’ll also need to know how to code.
And if you want a similar level of wireless control with these lights that you would get with the Amaran SM5c with Sidus Link, pretty much write your own smartphone app too. Yes, there are a few apps, but they’re usually limited to certain off-the-shelf controllers.
Without having seen them personally, the fact that there are 300 LEDs and 100 “pixels” suggests that these are 12V powered and the strip is essentially 100 groups of three RGB LEDs. I don’t mean that each “pixel” consists of 1 red, 1 blue and 1 green LED, but that each group contains 3 LEDs that can all produce red, green and blue at the same time. A higher 12V supply than the typical 5V requirement of the WS2812B massively reduces the required current and generated heat, allowing for the full 10 meter length. And yes, I hear you say it again, there are 12V WS2811 LED strips too!
An interesting feature of the Amaran SM5c that might be difficult to incorporate into a DIY alternative is the fact that it is sound responsive. It has a built-in microphone that you can set to listen to the sounds around you and react accordingly by flashing LEDs when the volume and intensity change. However, the microphone built into the controller needs to be fairly close to your sound source, so keep that in mind.
The other feature that would be difficult to replicate yourself is the 21 built-in Pixel FX effects. Not to mention all the usual effects like fireworks, fire, paparazzi, blown bulb, TV, pulsing, police car, flash and party lights – all with adjustable color – by SidusPro FX. The LED strip is also covered with a frosted diffusion layer to create a soft glow and reduce glare. This is much easier on the eye and camera than a bare LED strip.
I would 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 compare in brightness, color and differentiate performance requirements. Because while you might be able to cobble together a DIY alternative to this, the time you might have to invest won’t necessarily do better than just buying the Aputure. Even if you can customize the features and light quality – and get at the expense of all the extra bits you have to buy like a microcontroller, power supply, diffusion, etc.
However, the Amaran SM5c’s only potential downside over the DIY alternatives is that the strip can’t be cut into smaller segments. It’s also not IP rated or weatherproof if you intend to use it outdoors. But one benefit is that if you have Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant in 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 for what it offers. And as mentioned above, while you can buy the parts to build your own for a little less, if it’s just going to be set up for your vlogs or live streams, is it really worth it?
The Aputure Amaran SM5c LED 5 meter LED strip light is available for pre-order now for $89. The Amaran SM5c LED Strip Extender is also available for pre-order now for $39. Both items are expected to ship very soon.