Laptop Backlight Is Now Webcam Light

I have successfully salvaged the backlight module of a LG LP133WF2(SP)(A1) laptop LCD display, which meant in addition to all the lessons I learned along the way, I now have a rectangular ~15″ diagonal LED panel that can emit diffuse white light. What do I do with this light? I looked around at places in my life where I felt I had a lighting challenge, and the most relevant issue in these pandemic times is my webcam for video calls.

Right now my primary workstation is in a room with decent sunshine during the day but only a dim overhead light at night. Resulting in grainy video as the camera struggles to capture limited light, and the position of the light also cast some unfortunate shadows. There is a far stronger light in the room, but it is set up to illuminate my workbench behind me. If I forget to turn that light off during a video call, I can immediately tell there’s a problem because I turn into a silhouette on camera. What I need is a light behind the webcam, which is something I can easily buy. There’s an entire product category for this usually in the form of a ring that surrounds the camera. What I have on hand is a rectangle and not a ring but I still want to try it. To test this idea I’ll need a way to mount the panel on top of my computer monitor.

Since this is supposed to be a quick test, I didn’t want to go full out with CAD and 3D printing. I pulled some cardboard boxes out of the paper recycle bin and happily started cutting with my Canary cutter. It was a highly iterative trial and error process and after a few hours I had a cardboard contraption that held the panel above my monitor, sitting on its top edge.

This top edge mechanism was the trickiest part of the design as it needed to be strong enough to hold the weight of the entire assembly. This assembly was heavier than I had originally planned because I didn’t foresee the very obvious fact the panel would make the assembly top heavy unless I added a counterweight (in the form of a large lithium polymer battery pack) sitting below the lip in order to drop the center of gravity. This is too much weight for just cardboard to hold against, so I had to pull in some plastic to help. But still no 3D printing: I cut up an used-up Starbucks gift card into an inverted U shape to give me the necessary strength at this key junction on top of the monitor.

This is definitely not the final design. I want to move the panel lower and further away from my face so it is directly behind the camera instead of above it. I chose the current panel height because I needed to be able to reach the brightness adjustment knob mounted in the lower left. After I put this box together, I realized I could have easily rotated the panel 180 degrees so the knob is in the top right corner instead of the lower left, allowing me to sink the bottom edge below the camera. Alternatively, I could have the brightness PWM adjustment module as an external module mounted elsewhere.

So that is the first and most significant change I want to make for the next iteration, but I’ll use this cardboard first draft for a little while longer and see what other issues I might want to address. In the meantime I proceed to the next backlight exercise with an Amazon Fire tablet.

2 thoughts on “Laptop Backlight Is Now Webcam Light

  1. You would get a kick out of my solution to webcam lighting, my fiance thinks I’m nuts. I’ve got paper towels thumb-tacked to the ceiling to diffuse the can lighting and I have a lamp cord with a LED bulb tossed in a paperwork cubby that’s mounted to my wall just off to my left. Works *great*. I do need to design some can light “side shields” that can magnet on to the bezel, though.

    Like

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