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This, I know is a very broad question, but I'm going to ask it anyway ... because I'm curious. I'm also aware that as many folks who program/sequence/plan light shows as there are, there are just as many different approaches ... different strokes ...

The question is this:

What general rules do you use when designing the show for a given song? How do you approach this?

Obviously I'm just beginning so bear with me - I consider this question as "brainstorming" and, of course with brainstorming, there are no wrong answers.



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A couple rules I like to think about when I sequence are,

1, Key change= color change- this is a great suggestion and can make transitions in the music very powerful.

2, No "flashy-ness"- not pointing out anyone in particular and I've done this before. It gets annoying to watch it after 2 weeks.. and its not very creative.

3, analyze the music- think "what do i want to accomplish with this certain section" Do you want certain things lit up, or many things.

4, Keep lights on- for your first couple of seasons people won't know about the lights.. a mistake sometimes made is people think they're light designing a show.. when in reality its Christmas lights. People driving past your house might pass it up because they don't see any lights on.

Good Luck!

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This will be my fourth year of sequencing. and I have changed my philosophy along the way. First year I hit every note of every instrument or vocals. This is insanely time intensive....and maddening.:P Now I'm a more hit the high points and interesting spots and let the lights stay on more. This year I'm actually going to change a few songs to keep the lights on dim and brighten them to the music. I did it with one section of one song last year and it looked great so I'm going to expand on it. This also allows for emphasis with bright and dark!!!!

Color is always a good thing. I have yet to get a good color video so it's hard to show anyone. It's always better in person!

As far as the design and layout go . Think of some effects you'd like to do. Then buy enough channels and do it! Watch your wallet though it can be a showstopper just before you finish..during setup....

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once you have your layout completed figure out a good progression of the lights to sweep from right to left and from left to right, these will be your friends when you want to sweep a color change across the display

also, while dark space is important, becareful when you sequence it in. What looks like a very brief moment of no lights on will really show up as darkness when put to the lights in the yard.

if you are setting up lights in bushes, mini trees, or another row of elements, create them in odd numbers (5, 7, 9... channels) this will be easier to work with than even numbers when you want to move from inside to outer items

don't be afraid to mix effects and try something different. I've discovered a couple of tricks that I really like from playing with things

even though a 1/10th second fade looks nice in the animation screen, you'll barely notice the fade on the real lights, it will be pretty quick.

many people will sequence a parts of the display seperately and while this works for some, pay attention to what you have already done when you go back thru to sequence another section. you don't want one area fading while another blinks all at the same time

consider all of the members videos as your research tools, watch them and see what you like. You can always contact that person and ask, how did you do XXX in this song and most everyone here will tell you what they did to create an effect.

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In order to see what a particluar effect might look like. You can set up a test bed with a few balls of lights hooked to a controller or two to see what the ramps, dims or whatever would possibly look like for real. I agree most computer simulations can look quite a bit different than actual lights when doing short ramp up/downs.

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Thank you very much for your responses ... this is exactly what I'm looking for. As I stated, there are no bad ideas and there is no wrong or right way. It's very helpful to see what others are thinking and what their general philosophy is when designing a light show.

To Phillip:(or anyone else)

Is there a specific place to look for members' videos? I've been wearing youtube out looking at different methods. I'm hopeful that as I get more into this I'll be able to share my thoughts and ideas with y'all and discuss my philosophy as I develop it.

I hope we get even more replies to this thread. The more the merrier.

Thanks again,


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As someone else stated, everything does not need to be animated at once. Leave some "elements" lit while others dance to the music.

What I am starting to do more of now is making every "element" have two channels with different colored lights (i.e. all my mini trees have both a white or a color channel). Rather than having the lights flash on and off, have them fade from one color to the other.

As far as music, I like to try to concentrate on individual instruments or sections in the band. Then make each set of elements follow that instrument (mini trees are the trumpets, row of bushes are the string section, icicles are the bass, etc).

And use the fades and different intensity settings based on the mood of the song. The lights should reflect the overall feel of the music, not just flash to the beat.

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