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csmith

Computerizing your display

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Think you're ready to take your static display, hook it to a computer and dazzle the world with an incredible sound and light show?

Look before you leap.

Think of it this way. You walk into a room, turn on the light switch and the overhead light comes on. Pretty simple concept. If you turn on the switch and nothing happens, chances are really good the light is burned out so you replace it and life returns to normal.

In the computerized world, you don't have one light switch controlling one light, but at least 16 electronic light switches controlling hundreds or thousands of lights. Each electronic light switch is controlled by a computer and each switch is connected to an extension cord snaking out through your yard and plugged into a bush, column or roof outline. Now when there's a problem, is it the string of lights, extension cord, electronic switch or computer? See how things get more complicated in a hurry?

Then there's that computer. They're great when they're working right... but if you've worked with computers before, you know it doesn't take much for them to start doing really odd things. It sure doesn't help computers revert to geek-speak when they veer off-course leaving you to try and understand a very foreign language.

The light control manufacturers do everything they can to simplify the technology but the bottom line is there are a lot of parts that must work together perfectly to have a great show.

If this was easy, everyone would do it. Notice everyone isn't doing it.

If you're ready to shift from a static to a computerized display, when should you start? Now. Note that as I write this it's December 2010 and time to get ready for your new computerized display in 2011.

Evaluate the vendors and order a simple 16 light channel system now. Set it up in a dedicated work area in the house and start experimenting. This stuff takes time to understand as you get comfortable with all the different pieces of this complicated puzzle.

Go ahead and plan now to get frustrated. Be patient and take baby steps. By next November, you'll be able to roll out a computerized light show, feel confident in what you're doing and dazzle the neighbors.

Each year you can then add more computerized channels to your display and build upon your hard earned knowledge.

Is it worth the hard work, expense, pain, frustration and time? Yes, yes, yes!

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What would it cost to add a 16 channel system? I have around 10,000 lights and have been thinking about moving to a computerized system.

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What would it cost to add a 16 channel system? I have around 10,000 lights and have been thinking about moving to a computerized system.

In a short answer, A LOT! Research what you want to do, and then price out the components. Be sure to look on here a lot because you will find things you never thought of doing, or things you thought you would never need.

Your basic costs include, the controller ($300 or more with software and cables) Lights, you already have, but you'll want more. a computer, you probably have one, but its good to have another, cheap, dedicate machine, an FM Transmitter (don't skimp here, get a quality one) and finally the most expensive part. Extension Cords. You will need lots. That does not include materials for things like mega trees, arches, window frames, cut outs, and anything else you can dream of.

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In a short answer, A LOT! Research what you want to do, and then price out the components. Be sure to look on here a lot because you will find things you never thought of doing, or things you thought you would never need.

Your basic costs include, the controller ($300 or more with software and cables) Lights, you already have, but you'll want more. a computer, you probably have one, but its good to have another, cheap, dedicate machine, an FM Transmitter (don't skimp here, get a quality one) and finally the most expensive part. Extension Cords. You will need lots. That does not include materials for things like mega trees, arches, window frames, cut outs, and anything else you can dream of.

Everything he said is true ....I would like to add more about extension cords, buy SPT1 wire and use vampire plugs for your ends this was my first year using them and I couldn't believe how great it is to have the exact length every time when making your own.

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Excellent intro Chuck. One more vital point to add for anyone thinking of entering this highly rewarding, highly consuming hobby. Plan on spending a great deal of time learning how to use the lighting software, then spend even more time actually creating the sequences with it.

Oh and buy more extension cords. :D

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If there's one thing I've learned, don't try to go to big too fast! I always had 7000-10,000 lights, but when it comes to sync the lights with music... well it takes the longest. I'd say make a diagram of your house/display area. I keep a copy of what I did each year in a binder with plastic sheet protectors so I can refer back to it every year to see what I did. Also, look at your power consumption. I had to make an excel spread sheet telling me where to plug everything into so I wouldn't blow the breakers or ruin a LOR board.

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OK I’ve been on this Forum for less than a month, but have been looking into how to upgrade my show for some time. After being here it all started to make sense. With that said for the last few years my display has grown. After talking With Scott Luftus (Xavier lights) and touring behind the light at his display, which I found here and happens to be the light show that got me crazy about Christmas a few years back. This year I’m ready to make a big leap. I’ve read a lot of Threads. I Bought 17,000 more lights this year on sale. I believe I would like an 2 LOR controller and software I hope to get an FM transmitter (am I Crazy). I want to slowly get the equipment over the next year what would you buy first. I know it’s been asked a thousand times on the forum but I guess it’s a big purchase for an Army guy like me just making sure I got it right. Thanks in advance for the help you’ve giving me and the questions to come.

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OK I’ve been on this Forum for less than a month, but have been looking into how to upgrade my show for some time. After being here it all started to make sense. With that said for the last few years my display has grown. After talking With Scott Luftus (Xavier lights) and touring behind the light at his display, which I found here and happens to be the light show that got me crazy about Christmas a few years back. This year I’m ready to make a big leap. I’ve read a lot of Threads. I Bought 17,000 more lights this year on sale. I believe I would like an 2 LOR controller and software I hope to get an FM transmitter (am I Crazy). I want to slowly get the equipment over the next year what would you buy first. I know it’s been asked a thousand times on the forum but I guess it’s a big purchase for an Army guy like me just making sure I got it right. Thanks in advance for the help you’ve giving me and the questions to come.

YEAH, U'r crazy ....just like the rest of us.....but I love it (LOL).

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OK I’ve been on this Forum for less than a month, but have been looking into how to upgrade my show for some time. After being here it all started to make sense. With that said for the last few years my display has grown. After talking With Scott Luftus (Xavier lights) and touring behind the light at his display, which I found here and happens to be the light show that got me crazy about Christmas a few years back. This year I’m ready to make a big leap. I’ve read a lot of Threads. I Bought 17,000 more lights this year on sale. I believe I would like an 2 LOR controller and software I hope to get an FM transmitter (am I Crazy). I want to slowly get the equipment over the next year what would you buy first. I know it’s been asked a thousand times on the forum but I guess it’s a big purchase for an Army guy like me just making sure I got it right. Thanks in advance for the help you’ve giving me and the questions to come.
YEAH, U'r crazy.........Just like the rest of us............But I love it(LOL).

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The first thing you need to buy is the controller. Start small with just one. You can get sixteen channels from one.

If your a DIY'er you can save alot of money buy kits to build yourself.

Make sure to research the various vendors. The two biggies are D-Lights and LOR.

I use LOR, Dan the owner has been very helpful to me. Their tech support is always there.

Make sure to get the cables and software.

Once you load the software, the fun begins. Download some songs and start sequencing!

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Thanks i'm leaning towards Light O Roma now i just know some people that use it and they all say the same thing about the Company. do you know if they offer a demo of the Software? something you can play with to insure i can use the program.

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Thanks i'm leaning towards Light O Roma now i just know some people that use it and they all say the same thing about the Company. do you know if they offer a demo of the Software? something you can play with to insure i can use the program.

Yes, they offer a demo that you can play with but it will not control lights. It is helpful in finding out how to operate the LOR software. I started animating last year and bought a single 16 channel LOR controller during their Winter sale (always buy on sale). This allowed me to sequence and experiment with actual lights throughout the year. After sequencing some songs and figuring 48 channels was my best option, I decided to buy 2 more controllers during their Summer sale. It is not difficult and members here are extremely helpful with questions and tips.

Oh and just when you think you have plenty of extension cords, go get some more!

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Thanks i'm leaning towards Light O Roma now i just know some people that use it and they all say the same thing about the Company. do you know if they offer a demo of the Software? something you can play with to insure i can use the program.

Yes, they do. Visit the LOR Home page, click on "Software -> Download" and you can download the software. The software will work with or without a license key. To see what each version does, click on "Software" on the LOR home page.

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Thanks, now I think I have a plan. I'm sure I'll be asking lots of questions. o just found out my better half is out shopping today and found more christmas she couldn't pass up. looks like my display will be 10 x what it was this year if all goes well. And got it Extension cord Extenstion cord Extension cord and a few more Extenstion cords.

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Going computerized was the best thing we did 4 years ago. Hope to add an additional 32 channels of LOR for next year and of course more lights. There is a lot of great advise on this site for which I must say THANKS to all. Definetly have a plan for your layout as mentioned, have a picture or drawing of your house, yard it definetly helped us. Extension cords where our problem having over 120, last year we went to SPT cable eliminating 1/2 this year we used an additional 3000 ft with vampire plugs its far eaiser and relatively cheap and you have the exact length for your cords (buy early things sell out fast around xmas) eaiser to store as well.

Our yard is limited so some parts of our display will not change we tie wrap the cable run label and will use again next year. I learned the hard way you better start early the bigger the display or more controllers you have the LOOOOONGER it takes to sequence, we always said we would not take out our lights or put them up before DEC 1. This year we started right after Thanksgiving big mistake next year will be earlier to much stress rushing to get things up and tested but so much fun when its on.

Thanks to all for the great advise and have a Happy New Year

Dennis

Pacifica, CA

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Going computerized was the best thing we did 4 years ago. Hope to add an additional 32 channels of LOR for next year and of course more lights. There is a lot of great advise on this site for which I must say THANKS to all. Definetly have a plan for your layout as mentioned, have a picture or drawing of your house, yard it definetly helped us. Extension cords where our problem having over 120, last year we went to SPT cable eliminating 1/2 this year we used an additional 3000 ft with vampire plugs its far eaiser and relatively cheap and you have the exact length for your cords (buy early things sell out fast around xmas) eaiser to store as well.

Our yard is limited so some parts of our display will not change we tie wrap the cable run label and will use again next year. I learned the hard way you better start early the bigger the display or more controllers you have the LOOOOONGER it takes to sequence, we always said we would not take out our lights or put them up before DEC 1. This year we started right after Thanksgiving big mistake next year will be earlier to much stress rushing to get things up and tested but so much fun when its on.

Thanks to all for the great advise and have a Happy New Year

Dennis

Pacifica, CA

Yes you can download the software and it does everything "EXCEPT" control the lights.

Welcome to the madness!

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hiya all i have a big ? for ya

took my family to our 1st light show in 2011... got hooked reel me in :P

i'm a noob at this so im still getting my feet wet with some of the software out thr (playing with them) LOR , LSP , MADRIX

is thr any others out thr i missed and is thr any like MADRIX with a good intuitive program for sequencing so i can tweak it to my needs ... but won't burn ur fingers (price) in the process

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GrayWolf,

If you look in the Vender Section on this Form there are quit a few differant companies out there for your controller and program need. it sounds like you might be computer savy also look on DIYChristmas.com they really get into do it all your self.

Thanks for bringing back up this thread! I just read through it and can't belive it only been almost 2 years since i started out on the forums and with LOR. Let me WARN you now, this is a very addictive hobby. This year i hope to finish all of my prodjects and have 96 Channels and 35,000 lights.

Thanks

Edited by Mcas4380

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Thanks, now I think I have a plan. I'm sure I'll be asking lots of questions. o just found out my better half is out shopping today and found more christmas she couldn't pass up. looks like my display will be 10 x what it was this year if all goes well. And got it Extension cord Extenstion cord Extension cord and a few more Extenstion cords.

all i can say mike is your going to need even more extension cable than that :P :P

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Additive? this hobby is additive, why was there no warning label, OMG, too late, I got hooked 3 years ago, now have 48 channels, plus 2 RGB CCR, and 32,000 lights - additive more like obsessive it slowly reels you in with the bright glow of the lights, the promise of precision control.

And once the hook is set, you start to chase the 'just one more idea' and then you realize, it's too late! You have gone over to the light side where every light you see must flash and fade, and where every object you see you try to picture if you could use it in your display.

Run, run away now... oh, wait, if you are reading this it's too late your hooked! :P

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all i can say mike is your going to need even more extension cable than that :P :P

Thats funny, this was from 2010 and i just order 50 more cords from the dollar tree yesterday for my new controllers.

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