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DugsterM

Stop The Music!

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In just a few years it's amazing how the number of music-synchronized, computer-controlled, christmas light displays have exploded!  This is both good and bad.  While they can bring a lot of joy and happiness, what was novel and interesting is beginning to become ho-hum.  There's always the drive to add something new and unusual to try to keep things fresh, like adding animation, video, and rgb features, but it's clear that new and more isn't always better.  I am not advocating that we stop all the shows or discourage people from creating new displays, but we need to mature as a "movement" and consider where things are and where they are going. 

 

I understand that it hard to have this discussion without hurting some feelings or making it appear elitist or critical -- beauty is in the eye of the beholder, any attempt at trying should be admired, and the purpose and standards for success are different for everyone.   It's tough enough to explain my own purpose and goal for writing this!  I'll try.

 

I love Christmas light displays and started my own before I was 10 years old.  Back then a couple strings of lights and a homemade star was enough to draw praise from the whole neighborhood. Affluence, access and technology has meant that 40+ years later it takes soooooooo much more to even get a second look.  Sadly, I see that we are hitting a threshold that means "more is better" no longer holds true.  A display with thousands of lights, every blow-mold ever created, and multitudes of inflatables can no linger gain more interest and fascination simply by adding more.  Our solution, it seems, is computerized displays that flash, blink, and move to music.  But even that clearly has its limits.  Are 1000 circuits really better than 500?  When does the joy and fun become overwhelming and boring?  There is no real answer to this but it makes me ponder where all of this will go.  

 

There is a lot of discussion on this and other holiday boards on how difficult things are getting.  Adding tons of RGB to displays is making the job of synchronizing more time-consuming and difficult.  Very few have the time and skill to really do it properly in the big scale many displays are reaching.  I wouldn't say that many light displays "fail" but there are many that clearly could be "better."  (Lot's of quotation marks because I know many of these words are relative and loaded.)

 

I see a need to change the focus from quantity to quality.  In the rush to have the largest display or include the newest technology, poor implementation is clearly suffering.  Does a display need 10 poorly synchronized songs or 5 really well done ones?  Does a display even need to be coordinated to music? We've created a monster and it's tough to see what could be done to tame the monster.  

 

I'd be happy to see more "silent" or non-synchronized displays that are smaller and better put together.  A themed display like Disney Christmas or a Gingerbread Forest doesn't have to cover 10 acres to be beautiful.  And often people are located in places where it's difficult having vehicles stop or people to stand around long enough to listen to a 10, 15 or 30 minute show.  A display that you can pass and admire in a few moments can give great joy.  I have seen displays where cars never "stop" but every time you drive by you catch something new flashing or moving and it's interesting all season.  There are a couple neighborhoods where everyone puts simple things like candy canes or hundreds of sparkle-balls along a street and it's simple but so beautiful. 

 

This isn't to say there should be no music synched shows or large displays, but the rewards of simplifying or improving those shows rather than just making them bigger would have great benefits to both those setting them up and the viewers.  I had a recent display where I had five 10-foot high arches that had only 3 circuits with 1 set of lights per circuit on each arch and it was still impressive.  I covered the arches in plastic vent pipe to help diffuse the light.  When I see folks putting 12 circuits and winding set after set of lights on their arches I often find it to be overkill and just an awful lot of work.  

 

I have more to say but this message is WAYYY too long already.  You get where I am going. Please note that this message is meant to make readers think and share their thoughts.  I am not slamming anyone else's opinion.  I want to hear what you think. --Doug

 

 

Here's one of my "simple" displays: http://youtu.be/eXMXQRPhCgg

 

 

 

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/eXMXQRPhCgg" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

 

 

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Well Doug, I think my neighbors may disagree with you on the music.  I had created a couple of "silent animations" to put in my display, when the FM broadcast stopped and the 4 outdoor speakers went silent, everyone was asking, WHERE'S THE MUSIC?  It just doesn't look right without music. 

 

And I know some of my current Christmas sequences are still in some dire need of tweaking and even possibly completely redone from scratch, although they are a few of my very first year sequences.   There are some that I did using the LOR wizards and look like Christmas Lights on steroids, but the neighbors all still loved those, even though I felt they were way under subpar for what we can do with the sequencing.  

 

But if noone is complaining watching the show, what difference does it make how good or bad a sequence was created?

 

It may make a world of difference as to how an animator views it, but I'd say most of our audiences could care less, unless it's so  bad that nothing even comes close to synching with the lights in the display,   But I haven't really encountered very much, if any of that in any of the displays I've been too and watched.

 

But each animator in my opinion is their own worst critic, we see things that may not synch up right or work the way we had intended or thought they would, but again, our average audience would never notice these descrepencies that we perceive in our own displays or possibly other displays,

 

Like said, it's all in the eye of the beholder{viewer}, but we tend to be harder on ourselves to constantly improve and add to our displays, sometimes that may be overkill in some instances, in others it all works out just fine, again, depending on the person that sequenced the display.

 

I'll probably never be as good as I'd like to be due to vision issues I have, but I'm not going to give it up because I'm not the best sequencer out there.   My display is more to bring smiles and enjoyment to neighbors, friends, family and anyone else that may visit it

 

Well you asked, and that's my take on it.  I could probably say a bit more, but this is already longer than I intended.

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I am not as high tech as most of you when it comes to our display. 

 

I welcome the comments from other decorators but honestly the only thing that matters to us is the 1000's of smiles we see from the people that come by each year and see it in person.  That is what our display is all about. 

 

Not trying to keep up with anyone else or setting it up the way someone else thinks it should be.

 

We do what we enjoy that makes those happy that visit us.

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While I get the sentiment, I think the notion that everyone must go in a certain direction is wrong. We need more creativity, not less. And I get your point -- I don't think you're intention is to restrict anyone's approach to light synchronization. However, I have to say that to make an omelet, you have to break a few eggs.

 

In the end, our displays are a function of ourselves. Some of us want things one way, others have a very different approach. I've seen displays and thought to myself, "well that's just embarassing", but the thing is -- it doesn't matter what I think of someone else's display. The only thing that matters is what I think of my own.

 

The point you're raising may have merit in a certain context, but it begs the question -- do our displays reflect on the the community of lighting enthusiasts? I think we do, because don't follow some pre-determined set of rules. It's purely a function of what inspires us, and what looks good to one person may look terrible to another. But it doesn't matter what we think of each other -- what matters is what each of us get out of doing this. Our community doesn't say "you can join if you can only do things this way", but rather it says "come on in and do things your way." And thank goodness for that.

 

Now, I personally do not find the gigantic display with umpteen billion inflatables and lights and blowmolds as inviting, but that's for my display. It obviously works for others, and that's great -- while that doesn't appeal to me, it does appeal to others. It's that variety that makes this community great.

 

I'd much prefer to have someone get involved in the community, create a ridiculous overdone display, then come around and refine their taste later on -- than to have someone who feels they can't really get involved because their display doesn't measure up. There are enough things in this world telling people what they can and can't do, and it's a crock. Let's support each other to reach our goals for our display.

 

My first displays were terrible, but I learned each year. I'm still learning. And my display looks damn good right now. Never would have got there if someone had said "that looks bad, get out of town." This community is awesome, and I'm thankful every year we're around.

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For me synchronized displays are a no go.  I'm on a semi busy street with a 3 shift factory just up the street.  It would create too much of a traffic hazard.  My Nativity Scene is simple and draws comments from the nursing home next door even in daylight-some of the residents are allowed to walk outside and off the property.  

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I would hate to think that there is a mold that we are suppose to follow. Be creative have fun and that's all this hobby is in my opinion. The fact that others are sharing in our creativity and sharing ideas just makes it better to learn from each others mistakes of successes. Some people like the newest thing and that's fine. This will plant the creative seed and build new ideas to share with the community. My display is a mix of many ideas the one's i like or think i can pull off.  My display is synchronized but that's what get my creative juices going. In my area i only know of  3 others that do this, and every one is very different with different approaches to being synchronized and understandings of how it works.      

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Merry Christmas & Happy New Year To All;

 

First of all if I may say this is my 3rd year of decorating my house with lights & music. (although I do not own a LOR system or other unique piece of equipment.)

 

I currently own the Gemmy 6 channel MP3 music box & have very few lights strung around the house & my trees. I can recall the first time I became interested in making my lights dance to music I bought the Lights & Sounds of Christmas & had wanted more. My son was then 2 or 3 years old when I started that & is currently now 4.

 

I recieved alot of comments from family & friends when I first started this & they really liked what they saw & heard. Though I am not a "techy" I would still love to get into the LOR area of decorating if I could find the way to afford it. I know just by adding my mp3 player to make my lights dance might not be a big thing to some but  to watch my children ages 18 14 & 4 enjoy the small amount of lights I have dance to music is a big hit.

 

However I do understand about the large upscale decorations & as I see them here in Streator, Illinois & elsewhere's I travel it leaves me wondering how I could do that :) I appreciate all the hard work that people go through to make their homes look so awesome, because there have been times I have wanted to not decorate because of not being in the holiday spirit due to finances & other circumstances. (if I may say so it is because of these that help to make my holidays brighter & makes me think of what Christmas is about)

 

So thank you for allowing me to post this & thank you for all of each of you do, for even though things might be blown up beyond explanation remember you might be putting a smile & a newness in someone's heart who otherwise might think the holidays are nothing more than a bother.

 

Merry Christmas All

 

Sincerely;

 

Ghost Rider (Michael Swiskoski)

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Isn't this a hobby? As everyone is certainly entitled to their opinion, I wouldn't think that there would need to be limits on creativity. If you enjoy the display, enjoy the work, can build upon it each year, then why not either carry on the tradition, or get involved?

Does it really matter that there are more animated displays? There are more and more static displays each year in my area. It sounds as if some people want to be the only "show" in town

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Are 1000 circuits really better than 500?
When does the joy and fun become overwhelming and boring?
There is no real answer to this but it makes me ponder where all of this will go.
 
How does this display fit into your little formulae.
Lets call it just over 12,000 channels.
And he plans to double that next year.
 
 
I am guessing that this will be the new model that everyone will try to copy.
Absolutly beautiful and hypnotic to watch.
 
JOel

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I also have been doing this for over 30 years from the cold weather in Ohio to the sunny skies of Florida. I do a combination of animated lighting and the static nativity scene and other wire frames. I am lucky to have 3.5 acres of land and always run out of extension cords and that is when I stop every year. So in the off season I buy more zip cord and extension cords to expand. I try to keep the display simple and not have it look like Christmas puked in my front yard.

I always look forward to the new technology every year and how to incorporate into my display.

Just a few thoughts on this topic.

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Are 1000 circuits really better than 500?
When does the joy and fun become overwhelming and boring?
There is no real answer to this but it makes me ponder where all of this will go.
 
How does this display fit into your little formulae.
Lets call it just over 12,000 channels.
And he plans to double that next year.
 
 
I am guessing that this will be the new model that everyone will try to copy.
Absolutly beautiful and hypnotic to watch.
 
JOel

 

Since we have given permission to be honest (though I will still try to stay positive), I found this display to be beautifully boring.

I think this plays exactly into the problem Doug is spelling out. 

 

Here, the decorator spent a pretty penny to create a nearly 100% RGB display and yet...I'm bored.

Sure, it's hypnotic to look at but the technology is horribly underutilized. It is not hard to create a "Rainbow" effect or a "snowfall" effect or any of the other effects used in the song using MADRIX or LOR but there is a huge amount of responsibility to keep things interesting to viewers and appropriate to the music.

 

The display looks beautiful, don't get me wrong, but I think the music killed it in this scenario.

I would have found it more interesting if we had silent RGB effects that truly displayed the magic of the RGB technology.

 

This, of course, is my opinion, and as it was stated before, we ultimately create these displays for ourselves.

 

I will repeat it again, I think the display is very well created, but I found the programming boring.

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As programmers I am sure many saw different things that could have been done with that massive display.

 

BUT.....

 

I am betting the owner of that display was not making it for programmers and that all the people that do go see it think it is the best there is.

 

The displays we all do are for our self and the people we bring joy to each year. 

 

That is all that counts.

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I am sorry, but if we are throwing opinions around, I saw nothing wrong with anything in that display.  Good song, great sequencing.  I am sure they had plenty of visitors that left with smiles and told others about the display.  There is no right or wrong with a display.  If it makes the homeowner happy and their visitors, too......job well done.  Some of the homes I have seen featured on TLC or HGTV were over and beyond crowded or what some would call a hot mess, but you know what, they got on national TV with it.  I have seen simple displays with very few channels and lights that I would agree definitely outshined 3 or 4 times that size, because the smaller was sequenced better and with more detail.  All I know, the more people that light up, the better.  Nothing worse in my opinion than going through neighborhoods with little to no lights at all during the holidays.  I would rather absurd and tacky than darkness.  Keep Lighting Up and Keep the Music Playing!!  More people like/love it than not, that is fact, not opinion.

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I appreciate the differing views :).

And I completely agree that a child's wide-eyed smile beats any discussion or dissection we can possibly have :).

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The thing is this hobby is different things to different people. For some people they just want to have a nice display and they aren't into sequencing. Others like building the riggings for megatrees and such, others are into soldering up their own controllers, some like to play with the latest technology, some like the blow molds or inflatables or wire frames and on and on.

 

Each year a fresh set of newbs with their own objectives get into the hobby each with their own vision of what they want it to be. I figure each year participation doubles, we will see more, much more RGBs, matrixes, projection mapping, animitronics and things we haven't conceived of.

 

As unique as the displays made by people are their reasons why. Some are tinkerers, some like to make kids smile, some are trying to recapture the magic of Christmas from when they were kids, others are feeding other personal needs. I think often people start off doing it for one reason and find new ones along the way.

 

Instead of worrying about where the hobby is going I think people need to focus on what they want to do, why they do it, and how they are going to accomplish it. I honestly don't care what people think about my display, my sequencing skills or my song selections. If I lived on a hill in the middle of nowhere, where no one would see I would still do a display. In fact this was exactly the case when I was a kid. So people should do it for their own reasons and ignore what others say or think.

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This is an interesting thread...

 

I think uniqueness is one of the things that I appreciate most with our "over the top" displays. 10 years ago, an animated/sync'd display was, just by its very existence, unique. Today, there are I dare say thousands of LOR/AL displays, many of which are absolutely breathtaking, while many many others look just like many, many, many others.

 

The latter are ones which don't get a lot of attention from me, but I do not have a lack of respect for them by any means. I fully appreciate someone who's gone out and dropped 4-figures+ on 32 channels and 15,000 lights in what is mostly an emulation of what hundreds of others have done. I just don't get excited by it. I DO get excited by 32 channels of uniquely sequenced lights - not just flashing 16 deer on and off with 16 bushes/windows/icicle lights. Not trashing those that do that, but, it's not exciting to me as I've seen it a hundred times.

 

Two directions I want to take from that last statement. Direction One: That video posted above: Impressive work, but lackluster in beauty, IMO. I was pretty intrigued at first, but quickly became bored after what seemed like 2 hours of rainbows. Also - it was quite frankly all the same. They transformed the entire property into a video board. Just not "beautiful" in my eyes. That being said, I'm sure in person, to those seeing it, it's amazing to see.

 

Which leads me to Direction two: Does it really matter what internet world/the who's who of PC/Facebook thinks of your display, so long as YOU are happy with it, and it brings smiles to those who see it. Those who have been here for at least a few years have a bit of an advantage/disadvantage in that we are truly experts/historians of computerized displays. We've seen most of the best, and several of the others. But we are disadvantaged in that we are not easily impressed by what should be impressive. However, Joe Schmo with his wife and 2.5 kids that visit the, in our eyes, "merely mediocre" sequencing job and "only 32 channels & 15,000 lights", havn't been online watching hundreds of youtube videos of displays from coast to coast. THEY, your audience, think it's fantastic! Isn't that what really matters?

 

Now I'm all for one-upsmanship. But, me, personally, mostly try and one-up myself. Personally, at this stage of the game, except for maybe some elements I have ideas for, I have little desire to go to RGB. The look just doesn't go with what I'm doing. I AM planning on upping my strand count on my Mega tree, re-designing the show setup, and making it a walk-through type display. I'll never let go of my currently 40,000 light static scenes, and in fact I have every intention of improving them (Indeed, all of this years additions were static scene improvements). Next year I'm planning on going from about 190 channels to probably around 250, not for the sake of adding channels, but because I want to improve my show. Yeah, my 2 arches are 12 channels each. They were a pain in the you know where to build! But, I love the look of my fading leaps. Your 3-channel arches, on the other hand, look great in a set of 4 running across - But set by themselves would not give a very good sense of motion. Mine are set apart from each other; yours are set together. To each his own, right? 

 

Now, some people might take issue that the LOR guidelines for creating "zones" and such leads displays to be unoriginal cookie cutters that all look the same. And, those guidelines do indeed do that. But again, that's US noticing that it's the same as all of these others. LOR giving people a stepping stone to making their own display more "unique" is purely a fair business move to expand their client base, and I have no problem with that. Designing a unique display is truly art, and it takes a certain artistic design sense to pull off a good one. Not everyones got that, but there are plenty who do have it but don't know where to start. Hopefully these "cookie cutters" will evolve in their own direction; those that don't will likely simply bore themselves after a few years and fade away. 

 

I guess it just is a matter of how you look at things. I'm not very popular on youtube, but I draw hundreds of people to my rural display from dozens and dozens of miles away. I'd much rather be very popular locally with little youtube following than a viral hit with no actual visitors. 

 

I don't think there is cause for concern. The ultra-high tech displays may get the cable tv special glory, but the truly unique displays you seem to prefer (and so do I) will be the long lasting favorites. Few people remember a youtube video. When I was a kid a police officer in Richmond decked his house every year with thousands of all-blue lights. Everything was blue. There was nothing technically sensational about it - it was just a LOT of blue lights!! He passed well over 10 years ago and the display went away. But my friends that do the tacky light tour in Richmond still mention that display, over a decade later, as one of our childhood favorites. Kids will remember a great, unique, in-person display forever, no matter how many channels or pixels there are. 

 

In the meantime, keep innovating in your own way. Just because a display has 10,000 pixels doesn't mean its better than 10,000 blue lights. Both can be great. The 10,000 pixel shows that arn't very good will fade away. The well designed/sequenced 10,000 pixel shows and the 10,000 light static shows that are awesome will endure. No need to press change/attack sub-par sequencing & design. They will improve or fade away on their own in due time.

 

(Sorry if this was scatterbrained... parse together as best you can!)

Edited by Stephen Blue

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Are 1000 circuits really better than 500?
When does the joy and fun become overwhelming and boring?
There is no real answer to this but it makes me ponder where all of this will go.
 
How does this display fit into your little formulae.
Lets call it just over 12,000 channels.
And he plans to double that next year.
 
 
I am guessing that this will be the new model that everyone will try to copy.
Absolutly beautiful and hypnotic to watch.
 
JOel

 

This is exactly the kind of discussion and thought I was hoping for.  Clearly there is no right or wrong with any of this and we all have personal opinions about which displays or features we like the most to displays that disappoint us.  In my mind everybody wins just by playing the game.

 

In regard to this specific display, I have to agree that it is incredible.  Clearly a lot of time, effort, and money went into it and undoubtedly it draws smiles and gives warmth to everyone who see it.  Personally I would have done it quite a bit differently if I'd had that opportunity but I certainly would never imply that this display was a "failure" or done wrong.  What stands out to me is that many viewers, and those who are interested in christmas displays, believe that to be successful you need to have a display like this one. That to be good you have to have LOTS of lights and LOTS of circuits.  I don't believe that. As someone else stated, if the entire display had been done with traditional lights, not rgb, it STILL would have been an INCREDIBLE display and there would have been many, many options on how to program it.  The goal should not be to have the most lights and circuits but to do the best with what you do have.  Instead of adding more lights every year spent the time and effort cleaning up songs, finding better ways of implementing the lighting, and such.  

 

If this talented decorator (sorry, not meaning to pick on one -- it's just an example) really intends to double his lights and circuits next year that is fine but I would see it as being unnecessary.  Every year I discover and learn new ways of implementing the lighting I have.  RGB had a huge learning curve and the possibilities to explore are mind blowing.  Adding more lights but not doing anything different would be stunning but for my personal tastes would not make it "better."  Nor would it make it "worse."  I just don't see the need.   The owner/designer of this display owns his own ideas of what he likes and the goals he hopes to reach and I commend and congratulate him.  But I don't think it is harmful or rude to suggest that more lights are needed to make it a success.  I encourage him or her to explore the many different ways what is already there can be implemented.  Is there new, interesting way to create or light an arch?  Can things be moved around to better show off certain features or avoid distraction from other things?  

 

 

Please continue to ponder the reasons and goals we have set forth as those interested in and creating these christmas displays. --Doug

 

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I agree with more is not always better.  I had to downsize my display from it's previous 2 years due to moving to a manufactured home which has a very small yard and almost no front area to speak of.

 

  I still maintain 80 channels, which is what I started my first show with in 2010 {Halloween}.   And this year in 2012, I didn't use all 80, but somewhere around 60-62 channels, although channels from all 5 controllers were used due to location placement,, some controllers had 3-4 or more channels open on them, one had the entire bank of 8 channels: 9-16 open.    Will I use those channels next year in 2013?  Possibly, then again, maybe not.   It all really depends on how I opt to set the display up next year, and determine as to how many channels I'll use.   2013's displays are already in the planning stages.

 

Sure I'd like to add another controller or two for more channels for larger expansion, but for now, I don't see a real need for me to do it, and the 5 controllers/80 channels I have are more than sufficient for my purposes, so instead I try and improve my existing sequences to make them even better than they are.   And that is more of the direction I am heading because I don't want an overdone display, then the sequencing just not up to par because I had or have far too many elements to deal with,

 

Adding in at a later time in my opinion for a larger display in my case would be better, and to keep my current display not as it is, but allow it to grow until such time I would need to add another controller to handle the extra lights, props or whatever I opt to bring to the display.

 

So I can understand Dougs point of view on many aspects, and on some of them I fully agree.

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Short and sweet. you're right quality is better than quantity. I'm still working on downsizing to a more static display with something you can focus on while trying to run the light show in the background. 

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