An over-the-top computerized display is really a very controlled environment. Music is carefully choreographed to the lights and no light shall change state unless it’s predetermined ahead of time by a human.
This controlled magic is called sequencing.
Sequencing is a blessing and a curse. You can make you display do amazing things in perfect synchronization with the music but there’s a significant amount of time required in the beginning. Depending on the type of music you’re using, the number of light channels and your need of perfection, sequencing the lights to music can take anywhere from an hour to a day for each minute of music. A typical song is three minutes so the time investment becomes significant. This is no big deal if you purchase pre-made sequences or create your own by spreading the workload out over a year but forget about adding a new song to your show at the very last minute.
There’s an alternative. Think LJ.
Just as DJ’s (disk jockeys) watch their audiences and string together the right tunes in the right order in real-time depending on the mood, you can do the same with the lights. Be a Light Jockey!
Stop thinking of your display as a controlled environment. Chances are you already have almost everything needed to switch to a dynamic mode. What’s the key? DMX and the right software.
If you’re using Light-O-Rama light controllers, you’re on the right track to become an LJ.
Light-O-Rama sequences developed with their S2 sequencing software send commands from your computer to the light controllers via the LOR proprietary data network, which is that little data wire you snake to each controller.
Here’s the trick: most Light-O-Rama light controllers also understand the DMX-512A theatrical lighting protocol. In essence your controller becomes a 16 channel DMX based dimmer pack. Using a $10 cable available from Light-O-Rama, you can plug your existing Light-O-Rama data network into an off-the-shelf DMX light console and manually control your lights with sliders… just like the good old days.
Now take the next step and make your computer into a “virtual” lighting console by using some sort of USB to DMX converter. We’ve had great success with a gizmo called the ENTTEC DMX USB Pro. A computer USB cable plugs in one side and a standard DMX cable plugs in the other. Use that DMX cable to plug into your existing Light-O-Rama data network and use software to create a virtual lighting console.
So far this is far from rocket science.
Music to Light Software
Here’s the real magic: find software that can listen to music in real-time and translate it to flashing the lights you have connected via DMX and your Light-O-Rama controllers. We’ve already done that search for you.
Check out a package from Madrix. It’s a bit pricey but it allows you to play Light Jockey in real time. It’s like a video mixing console used in live television but instead of cameras you have different lighting effects. You can map the lights to your exiting lighting setup, plug in a music source and watch the magic. We’ve done it here at PlanetChristmas and people love the fact it works with any music. Sequences that would take hours to program in the old days now happen at the push of a button. In the beginning we got a lot of help from Computerized Lighting and couldn’t be happier!
Imagine taking live requests during Christmas and watch your display dance to any music. It might not be as good as your manual sequencing, but when the lights are flashing in real time with the music to any tune the crowd requests, it’s more than good enough for the audience.
Now think of the 10-11 months of the year when your light controllers are sitting idle. Pull the boxes out of the closet and connect them to lights for almost any type of event. Think mid-Winter crisis party, the prom, your birthday, 4th of July or a Labor Day blowout. Now you’re getting a year-round return on that significant investment in controllers and lights.
Contemplate a Holiday Light Extension
Finally, consider the fact most people with computerized Christmas light displays let the controllers sit idle in a closet 11 months out of the year. Becoming a light jockey extends the season (we like to call it the holiday light extension) and helps justify the consider expense of the technology.
Stop thinking super-controlled environment. Think dynamic and wow your viewers in real-time every day of the year.