This post is a follow-on to Part 1. Be sure to read through it first.
The software makes your job easier, but it’s still your job as the sequence author to make things happen. You’re working with a varying set of possible effects, channels that map to your lights, and a timeline.
The LOR show building software is relatively easy to use to enable or disable an effect on a channel. There are multiple versions of the LOR software available; I use the Advanced version. In terms of features, the Advanced version provides me with more options around scheduling and show building, but the lighting effects are the same throughout all versions. At the time of this post, v2.9.4 is current. There is a PDF help file that comes with the software. While thorough, it’s not the greatest teaching tool but it will get you familiar with different effects.
This is not a tutorial
There are plenty of tutorials about how to use the LOR software to apply effects to your lights. You don’t need me piling on with discussion about how to create an effect within the software. Besides, a newer version of the LOR sequencing software is expected very soon, so many of those tutorials will need to be upgraded.
Instead, I want to cover what I call “synchronization” — the whole aspect of holiday light animation. This is the finished product; when you put all your sequences together, have all sections of your display working in harmony, and your show is complete. It’s about the whole being greater than the sum of the parts.
To explain what I’m talking about, let’s look at a few examples.
TSO “Wizards in Winter”, by Carson Williams
This is a viral video from Christmas 2005, synchronized by Carson Williams. The song is Wizards in Winter from the Transiberian Orchestra.
Part of the reason the video went viral is that it largely introduced musical holiday light displays to an unsuspecting public. I think there was more to it than simple exposure — it was the flow that Carson put together.
Notice how the song begins and the display illuminates in conjunction. The music starts off with a basic theme, not too complex. Likewise, only a section of the lights in Carson’s display are illuminated. At this point, you’re not even aware of other lights that might be in the display.
At :50 into the song, the beat picks up and the song gets more aggressive, with heavy electric guitars. At this part, Carson enables icicle lights on his house. We haven’t seen these before, and they’re flashing in unison with the guitars. It accentuates the music, and also the relative size and volume of the icicle lights really emphasize the change of pace and tone of the song.
At 1:16, as the song picks up into its more well-known stanza, the lights on the house, yard and light tree move back and forth with the music. It’s a perfect way to reflect the back-and-forth nature of the music.
The rest of the video continues to build in a similar approach — by revealing more lights in the display as the song gets more aggressive and active, and reflecting the growth in the song with a corresponding growth of lights in volume and type in the display.
Brilliant execution, in my estimation. The sequencing — aligning light effects with music — is perfectly done. Interestingly enough, there are *only* 25,000 lights effected by 88 channels in this display. As a point of reference, 50000 lights and 200 channels is rather common in the holiday lighting enthusiast community. It’s simply a case-in-point that properly synchronizing a display — considering all things in their totality — is far more enjoyable and effective than a display that bombards the senses with huge volumes of lights.
Yule “Amazing Grace”, by Richard Holdman
Richard Holdman sequenced “techno Amazing Grace” back in 2007, and created some fabulous effects. While his display is substantial in terms of lights and channels (45000, 176 channels at the time), it’s also very clean in presentation and “uniform” — it’s neither too much or too little.
The song has two distinct sections — the opening, and the closing. The opening runs about 40 seconds, and features the typical slow pace and harmonies of Amazing Grace. During the opening, the lights slowly fade in and out in “waves” through the entire display. The single white color of the lights, in conjunction with the music, is a perfect complement.
Then the techno hits around the :42 second mark, and the lights kick into gear. The music starts pumping like we’re in the middle of a club, and the lights begin flickering with the beat. We also get to see we’re dealing with white, red and green lights as the entire display seems to morph in color. At 1:00, as the music settles in with a pumping version of the earlier stanzas, the icicle lights are simply being turned on and off quickly, but it gives the effect that the entire house in “jumping”. It’s a fantastic effect at exactly the right point in the song.
Another example of excellent execution. Easily a display where the whole exceeds the sum of the parts.
These are two examples of how sequencing has moved beyond simply effecting lights and created an experience when viewing a display. Carson and Richard accomplished true synchronization, something that I strive for each year.
What made these displays successful (Youtube fame, respect in the holiday lighting community) has a lot to do with their excellence in sequencing. By matching songs that worked with their display, by aligning the right parts of their display to sections of the song, and having multiple components of their display work in conjunction with each other — each was able to create a cohesive experience.
Another note: while the videos on Youtube and Vimeo help spread the beauty of these displays and others like them, videos pale in comparison to viewing a display in person. Videos don’t capture the glow of the lights. Videos don’t capture the size of the display. Videos don’t capture the experience of viewing the display along side friends out in the cold, riding in your car, or even enjoying them with total strangers. It’s not that videos are lame; it’s that the live show is just so much better. Do yourself a favor and get out and see these displays.