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George Simmons

Groups versus Tracks

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I had someone contact me pertaining to a recent thread regarding the use of tracks and groups, wanting my opinion on the benefits and/or drawbacks of each.  I figured I'd share my response in case it might actually help someone.  It's Orvellian in length, but it's what that person wanted to know:

 

 
During the reign of S2, I relied on tracks.  For me it was a perfect way of organizing the display according to the various props and devices and colors and such.  As I added more props and elements, my track count started getting ridiculous (up to 21 in my final season with S2) and updating sequences each year almost always led to a lengthy use of colorful metaphors amid a plethora of four letter words.
 
What I liked about tracks is they allowed me to move channels around to align two complementary or related display elements so I could sequence them within sight of one another - something not often possible with a large channel count all in one list. (I hate with a passion having to scroll up/down.) 
 
What I don't like about tracks is the fact that they are ponderous to move and MUST be in EXACTLY the same order if you're sharing/copying config files between sequences.  If not, the result is total gibberish starting with the first track out of order and extending through the last track and channel in the sequence.  What are the odds that someone with ADD is going to put 21 things away in precisely the same place every time?  Hence the colorful metaphors and four letter words...
 
For me, groups do everything I ever wanted tracks to do, but without any of the drawbacks.  I can create them to include any channels I want and I can quickly and easily move them around for sequencing.  The best part?  I can also leave them laying around any place I want and still be able to import a .lcc file without ANY ISSUES.
 
Here's how I do it.  Track 1 is the master list.  All new regular channels get added to the bottom, and once on that list they will NEVER be moved or deleted.  Never ever.  I lock the channels in the master list, but that's just for my own protection.  You might be more responsible.
 
Track 2 is for CCDs.  Same rules apply as with regular channels.  Never moved or deleted.  Never ever.
 
Track 3 is titled GROUPS and that's exactly what's in there.  Whatever I want: colors, left to right, elements that move up/down, elements that move side to side, like items, like colors... however your yard lines up or however your brain lines up, you can make a group for that. You can have a single channel in several different groups  You make groups by copying the channels you want in that group from the master list.  Copy - never duplicate, never move. 
 
Track 4 is titled WORKING.  It's usually empty, save for the single channel a track requires in order to exist.  But that's where I copy channels from the master list TO as I'm creating a group.  When the group is completed I then move it to the Group track.
 
The way S3 works, as long as the master track (or in my case, the first TWO tracks) remains unchanged with new channels added only to the bottom, you can forever copy new .lcc into old sequences.  Yes, my group list in track 3 gets re-arranged in favor of whatever order it was in when the .lcc that I'm importing was created.  But every group is still there and every channel is still in every group where it it should be, and all the existing sequencing is still there.

 

For me, I'm not sure how it could be better: maximum versatility and guaranteed errorless config updating.  But keep in mind, and I can't say it often enough, don't EVER mess with your master list or you're totally screwed. 

 

 

The person who asked me this also requested a copy of my .lcc, which I sent.  I make that same offer here if it will help someone.  You don't need to have hundreds of channels to use the same system as I do.  It's not the only way, and your mileage may vary, but it works flawlessly for me.

 

I apologize in advance for any typos I'm unable to correct with no edit capability.  Please pretend I spelt it right.

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George

This helps a lot. I made a comment about this yesterday saying I needed to understand this better and now I do. I'm going to tidy my sequences up and then follow your formula. Thanks for taking the time to clearly document it for everyone

Tony

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Thank you so much for sharing this method of organization. For my first year this year I used less than 16 channels and just had everything in one list. I am planning on using about 48 channels next year and knew that I had to find a better method of organizing them. Your method sounds like exactly what I was looking for.

 

-Paul

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Very similar to how I do it also. Though I keep RGB devices in my first track, and I usually keep 4 or 5 working tracks, as top level organizers. My track 2 is usually entirely sorted by color, so it has 4 groups (with groups under them for more granularity) that can be used to turn on one color across the entire display in a single command. Track 3 is sorted by element type, then all four colors in sequence within that element. So mini tree 1-20 white, 1-20 green,etc. The last track has color as the last sort element, so mini tree 5 will have white, red, green, and blue under it. Usually those tracks will allow you to do quite a bit without creating too many extra tracks or groups for other purposes.

The key thing is never reorder track one. Occasionally I will go identify channels that have not been used in a few years and assign new channels to them. But, it does create some interesting challenges that would not be there if I did not ever repurpose them.

Also, don't copy groups. (Unless you understand what you are doing and why) Create new groups with the same members. It will save you some time and pain.

One other piece is that I keep a master channel layout sequence. It has a blank audio clip. It has no events in it. It is just a repository for channel layout, animation window layout, and channel configuration. Just about every time I save it, it gets a new name. It gets saved with the year it was for clearly identified, and which revision number it is. Across the 5 years I have been clearly doing this, I have about 117 revisions. Unfortunately the .lms file does not track which .lcc was most recently imported, nor a history of the imports.

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I too would love to see how you do this George. Fumbled my way through learning how to do tracks. And started to get myself into a bind at first when I didn't understand that "new stuff to the bottom of the list". Until I imported  a .lcc file. And saw the mess it created. LOL About dirtied my boxers, till  realized I could just not save the changes. This Groups thing sounds good. And just happens I was going to clean things up by starting fresh, so this is a good time to learn about groups.

 

Thanks for the offer.

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Okay - let's do this the easy way. Here's a link I'll keep active as long as this thread remains of interest. When you create a new sequence with this .lcc it might take longer to load than you're used to.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/ql0ztbwaj8ffshv/Clearwater%20Lights.lcc

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I had someone contact me pertaining to a recent thread regarding the use of tracks and groups, wanting my opinion on the benefits and/or drawbacks of each.  I figured I'd share my response in case it might actually help someone.  It's Orvellian in length, but it's what that person wanted to know:

<snip>

 

Track 3 is titled GROUPS and that's exactly what's in there.  Whatever I want: colors, left to right, elements that move up/down, elements that move side to side, like items, like colors... however your yard lines up or however your brain lines up, you can make a group for that. You can have a single channel in several different groups  You make groups by copying the channels you want in that group from the master list.  Copy - never duplicate, never move.

<snip>

 

Thanks a lot George!  I made extensive use of both tracks and groups for 2013.  However your comment about having the same channel in more than one group did not wash as I could not find any way to make a channel appear in more than one group in a single track.  Finally about the 4th time I read your sentence, I realized that the secret is to copy the channel from the master track MORE THAN ONE TIME.  As I expect to be changing my show from animation only to a musical for 2014 (and going from just under 3,000 channels to 5 - 6,000 channels), I will be doing massive changes to layout in SE.  I will study your .lcc file and re-read your description a few more times BEFORE I start on 2014 sequencing next week.

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Not in front of the computer right now, but I can right click on a closed group, and there is an option to make a new group containing the same children. I use that, then move these now unrelated groups to my different tracks to be resorted, without messing up the original, not other groups that happen to contain the same children.

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On a semi related note, we have sometimes expanded an element. For example, a lawn fan that had 16 slices originally was updated to 20 slices. When I do this, I try to figure out what is going to make the most sense when updating the old sequence into the new lcc. In this case, the old 1-16 was renamed in place as 3-18, and 1,2,19,20 were added at the bottom. This way any existing sequences will use the center of the lawn fan, and not be squished to one side.

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George... I loaded it on a current song I was working on (Just for the heck of it).... LOVE IT !

 

(Sample of Georges "Tracks" LCC file, from his website)

 

GSimmons-Tracks_zpscfade54c.gif

 

Greg

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George and everyone else, thanks for the information.  Every year I feel  like my shows are a "house of cards" just waiting to fall apart - but fortunately they somehow don't ;)

 

I decided that for his year I needed to set up and use groups and tracks effectively and was going to re-work my "master" configuration, but it sounds like maybe I shouldn't touch it (I do not want to do a lot of re-work on all of my sequences).  So here are a few questions:

 

Is it bad to have groups in the "Master" track?  If I have them, are there certain precautions I should take to make sure I don't foul things up?

 

Maybe my biggest question is, What is really saved in my .lcc?  Meaning, is it ALL channels, tracks, and groups from whenever  I saved the file?  Is the reason that I don't touch the "Master" track really that this is presumably the only place where the actual channel/controller/circuit linking takes place and all the tracks that just have groups are simply 'shortcuts' to the real deal?

 

So,  if I don't mess around with the "Master" track but I make all kinds  of modifications to the later tracks with all kinds of new groups and save that configuration, what happens to a sequence in which I import this new configuration?  That is, is the master track good, but all the later tracks messed up due to the changes in the config?

 

Sorry or all the questions, I think I'll have to spend some time experimenting as I start to get my new config planned.

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Can anyone tell me how to turn on a Second Waveform.  I have noticed it in the extra tracks that people post

but can't seem to find how to turn on for the second track.

 

Thanks

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Thanks a lot George, It seems like every year I am having to reorganize my channels and I make use of a lot of groups and tracks. For 2013 I thought I had licked and it would be perfect and easy for years to come. But NOOO you had to get on here and show me a better way. I was about to say I should send it to you and make you fix it, but then I realized that you wouldn't take that as a joke and I would have to take out a second on my house to pay you :D. You do have great advice and thank you very much for passing on your expertise over the years.

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The only thing I use tracks for anymore is when I want channels grouped in different ways.  You can't do that in a single track.

For example, I have a pixel mega-tree.  On the main track, the whole tree is a group (just for convenience), and each vertical drop is a group. 

But sometimes I want to sequence it as a z-tree.  So I have another track.  Again, the whole tree is in a group, but this time, there are 5 sub-groups, corresponding to 5 vertical z-tree type slices of the tree.  Since the channels in a single z-tree slice span all the vertical drops (which are all different groups in the main track), they have to be in their own track.

-Tim

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George and everyone else, thanks for the information.  Every year I feel  like my shows are a "house of cards" just waiting to fall apart - but fortunately they somehow don't ;)

 

I decided that for his year I needed to set up and use groups and tracks effectively and was going to re-work my "master" configuration, but it sounds like maybe I shouldn't touch it (I do not want to do a lot of re-work on all of my sequences).  So here are a few questions:

 

Is it bad to have groups in the "Master" track?  If I have them, are there certain precautions I should take to make sure I don't foul things up?

 

Maybe my biggest question is, What is really saved in my .lcc?  Meaning, is it ALL channels, tracks, and groups from whenever  I saved the file?  Is the reason that I don't touch the "Master" track really that this is presumably the only place where the actual channel/controller/circuit linking takes place and all the tracks that just have groups are simply 'shortcuts' to the real deal?

 

So,  if I don't mess around with the "Master" track but I make all kinds  of modifications to the later tracks with all kinds of new groups and save that configuration, what happens to a sequence in which I import this new configuration?  That is, is the master track good, but all the later tracks messed up due to the changes in the config?

 

Sorry or all the questions, I think I'll have to spend some time experimenting as I start to get my new config planned.

 

I think Tim touched on some of the problems you might encounter. I personally wouldn't even think of putting groups in my master track. I'm from the been there, done that school and I don't ever want to go through the .lcc nightmare of my first couple of years again. While you can't copy a channel into the same track you're copying it FROM, you can copy multiple copies of a channel into another track. Hence my groups track.

Yes, when you save the configuration it saves everything in the sequence setup (except for the sequencing itself, of course) from the sequence from which you did the save. Any change you make to sequencing, regardless of which copy you're working in, appears in all copies of that same channel. (NOTE - always COPY - never use DUPLICATE) If your master track is the first track and you've left it completely alone except for adding new channels to the bottom (and never deleting or moving any existing channels) when you copy the .lcc into an existing sequence, it basically pastes the new information from the top down, so your old master track will not be negatively affected in any way. That's the whole point. You also need to make sure that your .lcc donor sequence and your receiving sequences have the same number of tracks.

Don't be sorry for the questions. It takes a whole lot less time than recovering from a .lcc nightmare.

 

Can anyone tell me how to turn on a Second Waveform.  I have noticed it in the extra tracks that people post

but can't seem to find how to turn on for the second track.

 

Thanks

In the sequence editor go to VIEW > WAVEFORM and select either of the top two choices. You should see the waveform in any/all tracks.

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Thanks George for the Reply  I have mine set to full height already.  I guess whats seem weird to me is that when I  am on the Track 1 and scroll the page down to the end of Track 1, the screen flips to Track 2 but doesn't show Track 1.   If I slowly scroll up it flips back to Track 1 and then hides Track 2.

If I collapse Track 1 then I see both tracks one collapsed and one open but only one waveform.  If I collapse Track 2 the single track stays on top.  Can't seem to get both open tracks on the screen at the same time with waveforms in each.

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Thanks George for the Reply  I have mine set to full height already.  I guess whats seem weird to me is that when I  am on the Track 1 and scroll the page down to the end of Track 1, the screen flips to Track 2 but doesn't show Track 1.   If I slowly scroll up it flips back to Track 1 and then hides Track 2.

If I collapse Track 1 then I see both tracks one collapsed and one open but only one waveform.  If I collapse Track 2 the single track stays on top.  Can't seem to get both open tracks on the screen at the same time with waveforms in each.

Have you shrunk the height of the channels? Go to EDIT > ZOOM ROWS > OUT. Once you get it zoomed down to as far as it goes that's about all you can do. I use the waveform extensively in sequencing, but if you don't need it for a particular part of the song, eliminate it and you'll see more rows. You can always enable the waveform again any time you want.

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THAT'S IT George,  shrinking down the rows worked.  I just clicked on the icon several times and once it greyed out the second track appeared.  This was driving me nuts.  I was searching this forum and reading the help and just couldn't find the answer Till now

 

THANK YOU SO MUCH 

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This was my first year. I programed 10 songs on track 1. George if I were to use your system for expansion which I plan to do, the sequences on track 1 is that going to be effected when I copy to another track?  Which track will the controller follow or does the other tracks over write on the master track.?

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This was my first year. I programed 10 songs on track 1. George if I were to use your system for expansion which I plan to do, the sequences on track 1 is that going to be effected when I copy to another track?  Which track will the controller follow or does the other tracks over write on the master track.?

If you make no changes to what you have now - meaning don't move or delete any channels from your existing list - and if you add new channels ONLY at the bottom of your existing list, then nothing you've already sequenced will be affected in any way.  You can add whatever you want and copy to a second track to create any number of groups and no existing sequencing will be changed.

 

If you have questions (and it sounds like you might) give me a call at 763-250-3008 before proceeding and we'll make sure you have no problems.

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Hi George,

 

I've realized that I've totally screwed up my ability to easily add new channels to my sequences (but I don't feel too bad as it's only my 1st year).  So I've been reading this posting (along with others) regarding Groups and Tracks so that I can rebuild my sequences and get it right this time.  I understand the concept of the Master track and adding new channels to the end of the track (mostly due to the save index if I'm understanding correctly).  I've got my new Master track created but have some questions as to how to proceed from here. 

 

I know that you said to only copy a channel and never duplicate.  However, I also see that the Sequence Editor has a function called Duplicate Track.  Can I use that to create my Groups track and automatically copy all of my channels from the Master to the Group tracks or will I need to create a blank track and copy each channel individually (which would take considerable time)? 

 

I know that you also said it's a bad idea to have Groups in your Master track.  So I'm going to have a Groups track but I also want to create separate tracks for each part of my display (i.e. front yard, side yard, back yard).  Can I use the Duplicate Track function against the Groups track to create my Front Yard track (thus automatically copying all of my channels and groups) and then just remove any channels from the Front Yard track?  Again, it would be nice if I didn't have to copy each individual channel but I want to make sure I'm not going to have problems down the line.

 

Finally, one other quick question - do you leave unused/spare channels in your Master track and then just rename them as you need or do you remove the channel and add it back in later if you need to.  I'm just curious as to the best way to set it all up.

 

Thank you!

 

Joel

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HI George,

 

Could I get a Copy of the LCC File and 1 of your sequences? I had major challenges this year with the DMX portion of my network. (My Fault for not buying the same fixture from the same vendor. Saved some $, but caused more headaches than the saving of $ was worth.)

 

kiplorenzo@gmail.com

 

thank you

 

Kip

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