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How to start?


Dave S
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What should I buy to get my feet wet? I have come to the realization that it won,t be up this year but I want to get started..Is there a disadvantage to using the showtime box over the pc to run the show? And what is the license for? And last question ...Should I wait for a sale?

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I don't have the showtime controller so I can't advise you there. I will say that it will allow the show to be stored on memory card and it'll run the show itself without the need for a computer. You would still need to do all the sequencing and so on, with a computer. As for how to get started, the best is start with a plan. Take a look at your house or take a picture of it as you'll need it for the visualizer anyway. Decide how many light strings, types of lights, props, fixtures and so on, that you wish to control. I would suggest LED lights right off the start so that it saves you in electricity but also saves you from needing to modify your circuit breaker boxes or providing major power feeds to the controllers. The number of individually controlled items will determine the number of controllers that you'll need. Each controller will do 16 channels. So your wallet will determine what you can do and what's beyond. There are other cool things such as CCR's, CCP's and so on, but all are costly. I'd love to have 12 CCR's but that's a major expense so as it is, I have 1. So, plan first, then look at the cost of the controllers vs your wallet and of course props such as megatrees, decoration items or anything else you wish to control. As for the license, I'd recommend that you go straight to an advanced license then if you add CCR's and such, then you can do the superstar addon licensing. The license is good for a year which provides you with updates to the software, which are important. The software guys are constantly updating and improving the software suite.

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First off i agree with dgrant, I believe most will tell you that the PC controler is the way to go unless you are running a professional show at a commercial venue. I also would start with the big plan. Make it what you would like to accomplish this year and settle on a solid plan early and don't change your mind if you do you end up replanning it all. Then go get the free demo download of the software from LOR anything you create in that software will still be there when you finally buy your licsence. As for the hardware wait till it's on sale during the spring or summer sales. you really don't need the hardware till your ready to build. I would also say you don't need the licence untill your ready to control lights so you might as well save that money you will need it later. start picking up extension cord and lights after Christmas   

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  So is the license a fee for using the LOR software ?

 

Yes. You can use the software in a limited mode without a license, but you'll need a license to run a show. There are different levels (and prices) of licenses. See the chart on www1.lightorama.com/sequencing-suite-software for a comparison.

Edited by Steven
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LOR isn't just for the holidays.  Incorporate it into your landscaping,  up lighting a tree, raised flowerbeds, accent lighting on house and garage.  This gives you practice throughout the year and a head start for the season.  I own half a duplex with a small yard, but a great location and have become a favorite house in the neighborhood.

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Hi Dave S., 

Here is my 2 cents worth. i can tell from the answers you have received and the number of channels that they have they are not rookies. I am. This Christmas will be my first show. Below I have listed some bulleted items that I found through either trial and error or stumbled upon them looking for answers. I know I would have like to have them all in one place. I am sure that others may do it different and perhaps have better ways. I am always open to correction and learning.  

The items are not in any particular order. 

 

  1. Look at the LOR suggested layout for your channels. Don't think lights at first. Think in terms of channels and how you would like your lights to flow. The LOR suggestion, based on one controller, is 4 groups of 4. The roof or gutter line of your house may be the first 4 channels then just below that is your windows, then perhaps you have columns or other features (mine is an arbor, front porch, 4ft high bush and garage door and then 4 white mini-trees.  This arrangement will allow an orderly flow from top to bottom - left to right - bottom to top and right to left. All LOR sequences in their sequence store are based on this layout.  Here is a a link to a PDF LOR published with this layout and what to do with additional controllers TypicalLayout48Channels-WithDetails.jpg. Of course you can make any channel flow with any other, but take it from me if it isn't in the pattern suggested by LOR it get really challenging during sequence creation. This gives you an opportunity to purchase from LOR complete sequences and have a show ready this year should you want to and the budget allows it. 
  2. Watch lots of the videos - YouTuble, LOR, Planet Christmas, etc. 
  3. Get real familiar with the software and learn the keyboard shortcuts. I knew that learning the software would be the most challenging part of this hobby (other than budget), so I paid for the advance version up front full price. I am so glad I did. Watch the tutorial videos on the software- super valuable to  me. Learn the visualizer. Learn how to play only part of sequence.
  4. Take a good picture of your house from the show viewer's vantage point. Tip - Take the photo during the day. The visualizer allows you to darken so you will be able to see a simulation of your lights without a problem.
  5. Decide on the hardware you want now. Do not wait until the spring sale. Somethings go really quickly. You will be prepared. Search the forum for sale info. Spring sale has lower prices, but fewer quantities. 
  6. Measure your house and decide on the type and number of lights per string and how many strings you need. Use LEDs. Look for sealed bulbs and fully rectified strings. I ordered from Holiday-Light Express. Order your lights during the January and February sales. You get your lights in the summer. Not all LEDs work well with controllers. I have not run into this but others on the forum have stories to tell. 
  7. Download and install Audacity. It is an open source audio editing program that is awesome. You can shorten songs, change to bit rate to constant (main use for me) as LOR software will throw an error with variable bit rate MP3 files. Here is a link to help with that Preparing MP3 Files for Sequencing
  8. Unless you are somehow gifted, and I hope you are, take serious the time that others say it takes to sequence a song. It does take hours and hours. But the result is so worth it. I am a rookie and I know there are others that run rings around my ability. I will get there one day. 
  9. SPT1 wire and vampire plugs/receptacles. Must haves. Create your own custom length extension cords. Wire weighs a lot, so I purchased mine at Lowes to save on shipping ($42 for 250 feet - I bought two). They don't have white and green, but I can deal with black.  Shop around for the vampire plugs. I found mine for .49 each at Christmas LIght Emporium. 
  10. Oh yea, this can get to where it seems over-whelming. Keep in mind why you want to do it. For me it is a chance to witness. Celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I did a pre-packaged show last year (Sort of Mr.Christmas like) and it got a lot of attention. I was told that what I did was so cool or some other adjectives to describe what I did. That is not my purpose; don't get me wrong, I like to hear the good words people say that sort of acknowledges the work or dedication, but I truly want the focus off of me and on to the reason.
  11. Also in relation to item 10 - Have fun.   

I hope this helps at least a little bit.  

zeighty

Edited by zeighty
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  How can I thank you enough? The most insitefull and helpful information...I will be following your suggestions..I was right on the verge of giving up on the whole thought..I fiquired if it was this overwhelming before I even started...My main fear is investing big bucks and not having the ability to make a finished product !

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This is my second year so I'm truly still very much a rookie at this and still learning as I go. "Zeighty's" advice is good. I know that last year, I sort of went over-board as the lady of the house told me many times...lol. I started out with 96 channels and this year I added one more controller for two more arches. I've not gotten into RCB lights, CCP's, CCB;s and so on although I did purchase the one CCR as I mentioned. I'm about %90-95 LED's which helped on the power issues and not overloading the controllers and I ran the whole thing off two outlets. This year, my only changes were adding a second megatree and two more arches to a total of four, plus all the sequencing changes needed. So far from last year to this year, I've probably spent a total of about $3,000 for everything (controllers, prop items, strings and so on). During the day, the display setup looks like crap but at night, that's where it looks great. Last year, the lady of the house, her daughter and others, all thought it wasn't going to look nice and were less than nice with their words....till they saw it light up!!!! What made it worth it too me, was seeing the grandkids, kids in the neighborhood all dancing to the lights, "ooh's, ah's, wow's".

 

You too will get to experience all this and it will make it worth it. The object to any hobby is to have fun. LOR isn't a cheap hobby but doesn't mean you have to jump in all the way like I did. Do whatever works for you, based upon what your house/property setup and of course the checkbook allows. My only goal here is the please the children and bring a little extra Christmas spirit to anyone who sees it.

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Certainly hit the after Christmas sales when lights are %50 off and so on. Don't wait long either as last year I noticed things were gone real fast or the retailers didn't have as much stock on hand to sell. Either way, the pickens were slim last year. Once you know how many controllers you'll start with, go for the spring LOR sale.

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Others have given you really good "starter" tips...let me add:

 

"You get what you pay for"....some folk are steadfast believers in using off the shelf lights and such...I still have lots of things in my display that indeed were bought at a local big box store of some sort (Wally world, Garden Ridge, Hobby Lobby, HD or Lowes, etc.)....But I very quickly realized that if you have failures or have to worry about half wave versus full wave LEDs, then what am I really saving?  Buy good lights...design your show early and work with the vendors out there...most of them put their orders for the year way back in January, with delivery sometime in the early summer months.   Will you spend more per string...yep.  Will you see the difference in quality as well as most lights having at least a one year warranty...yep.

 

Another tip:  simply remember that there is no wrong or right way to do something..thats the beauty of this hobby...dont be afraid to ask questions and to crib from others...get creative...think outside the box.

 

Lastly, and I would say most importantly strive to "find your displays voice".  By this I just mean that every house and display is different...its not about the channel counts...I have seen absolutely garish houses with extreme channel counts that cant hold a candle to a tightly done, well orchestrated 48 channel show...dont over extend in a rush to just add elements...be measured and thoughtful in your approach to design....find the proper look and feel for YOUR display...if you can find that "voice" and let it shine, then you will truly have a display that is both unique and amazing! 

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OK...  New things to think of...And oddly enough I was out fixing incandesant strings today with all their different ends...tedious is the word that comes to mind...But I still find a weird joy in it..

 

  I do have 8  100 ct. "celebrations" brand LED strings...Should I stay with this brand or what are the recomendations? I would like to consolidate all lights to LED of one brand.

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Stay away from "Martha" lights available from Home Depot...I learned that lesson the hard way....no dimming. Either on %100 or %50 only. I'm one of those who bought lots from BigLots, Target and so on and they work just fine. This year, I bought a single string from Walmart and it too worked. I can't speak for all of their lights. I think I have a few from Lowes which also worked. Now I do have a lot of strings from LEDgen as well as Holiday Light Express which all work very nicely. I've got some led icycle light strings from SamsClub but have had a couple of failures there with leads rusting and breaking off. The advice above is solid as for buying better quality up front even though it costs more. In my case, I wasn't sure if I was going to continue or not past the first year, so quality wasn't the issue at the time. As mine fail due to whatever, I'll replace with good quality strings.

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Dave,

I am 100% LED and have about 20-25 strings of GE lights purchased from Target. The other 60 strings are all from Holiday-LED Express. They offer a no questions asked 1 year return and all of their strings are sealed and full wave rectified. They are significantly brighter than my other strings.

Buy in January. The cost will be less. You will have wait for summer delivery on most strings but it should be worth it.

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  Thanks zeighty... It is really odd...But I ordered a case of 100ct in red LED from them this morning and the lady on the phone advised me to wait til January to place further orders...Now that is the Christmas spirit if I ever saw it !! She told me they would be MUCH cheaper then. I will be placing a rather large order then..I would say they are
GREAT people !

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