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Visualizer Best Practices

LOR Staff

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The number of stickies at the top of this forum was getting out of hand, so I combined a bunch into this 'Best Practices' document.  It contains hints, tips, and tricks....

Newbie? Use the Tutorial and save time.
If you haven't taken the time yet, follow along with the tutorial in the help file (or here on-line: http://www1.lightorama.com/downloads/3.11.2/help/tutorial.htm ).  It's only a couple of pages and really explains how to go from nothing to a working Visualizer. Think of it more as a 'Quick Start Guide'.  

Visualizer Troubleshooting:
If you are having problems getting the Visualizer to work, especially if at some previous point it was working and now isn't, the very first thing to do is go through the tutorial.  I realize that you may be a pro and have used the software literally thousands of times.  However -- One of the first things we are going to ask you to do is run through the tutorial as if you have never used the Visualizer before.  

The Visualizer Tutorial should actually be called 'The Quick Start Guide', since it takes you from nothing to something that works in a short amount of time.  The best thing about it is that it hits on every single little detail that could be preventing you from running a successful Visualization.  Working through the tutorial will either jog your memory about something you forgot (Control Visualizer in the SE anyone?), or will give us an idea of where to start working with you to fix your issue.
I realize that some of you may take exception at being treated like a newbie, however the Visualizer Tutorial is also a great troubleshooting tool for us.  

When is a Reboot not a Reboot? When you are using Windows 10:
Depending on how you shut down or restart Windows 10, you may NOT be doing an actual shutdown or restart.  In order to make booting your computer faster, Windows 10 usually does not 'shut down' your computer, but instead puts it to sleep.  Even if you explicitly ASK it to shut down, it may just sleep it.  The next time you start your computer it boots up super-fast, BUT you may still have an issue since you never really 'knocked the cob webs out'.  

Like always, whenever you see something strange you should reboot your computer.  But sleep is NOT a reboot.  If you are using Windows 10, press the start button and then select RESTART.  That will force the reboot.  Now try your action again and it will probably work.

Visualizer only playing SOME channels:
This is going to become more and more of an issue in S4.  In S4 the LORListener has a much larger role that it did in S3, and going forward that role will only continue to get larger.  In order for ALL your channels to work in the Visualizer, you must ensure that the LORListener is running.  The Listener is automatically started by the LORControl Panel (that bulb icon in your system tray if you have it started). You should get used to having the control panel loaded whenever using the Visualizer.  It will make your transition to S4 MUCH easier.  

Improving Visualizer Performance:
(S4 Note --  The S4 Advanced Rendering Engine does a MUCH better job, and is much faster than the old S3 rendering engine.  These suggestions mainly apply to S3 Visualizer, but also can speed performance in S4 when released).

While newer computers with faster processors and high end graphics cards will help Visualizer performance, you can still easily exceed your system’s hardware while using the Visualizer. There are however some very simple steps you can take to improve performance.

The single best thing you can do to make things run better is to update to S4.  Trust us when we say the new rendering engine in the Visualizer is many times better than the old one in S3.  We conservatively say five times faster, but initial testing by the beta testers shows that it is probably closer to 20 times.  

If you don't want to invest the $30 to move to S4, or if you are stuck using the old renderer, the single most important thing to do is reduce the size of your simulation and background – both in dimensions and file size. Smaller always runs better. Even a small adjustment (say from 1920x1080 to 1200x675) will help. The Visualizer makes it easy to change the dimensions of your simulation. Simply go to the Simulation/Editor Properties press the ‘Change Size’ button and resize.

The next thing you should do is reduce the file size of your background picture, if you are using one. Today’s Multi-Mega-Pixel cameras can create pictures with very large file sizes, sometimes as much as 10-12 Megabytes per picture. To reduce the file size, save the picture as JPEG and increase the compression. You can do that with a photo editing program (one most likely came with your camera), or with the built-in Windows Paint program:

1. Start the Paint Program (Start/All Programs/Accessories/Paint)
2. Open your picture (File/Open)
3. Select File/Save As
4. Give your picture a new file name
5. Change the ‘Save as Type’ to ‘JPEG’
6. Save the new picture

Once you have the new picture, update your simulation to use it:
1. Open the Visualizer, and load your Visualization File
2. Go to the Simulation/Editor Properties
3. Press the button in the ‘Image Source’ section
4. Select the new picture

Going Further:

While simulating your stage, the computer has to share processing time with the Sequence Editor and Listener. The Sequence Editor is always given priority, and so it can dominate the Visualizer. There is no direct way to force the Sequence Editor to give more time to the Visualizer, however you can reduce the amount of processing the Sequence Editor is doing by turning off some ‘Play’ options. You should experiment with these settings to see which have the greatest effect on performance. For example, you may find that ‘Highlight Current Time’ has little effect on performance of your computer and you can therefore leave it on.

• If you do not have any controllers hooked up, turn OFF ‘Control Lights’. Don’t forget to turn it back on when you do have a controller hooked up.
• Turn off ‘Control Holiday Lights Designer’. Chances are if you are using the Visualizer, you are not using HLD.
• Ensure ‘Control Visualizer’ is turned ON. If it is off, the Visualizer will not work.
• Turn OFF Move Grid With Play
• Turn OFF Vary Color of Channel Buttons
• Turn OFF Vary Color of Channel Button Fonts
• Turn OFF Highlight Current Event
• Turn OFF Highlight Current Time

Additional Performance Enhancements

The Visualizer uses TCP/IP communications – the same protocol that your computer uses to browse the internet. While using the Visualizer, ensure your computer isn’t downloading large files from the internet/etc.

Ensure no other applications are running on the computer you are using for simulation. That includes things like web browsers, eMail programs and the like.

Your computer should not be used as a server while using the Visualizer. For example, your computer may also be used as a media server for other devices in your home/office. If the media server is active (and serving media), it will slow the entire computer down.  

Keeping the Visualizer in Sync with the Sequence Editor:
You may be wondering about the easy way to build a Visualizer and/or how to keep the Visualizer in sync with your configuration.

The secrets? Names... Names... Names... (and knowing when to match on Name or on Key)

The easy thing to do is ensure the channel names are identical between the Visualizer and the Sequence Editor. You can set up either first, as long as you some how make the channel names IDENTICAL between the 2.....

Here is how I would do it:

  • Create a Visualizer with all the elements (fixtures/props) you want in your show, but don't assign any channels. Basically PLAN what you want it to look like. Keep in mind how many channels you will ultimately have, etc....
  • Once you are happy, create a sequence in the Sequence Editor defining all the channels. For now just name the channels (something meaningful), and set the color.
  • Export that to a channel config file, and then Import it into the Vis as a reference file.
  • Depending on how you want to do it, either use the Channel Wizard to assign channels to props, OR edit each fixture and wire the channels (click the row, then click the small button on the channel properties and select the correct channel). Doing that ensures the names match. I personally suggest editing the fixtures and wiring by hand so you don't have to assign a bunch of fixtures to props, but the choice is yours.
  • Now do your SE programming. As long as you are under 256 channels, the SE can control the Vis with just the channel names. If you have more than that, you'll have to do steps 6-8 first, then come back to 5.
  • In the SE, assign all the channel properties - Device, Network, Unit, Circuit
  • Export that as a channel config file
  • Start up the Visualizer, load your Visualization, then load this new Channel Config File as a reference. When asked if you want to update your fixtures say YES and do so BY NAME.

Now any time in the future....

  • If you change a channel's KEY in the Sequence Editor, perform steps 7 and 8. A 'key' change is a change to a channels Device Type, Network, Unit or Circuit.
  • If you change a channel's NAME or COLOR, perform steps 7 and 8, except match on KEY not on NAME.

If you change a channel's name AND it's key at the same time in the Sequence Editor, you will manually have to update the fixture(s) that used that/those channel(s).  

Too Much to Show and not enough screen to do it:
Remember you can 'stack' pictures in a photo editing program.  For instance I have seen visualizers where 2 houses are on the same screen, making it about 400' wide in real life.Have a really WIDE stage?  STACK.
Use a photo editing program to first cut out all the unnecessary parts of your pictures.  Then copy each individual picture into a single larger one.  Use that single larger picture (which is actually a combination of all those other pictures) as your Vis background. 
Most pictures people take of their stages are far higher than they need to be.  See all that sky?  Cut it off.  See all that lawn that doesn't have anything on it?  Cut it off.  Got the side of house where nothing happens?  CUT IT OFF.  :D
Then take all your pictures and stack them together into a single JPG.
Here is an example of what I am talking about.  I'll bet this is similar to a lot of the pic out there loaded into the Visualizer.  WHY?
Country House.jpg
(Image stolen from Google.  Not an actual display home).
Look at all that wasted space.  Do you decorate the trees behind you?  Do you REALLY NEED to see 100' of them?  Do you decorate the street?  CUT IT ALL OFF.
So now you cut it down....  But you got that neighbor on the left you also decorate as well as that big open space on the right.  STACK EM.....  
Bonus:  Have some extra room?  Want a better look at something?  Those black areas are PERFECT.
tripple threat.jpg

I need an 'X' prop/fixture:
You'll notice that there are a bunch of fixtures and props that other users have shared at the top of this forum.  But what about if you don't see what you need?  Create it yourself.  It is easy:

  • Get a picture of whatever it is you want to use for a prop.  For example, here is a singing face from our friends over at ChristmasLightShow.com
  • Start a new Visualizer file with that picture as a background
  • Use the Visualizer tools to draw the needed lights.  For this example, strings are going to be perfect, and we'll use them to trace around the drawing.
  • When done, export the Visualizer file as a new fixture or prop
  • Pay the favor forward by posting the prop/fixture here so we can link it for others to use.
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