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Sequence Design Best Practices

Scott Tuthill

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I have spent some time reviewing the forums for past topics on best practices on sequence design and not found very much. The vast majority of topics have to do with technical implementations of a specific sequence element. There is just not that much published on how to make the lights you have strung along your house, in your bushes, in your mega-trees, etc really come alive and look great in a sequence. So, I though I would volunteer a couple of my learnings, ask for what all you have learned, and then put a summary together for newbies and all of us that would just like to make our displays look even better next season.

So -- my simple learnings and best practices:

1. Always leave some lights on. Don't take your whole setup to complete off then blast it on. In my case I have classic C9's along the gutters and roof ridge lines that I leave on the whole night. It gives a nice background.

2. I limit the number of "activities" going on at any one time to two. When you design a sequence it seems fun at the time to say "I'll have these trees follow this part of the song, those bushes over there another, this tree blink to the drum beat, etc". But, then when I actually run it and look at it like someone in front of the house would, it just looks like random noise. Unless you know what to look for and what to expect, (and as the designer you are about the only one that does) a viewer just can't follow and comprehend more than two "activities" at once. It is sort of similar to fireworks -- except for the grand finale' there are usually never more then two different shells in the air at the same time.

Hope this helps. Would be interested in other learnings.


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Its hard to base line best practices as everyone's tastes are different. Scott likes to leave lights on, so do I. Scott likes to limit activities to one or two. I like to have more going on so that the second, third and forth time you view the same song, you can find something different and intersting to watch.

Here's my tip:

Your lights should reflect the tone and emotion of the music. Soft slow passages should be dim and more sweeping. Loud fast passages should have more intensity and pop. As the music builds, so should the animation. You are, after all, having your lights tell a story.

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I agree with iresq that everyone has a different taste when it comes to sequencing music.

For example, Scott mentioned that you should go from all off then 'blast it on.' However, if you look at my Coca-Cola song http://www.wonderlandchristmas.com I use this effect (I think) quite nicely at about 35 seconds in.

However, I agree that the idea of sequencing a particular part of your display to a particular part of the song doesn't work well. I honestly forget which song of mine it is, but I did this for a section of song this year. Couldn't have been more than 10 seconds or so, but every time I saw it I cringed. (Oddly enough, I didn't get around to changing it.)

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