Sequencing Tips

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Sequencing Strategies for Music and Lights

The following 2 tables are provided and authored by Sally Simpson, a.k.a. sasmuse and posted with her express permission. She compiled this list for a sequencing lesson at the Philly Area Mini in NJ. I attended and was taken back by the way she explained these principles. I found that I had been using a few of then without actually knowing it. Now that I know about them I want to use them more and pay more attention to how I synch the lights. The following will help everyone from a their first year display to an experienced synch'er. Read below and I assure you your show will be better than ever.


General Principles ( 4 L’s)

1. Layout
-design your layout in conjunction with, or prior to, selecting music

2. Listen, Listen, Listen
-I listen to a song well over 100 times before ever entering a sequence
-Have your layout in mind as you listen
-identify sections/themes/recurring passages
-keep listening

3. Less is more
-Don’t use everything all at once all the time
-Reel them in slowly

4. Leave’em wanting more…
-Don’t use everything in every song
-Average adult attention span is 20 minutes
-Child’s attention span is roughly equivalent to 1 minute per year of age

Now that we got’em what do we do with’em?

In-Song Strategies (ISS)

1. Divide and Conquer
-Divide your display into sections and assign to instrument/theme

2. Reverse Psychology
-Start with lights on and then turn them off

3. Light Choirs
-For choral numbers or songs with vocals
-Assign particular voice to a group of lights
-Everytime that voice sounds the same lights are used

4. Call and Response
-Have sections mimic each other

5. Catch me if you can
-Start a sequence and “chase” it around the display

6. High and Low
-Variation of #1 except that it uses height for the contrast
-icicle lights on peaks vs. net lights on bushes

7. Ring around the rosey
-Variation of #5 except confined to a small section of display
-think “mini-trees” or mega-tree

8. Step in Time or (levels)
-Use the levels to create diversity
-Usually takes about a 20% change in intensity to be observable
-Can be used as a step-up or a step-down

9. Point Me in the Right Direction
-Guide the observers eye through the display in a logical manner

10. Scatter
-Opposite of #9
-use lights in various parts of display with no apparent pattern

General Tips

1.Take your time. Sequencing is not something you can do in one day and have it be great. I find it takes me over 4 hours per minute of song. This will vary depending on channel count and timing intervals. Do not try to do it all at once either. You will get burned out. I try to sequence in 2 hour blocks. Then take a break for a few hours or even a day or two, up to a week sometimes.

2.You do not have to start sequencing at the beginning of the song. If you have an idea for a section of song then start there. This could be the very last seconds or something in the middle. Once you get that part done the rest will sort of fall into place. Some songs are more difficult to sequence than others. I find the slower songs are harder than the faster ones.

3.Start short. In the beginning it is much easier and you get a greater feeling of accomplishment when you finish a 1 minute song in 4 hours than only having a 3rd of a 3 minute song done. Especially when you have 3 songs ready to go instead of just a single song. The audience will pay attention and hang around for more when things keep moving. If the song is too long they may move on instead of staying for the next song.

4.Set up your display early so you can go out and watch the real thing a few times. Most effects will differ from how they look in the preview and how they look in reality. There are alot of variables that can effect the overall look. Chase patterns are a big one. Try not to get too hung up on how it looks in the preview.

5.When doing a Mega Tree spin or a Mini Tree chase most time you will get a better effect if you utilize 2, 3 or 4 channels in the chase as opposed to just a single channel chase. What I mean by this is: A single channel chase would sequence like this, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, etc. A 3 channel chase would sequence like this, 1,12,123,234,345,456, etc. You could make the trailing channel a dimmer light level so it looks like the tail of the chase fades away. I had done some single channel chases back and forth on my Mega Tree in 2006 in the Jingle bells video. You can see it on my site, www.christmasinshirley.com and got to the videos page if you would like to see an example. You can see a multi-channel chase in the Christmas Eve Sarajevo video, its on the mini trees.

6.Some effects should be used sparingly. Like strobes for example. The strobes should be used when you want a large impact usually in the final beats or at the songs musical peak. The less you use a specific effect the more impact it will have on the audience. Think of it like a Lamborghini vs a Corvette. You see the Corvette all the time, it is nice but nothing out of the ordinary but when you see the Lamborghini it is astonishing since it is a rare sight.