Posted by Michael Stoffregen on 3/21/2018 to Sequencing Insights
One of the great features in XLights is the ability to create a group. If you think about it, a single strand of pixels is a "group" of sorts and the software applies an effect of your design to that group. Take an arch for example. Mine are 50 pixels and I use the Single Strand effect quite a bit on those. But I created a group so that I can apply an effect to all the arches at once. Not only does the grouping change the way it displays the Single Strand effect, it allows you to use other effects, like the Wave effect.
Another great thing about the grouping in XLights is that it is fluid. You can add groups without affecting your existing sequences. You can modify a group and re-render your sequence. So don't be afraid to add a group to get an effect you want. However, when deleting a model from a group, be mindful of what it will do to your other sequences. Often it is best to just create a new group rather than affecting your existing sequences.
The way I visualize our house when sequencing mirrors the approach used by XLights. The entire house as decorated and all the yard and tree display elements are a single "canvas" and I am the Bob Ross of XLights. I can apply effects to the entire canvas or just parts of the canvas. The flexibility afforded by that feature of XLights allows me to create a mood and do things people are just not used to seeing when they are watching Christmas lights.
For example, people are used to seeing single strands of lights. Now the big box stores offer LED lights capable of changing colors. It's pretty amazing and fun to watch. Even though our house is now 100% pixels, I still go through the Christmas light section at Wal Mart, Home Depot and Lowes, just to look at the lights and see what's new. Although each strand is beautiful, it still is a single strand of lights. It can fade, shimmer, sparkle and flash.
Now contrast that to a whole house grouping where a Shockwave effect of four different blended colors cascades from the upper left hand corner of the canvas, with hundreds of Sparkles trailing behind. Both presentations are beautiful, but the Shockwave allows you to present a richer, fuller visual experience. If you don't use grouping, you are limiting your sequences.
When implementing one of our sequences on your display, you have some decisions to make when it comes to grouping. Your display is most likely different than our display, but there are probably lots of similarities. For example, my candy canes are on either side of my garage, the entrance arch I created and the main window of the house. Yours may be in your yard or up against a fence. Our arches run along our driveway. Yours may be mounted on your roof or run across your yard. Our mini trees are randomly placed throughout our yard. Yours may be neatly lined up at the front. None of that matters because XLights gives us the flexibility to implement someone else's sequence on our display.
There are two main types of groups you can implement. The first is what I call a logical grouping. For example, I have seven snowflakes staggered across the front of my garage. It makes "logical" sense that I group them together and call that group "Snowflakes". The second type of group is what I call an aesthetic group. This is where you group together two or more display elements that are not necessarily logically grouped together to facilitate a visual effect. A good example of this is my Whole House illustration below.
To get the full benefit of one of our sequences, it is best that you develop analogs of the groupings used in the sequence you purchased. Think of it as your version of the Showstopper Sequence grouping. To help you do that, here are the groupings I use when sequencing:
Everything But Star
Whole House Less Mini Trees
Whole House Less Mini Trees & Arches
Whole House Less MT, Arches & Snowflakes
Whole House Less Everything
Left Whole House
Right Whole House
Garage Whole House
Yard Whole House
In addition, there are some that are self explanatory and don't need illustration: Arches, Arches on the Left, Arches on the Right, Archway Pinwheels, Candy Canes, Custom Mini Trees, Floods, Greenery, House Borders, Mega Tree, Pinwheels, Roof, Sign, Sign Poles, and Snowflakes. These are logical groupings of individual but similar display elements.
When implementing a Showstopper Sequence, you probably will not need all the groupings mentioned above. Look at the sequence and note which groupings are actually used in the new sequence. Implement only those used in your version of XLights so the effect can be mapped or copied to your display.