Using Your New Sequence

Posted by Michael Stoffregen on 4/6/2018 to Sequencing Insights
Using Your New Sequence
You're a Wizard, Harry.  Congratulations on your new sequence.  Now you have some work to do before you can enjoy it.  The good news is that it's fun, creative work where there is no right or wrong answer.  It's just you creating a little magic for the holidays.

Prepping Your New Sequence.  There are certain effects like Pictures, Video and Shaders, that work best if you prepare your new sequence for import.  This is very easy to do.  Load xLights.  Go to your SetUp tab and change your show directory to the directory in which the new sequence is located.  Load the new sequence and then save and render it.  That's it.  Be sure to change your show directory back to your default.

The Webinar.  I am going to direct you to a Webinar that covers how to map any sequence to yours.  It's rather lengthy (about 2 1/2 hours long, but it will get into the gritty details of mapping.  The Webinar is put on by Sean Meighan, the creator of XLights and it is dense with information.  It is available here

I am also going to give you my version of the same information.  It's a bit more concise, but probably doesn't answer the questions on either end of the bell curve.  The video should help answer those for you.

You Can Go Left or Right, But Either Way You End Up Here.  There are two basic ways to take the effects from a sequence built around the models used to decorate one house, and put them onto models on another house.  The first way you can do it is to run one iteration of XLights pointing to and using a directory where your new sequence has been unzipped, while running a second iteration of XLights pointing to and using a directory where your house model information is located.  You simple cut and paste from one XLights iteration to the second.

The second way involves using the Import Effects tool found in XLights to create a mapping file.  A mapping file is a file that matches up the models from the Showstopper sequence to the models on your house.  It is a map that says the effects on this mega tree over here go on the mega tree over there.  The advantage of using the mapping file is that once created, you can use it to import any Showstopper sequence to your house.

Some Common Ground.  For both methods, you will need to: 1) Download your sequence file.  Your download is good for 1000 days after your purchase.  2) Extract the files to a folder that is different than the one where your show files are located.   The zip file contains a jpg file of our house, the xml file that is the sequence, the XLights rgbeffects file and the XLights networks settings file.

After you have the files in that directory, start XLights.  At your Setup tab, change your Show directory to the directory where the new files are located.  Change your Media directory to the directory where you mp3 music file is located.  From the Sequencer tab, open the new sequence your purchased.  You may receive an error message saying a media file cannot be found.  If that is the case, you can browse and select a media file at Settings/Sequence Settings/Info/Media.

Now, without saving anything, open another iteration of XLights.  At the Setup tab, confirm that this iteration of XLights is pointed to the directory where you keep your XLights show files.  At the Sequencer Tab, create a new sequence, loading the same media file you loaded in the first iteration of XLights.  In your new sequence, place a timing mark at the beginning of the sequence and another at the end.

You should now have two copies of XLights running.  The first is pointed to your new sequence.  The second is pointed to the directory where you keep your sequences.

The Mapping Worksheet.  Now watch your new sequence a couple of times.  Before you do Make sure that the view is the “My View” and expand the Mega Tree, Custom Mini Trees, Snowflakes, Pinwheels, Candy Canes, Arches, House Borders, Greenery, Roof, Floods and Sign.  You are expanding them so you can see which individual models are being used in the sequence.  While it’s playing, note which models are being used. To better understand how I grouped models together, please see my earlier blog post about “Getting Your Group On”.

I have prepared for your use (completely optional), a Mapping Worksheet available {here}. The worksheet lists all the models and groups used in our sequences.  Check box all the groups and models that are being used in the new sequence you downloaded.  Think about your display set up.  What models do you have?  How do you have them grouped?  For each model in the Showstopper sequence, identify the model you would like it mapped to.  For example, if you have a mega tree, write your model name for that tree next to the mega tree used in the Showstopper sequence.  Try to match up every model used.  Do the same for the groups.  Try to have an analog for each grouping used.

The worksheet is helpful because unless you have a nice 28 inch computer monitor or a dual monitor set up, it can be a bit confusing switching between windows while trying to figure out what you want to do.  With the worksheet, you can focus on one iteration of XLights at a time.

Now that you have a general idea of where you are going, here is where the road diverges.  You can either use cut and paste method of the mapping method to create your new sequence.  If you have downloaded a full sequence, I strongly urge you to use the mapping method.  It will definitely save you time, particularly in the long run.

Cut and Paste.  Now that you have some idea of where you want each effect to go in the new sequence, copy each row in the Showstopper sequence and paste it into the file for your new sequence in the second iteration of XLights you have running.  When you get done, save and render the file, and see how it looks.  This method is probably best used with a mega tree sequence because there are only a few rows to cut and paste.

Mapping.  You should have your version of XLights running and the audio file loaded.  From the Sequencer tab, make sure your preferred View is selected and all your models and groups are listed.  Just a note on the order of your models and groups.  The groups and models are rendered from the top down, with the ones lower over-writing those above it if there is a conflict of any type.  I have my large groupings (think whole house), followed by my small groupings (think arches or snowflakes).  This allows me to do what I call "background" sequencing.  I can place an effect on the whole house as a background and have something else going on with the smaller groupings. To see an example, look at Wizards in Winter right around the one minute mark.  I have red and white sparkles in the background with the arches, snowflakes and mega tree doing something else.

Across the top of your screen in XLights, select Import/Import Effects.  It will ask you to select a file to import.  Browse to the folder where you extracted your downloaded files to and select the xml file for the sequence you downloaded.  After you select it  you will see another window.  At the top of the Window is a box that has timings listed.  Check the boxes on the timings you want to use.  On the left in a box, you will see your models and groups listed alphabetically.  On the right you will see a box listing the models and groups from the import file.

Here, you drag and drop the "Available" models and groups to the "Map to" column next to the display element you want it mapped to.  Note that when you use one of the "Available" models, it is dimmed.  That is just for you to mark what has been used once.  You can use it more than once.  For example, let's say you have two mega trees.  My display has only one.  You can map my mega tree to both of your mega trees.

This is where the Mapping Worksheet can be very helpful.  Rather than having to bounce back and forth from the downloaded sequence to this work area, you can just implement the decisions you notated on the worksheet.  The worksheet can save you alot of time.

Please note there is also an "Auto Map" button you can use.  If items have the same name, it will map them for you automatically.  This is a shortcut you can use if you have named your models and groups as I have.  Try it and see if it save you time.  Note there is a "Cancel" button to use if you get results you don't like, you can always start over.

What If You or I Run Out of Widgets?  There are a couple of circumstances that need to be addressed.  First, what do you do if you have more models and groups than are available from the imported file?  It's handled just like the double mega tree example I discussed above.  You can map a single "Available" element to more than one of your elements. 

The second situation is where you don't have enough elements to use all the "Available" elements.  There are a three ways to address that.  One way is to create new groupings to apply the "Available" groupings to, the second is to create sub-models on your existing elements and the third is to create virtual elements (think independent sub-models).

Note that there is no way to do this while you are in this window.  That means you will have to save the mapping file, select "Ok" to get to your Sequencer tab.  There you can switch to the Layout tab and create your new groupings, sub-elements or virtual elements.  Then you will go through the Import/Import Effects process, but this time you will start by loading your new mapping file first and your previous work will be in place.  You can do this as many times as you needed to address the disparity between the two layouts.  Remember that the more you map, generally the better the sequence will look.

Note that this repetitive process can be forestalled by using the worksheet.  The worksheet should alert you to significant disparities that require repetitive mapping or creation of new display groupings or elements.  Using the worksheet, you can create what you need before you import and map the new effects.

After you have mapped everything you can, save the mapping file so you can use it in the future.  This is important.  Also, give it a name you will remember, because you will want to create a mapping file for each vendor you use.  For example, name the file from us "SSS_Mapping".  The SSS standing for Showstopper Sequences.

After you saved the mapping file, select "Ok" and that window will close and you will be back at your Sequencer Tab.  The effects from the import file should be mapped according to your instructions.  Save and render your file.  Play it and see what it looks like.  If you aren't satisfied with the results, go through the Import/Import Effects process again, adjusting your mappings to better suit your display and likes.

Here's an important thing to remember when sequencing and building your shows.  Your audience is going to be amazed unless you have 10 minutes of darkness programmed.  I haven't ever done anything in this hobby that when I was finished I thought "You know, I could have done that a little better if I...".  I notice mistakes that no one else notices.  I see problems that do not matter one little bit to the audience.  You probably do too.  Take the advice my wife always gives me.  "Take a chill pill and relax.  Everything will be great."

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