Light-O-Rama for Christmas

You’ve seen the Youtube videos of those fantastic front yard displays of Christmas lights dancing to Trans Siberian Orchestra and Mannheim Steamroller, right?

No? I’ll wait while you watch.

The cool thing about these displays is that most of them were created by your average Joe using a system called Light-O-Rama. I had heard of it in the past, but I’ve never used it. Until recently. I was brought in to program and some new fixtures on existing programming for Light up UCF using Light-O-Rama.

The system is modular so you can make it as big or as small as you’d like. They offer some cool options like 8 and 16 way dimmer packs, timed show playback systems, FM transmitters, and a newly added tricolor LED strip.

The concept is great, but the software is where it got a little iffy for me (I admit I was using the first version of the software and Light-O-Rama has recently released Software Suite S2, which appears to be a fix to many peoples concerns).

Programming a sequence starts off as simply as loading a MP3 in the file and clicking little boxes where you want certain lights to turn on and off. You have different effects like fades and shimmers. The problem is is that you are confined to the grid making timing a bit difficult. You can set a grid to adjust to the beats of the music, or set a freeform grid to create points where you want them but I found myself creating as many grids as I did intensity chases. One of the grids saving graces is the ability to tap your own beat (or tap where you want things to happen) and it will build a grid based off that so you can place effects and fades where you need them.

My job was to add LEDs to wash a couple of walls. Every parameter gets its own line, so everything is its own fixture. RGB units, however, can be pseudo merged into a single unit. This is useful for color fades and seeing what color you’ve actually mixed but beyond that not much else. If I didn’t like the timing of something I couldn’t just move the effect, I had redraw it. And if I had multiple things going at once I would, for the most part, have to move each one individually.

One of the hardest parts was that there was no real time output while programming. If I made a change it would be blind until I could play the sequence. If something was off, I’d go touch it up blindly and try it again. So much time could be saved if you could just see the output in real time.

After getting over a couple of initial programming hurdles everything started to fly. After two days of programming and finally getting to see a final product, that warm fuzzy Holiday spirit started to kick in.

This is a decent product that is geared for the average consumer and works exceptionally well for that. Combine that with a price point of no single piece above $500 it’s really not a bad deal.