Concepts and Terminology
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There are several concepts you should be familiar with before you create your first visualization with the Light-O-Rama Visualizer:
The main editor area is known as the "stage". The stage is the area where you will be designing your layout, and where the Visualizer will simulate your design. When creating your stage, you should create one large enough to comfortably create all your design elements, while minimizing the size to enhance performance. You can also import a background picture (in GIF or JPEG format) to give a more realistic representation of your stage.
Upon the stage, you can draw bulbs or strings of bulbs, which are simply called "lights". The Visualizer supports multiple different light types including mini/rope lights, individual bulbs, Cosmic Color Devices, DMX RGB Pixels, and flood lights. Strings of lights do not need to be continuous - you are free to draw a single string in one location, then another in another location, and make them both part of the same fixture.
There are several different kinds of lights, shapes, and channel effects. Some fixtures can only use certain types of bulbs, or have certain parameters. For example:
All lights automatically become part of a "fixture". The fixture is actually the primary element on your stage. Whenever you create or select lights, or make changes, you are actually manipulating one or more fixtures.
Every fixture has its own set of properties depending on what kind of fixture it is and what kind of channels the fixture uses. These properties allow you to change the size of the bulbs on the virtual stage, the foreground/background level, name, comment, et cetera.
It helps to think of a fixture as a collection of zero, one, or more channels. For example, if you are using Light-O-Rama to drive a holiday light display, a single fixture could be the "Left Garage Bush", where you have four different color light strings, each being a different channel. You could then also have the "Right Garage Bush", which is a collection of four different channels.
You can use and reuse any channel on any normal fixture. There are no restrictions on duplicating one or more channels from one fixture to another.
The number of channels you can assign to a fixture depends on the fixture type as well as the type of channels (normal or RGB). While a fixture that has no assigned channels cannot be simulated, it is perfectly acceptable to create them.
There are four different types of channels in the Visualizer: CCR, DMX Pixel, Normal, and RGB. The CCR and DMX Pixel type channels can only be used with CCR (Cosmic Color Ribbon) or DMX Pixel fixtures respectively. Neither can be directly created. The RGB type channel, which can be assigned to any fixture type, requires exactly three Normal channels - one each for the red, green, and blue components. When these channels are rendered the three components are combined to create a bulb in true color. Normal channels consist of a single bulb color.
Since the fixture is a collection of channels, it is also where you will create those channels and the colors they represent. While you can use your sequences or channel configuration files to help create the channels within the Visualizer (see Reference Channels), you need to understand that there is no real connection between the sequence file and the Visualizer file. The Visualizer will only ever use the color you specify within the Visualizer for a particular channel on a fixture. For example, if you create a channel in the Sequence Editor that you specify as blue, and then create a fixture that contains the same channel in the Visualizer but instead say that it is red, it will display within the Visualizer as red, not blue.
Even if you use a reference file (i.e. a sequence file or channel configuration file), no connection is maintained between that file and the Visualizer. For example, if you use a reference file that defines a channel in the Sequence Editor as green, and then later change it within the Sequence Editor to white, the Visualizer will still render the channel in green, until you change the channel on the fixture in question within the Visualizer.
With the exception of the color, to properly communicate between the Sequence Editor and Visualizer, you must define the channel identically in both. Think of this as properly "wiring" the Visualizer, much the same as you would wire your stage. For example, if your "Left Garage Bush Blue" channel is defined in the Sequence Editor as device type LOR, Regular network, unit 1A, circuit 5, then you should define the channel the same way in the Visualizer: device type LOR, Regular network, unit 1A, circuit 5.
A "prop" in the Visualizer is a collection of fixtures. Since fixtures are collections of channels, think of a prop as being an easy way to associate different collections of channels. For example, you may create a large Christmas tree on your stage that consists of eight regions, each of which is four colors. Each region could be made as a fixture, and the collection of all eight regions (fixtures) could be made a prop called "The Tree".
You do not directly draw props. Instead, you create the individual fixtures and then associate them together as a prop.
The Visualizer uses a concept called "layering" (or "Z-Order") when creating fixtures. Fixtures can be placed on one of sixteen levels from the "background" (level 1) to the "foreground" (level 16). The primary use of levels is to allow you to layer fixtures on your stage. When you simulate your show, fixtures are rendered in background to foreground order. This means that fixtures on higher levels are rendered on top of those in the back. You can also disable the simulation of certain layers so that you can better see areas that may be hidden.
Layers can also help you design your stage. Much like turning off layers for simulation, you can turn them off for editing. Fixtures that are on edit disabled layers can be made invisible and cannot be selected in the main stage area. This allows for easier selection of fixtures and props that may be hidden or obstructed.
To aid in the creation of complex props and fixtures, the Visualizer provides several different wizards. These wizards allow you to quickly create Trees, Arches and Fans, DMX Pixel Universes, CCRs, and CCR Matrices. Each wizard has unique parameters.
To create complex fixtures, you may want to use the "symbol" create tool. The symbol tool can take a character from a graphics font (such as "Wingdings"), and create a light string representation of it.