Fond du Lac, WI
FDLLights - Lakeside Light Show
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Programming the Light Show: Twenty-eight commercial light controllers (sold by Light-O-Rama) control this years light show.  Each controller can control 16 sections of light.  A section of light, for example, may be one red string of lights on the tall 3D trees, one of the dancing trees colors, or one small segment on the leaping arches.  Commercial LED strings of light are used in the show to reduce power consumption and replacement of strings of lights. In addition, a 3000 LED grid is located in the middle of the display and consists of twenty rows of a special LED light ribbon or Cosmic Color Ribbon (CCR). The grid is controlled by twenty additional controllers specially made for the CCR.  Each CCR led (circled in red below) can be programmed to virtually any color.   New for 2015, the large 3D trees are being lit up with CCPs (Cosmic Color Pixels).  Each tree is controlled by 12 special CCP controllers.  Each CCP led can be programmed to virtually any color. A computer runs a show schedule and starts and ends the show at specific times. There are 11 data highways to tell the controllers what to do with the lights.  Each data highway consists of a Cat 5e/6 cable using RS485 electrical protocol for data communications.  RS485 is a standard that is highly immune to interference and provides good signal up to 4000 feet away from the computer.  Nine data cables are used for the RGB LEDs.  Some of the songs send over 1 million lighting commands to the display in a 2-3 minute time period!  The lighting commands tell the LOR controller to turn on or off, fade up or down, blink randomly, etc. and set an RGB color at any time during a song.  At the same time, the computer plays the audio which is sent to a small FM transmitter so visitors can listen to the music in the comfort of their car. The difficult part is deciding when to send the command to the lights.  It is up to the designer/programmer to decide what to light and at what time. The software package that helps the programmer do this is also from Light-O-Rama.  Each song is listened to in small sections, often at 1/2 speed, and then the designer decides what the display should look like at that point in time. The image below is the LOR programming software showing a sequenced 7-second section of the Nutrocker.  Only a small section of the total number of channels are displayed. In addition to the standard programming, another software product (Superstar Sequence Editor) is used to program the CCR grid.  Below is a short part of the Nutrocker where ‘Mr Keys’ is playing the piano.  
Assembling the Audio and Voices: A standard part of the show are the riddles that the trees read to each other.  Each riddle is recorded about 4 times so we can choose the best one to use in the show.  Once the best voice is selected, the editing begins.  The voices are raised in pitch, reverb and a stereo effect is added and then compressed to make the voice stand out.  Laughing is added after each joke and finally music is added to the background.  Below is a picture of the sound editor with the introduction being edited.  This same editor is used to shorten some of the songs to fit within the show.