How to Begin With Vixen

If you haven’t worked with Vixen, here is a great tutorial on how started with Vixen. Starting with the basics we will walk through on adding the elements, patching the lights, and getting started with sequencing!

Starting with Vixen

If you haven’t worked with Vixen before you want to get started by launching the program. On the launch screen, you first want to click “Setup Display. The program will then open to the Display Setup screen:

How to Begin with Vixen

On the setup screen you will have three different sections.

The left panel is the elements section, the center panel is the patching section, and the right panel is for your controllers.

Setting Up

To get started with setting up, you first want to add the elements to the Vixen program.

Elements are any parts of your display that you wish to control separately. These could be individual props, parts of your house outline, or anything, really!

To do this you will click the green “Plus Sign” in the elements section. Then select the type of element and a screen will come up to name group, the prefix, and the item count (number of Pixels). Once done just click “OK”.

Once you have added your elements you then want to add the controller. To do this just click the green “Plus Sign” in the controller section, name the controller, and set the output (number of channels). Once done just click “OK”.

Note that there we are specifying the total number of channels – which is typically 3x the number of pixels.

Patching

While still on the setup screen you then want to patch your lights. To do this select the elements by using “CTRL or SHIFT” and then selecting your controller.

In the middle section is the patching wizard, and you may see a warning message come up that says ” You may have more outputs than lights”. This will be just fine however if you have more lights than output, this will not work.

If you try to patch too few lights to the outputs of the controller, the outputs will simply not be filled all the way. At this point in your display, you generally want to think about what port of each controller each prop will plug in to.

Then, patch each prop to the appropriate port. It is important to know that you can change this later, and it will not affect any sequencing work that you have already done.

To finish, click “Patch Elements” and select “OK”. To exit just click “OK” on the lower right screen.

Sketching In Your Lights

After adding and patching your lights, you’ll want to work on sketching your lights on top of your house. This is important because the “preview” is what Vixen uses to determine the layout of your display when applying effects. Like patching, you can change this later, but it’s still important to get it right.

To do this go back to Vixen’s launch screen. Click “Setup Previews”. A new screen will come up and just click “Add New Preview“, select “Preview” and then click “Configure”.

This will open up a Setup Preview Screen. To get started with designing you’ll want to upload an image of your house or display location. Located on the top menu click “Background” and this will allow you to add an image of the workspace.

For this example, I just used the Google Maps street view photo, which I took a screenshot of. For best results find or take a photo of your home from the angle that most viewers of your display will see it from.

To begin laying out the lights you will see the elements you already added located on the left sidebar. Just select your “Elements” and on the top menu, you can either work with Smart Objects or Basic Drawing.

With the Smart Objects, you’ll want to use this for the Pixels. With the Basic Drawing, you want to use this for the non-pixel items.

When you’re done designing just click “Escape” on your keyboard.

Settings

A few additional features on the preview screen will allow you to make a few changes as needed.

One of these is to select “Elements” you will see on the lower left of the screen you will see the light size, linked elements, and the string name.

You can change any of these settings as needed to make your preview easy to see and matched to how your actual display looks.

Once you arrange your lights always be sure to press “Save“.

Sequencing Your Lights

To get started on setting up sequences for your lights, launch Vixen, and click “New Sequence”. This will open your Sequence Editor screen.

Vertically will be the time slots and Horizontally will be your different elements and effects. If you do have audio you want to be added to the sequence just go the top menu bar and select “Tool”, “Audio”, “Associate Audio”, and select your media file. The music will then be added to your sequence.

The effects will be located on the left sidebar. To add these to your sequence, simply drag and drop them into the desired time slots.

The effects editor will be located on the right sidebar where you can preview the sequence and adjust the parameters as needed.

When You’re Done

Once you’re done, press “Play” and test your display. If you have set up your display correctly, and have lights plugged in, you will see them animate to your sequencing while editing your sequence.

Then, hit “Save”, and you’re ready to move on to your next song!

Setting Up the Scheduler

Once you have your lights tweaked and setup you want to work on getting them set up. To do this you’ll need to launch Vixen and go to the “Scheduler” and then click “Shows”. Click “Create New Show” and then click “Edit” where you will be able to set up your options.

Setting Up Your Show

In this screen, you will have four options to work with: Startup, Background, Sequential, and Shutdown. For each option, there will be a description on the bottom of the screen to explain exactly what it is for.

For the Startup and Shutdown, you would mostly use this if you want specific actions to take place at the start or end of your show. In most cases, I just use the sequential option.

Click “Sequential” and on the right side, you will be able to select and add your files. Only add one at a time. Just click the “plus sign” at the bottom of the screen to add your files.

When you’re done adding files just press “Ok” and then “Close”.

Adding the Show to the Scheduler

Now you want to add the show to the scheduler. Since we’ve created the show we now need to attach the show to the scheduler.

Back on the Vixen main screen go to “Scheduler” and click “Schedules”. Click the “plus sign” located on the bottom of the screen.

In this screen, you will simply select your new show, set up the dates, days, and your start and stop time. When done press “Ok”.

When you go back to the main Vixen screen just click the “Scheduler” and the “Enable” and your show should be live. You will have a schedule status popup that will tell you when the show is active.

What I’ve done for my setup is when my computer is turned on it will automatically log into Vixen and play the show. This is great to have if your computer decides to do an update and reboot in the middle of a show.

About the author

David Henry

David first began using pixels in stage lighting, and then decided to try it out on his house. The result? An urge to create useful and helpful information to help non-technical folks create great Christmas lighting with pixels on their homes!

  • […] great thing is that when using programs such as Vixen to help design your layout you’ll realize that you are not tied down to one solution. Be sure […]


  • >

    Just Starting?  Grab my FREE Guide "3 Things You Need To Know Before Creating Your First DIY Christmas Light Display":

    angle-double-right
    angle-double-left