Getting Started with Light-O-Rama

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Welcome to Light-O-Rama


Light-O-Rama is a computerized lighting system designed to control elaborate or simple lighting displays.  The Light-O-Rama system can be applied to almost any lighting situation, from stand-alone controllers to synchronizing hundreds of controllers.


This page gives a high-level overview of how to start controlling your lights using Light-O-Rama:


Getting Help about Light-O-Rama
Important Terms and Information
Connecting the Lights Using Light-O-Rama Controllers
Creating a Show


For more detailed information, please see Light-O-Rama Concepts and the Light-O-Rama Software Package.


Experienced users may wish to see what's new in the latest version of Light-O-Rama.


Getting Help about Light-O-Rama


Other than this help file, there are several ways to get help about Light-O-Rama:


Frequently Asked Questions, quick start guides, training presentations, tutorials, demos, and user guides can be found on the Support page of the Light-O-Rama website, along with phone, mail, and email contact information.


Light-O-Rama users' forums can be found at the LOR Users Support Center.


The LOR Wiki is a user-created and edited repository of Light-O-Rama information. Please note that the information contained in the LOR Wiki is not published by Light-O-Rama, and cannot be considered official.


Important Terms and Information


Companion Unit


A companion unit is a Light-O-Rama controller that receives lighting commands from another source - either a PC running Light-O-Rama software, or from another controller known as a director unit.


Control Panel


The Light-O-Rama Control Panel is a program that can be used to manage the Light-O-Rama system on your PC.  The Control Panel runs in the system tray (where the PC's clock is displayed).  Light-O-Rama is made up of a number of different programs, and the Control Panel is a convenient way of accessing them.  The Control Panel must be running in order to control shows from your PC.


Daisy Chain


This is the term generally used to describe the manner in which Light-O-Rama light controllers are connected.  A wire goes from the source (a PC running Light-O-Rama software or a director unit) to a companion unit.  Another wire goes from that companion unit to another companion unit, and so on, until all companion units are "chained" together.


Do not put "Y"s or forks in the data cable.  Only connect the units in this daisy chain configuration.


Data Cable


Light-O-Rama controllers can be connected using both data cables and phone cables, but you must know which type of cable it is (for the purposes of Light-O-Rama, a cable is considered a data cable if its wires are connected straight through).


How do you know if it is a data cable? Well, most likely the only cable that you will see that is not a data cable is a wire that is intended specifically for phones.  If you go to your local hardware store and purchase a phone extension cable, then that wire is not a data cable.  The distinction between data cables and phone cables is important, because the wires are swapped around.  There are selectors or jumpers on most Light-O-Rama controllers that allow you to specify which wire type you are using.


Only the wire coming into a controller (from the previous controller or from a PC running Light-O-Rama software) should be used to determine which selector setting to use.  The wire leaving a controller (if there is one) can be of any type, and has no bearing on which selector setting should be used.  For example, if a controller has a phone cable coming in from the previous controller, and a data cable leaving to the next controller, the selector should be set for "phone cable".


Director Unit


A director unit is a Light-O-Rama controller that sends lighting commands to other controllers (known as companion units).  Controllers can run individually in standalone mode, but to synchronize multiple controllers together, they must be directed either by a PC running Light-O-Rama software, or by a director unit.


Standalone sequences may contain lighting commands for a number of different units.  A director unit is a unit that is running standalone - i.e. not connected to a PC - that contains lighting commands for other units cabled to it (the companion units).  The director unit can also control its own lights, simultaneously.


There is no difference in the hardware of a director unit and a companion unit - the only difference is the mode that they are in.


A PC running Light-O-Rama software can also be thought of as a director unit, in that it can send lighting commands to Light-O-Rama controllers.  There must be one and only one director unit (or PC running Light-O-Rama software) on a daisy chained group of controllers.


Hardware Utility


The Light-O-Rama Hardware Utility is a program that can be used to set up and test the hardware used to control lights, as well as download sequences to standalone controllers or director units.


Phone Cable


Light-O-Rama controllers can be connected using either data cables or phone cables, but you must know which type of cable you are using.  See data cables for details.




A schedule is a list of shows and the times at which those shows are to be played.


If the Light-O-Rama Control Panel is running on a PC, and its "Enable Schedule" option is turned on, then the schedule will be monitored, and its shows will be started and stopped at the appropriate times.


The Schedule Editor program is used to create and modify schedules.




A sequence is a file that contains a set of lighting commands to be sent to Light-O-Rama controllers.  There are two types of sequences: musical sequences, which have an associated music or video file that is to be played at the same time, and animation sequences, which do not.


Sequences can be grouped together into shows.


The Sequence Editor program is used to create and modify sequences.




A show is a file that contains a number of sequences, and the order in which they should be played.


A schedule can be created to specify the times at which various shows should be played.


The Show Editor program is used to create and modify shows.




A Light-O-Rama controller can be controlled by another controller (or a PC running Light-O-Rama software), or it can control itself and/or other controllers, in standalone mode.  A sequence, created using the Sequence Editor, can be downloaded to a standalone controller using the Hardware Utility.  The controller can then be set up to run this sequence whenever it has power, or, if the unit is a model with an internal clock, it can be instructed to run the sequence during a particular time.


A standalone controller whose sequence contains lighting commands for other controllers will transmit those commands to the other controllers.  In this case, the controller is known as a director unit.




A unit is another term for a Light-O-Rama controller.  Each unit has a number of circuits, each of which can be used to control lights independently of each other.  Each unit is identified by a unit ID.


Unit ID


Each unit has an identifier assigned to it, known as a unit ID.  When a lighting command is sent to a unit, all of the units that are daisy chained together can see that command.  However, the command contains a unit ID; only the units having that unit ID will act upon that command.


For Light-O-Rama controllers, the unit ID is a two characters, each of which can have any of the values 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, A, B, C, D, E, and F.  For example, "01", "25", "37", "5C", "BD", or "E2".  However, not all possible combinations are allowed: "00" and "F1" through "FF" are disallowed.


Controllers other than Light-O-Rama controllers use different formats for their unit IDs.


Connecting the Lights Using Light-O-Rama Controllers


To connect lights using Light-O-Rama controllers, take the following three steps:


1.Determine the serial port and hook up a controller.
2.Select a unit ID.
3.Test the lights.


Step 1. Determine the Serial Port and Hook Up a Controller


Insert an SC485 converter into your PC's DB9 serial connector which you plan on using for the Light-O-Rama network.  If you are using a USB/RS-232 converter, then make sure that it is properly installed, and that the SC485 converter is connected.  If you're not sure what all this is about, simply try to find a connector on the back of your PC that has nine pins and which will accept the SC485 adaptor.


Using a cable, connect a Light-O-Rama controller to the SC485 adaptor.  Make sure that the LOR controller is powered on.  The LED in the controller should be blinking.


Using the Light-O-Rama Control Panel, start the Hardware Utility program.  In the Hardware Utility's Setup Comm Port section, use the Auto Configure button.  This will cause the Hardware Utility to look for the attached controller and determine which comm port is being used.


Step 2. Select a Unit ID


If your controller has unit ID selection switches, you can select its ID by adjusting the selectors to the desired ID.  If your controller does not have these unit ID selection switches, then you will need to set its unit ID by using the Hardware Utility:


To set the unit ID using the Hardware Utility, connect one and only one unit to the PC using the SC485 adaptor and a cable.  In the Set Unit IDs section, go to Set New Unit ID, select the ID that you wish to use for the controller, and click the Set Unit ID button.  This button will only work on new units that have never been assigned a unit ID (to change the unit ID of a unit that already has one assigned, use the Change Existing ID section instead).


TIP: Assign unit IDs sequentially, starting at 01.  This will make maintenance of the units faster.


Step 3. Test the Lights


With the unit connected to the PC, attach lights and power the unit on.  In the Hardware Utility, click the Refresh button in the top center of the screen.  After a short time, your unit should appear in the dropdown list to the right of the Refresh button.  Select the unit, and you can then test the lights using the various controls in the Test Unit's Operation section of the Hardware Utility.


TIP: Before clicking Refresh, set the Hardware Utility's Max Unit ID to as low a value as possible.  This is the maximum unit ID of controllers that you plan on using (you can always change it to a higher value if you add more controllers later).  Setting it to a low value makes the Hardware Utility run faster (though it will not find any connected units with higher unit IDs).


Creating a Scheduled Lights Display


To create a lights display and have it run at certain times, take the following steps:


1.Make your sequences.
2.Make a show.
3.Make a schedule.
4.Turn on the Control Panel's "Enable Schedule".


Step 1. Make Your Sequences


Using the Sequence Editor, create the sequences that will be used in your show.


You can test how the lights will look for a sequence while in the Sequence Editor: Make sure Control Lights is turned on in the Play Menu, and that you have assigned the channels in the sequence to a controller that is hooked up to your PC.  Then, click the play button (which is the green arrow in the toolbar).


Step 2. Make a Show


A show is a collection of sequences.  A show can be created using the Show Editor program.


Shows have several sections, each of which can have sequences:


Background: Sequences listed in the "background" section will be played for the entire duration of the show.
Startup: Sequences listed in the "startup" section will be played when the show first begins.
Animation and Musical: After the "startup" sequences have completed, sequences in both of these sections will run, until it is time for the show to stop.
Shutdown: When it is time for the show to stop, the "animation" and "musical" sequences will stop running, and the sequences in the "shutdown" section will start.  Only after the "shutdown" sequences are finished will the show truly end.


In the Show Editor, you can add sequences to any of these sections by selecting the appropriate section's tab, and hitting the big PLUS button.


After you have created your show, you should save it using the "Save" or "Save As" button.  Assign the show a meaningful name - this is the file name that you will be using in the next step.


Step 3. Make a Schedule


Unlike sequences, you cannot run a show interactively.  Instead, to test a show, put that show into a schedule, using the Schedule Editor program:


In the Schedule Editor, click the Add button, and select the show file with the name that you created in the previous step.  Select a start and end time that will allow the show to start at a convenient time for you to view it.  Then click Save to save your schedule.


Step 4. Turn On the Control Panel's "Enable Schedule"


To view the scheduled show, turn on the "Enable Schedule" option in the Light-O-Rama Control Panel.  Doing this will cause the Control Panel to monitor your schedule, and start and stop your show at the appropriate times.