Vixen 3.2 is packed with new features and enhancements to make your sequencing experience easier and faster.
New Effect Editor Docking Pane
No more double clicking effects to open an editor. This modern styled effect editing interface is always visible at the side of your screen. Just click on an effect and all of it’s adjustable parameters are there at a glance for you to edit. If you don’t like where we’ve put it for you, just pick it up and move it anywhere you like just like the other docking panes.
Integrated Bar and Beat Detection
We’ve long had the ability to import beat tracks from external programs like Audacity. Many users have been using the best-in-class Queen Mary Vamp Plugins to generate those beat tracks. We’ve now brought that functionality directly into Vixen 3. After associating your audio to a sequence, you can now open the new Beat and Bar tool to analyze that audio file and quickly generate meaningful marks to use in your sequence. No longer do you need to leave vixen and install Audacity and configure the plugins to make it work. It’s all right inside Vixen 3.2.
This new interface is designed with music in mind. You select the time signature that you think the song is in and vixen will generate meaningful mark collections to match.
Redesigned Streaming ACN Output module
If we had a quarter for every support thread about configuring Streaming ACN, we’d be rich developers by now. We’ve been taking notes on how users are actually using this module, and we’ve adjusted it to fit the common patterns.
“The start column has to be one number higher than where the previous universe ended” has been by far the #1 support answer in all of Vixen 3’s forum threads. This has been answered. In the default mode, anytime you enter a new universe, it will now automatically increment the start channel. If you liked things the old way, you can still go into the advanced tab and enable the “Manually manage start values” option.
The controller now only supports one network destination per controller instance. Most people use it this way anyhow. This makes for less repetitive data entry. If you want to send to more destinations, just use more output controller modules. Don’t worry, no functionality has been hurt in the making of this new module.
“How do I add a unicast address?” has been close behind on the support list. There’s now an obvious add button right next to the destination list. You can also now use hostnames in addition to IP addresses for unicast destinations. And if you take a close look at the above screenshot you’ll notice that there’s also a delete button to get rid of a destination you don’t need any longer.
Another exciting feature will help you in the patching process. It’s always been somewhat tedious to keep track of which input number related to which sACN universe and channel. In the display setup screen, each output line is now named with the appropriate Universe, Channel and Destination.
We’ve also made improvements to the persistence of multicast destinations. It used to be a problem moving a profile from one machine to another and the controller would be inactive due to a difference in the network adapter. The same would happen if you were multicasting over WiFi and the connection dropped. It now attempts to guess the most appropriate available network adapter based on common and windows default naming patterns.
“What happened to the other advanced options? I used those all the time!” They’ve been moved to the Advanced Options tab. Very few people actually use those settings and we get a lot of questions what they’re there for. So we moved them to the background to help new users get up and running quickly with only the essential configuration.
You’ll also notice that we’ve added some new functionality to this advanced tab as well. You can now make use of some of the expanded functionality that Streaming ACN provides. SACN supports a “blind” flag. This is a way to send the data out, but marked in a way that it’s not intended to be live lighting data. You would use this feature to send it to an external previewer or visualizer without actually lighting the lights.
Another new feature is the priority value. If you’ve ever fired up two sequencers at the same time, you’d see your lights spastically pulsing. What’s happening is that the controller is trying (and likely succeeding) to display both streams at once. Up until this point, all sequencing and scheduler software just used the default priority of 100. The idea of priority is that if one sACN source has a priority higher than the other, it will override what the other is sending. You might have a display that has static patterns running all the time, but only runs sequenced shows when someone texts in a request. This request could be played with a higher priority and override the background sequence.
It’s important to note though, that although we’ve done our part to add these two sACN features, they’re only useful if your controller supports them. Check with the developer or manufacturer of your sACN controller to see if these features are implemented.
As the Nutcracker team continues to march forward with enhancements to their effects, ours were starting to get a bit stale. This is because of the way that the Nutcracker suite was originally ported into Vixen 3. It was very difficult for us to track their improvements. That’s starting to change in 3.2. The first thing you’ll notice is that the effects that used to be part of one monolithic Nutcracker effect are now individual effects in the V3 effect list. This makes it easier to see the available effect options at a glance and you can manipulate them like any other V3 effect. These new effects are native V3 effects that are patterned off of their Nutcracker predecessors. These new effects make use of the new Effect Editor pane. Another advantage of separate effects, is that each effect editor can now provide controls that are appropriate for each individual effect. So only the controls that apply are shown. There’s no more, “why doesn’t the xyz slider work for the abc effect”
Full Gradient support is now available for most colors, and it uses the standard gradient editor used everywhere else in V3. Drag and drop is fully supported for the colors. You’re also no longer limited to the number of colors in the old effect.
Most of these effects now have an intensity curve. Yes, you heard me right, an intensity curve! You can now fade nutcracker effects in and out just like other native V3 effects.
If you’re not well versed in gradients and curves, you are missing out on a lot of ways to customize the effect behavior. You are now in full control of how the effects look, so even effects that are still similar to their Nutcracker origins have way more combinations by playing with the gradient and the level curve. For example you can actually make the fire effect appear to flare up or grow/shrink by using a sawtooth type pattern in the level curve.
There’s also been numerous other tweaks and new features added to the functionality of each effect. There’s too much to go over here. You’ll have to play with them to find out all of the hidden gems.
The entire Nutcracker Suite hasn’t been fully migrated yet, and as a result the old “nutcracker” effect is still there. This release includes 8 of the 20 nutcracker effects. And these 8 are some of the most commonly in use. The rest will be migrated in the near future, but we didn’t want to hold back the current progress just to wait for the rest. Also worth noting is that your old sequences don’t automatically convert to the new effects. There’s enough subtle changes in the behavior of each new effect that you’ll want to go thru your sequences manually to replace the effects with the new ones as needed.
This effect gets a big upgrade over the old Nutcracker version and even what is in XLights currently. A big one is the ability to scroll longer phrases vertically and with the individual letter orientation being turned and center justified as well. Before you had to fiddle with it and could only get 4 letter words to do that by putting each letter on a line. Also the gradients across the text or the element are very powerful and allow you to add a lot of color within text lines over the single colors of before. The ability to do more than 4 lines should make it flexible for most anything.
The Alternate Effect has been enhanced to support more than two colors. It can now be used as a multicolor marquee/chase type of effect.
Have you ever wanted to progressively fill a string with color, or start with a string on a solid color and have it chase out? The chase effect now has extend pulse options that let you do just that. These options take the value of the curve for the individual pulses of the chase and extend it to the start or end of the effect.
Live Effect Preview
There’s now a live preview for seeing the changes to your effects as you adjust. The old Nutcracker effect had a pseudo-preview in the editor. For complex effects, it’s important to see what each adjustment is doing. But there were some real limitations as to how closely the old nutcracker preview actually represented to your real prop. Also, as we migrated the Nutcracker effects to use the new effect editor pane, we realized we needed a new place to preview effects while editing. So the live preview was born. The effect preview has been merged into your actual show preview screen. While you’re editing an effect, the elements affected by that effect will loop thru a preview as you make adjustments. This gives us back the effect preview that was lost from the old Nutcracker screen, and it shows you on your real preview what that effect will actually look like. One of the big benefits, is that it’s no longer just for Nutcracker, it now works for all effects.
Preset Library Drag and Drop
Last year we added the preset library, and with it came the ability to drag colors and curves and gradients from the library and drop them onto effects on the timeline. This was a widely used feature, but it had its limitations. If an effect had more than one color, you had to use the right mouse button to drag it for the 2nd effect color. What happens when there’s more than 2? We’re out of mouse buttons! And certain effects didn’t support lesser used curves for the drop operation. Now, if there’s more than one support target for the drop, it will show a small popup when you drop, so you can pick whichever target you wish.
The preset drag and drop has been extended to the new effect editor pane. You can drop preset library items onto specific properties in the effect editor pane.
As we were testing this new feature, we couldn’t help but notice that it just feels like you should be able to drag the colors and curves from the editor pane to the library to save them for later. So now you can! Wherever there’s a gradient in a box, you can drag it onto anything else that supports a gradient. Wherever there’s a curve in a box, you can drag it onto anything that supports a curve. Wherever there’s a color in a box, you can drag it on to anything that supports a color, or even a gradient!
Web Server Rewrite
Many people love the idea of our old web server for testing and triggering. But most people have found out that once you get more than a few elements in your show, the old web interface quickly got so slow it was unusable. We also wanted to add more functionality related to remote triggering various aspects of the vixen engine. As we got into it, it became obvious that there was a better way. So we threw it all out and started over!
The new web interface is written with modern web technologies such as HTML 5 and AJAX and jQuery. The result is a very responsive web site with no waiting that works with a consistent user experience in all modern browsers from IE, Chrome and Firefox on desktops, to mobile browsers on iOS and Android.
While we were at it, we added functionality as well. You can not only set elements to pulse certain colors for a timed duration like before, but you can also now turn individual elements and groups on and off indefinitely.
You can start and stop sequences from the web interface. Anything that’s in your sequences folder in the active profile will be available to use from the browser. You can see what’s running currently, and control those sequences as well. This includes sequences started by the scheduler. This doesn’t actually give you the ability to edit the schedule. It just allows you to stop what’s currently playing, or advance to the next sequence. (the next scheduled sequence will still play in order and the skipped sequence will play the next time thru the playlist.)
This new web interface is built on top of an all new web API. Anything that can be triggered from the browser interface can also be triggered by any external program using common HTTP requests. Any status feedback that can be viewed in the browser interface can be polled and reported to your external app.