Color and Brightness

Color and brightness are handled a bit differently in Vixen 3.  To understand the color system in Vixen 3, you need to know a little bit about color models.

RGB (Red Green Blue)

The RGB (Red, Green, Blue) color model is the most well known and is what is used most commonly in other sequencers. It defines a color space in terms of three components:

  • Red, which ranges from 0-255
  • Green, which ranges from 0-255
  • Blue, which ranges from 0-255

The RGB color model is an additive one. In other words, Red, Green and Blue values (known as the three primary colors) are combined to reproduce other colors. For example, the color “Red” can be represented as [R=255, G=0, B=0], “Violet” as [R=238, G=130, B=238], etc.

Its common graphic representation is the following image:

RGB color space


HSB (HSV) color space

The HSB (Hue, Saturation, Brightness) color model defines a color space in terms of three constituent components:

  • Hue : the color type (such as red, blue, or yellow).
    • Ranges from 0 to 360° in most applications. (each value corresponds to one color : 0 is red, 45 is a shade of orange and 55 is a shade of yellow).
  • Saturation : the intensity of the color.
    • Ranges from 0 to 100% (0 means no color, that is a shade of grey between black and white; 100 means intense color).
    • Also sometimes called the “purity” by analogy to the colorimetric quantities excitation purity.
  • Brightness (or Value) : the brightness of the color.
    • Ranges from 0 to 100% (0 is always black; depending on the saturation, 100 is the brightest version of the color in the given hue and saturation.).

Its common graphic representation is the following image:

The conical representation of the HSV model; Wikipedia image.

The HSB model is also known as HSV (Hue, Saturation, Value) model. The HSV model was created in 1978 by Alvy Ray Smith. It is a nonlinear transformation of the RGB color space. In other words, color is not defined as a simple combination (addition/substraction) of primary colors but as a mathematical transformation.

Note: HSV and HSB are the same, but HSL is different.  HSL and other color models are beyond the scope of this document and will not be explained here.

Color Models and Light Sequencers

As mentioned earlier, most sequencers other than Vixen 3 use the RGB color model.  While this corresponds conveniently with most basic RGB lighting devices, it’s not particularly convenient for actually working with color and brightness transitions in lighting design.  For lighting applications, the HSV color model is a more suitable system for conceptually working with color and brightness.  It is actually more useful to think about color and to interact with it using the parameters of the HSV system.  For example, in the RGB color model, if you wanted to make the lights brighter, you would have to take all three values and increase them proportionally.  In the HSV model, you would just increase the V value.  Similarly, if you want to make a color more or less vibrant, you would increase or decrease the saturation.

Of the 3 parts of a HSV color, only two parts describe the color: the Hue and Saturation.  The Value describes how bright the color is.  In vixen 3, the Hue and Saturation are controlled by the color controls (color picker or gradient editor). This describes the color itself.   The Value is always tied to the brightness controls (intensity or curve).  This is how bright the light is.

You’ll notice in the color picker, that the V is always 100.  You can only choose the full brightness version of any given color.    This is often a point of confusion with users who are used to other sequencers. If you want to adjust the intensity, you don’t use the color picker.  That is done using the intensity controls.  For example, if you wanted to create a dark green color, you might be familiar with using like RGB values 17,130,41.  This translates to a Hue of 133, Saturation of 87 and a Value of 51.  The value will always be 100 on the Vixen 3 color picker.  Vixen will automatically correct this to 100, and you will see your RGB values change to 33, 255, 80.  This looks like a bright green.  There’s nothing wrong here, this is how it is designed to work.  To get that dark green, you then need to set the intensity (or curve, depending on the effect) to 51.

Colors and Gradients

The word Color is used to refer to a color that doesn’t change over time.  Colors that change over time are referred to as Gradients.  Gradients contain one or more colors, and the timing relationship of when the colors change.  The time relationship is not absolute.  It is a percentage relative to the length of the effect.

Intensity and Curves

Similar to the concept of colors and gradients above; an intensity is a fixed brightness value.  A Curve is a change in brightness over time.  The time relationship is not absolute.  It is a percentage relative to the length of the effect.


*Color model explanations and imagery from

Preview Zoom In/Out

While the new (in 2013) preview has really helped people plan their displays and improved sequencing with the ability to see instant feedback, you have not been able to really get in and fine tune the props displayed on the screen.

After the alignment tools added last month, the second most requested feature for the preview was the ability to zoom in and out.

You can now zoom in and out with the mouse wheel, the Ctrl+ and Ctrl- keyboard buttons or the slider located in the status bar.

As usual, here’s a video showing off this new feature. In addition, the video also shows how to add a snowman with 3 body parts, a left eye, a right eye, a nose and a 3 section mouth.

New Preview Align & Distribute Tools


I’ve (finally) added alignment tools to the preview. You know… when you’re adding 16 micro-trees to your display and you want them all to be the exact same size and shape, aligned to the same place and evenly distributed. Well, rejoice!

You see (from left to right in the above image):

  • Align Left
  • Align Right
  • Align Top
  • Distribute Horizontally
  • Copy Properties
  • Align Horizontally
  • Align Vertically
  • Align Bottom
  • Distribute Vertically

Check out the video for a demonstration of adding, aligning and distributing micro trees and arches.

Starburst Prop Added

I’ve started planning my display for next year and wanted to add a prop that I’ve been calling a starburst. I started drawing it by hand in the Vixen 3 preview, but that was just a little bit annoying. Plus, I had to link each of the strings individually for each one I added to my preview. I’ve seen these in videos of other people’s displays, so I know this is not unique to my display — which means other people have or will have the same type of features in their displays.

So, for a quick example of how to add the prop to your element tree, add it to your display preview and apply a couple effects to it, check out the video.

Check out the video:

Vixen 3.0.6 Released



Major changes:

–          New features:

    • New, easy to use preview.
    • Nutcracker effects are now integrated making Vixen the premier go-to sequencer for all your pixel needs.
    • There are numerous other small new usability improvements that don’t warrant a mention as a new feature.

–          Performance: Many areas of Vixen have been combed through to try wringing out more performance. Stay tuned, we’re not even close to done here.

–          Stability: Lots of bugs have been squashed leading to a much more stable program.

I’ve put together a quick video for a user on DIYC showing how to add a pixel mega tree to his display… as I write this, I realize it shows off, in a couple minutes, most of the enhancements we’ve added to this release. The idea was to setup a mega tree, add it to the new preview, create a sequence, add a Nutcracker effect to the sequence and see the results. Well, folks, not even trying to rush things, we got this done in a 2 minute video. Take a look.

I want to say a HUGE thank you to Sean Meighan for writing Nutcracker and David Pitts for converting the original Nutcracker code to C++. And an even bigger thank you to them for sharing it with whoever wants it (non-profit, commercial or otherwise). We’re looking forward to collaborating with Sean in the future creating new and exciting Nutcracker effects (hopefully our C# code can be converted to C++ as easily as his C++ code is converted to C#).

Plans for the next release:

–          Discrete colors

–          Sequencer speed and usability improvements

–          Scheduler improvements

–          More performance enhancements and tweaks

–          Additions to the documentation

–          More Nutcracker effects (Movies, Picture Tiles and perhaps more)

As always, we have Bleeding Edge releases on this site (look under Vixen 3 Downloads) that include the coming enhancements as they come off the brains of the programming elfs. This is not for the faint of heart. It may cause your monitor to fly out the window in anger when there is inadvertent data loss. Make backups. We cannot get your data back if the bugs eat it.

Nutcracker Effects Integration



How do you get Nutcracker Effects into Vixen 3? Well, I was confused too. No one could tell me how to create cool Nutcracker effects and import them into Vixen… Sean Meighan, who wrote all the Nutcracker effects (we’ll call him Mr. Nutcracker) suggested downloading the C++ code written by Matt Brown, the author of xLights (we’ll call him Mr. X). So… I’m not a C++ programmer — and after doing this, never want to be — but we got all of the current effects working inside Vixen 3!

What does this mean for you? Really? It’s that way, is it?

This means that you get easy access to all the Nutcracker effects from within Vixen 3 via drag-and-drop in the sequence editor. The benefits of this are huge. Want an effect to last longer? Just drag the end of the effect in the timeline and it’ll last longer. Want to move it to a different prop? Drag-and-drop baby! Oh, you accidentally put it in the wrong place? You guessed it, drag-and-drop. Want a different effect… nope… double-click. Gotcha.

Check out the video — it explains a lot.


Preview Templates Sneak Peek



Just a sneak peek at what we’ve been working on. With the new preview, you will be able to select multiple items no the screen and group them to make a template. These templates can be used over and over on your display without re-drawing and re-positioning each item. Plus, you can share templates with your friends.


Data ProfileWhat, you setup lights for more than one one holiday? What’s wrong with you? Nothing, you say… I bet it is a bad case of CLAP. I hope so anyway, because I seem to have that problem and just can’t stop.

If the above describes you, then you’ll probably be interested in a new and much requested feature completed (but not fully tested) yesterday that allows you to have multiple profiles.

What’s a profile? The easiest way to describe it is that a profile is a pointer to a data folder. As you may already know, your Vixen 3 information is stored in your My Documents\Vixen 3 folder. Right now, all your information is stored there: system settings, controllers, preview configuration, patching, sequences, everything. So, what’s wrong with this? Nothing, if it is working for you?

But, if you’ve got a display for Christmas, Easter, Halloween, Chanukah, Labor Day, Memorial Day, the 4th of July and your birthday, you may have noticed that this can be a major pain. Each of these holidays has different elements, props, patching and possibly controllers. There are almost no commonalities between each of these displays except possibly the controllers. Patching lets you setup a completely different data folder for each of these holidays that is managed within the Vixen 3 program.

New Preview Sneak Peek

New Vixen 3 Preview

We’ve been working hard on the new preview so I thought I’d take a moment and share a screenshot (click the picture above) and let you know about some of the exciting new features.

First, this is a complete re-write, from the ground up. There are so many places on the net you will read about WPF (this is a programming thing — if you don’t care about programming, skip this paragraph) as the next best thing since sliced bread — it is easier, it uses DirectX to draw it’s stuff, your stupid not to use it, bla, bla bla… so, that’s what we did in the LAST preview. Since it was so great, we used WPF. Ok, it is great… if you are programming a “normal” application that will just have some controls on the screen, this is a great way to go. It is faster and arguably better than Windows Forms controls. Turns out, though, when you’re putting hundreds or thousands of items on the screen at once (like lights or pixels) it is a dog. Slow doesn’t even begin to describe it… So, we went back to the drawing board. The new preview is orders of magnitude faster and uses pixel-bashing to get most of it’s work done in the most efficient manner I think is possible.

What’s New


Mega Tree PropertiesSay you want to put a mega-tree in your scene. Just click your mega-tree group in the element tree, click the Mega-Tree icon on the toolbar, click in the preview window and drag it to the size you want. That’s it! Your mega-tree is drawn on the preview linked to all of the elements you have previously defined. If you don’t like what you see, there are various properties for each prop you can adjust. (picture to the right) Could it get any easier?

When Can I Try It?

We’re not sure yet. We’re making sure it works right and doesn’t bring your system to a grind halt. We’ve got beta-testers playing with it now. Hopefully it’ll be ready in the next couple weeks.