Introduction: Make a Music Synchronized Light Show Using Stop Motion

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So basically if you like those movies on youtube with the Christmas lights synched to a song, this is the Instructable for you! This takes the concept of the computer controlled lights and makes it easier (in my opinion, as i have never done the computer controlled option), and cheaper.

Here's my final video.
Daft Lights

If you want the complete back story...
I go to Umass Amherst and my first finals week was really boring. I showed my room mate the video with the Christmas lights synched to Trans Siberian Orchestra and he was amazed. I told him it was probably done in stop motion, but then we saw a car drive by in the video, so obviously I was wrong. But I knew it would definitely be possible to conquer the feat with stop motion, so why not? I had 10 hours on my hands and nothing better to do, except maybe study for calc. So originally I as going to make a Christmas movie, but later decided Daft Punk was wayy more BA, and i got to work.

Step 1: Getting Started

Ok so you wanna do it. Here's what you'll need.

-about 10 hours
-a bunch of things that lights up, preferably colored.
-a digital camera with settings for lower resolution pictures
-a movie slide show editor (I used windows movie maker)
-a dark place
-a song you like
Optional but highly recommended...
-Someone to help
-a tripod for the camera
-a photo editor. I used Gimp, a free editor with tons of features.

The last is so you only need to take one photo of each light on, and you can edit two photos together to make them look like both lights are on. You can take a photo of each combination of lights on, but this can mean a lot of pictures. Actually its 2 to the power of the number of lights you're using. For example 8 lights leads to 256 possible combinations. So just download gimp so you can decide combinations on the fly.

Step 2: Setting Up

Alrighty, so you got everything. Go to the dark place. This could be in front of your house, or in your room with the windows blacked out like me. Set up all the lights so you can see them, but they look like they're naturally there.

Now set up the camera, in low resolution mode, in a stationary place that will not move. The tripod would be key here, but in my room I used a recycling bin flipped upside down and some tape. The basic idea is that the camera can not move at all. You just hit the take picture button and walk away.

After you're ready, you can start taking pictures.

Step 3: Taking Pictures

The most important thing in this step is that NOTHING can change or move except the light you're taking a picture of. For example I was taking pictures for my video and the person helping me moved a chair. I had to start all over again. If you're taking pictures of your Christmas lights one at a time and a street light turns off, you have to wait for it to turn on again.

So to get started, turn on one of your lights and take a picture. Then turn off that light, turn on another one, and take another picture. After you've taken a picture of all of your lights, take a picture of them all off so you can have a blank picture to start with.

Step 4: Computerize It.

Take all your pictures from the previous step and throw them in a new folder. It's easier to organize then. You can rename them so you can know what each picture is of if you'd like ( when you start editing, i recommend this highly). Open movie maker and import all of your pictures. Import your song (you don't have to use Christmas music, I used Daft Punk cause they're sick.), and get started.

Make a simple light show to one part of the beat. Look at my video right at the beginning to see what i mean. 4 lights synched to one simple part of the song. This takes a lot of timing to get it to go with the song, but it is definitely possible. WMM can flash pictures every .03 seconds, more than enough to trick the eye. Any time you need to fill space with no lights, use the picture with no lights on.

Now if you want to have two beats with two synchs going at the same time it's harder...

Step 5: Photo Editing

To make two beats go at the same time, you have to map out what the beats look like. For example, on my video the guitar solo looks like 1 2 3 2 1 2 3 2 over and over again. But then a little into it, they add the "chorus" beat into it. it looks like 1 2 3+1 2 1 2+2 3 2... then more intense. Basically what that means is notes of the clashing beats occur at the same time. 3+1 and 2+2. So to do this you have to edit the lights used for these notes into one picture to flash at once. If you edit them together, you only need to make the combinations necessary, as opposed to taking a picture of every conceivable combination.

To edit two lights together, we use the screen filter in Gimp. Open the more lit photo as the background, and the less lit picture(s) as a layer. Screen the layer(s) and BAM, you get two or more lights lit at once. Save as a new file and import it into WMM to use every time you need it.

Step 6: Things to Keep in Mind

This will take time. Mine took around 6 hours, and it only turned out decent. if you spend upwards of 10 hours, yours will turn out great. Also you will get tired of the song, I promise. Just keep on keeping on. And Save OFTEN.

Here's the video again.
my movie