Data Chain / Tableau

Revenge of the Chain Data Fairies – Tableau Meets Trans-Siberian Orchestra

TransSiberian Lasers love a good Tableau dashboard

Some people listen to some really mellow music.  It calms them, soothes their soul, and takes them somewhere…probably an island or someplace relaxing.  Me?  I like my music like a jackrabbit on too much caffeine: it’s got to be thumping pretty hard.

Naturally, when the topic of Christmas music became the new black, I panicked a bit.  EDM meets Christmas?  Haven’t seen it yet, but who knows?  However, Trans-Siberian Orchestra offered me a bit of a reprieve.  You see, these cats know how to put on a show.  Lights: check.  Lasers: in droves, love!  LED walls complete with hours of animation: yeah, baby, yeah!  Pyrotechnics: YOU BETCHA!  They’ll even throw in a custom pyramid-shaped LED screen WITH flames inside.  Seriously, how can you beat that?

Ma, you see this???  Christmas list, 2016, please!

LED/flaming pyramid aside, these cats put on a good show.  As someone who owns a micro sound engineering firm (we have 2.5 people and 3 cats, including the mascot), I appreciate what they bring to the table from both a musical and production standpoint.

With regards to Chain Data, I had to really ponder how to apply this.  I wanted to get a list of all of Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s equipment, especially that flaming LED pyramid, so I could re-engineer it and make a shopping list.  No dice.  I then looked at their touring schedule and noticed something funny:

The motivation for TSO Time travel dashboard in Tableau
These kids have perfected TIME TRAVEL!

So, armed with their Time-Turner, these kids have performed 100 shows.  In 42 days.  No way!  Now, smart people know that TSO has 2 touring teams.  Not me, kids!  There’s a viz for that…at least, there is now. So, like a Tableau Toddler, I set off making a mess of the data.  I applied some mad Boyce-Codd this time and did 3 sheets in Excel, so I could get addresses and other details.  Oh, yeah, we’re going mapping all day long today!

Once I made my mess and filled in some of my assumptions (beware!), I then tossed the data in the best tool ever: TABLEAU!  (Psst – this is a Tableau-centric blog, what else would I say?  Photoshop?)  I’m really trying to push this year in dashboard design.  That’s my focus.  It’s not a New Year’s Resolution, because I started in November.  No, kids, it’s more like a revolution to take over the world and score my own LED/flaming pyramid!  <Insert maniacal laughter here.>

Dr Evil Tableau 1 million dollar
And I’ll spend it all on audio gear!  HAHAHA!

I played around a bit in Tableau, obsessed over path-making, and made around 50 charts.  I made variations, played with color, added, deleted, and finally came to something that helped me see where I was going.  Great.  Now to  make a dashboard!  (To understand this process, unbend your mind, use product design, or get your towel.)

Here’s what I found: These kids really go hard from a touring and production standpoint.  We like to go hard, too, but our budget is 0.0001% that of TSO’s.

Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 11.51.29 PM
Lights! Speakers! Action!  This is our gig, kids.

Having just come back from an event, driving all night, and not sleeping until 5 AM, I really appreciate what these kids do.  Life on the road is a fight against bodily limits.  Driving, setting up, tearing down, packing, and making sure everything else is still done is a challenge, but hearing the reactions and seeing that stage lined with speakers and lights are worth it.  And you’ve not heard music until you’ve had it pumped out of your own gear loud enough to feel it to your core.

The magic happens here…

I wanted to bring a bit of the stage to the dashboard.  Naturally, I had to go all black.  There’s just no other way with this topic.  I ran pictures through the Color Tool for Tableau (it’s FREE kids, there’s no excuse not to give these cats your email) and made a few color palettes, because that’s what you do.  I played around with the meat of my findings, added stuff, deleted stuff, changed stuff, and made a few iterations to make sure I had it right.

Presto!  I had a postcard version.  The number of performances (top, in orange) looked like stage lights while the map emulated lasers.  I spent a fair amount of time really trying to drop the map down to the barest of bones.  For me, the story was less about the actual places and more about the movement.  That said, I still wanted the places in there to serve as context to the path.  Dual axes on the map saved me yet again.  I did try MapBox, but that’s going to be a more-time-learning-for-later project.  Sadly, the color scheme still looks pretty out of the box, but I tried a number of variations and this was the least loud (despite the irony of the subject matter).

With the postcard version done, I continued to explore.  I wanted an online version that went with this story that could be a little less drawing-friendly.  I decided to go full infographic style and focus a bit more on what went with this.  The map moved to the top and gained a data point, the performances in the center, and lastly, I added info around venues.  I mirrored that to match our equalizer (it looks nifty in the dark).

Vizzes complete; it was time to draw!  I’d be lying if I said drawing was novel to me.  I’ve taken more than my fair share of art classes and decide to steal a few techniques artists rarely share in public.  You guessed it: tracing!

Tracing for chain data Tableau

I’m not going to embarrass myself trying to draw most of the US and part of Canada by hand, kids.  Just no.  In the olden days, this was easier.  Monitors were made of glass and the paper stuck to it like a charm!  Now, I just lay it on the ledge and make sure to use a real soft stroke. Using the states as a guide, I then drew the paths for each by hand.  I used yellow instead of white, because, let’s face it kids, I have glasses for a reason.  Last, I did the orange dots and did some final clean-up shading.  Keep in mind: art classes do not fix laziness in shading.

Chain Data Tableau Viz

Chain Data Tableau Map

Since our topic was Christmas music, I’m leaving you with a parting gift.

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