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Finding the ideal PC based controller w/MIDI support


Skumling

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Hi!

 

I am new to Blue Room, but have read quite a bunch of posts around here, and find the answers to be really useful. Anyway, I have a question regarding choosing the right light controlling application. My situation is that I'm a keyboard player in a small band who uses MIDI-based backing to support our music.

 

Our lighting rig has until recently consisted of 8x par56 w/500W raylight and 4x Martin RoboColor IIx and sometimes 3x RGB "colorwash" (3 ch. DMX fixture with 3x 575W lamps) for lighting the backdrop. Par-cans on a 6-channel dimmer and then everything controlled using a Martin 2518. In the 2518 I've made around 30 scenes for different purposes. The scenes serve different purposes - some scenes with more light on the guitarist, some with more light on the lead singer, some with more light on me, some with light on everybody but only one specifik color, and then solo-scenes only with one (white) par-can lit on one band-member. I think you get the picture :D

 

The 2518 I then control using MIDI, and only using MIDI. I have got a small controller from which I manually can changes scenes, or in songs running with sequenced MIDI-backing, the sequencer automagically changes to the appropriate scenes during the show. Works great!

 

My "problem" now is that as we play bigger and bigger gigs and because I'm bit of a gear-freak, I want to expand our rig with the possibility of using moving lights. In fact I've already bought 4x Mac250's second hand. The 2518 isn't suited for controlling these units at all, and I obviously need another controller to do the job.

 

I've looked at some of the free software controllers (DMXControl, PCStage, MagicQ), but I find it difficult to get an overview and find out if the programs can do what I need it to. Therefore, I'm looking for you guys to give an advice.

 

Quick load-in/setup/soundcheck/light positioning is a really important issue to me (not really because of myself, but because the rest of the band tend to think that all that "technical stuff" is just a pain in the a** to deal with). With that in mind I was hoping that I could find a software controller which allowed me to combine "layers" into "scenes" (my definitions might be wrong, please correct me). I imagine having one layer with positions of the moving lights, another layer with colors, eventually a third layer with gobos. At setup I would just position the moving lights on the guitarist, and then save them as the guitarist position "layer" and so on for lead singer, myself, audience etc. The controller should then always use the same position for maybe five different scenes of lighting on the guitarist, without having to program every of those five scenes manually. Then at last it should of course be MIDI-controllable :(

 

Actually I've considered buying the hardware Robe DMX-Control 512 which should be able to do the tricks (at least according to the distributor here in Denmark), but as I carry a rackmounted WinXP machine in our rig anyways, I would love to save the money and use an Open DMX based solution and save the 3U rackspace, and maybe/hopefully end up with an even more versatile and flexible solution.

 

I realise that this is quite a bit to ask for, but it seems quite overwhelming to learn all the different programs to know, as they IMHO aren't that friendly to get started on - so I hope some of you guys can sort a couple of things out for me.

 

Thanks!

 

Best regards, Daniel Stjernholm Andersen

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Have a look into "palettes" these will allow you (with a suitable console/software) to use them to build scenes, (or looks) and so you should be able to program a look with, for example, the pars on one color, one mac pointing at each band member, in a particular color, and at each venue just update the palettes for position, which automagically updates all scenes using that palette to be correct.

 

Hope this makes sense... maybe take a look in the Blue Room Wiki?

 

David

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The "Layers" you are talking about are generally called "Palettes" in lighting parlance.

 

On most moving-light consoles you can create and recall palettes and parts of palettes.

 

Usually palettes are broken down into Focus (Pan/Tilt), Colour (CMY/RGB/colour wheels) and Beam (everything else)

 

You can record a few focus, colour and beam palettes for your moving lights, and then simply select a few of them and place them straight into that palette.

 

The ETC SmartFade ML is a very good 'physical' console for this, and even automatically makes CMY and RGB colour palettes for you!

 

You need to be very careful about the MIDI capabilities though - there are many consoles that 'claim' to do MIDI control, but are severely limited.

Make sure you read the MIDI spec sheet carefully to ensure that your chosen solution supports the things you need.

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I would recommend Freestyler, which supports the layering you want.

Freestyler

 

Freestyler generally looks okay, but I can't find anything about the layering/palette thing? In fact I found http://forum.aceboard.net/23684-2371-11340...te-function.htm that tells, that Freestyler can not handle it.

 

Ideas for which software to choose is still very welcome - although I'll take a closer look at LightFactory, which at least seems to have the Palette-function I need. Anyone with LightFactory experience who can give a hint about if this is the way to go?

 

Best regards, Daniel Stjernholm Andersen

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For PC-based, have a look at the Chamsys MagicQ.

However - I have no idea what MIDI capabilities it has, and this is a real pitfall of many consoles - SmartFade and SmartFade ML have extremely good MIDI functionality because we were very aware that many users need it.

Some other consoles say "MIDI capable" but can't do very much with the MIDI.

 

Personally, I'd always prefer a physical console for real ease-of-use, but PC-based has its advantages in some cases.

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For PC-based, have a look at the Chamsys MagicQ.

However - I have no idea what MIDI capabilities it has...

 

MagicQ has full support for MIDI In, MIDI Out and MIDI Thru when you add our MIDI/Timecode interface to the free software. You assign different functionality to a MIDI note through a mapping table, and can use cue stack macros to trigger MIDI events (to the point where you can play songs off the flash buttons!) and also generate MIDI timecode. Just a quick summary of some of the MIDI functionality there!

 

MagicQ also offers the facility to use palettes, updating the palette will update all cues that use it meaning you can run the same show file but just alter the positions for each show and to get DMX out of the software you can use a 3rd party interface (many supported) or one of our interfaces or wings.

 

Regards,

 

Matt Lemon

ChamSys Ltd

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For PC-based, have a look at the Chamsys MagicQ.

 

I'll take a closer look at MagicQ. The thing is just that it seems like way overkill for our use, but well - sometimes that's just the way it has to be, when one are looking for certain specific features and ways of doing things.

 

Personally, I'd always prefer a physical console for real ease-of-use, but PC-based has its advantages in some cases.

 

I fully understand your opinion on that one, as what most of you guys do is "doing light", I suppose - and in terms of doing this job well, you need tools that in live-situations can react quick on non-planned things. However, our situation is that we're just a coverband needing som decent pre-programmed light, and the only button I use on our current Martin 2518 is the "blackout" :D Everything else is triggered remote. In that case I think it makes sense just to have some lighting app running on a PC and "doing the job".

 

Thanks for your answers, I really appreciate the input!

 

MagicQ has full support for MIDI In, MIDI Out and MIDI Thru when you add our MIDI/Timecode interface to the free software.

 

Sounds great, but I must admit that I find the ChamSys MIDI/Timecode interface a bit pricey - at least for my purpose. It is more expensive than to buy a dedicated controller to do the job, and then at least some of the idea is gone.

 

Unless there's a possibility to get my hands on a second hand interface, I'm afraid that the costs will be to high.

 

Best regards, Daniel Stjernholm Andersen

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it is very simple to make layering in Freestyler although its quite differant than a pallete approach like MagicQ which I must admit I myself use. If you make all your cue stacks each containing only one attribute, they can easily be piled or combined in the submasters window (which actually has the fucntion of multible cue stack playbacks like on a regualr desk such as MagicQ) since both are free, ide simply recommend downloading them and playing around until you decide which you like better if either. I also use Light Factory, however im not really happy about its expense. I will vouch that is also solid software and it also has a free trial download. Just play around until you find one you like, almost any software could do what you want just in differant ways of getting there.

 

Aaron

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Decent MIDI support is hard to come by.

 

PCStage has the best MIDI support by far of anything in the known universe intended to control lighting (*), but, and this may be a big 'but' for you, its not a great moving light controller, though it can do anything that you need with conventionals. It can do moving lights, its just harder work to set it up than on almost all other consoles or PC programs. Have a look at the show control stuff on my homepage (address below) for some info on MIDI triggering.

 

MaqicQ is a good moving light capable lighting control program (its really a console running on a PC) and now allegedly has MIDI support, but I don't know how extensive. Other tools known to have MIDI support and moving light support include ShowMagic and Bluelite X1. If JJF was here he'd point you at a PDF on the BlueLite website showing MIDI controlling lighting. You also want to check out the LanBox, which needs a PC (or MAC) to programme, but once programmed, it just works as a black box.

 

Most 'proper' lighting consoles have either limited support of MIDI (I've cleaned that up a bit to meet the quality standards necessary for younger readers), or no MIDI at all.

 

*) To the author's knowledge, corrections welcomed. Functions supported include direct support for triggering from Note on, Note off, program change, control change, and triggering at specific MTC or MIDI clock times. 'Triggering' means making something happen, any possible control function of the system. Also can take periodic timing of MTC and MIDI clocks, so chases can follow the beat, so for a sequencer driven band its easy to make lighting happen in synchronism. Supports both MTC and MIDI clock simultaneously Also can do MIDI 'levels' (eg from note number, velocity, control change etc) to level of channel or submaster. MIDI channels can be part of each trigger specification.

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Another one to consider is q light. midi in/out as standard,talks to the entec dongle without any problem and its competitively priced (free),the downsides well initially it isn't the most user friendly,and as far as I can see if you want to add fixtures to an existing show you've got to redesign the control surface,but if your using the same rig all the time then this wont be a problem.The only other snag for some is it runs on Linux
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Hi!

 

I am new to Blue Room, but have read quite a bunch of posts around here, and find the answers to be really useful. Anyway, I have a question regarding choosing the right light controlling application. My situation is that I'm a keyboard player in a small band who uses MIDI-based backing to support our music.

 

Our lighting rig has until recently consisted of 8x par56 w/500W raylight and 4x Martin RoboColor IIx and sometimes 3x RGB "colorwash" (3 ch. DMX fixture with 3x 575W lamps) for lighting the backdrop. Par-cans on a 6-channel dimmer and then everything controlled using a Martin 2518. In the 2518 I've made around 30 scenes for different purposes. The scenes serve different purposes - some scenes with more light on the guitarist, some with more light on the lead singer, some with more light on me, some with light on everybody but only one specifik color, and then solo-scenes only with one (white) par-can lit on one band-member. I think you get the picture ;)

 

The 2518 I then control using MIDI, and only using MIDI. I have got a small controller from which I manually can changes scenes, or in songs running with sequenced MIDI-backing, the sequencer automagically changes to the appropriate scenes during the show. Works great!

 

My "problem" now is that as we play bigger and bigger gigs and because I'm bit of a gear-freak, I want to expand our rig with the possibility of using moving lights. In fact I've already bought 4x Mac250's second hand. The 2518 isn't suited for controlling these units at all, and I obviously need another controller to do the job.

 

I've looked at some of the free software controllers (DMXControl, PCStage, MagicQ), but I find it difficult to get an overview and find out if the programs can do what I need it to. Therefore, I'm looking for you guys to give an advice.

 

Quick load-in/setup/soundcheck/light positioning is a really important issue to me (not really because of myself, but because the rest of the band tend to think that all that "technical stuff" is just a pain in the a** to deal with). With that in mind I was hoping that I could find a software controller which allowed me to combine "layers" into "scenes" (my definitions might be wrong, please correct me). I imagine having one layer with positions of the moving lights, another layer with colors, eventually a third layer with gobos. At setup I would just position the moving lights on the guitarist, and then save them as the guitarist position "layer" and so on for lead singer, myself, audience etc. The controller should then always use the same position for maybe five different scenes of lighting on the guitarist, without having to program every of those five scenes manually. Then at last it should of course be MIDI-controllable :P

 

Actually I've considered buying the hardware Robe DMX-Control 512 which should be able to do the tricks (at least according to the distributor here in Denmark), but as I carry a rackmounted WinXP machine in our rig anyways, I would love to save the money and use an Open DMX based solution and save the 3U rackspace, and maybe/hopefully end up with an even more versatile and flexible solution.

 

I realise that this is quite a bit to ask for, but it seems quite overwhelming to learn all the different programs to know, as they IMHO aren't that friendly to get started on - so I hope some of you guys can sort a couple of things out for me.

 

Thanks!

 

Best regards, Daniel Stjernholm Andersen

 

There's showmagic as well, its controllable by midi, and some of the versions can send midi patch changes and run RS232 stuff too.

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