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At last - a worthy successor to PC Stage!


TheProff

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This makes a change. An answer and a how-to rather than a question!

 

This part describes the general principles, but feel free to skip down to the next section, which covers the How-To.

 

Finally, after years of waiting and the odd trials and tests, I feel I have got back the functionality I had with PC Stage. PC Stage, a very competent lighting control application which included full sound control cues - start, pause and play tracks, fade up and down, pan, run multiple sound channels together to play one-shot sound effects over ambient sounds. I can't remember if it could play video as well, but basically one cue list to run a whole show. Nothing else (cheap or free) has yet come close. The only downsides - you had to buy their DMX interface and the Lite version was limited to 30 DMX channels, and, sadly, the developer lost his life in a car accident, so there was no development to allow PC Stage Lite to work beyond Windows XP.

 

Thanks to several posts here and on the QLC+ website, I have finally achieved a single cue list running all sound, lighting and video cues for a show.

 

Multiplay is an old but very competent, and free, sound cue application. It can do all the fades, pans and automatic sequences you could want and can drive up to four different channels through different sound cards and amps. It can play video, but if the duration is unknown and you try to stop the video cue early, although you can still trigger other cues all the other buttons are locked out, including Save and Exit. It can't play stills. But Multiplay can send a whole range of MIDI commands, amongst others. It does need a set of ac3filter codecs installed to produce sound under Windows 7 and Windows 10.

 

QLC+ is a very competent, and free, lighting application. It can play sound, but playing multiple layered effects is risky. It can play video, but has an annoying habit of briefly showing a Windows frame as the cues step from one to the next. It can receive and send MIDI commands, and link them to many of its functions.

 

Screen Monkey is a very competent, simple and free audio and video cueing application, where you can click on each clip in turn to run it. It can display audio, video and stills, with automatic steps, fades and sequences. Under the hood it can also receive MIDI commands and looks like it can link them to almost all of its functions. it does need the K-Lite Codec Mega pack to display in Windows 7 and 10, and must have the default codecs set to FFDShow. See the next post for details.

 

This isn't a perfect solution. QLC+ still needs its own cue list for the lighting cues, and Multiplay will need a MIDI cue to step them forward every time. But put the three applications together and you only have to operate the cue list in Multiplay for full sound, light and video control! Tests so far are very reliable. I am putting a show together now, and will report back on how well this works during the final rehearsals.

 

A worthy successor to PC Stage

Multiplay, QLC+ and Screen Monkey working together – in Windows!

 

Systems

Development machine

Personal PC – self-built, running Windows 10 64-bit v1803 build 17134.706

 

Show machine

Dell Vostro 1000 laptop, running Windows 7

 

DMX interface – ENTTEC OpenDMX USB

 

Installed applications and codecs

Multiplay version 2.5.5.0

QLC+ 4.10.5b

Screen Monkey v4.0(31)

LoopMIDI 1.0.13.24

K-Lite Codec Pack v1490 – Mega

ac3filter 2.6.0b

 

I am not saying that later versions won’t work, just that this is what I have and it does!

 

Installation

• Install the first three apps

• Install LoopMIDI

◦ On your show machine allow it to run on start-up, otherwise you must run it manually before any of the first three

• Uninstall any previous K-Lite codec packs

• Install the K-Lite Mega pack

◦ If asked to uninstall the ac3filter pack, click Yes

◦ During the install select the two default codecs as FFDShow instead of LAV

◦ If the option doesn’t appear cancel installation and re-install as Advanced instead

• (Re)-install the ac3filter codecs

◦ Needed by Multiplay in Windows 10 at least, probably Windows 7

I found that only the K-Lite Mega pack gave the option to change the default codecs. This was grayed out in the other versions.

 

Setup

Now the fun starts!

The default MS GS wavetable synth is just for playing MIDI encoded music, it can’t operate as a MIDI loopback.

 

LoopMIDI

• Run LoopMIDI before any of the other apps

• On the Setup tab click + at the bottom

◦ You can give it a more meaningful name, but the default works OK

 

Multiplay

• Run Multiplay

• In File/Production Properties

◦ If no patch is there click + Add

◦ Select Device as the LoopMIDI port

• To drive a QLC+ cue list

◦ In Multiplay create a MIDI cue

◦ Set up two commands

▪ Command – Control Change; Channel - 1; Data 1 – 1; Data 2 – 127

▪ Command – Control Change; Channel - 1; Data 1 – 1; Data 2 – 0

◦ For more than one cue list, or other cue list commands, you can set up more MIDI cues and just increment the Data 1 entry

• For MIDI commands to drive other apps, such as Screen Monkey, again copy the previous MIDI command and increment Data 1

◦ Screen Monkey works with Control Change, but I think it also works with Program Change

◦ You only need the first command, with Data 2 as 127. You don’t need the second command.

 

QLC+

• On the Inputs/Outputs, in a separate, unused universe to the DMX, check the LoopMIDI input and output

◦ Not sure if you need the output checked, but it works!

• Create your cue list as a chaser as normal

• In Virtual Console create a cue list widget

• Right-click on the widget and select Widget Properties

◦ On the Cue List tab click the Connection button and select your cue list

◦ On the Next Cue tab click Auto Detect

◦ Immediately go back to Multiplay, select your QLC+ MIDI cue and click GO

◦ Go back to QLC+ where the input universe should be your MIDI universe and the input channel will be a number followed by :?

◦ Click OK

• To test put QLC+ into Run mode

• Go back to Multiplay, select the QLC+ MIDI cue and click GO

◦ The QLC+ cue list should step to the first cue

• Repeat and the cue list should step to the next cue (assuming no automatic sequences)

 

Screen Monkey

• Go to Settings/MIDI (three dots at top right-hand side)

• Click on the Options symbol next to the Save and Open symbols

◦ Check that the LoopMIDI port is showing

◦ The top right should say Last Trigger

• To step to the next clip on a layer

◦ Go to Multiplay, select the Screen Monkey step MIDI cue and click GO

◦ Go back to Screen Monkey and Last Trigger should be replaced by the MIDI codes

◦ Go to, say, Layer 1 Playback and open the action list

◦ Double-click on Next Clip (Go)

▪ The MIDI codes should now be linked to the Next Clip action

◦ To step back to the Clear Layer clip

▪ Go to Multiplay and create a new Screen Monkey MIDI cue, incrementing Data 1

▪ Select it and click GO

◦ Go back to Screen Monkey and Last Trigger should be replaced by the MIDI codes

◦ Go back to your Layer Playback and open the action list

◦ Double-click on Clear

 

References

A big thankyou to those who contributed to the following posts, because together they got me to this point.

 

Video Issue – Screen Monkey

https://www.blue-room.org.uk/index.php?showtopic=64965&st=0&p=523881&hl=+screen%20+monkey&fromsearch=1entry523881

 

MIDI from Multiplay to Screen Monkey

https://www.blue-room.org.uk/index.php?showtopic=67214&st=0&p=538920&hl=+screen%20+monkey&fromsearch=1entry538920

 

MIDI to DMX

http://www.qlcplus.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=9266

Edited by TheProff
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No it doesn't Gerry; there are a number of subtle problems, by far the most annoying of which is the labels for the desk buttons don't appear.

 

Which makes selecting which desk one wants a bit of a game of Russian Roulette.

 

Whatever techniques Michael used to dynamically update buttons doesn't work from Windows/7 onwards, so the static text has gone too.

 

Upper image Xp, lower image W/10.

 

http://davidbuckley.name/pix/pcstage_xp_vs_w10.jpg

 

In terms of the idea of a replacement:

 

Obviously interested and keeping an eye on this!

 

PCStage does do video, but only one stream of video

 

The nearest commercial tool, indeed the only commercial tool I'm aware of that can do anything similar is Showmagic, but to do lights, sound, MIDI, and video, one needs the AV edition, which is is a big bucks product. Showmagic also seems to bring out strong opinions in people familiar with it, some regarding it utter junk.

 

So I'm still running PCStage on an Xp platform, which for a couple of shows a year, keeps me going OK. It interfaces nicely through joystick interfaces (or MIDI) allowing actors direct control of cues where appropriate. On the same machine I've run Midi Maestro for "live" music for musicals, Pure Data for textures for war scenes, synthedit for live sound effects for rayguns and the like (wireless triggers from props), and other things I can't recall right now.

Edited by dbuckley
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No it doesn't Gerry; there are a number of subtle problems, by far the most annoying of which is the labels for the desk buttons don't appear.

 

Which makes selecting which desk one wants a bit of a game of Russian Roulette.

 

 

That is only true for Win 10 64 bit.

Labels appear OK if you use Win 10 32 bit.

Here is the .pcs file running on my Win 10 32 bit

2019-05-05-100659.jpg

 

What other subtle differences have you noticed?

Cheers

Gerry

Edited by Gerry
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PCStage works flawlessly in Win 7, Win 8 and Win 10 in addition to Win XP

Cheers

Gerry

I apologise for the following level of detail, but it is needed to give Gerry a fair reply. For those unfamiliar with PC Stage, the application is a free download, but in the unlicensed version media playback stopped after half an hour. To licence it you had to buy the PC Stage USB-DMX interface, which had your licence hard-coded into it. The Lite version allowed you to drive 30 DMX channels, the full version one universe of 512 channels.

 

Gerry, you are right up to a point. I found the drivers that claimed to let PC Stage run on later versions of Windows, but I believe that only applied to the full interface. I tried everything the various forums suggested but I just couldn't get the Lite version to work. Initially I kept the Show laptop running XP, with W7 on my PC. However, I wasn't going to waste the 64-bit capability of my PC, especially as I was running AutoCAD in full 3D when working at home. I guess you are lucky to have the full version, but I never found anybody making new ones.

 

The 30 channels weren't a limitation when I had only 16 dimmers and a couple of damper motors, driving a Strand Quartet as a home-built mover. Then a local theatre completely upgraded their lighting system and asked me if I could use 6 analogue-driven Strand Tempus dimmer packs - I nearly bit their hand off! Then LEDs came on the scene, using 4 or 5 channels per fixture, and I couldn't continue with the Lite version.

 

Something else that people may not be aware of. Electronics have a limited life span. With mobile phones these days the next new technology comes along, or you drop your phone and break the screen (or drop it in the loo!) and change it long before that limit is reached. I started engineering control systems in 1985. 15 years later the controllers started falling over as the electronic components began to fail. With no new PC Stage interfaces how will you replace it?

 

I have to say that I have grown to like the lighting capabilities of QLC+, despite a couple of quirks. I had to move to Multiplay to get the level of sound control I was used to, but I still couldn't get Screen Monkey to run. Then I found the series of posts referenced and it didn't just get Screen Monkey running, it gave me MIDI control over everything! So when I got it all running successfully a few days ago, on both the laptop and PC, I brought it all together in one post. Hope you find it useful!

 

Dave

 

**HOW TO UPDATE**

 

I just found out that, once you have set up all your MIDI links in Screen Monkey, although you can save them as settings they don't reload. MIDI show control is only listed under the paid-for PRO version.

 

 

You can just set up the MIDI commands for each performance, but it is not so intuitive. The workaround:

Have all your clips in the right sequence, including black slides as blackouts

Set up two MIDI cues under Dashboard on each show night

- Clear All - a useful finishing cue which clears all layers

- Go - triggers the Go button

 

To run the show, in Screen Monkey click on the first clip, in my case a black background. Then in Multiplay just trigger the Go MIDI cue to step through all the other clips, which can be stills, text, videos etc.

 

Another useful workaround if you want to show an automatic presentation sequence in the middle of the manual sequence:

Just put a single Presentation Start slide in a spare clip after the manual sequence

Further down the empty clips, or on another page, put your next slide as a clip

Use Link to link the start clip to the second slide by name - click on the link details in the dialogue box and then edit it, and use a timed change if you want it

Put the rest of your slides as clips following the second clip

Link successive slides with a timed link so that they run automatically in sequence

Add transitions if you want to fade in and out

If you want the sequence to repeat just link the last slide back to the first by name

 

To run during the show, go to Screen Monkey and click on the Start clip. Using this method it does mean that, for multiple presentations, you can have several start slides in a row next to each other, with the rest of the slides further down the page. You don't have to hunt for the start of each presentation.

 

This does save OK. However, I did find that settings such as changes to the font size and colour for Text clips also didn't reload. If I come across anything else I will flag it up.

 

Dave

Edited by TheProff
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The nearest commercial tool, indeed the only commercial tool I'm aware of that can do anything similar is Showmagic, but to do lights, sound, MIDI, and video, one needs the AV edition, which is is a big bucks product. Showmagic also seems to bring out strong opinions in people familiar with it, some regarding it utter junk.

 

So I'm still running PCStage on an Xp platform, which for a couple of shows a year, keeps me going OK. It interfaces nicely through joystick interfaces (or MIDI) allowing actors direct control of cues where appropriate. On the same machine I've run Midi Maestro for "live" music for musicals, Pure Data for textures for war scenes, synthedit for live sound effects for rayguns and the like (wireless triggers from props), and other things I can't recall right now.

 

Not knowing PCStage at all I may be wrong on this, but does QLab not now cover this area as well? Cheaper than Showmagic, it does require a Mac. Or were there additional functionality I’m missing in PCStage?

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Not knowing PCStage at all I may be wrong on this, but does QLab not now cover this area as well? Cheaper than Showmagic, it does require a Mac. Or were there additional functionality I’m missing in PCStage?

 

I'm going to guess the biggest issue with QLab is that you need a Mac ... ;-)

A fine program for sure (and what my venues use) but if you don't have the hardware, and I get the impression from the OP that they are operating on a tight budget, then this becomes a cheaper way to achieve something approaching the functionality required.

 

In any case, it's nice to see a how to guide rather than another variation on 'how do control everything cheaply? kthxbai' that is a forum perennial

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I'm going to guess the biggest issue with QLab is that you need a Mac ... ;-)

A fine program for sure (and what my venues use) but if you don't have the hardware, and I get the impression from the OP that they are operating on a tight budget, then this becomes a cheaper way to achieve something approaching the functionality required.

 

In any case, it's nice to see a how to guide rather than another variation on 'how do control everything cheaply? kthxbai' that is a forum perennial

 

Great, as I'm seeing more applications in my day job for small shows to be packaged down to one laptop. Just checking I'm not missing some killer feature!

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  • 3 weeks later...

Just thought I would post this - my experiences so far having set up the show to run as above.

 

The Dell Vostro 1000 laptop proved to struggle with video projection while running QLC+, Multiplay, the script and the pre-show presentation, both in LibreOffice. 2-sec fades were taking longer, and there were other delays and odd effects in the transitions between images and videos. However there was also another cause of this, to do with the laptop keyboard.

 

Screen Monkey also responds to keyboard commands and a number of these are pre-programmed. The good news is that you can change these commands and they will be saved, though they seem to be saved to a particular PC rather than the data file. The problem with my laptop - I have been running it off a wireless keyboard for a few shows, ever since I spilt a fruit drink over the laptop's keyboard and it stopped working properly. However Screen Monkey was responding to spurious commands from the laptop keyboard as well as the wireless one! In particular the step back command! Deleting all the keyboard commands and driving Screen Monkey from a special Multiplay list of cues works fine.

 

I also have a feeling that loading the USB with the DMX, the USB sound card (for a second audio feed), the VGA to HDMI converter/amplifier and the wireless keyboard (see below) was too much for the USB power supply. Luckily, thanks to a friend from college days, I have another couple of old Dell laptops that I use as a safety standby. The solution - split the tasks to let the Vostro run video while the other handles everything else. This seems to be working OK.

 

I will pass on anything else I find as the show approaches. opening night is next Tuesday, 28th May.

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It's not really a fair test to chose your software because of how badly damaged your drink soaked laptop handles it. Most towns have a laptop repairer who will source a new keyboard and install it.

 

This does expose one of the vunerabilities of a laptop to control all, one spill and it all stops or just malfunctions occasionally.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Just popping my head in here to say I've started work on an updated version of MultiPlay.

 

It will be a lot of work as I'm rewriting large portions of code as I update to a new way of playing the audio.

 

I'm hoping to make the production files compatible, but there are internal changes that may make that tricky.

 

Anyway, that's all for now. Hopefully I'll get a few more donations to pay for the software dev tools.

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Thanks guys. I really do appreciate the donations.

 

This is going to be a mammoth job (likely hundreds of hours) and I'm slowly working my way through the code.

 

Hearing the first audio from the new playback code last night brought a smile. :)

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