Category Archives: Lighting
Pretty cool video showing how Linkin Park’s LD controls his show using a combination of preprogramed and on the fly controls.
We were trying different options for controlling our lighting console from Ableton Live. We managed to get Ableton to output MIDI time code (through an in between program) and have our ETC ION console chase it. I’ll make another post about how we got that to work.
After some playing around with that setup we opened up QLab. QLab has native support for all kinds of timing and MIDI options. Using QLab we were able to simultaneously send time code to Ableton to track and play audio and send MIDI show control to the lighting console to “go” on the the cues. Basically we found that it would be pretty easy to set up QLab to be the center of control for everything. Hit one “go” button and trigger Ableton, lighting, the built in audio playback, built in video playback, just about anything!
Mainly we were testing sync’d playback from Ableton which is actually pretty easy. Either have the lighting console and Ableton both track to time code. Or have Ableton track time code and the lighting console track MIDI show control. Both options mean we can have our lighting cues precisely mapped out and repeatable all with the touch of a button.
And since you can set up multiple devices we were able to send MIDI timecode internally to Ableton and externally to our lighting console at the same time at different timecodes is we wanted to. This means if we needed to offset the timing to one or the other it’s pretty simple. So if you programmed a bunch of cues to a certain timecode range, but then had to change it in Ableton for some reason, it wouldn’t be a big deal, just offset the times.
I can’t wait for the next show where we need this kind of precision. By linking Ableton directly to the lighting console, or controlling both Ableton and the lighting console from QLab, we’ll have all the control we need! One “go” button and everything will sync up perfectly, pretty cool!
For more info on all of these products check out the manufacturer’s sites.
With our schedule when it’s busy we’ll have one event backed up against another. Often this means that we end up programming lighting for shows at the last minute since we have to wait until the lights are set up to start programming. So now we’re programming lights ahead of time, before the lights are even set up.
To do this I’m using a pre-visualization program called Light Converse. Light Converse allows you to build your room in 3D (don’t worry it’s easy) and place all of your fixtures virtually. There are several options out there, WYSIWYG is an industry standard but is very expensive. Light Converse is reasonably priced, has a lot of features, and even offers a house of worship discount. There’s several versions that get more expensive as you add features so you can pick something that will work for what you need.
First you have to build the room in the software, you can keep it simple or get really elaborate. Once the room is built can try out different stage plots. Since everything is to scale you’ll know what will fit and not fit.
Now that you have a stage plot that works you can place all of your lighting fixtures and try out different ideas. I experimented with a lot of different lighting layouts before settling on what we used in our last show. That’s a huge time saver right there. When you’re under a time crunch you won’t get that kind of time to experiment.
With everything set in the software we connected it to our ETC Ion lighting console using ARTnet. You can use any console that outputs ARTnet and just connect your computer to the same network. If you’re not using ARTnet there’s some DMX options you can use but that adds some more cost.
Now that you’ve got the software and hardware set up you can start to program without even using the real lights! This saved me so much time and allowed us to get a lot more elaborate with the lighting cues. Stuff we never would have had the time to do otherwise.
This isn’t perfect though, you’ll still have some work to do when you get you’re lights running. You’ll have to double check your aim and focus. There will always be little differences in the software and the actual pan and tilt of the fixtures. The software can’t really estimate the focus so you’ll need to tweak that so gobos look how you want them to. These issues aren’t that big of a deal compared to the time you’re saving so it’s well worth it.
If you have a media server like a Green Hippo you can send the software the HippoNet feed and it will display that feed on the projectors in the software. How cool is that! Now not only are you previewing your lighting looks but you can add in your video looks too, all in real time!
There’s an app for everything these days. From little handy tools up to full lighting control. I’m just going to run down some apps I use for lighting that come in handy.
iLedMapper is a cool little app that will receive ArtNET and turn your iPhone or iPad into a mini “LED” panel. I’ve used it to put a light into a prop when you want something to light up. Pretty cool and cheaper than buying a custom LED fixture.
In our theatre we have an ETC ION lighting console. ETC makes two apps that work with that console. One is free and shows you the cue list and lets you make notes on each cue. Great for tech rehearsals when you’re still dialing things in. The director doesn’t have to figure out what cue you’re on, they’ll see it live on their iPad or iPhone. Cool idea and not too hard to set up or use. I’ve also thought about giving access to people back stage to see where we’re at in the show live.
The second app lets you actually control fixtures and go through the cue list. That app is a little pricey but does come in handy. It’s cheaper than getting the hardware remote and can do more. If I were to buy the console again I probably would save the money for the hardware remote and just get the software.
Pocket LD has all kinds of great info on lighting fixtures. One cool feature is being able to calculate the throw distance and see what size light beam you’ll have and what the brightness will be. Great for when you’re setting up a show. Helps take out some of the guesswork when you’re trying to pick the right light.
DipSwitch is a really simple app that makes addressing older style intelligent lighting fixtures easier. You just enter the address and it shows you the dip switch combination you’ll need to set the address in the fixture. If you’ve ever set dip switches on a lot of fixtures you’ll love this app.