Controlling lights with MIDI. Can it be done cheaply and DIY-ly?
I just had an epiphany like you wouldn't believe.
Part of me has always admired Daft Punk's live sets. You've all seen 'em. The pyramid? Well the lights for them were spectacular. The visual effects are second to none IMO. Oh, and the music is good too.
I was searching for lights for my rather modest mobile DJ setup, but then I realized that a really great (or even sub-par) lighting rig could easily cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. As a kid in high school without a steady job, I wasn't sure what to do.
Until I saw these two items. One being a strobe light that can be controlled remotely by this controller. I was actually planning on buying two of these strobe lights and the controller, until I realized that it wouldn't be in time with the music. That's not a big deal at all, but then it hit me.
I use Ableton Live for my mobile gigs, so everything is already in time. Ideally, I could sync the strobe lights up with any MIDI pattern that I wished, allowing for a dynamic and live lightshow easily mappable to my APC40. The sound card I DJ with (a Novation Nio 2/4) has MIDI I/O that I never use while DJing, so I figured I could do something like this:
MIDI pattern in Ableton-->Nio 2/4-->Some electronic gismoes and gagedtry-->switches for light setup.
If I wanted to get really crazy I could have different lights on different channels, but I can't afford diddly squat right now. It's some food for thought though. I'm just looking for something to control the flashes of the strobes at this point.
What d'you guys think of this idea? Has it been done? I bet it's been done. I didn't find anything within my budget, even with intense googling, though, so I dunno. Maybe I'm asking a noob question. I don't know anything about DJ lighting.
Last edited by Trial; 03-18-2010 at 06:40 PM.
hi. i'll ramble on here for a bit...
DMX is the standard control protocol for intelligent lighting and it's advisable to learn about it. by reading up a bit on how it's used and the way that midi can tie into controlling it, you'll get some new concepts for execution relative to what fixtures you are going to work with...
while most desks such as the grandMA, whole hog, avolite, etc. are out of the range of most people's budget, a lot of the manufacturers - like MA lighting - provide free pc based visualizers and console simulation so you can experiment with programming and even use your midi controller to fire off a virtual show.
i've mapped my Xone:4D to control the grandMA on PC software and use it for viz all the time when putting together shows. it's not easy stuff to learn on your own, but totally possible. bome's midi translator comes in handy to get things routed to the right place... some cad skills are good for working with 3D space in the visualizer. multiple monitors is a must. to run the show in a live context, you'd need to rent an interface box of some sort.
alternatively, you could look into enttec's dmx usb pro as a cost effective starting point. it would set you back about $150 and can work with a variety of software - including max, so you could use the midi-dmx object and develop your own wacky applications to control seizure generation. the enttec site has a bunch of links to software that works with it's box.
that said, LED's dominate the industry and are more and more affordable every day. DMX is still quite dominant in controlling them but there are many circumstances when it's not practical for the sheer number of channels involved with video work on LED's and that some times it's much quicker to render a video than sequentially program 3000 nodes to get some silly effect. most of daft punk's show is video driven for that matter...
so for using live you could dump some videos that are pixel mapped to some leds... or do the midi-dmx bit with live feeding a max patch to translate. in most cases, you'll always have a helper application joining the two worlds together.
as a side note, if you're interested in this stuff a bit deeper - rental houses and production companies are always looking for lighting people. you'll find 1 lighting person for every 20 sound people, so it's a bit easier to get your foot in the door and find yourself assisting on a show. console programming is very specialized stuff and the convergence of video and lighting is what all companies are dealing with each day. it's totally fun and challenging on every level. most school theaters have some kind of lighting desk to hack with as well...
lots of resources on the net as well. forums from the different manufacturers are great, as well as blueroom.co.uk, controlbooth, etc... good luck!
I am longing for the day when video-to-led solutions reach the Arduino community of hackers. It's way too expensive right now for something that should be pretty simple - if you can drive a color LCD with an arduino at interactive video rates, you should be able to produce video-to-LED systems for not much more. Even a simple low-end PAL system would be a good start for a hobbyist.
Got any ideas? What's the state of the art like in video to LED grids, all $5k+ systems? The video ADC chips themselves are cheap (MAX9526, $6.89 each), what's the holdup?
Last edited by Fatlimey; 03-23-2010 at 01:30 PM.
I got the Elation Stage Setter for like $100 at a used gear store. An awsome little midi controller.
this site has some awesome all purpose LED stripping, plus the music controller could potentially be modified somehow (it uses a microohone but people say its way too sensitive)
you could hack it to an SM57 and have lights that pulse with the beat at least.
What about hacking up one of these?
do a quick youtube for videos of this thing in action... looks amazing, especially for that price
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