Programming Light Shows... I'm so lost.
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  1. #1
    Tech Wizard
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    Default Programming Light Shows... I'm so lost.

    Hey all,

    I'm just starting to put together my first big stage.
    Currently I have some pretty outdated lights and such that I just control manually, no dmx or anything.

    So, i was looking around at intelligent lighting, dmx controlled lights, etc. Now i'm looking for software to program the light shows, I would never just put my lights on auto or sound active.

    My problem is, I can't find software that will let me create light shows that sync to the beat of the music and all. Basically... I have no idea how to program a light show.

    In short, you know how if you see a deadmau5 concert or whatever, all the lights go perfectly with the beat and melodies? Or Ultra Music Festival? EDC? That's what I want to know how to do, on a smaller scale obviously.

    I have no idea where to start or what to use, so any advice is appreciated.

  2. #2
    Tech Wizard
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    HI,

    Not an expert. But normally you can sent a line from the mixer to the DMX controller (PC/or stand alone) or you tap the tempo yourself. Its very hard to do some amazing stuff with a small setup. Try to get nice colors to work with. Its looks bad, I think, if you have to many different at the same time.

    Other wise light shows is like making music. You have to put every beat down one by one. The light jockeys I worked with even did the strobe effect manually do make it synk perfect with the music.

  3. #3
    Tech Guru sobi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Endure View Post
    In short, you know how if you see a deadmau5 concert or whatever, all the lights go perfectly with the beat and melodies? Or Ultra Music Festival? EDC? That's what I want to know how to do, on a smaller scale obviously.
    Everything that's done at those shows is manual. There is no "set it forget it" setting in DMX programs other than sound active mode. I use ShowXpress by Chauvet, though the most popular software solution I've heard is Martin Light Jockey. I went with Chauvet over Martins software, as the dongle for Chauvet that I chose was under $500, while the light jockey software is roughly twice that.
    To start, you have to understand how DMX programming works. for every scene you make, you have to program all the steps within that program. How I try to get my scenes to sync to music is first knowing what you are programming for. If it's EDM, I'll assume it's roughly 125 BPMs. In the program, you have to give each step a duration time. Since we know the BPM (roughly), we can put an approximate time to program each step. IE - Dance music runs with a little more than 2 beats every second, so I try and make most of my steps in 2, and 4 second intervals. This gives it a rough timing that mostly lines up with most dance music.

    As for really making things line up with the music, you have to be on top of the board/computer to make sure things are good. In the example of strobes you used before... I have 5 or 6 different types of DMX programs running strobe scenes. One way I use them effectively is using 3 sets of chases. I have slow, medium, and fast. All the lights run in a circle, stobing only once, and I manually change the speed according to what the breakdown is doing. Once the drop comes, I move to another strobe where all my lights pan around slowly, and they all cycle through different colors and stobe constantly at random speeds and bursts.

  4. #4
    Tech Guru deevey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sobi View Post
    Everything that's done at those shows is manual. There is no "set it forget it" setting in DMX programs other than sound active mode.
    Exactly - There are "ways" of triggering stuff via midi to certain desks (and could be done via Ableton), but I think you're best option is to program in some nice chases, color scenes and have someone decent (preferably someone who DJ's and who's into the music) man the lighting desk for the night.

    Sound to light when in comes to lighting is a joke 95% of the time - only time I ever saw it even partially work was on a Masterpiece desk which had triggers for low/mid/high - even that sucked mostly though.

    If you want to down the software route for lighting, there was some awesome free software mentioned here a few months ago (BPM I think).

  5. #5

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    just like everyone says, there is no reliable way of making the lights change with the music automatically.

    At big shows etc it is done by someone just pressing the buttons at the right time.

    It is possible to replicate this somewhat but your basically left with programming and saving a pile of chases/sequences and then using either a small controller or midi commands sent to a controller to trigger and change these.

    k

  6. #6
    Tech Guru Patch's Avatar
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    You CAN get midi to DMX converters. So in theory, you could use dummy clips in Ableton to program a whole light show. As long as ableton is sync'd to the music (if you're not USING ableton for the music, that is...) the dummy clips will play in time with the music.

    You could even have a series of dummy clips that you can trigger off by midi whenever you want.

    Also:

    http://resolume.com/features/midi-dmx.php
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  7. #7
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    Right I am professional lighting designer, and what most people here have said is entirely right. You can run MIDI to DMX and get an attempt to duplicate your tempo or beat, but even at its absolute best it will become repetitive and samey. There is no plug and play, to b really effective it has to be done manually

  8. #8
    Tech Guru deevey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimbly1990 View Post
    Right I am professional lighting designer, and what most people here have said is entirely right. You can run MIDI to DMX and get an attempt to duplicate your tempo or beat, but even at its absolute best it will become repetitive and samey. There is no plug and play, to b really effective it has to be done manually
    Actually you can get the midi elements to trigger Scenes / Chases etc.. through midi BUT its not exactly something you just pick up and do in a short space of time, even if you were to do it you would need every clip and trigger basically completely pre-set beforehand to make it work remotely well.

    I did it as proof of concept mostly when I was working as a LJ / VJ where I was syncing the visual computers to the Lighting Desk, but just ended up more hassle than it would ever be worth - midi cable unplugged from lighting desk VERY soon after.

    The big name jocks/shows travel with their own Lighting Designers / Visual Guys for a reason, very VERY few bother with syncing their own visuals (which is easier) - never mind the lights as well.

  9. #9
    Tech Mentor hola amigos's Avatar
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    So whats the best way to get a decent light show set up?

    Is it best to go buy the lights and software and just experiment with it? Was wondering how people time the light shows with the music and whats the best way to go about it.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by hola amigos View Post
    So whats the best way to get a decent light show set up?

    Is it best to go buy the lights and software and just experiment with it? Was wondering how people time the light shows with the music and whats the best way to go about it.
    Depends on your definition of decent... At the shop I work at we rent out a small light rig consisting of a Revo 4, Quad Gem DMX and two LED wash on a stand, plus a small Laser on a separate base. We SET (sorry sobi ) the lights in "sound mode" and a lot of the locals guys love it, it's a lot of light in a small package. That said, it is a long shot from pro, I don't think I would ever use it myself.

    I've also programmed lights for a few nightclubs, it's not a lot of fun (especially using MyDMX, horrible software) but the results can work out semi good.

    My best advice, try to find some software that has good implementation of submasters, that will allow you some flexibility in shows. Also, find someone who has good timing to run the show for you.

    Disclaimer: Not a professional lighting tech, just an audio tech that gets lot of odd jobs thrown at him.
    Last edited by rotebass; 06-03-2012 at 01:38 PM.

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