Monday, May 11, 2015

Micro-Budget Show

I thought a detailed description of the setup for our micro-budget show might be of use to other technicians and designers who are having to make due on a bare minimum.

The place is a 1914 church turned neighborhood community center. The previous Lighting Designer had left 1" pipes and heavy-duty extension cords already routed into a selection of hanging positions.

We borrowed (for a nominal fee) seven instruments; two Source-4's with 19' lenses (which I frosted to open up), two Source-4 PARs, two 6x9's (so weak I ended up using them for back light) and my personal 6" fresnel as a center spot.

It's no use detailing the specifics as every space is different. It is enough to say I organized my tiny inventory into two acting areas US and DS, using the longer-throw instruments for US of course, crossing the beams for the largest coverage and gelling in that old combination Rosco 02 "Bastard Amber" and Rosco 53 pale lavender.

Same borrowing got us two "Elation" dimmer packs, here sitting on a chair and plugged into two different 15 amp breakers via more long extension cords to various outlets around the building.

That's part of the fun of doing shows in hotel lobbies and general-purpose rooms; identifying which of the rows of outlets are actually served by distinct breakers, so you don't end up plugging 50 amps of stuff into a single 15 amp service.

Chairs also did for the speakers -- used for sound effects playback, the music for several dances, and the sound on several videos we played. There was a lot of space up on the mezzanine level behind the audience, and the sound wasn't bad at all.

These are my terribly useful Jolly 5A's; tiny but powerful bi-amped powered speakers with an extra-wide patterns.

And of course one of the short plays also needed some projections. Because the booth is so high above the stage, I came up with this somewhat scary-looking contraption to hold the projector safely at the right angle.

You can also see the baby Behringer mixer that made it possible to plug in two different laptops for sound effects plus a third laptop downstairs during the movies...and not have to keep yanking live cables in and out of my poor speakers.

And here's the final booth; my laptop has no ports free, what with DMX512 interface, video connector, audio connector, and MIDI keyboard.

The second laptop only played back sound effects on one of the plays (the most complicated one for sound, and the one that included the video playback).

And here is all the controller information. Top is the QLC+ window, with a Virtual Light Board layout I created for the show.

Below is a shrunken view of the QLab window. QLab 1, actually. Which is playing back video (complete with video fade in and out), music/effects for the various plays, and...light cues.

Let me unpack that a little further! Okay, first off, a little trick with the projector was to create a solid black image in Gimp and assign that as the desktop image. That means that there is no distracting light or image when the video isn't playing -- even if QLab is shut down.

I always set up QLab for MIDI control. This means I can trigger cues whether QLab is focused or not. It is simple to do; connect any MIDI device, go into the Preferences screen, and capture your selected MIDI events. Remember, if you are using a velocity keyboard, you will have to go back and type in "any" for the velocity. Otherwise the cue will only fire once in every 128 attempts!

QLC+ is a little tricky. It has a simple light board mode, but you'd have to individually click on and move each channel. Not a good way to take a smooth lighting change. Fortunately you can also memorize channel settings into a "Scene," and assign the scene in various ways.

Such as the buttons above. Each of those is a basic useful look. The identical scene is also assigned to the faders directly below, allowing me to roll up groups of lights at a desired level.

QLC+ does recognize MIDI, so you can also assign MIDI events to trigger those buttons. This is the next level; my battered little Korg Nanokey is assigned to control several of these scene buttons, letting me go to several looks from the keyboard (and hit several different things, like back lights and center special, simultaneously). Something like a Korg NanoKontrol or the Behringer B-Control would allow you real-time fader control this way.

But the complicated show was, well, too complicated for buttons. So the next level. QLab can create MIDI events on command. Unfortunately to get QLC+ to see QLab I had to go, once again, through MidiPipe (a lovely freeware application that solves so many of your MIDI hookup needs). In this case, the Korg Nanokey sends a note event to QLab's Remote Control function, causing it to play the next cue. QLab spits out sound, video, or a MIDI note event -- the latter is sent via MidiPipe to the IAC bus, along with a hijacked copy of the MIDI output of the Korg.

According to the manual QLC+ supports cue lists. I couldn't get that to work in the time I had. So for the complicated show, every QLab cue toggles on the next scene button in line, and toggles OFF the scene button prior to it. Not smooth. Fortunately, the other shows were a lot simpler and I could run them from the scene buttons and faders.

Each day started at around noon as I transferred and cleaned up notes from two dozen short plays, then took all the expensive gear out of a locked closet and set up. And ended at midnight. Especially tonight, when I had to strike the whole show.

The borrowed gear is stacked all over my tiny apartment now, and tomorrow, I'll cart it back and finally be done with this show.

1 comment:

  1. Good info about QLC and the nanokey! I'm going to give it a try.