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  • Automated DMX Controller Feasibility

    Working on a design that will automate scenes and chases to the beat of the music, having much more flexibility than "music trigger" found on some controllers.
    1) Would such a device sell to small bands/venues if it were relatively inexpensive ($250?), standalone (no PC needed), and could automate shows without looking "canned"?
    2) Automated scenes/chases can be programmed to vary in intensity and trigger on each beat or some multiple of beats. What sorts of scenes/chases are typical for a small band/solo artist?

    This doesn't seem too difficult to implement and I've wondered if either nobody's been able to do it successfully or its already out there and just haven't found it yet.

  • #2
    Agree completely. I'd gladly pay for a simple dmx box, with an ability to set chase type scenes, that can run from a built in mic with sensitivity control or an external mic. NSI used to make analog boards that worked like this, but dmx seems more complicated.

    I started building my light show to run this way, just by using fixtures that have "sound mode". In the end, this didn't really work, as the sound mode settings are different, rarely adjustable, and frequently wrong for my use.

    I would pay $400, maybe more for a dmx "band in a box" controller. Something small that could hang from a light tree would be awesome.

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    • #3
      THanks for the response, Steve! What's your experience with band lighting? Looking to get a range of opinions on a standalone controller from lighting guys as well as performing musicians.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by rickso234 View Post
        THanks for the response, Steve! What's your experience with band lighting? Looking to get a range of opinions on a standalone controller from lighting guys as well as performing musicians.

        I've been mixing live sound for rock/cover bands for about 35 years, with some lighting involved as well. There's a lot of guys out there like me. I can still do this with today's modern, simplified powered PA solutions. I mix on an iPad, constantly walking the room.

        I'm just now putting a small light show together. I still haven't decided on a controller, but I'm leaning towards Luminair. Right now, I have my system set up with both sound activated and auto fade programs running on my lights. It works, but not ideal.

        I also work at a local club that has an installed light system. It's minimal, with a bunch of cheap Chinese fixtures and an Obey 70 board. When I work with my tribute band, we bring in additional lights, and of coarse use a lot of fog. The band is called Hair Nation and we really go all out with our shows (everyone wearing wigs, etc). On this show, I use 3 different controllers for the lights - very difficult and I'm also running sound. Here's a couple stage shots - that's a "snow" machine that the club brought in in the second pic:

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        • #5
          Three different controllers... and sound? Need to be an octopus! Nice photos, colors are very vivid. Must be 3 dozen lights... a lot to handle!

          So I started on this "automated" quest a few years ago after seeing all the bland (and some pretty pathetic) light shows at local small venues/clubs/bars. Seen a few performers just use one color bar in auto-program (not even sound active) mode. Ugh! Knew I could do better.

          The "$400 dmx band-in-a-box controller that can hang from a light tree" is achievable. One problem is, I don't have any lighting experience and not finding much online explaining how to run a show, specifically what works well for scenes and chases on different songs and sections of the songs. Working with three PixMini color bars (two front and one rear) in 9-channel mode so effectively have 3 RGB "lights" per fixture. Being a light bar, can get some directional effects without a lot of individual light fixtures and cabling. Have a mix of fades, strobes, left/right/left chasers, and simple washes, but don't know what combinations (and exactly when to trigger them) work best for what songs and music styles. Anything you know of that I could read up on?

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          • #6
            Here's the set up, that basically runs itself once I get it up & running:

            The club controller runs all of the lights mounted right up at the ceiling and front spots. I turn it on first, and either set a pre-programmed scene or chase. This chase runs to a mic in the Obey 70 at the back of the room. It's still pretty sensitive, but does the job. I wish it had a "sensitivity" control.

            Next I turn on the bands (2) 4-bars of lights that are on the tree's left & right. For that we use their small controller, and I set them to a chase. I use "tap sync" to get that chase in sync with the music.
            (momentary style)

            Lastly there's a light bar and some "brightlight" type pars behind the drummer, which I turn off/on with a little infrared remote control device I purchased on Amazon. This bar has all of the lights set to "sound active" mode, with the sensitivity set to 1 (lowest possible setting). The bar is an ADJ Mega Bar RBGA, and yes, it provides a lot of movement.

            Regarding an automated show devise:
            Keep it simple! I would design it around using chases to automate the core backlighting. Let the user create these scenes or chases, based on their available lights and desired look. There must be static front spots available while the chases are running, and these should be dimmable. As for effect lights, I would have the dmx run them on their own sound active settings just to keep things simple. With this setup you would only need 8 dmx channels per fixture.

            The perfect light board in my opinion would have all of these options:
            At least 8 preset buttons for static scenes.
            At least 8 preset buttons for chases.
            A chase rate fader.
            A chase rate "tap sync" button.
            A fade rate fader - to adjust the fade rate between scenes. This is important for slow songs or soft music, where the light scene changes need to be subtle.
            A blackout button.
            A master dimmer fader - ability to bring all lights up or down in intensity.
            A smoke button (momentary style)
            A strobe button (momentary style)

            All of this is designed around simple color changing pars, and not movers or more complex lighting schemes.

            I believe I've found the controller I'm going to purchase, which comes close on most of the above, but there aren't enough reviews for me to determine if it really works as stated: http://www.blizzardlighting.com/prod...trol-6-skywire

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            • #7
              So the background lighting is the crazier/fancier one and the foreground lighting is simpler... I had it backwards... was planning the busier lights in the front and calmer in the rear! What do you mean by "There must be static front spots available..."? How many, and are these focussed at individual performers or wide-angle floods covering the whole stage?

              My plan was NOT to let the user create scenes or chases, based on their available lights and desired look. That would defeat the plug 'n' play advantage. Planning to provide a selection of canned scenes/chases, based on music type, and list of selectable light configurations. This controller is more intended for a small band in a coffee house or bar style setting.

              Was planning to have a handful of lights I can use to demo the controller and maybe do some shows for free. Currently have 3 PixMinis and two light 8' stands which had planned as two fronts and one rear. Should probably then get some front lights with the minis for the rear. Was looking at a pair of bright RGB or RGBW SlimPars. What kinds of chases for the fronts... fades, left-to-right panning, and maybe a few occasional strobes?


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              • #8
                Originally posted by rickso234 View Post
                So the background lighting is the crazier/fancier one and the foreground lighting is simpler... I had it backwards... was planning the busier lights in the front and calmer in the rear! What do you mean by "There must be static front spots available..."? How many, and are these focussed at individual performers or wide-angle floods covering the whole stage?
                You want a front wash to illuminate the performers with a static, off-white color. Flashing green & blue lights just look horrible on performers faces. The flashing colored lights should come from the sides or behind the band. The front spots can be as few as 2, or many more. Remember, with dmx they can just all be addressed to the same fixture (provided the fixtures are the same). So one channel on your dmx output should be this static, warm-white light. I still use some par 56 cans with a 70w incandescent bulb and a Rosco "Rose" gel, which makes people look very nice when lit. You could achieve similar results with a RBG led par (see my link below).

                Originally posted by rickso234 View Post
                My plan was NOT to let the user create scenes or chases, based on their available lights and desired look. That would defeat the plug 'n' play advantage. Planning to provide a selection of canned scenes/chases, based on music type, and list of selectable light configurations. This controller is more intended for a small band in a coffee house or bar style setting.


                That will probably be fine, but I would leave out any strobing scenes. What if the band is using a sound active program, and the song ends while a strobe pattern is running? Not good... Or say they're playing a nice slow song, and then the strobe scene comes on! But I really like your general idea of just plugging this thing in and having it work. You will need a huge database of fixtures, or at least a way for the user to enter a light profile for whatever lights they currently have.

                Originally posted by rickso234 View Post
                Was planning to have a handful of lights I can use to demo the controller and maybe do some shows for free. Currently have 3 PixMinis and two light 8' stands which had planned as two fronts and one rear. Should probably then get some front lights with the minis for the rear. Was looking at a pair of bright RGB or RGBW SlimPars. What kinds of chases for the fronts... fades, left-to-right panning, and maybe a few occasional strobes?
                Originally posted by rickso234 View Post
                I do strongly recommend a static front wash. These lights don't have to be all that bright, or fancy. In the club where I work frequently, their lights are these cheap Chinese fixtures that can be purchased on Ebay at about $20 each. They have fixed color leds, but all 3 colors come on to produce a soft white light. The performers in the pictures above are lit by these.
                http://www.ebay.com/itm/18W-6-Channe...c=1&rmvSB=true

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                • #9
                  So if you look into the program Freestyler.. It has a sound active mode that is an actual beat counter that will change your scenes on the count.. It actually works pretty well.All you add is an audio source.. We used to use a line out from the kick signal to trigger the change.. Also you could stack your scenes in the order you wanted per song and change to another song with a simple midi controller.. It is a software based solution. Pretty powerful for a freeware. The interface is inexpensive also.
                  DON'T BE ALARMED!!! REMAIN CALM!!!!!!!!!
                  There's nothing to see here. It's another day in IDAHO!!!

                  My bands Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/stiff.richard

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                  • #10
                    Thanks...those $20 Chinese fixtures look pretty good for front wash. With a static front wash of off-white as a given, any other changes to front lighting by additional front lights, or should light changes come only from sides and rear?

                    As for a program like Freestyler, thought about something like that, but then the band would need an adapter and software, programming, and a computer at the show. Expect that might a lot for a small band or soloist.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by rickso234 View Post
                      Thanks...those $20 Chinese fixtures look pretty good for front wash. With a static front wash of off-white as a given, any other changes to front lighting by additional front lights, or should light changes come only from sides and rear?
                      The user will be able to assign their lights to whatever static off-white fixture address you have. Example; you assign the static scene to fixture #1, so now the user can assign 1, 2, 3 or any amount of their lights to dmx address #1. The color changing addresses can be the next few, i.e.; dmx address #9 (if using an 8 channel dmx). Remember, the user of this system will have to assign dmx addresses to each of their fixtures, so the assignment choices will be by the user. You will need to identify this clearly in your manual. This way, if the user does want flashing, color-changing lights in the front, they can just use that dmx address.

                      The more I think about this the better it sounds. A small dmx box that can attach to a light tree with pre-programmed chases, a single static channel, and simple fixture addresses to allow flexibility. Make sure there is a mic sensitivity knob or button on the thing for the sound active programs, and be sure to have dimming capabilities, which may be needed for the front wash.

                      What would be really cool is a simple footswitch option, so the band could "freeze" the scenes between songs, or a second button for "blackout".

                      Originally posted by rickso234 View Post
                      As for a program like Freestyler, thought about something like that, but then the band would need an adapter and software, programming, and a computer at the show. Expect that might a lot for a small band or soloist.
                      Agreed. We want (1) simple box that you turn on and it works.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I know the addressing is going to give me headaches. So you're saying that the first 8 channels are the front static off-whites, and any number of front fixtures can be set to address 1 to 8. They'd all have to be lights with the same channel counts, and since the front is static, probably just allocate 1 to 4 addresses/channels (for RBG, RGBW, or RGBA). I thought I'd need separate left and right control for the fronts and rears but since as you suggest the fronts are "static", no need for separate left and right in the front. That simplifies things somewhat.

                        The rear lights is where the challenge will be since these are the "active" lights. Wasn't planning to get too fancy with multi-channel rears, but the PixMini bar can be 3, 6, 7, 9, or 18 channels and since don't know what folks will have for fixtures, will have to accommodate different chanel combinations. Can have a DIP switch to set light fixture configurations like "0000" = 1 rear fixture, 3 channels, "0001" = 1 rear fixture, 9 channels, "0010" = 2 rear fixtures, 3 channels each, "0011" = 2 active (not static) fronts, 3 channels each, 2 rear fixtures, 3 channels. etc, etc. This makes the programming a challenge since lighting effects will depend on how many channels/lights are available. I see what you're saying that the user can address his front lights as rears and rears as fronts if he wants.

                        Debating on separate front and rear dimmer knobs or just one for front and rear is what it is. How critical is rear brightness as opposed to front? Was planning a "blackout" switch but like your idea of also a "freeze" switch although it would likely only freeze a static scene. Can't yet get my head around having it freeze a continuing fade or strobe unless that were a pre-programmed setting inside the light. Once again, not knowing what fixtures, hard to make determinations about channels, especially channels having pre-programmed effects.

                        Was planning not to rely on internal fixture effects since every fixture has at least 3 channels and do all effects in software, but using internal effects can save a bunch of coding. Maybe I don't even care if effects channels are different from fixture to fixture, although wouldn't want to have a strobe effect if using fixture A and a fade effect if using fixture B. Maybe I'll look at some fixture manuals to see if the effects channels have anything in common. So much to think about!

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                        • #13
                          Any reason to not want "sound active" mode? That was to be the only mode. Any benefit to a mode or two that just randomly cycle lights?

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by rickso234 View Post
                            Any reason to not want "sound active" mode? That was to be the only mode. Any benefit to a mode or two that just randomly cycle lights?

                            For the purpose of this devise, I agree that "sound active" should be the only mode for the non-static dmx channels.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by rickso234 View Post
                              I know the addressing is going to give me headaches. So you're saying that the first 8 channels are the front static off-whites, and any number of front fixtures can be set to address 1 to 8. They'd all have to be lights with the same channel counts, and since the front is static, probably just allocate 1 to 4 addresses/channels (for RBG, RGBW, or RGBA). I thought I'd need separate left and right control for the fronts and rears but since as you suggest the fronts are "static", no need for separate left and right in the front. That simplifies things somewhat.
                              Yes, assign at least one static fixture for front spots. It doesn't have to be used, but is there. Don't try to make it go left-right.

                              The rear lights is where the challenge will be since these are the "active" lights. Wasn't planning to get too fancy with multi-channel rears, but the PixMini bar can be 3, 6, 7, 9, or 18 channels and since don't know what folks will have for fixtures, will have to accommodate different chanel combinations. Can have a DIP switch to set light fixture configurations like "0000" = 1 rear fixture, 3 channels, "0001" = 1 rear fixture, 9 channels, "0010" = 2 rear fixtures, 3 channels each, "0011" = 2 active (not static) fronts, 3 channels each, 2 rear fixtures, 3 channels. etc, etc. This makes the programming a challenge since lighting effects will depend on how many channels/lights are available. I see what you're saying that the user can address his front lights as rears and rears as fronts if he wants.
                              Yes - you will need to look at a lot of fixture manuals. It looks like you might need at least 9 channels per fixture to effectively use the Pixmini, but nothing wrong with 9 channels each.

                              Debating on separate front and rear dimmer knobs or just one for front and rear is what it is. How critical is rear brightness as opposed to front? Was planning a "blackout" switch but like your idea of also a "freeze" switch although it would likely only freeze a static scene. Can't yet get my head around having it freeze a continuing fade or strobe unless that were a pre-programmed setting inside the light. Once again, not knowing what fixtures, hard to make determinations about channels, especially channels having pre-programmed effects.
                              Regarding front vs rear, you'd probably be ok with just a Master dimmer, but 2 knobs would be really cool. The user could simply turn down the front wash by twisting that knob. I was recently asked to do this with the dmx system at a club, and I felt bad that I had to tell them it wasn't possible. Regarding the "freeze" button (footswitch) it would have to take whatever scene is currently running and freeze those lights at full intensity. I suppose a better option would be to set up a nice static scene, and have the controller activate this scene when the button is pushed. This would be for in-between songs, or if the user just wants a single static scene for the duration of say a slow song that they are performing. Again, I recommend against any scenes with strobing.

                              Was planning not to rely on internal fixture effects since every fixture has at least 3 channels and do all effects in software, but using internal effects can save a bunch of coding. Maybe I don't even care if effects channels are different from fixture to fixture, although wouldn't want to have a strobe effect if using fixture A and a fade effect if using fixture B. Maybe I'll look at some fixture manuals to see if the effects channels have anything in common. So much to think about!
                              Yes, you need to read a lot of fixture manuals. Keep in mind that a lot of "effect" type lights can simply be turned on and used along side this product without using dmx. I have an ADJ Mega bar light that just runs to sound and always looks great without any dmx cable going to it. BTW thanks for asking these questions. I feel like you have a potentially very useful product in the works here. I will pledge you a purchase if it works out and isn't too expensive!

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