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Thread: Lousy show programming rant...

  1. #1
    Bradfo69's Avatar
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    Default Lousy show programming rant...

    Time for a bit of spewing out thoughts and observations on a page.

    As we're approaching SELEM, as I have done each year, I try to get a bunch of shows together so I have something to run if necessary. They're not "my" shows but, ones I have acquired over the past few years. I think I played one song two years ago and maybe 45 minutes worth of content last year. Often, when asked who has content they want to play, I haven't always felt comfortable saying... "Here, I've got some things."

    Not being an artist and, in general, not being overly savvy with software, I've tended to collect show content where ever I can. I have bought
    laser software and hardware packages just to be able to physically play whatever content I have been able to get my hands on. Whether that's
    from ftp sites, other forums, the Pangolin show space, members e-mailing me things, etc. Tracking down the correct music is often a chore. You
    always want to list the source so someone else can get the correct song.

    But, in this process there are a couple of glaring things I'm discovering. One of which I know will have some opposition but, I'll save that
    for later.

    Some background.... my first software was Moncha from a company called Showtacle. There is a good sized user base out there that owns
    and uses it and, often makes their shows available. Some comes straight from Showtacle and, some has been acquired directly from individuals.
    They have another more robust program called Fiesta that also has it's own DAC. I'll liken the two by saying Moncha is to Quickshow what Fiesta
    is to LD2000.

    I have a ton of shows for another program called Showeditor, formerly of Laserworld and now owned by HB Laserscan. Although the program is
    essentially the same, HB shows won't play on a Showeditor DAC and Showeditor shows won't play on a HB Laserscan DAC even though the DAC's are essentially identical and made by Lumax.

    I have LSX and a ton of shows for LSX. Many of those shows also work with software from Phoenix and I have Pro4+. I have a bunch for
    Spaghetti. And so forth. I have a bunch for software created by LaserNet that I haven't even watched yet. I have Alphalite and I have X-29
    Anyway, what has really struck me this evening is the sheer amount of really bad laser shows out there. Another thing I've also noticed over time is how the actual shows created with each different software tend to "look". Maybe that's a result of what's available in the software, or maybe that's the simply the programming style and ethnic culture of their user base.

    For example, once you've watched enough shows, you can almost say... that was created in Moncha. That was created in Showeditor. That was
    created with Pangolin. Even if you have shows created by 20 different people and even in different genres of music, the shows tend to have very
    similar characteristics.

    Showeditor seems to have a lot of its owners in areas like Germany, Austria and like Romania, Bulgaria - I guess what I would call that sort of
    "Slavic" section of Europe. They tend to be very heavy with single beams, fans, and not have a lot of rolling, undulating waves or cones and

    Moncha shows on the other hand, tend to have a lot of triangles, squares and cones. Their abstracts also tend to be "static" and not the moving
    lissajous, spirograph type patterns like you see more with Pangolin shows.

    But the point is, much of what I'm now reviewing just doesn't seem to be very "good". Not that it "can't" be, because as you watch them,
    there are some gems and some really good programming. Sometimes it's just a cue in an individual show and, you also find there are also some
    people that are just good working within the software platform. But, I think there are a lot of limitations to what people can do with the
    software that helps contribute to so much of these shows being "bad" as well.

    I'm going through in excess of 100 of my Moncha shows right now because I just finished a small project with masterpj and a guy from Canada and
    doing some conversion work for them since he (the guy in Canada) programs in Moncha. (They're very good shows.) But as I go through the 125 or so others that I have, the sheer number that just aren't that great and would be useless for SELEM is really bothering me. Lousy song choices,
    boring shows, lack of color, and yet, I have a few others that are really good and I'm looking forward to showing them.

    Some might say well.... thats also an American versus European opinion or, American versus Australian opinion. There could be a little truth
    to that since there ARE cultural differences in terms of what cultures think of and prefer as laser shows. But, I've watched a broad range of
    shows and have even sat and critiqued them with others utilizing a rating system and think I'm open minded enough to look at each style and say,
    "yes, that's a great show."

    I've learned a bit since this started and I'm also in the process of creating a number of shows myself for the Pangolin contest. I keep going
    over them and making small tweaks here and small tweaks there. I'm having them reviewed by people privately for critiqing before submitting
    them and, I wish, as I go back now and look through all these shows I've collected, that others would have put in that same amount of tine and
    effort before releasing their efforts. I'm watching so much where there is no regard to color, staying on beat, blank spaces, even music choice
    and so forth. There is still very much an agonizing need for quality content... even though there are a lot of shows out there.

    I'm going to side track for a second....

    The other observation - and the one that I said will be met with opposition - is that, taken as a whole, some of the best shows ever created
    have been done with LD2000. I know I'll probably get labeled as a Pangolin fan boy or be accused of writing a sales pitch but, the truth is,
    generally speaking, the best shows I've seen out there have been created with Pangolin software (LD, QS and Beyond). There is simply so much
    more you can DO with it versus the alternatives from Medialas, HB Laserscan, Showtacle, etc. This is really something to take note of for a new

    Often we see new people arrive at the forum having just gotten into the hobby and perhaps have just gotten their first projector and they start
    asking about how to control it. They may have discovered that iShow is crap and that $80 was a lot of money to blow on a DAC and software. Or
    they blew all their savings on the projector without regard to needing something to control it and are now in a panic wanting the cheapest
    solution possible since they didn't take that into consideration. They're willing to spend oh, maybe $50 or want whatever open source free
    solution we can provide. The mere mention of spending $595 on Quickshow has them searching for ANY cheaper alternative.

    The fact is, Quickshow quite simply is the all around, most capable, safest, easiest to use, feature rich, stable, entry to mid level software
    going and is a steal at $595 retail. The FB3 is the most rock solid, reliable, best spec'd, easiest to use DAC going. I don't remember all the
    technical low level differences but, there is, in fact, a performance difference when watching shows on different DAC's.

    I don't care what aspect of the hobby or what type of laser shows have interest for you but, Quickshow can cover it. Playing live. Creating
    timeline based shows. Making graphic shows. Making beam shows. Creating abstracts. Adding basic support for your DMX lighting. Converting
    things like logos or other graphics to laser. Displaying text AND being able to have all sorts of control over the text in the first place.
    And it's all SIMPLE to use compared with a lot of the other software I've seen.

    That's not to say other software doesn't have areas that it excels. LSX I know is extremely powerful and can do things Pangolin's offering's

    But taken as a whole, the list of advantages to Quickshow for example, just goes on and on AND... it gives you the best chance of
    quickly learning how to create quality shows. Or, if it's your thing, getting in front of an audience and playing live. The set up and safety
    features blow other software away. Whether that's the concept of projection zones, or the Beam Attenuation Map. Hell... Moncha doesn't even
    include a test frame to display so you can be sure your show doesn't hit an audience. It's always a surprise when I'm 2.5 monutes into a 3
    minute show that so far looks safe and suddenly, there is a cue firing way outside where it should be... like on the floor in front of you.

    It's nowhere as easy to create shows in Showeditor, Moncha, Fiesta, LSX, or a host of other software AND you have a much better chance of your
    first attempts looking GOOD. So... here's the deal. You've entered into an expensive hobby. It is, what it is. Get used to it. Bite the
    bullet and buy decent software.

    That's the end of the Pangolin "fanboy" rant for newbies.

    Don't get me wrong.... there is a lot of crap out there that's been created by people using Pangolin software. It's the user not the tool.
    Just yesterday for example, I was pulling a number of shows off the Pangolin Show website and getting the music just because I figured it would
    be some new stuff for SELEM that people probably haven't seen and, the first one I downloaded, which started off looking decent, I discovered
    about 3.5 minutes in that the guy didn't even finish the damn show. Even the preview on the site shuts off.

    A lot of people who are uploading are from users in Europe so, it's often foreign music that rarely is anyone at SELEM going to want to sit and
    watch. That's a cultural thing so, I'm not going to be critical of that.

    Another issue is in many cases, you'll think it's a beam show and then midway through there is one graphic cue that pops up or an abstract, or
    something in text. I understand outputting to different zones and maybe your using scrim or something but, ONE cue in a whole song goes to that
    zone for a second? I doubt it.

    Some have uploaded a show but, don't upload music and don't even tell you what it is. And it will be something titled like, "Ein dar machter" so
    it's hard to find, and when you do there is the 3.5 min version, the 4:20 version and the 7:02 minute version. Or, in the notes it will say the
    music is their own special mix. WTF!!

    The other issue I find is that - and I don't fault them for this - is that someone who is new will create their first show, made completely with
    stock frames that we've all seen and all know and, they must have no sense of rhythm or anything since they don't change on beat.
    I get it. They're new and excited and want to show off their first efforts and, it's like watching an elementary school program or, middle
    school band concert. I did it too and I've since gone back and fixed things later to improve them. But, get someone's opinion on your show
    before posting it. Make sure you've actually FINISHED the whole song, How about having your cues change on some sort of beat!!!

    Anyway, long story short is, while I have a TON of shows, I'm really getting discouraged at just how much of what is out there is really lousy
    and almost unwatchable. It's no wonder at LEM's we always seem to go back to the same old LD2000 shows. It's historically some of the best
    stuff out there. And if you're going to create shows, you really owe it to yourself to put the effort in to make them the best you can before
    putting it out in the domain. Learn your craft. Push yourself to try new things. I'm only on my 8th show I've ever done but, I'm already
    trying to change styles and not have a lot of repetition in the use of the same "go to" cues. It's an easy trap to fall into. I'm trying
    differnt generes. And, my next goal is to create a show totally with cues created from scratch.

    Buffo recently wrote a really good tutorial on how he approaches creating a show and it's also worth the read.

    That's my rant.... musing... whatever you call it.
    Last edited by Bradfo69; 07-24-2015 at 11:15.
    PM Sent...

  2. #2
    soforene's Avatar
    soforene is offline The Troll formerly known as Herbert Von Poople-Futtocks
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    Thumbs up

    Word, Bro !!

    I've lost count of the number of times I've created preview files for laser shows where users have used stock frames A, B, C, D but in a different order.
    And they think they are being creative.

    No No No No No !!!!

    Create your own frames.
    Change to the beat.
    Sometimes nothing is preferable to something.
    Create a COMPLETE show.
    Notify users of the exact track you are using.
    It ain't rocket science (apologies to Rocket Scientist who create their own laser shows).

  3. #3
    Bradfo69's Avatar
    Bradfo69 is online now Pending BST Forum Purchases: $47,127,283.53
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    Good to see you! I thought perhaps you, of all people, would be able to relate...
    PM Sent...

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    I think laser shows are like music.... Its mostly subjective. Ones liking may have a lot to do with the music track. For instance, and this may sound strange to many, I would rather listen to a 909 kick drum for an hour straight than listen to 2 minutes of most classic rock. No lie. The idea of 5 sec of zz top makes me ill. So, a few pencil beams and fans may be the same as elaborate abstracts to others. Of course if the show is out of time or structurally flawed it should be tossed.

  5. #5
    Bradfo69's Avatar
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    I get that. That's why I also referenced cultural differences. What I'm finding though, is more of the structural flaws and timing issues that you mentioned. And, in the case of some of the Moncha shows, that caused me to start the post, a lack of even applying color. You'd really have to see it to know what I mean but, if 2/3rds of the show is the same washed out light blue, and medium blue, no matter whether its a cone, square, wave or whatever but yet, they do have other cues with other colors and then see other shows by other people that look similar, is that indicative of the program? I don't think so because other people have produced shows with the same software and lots of color.

    Some shows you realize for example, after watching them, were programmed by someone that only has a RG projector. And I guess that could be subjective too but, played to an audience, it's got no interest.
    PM Sent...

  6. #6
    mixedgas's Avatar
    mixedgas is online now Creaky Old Award Winning Bastard Technologist
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    We have a beautiful show we love. It took us three years to recreate the first 30 seconds of the audio track... When specifying audio.. PLEASE Include the edits and versions down to hours, minutes, seconds and frames in the show notes. For those who don't know, frames in audio editing for shows comes from SMPTE time code used to sync to video. roughly 1/29 or 1/30th of a second, depending on which standard your using.

    We have another show we could not get the track for years. The drummer on the track, Lars, died. Lars' widow pulled the distro rights from the Dutch distributer due to "emotions" and some weird quirk of German contract law... Basically killing off the group's albums. When the Widow passed , the album was released, Seems her estate and children was not so picky.
    Became a cult best seller... Just heard the track on a TV commercial the other day.

    Like 10 years later we had the track, and love the show...

    Qui habet Christos, habet Vitam!
    I should have rented the space under my name for advertising.
    When I still could have...

  7. #7
    swamidog's Avatar
    swamidog is online now Jr. Woodchuckington Janitor III, Esq.
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    there absolutely is a ton of really crap shows out there. some of them are mine.

    i'm not looking to start a religious war.

    my least favorite shows are clip art and cartoons that are poorly sequenced to music. i call them laser ransom notes. don't get me started about how boring it is when lyrics are all interpreted literally. if i see one more heart with wings poorly synched to the word "love" in the song..

    i see this a lot with quickshow shows. it's not quickshow's fault. quickshow is quite capable and the bar to show creation is low. it's just show creators taking the easy way. i think, for a number of people, having a lot of content at your finger tips discourages exploration and creation. even if some of the provided content has not aged well or is of mediocre quality.

    i have not seen very many quickshow shows that i think highly of, but there are some artists (points to mike dunn and buffo) that make really excellent shows for ld2k.

    i'm not sure that it's fair to assume the shows on pangolin's show portal are the best there is. if an artist works a couple hundred hours on a show (i have), they may not be inclined to give it away, or they may not be able to because they're working for a company that doesn't allow it or licensing prevents it. my enjoyment factor is generally higher with the shows on the PLFTP than show portal. folks like whiteg and steve milani(sp) have made some great stuff and been very generous with it.

    remember when video toasters came out and suddenly all the commercials and tv shows were using stock toaster wipes? that's how i view most laser shows.


    no matter what software package you use, you're never going to make great shows until you break away from button mashing stock cues.
    Last edited by swamidog; 07-24-2015 at 08:50.
    suppose you're thinkin' about a plate o' shrimp. Suddenly someone'll say, like, plate, or shrimp, or plate o' shrimp out of the blue, no explanation. No point in lookin' for one, either. It's all part of a cosmic unconciousness.

  8. #8
    Bradfo69's Avatar
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    "Steve" Milani.... but you've got the right one.

    Yeah, I don't care for most of the cartoonish literal shows either but, that's also a matter of choice and taste. Just doesn't happen to be mine. I say most, only because even in that category, there ARE some that are excellent and I enjoy. AVI's work with planetarium shows comes to mind.

    And yes, one should NOT assume that the shows on Pangolins portal are the best there is. Far from it. It doesn't have to be good to be uploaded and posted. There is a star rating system that other people can use which at least allows to you get some idea if it's a decent show though.
    PM Sent...

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    " 15 characters"
    Last edited by Laser Wizardry; 11-13-2015 at 12:53.

  10. #10
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    Basically, its becoming more affordable, and easier to do, so you're getting a worse signal to noise ratio.
    Same thing happened with dance music once you had VST's come along and you didn't need the financial input to own all the expensive and vintage hardware synths and sequencers.
    Once vinyl went and it didn't need a financial commitment to press up 500 12" records, anyone with a knock off Cubase/Logic and a bunch of VST's could release a poorly mastered digital release and see what happened.

    I got bored of wading through ever increasing number of tracks that were of poor quality, and eventuially stuck to just listening to the stuff that was also getting a vinyl release, as it showed someone in the chain had some belief that it was a good piece of music.

    As it stands I watch Swami's shows, but in the main, shows bore me, a lot of the time I'm not into the music, and just meh... its not my thing.
    Frikkin Lasers

    You are using Bonetti's defense against me, ah?

    I thought it fitting, considering the rocky terrain.

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