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Thread: DIY Syncing of Lasers, Audio and DMX with no LD

  1. #1
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    Default DIY Syncing of Lasers, Audio and DMX with no LD

    My band needed a way to run our automated laser show and automated DMX show. We also needed to use high quality audio tracks that could be ran in stereo. To make matters more interesting, there were instances in our set that weren't on the grid. I needed a way to switch between live lighting and automation. All while playing bass on stage and not using an LD. Ive got it down now.....but it was no walk in the park. Its quite an expensive set up and involves a lot of routing. I'd love to share with this community. Before making a video though, I wanted to see if this was something anyone cared about. Or if someone had already solved this task.

    Ive learned a lot from this forum in the last 3 years. Im grateful for it. I'd love to reciprocate.

  2. #2
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    Sounds like an interesting project. I'm sure lots of folks here would appreciate hearing more about how you did this, so please feel free to expand on your original post. Producing a video seems like a lot of work though, so maybe it would be easier to start a discussion first before you spend hours and hours on the video. Although I think a few pictures of the look of the show as it appears on stage would be nice; it would definitely help people understand what you've accomplished.

    What software/hardware are you using to control everything? I'm assuming you used something like a foot pedal on-stage to trigger DMX cues (in software) that launched the laser effects and/or the pre-choreographed lighting effects? And then switched back to live effects when the pre-choreographed stuff was done? (Just thinking out loud here...)

    That's the way I'd approach it anyway, and I agree it would be a lot of work to set up, especially if you're using separate software for running the lights, the lasers, and the audio tracks. SMPTE time code would make it easier to link everything, but that can get expensive. Could also use something like a software midi port to enable cross-talk between programs though. What about the audio? How many tracks total?

    Ideally I'd want everything running on a single, master control program, even if that drove the cost up. Pretty sure you could do this using Pangolin's Beyond with an Entech DMX adapter and some custom switches on-stage to trigger things, although if you needed to run separate software for your audio backing tracks (assuming you had multiple tracks), then you'd have to link that back to Beyond as well, which could get messy.

    Also, what projectors are you using for your show? And do you have everything pre-loaded on a memory card in the projector, or are you still sending live ILDA data to each projector from a bank of stored cues on the control computer?

    So yeah, like I said - interesting project. Let's here more about it please!

    Adam

  3. #3
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    Here's a reply to express my interest in this project

    If I had to do such a thing, I would load the stereo track into REAPER and add MIDI notes in a separate track synced to the key points in the show. The MIDI track would output over a virtual MIDI device so other programs can respond to these notes.

    REAPER can send MTC to LSX to sync the laser show. This is great for preprogrammed music but you lose the live control aspect. Therefore, I'd have some overly complicated MIDI-activated live show responding to MIDI notes.

    The MIDI notes can trigger scenes/cues in the DMX software as well.

    REAPER can also forward MIDI from external controllers to LSX and the DMX program. No foot switch or anything required, just mix the notes programmed in REAPER with the ones that are being input by you in the controller.

    I'm not a bass player though, but a pianist/keyboardist. I've always wanted to sync my live music to a laser/light show. Technically I'm there but there's a whole difference between fooling about in your room and going on a stage


    Curious as to how you did it.

  4. #4
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    Great! Thats all I needed. Okay, lets start with an equipment run down before making any sort of video.

    I have 2X Tarm II's, and 1X X-beam 2500. Pretty entry level scanners but good enough for the clubs we're playing. I'm using an MSI laptop with Pangolin Beyond and 2 FB3's. I have laser shows written for about 15 songs out of the 30 we play in the set. Unfortunately Beyond doesn't support Stereo tracks, So I only upload the MP3 to beyond for writing the show, then mute them.

    Next are my DMX lights. A bunch of pars, Ultabars, 4 Chauvet movers, some multi purpose guitar center crap and 2 Hurricane H4 hazers. I run this on my Mac book Pro via Ableton Live 10 and the DMXIS dongle. I also run our audio tracks through Ableton. This allows me to use higher quality AIFF or WAV files and run them in stereo.

    Within Ableton, I group all the DMX fixtures in session view ( TRACKS | PARS | BARS | MOVERS | HAZERS | MASTER). The DMXIS dongle allows you to control your dmx lights with a VST. You can do as @colouredmirrorball suggested and have them triggered by midi notes, but I found that to have a low ceiling and pretty limiting. I wanted my DMX lighting to be as precise and intricate as my Beyond laser show. I then open automation lanes while in arrangement view. You set the automation as if you were setting velocity, this will tell your DMX lights how and when to behave. Since this is on a timeline in arrangement view, you can create a show just as precise as your laser production.

    At this point I have the laser show programmed, The DMX show programmed, and the Audio tracks loaded. The next challenge was getting them to fire at the same time, across two different computers (one mac & one PC) and with exact precision down to the millisecond. Im using an MPK249 midi board to accomplish this. I'm sure theres a lot of other midi boards, the important feature is that it has a MIDI OUT output. Use a USB cable to establish the connection between the midi board and the laptop running Beyond. This is also what powers the midi board. I then purchased an inexpensive Mio USB to Midi interface cable (about $35 bucks). Plug the MIDI-IN Mio cable (white cable) into the MIDI-OUT port of the midi board, then the USB part of the mio cable into your MacBook running Ableton. This allows your midi board to send the same signal to two different computers at the same time. Especially because one is a Mac and one is a PC. Its easier to get two macs to communicate , but pangolin Beyond only runs on PC.

    On the midi board, its important to set the global settings to MIDI OUT, set the pad thresholds to 10 and set it to a linear velocity curve. That way you're getting a uniform signal sent to both programs every time you launch a command.

    At this point both Daw's on both computers should be recognizing the midi board and getting an output signal. Now it's time for organization within the DAWS. Save all of your timeline laser shows into workspace cues within Beyond. Pad 1 will trigger cue 1, pad 2 will trigger cue 2 and so on.

    In Ableton, while In session view: create a master track lane. Midi map the master tracks in the same order you mapped your Beyond cues (Pad 1 = Master 1). Set your bpm for each song on the master track. Your session view should look like this

    TRACK | PARS | BARS | MOVERS | HAZERS | MASTER (with BPM)

    Song 1 | PARS | BARS | MOVERS | HAZERS | MASTER 120bpm
    Song 2 | PARS | BARS | MOVERS | HAZERS | MASTER 76bpm

    When you launch pad 1 , it will launch Master 1, which will launch all the fixture automation and Audio. It will simultaneously launch Cue 1 in Beyond.

    Everything seems to be working great.....Here's where I encountered a big issue. The Macbook was sending the signal to the midi board faster than the PC. The audio and DMX were always ahead of the lasers. NO WORRIES!!! Set a "simple delay" to the master in Ableton to 80mms. Boom! Flawless execution every time. I'm sure different computers interact at different speeds, but the solution remains the same. Just tinker with a master delay till it's perfectly synced.

    I use an Apollo Twin interface with thunderbolt cable to send the cleanest stereo signal to the sound engineer. The DMXIS dongle connects all the DMX lights into the mac, and then as I said before the FB3's connect into the PC laptop.

    We're about fully setup here. Last step is the live lighting element. Only 15 of our 30 songs were on the grid with a laser show. Some of the songs are more free flowing. For instance, when we play "Hey Jude", some nights we will let that NA NA NA ending sail for 5 minutes. Then finally smash a strobe and blackout at the end. To control this I use a BOSS GT 10B foot pedal connected via USB into the mac which is recognized by Ableton. I then set up a bunch of master tracks which contain color washes, random movements, strobes and blackouts. The pedal doesn't interfere with the midi board, one is midi the other USB. This allows you to jump on and off the grid. Just be sure not to accidentally stomp on the blackout pedal while one of the midi tracks are triggered and have everything blackout and the backing track turn off.....Like I did one time....in front of 300 people..DOH!


    AND THATS IT!!!! It's no walk in the park at first. But very easy to execute once initially set up. If anyone is interested in setting up something like this, or has any suggestions for improvement please let me know!! This is what works for my group to execute a very professional show, flawlessly and consistently at every show.

  5. #5
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    That's an inspiration to read, thanks for the write-up.

    Interesting to use Ableton for the DMX. Haven't heard of that plugin (but I don't use Ableton much). I should investigate that...

    Is there a reason to use the macbook at all? Seems like running everything on the MSI would do the trick, unless the audio interface isn't cross compatible. Then you could get rid of the delay and MIDI links. In my experience those MSI laptops can be quite the workhorse (mine seems to put up with everything I throw at it). But there are probably other factors as well - probably need a powered USB hub, having two screens is really useful, and if the Windows laptop fails only the lasers are lost instead of the whole show.

    How easy is it to modify the DMX mapping in the Ableton plugin? Say you're at a venue and you want to incorporate their existing lighting setup. Is that feasible? If you add another fixture to your existing setup, do you have to reprogram the lot?

    Are you only using the bass pedal board for live control? I have a Behringer FCB1010 for that purpose. Came in really handy when I was suddenly "promoted" to sound guy for a small time gig (more like demoted lol). Selecting cues and setting fronts intensity with my feet while having my hands on the mixer was really handy.

  6. #6
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    Damn impressive work! That said, can we make jokes about how only the bassist could afford to multitask as the LD? 😉

    Seriously, thank you for sharing and I hope you upload some video for us.

    David
    "Help, help, I'm being repressed!"

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by dkumpula View Post
    Damn impressive work! That said, can we make jokes about how only the bassist could afford to multitask as the LD? 😉

    Seriously, thank you for sharing and I hope you upload some video for us.

    David
    Hahahaha , hey man I rock a 6 string bass at least. But yes while the other members are getting phone numbers, I’m tearing down lighting equipment. *sigh*

  8. #8
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    Ableton only works on the Mac. As far as adding fixtures. It’s not convenient, but possible. Same for adjusting positions for different venues. , you’d have to go in and move each automation lane. For that reasons. I usually just have my washes and bars light up members instead of having the movers tag them.

  9. #9
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    Ha! I think that any laserist on this site that hasn’t recognized similar “character building experiences” is probably lying to themselves. 😂.

    I look forward to seeing your video documentation when you get the chance. I could use some motivation to increase my LD/laser show coordination which is currently limited to manual starts between two packages.

    David
    "Help, help, I'm being repressed!"

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Morningfatty View Post
    But yes while the other members are getting phone numbers, I’m tearing down lighting equipment. *sigh*
    Now that hits home

    Quote Originally Posted by Morningfatty View Post
    Ableton only works on the Mac. As far as adding fixtures. It’s not convenient, but possible. Same for adjusting positions for different venues. , you’d have to go in and move each automation lane. For that reasons. I usually just have my washes and bars light up members instead of having the movers tag them.
    Ableton works on Windows. Don't know if licenses are transferrable though.

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