# Cue lights... RF or cabled or what?

#### Red_Carpet

##### Member
Hi all,
Again, this old chestnut raises its head. (sorry to all those who find this boring).
This time I am on a near-to-zero budget.

CUE LIGHTS
I am in the position again to create some new cue lights for a travelling Dramatics Group.
The stage and the control-desk are always in different places so no Permanent wire trunking etc.
Their requirements are.. 3 x (different coloured) Cue Lights with a controller for the Lights & Sound Controller on the control-desk.
These guys want the old-fashioned "one-light cue-light" version. i.e. ON=GET READY, OFF=GO
The cue lights should be a type of 12v bulb on a small mount (like a piece of wood) may be a car indicator (Red, orange or green) (These I already have in my stock).
The normal (and maximum) distance between the lighting box and the stage (cable distance = 50 meters) (line of sight = 30m).
Now, I want a nice control box with 4 good lit(*) switches 1=Mains and channels 1-3 . (* they need to be lit so the operator knows if the button has been pressed)
So from what I have researched, I see the options to transmit between Control-Box and Cue-lights are 1) cable or 2) RF
RF Option
I do not want to use those awful faffy hand-held RF remote-controls - I want a good strong control-box. ( I am not enough of a competant electronics-electrician to de-contruct a hand-held remote-controller either.)
I do not want to use the kinetic wall switches to transmit an RF signal as they are too large and do not light up.
I do not want to use an app on a smart-phone.
I could use and arduino-microcontroller and a multi-channel-RF-transmitter to send a RF signal when a button is pressed (but I would rather not)
Maybe 3 large-ish project boxes with and 12v-car-indicator lamp on the top with an RF receiver inside - however I also do not want batteries anywhere near this project.
So perhaps a cue-station-box (sited by the stage) plugged into the mains with three cables coming out of it with three pygmy-bulbs on a block of wood (Looks are not 100% important at the moment.) Inside this cue-station-box would hold a transformer to power the 3-channel RF receiver-relays and the three 12v bulbs.
Pros:
More Hi-tec,
more flexible.
Cons:
I can't find the RF rcvr and transmit modules.
More expensive if I use a micro-controller:Arduino etc

Cable Option
This would be the easiest but not very hi-tech!. Just run a master multi-core cable from control-box to three separate lights (maybe with a cue-station-box splicing the multi-core to a two cable system to power the lights).
I would use mains switches with mains powered pilot bulbs on the control-box.
Pros:
Easier to wire up
Cons:
Lots of cable
more expensive

Summary:
I think an RF option would be good but I have trawled through the net and can't find something suitable.

Anyone got any ideas or thoughts.
Thanks very much

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#### soundman

##### Well-Known Member
My skills lack in RF so personally I would look at a wifi or cable based solution.

It looks like there are some RS 485 boards that would make getting two arduinos to talk pretty easy. There is some example code that you should be able to tweak for a cue light system pretty easily. Because it only uses two wires you could use 3 pin XLR cable to get them talking.

I've played around with Node MCU clones and wifi for a few projects. I would play around with using modbus to get the two boards to talking.

From them its a few relay boards and PSUs and you are off to the races.

#### DrewE

##### Well-Known Member
My first thought is to go with a wired system using Cat 5 (or Cat 6 or whatever) ethernet cabling. If LEDs were used for the cue lights, it would be trivial to simply have them powered from the master station through the cable, requiring only pugging in the box with the LED to the cable to the master station. If the boxes had two (or three) RJ connectors on them you could daisy-chain them as needed, or form other topologies as was convenient. I'd wire it something like this (the indicators for the other cues are similar, just connected to different pairs of wire):

The current limiting resistor values may need tweaking, depending on the lighting conditions and the LED colors used. For ordinary red/green/yellow LEDs, 560 ohms gives a forward current of approximately 20 mA with a 12V supply, which would probably be pretty bright. Blue and white LEDs have a higher forward voltage and so may need somewhat smaller resistors. By having the current limiting resistors in the indicator boxes, you could connect a few of the same cue together and they'd all illuminate properly.

If the 12V supply is capable of more than, say, 2A, it would be well to put a fuse in series with the main power switch to make sure the cable's ampacity cannot be exceeded in the case of a short circuit. A couple hundred milliamps or so should be plenty if the shown values are used (and there are not more than a handful of cue light boxes).

#### Red_Carpet

##### Member
@DrewE Wow - what an answer Thank you very much for the time you spent on this. Unfortunately it is way way over my head, I sort of understand it but as to making it I am afraid that I can not.

#### Red_Carpet

##### Member
Hi @microstar , this is a great option, thanks. I had thought of this a while ago and made a good leap forward when I tried it. However I hit a wall and I can not remember for the life of me what my problem was. I must dig it the old project out from "Old projects" cupboard. Thanks.

#### Red_Carpet

##### Member
Very interesting reply @soundman I have a couple of nodemcu's knocking about somewhere I must drag them out again. Thank you for your input.

##### Custom Title
Fight Leukemia
So not cue lights as we would think of them in this context, but I've recently discovered Tally Arbiter which is some really clever software created to work with tally lights on video cameras. I've wondered if it could be also adapted for use as a cue light. It does allow OSC commands to fire sources, and it works with these little guys over WiFi.

We've been using this for camera work and it is pretty simple and reliable. The only issue is battery life is iffy. You'd want to hardwire the matrix displays

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#### Red_Carpet

##### Member
@StradivariusBone - thanks for that - interesting read. I see where you are coming from.
Out of all these methods I may look more seriously at the DMX option. It is a shame, however, that all we have (need) is such a simple thing.
To be able to switch a light on to cue somebody - that is all it is and yet we have to go round so many options, jump through so many hoops just to achieve this.
No wonder the people that sell these systems charge the earth for it. It could do with someone to make a cheap solution, perhaps open a start up business etc. I think it could easily be achieved with a budget of about £50-£70. Yet companies who sell cue light systems want hundreds and hundreds ($'s or £'s !). Thanx :¬) #### RonHebbard ##### Well-Known Member Premium Member @StradivariusBone - thanks for that - interesting read. I see where you are coming from. Out of all these methods I may look more seriously at the DMX option. It is a shame, however, that all we have (need) is such a simple thing. To be able to switch a light on to cue somebody - that is all it is and yet we have to go round so many options, jump through so many hoops just to achieve this. No wonder the people that sell these systems charge the earth for it. It could do with someone to make a cheap solution, perhaps open a start up business etc. I think it could easily be achieved with a budget of about £50-£70. Yet companies who sell cue light systems want hundreds and hundreds ($'s or £'s !).

Thanx :¬)
@Red_Carpet For an ultra low cost option, have you considered a hand-held flashlight with three pieces of gel in your SM's other hand?
Know when I'm pulling your leg; I'll pull your other leg next time to restore your normal gait.
Toodleoo!
Ron (Posting from one of the colonies) Hebbard

#### microstar

##### Well-Known Member
@StradivariusBone - thanks for that - interesting read. I see where you are coming from.
Out of all these methods I may look more seriously at the DMX option. It is a shame, however, that all we have (need) is such a simple thing.
To be able to switch a light on to cue somebody - that is all it is and yet we have to go round so many options, jump through so many hoops just to achieve this.

#### Ben Stiegler

##### Well-Known Member
Have you thought about any of the apps that are available? You can buy cheap android devices for less than \$50 now.

the website is gone, and some cautionary notes re unresponsive developer in the play store notes. I loved the video - sad that it doesn't look like a solid choice today. Are there others people like?