Control/Dimming GrandMA onPC Hardware Control Solutions -- Executor Faders & Buttons

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by Hacker, Aug 2, 2011.

  1. Hacker

    Hacker Member

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    Behringer BCF2000 Executor Fader/Button Control

    After scouring the internet and trying countless options to link my Behringer BCF2000 with grandMA onPC, I have finally found something that works and wanted to share my findings, although it is a one-way communication from the BCF to onPC and not the other way. This solution uses a few pieces of free software. The first is Mid2Key from TamaTechLab, which allows you to convert MIDI CC messages generated by the BCF2000 into MIDI Note messages that can be read by onPC. In order to connect the output of Mid2Key to onPC, you must use a virtual MIDI cable program called MIDI Yoke, which is described in the manual included with Mid2Key. I also found MIDI-OX to be useful for viewing what MIDI mesasges were being passed between the various virtual MIDI ports.

    The manual for Mid2Key is well-written, but it took me a very long time to find out about the Mid2Key software, which is why I really wanted to share this information. MIDI Yoke and MIDI-OX (both made by the same company) have decent enough descriptions on their website to figure out how to use them effectively. However, I also wanted to explain my setup, as I find it provides more playback options than the one provided with Mid2Key, though it is not difficult to figure out.

    I set up the encoders and faders to act as executor faders in onPC by using the settings listed in the Mid2Key manual for faders. The main note is that the encoders and faders need to be set to “absolute” mode in order to provide visual feedback about the intensity of the fader. In order to use the encoders to control onPC’s encoders (the four below the screen, the pan/tilt, and the dimmer, as detailed in the manual), the encoders must be set in “relative” mode, so when you change the encoder page in onPC, the BCF encoder doesn’t force it to jump when you begin turning it. It is also a good idea to set the “Option” to “off” so that the ring of lights around the encoder does not light up because it will provide inaccurate feedback since this solution is uni-directional. It’s also noteworthy that pushing the BCF’s encoders can be set up to act like pushing onPC’s encoders by creating more shortcuts. The MIDI and shortcut settings are described in greater detail in the Mid2Key manual.

    Just as in the manual, I used MIDI CC messages for everything and had Mid2Key convert all of them to MIDI Note messages, even though the buttons can create MIDI Note messages directly. I attempted to have the buttons generate the MIDI Note messages and use MIDI yoke to join the output of Mid2Key and the output of the BCF to avoid having so many software MIDI message conversions, but have been unsuccessful thus far. Also, as detailed in the BCF manual, the 4 buttons under the display select one of four banks of encoders, so you can have one bank controlling 8 executor faders and another bank controlling a different 8 executor faders. In all, you can use the 8 faders + 8 encoders * 4 banks to control 40 executor faders, plus 16 buttons above the faders and four buttons on the lower right to control 20 more executors. These buttons can also be setup to control the buttons above/below the executor faders being controlled, and you can use them to do some fancy paging for the faders by assigning a key to a macro that recalls another page and changes the MIDI assignments in onPC.

    Just thought I would provide my solution in the hope that it will help someone else in my situation.

    ~Hacker

    A few notes:
    I did not have any success using the driver created by “MegaTech” which is mentioned numerous places, definitely more than Mid2Key. This driver also does not seem as versatile as the Mid2Key solution.
    This solution was tested using BCF firmware 1.10 , Windows XP SP3, and grandMA onPC 6.603 in grandMA1 mode.
    This will be posted on ma-share.net with the thread name “Controlling grandMA onPC executor faders with Behringer BCF2000 using Mid2Key” if you would care to check the other comment threads.

    UPDATE: This post is awaiting approval from a forum supervisor on ma-share, I will put a link if/when it is approved.
    I also found a promising hardware solution called Das Ortofo, but it is not currently being sold and I did not want another box to carry around with my grandMA onPC system. The site is in German, but you can use Google Translate (or the auto-translation feature of Google Chrome) to translate it. This was also the source for the idea mentioned above about paging faders -- I don’t think it would work as well with this uni-directional solution.
    I did not write any of this software, and do not make any guarantees about any of it. This post is solely meant to provide information about a solution that worked for me, but may not work for everyone. Any copyrights belong to the respective creators of the software/hardware mentioned herein.

    UPDATE 8/04/2012: Updated link to Mid2Key.
     
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2012
  2. Hacker

    Hacker Member

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    Xkeys Executor Button Control

    In putting together a grandMA onPC system, I looked at using an Xkeys programmable keyboard for physical control buttons. My research did not find any information on whether or not this was possible, but I managed to test it using an Xkeys XK-24 that I purchased to use as a customizable external keypad and it, in fact, does work. The trick (although it’s not that tricky) is to program the Xkeys to use keystrokes in the following fashion: [shift press] [2 press/release] [2 press/release] [shift release], which would be like pressing executor 22. This is easiest to enter in the recording mode for keystrokes by holding shift while typing the number of the executor. The one drawback to using an XKeys over using a MIDI controller is that the Xkeys can only act as a press of the button while a MIDI controller can provide a press and release, allowing for a “bump” or “flash” executor to be used properly. Another noteworthy thing about using the Xkeys with onPC is that you must activate shortcuts by clicking on the [ShortCut] button in the upper right corner of onPC. If this is not activated, the Xkeys keystrokes will try to type rather than pressing executors.

    The Xkeys can also be used to access other pages of executors by creating a key macro in the following fashion: [p] [2] [enter] [shift press] [2 press/release] [2 press/release] [shift release], which would be like pressing executor 22 on page 2. You could even take it a step farther to always have a certain page showing by having the Xkeys macro return to the page at the end, for instance, [p] [2] [enter] [shift press] [2 press/release] [2 press/release] [shift release] [p] [1] [enter] would be like pressing executor 22 on page 2, but leaving the view on page 1. Also, take note that an [enter] is required after selecting the desired page.

    I am now working on controlling effects from the Xkeys and awaiting the arrival of an Xkeys 84-key keyboard for a lot of instant control. Another advantage to the Xkeys is that they have removable keycaps and printable labels therefore, so you can actually print out gobo/color labels for faster visual access than written words for each key.

    ~Hacker

    A few notes:
    This solution was tested using Xkeys XK-24, Windows XP SP3, and grandMA onPC 6.603 in grandMA1 mode.
    This will be posted on ma-share.net with the thread name “Controlling grandMA onPC executors using an Xkeys programmable keyboard” if you would care to check the other comment threads.
     
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2011
    Horvath and (deleted member) like this.
  3. Pie4Weebl

    Pie4Weebl Well-Known Member Fight Leukemia

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    The one thing I have been hesitant about solutions like this, is there any lag in key hits? Also how has your stability been?
     
  4. shiben

    shiben Well-Known Member

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    Im also curious. If it works, it would be a pretty cool way to run a show on a GMA without having 40k to kick around... You could make yourself whatever you considered the ultimate interface and make it happen...
     
  5. Hacker

    Hacker Member

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    I haven't actually hooked my control up to a running system, I have only been using it with grandMA 3D. There doesn't seem to be more lag from the Xkeys over MIDI or touch-screen control, but 3D on my MAnet is always lags, so it's difficult to tell. I'll be hooking up to a running lighting system (from a 2Port Node) in the next week, and will post my findings.

    Yes, it is a nice alternative to spending $40k on the full-sized console. I've spent under $2k for the 2Port node, BCF2000, and Xkeys 84-key keyboard, though I may need to upgrade my touch-screen netbook or get an external touch screen to use with my Mac running Bootcamp. I am currently hoping that it works as well as I hope, but I will post my findings.
     
  6. douglasheriot

    douglasheriot Member

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    The last time I used onPC, we got a Jands Stage 24 console in wide mode sent to an input on a 2-port node. I could then set it up as 48 executor faders! (more than a grandMA full-size, for less than a tenth of the price!)

    I was surprised how well it worked – 48 faders were more than enough to program various effects and things for busking a concert. I'd definitely do it again next time I get the chance!

    You can see more details on my blog.
     
  7. Hacker

    Hacker Member

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    After hooking up my grandMA system to a lighting system, I can say that there isn't any more lag from the xkeys than from anything else in the system. The two things to note with xkeys is that you can't have a press and release for a flash button and you can't press more than one button as a time, since that sends multiple shortcuts to the system. The system ran fine on my ASUS Eee-T91 (1.33 GHz Atom w/ 2 GB RAM). I'm hoping to hook up the system to a DMX input this weekend (from a SmartFade ML) to test out douglasheriot's idea from the Jands Stage 24.
     
  8. Roofaxispro

    Roofaxispro Member

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    i have a 48 channel console im trying to get to work via dmx in on my 2port pro but i cant seem to get it to show up. in the dmx in it shows universe 2 local and flashing yellow and when i unplug the console it goes back to black so i know its seeing it, it just doesnt show up in the remote dmx menu. any idea what i should do?
     
  9. Horvath

    Horvath Member

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    Thanks for your very informative post.
    I just want to check that I understand the above correctly; do you mean that the Xkeys sends out only a momentary signal with each key press, so that holding down the button doesn't provide a continuous 'on' signal like a real bump button?

    I've never used onPC. Do you have any idea if the new Xkeys models with the jog dial or the joystick would work?
     
  10. Hacker

    Hacker Member

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    Yes, pressing the Xkeys is only sends a momentary signal. The way it works is by sending a macro of keystrokes (standard is [shift] + [1] through [shift] + [60], as well as [ctrl] and [alt] for the extra executor buttons above/below the faders). I haven't found a way to allow for the "continuous on" signal from the keys, even by changing the shortcut to a single keystroke (i.e. [2]).

    The jog and joystick should work as long as you can program them to send 1 keystroke for increase and 1 keystroke for decrease, then you can assign the same keystrokes as shortcuts in grandMA onPC to encoder up/down. There's probably also a way to assign the joystick to act like the four directions for pan/tilt, but that is dependent on the Xkeys being able to send a keystroke based on the movement and repeating more often as the joystick is pressed further from center.
     
  11. atavacron

    atavacron Member

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    Heya Hacker...just wanted to check in and see how your system is working since you last posted. I'm thinking of setting up something like this for myself, and it seems like the most comprehensive way to move towards a fully-functional console clone goes something like this...

    2 BCF2000
    BCN44 (encoders)
    Xkeys (everything else)
    Two touchscreens
    A PC laptop

    Why did you go the Xkey route instead of using a massive USB/MIDI button panel, a la the Novation Launchpad or something of that ilk? I'm looking at the Akai APC20 and APC40 right now.

    There's also the Elation (caveats aside) MidiCon, but the thing is $600 new, which puts it up into ENTTEC wing price range.
     
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2011
  12. Hacker

    Hacker Member

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    My system has been working quite well. I decided to go with the Xkeys interface because I couldn't find a way to allow receiving multiple MIDI channels, so MIDI interfaces limit you to to 128 notes. When thinking about how the hardware would interact with the software, I saw that the 8 faders + 8 encoders + 20 buttons of the BCF2000 = 36 MIDI notes, so it is a bit limiting once you use the multiple encoder pages and encoder pushes. After getting irritated with the limitations of the Xkeys, I would suggest purchasing a 2Port Node (not the pro version), which authorizes 1 universe of output but also allows you a separate universe of input. This would allow you to use the input DMX control of onPC, which gives you 512 controllable parameters, though this means using a light board to control light board software, but I think anything with faders and bump buttons would make a decent controller. This also gives you a simpler lighting controller, if you get to an event and realize you don't need the whole setup, or you may already have one lying around. However, if you want to go the USB/MIDI direction, just be sure that you have enough controllable channels in onPC -- I may have missed a way to receive multiple MIDI channels.

    I would also caution you to ensure that you get touch screens that have multiple touch-monitor support. I currently have a touch-screen Asus touch-screen netbook and I purchased a MIMO 10" monitor as a portable accessory, but I have yet to have both the built-in and external touch screens working simultaneously. I have been meaning to try upgrading to Windows 7 to see if the touch monitor support alleviates the issue, but I also need time to test Mid2Key to ensure it will work properly.

    As a general note, I would advise against running onPC on a netbook for show situations -- the software has crashed on me a couple times. I would also recommend saving the show with something happening (ie lights on with rotating gobos), because when onPC crashes, the 2Port Node keeps output the same DMX frame until you get onPC restarted and reconnected. The first time onPC crashed, it brought up house lights and front light alone when I restarted it. After that, I made sure to save with movers on and going so restarting the software was less obvious. Also, another good reason for using an actual lighting controller to interface to onPC, you have something out and on that can take over in an emergency (ie blue-screen).

    Thanks for the questions. Sorry I'm so long-winded, I just want to be thorough and provide reasoning so people can make informed decisions - I know I keep tweaking my system based on what I find out, so I'm hoping to help people make the best system right from the get-go.
     
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2011
  13. atavacron

    atavacron Member

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    Don't even worry about the verbosity, I am about to get hella verbose. Planning a desk is really tough; I just need a place to write all this down.

    Aha...here's what you're missing: Bome's MIDI Translator. While there are certainly other MIDI utilities you can use (such as what people are typically doing with the BCF2000), I keep seeing and hearing that Bome's is the right direction in which to go.

    I'm pretty psyched to do this shortcut setup for encoders. Hence the specific need for Bome's. Which isn't free, but $85 seems totally reasonable for such a flexible utility. Not sure I understand why you need MidiYoke here, as I thought Bome's can feed right into the OnPC...

    Anyways. On to the planning. I have an old 17" Gateway laptop with a PCMCIA port, a VTBook for a second VGA output, and two old (OLD) capacitive 18" touchscreens with Keyspan USB to serial adapters that work with ELO drivers. Okay, so here are my possible hardware setups, all of which assume you also have a USB trackball and small MA-style USB keyboard handy:

    OPTION 1
    2 Conjoined Akai APC 20s, a la Controlled Demoltion's APC80
    1 Novation Launchpad (top control row and right control column unused)
    1 Novation Nocturn (this should really be a more robust piece in the future...the Kenton Killamix looks about right...you could also use 2 Behringer BCN44s if you want to convert from MIDI to USB)
    With this layout...
    APC20-Launchpad-Nocturn.png
    ...this is the one I've done the most work on planning. I forgot to put in Go+/Go-/|| main buttons on the layout...I think I'd put those on the bottom right, vertically, and move the arrow keypad one button over to the left.

    OPTION 2
    1 JL Cooper CS-32 (manual here) specifically the USB/MIDI version. Tiny faders, but 32 of them! And the correct 3-button complement for each fader....essential for running a large show live. I think there's a benefit to being able to access all of your show's executors without moving your hands more than a few inches. Might not be so good for corporate theater or detailed rock shows though, as your intended levels are always going to be hard to hit exactly.
    3 Novation Launchpad
    1 Novation Nocturn

    OPTION 3
    3 Korg NanoKontrol2 (this gives you a very handy 24 faders with the requisite 3 buttons each)
    3 Novation Launchpad
    1 Novation Nocturn
    ...this option would lay out really slick, actually, but the NanoKontrol series are certainly kiddie toys.

    OPTION 4
    1 Elation MidiCon
    1 Behringer BCF2000
    1 Novation Launchpad
    1 Novation Nocturn
    Here's the layout I did for this one...
    MidiCon-Launchpad-Nocturn.png
    ...this option has some distinct advantages. First of all, the layout is super friendly to lighting operators straight out of the box. The 17 faders (master fader? we don't need no stinkin' master fader!) are all about the same size, and as opposed to any of the interfaces listed above, they are proper concert size as opposed to the APC20's 45mm and the JS-32's 20mm travel. The 6x1 button array, 8x4 button array, and 6x2 touchpad array are just what the doctor ordered for your most-used controls, and if you were willing to sacrifice two columns of the MA's 10x4 executor buttons you could put the executor array right there on the MidiCon's 8x4 array. You'd use the MidiCon's three encoders for level, pan and tilt, and relegate the four MA encoders to the Nocturn. The nocturn would also handle faders 18-20, and there's enough buttons there to complement them. Or you could have three BCF encoders handle those fader duties, and put their respective buttons on the BCF's utility buttons. One distinct disadvantage to this option is the MidiCon's $600 sticker price. Everything else I've listed is $100-200 per item. But maybe the lighting-friendly layout straight out of the box is worth it.
     
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2011
  14. atavacron

    atavacron Member

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    Alright, time to further hijack this thread. Here's the equipment list for my GrandMA clone, still in setup phase:

    - Mac Mini 2010 unibody running Windows 7, Bome's MIDI translator, and a heavily custom-Shortcut'd install of OnPC
    - 2 Akai APC20
    - Novation Launchpad
    - Faderfox LD2 with MIDI/USB adapter
    - 2 18.5" touchscreens, one at 1024x768 (main window), one at 1280x1024 and oriented in portrait mode (Ext Mon 1/2)
    - 10-port USB hub
    - Network switch
    - DMX King DMX/Artnet converter
    - Small DMX desk
    - Rental NSPs

    If you're trying to legitimately clone the MA layout using MIDI and key press control, this is as close as it gets without investing in standard lighting hardware.
     
  15. Hacker

    Hacker Member

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    Looks like a good setup! I assume you're using the APC20s, Launchpad, and FaderFox via MIDI into onPC? I'm interested to hear how the APC20 works, as it looks like a good, compact controller - my only qualm would be the the 45mm faders, as I prefer a longer run when running sound; however, as much as I use faders when running lights live, I think 45mm would be fine. I also wonder if it has a solid construction -- I have a Behringer BCF2000, which works okay, but doesn't feel like it could stand up to much abuse. Plus the buttons on it aren't very nice.

    Also, as you've listed rental NSPs, you seem to be aware that you need MA lighting hardware to authorize DMX outputs over MAnet or ArtNet. The layout you went with seems to be one of the best options of your proposed layouts. Let us know how it all works together once you get to play around with it a bit!
     
  16. atavacron

    atavacron Member

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    Well, everything goes MIDI into Bome's MIDI translator, actually. I use it to catch all the default MIDI outputs from the hardware units and split the data off into organized MIDI info (just the faders and flash buttons, actually) and keyboard presses (which run pretty much everything else in OnPC). Here's a teaser pic of everything laid out as it might be at a gig...
    photo.JPG
     
  17. stephenmathie

    stephenmathie Member

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    Hi Hacker

    Have read your post with interest. I work as a programmer in film in London. Always using MA, I set, store and run from MA remote on set but find the lack of stability of MA remote a real problem. Wifi connection from remote to WAP is never the problem, the problem seems to be the weakness of the signal from the MA consoles and the "fuzz" of other wifi traffic in the area. I do also use the option of VNC viewer on the iPad to a networked laptop for times when the MA remote is really struggling.

    This got me thinking, why not use TouchOSC, a fantastic interface, beautifully simplistic in it's design and a real opportunity to have a truly bespoke lighting controller. I am a Mac user and have seen how easily it interacts via TouchOSC Bridge with Traktor on my laptop, but was planning to test some things. I'm working in Prague at the moment, so don't have access to a good pc, only Parallels on my Mac, which annoyingly won't install the crucial TouchOSC Bridge software for some reason I can't fathom, but this is what I was proposing;

    TouchOSC, TouchOSC Bridge installed, Midi-Yoke installed, Mid2Key installed, MA onPC installed. The touchOSC app would send OSC commands which would then be translated to Midi by TouchOSC Bridge. Mid2Key would use a MidiYoke input & output to MA onPC (itself using a MidiYoke input).

    I was wandering, would the Mid2key software run ok with a MidiYoke input? This way I thought, you could use multiple screens on TouchOSC to control Executor faders and buttons using MA's Remote Midi Input, and via the mid2key patch have encoders and keyboard shortcuts from onPC. Any gaps in accessibility could be achieved with MA macros, triggered from the Remote Midi Inputs screens.

    Just wander what your thoughts are on this? I return to England in a couple of weeks so will have time to sit down at a pc and try it out.

    Many thanks


    Stephen
     
  18. Hacker

    Hacker Member

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    Hi Stephen,

    I usually work in small spaces, so I don't have much experience with MA remote, but one thing to consider trying is putting MAnet on its own dedicated network if it isn't already - you mentioned a lot of wifi "fuzz", so I'm not sure if you have lots of wireless traffic on one network (including MAnet) or if there are multiple wireless networks. Just from experience with networking protocols like MAnet, it sometimes helps to have its own network. It could also be a wireless router issue, if the signal coming from the consoles through the router are not reaching the iOS devices.

    Assuming that you've tried all that when you have MA remote issues, TouchOSC sounds like a good option as well. I've never used it personally, but it looks like a decent piece of software. The proposed setup appears to be good in theory, and Mid2Key shouldn't have any problem receiving and transmitting via MidiYoke. However, Mid2Key has limited functionality in converting message types, but if TouchOSC is generating MIDI note messages and your simply converting some of those to key presses and passing the rest through, it should work. If you need more functionality, you might want to try a more powerful MIDI translator like Bome's. Personally, I've been meaning to switch to Bome's, I just haven't had the time to make the switch and get it reconfigured. The downside is that its not free, though it's not too expensive (59 Euros), but the upside is much greater functionality.

    Of course, this is all in theory, but it seems sound to me. Let me know how it works out or if you have any more questions/comments/ideas!

    ~Hacker
     
  19. Roopdaloop

    Roopdaloop Member

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    Hey,
    I'm in film also in NZ and also running MA systems..
    I beat the MA remote problems with interference by running dedicated 5Ghz wireless On industrial wireless units (ubiquity loco m5s ,quite directional but strong!!),cutting above all the interference at 2.4 range ( Internet ,sound,Preston etc)
    I had the same problems before that..
    im just messing around with BCF for OnPc at the moment which we use for prerigging stages.
    i now want to develop a better "layout" on a remote tablet so any of my team can use it rather than the complicated deep menus of the MA remote..would be keen to hear anything you achieve as there's not many of us around!

    Reuben Morrison
    Wellington
    New Zealand
    Skype:roopdaloop
    [email protected]



     
  20. jdo

    jdo Member

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    Hello everyone,
    I'm fairly new to grandMA, I'm trying to set up MIDI with onPC2. I understand how to assign the notes to the controls in the grandma setup, but I'm struggling to get the signal into the program (at least, I think that's the problem). I've downloaded Midi Translator, Midi Yoke and Midi-OX. Midi-OX recognizes the signals from my keyboard (m-audio oxygen25), so I know that works. I'm still not sure how to configure this properly. Can anyone lay out the steps for me? Or at least refer me to a good resource? I've read through dozens of threads and no one really explains how to set up Midi Yoke, they just say "use Midi Yoke." What am I missing?

    On a side note, has anyone else experienced issues with Bome's Midi Translator closing/crashing when you minimize the window? I have win7 pro, so I might have to try running it in virtual PC.

    Thanks!
     

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