LIghting a musical with older stuff: Timecode, MSC from audio player, software, etc

Uncle Dirtnap

Active Member
Background: Small community theatre, a venerable ETC Express 24/48, and a big musical. I am experienced but rusty - I was a lighting design major in college in the mid 90s, and jsut been getting back into it.

Basically, I want to set timecode events to go along with the music. The easiest was seems to be to find a way to send MSC commands to my ETC Express from whatever system I am using to trigger the sound cues using pre recorded background tracks.

Does this sound viable? Seems much better than the time I manually did 100+ cue show to a song with intricate wait times back in the day. That took forever.

If it is viable, I'm not sure what software I would need for that. QLab seems possible, but that would mean I am dragging my iMac from home :D. Budget is minimal, of course.

This will make light board op job very, very boring, but better than the alternative.

thank you all in advance for your wisdom.

Uncle Dirtnap

Active Member
That was what I was thinking, and it's wonderful to have confirmation- now to figure out the best software to create and play timecodes along with the wav file....


Renting to Corporate One Fixture at a Time.
Venue Magic is the PC version that I recommend to do this. Just plug in a usb to midi from PC to console and read up on what notes do what for the express and you are off to the races.


Well-Known Member
Just wondering.

Why not simply write your cues, and gave an operator push the go button at the right time. I have not seen a musical yet that runs cues exactly the same each night. You might want to hold for applause. An actor will fluff lines. an actor doing a visual cue that needs a special might be late with the music. IE you will need a board operator. If they are any good they can learn when to take the cue ( assuming you don’t have a stage manager calling the show)

what are you gaining by automating your cue timing?

Uncle Dirtnap

Active Member
I completly agree with you in most cases- I'm only thinking of automating the cue timing within the musical numbers. Since we are using background tracks, it would allow me to do a large amount of cues exactly with the music. Oftentimes that is very reliant if the skill and musicality of the board op, and I don't know who I am going to have yet.

Outside of the numbers, it would be normal and rely on the judgement of the board op.


Lighting Programmer
I have not seen a musical yet that runs cues exactly the same each night.
Many shows run on orchestra click tracks, which allow sync between lighting/video/sound/orchestra. Yes, people across all departments make errors but this is incredibly common now in commercial theatre.

Just because you're running timecode doesn't mean you can't have manually triggered things while that's running :)

Users who are viewing this thread