Remote Control of Phone Flashlights?

Adam Brunetti

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Mar 5, 2015
Location
Rhode Island, USA
Hey guys, I'm designing a high school production of "In The Heights". We're starting work on "Blackout" and it opens with the kids using their phone flashlights in a choreographed dance until I bring in some top light. Is there some sort of app, or way for me to bring up their lights from the board or through an OSC command from QLab? Just to remove the clunkiness and awkwardness of them all having to take out the phone, and turn it on or off.

Thanks!
 
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Calc

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Jan 26, 2004
Location
Mid-Michigan
I'd look in to something with the Tasker app. I'm not sure that it'd tie in to an OSC setup, but I know it can be set to turn on/off the flashlight upon a whole bunch of triggers, i.e. receiving a text from a certain number, or even pushing one of the volume buttons. It'd make it much easier for the actors to do it discreetly.

Can Qlab open web pages? You could set up something like this:
  1. Qlab opens webpage
  2. IFTTT receives web trigger, sends text to phones
  3. Phones receive text, tasker turns on/off light.
This does still rely on both cloud services and cell signals, though. I've never had problems with any of the services mentioned, but I'd want to test the setup extensively to make sure it works. Due to the cell link it'll likely behave differently once you have a crowd present too, so I'd want a backup plan.
 

Les

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Feb 24, 2004
Location
DFW, Tx.
I did a production of ITH a few years ago and they just did it manually. I see your point in wanting to automate the process but the actors didn't have any trouble at all. It looked really natural.

The only exception is not knowing how tight your choreo is. Ours was designed to look somewhat like a hectic free-for-all so it worked well for us.
 
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Adam Brunetti

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Mar 5, 2015
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Rhode Island, USA
I'd look in to something with the Tasker app. I'm not sure that it'd tie in to an OSC setup, but I know it can be set to turn on/off the flashlight upon a whole bunch of triggers, i.e. receiving a text from a certain number, or even pushing one of the volume buttons. It'd make it much easier for the actors to do it discreetly.

Can Qlab open web pages? You could set up something like this:
  1. Qlab opens webpage
  2. IFTTT receives web trigger, sends text to phones
  3. Phones receive text, tasker turns on/off light.
This does still rely on both cloud services and cell signals, though. I've never had problems with any of the services mentioned, but I'd want to test the setup extensively to make sure it works. Due to the cell link it'll likely behave differently once you have a crowd present too, so I'd want a backup plan.
Awesome, thanks! Luckily the show isn't until April so I have some time. I start my tour in January, so I try to get most of the details ironed out before heading out. I'll look into an IFTTT solution!
 
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Adam Brunetti

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Mar 5, 2015
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Rhode Island, USA
I did a production of ITH a few years ago and they just did it manually. I see your point in wanting to automate the process but the actors didn't have any trouble at all. It looked really natural.

The only exception is not knowing how tight your choreo is. Ours was designed to look somewhat like a hectic free-for-all so it worked well for us.
Oh believe me, I'd LOVE to have them do it manually. Lol the director is asking for an alternative, just in case we need it. Haha

She's doing full choreographed phone dances- 4 groups, each turning on on certain beats. (Which looks absolutely beautiful).

Good thing I have some time. Haha
 
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Calc

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Mid-Michigan
She's doing full choreographed phone dances- 4 groups, each turning on on certain beats. (Which looks absolutely beautiful).
I like the visual, but I don't think it'd be responsive enough for that. It'll hit within a second or two (I was thinking during applause at the end of the song), but you're not going to be hitting beats with anything routed through the cloud.
 

Adam Brunetti

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Mar 5, 2015
Location
Rhode Island, USA
I like the visual, but I don't think it'd be responsive enough for that. It'll hit within a second or two (I was thinking during applause at the end of the song), but you're not going to be hitting beats with anything routed through the cloud.
I hear ya. I figured I'd check on here, cause if anyone had a solution, it would be someone on here
 
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sk8rsdad

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Wouldn't it be easier (and less expensive if they are dropped) to get the props department to make phone-shaped flashlights? Then you could use whatever wireless LED driver you like.
 

Adam Brunetti

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Mar 5, 2015
Location
Rhode Island, USA
Wouldn't it be easier (and less expensive if they are dropped) to get the props department to make phone-shaped flashlights? Then you could use whatever wireless LED driver you like.
Oh I wish I had any kind of budget for that. Or... a props department.
I'm Lighting Designer, Sound Designer, Set Designer, Stage Manager, and Production Manager. This school department is very, VERY slowly starting to put any sort of effort into funding the arts. But for now, I gotta work with what I have/ what I can do when I'm not on other gigs.
 
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MNicolai

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The kids are using their own phones. No budget needed
"No budget needed" -- wait until one of your cast members accidentally throws their phone in the pit or falls on their butt during rehearsal and you're on the hook for $1000.
 
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Adam Brunetti

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Mar 5, 2015
Location
Rhode Island, USA
"No budget needed" -- wait until one of your cast members accidentally throws their phone in the pit or falls on their butt during rehearsal and you're on the hook for $1000.
It's a high school performance. You know how many times I fell onstage when I was a student there? Or fell offstage? Sprained my wrist? That was on me. I'm simply brought on to design their shows. If anything, it would be the school department's insurance.
 
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MNicolai

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Just sayin' -- if the school expects students to use their own phones on stage it is not without risk, and the responsibility for reimbursing any damages should be on the school. Naturally, they will deny such responsibility if something happened putting a pox on everyone's houses that parents would blame the school for.

"I'm simply brought onto design their shows" is a cop out. It's a lighting effect. You're the lighting designer. Phones cost between $500-1200 these days. Take a little ownership of the problem and get the director to fork over $75 to shove some LED's, batteries, and switches in some bargain bin phone cases with some resin or a hunk of wood and some hot glue and get a few students to bang something out in an hour.

Solves your accidental damage issue and also the risk of backstage theft issue in one fell swoop.
 
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Chase P.

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Location
San Francisco
I'll bet the students' families have among them enough retired phones to make the production work. Added benefit, if you can run a clean install on them, and connect them to a single, dedicated wifi network, whatever app you choose to operate them is likely to be far more stable. I've had problems with my phone defaulting to a lighting network or some such when the primary one I use drops signal.
 

alich

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Dec 14, 2017
Location
Chicago
We just did this a few months ago, go to goodwill/walmart and get the cheapest most mid 2000s phones you can get. As long as they charge you'll be okay. If you cue the blackout right you can get away with the ambient light from the screens being enough.
 

gafftaper

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I realize it's not in the OP's budget, but I'm curious how it works on Broadway. Seems like they would have used a phone shaped box, with a battery, lamp and wireless DMX receiver to turn it on and off. @RC4 Sean did you guys at RC4 do the phones for In the Heights? Anything you can tell us about how they worked?