TETA Laptop Software

RiskyWaves

Member
Joined
Jan 14, 2005
Location
Corps Christi
Heres the deal, I just bought a brand new laptotp for the purpose of controling conventional lights in multiple theaters as my company travels for the sake of competition and such. We have TETA coming up in 2 weeks, and there will be a director there that I want to get in good with. Kelly Russel from Chorpus Christi A&M. Hopefully I can pull of some scholarships and stuff.
What is the best software on the market for the price, that makes controlling conventionals a breeze. All I'm really working with is ellipsoids, frenels, starpars, colored lights, and maybe a fog machine. You know llike a sytstem that is very portable and can be plugged in anywhere. I also like the idea of 3d design and stuff but thats just a frill, I need the basics right now. I have to set up two shows to run in two different auditoriums, in 2 weeks. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Thanks, Josh
 

len

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 23, 2004
Location
Chicagoland
There's a bunch of dmx software, from Elation, Martin, High End, Sunlite, and some others. However, they all need a dongle (something that converts USB to dmx) and that can cost a few hundred to over $1000. I'm not crazy about running dimmers with them, since you have to do everything either pre-programmed, or control one channel at a time. There are a couple hardware interfaces (Martin's is called Fingers) which are another $500 - $900. That works fine, but $1500+ seems like a lot of money to run conventionals when a small Leprecon or NSI 16 channel can do somewhat the same for a lot less. One alternative would be to call around and see if you could rent the dongle. The software can be downloaded any time, and you can run it, you just can't run any actual lights with it. I don't know of any software that runs straight Multiplex.
 

SuperCow

Active Member
Joined
Apr 21, 2004
Location
St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada
If you want 3D design, then you'll need to go with Martin Show Designer, or a similar product that Rosco makes, but I forget what it's called.

I agree, go with a smaller board from Zero88 or Leprecon for that sort of application. All that money on a DMX dongle could be better spent if all you're controlling is conventionals.
 

len

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 23, 2004
Location
Chicagoland
Simon is right about MSD. Most of the software I mentioned have a visualizer, not a 3d designer. The difference is that the visualizer is a program that shows you what the lights are doing based on what you create in the program. A program like MSD alllows actual design in 3d and then puts it back into the control interface.

Personally, I never use the visualizer in LightJockey. I find that even with the visualizer, the fixtures aren't going to be exactly as I position them in the visualizer anyway, so when I get to the show, I still have to do some focusing. Plus, I have a bunch of generic stage looks already, that get tweaked during set-up. In fact, on average I spend about 30 minutes doing pre-show programming anymore. The rest of the pre-show time I spend watching dvds while the sound guys tweak the system. :)
 

avkid

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Fight Leukemia
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Feb 17, 2004
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Lakewood, NJ
Rosco Horizon is fairly easy to use, and should work well for your intended application.
 

RiskyWaves

Member
Joined
Jan 14, 2005
Location
Corps Christi
Thanks for all the replies! This has to be a personal record or something! Hmmm well I really don't have that kind of money to drop into anything. I think I will just go traditional this time around. It doesnt seem that I have to many other options. Besides I just learned that one of the shows is a lights up / lights off type of show, I'll just make an actor Padawon to do it for me. My director is all about Actors learning tech, hince me sitting on my but and making sure they dont screw up. The other show we have done already earlier this year, and i'll just run it old fashion with cues and stuff, lol.
I'll wait till I find out what the colege I want to go to uses for lights, and maybe "barrow" some equiptment from them when I get there. Although it would be nice to intigrate sound and light cues into one interface "my lap top", before next year. I wonder if they sell any DMX dongles on ebay? If they do are the dongles interchangeable?



Thanks, Josh
 

DJErik07

Active Member
Joined
Nov 13, 2004
Location
MA/ NC
I looked on ebay today and the only dongles I could find were audio recording, no lighting. I have been looking there for a while now. If anyone else knows where to get one cheep, let me know. I am looking for a cheep one just like RiskyWaves.

Thanks
 

Andy_Leviss

Active Member
Premium Member
Joined
Dec 26, 2004
Location
NYC
They're not always going to be called dongles. Try looking for the terms USB and DMX, or, if HogPC is your game (that's what our head elec uses to run the shows on the Sesame St. Live tour I'm out with right now), try searching for some combination of HogPC, dmx, usb, and widget.
 

Andy_Leviss

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Premium Member
Joined
Dec 26, 2004
Location
NYC
Yes, but then you have to convert USB to MIDI to DMX. Why waste the money and the extra piece of gear to break.

Plus you need software that supports it properly, and all the lighting software is designed to work with USB DMX dongles (well, many also talk to MIDI, just as regular consoles do; for example, on SSL, I send SMPTE timecode to a SMPTE to MTC converter, which is then connected to a MIDI interface on the laptop that's running HogPC, which runs the show in sync to the timecode, outputting the proper data over 2 universes of DMX).
 

scarlco

Member
Joined
Jan 16, 2005
Location
Las Vegas, NV
Agreed. The right piece of equipment for the job would be the way to go. Just presenting an alternative, if you want to go the two-thousand-pieces-of-equipment-to-do-one-thing route. :)
 

len

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 23, 2004
Location
Chicagoland
There are a couple LightJockey dongles on ebay at the moment. It's the pci or isa version, which is a hard card and won't fit in a laptop. But search by the brand name of the software and you'll have more luck. I haven't seen a Hog PC widget on in a long time. Very seldom are any of them on ebay, except by retailers. Once people have one, they don't let go of them. Resale value is very high, almost near retail. So if you do buy one, you probably won't ever lose money on it. Most of the retailers don't stock them, they just have them drop shipped from the mfg. because it's cheaper than tieing that money up in inventory.

As for using one brand with a different company software, been tried by many with no luck.
 

SketchyCroftPpl

Active Member
Joined
Dec 28, 2004
Location
Near Worcester, Mass
SO basically what all that lets you do is write everything into your laptop and then plug into the DMX line going to the dimmers by using the dongle and then you can control everything from your laptop? Thats pretty cool. I wonder though how well does it work exactly considering that it is a laptop not a light board and the keys are designed for typing not controling lights. How easy is it in any of those to change whats going on say mid show? I know that on a regular board if you had to you just bring up another light but is there a way to do it in this?
~Nick
 

len

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Joined
Oct 23, 2004
Location
Chicagoland
SketchyCroftPpl said:
SO basically what all that lets you do is write everything into your laptop and then plug into the DMX line going to the dimmers by using the dongle and then you can control everything from your laptop?
Exactly. There's Martin LightJockey, HES HogPC, Elation Compuware, SunliteDMX, and a bunch of others that I can't remember. I saw one on ebay, dongle and everything, for $100. But I tried it and the software totally sucked, and crashed twice. LightJockey has never crashed for me in 8 years of using it.

SketchyCroftPpl said:
Thats pretty cool. I wonder though how well does it work exactly considering that it is a laptop not a light board and the keys are designed for typing not controling lights.
You can download the HogPC or Marting LJ software and try them for yourself. I think Elation you can too. You just can't control any actual lights with them. The upside of these types of controller is that for moving lights it's very easy to make movement macros and stuff, as the interface is very windows based, especially with LJ. It's really an amazing tool, the more you know about it. I'm still learning stuff and I do an average of 2 shows a week that are different every week of the year. The downside is that conventionals are very difficult to do on the fly. You have to open a dimmer pack, and bring up each fader with the mouse, individually. There's an add-on product called Fingers, which as 12 faders that can be used like a conventional board.

SketchyCroftPpl said:
How easy is it in any of those to change whats going on say mid show? I know that on a regular board if you had to you just bring up another light but is there a way to do it in this?
~Nick
As above, conventionals aren't easy to run off the base LJ program. But there's add ons you can get. For example, I use a touch screen monitor in addition to the computer. That screen has a button matrix which is a built in feature of LJ, to call cues, cuelists, etc. during the show. Then the notebook screen has the individual attribute windows of the fixtures on it. So if I want to change one fixture or a bunch of fixtures to green, I just highlight those fixtures, and click on green and it's done. I also use the fingers desk to run the dimmers. As most of the shows I do are live music, I only have 4 - 8 dimmer channels (I may have 24 - 96 pars and lekos, but most of them are doubled up) and I use the moving lights for the ballyhoo stuff and effects.

Obviously, all the add ons can bump up the price. My computer was $1100, the LJ dongle for 512 channels was $1200. A 1024 channel pcmcia dongle is about $1800. A touch screen can run $500 - $900, and the Fingers console is about $900. So LJ can be quite expensive. The upside is that I can sit in my house and create an entire show for someone with no lights hooked up. Then I walk into the venue an hour before curtain, set some focus and some static positions and I'm done. Plus, I can write new cues as I go along, changing, and updating, and saving new stuff as I make it up, during the show.

And no, Martin doesn't pay me for the endorsements (unfortunately).
 

Inaki2

Active Member
Joined
Nov 27, 2003
Location
Chicago, Illinois
Well, yeah! Most of the times when you're working offline you need some sort of plot of the venue where you'll be working. It involves some pre production.
 

len

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 23, 2004
Location
Chicagoland
SketchyCroftPpl said:
How can you do that though? I mean setting up the show beforehand with no lights? Do you just e-mail the people or the theatre and ask them what lights and colors and everything so that you know what you have to work with?
~Nick
At the level I'm working, concert production is different than theatrical stuff. The talent doesn't have as much input into the lighting and sound, and it's just a matter of setting up cues in terms of mover position, movement, and focus. Plus, there isn't weeks of rehearsals for tech to get the cues right before the tour starts. I usually have a few days notice of a show, which is usually a one-off, or a corporate thing. Most of the time, I don't even know what type of music they play, the band line-up, or even whether they speak English or not. So I have all my cues and stuff saved in a library, and make minor changes based mostly on the venue and the rig involved. The rest gets made up of either stuff you've done before, or stuff you can make up on the fly. Whereas, a stage production, no matter whether high school or a full equity production, has a script, and tech work done during rehearsals, prior to opening.
 

scarlco

Member
Joined
Jan 16, 2005
Location
Las Vegas, NV
Actually.... we don't have much time at all. The LD doesn't see the blocking until Monday night / Tuesday morning, and we open to the public on Thursday morning. We don't 'officially' have a preview period, but the advanced lighting setup isn't usually 100% until the following Thursday, which is what we call 'press night'. I have to commend out LD, he does great work in such a short time.

And btw - we change shows every three months or so, always closing on a Saturday night and opening on a Thursday matinee. Quite the hectic period for all. 8O
 

Inaki2

Active Member
Joined
Nov 27, 2003
Location
Chicago, Illinois
Winging things....ahhh...memories..oh wait, I still do that! I've programmed stuff on Light Jockey in 20mins, not ideal conditons at all....but it get funny after a while!