Ableton Live Controlling Lighting, Video, and Lyrics

Hey guys, we just got done with a week of rehearsals and shows for Oceans Edge’s Not So Silent Night.  Everything went great!  In this show we tried out some new ideas that we haven’t done in a show yet.  The biggest one being some pretty heavy automation thanks to Ableton Live and MIDI.

We ended up with Ableton Live sending out MIDI commands to our lighting console for lighting cues.  To another machine running ProVideoPlayer for videos on our stage screen.  Then to yet another machine with ProPresenter for lyrics which was a master for two other machines running ProPresenter in slave mode connected to our side screens.  We didn’t have video cabling to those areas so we wirelessly connected to them.

In the end Ableton Live on one machine was triggering a grand total of five other machines running different programs and performing different tasks.  All through MIDI and MIDI Show Control.  Pretty cool stuff!  This allowed us to have the precision of automated cues but unlike timecode we could easily change the order of cues, repeat cues, skip cues, change the tempo, all things that timecode is too rigid to do well and simply.

This involved some testing and extra work on the front end but resulted in a better show that was very easy to run.  We only ended up with about 100 lighting cues, about 5-10 were manually triggered.  If Ableton Live wasn’t triggering most of the lighting it would have been at least 175-200 cues.  This is because we used Ableton Live to repeat cues (for easier programming) and trigger presets saved to our submasters that could then be triggered as individual lighting cues or looks.

Just like you can hit the bump buttons to make the submasters go Ableton Live can do the same thing through MIDI Show Control commands.  So one song that would have been 50-100 cues was simply 23 presets triggered remotely in different arrangements.  This even allowed us to divide up the programming between several people.  I was able to focus on lighting looks and programming the lighting console while other people carefully placed cues into Ableton Live to trigger the lights.

Connectivity was pretty simple as well.  In fact only the lighting console itself had a physical MIDI cable plugged into it.  The rest of the machines received MIDI commands over the network using Apple’s Audio MIDI setup that’s built into the OS.  We have used this a lot and it has proved to be very reliable provided that you have a good network connection and not a lot of network congestion.  We created our our network just for these machines in order to make sure everything worked as fast as possible.  Everything in the lighting booth was hard wired together and the two remote machines connected over the wireless N WifI network.  This worked very well.

My buddy WIll Doggett and I put together this short video where he walks through the setup.  Ignore the messy lighting booth, ha ha.

2 thoughts on “Ableton Live Controlling Lighting, Video, and Lyrics

  1. hey, wanting to start using ableton live at church, for multiple song do u just use one long clip or is it a whole bunch of different clips, also do u have a whole bunch of hot Keys and midi keys for all of ur locators??
    thanks heaps
    dan

    1. Hi Dan,

      I’ll get Will over here for a more in-depth reply. I do know that we used multiple clips for the songs, not one long clip. This gives us the ability to repeat sections of songs if needed.

      The great part is that if we repeat a clip, all the lighting, video, and ProPresenter cues will repeat with it. So any structure changes to a song like cutting or adding verses and choruses don’t require any reprogramming of lights, video, or ProPresenter cues. Very cool!

      For this show I don’t think we relied on a lot of hot keys but I could be wrong. One person was just running Ableton since it was a pretty complex show and lots of people switching out on stage.

      Hope that helps!
      Rich

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