The Show 2013 Ableton Live Show Control

Screen Shot 2013-06-09 at 5.50.26 PMI can’t believe we just got done with The Show 2013, just doesn’t seem like another year has passed!  Will Doggett from and myself put together a video showing how we controlled everything for The Show.

Once again everything centered around Ableton Live and it worked great!  All 3 nights went very well considering the hundreds of cues that were happening.  Check it out!

Allen And Heath ME-1 Personal Mixing System

Screen shot 2013-02-01 at 6.57.33 PMGot some cool gadgets being announced at NAMM this year.  We’ve been looking at new personal mixing systems to upgrade our Aviom system.  The Roland caught our attention with it’s awesome ability to customize what inputs show up on what channel of the mixers.  Now Allen and Heath has a cool new system that looks very good and shares some of those features we liked.  Check out the video on their site, it’s just 2 minutes and walks through the highlights.

What stands out to me is the nice display for showing EQ and channel labels.  Ability to use their mixers on an Aviom network.  That would make upgrading easier and incremental if needed.  Ability to save to a jump drive is nice as well, no more having your preset recorded over.

Beyond that it’s like the Roland where you can group multiple inputs to one channel on the mixer.  This makes handling larger mixes very simple.  You can also set up each mixer with it’s own set of inputs custom to what each player needs.  Looks very promising!

First weekend with the Midas XL8

Well after a lot of planning and prep work we made the switch from our Soundcraft Series Five analog console to the Midas XL8 digital console.  This weekend marks the first complete weekend of services on the new board and everything worked great!  The sound we’re getting is a noticeable improvement and things aren’t even 100% dialed in yet.

The virtual sound check using the DN9696 recorder really helped make this a smooth transition.  Without it this weekend’s mix would have been really rough.  Rehearsal got cancelled this week due to the worship leader getting sick.  This left us with only a sound check on Saturday before service.  Talk about hitting the ground running!  Thanks to the virtual sound checks we did ahead of time things that usually take a long time (like drums) only took a few minutes.  How cool is that!

I did some quick number crunching and I estimate that our Soundcraft Series Five got us through nearly 5,000 events and services in its 15 years of use.  That’s pretty impressive!  Hopefully our Midas XL8 will give us the same kind of performance and reliability over the next 10+ years.


The picture to the right shows head audio engineer Michael Grosso at the Midas XL8.  This was right after soundcheck and we had gone down our checklist and knew everything was working for service.  Smooth transition was our goal and that’s what we got!

We’ve still got some house cleaning to do but even still we freed up a ton of space in the booth in the process of changing things around.  Some custom length cables will help clean up the clutter and really make the booth a nice place to be.

Midas XL8 Install Time Lapse

Screen shot 2013-01-04 at 9.14.55 PMSo this post combines two new things!  First, my CineMoco motorized camera track came in.  I’ll post some more on that later but I did use it to record our Midas XL8 install!

We have services in the main sanctuary on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays with rehearsals on Thursday nights.  This busy schedule meant that we had to get as much as possible done ahead of time before actually making the switch.  We did all of our patching, labeling, and wiring then recorded some services into the recorder to test and get familiar with the console.

We moved rehearsals from Thursday to Saturday to give us the most amount of time to make our swap.  All in all things went very well.  Between yesterday and today we totally dismantled the sound booth and put it back together again with the new console.  Most of the heavy lifting was done yesterday with today being line checks and starting to dial in tones.  So far all is well!  Tomorrow will be our first real rehearsal with this weekend being our first services with the XL8, exciting stuff!

I used the CineMoco and my Canon 7D to create a time lapse of the install from yesterday.  I didn’t record today because it would have just been us sitting at the console most of the time, ha ha.  Enjoy!

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.

The Midas XL8 Is Here

Well after a few weeks of assembly our Midas XL8 was shipped over from England and just arrived at our main campus in Fort Lauderdale last Friday!  We have just been spending a little time playing with the interface and getting a little more familiar with it.  It’s a really cool console with a ton of features and I think it’s going to serve us well for a long time!  This will be another thing that I’ll go into more detail with over time but I couldn’t resist sharing some pictures of the console.

It may be digital but it feels like an analog console, especially in the weight, ha ha.  Getting big heavy stuff into our booth is a little bit of a problem with our narrow door and tight turns.  There was no way that this 350 pound console was going to get carried in so we used one of our lifts as a crane to lift it up and over the wall, ha ha.  Fortunately the lift went smoothly and our console is now right at home inside of the booth where it should serve us well for the next 10 years or more!

Midas Pro2c Digital Console

In anticipation of our new Midas XL8 arriving the Midas reps were kind enough to drop of one of the XL8’s smaller brothers, the Pro2c.  We brought it in to test out some things and to refresh our memories with the software and layout.  Since all Midas digital consoles share the same software it makes going from one console to another pretty familiar.

Head on over to Midas’s site to get more information on the Pro2c.

Yamaha LS9 StageMix iPad App

The Yamaha LS9 is a great little console for the money.  For lots of venues this is a good entry level digital console that won’t break the bank.  If you’re familiar with the Yamaha M7CL and then go to an LS9 you will quickly notice some things that are missing though, mainly the touchscreen.  The StageMix iPad app for the LS9 goes a long way towards filling those gaps and making the console easier and quicker to use.

I’m not gonna go into too much detail on connecting the console to the iPad, Yamaha has good info on that.  I will say that it’s not very hard, you just need a wireless router then connect both the iPad and LS9 to the router.  Getting an N router or faster will help sync faster when you connect to the console.  We have multiple LS9’s and M7’s in different venues.  To help organize things we name the wireless network after each venue and then turn off the broadcast SSID feature just to help keep people off of the network.

Ok, enough of that stuff, ha ha.  Once you have the app talking to the console you’ll be able to remote control all kinds of stuff.  For the most part you can just dive right in and start playing around.  The app is very well designed, easy to use, and you can’t really hurt anything.

Since the LS9 only has a small screen and it’s not touchscreen I find myself using the iPad app for almost all EQ tweaking.  I find it a lot quicker and easier than using the controls on the console.  Then on the console’s screen I’ll typically tweak the dynamics settings.  Now between both screens I have just about everything I want to tweak for a given channel at my fingertips.

To make things even quicker to work with there’s a little setting that I turn on.  In the settings for the app are a couple of options for selecting channels.  I turn on the StageMix follows console mode.  Now when I have the EQ on the iPad and select a channel on the console that channel’s EQ pops up on the iPad.  Sounds simple but it’s a huge time saver and makes this console 10 times better to work with in my opinion.

Another thing that’s nice is loading and saving scenes through the app.  Typing on the LS9 is well, terrible, ha ha.  No touchscreen so that means using the arrow keys to select each letter one at a time, it’s really slow.  When you use the iPad app you get the iPad’s keyboard and wallah, way easier typing.  You might even take the time to actually add a comment, ha ha.  Not something you would bother doing through the LS9 controls unless you really had to.  Naming and color coding channels is also best done through the app.

I wanted to point out those features since that’s what I use the most.  During rehearsals I’ll walk the room and dial in the mix from outside the sound booth.  In the rooms that have stage wedges then the app is great for tweaking things from stage at the performer’s location.  We’ve done shows where there’s a FOH guy at the console and a monitor guy hanging out on stage with the app.  It works really well for that, you just have to be careful that you don’t foil each other.

I guess if the app had a flaw it’s that you can’t set it to a monitor mix only mode or something like that.  If you give someone else control from the app you just need to trust them and make sure that they don’t mess with your EQ or preamp gain.  The only other thing I can think of is that you can’t connect more than one iPad at a time.  If you could connect several iPad’s and assign each one to have just fader control of a monitor mix you would essentially have a complete personal monitoring system built into the console.  That’s not something they’re working towards though, at least not the last time I talked to Yamaha.  Oh well, can’t have everything!

Best part, the app is free!  There’s even a demo mode if you just want to play around and see the features without connecting to the console, check it out!

Ableton Live Lighting Control

So today we got some time to experiment with Ableton Live controlling our lighting console.  Basically the goal was to find a way to have Ableton control the lighting cues and trigger everything.  This way we have everything in sync and it’s all automated.

Today was time well spent.  We figured out all kinds of cool stuff that has really opened the doors wide open to all sorts of possibilities.  Basically we can now have Ableton be the center of control for the entire show, lights, media servers, lyrics, anything that can see MIDI!

The best part is that since it’s through Ableton we can still have the creative freedom to change tempos or repeat sections and everything will follow along.  So everything can be programmed but we can still be flexible, pretty rad!  This is a lot better than the other way around where Ableton chases another source and the performer can’t change anything on the fly.  Locked into a timecode that can’t speed up, slow down, or jump around.

For now here are just a couple of teaser videos.  Ableton was on one laptop outputting MIDI commands to our ETC ION console.  The the ION was outputting DMX over ARTnet to another laptop running Light Converse visualization software.  We’ll make another video explaining things in more detail at some point.  For now this shows a couple of lighting looks mapped to MIDI notes that could be played live or played from the timeline.  You can just imagine where this could lead with some more time to plan out looks!

Interesting Setup For Synchronizing Music, Lights, And Sound

My friend Will Doggett from sent this video to me a few weeks ago.  With all that’s been going on I just got a chance to watch it and it’s pretty cool.

Music, Lights, Sound

Basically they pulled off a pretty unique way of syncing everything together with the music in a preprogrammed way but the trick is that the artist still has creative freedom to change tempos, repeat sections, whatever he wants.  So there’s the precision of a preprogrammed show without locking the artist into a setup that can’t be changed.  Pretty impressive stuff!