Tag Archives: propresenter

2013-12-14 21.33.01

Not So Silent Night 2013

2013-12-14 21.33.01It’s that time of the year!  2013 is ending with a bang here at Calvary.  Lots of big events leading up to Christmas!

One of these December events is Oceans Edge School of Worship’s Not So Silent Night.  This is their annual Christmas concert and it’s the first big concert of the school year.  It’s the students time to apply what they have learned so far and push themselves.

For us on staff it’s a chance to try and do some new and cool things on the tech side.  We pretty much get free reign with all the toys we have at our disposal, ha ha.  This year I got to try something I’ve been wanting to try for a long time, using a projector as a moving light.

We happened to have a spare projector that’s pretty bright, 17,000 lumens!  We positioned this upstage and shot it forward over the stage and over most of the audience.  With lots of haze in the air the results were some pretty awesome beams that were very laser like if we wanted that effect.

Since it was a projector (and not a gobo in a light) we could put out any content we wanted.  Anything white on a black background looked like nice sharp beams cutting through the air.  The results were really cool and couldn’t be done with a moving light or even a laser.  It also allowed us to project words that were actually readable in the air which was really cool.

The projector provided some very high tech kinda looks.  To contrast that we used a lot more conventionals than we normally do.  We had a flown row and a ground based row of pars which we used as audience blinders.  We also had 10 lekos with gobos spread throughout the room to put out some nice, warm, beams.

Between the usual intelligents we have, the projector, and all the additional conventional lights we had lots of options.  I like to try and create variety to keep things from getting repetitive.  Even if something is only used on one song I think it’s worth the effort.

We also had fun with other effects.  Lots of haze (of course), plus low lying fog from a pair of Martin Glaciators, and confetti cannons.  Our rigging system had a lot of cues, bringing lights up and down for different looks.  Plus some different flown backdrop elements that the students created which flew in and out.

Another cool element was some “screens” made out of recycled pallet wood.  This gave a stylized look to all of the projections.  Not everything looked great on it with the texture but once we found the right content it was a cool look.  We purposely left some gaps between the panels so that a light could be put behind the screens and shine through.  this create beams through the cracks and gave us more options.

Once again we made Ableton Live our master control for all click, loop, ProPresenter lyrics, lighting, and projection.  One machine ran Ableton, another ran the two side screens with ProPresenter, a third computer ran Qlab for the stage projection that faced the audience, lastly out ETC Ion controlled lights.

A combination of MIDI notes and MIDI show control was used for all of these commands.  Some devices were hardwired and some were sent commands over our WiFi network using Apple’s built in MIDI over Ethernet.  An iPad with Qlab’s remote app was our backup control for the projector on stage.  Everything worked great!

This seems like a lot of extra work but in the end it’s actually less work.  Start one machine and several follow in perfect harmony.  It also let us hit cues that just aren’t practical when everything is human controlled.  We had lots of hits on specific notes that were hit perfectly every time with this system.

We had two sold out nights in our theatre and it was a lot of work but a lot of fun.  Now it’s time to get ready for our main Christmas outreach service in the BB&T center!  Load in starts tomorrow, I’ll be sure and post some info on that as well!

Check out Oceans Edge’s Instagram for some more pictures.  I’ll post some more pictures and videos as soon as I can.

Screen shot 2012-12-16 at 5.56.45 PM

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.

greenhippohd

Media Servers

As we go down the road of environmental projection it’s relatively easy to add some projectors.  It’s a lot harder to to get something to reliably feed the projectors the video content.  We have gone through a few different setups at this point.  I’ll run through what we’ve done so far and go over some details of each.

ProPresenter
We started with ProPresenter running from a MacBook Pro.  This gives you a lot of options for a reasonable price.  At our campus we have a site license for the software so that was the best place to start.

ProPresenter worked fairly well. If you have an iPhone or iPad you can remote control ProPresenter to trigger the videos.  It can struggle with some formats or higher res videos though even on a fairly powerful machine.

ProVideoPlayer
Then we needed to trigger some videos at precise times.  Videos with lyrics for example need to be timed right or they’ll look pretty silly, ha ha.  ProVideoPlayer lets us trigger video clips through MIDI.  We used this feature to receive signals from Ableton Live.  I’ll go more in-depth with this setup in another post.

Once set up the videos are just playing along with the click track and when everything works right.  You have videos triggering automatically and it’s great.  This extra level of control allowed us to take our videos to the next level.  Timing things out with verses and choruses adds that extra level of production that really pays off.

Both ProPresenter and ProVideoPlayer are packed with a lot of features for the money and really are great tools.  Both are limited by your hardware though. The framerate and resolution of your videos will be limited at some point.  They’re good options but they’re not as good as dedicated media servers with custom software and hardware.

Green Hippo Hippotizer HD
This leads us to the Hippo. In order to play back true 1920 x 1080 HD content perfectly you really need a media server.  There are a few options out there but the one that seems to be leading the pack is the Green Hippo Hippotizer HD.  It’s used all over the place, big award shows, the Super Bowl, some of those singing competition shows, lots of stuff.

Once you step to a real media server you gain tons of features.  Rock steady playback is just the beginning.  Now you can manipulate your content in real time.  Speed up, slow down, change color, apply filters that completely change the look, etc.

Rarely will you have a large wall that’s perfectly flat.  Most stage walls have angles and curves that will distort your projection.  With some abstract motion graphics that not really a big deal but once you start showing any kind of natual landscapes or text you want a goemetrically correct image.  The Hippo provides all the warping tools you’ll ever need to correct for any shape surface you want to project on.

There’s also the image blending tools needed to blend any number of screens together in any arrangement.  So you can create a seemless image with multiple projectors side by side, top and bottom, or a combination of both.

Media servers can also control lighting fixtures.  The most common use for this is controlling static LED fixtures.  So if you have LED fixtures throughout the stage and you want them to always match the looks of the videos you can do that pretty easily.  Just map everything out in the software and it does the rest

Now with all these features comes some more complexity and there’s a little bit of a learning curve with a media server comepared to the simpler software only options.  I got to demo the Hippo and without and real training I was able to load my media and get things playing back.  The more advanced features will take some more work but loading and playing media is pretty simple even though it’s a powerful device.

It’s because of all these features that we will be going with a dedicated media server when we finally install our environmental projection system.  We will need all of the screen warping and image blending features to create a seemless image across our curved rear wall using multiple projectors.

All of the media server features come at a cost, they’re typically fairly expensive gadgets.  The Green Hippo’s range from about $7,000 up to almost $50,000.  Coolux has their Pandora’s Box media server and they have a software package that start’s under $1,000, that’s another option to check out.  You’ll have to weigh out what project you’re working on and what features you can and can’t live without and find what’s right for you.  Between ProPresenter, ProVideoPlayer, Green Hippo, Coolux, and even QLab you have a lot of options.

Links

ProPresenter and ProVideoPlayer

Green Hippo

Coolux

QLab