Tag Archives: qlab

Projector Animations

Wireframe-OE-(0;00;00;00)For Not So Silent Night this year we played around with using a projector as a light source.  We took a 17,000 lumen projector, put it upstage center, and faced it towards the audience.  With the room hazed out we were able to create some pretty sweet animations.  Stuff you just can’t do with a normal moving light.

We used Qlab since it is a very reliable media player and the new version adds a lot of on the fly controls for manipulating content.  It’s also controllable from a variety of ways, MIDI notes, keyboard shortcuts, MIDI Show Control, iPad app, lots of options.  This made it easy to add into our Ableton show control rig.

We loaded up some content into Qlab and tried full color, complex stuff along with black and white, really simple stuff.  We started to find that the simpler the better since we’re trying to discern images in mid-air using haze.  The more negative space in the image, the easier it was to read.

Think of your moving lights.  The gobos that give the most distinct beams are typically the least busy ones.  The really busy gobos may look good on the ground or wall as a texture but probably don’t look as good in the air through haze generally speaking.  Instead of individual beams you can end up with a frosted look.

Not that all colored content look bad, color bars through the air actually looked really cool, ha ha.  I was really interested in beams for this show so white graphics with a black background seemed to work best.  This gave us the most contrast possible for the beams to cut through.

White is also easy to color correct into other colors.  Take away green and you’re left with magenta for example.  Taking away a color from white to change the look is way easier than creating content in a specific color and then trying to get white instead.

After seeing what worked and what we liked I created some simple stuff in After Effects.  Things rendered nice and fast since they were so simple.  Creating everything ourselves also gave us full control over the look.  Searching through stock content is sometimes more work than just creating stuff yourself if you know what you want.

Below is what we made.  I’m pretty sure we didn’t use everything but we wanted lots of options.  Feel free to rip them from YouTube and play around with a projector you may have lying around.  You don’t need 17,000 lumens (but it helps, ha ha) you can try it out with a smaller projector just to see the effect.

I think that my favorite effect was the small dots falling.  This created an awesome starry, twinkly, kinda look.  We actually used it on a song where it was the only light in the whole room and it was great.

The moving line was probably my second favorite.  Real laser like effect waving around.  The OE logos came out nice too.  Always cool when you can incorporate a little branding into the effects.

Audio Dots
Audio Lines
Circle Dots 1
Circle Dots 2
Line
OE Wall
Lines
Moving Line
Snow 2
Snow 1
Snowy Dots
Squiggles

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.

QLab for Audio, Lighting, and Video Control

So if you saw the other post about QLab you’ll know that we love it for track editing and playback of audio for shows. Recently we were playing around with some of the other features.

We were trying different options for controlling our lighting console from Ableton Live. We managed to get Ableton to output MIDI time code (through an in between program) and have our ETC ION console chase it. I’ll make another post about how we got that to work.

After some playing around with that setup we opened up QLab. QLab has native support for all kinds of timing and MIDI options. Using QLab we were able to simultaneously send time code to Ableton to track and play audio and send MIDI show control to the lighting console to “go” on the the cues. Basically we found that it would be pretty easy to set up QLab to be the center of control for everything. Hit one “go” button and trigger Ableton, lighting, the built in audio playback, built in video playback, just about anything!

Mainly we were testing sync’d playback from Ableton which is actually pretty easy. Either have the lighting console and Ableton both track to time code. Or have Ableton track time code and the lighting console track MIDI show control. Both options mean we can have our lighting cues precisely mapped out and repeatable all with the touch of a button.

And since you can set up multiple devices we were able to send MIDI timecode internally to Ableton and externally to our lighting console at the same time at different timecodes is we wanted to. This means if we needed to offset the timing to one or the other it’s pretty simple. So if you programmed a bunch of cues to a certain timecode range, but then had to change it in Ableton for some reason, it wouldn’t be a big deal, just offset the times.

I can’t wait for the next show where we need this kind of precision. By linking Ableton directly to the lighting console, or controlling both Ableton and the lighting console from QLab, we’ll have all the control we need! One “go” button and everything will sync up perfectly, pretty cool!

For more info on all of these products check out the manufacturer’s sites.

Ableton Live

ETC ION

Figure 53’s QLab

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

QLab Live Show Control

I learned about QLab during a trip to New York.  QLab is used all over Broadway for audio playback on lots of shows.  It’s pretty simple to use and set up but at the same time is fairly sophisticated.

Set up is pretty straightforward.  You drag and drop placeholders for audio tracks, fade cues, whatever you need.  You number the cues to however you want.  Cues can be grouped and set up to trigger in a sequence or at the same time, just about anything you need.

We’ve used it for several shows now and it’s great.  No more burning CD’s for music and FX just to make a change and burn another disc.  Unlike just playing back from iTunes Qlab gives you a ton of control.  You get lots of track editing options so you can do all your playback and editing in one program.  The only thing it can’t do with audio is EQ, which is a little bit of a bummer but it’s not the end of the world.

It can also do all kinds of other stuff like video playback, live camera feeds, MIDI playback, MIDI show control, timecode, and more.  Crazy part is that it’s actually free if you just want basic audio playback.  Then you have the option to purchase it for more features or even rent it by the day.  Really cool.

Go ahead and download it and play around!