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Author Topic: RGB Lighting Strips controlled through ableton live  (Read 544 times)

aaron mattson

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RGB Lighting Strips controlled through ableton live
« on: February 27, 2017, 09:33:43 pm »

Hi there everybody!

First post and im hoping to get some helpful insight.

I've been drafted by my band to be in charge of getting a simple, but effective lighting setup going for our live shows. We already run some percussion and little things audio wise on a backtrack live through ableton live, and id like to run preprogrammed lighting off a midi channel while we play. Im including a screen shot of our live set to help paint the picture below. We've got an audio track sending the backing track to front of house, and audio track sending a different mix to our drummer drew, a midi channel utilizing clyphx to change tempo on the metronome for each song, and a place holder midi channel where i want a midi clip for each song with the custom light show.


Im looking at these led rgb lighting stips you can buy on ebay or anywhere really.
http://www.ebay.com/itm/2-5M-SMD-RGB-5050-Waterproof-LED-Strip-light-300-44-Key-Remote-12V-Supply-Power-/381465433704?hash=item58d11c9668:g:kOYAAOSwqfNXjlgG

My end goal is something to this extent: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NhOxCGzSEYw

Something custom and interesting. Granted i know a light show of that caliber will take some sitting down and time to make.

We're looking at having 4 strips mounted vertically, about 4 or 5 ft long on poles on stage. 2 on either side of the drum riser, and 2 on either corner of the stage closest to the crowd.

My questions here are what are the things needed to hook the strips up to the macbook? Im assuming DMX is needed here, but what units are available that will act as a box between the lights and the macbook. so that its receiving the lights on on side, and like a usb out on the other to go to ableton.

Any experience with this? Im searching all over and can't find too much to get me started.

Thanks everyone!
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Mac Kerr

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« Reply #1 on: February 27, 2017, 09:44:43 pm »

Hi there everybody!

First post and im hoping to get some helpful insight.

Please go to your profile and change the "Name" field to your real first and last name as required by the posting rules displayed in the header at the top of the section, and in the Site Rules and Suggestions in the Forum Announcements section, and on the registration page when you registered.

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Erik Jerde

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Re: RGB Lighting Strips controlled through ableton live
« Reply #2 on: February 27, 2017, 10:28:42 pm »

Your best bet is to run an actual lighting control software for controlling the lights.  Program your cues in there and let it handle all the dimming & effects.  Then use midi out of Abelton to control the lighting software.  You might be able to run both simultaneously on the same laptop and route the midi internally.  If you use an ArtNet enabled lighting control software and then use ArtNet for connecting to your lights you'll have the ability to grow and have more discrete control than if you just take a single DMX universe out of the system.  With ArtNet you can use your ethernet port (assuming you have one) as your output hardware instead of some expensive dmx dongle.

I'd skip the light strips you linked and go for pixel tape.  That will let you individually control each LED pixel.  That way you can run colors chasing up and down the strips instead of having just four colors (that's no fun).  Pixel tape is usually sold by the meter and can be cut down to whatever length you want.  Common density is 30, 60, and 144 pixels per meter.  Keep in mind if each pixel is 3 DMX addresses then you can put 170 pixels per universe.  That's why you use ArtNet.  You get 32 universes on a single cable then.  If your control system will let you run a full 32 universes then you can do some pretty cool stuff.  People often use media server software like ArKaos for this sort of thing since the costs to get a lighting console with 32 universes of output is pretty high.
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aaron mattson

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Re: RGB Lighting Strips controlled through ableton live
« Reply #3 on: February 27, 2017, 10:57:33 pm »

Your best bet is to run an actual lighting control software for controlling the lights.  Program your cues in there and let it handle all the dimming & effects.  Then use midi out of Abelton to control the lighting software.  You might be able to run both simultaneously on the same laptop and route the midi internally.  If you use an ArtNet enabled lighting control software and then use ArtNet for connecting to your lights you'll have the ability to grow and have more discrete control than if you just take a single DMX universe out of the system.  With ArtNet you can use your ethernet port (assuming you have one) as your output hardware instead of some expensive dmx dongle.

I'd skip the light strips you linked and go for pixel tape.  That will let you individually control each LED pixel.  That way you can run colors chasing up and down the strips instead of having just four colors (that's no fun).  Pixel tape is usually sold by the meter and can be cut down to whatever length you want.  Common density is 30, 60, and 144 pixels per meter.  Keep in mind if each pixel is 3 DMX addresses then you can put 170 pixels per universe.  That's why you use ArtNet.  You get 32 universes on a single cable then.  If your control system will let you run a full 32 universes then you can do some pretty cool stuff.  People often use media server software like ArKaos for this sort of thing since the costs to get a lighting console with 32 universes of output is pretty high.


Good lord im in over my head here it seems. I saw some things with DMXis running as a plugin in ableton. If i loaded that on the midi channel, wouldn't the midi clips run the plugin fine that way?

As far as the whole artnet/universes stuff....i have no idea what any of that means!

Any good source material here?
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Erik Jerde

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Re: RGB Lighting Strips controlled through ableton live
« Reply #4 on: February 28, 2017, 01:40:42 am »


Good lord im in over my head here it seems. I saw some things with DMXis running as a plugin in ableton. If i loaded that on the midi channel, wouldn't the midi clips run the plugin fine that way?

As far as the whole artnet/universes stuff....i have no idea what any of that means!

Any good source material here?

I don't know anything about Abelton, if there's a DMX plugin out there for it then that's interesting.  I wonder how it handles fading & effects (if it does at all).  Your best bet is probably going to be making friends and/or hiring someone who knows about lights to help you out on this.  If you have no idea about what I wrote then you're really in over your head here.  There's a reason people make a good living doing just lights. 

You could also start googling and reading, maybe you'll learn something.  It's entirely possible you've got what it takes to self learn here and get the job done.  When you get specific questions then come back and ask them.  Right now you're kinda like the guy who says he wants to be in a band.  When asked what instrument he plays he asks "what's an instrument."  :)

Good luck!
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aaron mattson

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Re: RGB Lighting Strips controlled through ableton live
« Reply #5 on: February 28, 2017, 08:19:52 am »

I don't know anything about Abelton, if there's a DMX plugin out there for it then that's interesting.  I wonder how it handles fading & effects (if it does at all).

https://youtu.be/SQAQtS8zlIQ
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Callan Browne

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Re: RGB Lighting Strips controlled through ableton live
« Reply #6 on: February 28, 2017, 04:05:36 pm »

I have played around with using DMXIS inside Ableton and it should do exactly what you are after.
Very powerful little package.

Sent from my HTC_0P6B using Tapatalk

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Jano Svitok

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Re: RGB Lighting Strips controlled through ableton live
« Reply #7 on: February 28, 2017, 05:47:11 pm »

Similar is possible with QLC+ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dKmx4SgGo0U

Note: I'm one of the QLC+ developers, and I am not the author of the video.

To me it looks like the led strip referenced in the first post *IS* pixel capable (note the 4 wire control cable and different colors in second picture). They don't state what driver chip is used though.
This is important if you want to drive them yourself. You'll also need different power supply.

You can drive the strip with something like this: http://dmxking.com/led-pixel-control/ledmx4-pro -- you feed the device with artnet/E1.31 (DMX over IP) and it can control up to 1380 RGB pixels.
There are similar devices from ebay if you want to go that route (search "artnet led controller"). In the description of ledmx4 you'll find some of the more common LED driver chips (WS2811/...)
Most probably there are also DMX-LED bridges but then you'll have to output DMX from the macbook somehow (either by using USB-DMX converter or WIFI-DMX or ethernet (=artnet)-DMX.
In the end, artnet-to-LED is the simplest setup you can have. You can even attach it to a wifi router and connect macbook wirelessly.
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Graham Spice

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Re: RGB Lighting Strips controlled through ableton live
« Reply #8 on: March 13, 2017, 11:21:13 pm »

I've used DMXIS inside of Ableton to control LED light bars many times. Feel free to PM me for info
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