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Author Topic: Planning a small bar show - could really use some advice!  (Read 6847 times)

Wes Garland

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Planning a small bar show - could really use some advice!
« on: January 25, 2016, 03:46:41 pm »

Hi, Folks --

I'm trying to put together a better lighting show for my classic rock band for the shows we do at micro-venues (80-120 seat bars).  The current light rig is a couple of ADJ P36 LED pinspots and some cheap 10W 120 degree floods (non DMX).  2 of the floods are RGB and set on a smooth transition from colour to colour. 2 floods are white but I've added bastard amber gels.  One P36 is set is set to pink and the other changes colours randomly.

The current show is better than most of the other acts in the same venues, but is not even close to the product we get when playing the larger clubs in the area with, you know, real lights.

To that end, I've picked up an ADJ DMX Operator (I don't want a computer on stage) and a Microh LED Stagebar TRI38.  The Microh is just a bar with three RGB "Par 38s" on it.  Then I learned how to use the DMX Operator and the Microh, and came to understand just limited this gear is. A bit frustrating, the DMX Operator is limited to 6 chases total (regardless of bank selection) and can only run one chase at a time.

So, the basic plan is to set up the Microh bar some place innocuous (it's fairly small) in the bar, aim one light at each performer who might sing lead (four of us - 5 piece band, no vox bassist).  Then put the P36s on a T on top of one of the FOH speakers, and aim the two P36 pinspots at the two performers who sing most.

Not sure if I should make use of the leftover 120 degree LED floods at this point or not.  Perhaps colour-morphing side-fill?  Something for the drum hardware to glint?  Maybe a static (amber?) colour?

Next, I've got the DMX Operator set up so that each of the first 4 banks is centric to each of the 4 performers who might be singing lead.  Each bank gives me 8 scenes, of which I'm using 6.  The "main performer" for that bank is lit in white  (I'm worried about not being bright enough - 27W) and everybody else is lit with either pink, blue, or yellow. Half the scenes are bright washed-out colours, half the scenes are nicely saturated colours.

Then I can hit "auto" and pick a speed (tap tempo, slider, or music activated) and the DMX Operator cycles through the scenes in the current bank.   So what happens is the lead stays lit in bright white and everybody else gets their colour changing.  Tonight I plan to augment this so that the P36 on the main guy cycles through colours on its own and the other P36 stays off...hopefully this will make the main guy stand out well but not be just white.  (Or maybe the P36 should have a specific colour?  One guy is small and pale, one guy is big and red-faced. We're all old).

I haven't figured out what to do with my chases yet.  I also have a bank set up where each performer is the only one lit with the DMX lights, except for a very slight red or blue hue on the other performers.   If I use my non-DMX lights, I'm worried about ruining this effect, which I intend to use for true-solo sections.....imagine the intro to Poison's  "Every Rose Has It's Thorn" sung by one guy who is also playing acoustic guitar. Or the intro to "Kryptonite".  You get the idea.

Any thoughts on what I'm doing?  Can I use my resources more effectively?  I can't do any fader-fiddling throughout the night, as I am also mixing and playing keyboards, so I really need to be able to push a button or two on the controller and forget about lights for the rest of the song.

Is there anything interesting and easy I can do with the lights in solo sections for songs like Don't Fear The Reaper, Twilight Zone (Golden Earring), etc?  My plan was to light the lead guitarist as if he was the lead singer and double the speed of the chase?

Also, I'd like to light up the dance floor at some point in the future.  I was thinking about getting an ADJ Revo II (there is one for sale used nearby), but the manual suggests that I won't be able to use it in sound-activated mode under DMX control.  I don't think it would look good just to leave them on in sound-activated mode all night long, but I'm not sure that programming them into the band-centric scenes makes sense, either.

Thanks for any advice.  I'm pretty tech savvy and handle complexity well, but about all I know about lighting is "don't use green".  I have two group rehearsals before the next show, and I will be rehearsing my lighting changes along with everything else.

Wes

PS: I eventually plan to tie scene changes into performance changes from my stage piano, but that's out of scope for the time being.  Feel free to suggest awesome ideas if you have any, though. :)
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Jeff Lelko

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Re: Planning a small bar show - could really use some advice!
« Reply #1 on: January 25, 2016, 05:00:37 pm »

Hi Wes,

I think a lot of what you're looking to do comes down to personal opinion and how much you're looking to expand your system.  You got it right in that the ADJ DMX Operator is very limited in nature.  Is there a reason that you don't want a computer or laptop on the stage?  I know it can seem like a lot at first, but the computer solutions are by far the best bang to buck controllers and without a doubt the cheapest way to get the kind of control you're looking for.  While there might be one or two exceptions, you generally won't find that kind of power in a physical console for under 1K, and most 'real' light boards start around 4K and go up from there (last time I was in the market).  The Jands Stage CL is an exception and might be worth a look if it fits your needs.  Unless you're looking to drop that kind of cash though you really are better off with a computer solution.  When I use software to drive a show I run it on a Tablet PC, so it actually feels okay versus the finicky nature of point/click/drag.  There are also many consoles that accept MIDI commands, so that can really help you out since you seem to have a lot to handle during a show!

As far as actual fixtures go, a proper console will work wonders to get the kind of control you're looking for, so you might be okay with what you already have.  Blizzard lighting also sells many budget but acceptable solutions, so you can replace or augment what you already have with a couple of hotboxes for a very reasonable cost.  Effect lighting-wise, I've never been impressed with the LED 'dot' fixtures...  In the right venue they can be very effective, but for the kind of work I do they just don't have the look I'm usually going for.  I'm much more of a fan of discharge-based effects like the Martin Wizard Rush and similar, but of course that all comes down to personal preference.  Hope this helps!
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Wes Garland

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Re: Planning a small bar show - could really use some advice!
« Reply #2 on: January 26, 2016, 09:29:43 am »

Hi, Jeff!  Thanks for the follow-up.

The no computer rule -- this half emotional and half pragmatic.  On the emotional side, I work with the damned things day in and day out, and the last thing I want to add to the fun part of my life is another computer.  On the pragmatic side, I worry about managing complexity and stage real estate: I'm already operating a three-board keys rig, singing, and mixing.   I need to be able operate the lights with my left hand and mostly by feel; this means dedicated buttons, good automation, and hopefully a simple UI.

That said, the DMX Operator UI has a few gotchas that make it not totally ideal for this; the biggest are that it takes too many keystrokes and visual feedback to cancel the active chases, and selecting a scene that you've already selected blacks out your lights.

Ironically, my plan for eventual MIDI integration is going to require custom software development and the addition of a wallet-sized Linux PC to my rig.  Maybe I should consider going whole-hog and adding DMX capability to that thing, rather than going into the DMX Operator.  But, that's a longer term goal..I want to get through my next couple of shows first, hopefully they will help me learn what I don't know better.

Thanks for the recommendation on the Jands unit, BTW.  Pricey, but something like that really pushes my elegant-UI buttons, and a good UI is really key to managing everything I do.  The hue/saturation dials are great, and being able to put scenes on the faders is brilliant.

Quote
 
Effect lighting-wise, I've never been impressed with the LED 'dot' fixtures...  In the right venue they can be very effective, but for the kind of work I do they just don't have the look I'm usually going for.  I'm much more of a fan of discharge-based effects like the Martin Wizard Rush and similar, but of course that all comes down to personal preference.  Hope this helps!

So, in addition to the band, I'm trying to light something like a 20x20' dance floor from 8-9' in the air, immediately adjacent to the dance floor, or perhaps 10' away.  *micro venue*.  Normally lit by venue ambient lighting, I just want to kick up the excitement a bit to feel more like our club shows.  Even something like a disco ball with the right DMX properties would help.  A moving gobo with the band branding would be pretty amazing, too  (fantasies are healthy, right?).  No lasers, though, I don't believe I'm competent to run them safely.

That Martin Wizard Rush looks insane and would definitely kick things up a notch. Or ten.  But -- does it work well enough without haze to make it worth the price tag?  Also, can a custom gobo be added to this fixture? If I understand the manual correctly, the answer is "no", as it's just one big wheel. But that would be a sweet selling point.

Thanks!
Wes
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Jano Svitok

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Re: Planning a small bar show - could really use some advice!
« Reply #3 on: January 26, 2016, 11:34:30 am »

Ironically, my plan for eventual MIDI integration is going to require custom software development and the addition of a wallet-sized Linux PC to my rig.

Wes,

QLC+ runs on Raspberry PI or any linux computer that has enough power (RPi1 is enough for running, but not for editing the show; RPi2 is enough for both; I use Odroid C1 with full ubuntu desktop). It can be controlled from MIDI, so if you add USB-MIDI interface maybe you can control lights from your keyboards (along with MIDI CLOCK to set tempo). I didn't try the MIDI clock myself, so I can't comment how it works.

Note: I'm one of the developers.

Jano
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Steve Garris

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Re: Planning a small bar show - could really use some advice!
« Reply #4 on: January 26, 2016, 01:23:04 pm »

Hi Wes,

When I use software to drive a show I run it on a Tablet PC, so it actually feels okay versus the finicky nature of point/click/drag. 

Which software do you use and which tablet if you don't mind me asking?
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Jeff Lelko

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Re: Planning a small bar show - could really use some advice!
« Reply #5 on: January 26, 2016, 09:31:47 pm »

I definitely understand your worry about adding another computer to your life!  Unfortunately in this day and age, you almost need a degree in computer science to piece together a large, complex light system along with the media servers and whatnot.  Even most larger light consoles are just a computer under the hood with a fancy I/O device attached.  Most of ETC's consoles run Windows 7 Embedded!  All of that said, in 10 years of running MagicQ PC I've never had a crash, which is more than I can say for some of the hardware desks I've used.  Of course you can throw most lighting programs on your personal laptop in a pinch, it really helps reliability-wise to be using a dedicated machine that runs nothing else, hence why ETC can run Windows 7 in their desks without issue.  If a touchscreen or stylus won't cut it for you on a software solution, most accept MIDI input too.  Not only can you control that with your keyboard, you can also buy one of many third party interfaces such as those from Enttec to help give you the hands-on control that you need. 

Wes,

QLC+ runs on Raspberry PI or any linux computer that has enough power (RPi1 is enough for running, but not for editing the show; RPi2 is enough for both; I use Odroid C1 with full ubuntu desktop). It can be controlled from MIDI, so if you add USB-MIDI interface maybe you can control lights from your keyboards (along with MIDI CLOCK to set tempo). I didn't try the MIDI clock myself, so I can't comment how it works.

Note: I'm one of the developers.

Jano

I concur that this sounds like a great task for a Raspberry Pi!  Sadly I'm not aware of many lighting programs that can run on the Pi's ARM processor, but QLC+ is one of the few.  I can't comment seeing as I've never really used it, but I'd certainly give it a look.  Similarly, ETC sells a mini computer called the Nomad Puck that emulates the EOS and Cobalt platforms, so that's another direction to consider.  Many options available if you go the route of software!  Luckily, most vendors offer free demos to download and play with.  That way you can experiment and see which one feels right to you before spending any money.

That Martin Wizard Rush looks insane and would definitely kick things up a notch. Or ten.  But -- does it work well enough without haze to make it worth the price tag?  Also, can a custom gobo be added to this fixture? If I understand the manual correctly, the answer is "no", as it's just one big wheel. But that would be a sweet selling point.
 
Absolutely.  These are dynamite lights with outstanding coverage.  With a properly set up controller you can nail a lot of diverse and unique effects.  I would say yes, they're certainly worth the price and look decent without haze.  Though I have yet to add the Wizard Rush itself to my inventory, I use my Martin EFX600 units (which are older 150w versions of the Wizard Rush effect) without haze all the time and think it works just fine, so the brighter Rush would only be an improvement.  Naturally, haze makes for a killer effect, but these units have such wide coverage and overall impact that even without haze you're sure to impress.  Put it this way, they will far surpass what you'll get from an LED dot light without haze...  No custom gobos on these, but they won't work well for a custom gobo anyhow.  The gobo is inserted upstream of the mirror dish, so any gobo would be too small to read once bounced off the dish, not to mention the optics of such a unit don't allow for perfect focus of each beam.  For that you'd want to use a dedicated barrel scanner producing fewer but larger beams.

Which software do you use and which tablet if you don't mind me asking?

It's just MagicQ PC on an Ubuntu OS.  I do say Table PC, meaning an old but trusty laptop (Toshiba Portege M400) with the flip around screen and stylus...back before tablets as we know them existed!  A modern Lenovo Yoga would get you the same result.  I haven't gone fully wireless with mine yet - simply haven't needed to, but it's on my list of personal projects to play around with one of these days!  I will say though that even just having a touch screen works wonders in making a software solution feel more natural.  Hope this helps! 

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Wes Garland

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Re: Planning a small bar show - could really use some advice!
« Reply #6 on: January 27, 2016, 03:39:17 pm »

QLC+ -- thanks for the link, this looks really interesting.  I'm actually planning to use Olimex Limeboards (built on AllWinner A10 SoCs), but that's largely because I've got a bunch of them and have a complete dev toolchain up and running at work.  Very similar to R-Pi, though; Debian on ARM.  They also have an RS485 module, which I suspect can be used for DMX without fuss. MIDI will have to go USB.

I did a bunch more programming last night, and it's frankly amazing to me how primitive the DMX Operator is...and I'm a n00b!   It's really not much more than a clumsy interface for throwing numbers down a wire. I could do a better job given the same hardware, source code, and a few weeks.

Even so, I got some decent scenes and functional chases out of it last night.  One big thing I was missing was to make the transitions between steps smoother - the flick flick is too jarring to run on autopilot all night long.  You have to just barely move the "speed" slider on the DMX Operator to get scenes to change quick enough to fully saturate, but slow enough not to be jarring. It's finicky, you have to watch the LED readout while making this adjustment.

I also set up my four non-DMX 10W 120 degree floods BEHIND the instruments in the rehearsal hall last night, and this seems to really make things like the drums "pop".  I'll see what it looks like during rehearsal tonight.  If I like it, I'll have to pop for an 8' light stand to safely get them up high enough in the bar.

Any suggestions for constant colours that work well in a rock show?  The center lamps are very dumb and currently have bastard amber gels. The edge lamps are set to sweep through the colour palette at a sedate pace.

I'm not satisfied with my overall brightness, though. I'll see what it looks like during our first show and decide what I'm going from there.  Perhaps four of those "HotBoxes" to replace/augment my Microh bar would do the trick.  Does the amount of back lighting I use affect how much front lighting I need?

I also haven't figured out what I'm doing for dance floor lighting, if anything at this point.  I learned the "Buy once, Cry once" lesson with pro audio, but the failure profile isn't as big in my situation for lights.  It's also tough to justify spending real money to use a couple of times a year, in places where "none" seems to be an acceptable light show.  But I LOVE lights. LOVE. When I'm on stage and realize that somebody running the lighting desk is paying attention to the show and doing a good job, it totally makes my day.

Wes
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Jeff Lelko

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Re: Planning a small bar show - could really use some advice!
« Reply #7 on: January 28, 2016, 07:29:54 pm »

Any suggestions for constant colours that work well in a rock show?  The center lamps are very dumb and currently have bastard amber gels. The edge lamps are set to sweep through the colour palette at a sedate pace.

It all depends on what kind of look you're going for.  Yellow/Amber, Magenta, and Blue/Cyan are my go-to colors for most rock-style shows, but it's really up to you and what you think looks best.  Lighter colors tend to be brighter than darker ones assuming conventional lights and gels.  You can also mix things up a little by using conventional lights gelled in 'normal' colors for facial light and then use LED cans or CMY mixers to add color to things.  It's really very open-ended on that side of things!

I'm not satisfied with my overall brightness, though. I'll see what it looks like during our first show and decide what I'm going from there.  Perhaps four of those "HotBoxes" to replace/augment my Microh bar would do the trick.  Does the amount of back lighting I use affect how much front lighting I need?

Generally not.  Thankfully, light waves can pass harmlessly through each other without causing interference.  That said, there are a few caveats that are an exception to my 'generally not' claim.  The first is if you're using a lot of fog or haze - in that case too much light in the back can saturate the fog so to speak and make the face look dark due to the amount of contrast from back to front.  The other caveat is if you are filming the performance or especially if working in a studio - sometimes cameras do weird things with brightness if they're pointed at or towards bright lights.  In those cases such as when filming for television, that sort of thing is very important.  I'm not a camera guy so I can't really elaborate further, but from what I can gather in your case you don't have anything to worry about.

But I LOVE lights. LOVE. When I'm on stage and realize that somebody running the lighting desk is paying attention to the show and doing a good job, it totally makes my day.

Great!  I'm glad to see that dedicated Lighting Designers are still appreciated by some!
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Steve Garris

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Re: Planning a small bar show - could really use some advice!
« Reply #8 on: January 29, 2016, 02:10:44 pm »


Generally not.  Thankfully, light waves can pass harmlessly through each other without causing interference. 

When I used to set up big Par 64 shows, we had some lights green and some pink (pars with color gels). Where they cross - you get no light! I was always surprised by this. No other color combo would produce this effect.
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Jeff Lelko

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Re: Planning a small bar show - could really use some advice!
« Reply #9 on: January 29, 2016, 08:35:13 pm »

When I used to set up big Par 64 shows, we had some lights green and some pink (pars with color gels). Where they cross - you get no light! I was always surprised by this. No other color combo would produce this effect.

Really?  That's very interesting!  I'll have to give that a try myself and see if I can reproduce the results.  I'd be curious to hear what would cause this to happen.  I recall a few physics experiments back in college that dealt with similar ideas, but I've never heard of that happening in the real world, at least not without a medium to act upon. 
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ProSoundWeb Community

Re: Planning a small bar show - could really use some advice!
« Reply #9 on: January 29, 2016, 08:35:13 pm »


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