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MIDI to DMX Controller, fade-time capable?
Old 2nd May 2018
Here for the gear
MIDI to DMX Controller, fade-time capable?

I’m looking for a lighting controller or interface box that supports the following for my band that plays with a backing track and synchronized MIDI:
  1. DMX output
  2. MIDI input to control at minimum:
    - Selection of previously programmed scenes
    - Changes to the fade speed (between programmed scenes from immediate to slower cross-fades)
  3. Can operate in playback without a PC (i.e., works fine with any MIDI input source; no need for a PC during live performance). The unit will be racked and not physically manipulated during performances.
  4. Pre-programming of scenes can be by any method it supports… integrated sliders/buttons, PC sw, tablet sw, etc. (I’m not picky since this will never be done in a live show)
I've found controllers that do most of the above, but they seem to be missing the MIDI control over fade speed. (I’d like some songs to transition immediately between scenes, but others do so slowly.)

Any ideas, or am I missing something about dealing with fade times?
Old 6th May 2018
Gear Head
🎧 5 years
I'm looking for something similar, I think. I'm just getting started looking into this, and our band uses backing tracks too. But we run everything from a laptop, so I don't need the midi interface. I think if I get a USB to DMX interface like the
Entec Open DMX USB, and something like DMX Control or Freestyler, I should be able to program a midi track for each song...?

My biggest concern is cpu load... I'm already running pretty high, do you know how much cpu load these free dmx programs use? Thanks
Old 6th May 2018
Here for the gear
Hi strings n sax:

we run everything from a laptop, so I don't need the midi interface. I think if I get a USB to DMX interface like the Entec Open DMX USB, and something like DMX Control or Freestyler, I should be able to program a midi track for each song...?
Yes, I think using a laptop, particularly if you use a DAW for your backing tracks, should open up a lot more alternatives. You may be able to use some DMX software 'directly' for your lighting automation, not involving MIDI at all. In my case I want to avoid using a laptop, since we already have a solid system using iPads to play backing tracks (previously created on an DAW), display synchronized lyrics & chords, and play MIDI for simple guitar & vocal fx patch automation. To keep it simple (less potential points of failure), I want to also control the lights through the MIDI files.

do you know how much cpu load these free dmx programs use?
No, but I'd guess they are not too bad since there's nothing like audio codecs involved. I suspect most DMX event playback not a lot more taxing than MIDI, which I've had working fine even in the 80s on the original IBM PC.
Old 10th May 2018
Gear Head
🎧 5 years
Thanks Fret12. just curious, what do you use on the Ipad that plays lyrics and chords in sync with the backing track?
Old 10th May 2018
Here for the gear
I use BandHelper, which I'm very happy with.

I used backing tracks with PC-based sequencers sending MIDI to a rack of synths, drum machine (and lights) for many years starting in the 80s. So in recently re-booting my duo act it took a while to warm up to the idea of pre-producing the backing tracks from a DAW into plain audio files, then just playing the audio files live. (Mostly fear of losing the ability to tweak the mix of the backing track instruments on the fly.) But now I find it to be much more reliable and convenient than the old DAW/sequencer-driven method, and I don't mind the lack of live granular backing track mixing (which realistically we never did much anyway!). And having synchronized lyrics and 'cheat sheets' displayed on your mic stand... priceless!

Now if I can just get the lights driven by MIDI... my latest inclination is to use Luminair software running in the background on an iPad, receiving MIDI from BandHelper, and transmitting ArtNet wirelessly to a simple Wi-Fi router and ethernet-DMX box.
Old 5th May 2020
Here for the gear
I use a DMX operator. I don't know if you have the answer to your fade time question yet, but I think if you program a few chases with the desired fade time, you can trigger the chases at the very top of the MIDI note numbers, and then back to your scenes. I have not tried this yet, but I'm getting by with just changing scenes.
Hope this helps.
Old 5th May 2020
Here for the gear
Following up to my OP, this is what we've now been using successfully for over a year:

Starting midstream for lighting control:
Luminair software runs on an iPad (dedicated for that purpose). This software on the iPad sends DMX (light control) data over a Wi-Fi network (internet-less) established by an old Wi-Fi router in our rack. That router is connected by CAT5 to an ethernet-DMX I/O box, that then sends DMX over XLR-like cabling to a DMX splitter and then to all the lights.

This iPad is also connected to an iConnectivity Audio2+ interface for purposes of receiving MIDI for lighting scene control into the Luminair app.

Starting upstream:
The Bandhelper software runs on another iPad and sends audio backing tracks (to the mixing board) and MIDI to various fx boxes and the iPad running Luminair while displaying synchronized lyrics. (This iPad also uses an iConnectivity Audio2+ interface.) Each song's audio backing track is accompanied by a MIDI file that contains note events corresponding to various previously programmed lighting scenes in Luminair. Thus the lighting changes are synchronized with the backing track during live play.

In Luminair, I programmed about 50 different scenes with various combos of colors, some of which invoke instantaneous changes, and others that change with slower cross-fades. Separate and independent scenes also control pinspots on the performers. Each of these scenes is assigned a different MIDI note.

When creating a backing track for a song in my DAW, I allocate a MIDI track for lighting and add in note events wherever I want a lighting scene change.

Though it was a lot of work in setting it up (programming scenes, avoiding some fiddly issues in Luminair, etc.), once set up it has been really easy to program the lights for a new song and it has never failed in live performance. Though I can't arbitrarily change a fade time for a scene, having a set of scenes pre-programmed with a reasonable cross-fade time works well enough.
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