Magazine article Stage Directions

Living Lighting

Magazine article Stage Directions

Living Lighting

Article excerpt

One team got creative to have an audio-controlled lighting effect but gave lighting the final word

Last fall, the theatre department at Baylor produced One Third of a Nation, the Living Newspaper show about problems of housing in the U.S., complete with a character entitled "Loudspeaker," who narrates the action. In our production we had her stationed on a 12-foot-high scenic unit with a broadcast-style microphone and a large VU meter. But despite its size, the needle on the VU meter was just too far from the audience to be seen. We decided we needed to make it glow-better still, we wanted to make the VU meter's backlight pulse in relation to the microphone signal. Now we're talking! But what if the lighting designer wants to be able to fade out that light for a true blackout? Well, that gets complicated...

Once the LD wanted control over that backlight, I knew that the lighting console, an ETC Ion in our case, would have to have a place in the data chain of command. That being the case, I went about researching the best ways to translate a mic signal level into an intensity level message that the Ion would understand. The method I discovered was efficient, reliable, and can be put to use allowing incoming mic levels to control much more than just a little meter backlight.

I soloed the mic signal on an aux out from my sound board, and sent that signal to a MOTU interface on a Mac Mini running Max from Cycling 74.1 had a patch setup in Max that operated as a VU meter on the signal and sent the VU value into a simple algorithm that turned that number into a percentage of the entire VU range. The Max patch used the percentage number as a continuously updating variable in a SysEx message that it sent out via the MOTU interface's MIDI out port. I made sure I used a SysEx message format consistent with the MIDI Show Control commands that the Ion accepts, and configured the message so that the percentage variable was directly linked to the level of a specific submaster on the Ion. …

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