The honey on top, with QBee

Editor's Note: Today is James' last day as an intern in our Baltimore office. We asked him to share what he built this summer.

Hey QLab users: we're rolling out a new toy!

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The closing of the summer is an exciting time. For many, it is a time to put up the flip-flops and sunglasses and unplug the air conditioning. (My Californian habits die hard, so I just trade out for my snow-and-ice flip-flops. It's all about the grip, you see.)

For me, today also marks the end of a remarkable experience as a software engineering intern here at Figure 53.

As a long-time QLab user, I've carried around a mental wish-list of features that QLab absolutely needs (which means there was one esoteric use case a while back where each one would have saved me a few hours on a show). It turned out that the other developers were already working on the big QLab 3.1 release, whose list of added and improved features is so extensive I don't actually know how many of mine it checked off.

But some of the capabilities I wanted (and wasn't alone in wanting, as I learned after arriving here) don't actually make sense as part of QLab proper. So, when I got here, I sat down with Chris to think of a new product that could provide some outstanding and often-requested abilities. Without further delay, let me introduce what we came up with.

"...so you mentioned a 'toy'...?"

All rise for the Queen!

Queen Bee (aka QBee) is a companion application to QLab. QBee is a widget-based OS X utility which allows you to build and run a customized remote control interface for QLab. QBee in Control!

What does this mean? In the image above, I've added an array of sliders, buttons, and text fields to the lilac canvas. Each of these widgets is assigned a set of properties which specify how it communicates with QLab. In this example, I have:

  • Text fields to change/observe cue names and notes
  • Sliders to change/observe pre- and post-waits on cues
  • Sliders to change/observe cue volume levels
  • Buttons to start specific cues
  • Buttons to trigger workspace-level actions: go, stop all, and panic

Here's the accompanying QLab workspace, so you can see what's going on at the host-end:

QLab enslaved

Digging deeper

Those screenshots are a good glimpse at some of QBee's features. However, I want to mention some of the particularly exciting aspects of what this new program uniquely brings to the table:

  • Flat representation: Perhaps evident from the screenshots, QBee differs strongly from QLab Remote in that all the controls are on the same page at the same time, wherever you want them. This saves you the trouble of tapping your way through several menus and submenus to get at each cue's detailed property information.
  • Batch edit: In QBee, you can set one slider to control volume for any number of cues or levels at once! You can do this by entering special cue numbers like "selected" or include wildcards like "*" to address multiple cues at the same time.
  • Multi-machine control: Not only can you bring controls for different cues into the same page, you can actually have widgets in one QBee document that connect to different workspaces (QLab documents), that aren't even residing on the same machine! This brings an unprecedented level of centralized control to setups which may, for example, have dedicated but separate machines for audio and video rendering.

Get it now!

QBee is an experiment, and it is not a finished product. However, we're distributing an early version, right here, right now, with this publication. This release is really pre-beta, so proceed with caution. However, it does give you a taste of what we're going for. I'm personally very excited to see what new things I can do while setting up and running my shows with this tool.

What next?

You have the most important voice in deciding where we go from here. Should we keep working on QBee? How would you use it? Write us anytime to tell us what you think — critical or positive, or to request features, it's all helpful to us.

Learning more

For more information, QBee's help documentation (accessible in-app through the Help menu) has detailed instructions for use, and explanations of everything from wildcard patterns to why on earth we call it "Queen Bee". Happy honey-harvesting!

James Quintana is a software developer, sound designer, and composer.
@jraqqq