Cary from the Cock : "That's a lot for one space bar to do."

Joshua Coleman, Specialized Audio
May 2007

Cary From The Cock is a one woman show that ran for three weeks in May 2007 in New York City. The show had its fair share of technical dilemmas. The most difficult to deal with was that the entire show had to be run by one person. That person was to be a young dramaturge just out of university. Essentially, a non-technical person that would act as stage manager, sound board op, light board op, video op, and special effects op. This is where QLab saved the day.

[Diagram of the show control system. Click to Enlarge.]

(Click to see the giganto-sized version.)

Here's the primary equipment that was used for control:

  1. MacBook Core 2 Duo — 2.13ghz / 1GB RAM / Running QLab with Pro Video and Pro MIDI licenses.
  2. MOTU UltraLite — Providing 5 audio outputs to 5 loudspeaker destinations, 1 audio input for an R.F. microphone, and a MIDI interface.
  3. LanBox LCX — Providing DMX control of lighting dimmers, 999 possible scene memories, and 8 General Purpose I/Os.

Here's the list of things I needed QLab to do:

  1. Playback of all sound effects and music to 1 or more of 5 loudspeaker destinations.
  2. Playback a variety of video elements on a large motorized projection screen.
  3. GO all required lighting cues.
  4. Raise and lower the motorized screen.
  5. Control a motorized douser attached to the projector.
  6. Control a motorized confetti dropping device.
  7. Accept GO cues from a R.F. transmitter in a modified cell phone.
  8. Mute and Un-mute a wireless microphone.

The first two requirements are simple. Sound and video. Connect the UltraLite to the Mac's firewire port, a projector to the VGA adapter, and let QLab take care of the rest.

The last six requirements needed a little more attention. General purpose I/O (relays) to control the motorized elements, and a DMX lighting controller that responds to MSC (MIDI Show Control) were required. Turns out these can all be accomplish with one device. The LanBox LCX can store 512 dimmer channels in up to 999 scenes and provides eight GPI/O channels. It also has MIDI I/O which can be connected to the UltraLite allowing QLab MSC control over the LanBox. Overall, the pairing of QLab and the LanBox was a perfect match for total show control.

QLab could now call lighting cues and control the motors using MSC commands sent to the LanBox from QLab through the UltraLite's MIDI interface. A single GO in QLab starts the music, fades the lights to black, lowers the screen, opens the douser, and plays the video. Brilliant!

Enter the dreaded cell phone. Have you ever tried cueing cell phone rings for a live perfomer? It's easy to start the sound, but very difficult to stop it at that exact moment when the actor depresses the talk button. This show called for over 20 phone calls. If the actor is pushing a button anyway, it might as well do something, so the existing electronics from an old cell phone were removed. A small R.F. transmitter was placed in the resulting space and connected to the TALK button. The R.F. reciever was connected to a general purpose input (GPI) on the LanBox. The LanBox sent MSC GO commands back to QLab through the MIDI interface when the GPI was sensed, and our actor was controlling the STOP cue for the cell phone ring by pressing the talk button on their prop phone. It wasn't just used to STOP cues, though. It also cued speed dialing sounds and a speaker phone function. In some cases, the actor (unknowingly) fired lighting cues that were linked to ring sounds in QLab.

This show had three scenes which required the actor to use an R.F. microphone. The mic must be unmuted during these scenes and then muted immediately after. The operator could do this manually on a small audio mixing console, but if QLab is to be the only interface for the inexperienced operator, it will need to be in control of the mic too. Since the UltraLite has mixer capabilities built-in, an outboard audio mixer was not necessary. The simplest way to give QLab control over the mic signal was to utilize one of the GPI/Os already setup through the LanBox. To avoid any unwanted clicks or pops during the transition, a simple audio gate was used to do the actual muting. The audio gates' side chain was routed through a relay closure controlled through the LanBox, and ultimately controlled by simple MSC commands generated by QLab.

Now for the big karaoke scene, a single GO in QLab crossfades the lighting, starts the music, lowers the screen, opens the douser, unmutes the mic, and plays a video with the lyrics. Whoa!!! That's a lot for one space bar to do, but it's actually quite simple with QLab.

When Amy (our do-everything dramatuge) sat down to run the show, she sat down in front of a script, and a MacBook. There were no strings to pull, no "black box" switches, no lighting or sound board to be seen. Just her and QLab.