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View Full Version : Discussion - What is up with lighting software?



Ryan Ruel
02-14-2012, 01:58 PM
So here's a topic for discussion: Why does lighting software kinda suck?

It's 2012, and it seems to me someone should have come out with lighting software that is actually "modern" and "good" by now. Yet, it doesn't exist.

From my experience, we have a few categories:

1. Light software that emulates a light desk.

This includes software like Martin M-PC, High End Systems HOG3 PC, and Camsys MagicQ. These programs are expensive, and clunky and slow. And not coming from a light desk knowledge background, they are hard to use with little help in the interface.

2. Moderately priced software/hardware that takes a PC approach to programming.

These are software programs that take a non-lightdesk approach to setting up your light show. There's the free FreeStyler program, which is very buggy, to paid applications that companies like American DJ and Chauvet offer. They work, but are also clunky, dated, and either missing major features or just don't work well.

3. Pro applications that use sort of a hybrid between 1 and 2.

This includes a few products like Martin LightJockey and ShowCad artist. They are full featured, stable, and work well, but have a learning curve and are still quite dated.

Personally I tried FreeStyler, Chauvet ShowXPress, and finally landed at Martin LightJockey 2. I like LightJockey, it's quite a thorough program. But it's not being actively developed. It's written in Pascal, a very dated language that nobody seems to want to touch at Martin. It limits you to 100 fixtures, with 12 slots per cue (enough for me, but not for some). In addition, it's missing strange features, like using more than one MIDI controller in the software, or using MIDI faders in the software (you can do this using a third party add-on, whic is sadly buggy). Other than that it's solid and works.

But I wonder what the heck is going on in this industry? It's 2012, there should be an easy to use, cross platform light solution that does full MIDI, OSC, ART-NET... and has companion iOS/Android apps (sorry Martin, your remote doesn't cut it, yet) for this stuff, and external controllers that aren't just $5000 MIDI controllers. It all just seems, well, odd to me.

DJ M&M
02-14-2012, 02:54 PM
showxpress has a live app and you can remote desktop any software based controller to your smartphone/smartpad. I personally like chauvet because it is the only one that is continually developing. They now have pixels which is great for LED walls displays. Also they have said that they will include a playback in the near future. I also agree though that light jockey is outdated and is a big learning curve. My money is on showxpress becoming the dominate software controller in the future (next 2-5 years)

LiteTrix
02-14-2012, 03:22 PM
GrandMA On PC is pretty good. Have you tried it?

Ryan Ruel
02-14-2012, 03:24 PM
Not yet... I've heard of it though.

Mystic
02-14-2012, 04:02 PM
1. Light software that emulates a light desk.

This includes software like Martin M-PC, High End Systems HOG3 PC, and Camsys MagicQ. These programs are expensive, and clunky and slow. And not coming from a light desk knowledge background, they are hard to use with little help in the interface.
Because you rarely ever seeing software being used on a tour. These companies focus on hardware because that's what LDs need to do a show properly, so they aren't going to focus a lot of time into making a product very few people will use other than for programming a show. I use Grand MA PC when I program, but you'd never see me using that while doing a real show. It's bad enough when a board crashes in the middle of the show as it is. Software for computer is so much more unstable than software developed specifically for the board running it.


2. Moderately priced software/hardware that takes a PC approach to programming.

These are software programs that take a non-lightdesk approach to setting up your light show. There's the free FreeStyler program, which is very buggy, to paid applications that companies like American DJ and Chauvet offer. They work, but are also clunky, dated, and either missing major features or just don't work well.
These companies don't usually have the finances to develop a program properly. There is a ton of testing that goes into it once the product is actually developed like any other software that deals with any sort of outside hardware. That's the other problem: these companies need to either develop their own hardware or program the software to work with a multitude of hardware options.

It usually comes down to a money issue or a "this was a project I started with the intent of messing around to see if I could make something for fun so I decided to sell it even though it's rubbish" issue.


3. Pro applications that use sort of a hybrid between 1 and 2.

This includes a few products like Martin LightJockey and ShowCad artist. They are full featured, stable, and work well, but have a learning curve and are still quite dated.

Personally I tried FreeStyler, Chauvet ShowXPress, and finally landed at Martin LightJockey 2. I like LightJockey, it's quite a thorough program. But it's not being actively developed. It's written in Pascal, a very dated language that nobody seems to want to touch at Martin. It limits you to 100 fixtures, with 12 slots per cue (enough for me, but not for some). In addition, it's missing strange features, like using more than one MIDI controller in the software, or using MIDI faders in the software (you can do this using a third party add-on, whic is sadly buggy). Other than that it's solid and works.

But I wonder what the heck is going on in this industry? It's 2012, there should be an easy to use, cross platform light solution that does full MIDI, OSC, ART-NET... and has companion iOS/Android apps (sorry Martin, your remote doesn't cut it, yet) for this stuff, and external controllers that aren't just $5000 MIDI controllers. It all just seems, well, odd to me.
I think the bottom line is that they don't see the point. Most places end up getting a real board eventually because of the amount of control it gives you and it's extremely stable as far as lighting control software goes. I know many clubs who got rid of their software run controllers in favour of "going pro". While there is certainly room for advancement in software based controllers, why throw hundreds of thousands into development for it when you already have a product that works?

Most of the money for these lighting companies, at least the controller companies, comes from tours. I doubt you will ever see tours start switching over to PC based over console.

To quote one of my good friends I work with: "If it ain't broke, leave it alone because you will probably end up fucking it up somehow."

Ryan Ruel
02-14-2012, 04:08 PM
But don't more people set up club lighting in their houses like I do?

Oh wait...

But really, basically every club here in Boston uses software. A lot of light jockey, some others, but I haven't seen any consoles around. They are just too darn expensive.

DJ M&M
02-14-2012, 04:17 PM
Guvernment uses 4 lighting boards in there main room

Ryan Ruel
02-14-2012, 04:17 PM
I wish we had some clubs like that here. Sad.

LiteTrix
02-14-2012, 04:26 PM
Most clubs aren't going to invest 40 grand into a lighting console when they can get a pc based controller for under 2 grand.

DJ M&M
02-14-2012, 05:59 PM
Agreed most of the clubs out there aren't huge clubs so they can't justify spending 5-40 grand on a board. So 9 times out of 10, they use light jockey. Only the big clubs really use boards still such as guvernment, dragonfly, las vegas nightclubs, etc..... (you get the idea).

Mystic
02-14-2012, 06:23 PM
But really, basically every club here in Boston uses software. A lot of light jockey, some others, but I haven't seen any consoles around. They are just too darn expensive.
Look at the price difference though. LJ is what, $1000? Pennies compared to the Maxxyz consoles. Even at that, Martin is much more focused on fixtures than controllers which explains why the Maxxyz is such a terrible console.

Mystic
02-14-2012, 06:26 PM
Most clubs aren't going to invest 40 grand into a lighting console when they can get a pc based controller for under 2 grand.

Except most clubs aren't looking to drop that much on a full GrandMA. There are many consoles that are well within the range of a clubs budget.
I'm really interested in what GrandMA is doing with this MA on PC wing. It could be good for clubs or epic fail.

andythemusician
02-15-2012, 12:27 AM
MA grandMA PC
Martin M-PC
LSC Clarity
Flying Pig Hog 3PC
Nicolaudie Sunlite
Dream Solutions Light Factory

It's all well and good to say you want something that emulates a lighting desk, but moderately priced you are going to struggle. That's just how it works. Most of the above have purpose built wings that plug in via USB and emulate a desk very well, whilst still having the flexibility of the brain of the lighting desk being your PC. They are expensive however. It's just how the industry works! You get what you pay for!

Ryan Ruel
02-15-2012, 03:01 PM
Is it a terrible console? I have no experience with the consoles.


Look at the price difference though. LJ is what, $1000? Pennies compared to the Maxxyz consoles. Even at that, Martin is much more focused on fixtures than controllers which explains why the Maxxyz is such a terrible console.

LiteTrix
02-15-2012, 04:46 PM
Is it a terrible console? I have no experience with the consoles.

It's not terrible, but its not great. Martin has never focused on controllers for the most part. It's all been lights and effects. The truth is, the only good way to control lights and have full functionality is through a lighting desk. For a club honestly I would be very happy to use software. In my opinion a board in a club is pretty much useless unless you have someone controlling it all night. Just my thoughts.

DJStevieRay
02-16-2012, 09:39 AM
Check out Blizzard's Eclipse software. It is a bit different than what most people are accustomed too. If you want something different.

Ryan Ruel
02-17-2012, 11:22 AM
Check out Blizzard's Eclipse software. It is a bit different than what most people are accustomed too. If you want something different.

I installed it, it looks like it takes an interesting and relatively simple approach to programming. But man, it's really ugly. Why are all these programs so freaking ugly?

DJStevieRay
02-17-2012, 12:36 PM
I didn't say it was pretty, just different.