Programming Lighting for a stage can be a really challenging process. When you first start off, the best thing that happened was that one time that a feature show worked perfectly. You’re left asking yourself what to do to replicate that again. If only it could be as easy as your normal pre-programming.
Don’t worry, though, there is light at the end of the tunnel for you. It doesn’t have to take years to learn how to program for stages, churches or venues of similar size. In fact, there are plenty of tools out there designed explicitly with arenas and other large places in mind.
ADJ Airstream DMX Pro
Designed for those working in small to mid-sized venues, this stage lighting control app allows users to control up to 576 fixtures. The app will work with up to four DMX512 universes (2,048 lighting channels), and supports both Art-Net and sACN. An effects generator produces movement, color, and flash effects, and designers may also use audio to trigger special effects (it also supports MIDI). It is available for iOS, and requires the purchase of an ADJ 4 Stream DMX Bridge or Airstream DMX Bridge, which act as the interface between the fixtures and the user’s mobile device.
ARRI Stellar 1.5
ARRI’s latest update to this professional lighting control app focuses on enhancing collaboration capabilities among members of the production team. Its Live Sync Beta feature allows for real-time collaboration on separate devices, enabling more than one person to work on the same project (and scene) at the same time. Export/Import, as its name suggests, lets users export and import projects and scenes via the cloud, wirelessly between devices, or through email, messaging, and other sharing tools. Available on The App Store and Google Play. The iOS version will back up to iCloud automatically, facilitating the process for users who switch back and forth between their iPhone and iPad.
DMXcat (City Theatrical)
DMXcat combines a suite of mobile applications to enable the control and testing of DMX fixtures. Software apps include DMX Controller, Fixture Controller, RDM Controller, DMX Tester, DIP Switch Calculator, Light Meter, and RF Spectrum Analyzer. The separate purchase of a small, battery-powered and Bluetooth-enabled dongle is required in order to use this app.
Lighting Designer 3.5.2 (Clayton Combe)
The latest version of this app features a number of improvements, including broader Snap functionality (it will let users snap to and from centers, endpoints, as well as resize handles). Interface improvements include a new bottom button for toggling the Snap feature on and off, and when users press and hold, they will receive a snap options list and a grid selector. For quicker Groups assignment, this update features a new Choose Groups table for single and multiple objects. It also protects against users accidentally generating a bottom screen swipe-up while editing a plot (this for devices without home buttons).
Luminair 3 (SyntheFX)
Created for iOS, the latest version of Luminair 3 incorporates features such as a Dynamic FX engine, Scheduling, Remote for Apple Watch, and more. There is one DMX output universe, and one Art-Net DMX input universe, intended for use when creating Snapshot scene recordings from another lighting console. Luminair 3 will function with any Art-Net or sACN E1.31-compliant DMX interface, and will send Art-Net and sACN E1.31 over built-in Wi-Fi hardware. The Lockdown mode powered by Touch ID lets designers lock specific parts of the interface for applications involving volunteers or less pro lighting-savvy operators.
MyETC: Photometrics offers dynamic photometric data in the interest of taking the guesswork out of predicting how an ETC luminaire will perform. With this app, designers have access to customized photometrics for ETC fixtures in any color; they may also compare luminaires and save their favorites. Also included are gel libraries that provide DMX and full spectral values, enabling users to replicate any gel color they’ve applied in previous productions. Available on The App Store and Google Play.
Photon – DMX Lighting Controller (StudiOS)
A mobile DMX lighting controller that is ART-Net or sACN-compatible via Wi-Fi, Photon is available free or as an in-app purchase. The free version features a multi-touch interface, lighting group management, scene management, both Art-Net and sACN in multicast or unicast, a database of pre-configured fixtures, as well as the ability for users to customize their fixtures. With the in-app purchase, users may synchronize their lighting to music, combine multiple cues to an animated sequence, and edit sequences with a timeline. The in-app purchase also features a background mode.
- Stable and reliableWe can’t have the software glitch in the middle of a worship service and then have all the lighting scenes go haywire.
- Budget friendlyWhen I say “budget friendly” I mean less than a $1,000. Ideally, less than $500.I don’t think software needs to be free because that means there’s no development and support going into it. I’m not a big fan of open source software because often it’s confusing, takes forever to figure out and there’s lots of weird glitches and bugs you have to deal with. I’m willing to pay at least a couple hundred bucks if something is supported, it’s reliable and it’s just going to work.
- User friendly and intuitive I don’t know what it is about lighting software over the past years, but they all seem really confusing when you look at the software. The user interface looks like the cockpit of a jumbo jet. It can get pretty frustrating especially in our church context when we have volunteers who aren’t professionally trained. We need it to be super intuitive for them and we don’t want them to have to get a professional lighting degree to run lights for our worship gathering.
- Automation capabilityAt our church, we’re small, we don’t have a huge tech team so we automate our lighting changes. This is really cool when you use Ableton Live to send cues so I can automate light changes throughout our songs, and we can create seamless transitions in the way that our light changes throughout the service.
- Mac based softwareThe world of lighting control has evolved and you can run software directly from your computer. That’s really good news for worship pastors like me who lead portable churches–the less hardware, the better.I know there’s a lot of great PC based software out there, but I prefer running all Macs. For my team, it’s better to keep things all Macs all the time. I’ve also realized that when software is developed for both Mac and PC one of them usually gets the short end of the stick.It’s also important for us to have an all Mac ecosystem because of all the midi networking that we’re doing. Mac has a really powerful, stable midi network app that makes it easy to connect any Macs and set up automation.
Lighting programming software is a vital component of any church, school, business or building that hosts large gatherings. The special settings needed for each occasion are not something that can be hand-operated. Instead, the lighting needs to be programmed with software programming software. Factors such as color settings, sound cues, general timing and even type of lighting are available.