I-CubeX sensors trigger QLab dynamically

July 24th, 2012 by Christopher

Check out this cool demo using I-CubeX sensors to trigger QLab dynamically:

You can read all the technical details here.

Welcome to Area 53

May 4th, 2012 by Christopher

Once Upon a Time,

Twenty some-odd years ago, I sat at a table daydreaming about what I’d do when I grew up.

This was well before I knew anything about computers. I did not have the slightest inkling what my adult life might hold, and I had no appreciable skills beyond daydreaming.

I didn’t have much to go on, other than I knew I wanted to have fun at my job. I didn’t know what the job would be, but I don’t remember spending much time worrying about that.

What I did spend time doing — rather a lot of time — was imagining how and where I would work.

In my head, and then on a piece of paper, I drew big white cubic rooms, layered in whiteboards, with a single light hanging from the exact center of the room.

I imagined the exterior wall full of different-sized doors in odd locations, Willy Wonka style, through which I would pick a different entry every morning. This was, I told myself, a great way to keep oneself from getting stuck in a mental rut. (You’d be trying a new approach every morning! Literally!)

I imagined a door full of doorknobs, only one of which would work. (It would not be the one in the normal spot.)

I gathered all these ideas together for the place I would one day work. What to call it? Adults worked in an office. This was not an office. An office was a place to go work on boring things.

Instead, I began to think of my imaginary building as a “doofus”.

I liked this name for two reasons:

  1. You can’t take yourself too seriously in a doofus.
  2. A doofus is where you DO things!

Meanwhile, back in 2012

Just a year ago, Figure 53 was three people in three different states. Now we have six people, and four of us are in Baltimore.

When the team in Baltimore grew, I scrambled to find a place for us to work. We nestled ourselves in with another company who graciously shared their building, but could only give us a month-to-month lease.

This, as they say, was a problem.

As the company continues to grow (stay tuned) a month-to-month lease is an increasingly tenuous arrangement.

In short, we needed our own home.

Welcome to Area 53

I am very proud to announce the new, permanent home of Figure 53.

This, friends, is our new doofus:

2443 architecture

2443 plan

As of today, you’ll find us at 2443 Maryland Avenue, Baltimore Maryland, 21218. Right around the corner from the Autograph Playhouse, home of the Baltimore Rock Opera Society. Also around the corner from the best coffee shop in Charles Village: Charmington’s.

This is our new, permanent home. We own it. From today onward, it’s our creative laboratory, hacker space, hang-out, headquarters, home base, technology canvas, art project, flex venue, classroom, and whatever other role we can bend to the purpose of creative delight.


Open-door hack days?

Co-working days?

Make our space available for classes and meetups?

We don’t know exactly what yet, but we’re interested in connecting with our neighbors and doing fun things.

A hall, a hall! give room!

And let us fill this space with people and projects and coffee and code and cork boards and sound and light and art and tools!

view from the front door

Photos by & copyright Shaw Jelveh Design.

QLab at the National Theater of Cyprus

February 28th, 2012 by Christopher

Diabolidad, by Mikhail Bulgakov

A Site Specific Theater Piece in the brand new building of THOC, the National Theater of Cyprus.

Everywhere but in the theaters.

Directed by Athina Kasiou
Sound Design by Leon Rothenberg

Mission Control, with THOC’s 2 Sound Engineers (L to R) Stratos Stamatis and Giorgos Xristofi:

IMG 0124

The parking Garage is an office:

IMG 0075

The hallway becomes a train car, amongst other things.

IMG 0109

Thanks for sending these photos Leon!

Old Meets New: QLab at the Roman Baths of Caracalla

October 3rd, 2011 by Christopher

Live Design just published a cool little story about Rome Opera Theatre’s current production at the Baths of Caracalla.

What exactly is going down in this venue from 217 A.D.?

Welp, it involves 102 members of the Rome Opera Orchestra and gargantuan video projections:

The dramatic video footage shown on the 50′x30′ PVC screen, shot with Phantom Gold and Red One cameras in studios in Spain and onsite in Rome, included high-impact effects and slow-motion sequences in which actors and animals were seamlessly transformed into the statues of the famous Roman Fountains in one part of the trilogy, as well as an animated sequence showing an army of pines marching down Rome’s Appian Way.

And projected using what?

“To play out the video content in sync with the music, we chose [QLab], based on a ‘go’ system,” Pascual continues. “After pre-programming all the sequences, effects, fade-outs, fade-ins, etc., during the show, the operator just clicks on ‘go’ to play out the various cues’ footage. In Rome, we used an Apple Mac Mini as a control system and an eight-core Mac Pro to store and manage the footage.” Video contractor TVI srl supplied the 30,000 ANSI-lumen projector installed 180′ from the stage — a Christie Digital Roadie HD+30K — with another identical unit as a spare.


Saving the Corporate Day

September 12th, 2011 by Christopher

In an email titled “Saving the Corporate Day”, Mac Calder writes:

Just a quick note to say THANK YOU for your software. I do corporate —
2 hours before a conference awards gala dinner, the client runs up to
me and hands me a hard drive looking worried. Since I was looking
after the rest of the conference, I head over to ops and hand over the
drive. We were expecting a powerpoint presentation or something of the
sort — we had a windows PC on site ready for it. We open it up and
find a pile of media files (same files in WMV and MOV). Straight play
out — easy we can embed in powerpoint and away we go. We started
looking through the files and the client, over my shoulder says “Okay,
so we will need to pause here. Then resume once the winner is
announced.”. Still doable Not pretty, but doable — maybe we can just
cue up in VLC and do it that way. “Oh, and here is the holding
animation, that will need to loop between awards”. The list keeps
getting longer — lots of pause points, lots of looping, quite a few
“If he turns up we don’t play this file” etc. How would we do it? One
guy is suggesting we bring in our watchout rack — it gets quickly
veto’ed — it’s not on site, it will be at least half an hour, the we
won’t have the time to program, there is no space for the rack.
Another is suggesting that we put in a couple of DVD players, burn the
holding loop for one, split the media files at the pause points and
burn to DVD. Again, time is still a worry… but doable. I pull out my
laptop, open QLab. Within seconds, everything was imported. Seconds
later the loop is running at the bottom and clips are playing over the
top — perfect. Pause points were next, and then the conditions. Took
minutes. The vision op and client are quickly shown how to operate —
They understand it within seconds. The client — an event manager in
her own right — now thinks we are gods of AV, the end client loved the
seamlessness of the video and the best bit — from crisis to me being
at the pub having a cider with a friend was less than 45 minutes. The
company bought two macbooks before midday the next day.

QLab on AIDA cruise ships

August 23rd, 2011 by Christopher

Malte Polli-Holstein writes:

Hi Figure 53 Team,

As responsible sound designer me and my partner Hendrik Maassen, we are using QLab currently on four of the eight AIDA ships. Triggered by the automation of a Cadac R-Type or a Digico SD7 we fire a lot of sound effects, 5.1 sound atmospheres, jingles, background musics, off-texts etc.

best regards from Hamburg
Malte Polli-Holstein




QLab Powers Tony Winner War Horse

June 23rd, 2011 by Christopher

War Horse at Lincoln Center recently had a hell of a night when they brought home 5 top honors from the 2011 Tony Awards.

Curious what drives all that magic? I was too. Turns out sound designer Christopher Shutt (who won the award for Best Sound Design of a Play), shared some of the secrets in the May 2011 issue of Lighting & Sound America:

The effects are played back on a QLab system, using 36 channels. “It has to be that big, to get the right effect,” Shutt says. “In the particularly complex sections of battle, we decided to synchronize all systems through QLab — video, lights and sound — to get the best impact. Some of the explosions that carry the narrative are triggered in this way. They couldn’t be called by the stage manager, as the audible trajectory or some of the missiles before they land means timing the cue would have been impossible.”

That brings us to five confirmed Tony Award-winning shows that were powered by QLab:

EDITED TO ADD: Just found out The Book of Mormon uses QLab too! That makes SIX confirmed Tony Award-winning shows powered by QLab:

  • War Horse (2011 Tony Award for Best Sound Design of a Play)
  • The Book of Mormon (2011 Tony Award for Best Sound Design of a Musical)
  • Fela! (2010 Tony Award for Best Sound Design of a Musical)
  • Billy Elliot, The Musical (2009 Tony Award for Best Sound Design of a Musical)
  • Equus (2009 Tony Award for Best Sound Design of a Play)
  • South Pacific (2008 Tony Award for Best Sound Design of a Musical)

That means that there has never been a year that at least one of the Tony Awards for sound design did not go to a QLab-powered show. Not bad!

Announcing QLab integration with TTA Stagetracker

March 14th, 2011 by Christopher

We’ve got news! Press-type news!

A few months ago, John Skjelstad from TTA Sound approached me with an idea. TTA has a product called Stagetracker that is a big thing in Europe. (They’re making a move to the U.S. this year.) Stagetracker is a powerful system for sophisticated audio localization. It is also able to perform real-time performer tracking using radio tags. John wanted to know if QLab and Stagetracker could join forces, using QLab as the playback and show control component of a complete Stagetracker system.

We talked it through, investigated Stagetracker as a product, and Sean and I wrote some test code to see how it might work. When John and Flemming (TTA’s director of marketing and sales) flew through Dulles International Airport, I drove down to meet them in person.

We decided to do it.

Starting with Stagetracker’s next release, QLab will be the playback and control component of a Stagetracker system. This means QLab will provide all the audio playback, while Stagetracker will provide audio localization and actor tracking.

The way we’re doing this is with a new cue in QLab: the Stagetracker Cue.

New Stagetracker Cue

You won’t see it if you’re not using a Stagetracker system. If you have a Stagetracker system, you’ll have the new cue. Everything else about QLab remains the same.

The Stagetracker Cue talks to the Stagetracker tracking engine, and tells it where to send sound.


What does this mean? This means that you can localize the output of your Audio Cues. Draw a path of where you want the sound to go, and it will go there. Badda-bing, badda-boom. They use some very fancy math to do this. You don’t have to worry about that part. You can just draw lines where you want the sound to go.

The Stagetracker product can come in a variety of configurations. You can get just a localization matrix (to achieve just localization, without tracking), or you can expand up to a full system with radio tags and actor tracking.

And you can control it all from inside your existing QLab workspace, even running both QLab and the tracking engine on the same computer if you want. Pretty cool stuff!

Below you’ll find the official press release from TTA. We’re excited to see QLab integrate into this end of the design spectrum!

Preview for TTA, showing with Mega Audio on Stand G40C, in Hall 8.0

TTA, innovator of the high-tech Stagetracker FX tracking and localization system, is joining forces with Figure 53, innovator of the popular QLab show control software, to announce the completion of critical stages to integrate support for Stagetracker FX, combining the power of the two systems.

At the ProLight+Sound expo, TTA and Figure 53 will announce the introduction of The Stagetracker Cue to the QLab package. Controlling one audio input in the Stagetracker Matrix, the new Stagetracker Cue in QLab can take a sound effect and fly it around onstage or anywhere else in the auditorium, using the Stagetracker Matrix for stunning localization effect. The Stagetracker Cue also opens up options for controlling live audio inputs, making it easy to localize live audio from wireless microphones in QLab. All this is fully integrated in the QLab play list.

Stagetracker FX is the only localization system on the market to move audio completely smoothly and naturally even when applying different delay settings. In addition to tracking the actors and the audio from their microphones precisely, now the sound designer can create advanced sound effects in QLab and have them follow the performers’ movements, or fly between performers on stage. At any time, Stagetracker Cues can be fired from QLab to control performers’ localization outside the tracked stage area, exploiting all the benefits of a complete Stagetracker matrix using controllable delay, level and EQ.

QLab with Stagetracker can be seen in the UK at the OpenStage event in London on May 12. For further information……

TTA’s Stagetracker FX has the capability to handle 32 performers, all of which can be tracked and localized independently within the software. Now featuring two operational modes, Zone mode and the new Pan Between Points (PbP), the Stagetracker FX matrix has widened its appeal to touring productions and also to venues without an extensive distributed sound system.

While Zone mode is designed to work with a distributed sound system, in which every loudspeaker covers a small area of audience, the new PbP mode is ideal for use with line array systems, now the popular choice with many auditoria. PbP mode offers a vastly simplified and streamlined system set-up which can be completed quickly and without the skills of a trained technician. Stagetracker FX is pre-calibrated so in situations where ultra-fast set-up is required, as with a touring production, the PbP mode achieves complete plug-and-play status.

For further information:
About QLab: http://figure53.com/qlab/
About Stagetracker: http://www.tta-sound.com/

Editor’s contact:
Ginny Goudy PR
Tel: 0044 (0) 208 347 7939
Email: ginnygoudypr@gofast.co.uk

luckydave’s New Look

March 3rd, 2011 by Christopher

For the record…

Old luckydave:

Luckydave before

New luckydave:

Luckydave after

People who have known him for years have walked up to introduce themselves. I can’t blame them.

Sighting: Portland Center Stage’s Tech Table

March 2nd, 2011 by Christopher

Another one from Sam Kusnetz! This time from Portland Center Stage:

Cuckoo tech table

(Click to enlarge.)

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