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When you go to see a major touring band, they've got massive quantities of top-end gear and numerous well-rehearsed experts doing a lot of stuff live, initiating chases, manning spots and so forth. The end result is that every song the band performs has a ton of stuff happening with the lighting/effects, and it is all tightly synchronized with the song.

Background: I'm in a fabulous band called Starfish, and our goal is to bring a full-on concert experience to younger kids, 5 to 10 years old. We've got a somewhat campy, Spinal Tap-esque vibe and we are trying to pass ourselves off as the very greatest rock band ever known to humanity while doing songs about annoying baby brothers, getting your bike stolen, playing air guitar, etc. The thing is, presenting this image convincingly requires lighting, and what we'd really like to do is find some way to have a pretty amazing light show that is programmed to play right along with our music.

So, um... how does one do this on the cheap, say with a couple of reading lamps and an outlet timer? <sheepish grin>

As a newbie in this area (I'm a keyboard player/singer), I'm guessing that we'd need some kind of laptop-based solution where we totally describe all the gear we have and then program our lighting design song by song, and then our drummer would have to play to a click generated by the laptop while it sent all the lighting changes out over DMX. Am I right? Is there something simpler? Are we totally foolish in looking for a solution that doesn't involve adding a lighting dude to the band? How about software that runs on Mac OS X?

Also, any recommendations for "Concert Lighting 101" books / magazines / websites?
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I programmed a whole church music program with moving lights and pars on a DMX operator. Triggered by midi notes from a pro tools rig. Pretty cool. Raelly time consuming.

You can do simple static scenes with the DMX operator but if you want complex thing then yeah, you are going to need some type of software solution. I haven't played with the Elation compu pro but it is cheap and I imagine it has some type of advance cue list via midi function.

I do a lot with Light Jockey, I know you can build a cue list ahead of time and trigger it via midi or timecode.

Hope this helps.
Thanks for the responses, guys. I do have a controller coming that can store a pile of scenes and a handful of chases. I don't mind the time consuming aspect as long as I get nice results, and I actually like the idea of triggering stuff via MIDI (as long as I have a hand free at the time) so that we can be more flexible in taking open solos, chatting up the crowd, etc. But more complicated stuff will definitely have to be run by a computer. I'll definitely check out Elation's demo!
Hey now! Looks like the DR-512 might be the answer I'm looking for, at least for a while. As long as I can "play" the scenes from my existing DMX controller into it with the correct timing (while listening to a recording of a given song), the DR-512 will play back all the DMX info at the gig. I'll still have to work out the details of starting each song and dealing with "open" solos, but that seems do-able.
Show Designer 2 handles midi commands very well. Makes recording and programming very easy when using any software that accepts midi in and can record the midi track.

I've had issues with midi using the dmx operator and dmx operator pro. Was more frustrating then anything else I was not able to obtain reliable playback using midi to trigger these two consoles after verifying the midi being sent to them was perfect consistently.

The midi drivers in them are very low level and do not have any sort of buffer on them ... if notes are sent faster then a given rate the console will miss the command.

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