Since the beginning of 2018 I’ve entered a new band, Soul in One. With this 12-piece band we made some remarkable progress in the last 9 months. Next to improvement in the musical department, like playing songs chained-together without intermediate ‘whitespace’ and better harmonised wood- and brass arrangements, we’ve put a lot of effort in the looks of it all. How I did the light show is what I want to share with you in this post.
First a general overview of what we did a better stage presence:
- Use of risers with skirts
- Backdrop and truss
- LED lighting
- Wireless equipment
Risers with skirts
A 12-piece band with three singers, two guitarists, a bass player, a three-piece brass section, two keyboardists and a drummer is quite a pack. Even the larger of stages will be reasonably filled by it. Put all twelve in a row and you will get the most dull image in the world. Painters after the middle ages already knew that for a fact, so famous paintings like the Nightwatch by Rembrandt already made use of level differences to make everybody stand out in the crowd.
With different heights for the singers and guitar players, the keyboardists, the horns and the drums a total of four different levels makes a more appealing image for the audience. Skirts hide the ugly parts of the riser, the feet.
Backdrop and truss
Trusses are used to hang lights. But they also make a nice visual frame for the audience.
As a backdrop we use an RGB stardrape six by three meters. A cotton backdrop takes away visual distractions in the back, dampens echo’s from glass or otherwise hard surfaced back walls. RGB leds make it more appealing than a dull, all black surface.
In our light rig we use LED only. Obvious upsides to old style PAR lights are: less power consumption, no audible interference with the PA system, nicer colours with more variation, lighter and less bulky, and less heat generation on stage (which also may be a disadvantage in winter-gigs…)
Three four-bar LED-PARS as they are still called, using COB-LED’s, 7*3W = 21 W of RGB LED’s per can deliver the main colouration of the stage. Two in the front/side light up the stage in some beautiful colours. A third four-bar of the same type is used at the back of the stage, facing a bit downwards to illumenate the drummer and front people from the back (so toward the audience). This gives a nice dramatic effect.
On the back three LED-BARS with five A4-sized LED illuminated rectangles in a vertical row produce a less vibrant, but still nice visual effect. The symmetrical nature shows simple animations of colours matching the other lights.
On the back of the risers four ‘uplights’ (simple aliexpress RGBW LED spots) generate a special effect to the image by providing upward beams of light behind the performers.
For control I used (until March 2019) a MacBook laptop computer with the QLC+ software and a simple USB to DMX512 interface (an Entec OpenDMX). For easy cabling I use an 8-port DMX splitter so I don’t need to run around the stage with a single string, but rather can use a simpler star-like cabling method.
QLC+ is quite versatile. It can be programmed to do very complicated light shows. The laptop is not necessary, as QLC+ can also run on a raspberry pi. That could have been the next extension. To switch preprogrammed light shows I use a KORG NANOKONTROL 2, but at some point I could use MIDI controlled switching from my synthesizer.
An alternative to QLC+, Lightrider
As per March 2019 I’m evaluating an alternative to QLC+ and a laptop. I’ve ordered an ADJ (American DJ) mydmx go interface and tablet software. This is the rebranded light rider app with a dedicated double universe wifi enabled DMX interface. The light rider app simplifies the programming by providing simple control over color patterns and movement patterns. All control is done through the app which can run in the background for 10 minutes. This makes it possible to run other apps at the same time. Since an iPad requires wifi connection to the interface, this limits the use of remote mixing apps. Android tablets are more versatile in that they can be connected over USB.
Shows are quite simple, but may give stunning effects anyway. Just set the tempo, the colours you like to use, the type of effect and movement and you are all set. The app automatically distributes the colours and effect over the configured devices. A show can be fine tuned to your likings by adjusting size, fade time and such of a particular effect. A fogger can be controlled live, as well as strobes. Moving lights can be limited and centred easily. Fifty presets can be saved for easy access. BPM can be synced with apps or with the microphone and some manual control over de dmx channels allows for out of the ordinary adjustments. I guess this is the simple solution I was searching for!
A static setup of 12 people is very dull. Singers have to move around the stage, making contact to the audience. For that we use wireless microphones and wireless in ear monitors. But why limit this to singers? With also the guitar players on a wireless transmitter, and even the keyboardists on a wireless keytar the stage gets much more dynamic.
Uniforms. Many people find them appealing. Especially women, as I’ve been told. As a band, we are a group. A group has to have similar characteristics, and a uniform can be one of them. But we are not The Village people, so we have bought ourselves a set of blue suits. The horn section got a lighter blue shade than the rest of the musicians. Only the singers stand out by wearing different clothes. This makes them extra special.