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My new open relationship with Apple

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A year ago you could ask any of my friends, I was the Apple guy.

I wouldn’t have called myself the ultimate fan. I didn’t line up for the latest tech, I was cautious — I would do my research and purchase once I felt the products had secured their place. Every iPhone i owned was the 2nd generation (basically all the “s’s” e.g 4s,5s,6s etc) I felt they were the improvements on the major updates and that the new models were too new.


I was heavily ingrained in the Apple eco system, I relied heavily on the iCloud and even stuck with them through dropping “Me and @mac”. I even stood by as they discontinued my iWeb websites.

So it came as a huge shock to my friends and colleagues when I began to explore alternatives.
I bought a cheap Samsung tablet just to try it out.
The real push came when i updated to the latest iOS and none of my apps would update, they hung in limbo greyed out and unusable. I tried everything and every Apple store visit ended with them telling me to Factory Reset…
So I took the leap.

I bought a Samsung S7 edge of eBay and decided to give it a solid go.
I took off my Apple Watch, I turned off my iPhone.
There was a lot to let go off, and Android no matter which Hardware and flavour it is running is never a ‘pretty’ as iOS.
However I did like it and I discovered there was a lot i was missing out on.

One of the biggest hurdles was iMessage. I had blindly become so dependant on it.
I was unaware people were still messaging me on it, I had to fire up my iPhone and go through the difficult process of disabling it. This drove me further from Apple, as I don’t like relying this heavily on one business.
I was able to transfer all my messages to the android.

I found there is a much bigger world outside Apple now and although not as tightly ingrained many alternatives:

iPhoto: Googles photo app is a much better alternative and offers far greater storage.

iTunes: although i have invested heavily in my iTunes music collection I had already started to move away as services like Netflix, Stan and Spotify actually saved me huge amounts in comparison to purchasing and similar to my iMessage experience I realised how much I was stuck with one company and all my ‘purchases’ really gave me very little ownership.

iMessage: whilst nothing will enable you to interact with iMessage directly I think there are better ways. Facebook messenger is becoming a viable alternative and can even handle SMS on android for you (i enjoyed this for a little while, but ultimately found it confusing to use both in the one app)
Pushbullet is a great way of using a computer to interact with your phone and send text messages (something i used a lot with iMessage)

iWork: I still love the i work apps however Microsoft office has definitely made some great strides and Googles apps are becoming more of a standard thank to their universal usability and well its free.

This is just a few examples, the more I look the more I find better alternatives and realise just how much i was putting up with.
iMessage was full of bugs and errors, unreceived messages, inconsistency in messages across devices.
The iWork apps are great but the iCloud link is slow and unreliable, and almost every time I went to open a file I would find the app to be out of date, and unable to update because it was too large to download over.
This leads me to talk about the amount of restrictions Apple has on its devices which I understand the reasons behind, but surely there should be overrides. Data limits — come on I can get a 50gb data allowance these days I can cope with 100mb, no NFC access, forced default apps i could go on.

I am not Anti-Apple, I haven’t converted and I haven’t totally left.
I describe myself in an open relationship, and feel liberated by the new range of options. I may go back to the iPhone, but now I can move much more freely between devices.
I believe the gap between OS’s is becoming smaller and smaller, as more developers are cross platform and we work more in the cloud.

 

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Becoming Operating System independant

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I remember years ago I would get a new computer and so would begin the painful task of migrating over my applications, tracking down licence keys and deregistering. Going through my files and trying to decide what is worth keeping and trying to remember how I had my system set up previously.
Not to mention the pain of trying to work with multiple machines (like a desktop and laptop)


The first major advancement came as applications moved to subscription models and services like Dropbox offered constant file syncing.
I was able to work across devices seamlessly, and upgrading to a new machine was far simpler the apps would download and install — No more looking for install DVD’s and licence keys.

I have always been OS monogamous, as the pain of changing was just too much and I was comfortable.
But the gab between OS’s is becoming much smaller as more and more applications are cross platform and a lot more is done in the ‘cloud’.
Data storage services are offering bigger and bigger allowances.

Big strides are being made to move CPU and GPU intensive apps to web, offering the computing power unparalleled to a Desktop.

Microsoft Office, Google Docs and now even Apples work apps offer browser based solutions.

Almost all my files are in the cloud across a host of services Dropbox, iCloud, Creative Cloud, Google, Amazon. I even use a couple for Archive storage like unsynced Dropbox folders and Amazon’s Glacier.

I have been trying out different systems lately, Windows, ChromeOS, Linux, Android and whilst I struggle with the different User Interfaces and my “mac habits” ultimately I can generally achieve same results.

Additionally the line between devices is becoming blurred.
The smartphone inched closer to the computer with tablets, and continues to do so with hybrids.

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Qlab 4 - Now you can run the entire show

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The long awaited update to the industry standard cueing software Qlab has just been released, and its a big one!
Qlab 4 comes with a host of new tricks, from some small additions like fancy copy and paste (which will be life changing for some) to the biggest addition Lighting control!


So Qlab has always had the ability to cue lighting consoles via OSC, MTC etc but now Qlab can talk directly to the lighting fixtures over artnet.
Now whilst I don't anticipate anyone will be throwing away their lighting consoles anytime soon - The interface is no where near as intuitive as a dedicated lighting console.
It does open up some very interesting possibilities:
- Control House Lights
- Control fog, haze snow machines etc.
- Strobes

Where I think it will prove to be very powerful is alongside the huge amount of led tape and fixtures available.
Qlab could now control led lights for cueing, sync a light with a buzzer, create beautifully choreographed storm scenes with sound and light.

The new inclusion also allows consoles to be left behind for simple setups, like a couple of led up lights and a few dimmer channels.

I will have more to tell once i have played with it :)

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MA dot2 Review

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When the likes of MA announce they have added a new console to their line up it is big news. So I was eager to get a look at it. I checked out the website and downloaded the software. However initially I was underwhelmed by it, especially as an MA2 user the dot2 just felt like a huge step backwards.


The more i looked the more it felt like it was missing:

  • A very basic effects library
  • No Pixel map
  • No fixture editor
  • Very little fixture settings
  • Locked views

Considering the dot2 comes in at a price above the MA2onPC command wing I didn’t really see a place for it. So i deleted the software and ignored it for some time.


I recently encountered a second look, whilst using a dot2 core console in a school theatre. Whilst actually using the console my initial judgement began to change. For this production I was brought in to design and program the lighting, and the show would be operated by one of the schools students. I began to see the consoles short coming more as the strategic removal of less required advanced features.

The MA2 is a powerful console and almost infinitely customisable, which can be very time consuming to setup and incredibly confusing to less experienced users.

The dot2 just works, it is more logical to new users. However it still remains familiar to the MA2 family. although it may not initially present itself as intuitive, with small screens which need to be switched between to access different parameters, groups and presets. But again this is a plus for newer users as all relevant information is right there.

I did have some issues patching lesser known fixtures, and there was no option to edit the fixture profile or change parameters. (I have later discovered there is an offline fixture builder, so this is less of a problem)

For this production we had no time to plot, so instead the operator ran the show on the console whilst I modified cues live over the network on a laptop. Thanks to the familiar MA command line this was incredibly easy, and the dot2 network setup was far simpler.


With a dedicated ‘Main’ cuelist and dual faders, the dot2 is a step closer to a theatrical console. My initial thoughts were that it was an odd choice for a school, however I have grown to like the dot2 and definitely see a place for it.
It is a good introduction to intelligent lighting, and a clever stepping stone to its bigger brother (or GrandMother ;) - in fact its show files can even be opened on the MA2 (however not visa versa).
There are still many things I would like to see included - like maybe the possibility to create effects in MA2 and save for the Dot2 as a preset.
It appears to sill be in heavy development which is good news for any console - meaning more features are yet to come. The recent updates added layout views (A major addition, making the console even easier to use and navigate on those little screens an

This little console is perfect for all the places an MA2 was over kill because setup time, space or operator experience are limited. The dot2 is a very small all in one console, no extra screens or wings etc are requires. It can be easily carried under one arm, and have a lighting rig up and running very quickly with minimal programming.

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Quick design on the iPad with Adobe Comp

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Adobe's creative cloud apps on iOS really are a totally different experience. These are not scaled down desktop apps, these are completely different apps fully utilising the multi touch user interface.

Here is a qucik video of a programme cover I was asked to do. I'm no graphic designer, I was asked to do this as a favour. Usually something like this would take me hours; jumping between Photoshop, Illustrator and inDesign, however using the Adobe Comp app on iPad i had this cover done in 10 mins and a template for the whole programme done in just 30min whilst I sat at a coffee shop.

Adobe had release previous itterations of wireframing apps, but the earlier versions only provided grey blocks, specific icons and standard text mostly aimed towards web layout. It is the introduction and direct integration of the Adobe Stock library, from here content can be downloaded as free place holders.

Sign up to start using the Adobe Creative Cloud suite
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Colour Mapping - Visuals to Lighting

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Colour mapping was used to synchronise colours from our video content to the lighting fixtures.
We used this technique for the Noisecontrollers and Zatox Australian tours.

Project Links:
Noisecontrollers Tour 2015
Zatox New World Order Tour 2015

 


We needed a way to keep the over colour palette of the show to remain harmonious whilst still being a live operated production.
It is hard to stay in constant verbal communication between Video, Light and Laser to keep the production from turning into a"Rainbow".

The solution was to create a link from the video mapping to the lighting console. We are still to figure out how to include laser in the colour mapping.

To achieve this RAW DMX data was generated in an RGB format based on a lighting fixtures location relevant to the video content. Essentially the whole stage was treated as a video surface, VJ content was mapped to the LED screens and lighting fixture positions were included in the mapping and sent relevant RGB information.

This was then sent to the lighting console over ArtNet and merged with the consoles own DMX stream for that fixture.
This meant the VJ could control the colour of each lighting fixture whilst the Lighting Operator could maintain control of the rest of the fixtures function.

Mad Mapper was used for pixel mapping and lighting fixture colour mapping. 


By having overall colour control dictated by video content smooth colour changes could be achieved. From slow RGB cross fades to fast on the beat colour strobing, everything remained in sync. 

Mad Mapper gives the ability to quickly change between looks. So it was even possible to setup inverted selections to have the lighting fixtures remain in contrasting colours for bold looks.


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Sydney’s New Lockout to damage the industry

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From February 24th new laws are to be enforced across Sydney requiring 1:30am lockouts and 3:00am last drinks.

These laws cover approximately 220 venues with more than half of those being classified and Live Music venues, the exceptions to this law being restaurants, large hotels and small bars of fewer than 60 customers.

How these inclusion zone has been determined I am unsure, although it conveniently excludes Star Casino and Barrangaroo being affected by the new laws.
Additionally only 3 of the 25 most violent clubs in NSW are included.

Both Queensland and Victoria have tried similar tactics only to be reversed after not receiving the intended results.

Now whilst I understand the need for action in the wake of alcohol related violence I think this is a drastic measure and don’t believe it will yield effective results.
For starters the issue is violence on the streets, with very few reported cases of violence within venues. What will happen at the the 3am last drinks? Venues will cease to be profitable and eject their patrons onto the streets.
So rather than having the slow number of patrons leave the venues and sober up at 3am the streets will have an unexpectedly high number of people having just finished their last drink.

These laws will probably see an increase in people seeking alternatives like sneaking alcohol into venues with them and using prohibited substances.

One of my big concerns with these law is their effect on the Live Music industry, which is already fighting an ongoing battle with poker machine space. However there are plenty of venues still thriving with a live music scene and happy to continue so long as they are making money i.e bar sales.
For most of the Electronic Dance Music scene events tend to run from 10pm-5am on average with most featured acts starting at 12:00 or 1am.
It will be such a shame to see the scene diminish in Sydney, just after it was starting to pick up again and
This would significantly reduce the number of available space for upcoming artists.

The flow on effects don’t just stop at live music, many other jobs will be included in the reduction of business bar staff, security guards, cleaners, lighting technicians, audio engineers, promoters, door staff, designers, venue managers, booking agents, producers… The list goes on.

Reports indicate that violence in Sydney is at its lowest in 10 years.
The issue is not with the venues but with the culture.

So what can be done?
There are plenty of surveys, petitions and alliances going around at the moment which will hopefully stir domes noise and if note simply serve as a big fat told you so when it fails.

http://www.communityrun.org/petitions/fight-barry-o-farrell-s-cbd-legislation

http://www.fasterlouder.com.au/news/38177/Reactions-to-Sydneys-new-lockout-laws

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Lighting Consoles – Groups should be Palettes

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Lighting Consoles – Groups should be Palettes


No matter what you call them palettes, presets etc most intelligent lighting consoles work the same way. You save your commonly used colours, gobos, positions and other attributes as palettes. You also save certain combinations of fixtures as groups.
This makes programming cues or looks much simpler and faster.
Now when it comes to programming groups and palettes serve pretty much the same function.
It is during playback they part ways.
As most are aware cues reference the palette during playback rather than hard values. This means palettes can be updated. For example a palette may have some LEDs in red saved as “RED”. If this palette was updated with the fixtures in blue every cue that referenced the “RED” palette would make the LEDs blue.
This shouldn’t be news to anyone, it is a driving force behind palette usage.

My issue is that the groups don’t carry this same function. Once a cue is recorded it references the fixtures directly and not the group.
So if you were to alter the group the cues would not be affected.
I have requested this to several console manufacturers and other lighting ops and generally the response is ‘why?’

Let explain.
Groups record two primary things a selection of fixtures and the order in which they were selected.
The reason I would like them to work like palettes is so you have the option to alter this information later.

I’ll run through a few scenarios.
Firstly let’s say in a standard theatre setting you have your groups set for FOH wash, general wash, cyc colours etc.
And you’ve programmed countless cues.
Now let’s say you’ve decided down the track to add another fixture to the general wash, to fix a few gaps. What’s next- tedious re plotting? No a simple group update could fix this.

Another benefit would be touring shows where the rig alters, simply update your groups and your pretty close.
People normally chime in here and say ‘you just do a fixture replace’
And yes this is an option but one that generally falls short. What if your next rig doesn’t have all the fixtures?
i.e that centre spot special is actually part of the Foh wash. No worries update your groups and it can be used for both with out altering your programming!

Again on the touring use, let’s say you usually have a 4 bank cyc wash RGB and maybe a magenta But this new venue only has 3. Record your magenta group as Red and Blue!
Admittedly this opens up more discussion as to the saving of intensities.
And yes I think it would be great if groups also saved intensities as a relative values (I.e red 100% blue 80% so then group magenta at 50% would be Red 50% blue 40%. Or maybe generic dimmers should be able to be saved in colour palettes…)

This also means you could swap intelligent fixtures for static and vise versa. For example say your gobo wash was a group of movers with gobo and position palettes but you need to swap them out for statics, simply updated the group and obviously the position and gobo palettes won’t affect the statics.

Now for intelligent fixtures and the selection order.
The selection order in commonly used for effects, timing and fanning.
However this is also hard saved to a cue.
Let’s say you had a nice LED chase effect and you have to add or remove a fixture, this means reprogramming!
However if groups worked like palettes you could simply add it to the group adjust the selection order and your done!

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