What's New?

I thought I would place this topic onto its own page. I have some thoughts on handling my songs and my sets and I can explain them here. I am going to buy software called Bomes Midi Translator. It can take midi input and turn it into keyboard characters. I am going to use this to load a song in RealBand among other things. On my librarian computer (separate computer from RealBand computer), I will have my list of songs arranged in a set. The current song is highlighted but at the beginning of the night, no song will be highlighted, the set will just be loaded. RealBand will also be loaded and ready to read a song file. My keyboard has transport controls. When I click NEXT on my keyboard transport control, that will send an MTC timecode message on a specific midi channel which will be received only by the librarian software. It will do a NextSong function putting it onto the first song. The first song will "execute" and send midi (notes) to a midi channel received only by the RealBand computer also running Bome. Bome will translate the notes into 0-9 and a-z and other keyboard characters, which I will map out on a keyboard layout for that purpose. Those characters will do a Alt-F, ROCKIN ROBIN, Enter, F5 and so on, whatever is required to load and begin that song. Once the song starts, it will play until it hits an MTC timecode and it will then stop. But, at the beginning of the song tracks will be SysEx codes to set up my VL70, TC Helicon and my two keyboards plus Letters/Numbers that might need to go to other computers to load and start songs or styles on them. Now, theoretically, all my equipment is ready to go. So far, I only pushed the SongNext on my keyboard transport controls. Finally, after talking or whatever, I push Play on the transport controls and my song starts. That's when I can have a tap-in or something on my screen. My computer screen is mounted right on my keyboard and it has RealBand on it. I never want to mess around with that during a performance. My Librarian computer can be off to the side somewhere and I might want to look at it to see how my set is going and what's coming next.

OK, so here's the latest brainwave I had. I have a separate midi track going to the midi channel of my librarian software. All it does is, at the end of the song, it sends a simple letter which is translated by Bome as a down arrow key or whatever I need to go to the next song. Once that happens, everything starts all over again with the "execute" of the next song. At the end of the set, everything stops. I haven't made any allowances yet for requests. I don't think it's worth the trouble. For a real band, yes, but not for me. Everything I do is very complicated and orchestrated. I am going to have two cameras, one focused on each side of my keyboard. Those will be used by the VJ as part of the video display behind me. I also have some awesome fractal video software. It has an automatic mode and it responds to keystokes. I will program it with my 0-9 and a-z keyboard and Bome will turn the midi notes back into characters for the fractal software.

I have also added some video techniques which you may find interesting. I have discovered a program which creates beautiful fractals in real time and I plan to feed that screen output to a Numark VJ video mixer. The VJ can record a performance into a midi track. The kind of information that gets stored is movements of the controls, like start this clip, merge it with the fractal feed, fade in the camera feed and so on. I have watched a lot of UTube videos on the VJ. There are bigger and better video merge machines out there but this one does a ton of stuff and I think it will suit me fine. I have to program all my video actions before my performance, so that means playing a recorded song, either the original or my version, and see what kind of stuff I can come up with that looks good. I have a feeling there will be many many tries before I get something that looks good. We'll see. I might get somebody else involved that has some experience with this stuff. 

The lights are also just midi tracks in RealBand. It's just that they have to be all recorded and set up ahead of time... for each song specifically. If the lights are going to change colour at the bridge, obviously, that's going to be different for every song. The lights are controlled by an interface called DMX. The interface in turn is controlled by software that responds to MIDI input and will pass on instructions in the DMX language. That way, a MIDI track in RealBand, playing along with my song, of course, can control my lights at the right moments in each song, dimming them, changing colour and switching to white at the end of a song. I have a large 4 light unit on a tall stand right in front of me called a 4Bar. Well, there are 4 lights on a bar, hence the name! It is by Chauvet. On each side of me is one large Chauvet Rain 56 light on a stand. All these lights are tied together by the DMX network.

When you think of electrical power and computers, the quality of the power is always an issue. Computers are very sensitive to poor power quality and so is musical equipment, being computer-type devices themselves. I haven't done a huge amount of research but it wasn't hard to see the benefit of buying a really good Balanced Power Conditioner. One that I liked a lot is the Furman P-2400 IT. Let me just paste here a little of what they say on their web page. The Furman P-2400 IT is a symmetrically balanced power conditioner, designed for the most critical, ultra-low noise installations, provides unparalleled AC noise reduction and 100% isolation from the power grid for the lowest noise floor possible. The Furman P-2400 IT features over 80 dB of common-mode and over 50 dB of differential-mode noise reducti on for recording, mastering, and broadcast studios, or anywhere noise-free performance is critical. With 100% isolation from line, neutral, and ground, the P-2400 IT is also ideal for breaking AC ground loops without rewiring or hiring an electrician. Sounds good or what?!

I don't know if you have heard of a video wall. It's not just a bunch of TVs on a wall. It's one image shared by a number of video screens. They are now building TVs special for video walls so that they can be put together almost seamlessly. The one I like is the Samsung LFD, made especially for this job. The surrounding bezel is extremely small and secondly, it is very thin and light, weighing in at only 16 pounds! The wall concept was developed by the U of California at Irvine. I want to make sure I get technology that all works together, so I am only interested in a manufacturer that makes the whole thing, from TVs to the controllers. These monitors go up on special stands and because of the relatively low weight, I am going to have two video wall setups, one on each side of the stage behind me. The alternative is two very expensive projectors, two very expensive white screens and two very expensive girls to put them up. No, just kidding, girls won't be that expensive. Just KIDDING!! I think this technology will be amazing on stage. The seams will be so inconsequential that I'm sure most people won't even notice the separations. They might even thing the lines are just in the video to give it the cool look. I think the TV screens will stack into boxes very neatly face to face in pairs and rolled in and out of the truck. I haven't decided for sure yet, but I might have two separate computers controlling each video wall so that the images can be different. I don't know yet if people may find that too distacting. I will test it out first and get some opinions before I decide.

I have found an awesome pitch bend controller that behaves like a touch strip. It's called a VMeter and it does more than just respond to your finger pressure. This is what the website says about it. The VMeter is a "USB MIDI touch strip that provides nuanced musical control and visualization for DJs and other laptop musicians. Blue LEDs react to volume, touch or MIDI. The versatile touch strip is actually several controllers in one, giving you new ways to "play" effects and tracks.". I have a couple of situations where I want a side-to-side action for sounds like a wailing guitar solo. Something that will simulate the severe bending of a string while holding a long note on the guitar. This thing would be perfect for that. I don't like the pitch bend control on most keyboards. It's a wheel and it's at the far left! Who needs something way over there that you need to work with your less skilful arm and furthermore, you have to involve your shoulder and whole arm to get the motion because it's forward and back. Exactly the opposite of what you do when playing a steel guitar. I am going to find a nice little spot for one of these things just below my lower keyboard and within easy reach of my left hand. You can centre the effect initially and then bend up OR down. Whatever works for that sound. So, I'm pretty excited about that one.

I think that's about it for new stuff. Do you have something to add? Are you using the APC40 or the padKontrol? What software are you using? Drop me a line, if you have a minute. I look forward to hearing from you. Contact Me

Best regards
Brian Dee
Black Box Band
My Blog