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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » F/X » » Remote Controlling Sound cues (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Jeff Haas
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I don't think you'd get another station breaking in, because why would a radio station shift frequencies? But you would have a radio sitting there tuned to a dead channel, and when you weren't playing music, I guess you'd get a hiss. It could also pick up "pops" when electrical circuits in the building change (lights getting turned on, refrigerators cycling, etc.)

If you're just starting out and doing small shows, it might just be easier to figure out some way to have a wired remote...forget the wireless stuff at first. Then you just run the wire straight back from your table and around to the music player. Not as clean, but it could get you by for awhile while you learned.

Jeff
JamesinLA
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I use my software to edit and mix my tracks. I then burn to CD. It's not as flexiable, but I am able to fade out tracks, make short cues, add echo, mix mulitiple cues like you build soundtracks for a film.

For the smallish shows I do, I use a boom box with an IR remote. I know, I know, IR sucks. But it works in the living rooms I work in. It's cheap. I also use the boom box on the street, just by hitting the buttons. The box sits at waist level in my street cart so it's convient.

I do wish however, that someone would come out with an RF remote for a boom box rather than the IR remote. That would cheaply take me to the next level. Anyone know of a boom box with an RF remote? Or of someway to jury rig an RF remote to a IR remote controlled boom box? Thanks.

Jim
Oh, my friend we're older but no wiser, for in our hearts the dreams are still the same...
MikeJRogers
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Hey everyone,

I just found this website during a search. The guy sells a little RF remote to control MP3's on a laptop. don't know how good it is, just thought it might be of interest.

Check it out: http://home.earthlink.net/~krubowc4/Products.htm

Good luck,

Mike
Mike Rogers Illusion Design - Australia - http://www.mikerogers.com.au
"Nothings impossible, the impossible just takes longer" - Dan Brown novel
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Jeff Haas
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Now there's a case of independent development! This guy had exactly the same same needs for his square dancing hobby that we need to run sound cues in magic shows. His web page describes almost the same solution for triggering sound cues, using Winamp on a laptop, as mine does.

The only difference is that I found someone who had built a remote control, he actually made his own, and also programmed a small utility to interface with Winamp. Otherwise, he bought a used laptop off eBay that's similar in speed to the one I use.

This system should work similar to mine; the main difference is the need to velcro the transmitter to your belt and run the antenna through your belt loops.

If anyone out there isn't convinced that a laptop is the way to go, both for price and ease of use, take a look at the page linked above.

Jeff
Majiloon
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Please forgive me, I don't want to beat my own drum here, I don't have a lot of time at all to go to all these web sites, but I really want to know why most of you 'Here' have chosen to complicate this issue so much, it really seems that way.

When I read this I find that there is no real true information about the Virtual Soundman- It is Plug-N-Play without a learning curve or software. And is the obvious choice...

Our research shows that Rack mounts are not so road worthy, and or expensive, but have a couple other features that Walkmans don't- but may not amount to much of an advantage overall. The Show tech while was a clever device at one time, and I respect the work that went into it -is still expensive and difficult learning curve. The Cue master uses a Home deck- which is delicate and certainly not road worthy for some, expensive, and uses AM RF, when the VSM uses SAW controlled superhet FSK FM which is completely superior to all AM systems, and the closest thing to being wired in. Lap Tops IPod and MP3 players are faulty, drop data, delicate and have hang-ups. The only way to use a Laptop reliably is to have someone operate it manually. The other homemade Key chain transmitters and these home made controller are not upwardly or backwardly compatible nor do they have any track record for service, or reliability.

I almost get a headache when I see this dialog, without anyone making an argument for the Virtual Soundman-

I would really like to hear why- I am not trying to pick a fight here at all please- I would like to get some intellectually honest calm feed back please. I would like to know if you have some real questions- things that I may not know about- that has escaped my notice, you may respond privately if you wish, please know that I am always looking for ways to improve, and hopefully improve the industry, thank you- respectfully
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Jeff Haas
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Kelly,

I respectfully disagree with you about laptops. Computers are commonly used to run the biggest shows on Broadway, in theme parks, for bands...you can use simple software or sophisticated software. It just depends on how ambitious you are.

I found a professionally engineered remote control that is reliable. There are people around the world who are using what I figured out all the time with their touring shows.

Some of the readers here on this board aren't able to buy the remote I recommend; they'd prefer to save some money and work with other ones. That's OK, but it will make their life more complicated and create a potentially unreliable show. At some point I figure they'll want to trade up.

And if you're just using it to trigger music cues, all you have to do is learn how to use Winamp, which is pretty simple.

Jeff
magicguy22
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Checkout http://www.stagecue.com for yet another wireless MD Controller!
Looks pretty neat and some cool "extras"
Salazar Magic
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Here's the deal:
I did a show with another performer. He has VSM, I have the Mini Tech.
The two units were side-by-side.
His VSM worked flawlessly, my Minitech failed (a lot)

It was a large stage and both units had to be placed amongst a jungle of wireless mic receivers.

However, other than that show, my Minitech never failed me. But, I admit, made me think twice a little.
Jeff Haas
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Salazar,
This is the first time I've seen a head-to-head comparison of the two products.

When you say that your Minitech "failed" what do you mean? Did it not trigger cues when you pressed the button? Etc.

It may have been on the same frequency as another device, thus the problems.

Jeff
Salazar Magic
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It did not trigger. It was a wide stage, and I had to walk towards the receiver for the music to trigger. It threw my timing off and the whole show was off because I kept worrying about my music. One unit was off while the other is on.

One day we're going to get together and do a head to head comparison as far as the range. I still like my minitech because of the functions and the size of the remote.
Majiloon
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Jeff - - Salazar,
I will give you a hint about the failure of the mini tech. “AM frequency”-- If you use an AM frequency in some stage environments you will be vulnerable to EMF (Electro magnetic interference) caused by the other electronic devices all plugged in at once as Salazar mentioned.

Most of the 12 volt AM transmitters are overly powerful, so as to compensate for inherently week AM receivers. But it is for that same reason- that these matched receivers are not discrete enough to either pick up the right signal or differentiate errant signals from other sources it is surrounded by (i.e. wireless microphones and power amplifiers- etc.) So, it will just decide Not to respond or sadly in some cases, respond to whatever comes close.

All AM key chain transmitters have to comply with part 15 of the FCC code, which dictates that a surface range of 100 feet is the optimum it can operate before it gets line of site point and click range. This is for security reasons—imagine car alarms having ranges of 300 – 500 feet—the chaos that would ensue would deem them completely unsecured.

You car alarm could be tripped by someone else’s transmitter- in the next parking lot-or atmospheric conditions could send your signal to open someone else’s car door. That is why when you look at the back of one of these transmitters you see that it must comply with “part 15 of the FCC”...

FM transmitters do not have this same restriction, nor does it share the same data stream traffic. Therefore- The FM frequency will give you IMUNITY to many of these same elements experienced with the AM devices. Aside from giving you 2 X'x the distance- with the FM - you are covered! Folks- believe me -- I hear these same horror stories from customers and prospects every week.

I wish that I could use AM because of it's incredibly cheap price, but I sell what I use and after nearly 25 years on the road, in every conceivable stage environment, FM is the only RF system my conscience will allow me to sell to others! Especially as I know what is involved-- as a radio engineer.

If you see a key chain transmitter- it is AM, if you see any device that is lower than 400 MHz it is probably in heavy conflict with garage door openers, or older Car alarms. Don't be fooled by the small package.

Incidentally-- the VSM matches the Mini Tech with it's features- and much more. I cannot make the transmitter smaller- as it houses more features than the AM transmitters offer, but as over 500 of my customers in 17 countries around the World will testify, the size of my FM transmitter becomes irrelevant as reliability rules the day.

As for Salazar, my advice to you is to get in the habit of placing the receiver of your AM mini tech about 17 inches off the ground and 3 feet away from EMF devices. Have the antenna facing you not pointing horizontally. You may want to call the folks at Wireless Wizard to see if they have any other suggestions. Good luck.

As for Jeff’s previous comment about Lap tops, I guess we can agree to disagree. I am aware of what Disney uses for some of their productions and they are not off the shelf Lap tops necessarily (having dedicated hard cards and exotic hard disc configs) these babies are not left alone and have to be monitored constantly.

My wife of 20 years has a brother who is head of entertainment of Disney Anaheim for over 25 years relays to me the advancements over the years there.

Although I think that you are on the right track for the size show you are developing—have you heard of “ShowXpress” ? I think they are up to version 6.5- you may want to check it out—Goggle the word as I spelled it out and let me know if this interests you. This may be more to your liking.

Although it is an almost $1,000 program- that is the level to get to- for peace of mind with laptop programs. As for others- a laptop is just not a practical alternative, as my niche would testify!
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Jeff Haas
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Kelly,

Thanks for your detailed reply. This is the first time I've seen the difference between AM and FM RF remotes discussed. You mention it on your website, but don't go into this level of detail.

Regarding the software used on computers...I took a look at ShowXpress, but I think there's better software out there for similar or less money. On the high end, take a look at SFX by Stage Research, for example.
http://www.stageresearch.com
They've got lot of articles about how their software is used in many different shows, including some magic shows. Right now there's an article about Drew Thomas' show on their home page.

Jeff
kenscott
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I have used the SHowtech for 11 years now and have never had that happen to me as far as not starting my music. There was one time that it would not start every time and I changed the batteries in the remote and it fixed my problem.

As far as larger/smaller remotes. What more can your house in your remote? The Showtech remote can start,pause, volume control, fade to next part of program (not next track whatever I program),it can fast forward to another part of program or I can rewind to another track. So what more can a remote do? Would love to know.

Are VSM remotes smaller than they were. The one that I saw was on a hook to a belt and was the size of a garage door opener. I had heard they are smaller now YES?

Ken Scott
Kevin Ridgeway
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Jeff Haas...The stage Research software you mentioned is pretty incredible. A theatre here in Indianapolis uses it and we are going over to play with and start learning what all it cn do. The articles on stage research's website are pretty in depth.

While it is pricey software, you just can't beat reliablility at any price. Our lighting software for instance isn't cheap, especially when you add the price of a dedicated lap top compunter to the price. But, we can design the show at home with it's 3D visualizer, which is a great use of time.

Thanks to all for the valuable info here.
Kevin
Living Illusions

P.S. Jeff, hope you school show goes well.
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Salazar Magic
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So... you're saying there's no way of getting an FM remote the size of a keychain.

Is there any way you could program the VSM to start the music where you pause it instead of moving on tho the next track?
Michael Messing
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Hello Salazar,

You can set the VSM 7.5 so that it won't automatically skip to the next track when you pause, but you have to restart the VSM to restore that function.

Michael
Majiloon
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Yes, Jeff—I like the SFX. I recently saw Copperfield's set-up and was surprised to see it. I just thought that the ShowXpress would be a good entry level for some on the thread- it can be had for $600 if you look deep enough. It is said to be pretty intuitive.

For me, If I use special effects in my show that need to be triggered, I use this type of controller instead of hooking it up to my Virtual Soundman. After the Rhode Island Night club fire, I decided to eliminate ALL special effects triggers from my Virtual Soundman, as I would not be able to afford the liability insurance that I would eventually have to get in order to sell such a device.

It won’t be long before insurance companies demand facilities to crack down on special effects controllers, like the Show tech, unless you use DMX software driven cabled systems like what you and I mentioned.

As to the AM vs FM I could include other factors, however it would end up being too long. I just included the very basic understanding. As far as my unit is concerned, I use a 4 inch whip antenna on the remote. The whip antenna is the best configuration for maximum distance. The key chain has a wire loop spiraled inside the circuit board. This is the worst of the 4 kinds of antennas to utilize. If you un-spun it would be about 6 5/8 inches long- this would be a 1/4 wave antenna- and is the legal standard for transmitters.

If your Mini Tech is having trouble, the homemade solution is to have a T wire connected to the receiver raised up above 3-foot level. This is a common adaptation for AM systems like the Show tech and mini tech-however it is not 100% and may end up causing other problems as well.

As for Ken – the Show tech has not been around 11 years- neither has the ability to control a Mini disc been around that long-—maybe 9 years (for the Sony MZ2, but I doubt it). The MZR3 was the first unit that the Show tech controlled I believe- and it didn’t come into this Country until the summer of ’95- so it isn’t even 9 years yet.

Lets be honest, - we need to keep this real in order to help others come to understand the truth, even I had a rare occasion to have the trigger fail, in all the years I have been designing and engineering. Even I won’t advertise 100% reliability- knowing full well that unless you are constantly aware of what is being placed around the VSM receiver- you might have a problem.

As to the size of my transmitters-—it is not as big as a garage door opener- unless you are in infant- or midget- sorry. The FM transmitter is twice the size of a key chain transmitter because it houses a much more sophisticated daughter board, and I also use special tactile buttons- six of them for a much better intuitive controller.

I have the Music interrupt button on the transmitter so it can be toggled On/Off during the show, I also use that same button to turn off the auto advance- so the music can stop in place instead of advancing to the next track.

Sorry I got to go, to much time here. I have 10 more units to ship this week. If you e-mail me or call me, I can spend more time if you have other questions. You’ll find me surprisingly knowledgeable. Looks like some folks on this web site don’t give me much credit at all or are untruthful. Hope that helps- Spread cheers. Keep it real!
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Salazar Magic
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Well, I guess other than the size of the transmitter. I cannot find anything wrong with the VSM. However, I cannot find anything wrong with my Mini Tech either.

I guess when it's time to get a new system, unless Kerry updates his, I will look more into the VSM. I use the ankle switch a lot. How does the VSM's compare to the Mini Tech's?
Renaldi
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I've now tested 4 different units, Show Tech, Mini Tech, VSM and StageCue.

The StageCue is very similar to the VSM and for my money that is where I lean. Show Tech is a great product. However it also is a little dated and quite pricey.

Just my humble opinion.
Jeff Haas
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Kelly,

I link to what I think is better "entry-level" software than ShowXPress on my site, but here's the link anyway:

http://www.showpromidi.com/

ShowPro MIDI has been used on national tours of various Broadway shows, as well as lot of other venues, so it has capabilities that put it above "entry-level." And it's only $250.00. Of course, anyone looking into this stuff should download the software and evaluate the demos for themselves. I know they've had people take a look at their stuff via my site.

I completely agree with you about pyrotechnics in shows! I think it's just going to make people get more creative with pneumatic solutions and lighting.

Jeff
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