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Jeff Haas
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I've been catching up on some projects, and one of them is my web page that describes how to set up a laptop, so you can trigger music cues in a one-man show.

So, if you're interested in how to add production value to your show using a laptop you may already have, with the addition of an RF remote and free or inexpensive software, go to:

http://members.tripod.com/remotelaptop/

It's been updated to include more information, more resources, and current links to useful stuff on the web.

Jeff

I've added one more section to the site, this time about random-access cues. This should be of interest to people trying shows with more ambitious sound cues.

Unless I figure out something else with the system, that's it for now.

Jeff
JamesinLA
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Jeff,
Thanks for this very interesting information. I love the idea of running fog machines and other "props" and events from the laptop. However, let me ask you this. What if all I'm doing for a certain type of small show is music cues? Couldn't I just get a remote controlled boom box, and use a CD that I mixed and burned myself?
Thanks.
Jim
(I wonder if you could even use a boom box for an amp for an inexpensive radio mike?)
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Andy Wonder
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The trouble is, I have yet to see any boom box that uses a RF Remote. They all have infrared. With infrared you have to aim & point, which is not too subtle. You also have a high fail rate, because it is easy for the receiver to miss a cue. At least it is with going over to press buttons. Once you press it, you know the music will start.

Speaking as someone that has regularly used an infrared remote for music during shows, my advice is to forget them. Unless you can have the receiving unit right at your feet, you may as well be pressing buttons on a CD player.
Andy Wonder, Auckland, New Zealand
Jeff Haas
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James,

Usually a boom box, or any CD player, is designed to start playing a CD...and just keep on going, until the end of the album. One of the key features you need is a command that tells the playback device to "play one track, then automatically stop at the end of the track."

It turns out that this isn't that common; we got lucky that the WinAmp developers added it to their software. I had to search a long time to find a similar feature in a piece of Mac software, so Mac users could do the same thing (without programming anything ourselves.)

If you were using a boombox or CD player, you'd have to start it, and then be quick enough to grab the remote to stop the CD player before it started the next track. I've had a couple of friends try this...it looks pretty awkward. Seeing them do that was one of the things that made me look into setting up a laptop for playback. I knew there had to be a better way.

And I agree with Andy...infrared remotes just won't cut it when you're doing a show. Heck, I sometime have trouble with them when I'm watching TV at home!

You might be able to find a boombox that would work as an inexpensive amp, if it had external inputs. I never looked into this too much, because I wanted my speakers to reach a bigger audience. When I do a show for small audiences, I don't use a wireless mike or sound cues.

Jeff
JamesinLA
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Thanks, Andy and Jeff. I hadn't realized about the infrared vs. RF remotes. I want to set up a player of some sort inside my suitcase table, so that certainly would rule out the infrared remotes. Do you think an RF remote could handle going through a suitcase table to reach its source? And I also assume that this remote Jeff is talking about for the laptops is an RF remote?
Sounds like using my laptop will be the way to do this! I've already downloaded the trail verson of the software, and look forward to playing with it.
Thanks a lot!
Jim
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Jeff Haas
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Jim,

An RF remote usually can go about 150 feet. It shouldn't have a problem reaching inside your suitcase table, since it can go through walls.

The range on the receiver is increased, if you put up its antenna.

Jeff
Jeff Haas
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A couple of updates to the Remote Show Control site...

  • ShowPro MIDI is available again. This is the lowest-cost, best-capable show control software available (that I've found). I've put the link back.

  • A bit more info on show control as a complete subject, including a link to the homepage of the author of the first book on the subject.

  • No more frames!
Check it out:

http://members.tripod.com/remotelaptop

Jeff

UPDATE: Aug 13 2003

I just saw a great option in another thread. Check out the Carvin StageMate http://www.carvin.com/stagemate/index.html . This unit is bigger than a P10w and doesn't have a built-in wireless but it looks mighty impressive.

Since it has a 10" woofer, it should give you pretty good sound and it has a 10-day money back guarantee.

I wish I had seen this before I bought my PylePro!
Eldon
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Jeff

Very impressive! At White Magic Mfg. we have built simular devices from scratch. From now on I will just refer them to your site.
MagicalPirate
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This doesn't have to be a really expensive solution for your sound cues. I recently bought a laptop on ebay for $32.51. I admit I bought it on Labor Day afternoon, but the prices since then haven't been all that much higher than that.

I had picked up a remote controlled Boombox on ebay. The problem isn't just the remote, its also knowing what mode it is in. The control can change from tape to CD to radio. If you punch the wrong button you could find yourself performing to the local radio station or worse, just static.

If you are performing real shows for pay you can afford to put this system together and you should want to put this system together. Even if you have an assistant to help, having the remote in your pocket can save you from missed cues. After all she has a lot to take care of backstage as it is. It is a quantum leap from Joe Boombox to Mr. 'No cues missed' Cool. And your audience will love you for it.
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Micheal Leath
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I am playing around with the Winamp software right now. Forgive me if this is a stupid question, but I'm assuming you can connect your amp to the laptop? Instead of using MP3 format, could I use this with a normal audio CD that I burn? So, this actually can do everything the Showtech does, but much cheaper and still have great, professional quality sound?

Thanks for the help,

Micheal Leath
Jeff Haas
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You should have a headphone jack on your laptop that you can use to connect to your amp. Then you just have to find the right connectors (a quick trip to Radio Shack.)

You are not forced to use MP3 format; Winamp will play back uncompressed CD tracks too. So if you're concerned about the loss of quality when turning a CD track into an MP3, just copy the CD file directly to the laptop.

Also, you really don't want to run the show from a CD in the drive, you want the files on the laptop's hard drive. Playing a file from the CD drives on laptop is always going to be slower than playing it directly from the hard drive. The CD drive usually will need a moment to spin up, thus introducing a pause you don't want. By contrast, playing a file from the hard drive should be almost instant.

Try both with your laptop now...stick a CD in the drive, play a track with Winamp, stop after the track, allow enough time to go by (as if you're doing a routine) and then play the next track. Then try it with the tracks copied to the laptop's hard drive.

Jeff
Micheal Leath
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Thanks for answering my questions. I don't have a laptop right now. I was just experimenting with Winamp on my desktop computer. I am kinda new to this putting together a sound system, so I appreciate all the information.

Micheal Leath
Natural Mystic
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Hi All,

For everyone using a laptop as a sound system per Jeff Haas set-up: Here's a great professional quality hardware add-on to enhance your system that's received great reviews. It's called the INDIGO by Echo Digital Audio Corporation .

Tom's Hardware did a rather comprehensive review of an earlier model that cost $99.00. Here's a short blurb by them.

"The Indigo is a Type II CardBus PCMCIA add-on sound card that can be installed in one of the card slots in your current notebook. Once the Indigo is installed, you will have true 24-bit, 96kHz audio, with high quality digital to analog converters and a Motorola DSP. Best of all, once you plug in your headphones, you hear beautiful silence, with no hissing or buzzing to detract from the audio quality."

Here's the link for the full reveiw-http://www6.tomshardware.com/game/200302081/index.html


Echo Digital Audio Corporation now has two additional models that seem promising:Indigo IO & Indigo DJ. I didn't know well they would interface with Jeff's remote show control set-up, but, it would be great if they worked.

Here's the link for Echo-http://www.echoaudio.com/
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Jeff Haas
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I read the review on Tom's Hardware. What these add-in cards do is provide professional-quality sound output from a laptop. It looks like they really improve the playback, especially when heard with headphones.

I noticed they're mostly sold at music stores, not computer stores. You can find them online.

To take advantage of them, you need a faster laptop than what I've usually considered for my setup...500 mhz or better.

When the card is installed, it can be set as the sound output, so it should work fine when playing back tracks in WinAmp. It doesn't affect the remote and WinAmp at all.

Good find!

Jeff
Micheal Leath
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Are WAV files the same as Audio CD files? So, I save these WAV files to my PC and then use Winamp to play them. I only need other software like Showpro MIDI if I want to edit the music before saving it to the PC? Then if I add the sound card talked about, I will have the best possible sound quality?

Thanks Again,

Micheal Leath
Jeff Haas
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Michael,

So you're new to all this music editing and MP3 stuff, eh? Here's a quick guide:

- To do anything with a music track, copy it from the CD to your PC. Use dbPowerAmp Music Converter to do that. The link is on my site. When the track has been copied from the CD to the PC, it gets turned into a WAV file.
- To edit the track, use Acoustica. This lets you load the WAV and clip out the segments you want, join two segments together, etc. Then when it sounds right, save it as a WAV again.
- WinAmp can play WAV files, so you can copy the WAV files onto a CD, then onto your laptop (or use one of those USB thumb drives, or a wireless connection, or whatever you have handy to get it to the laptop.)
- You can compress the WAV file into an MP3 file if you want to save space on your laptop's hard drive. Listen to the output of the WAV file vs. the MP3 file on the speaker system you'll be using to see if there's a quality difference. Use dbPowerAmp to do the compression.

Software like Showpro MIDI is for controlling more than just music cues, it's for triggering lighting cues, fog machines, etc etc. You only need it if you get really ambitious and want to do a bigger show, with curtains, lighting rigs, assistants and more elaborate staging. Showpro MIDI is a software package that lets you automate complicated stage cues so they run exactly the same every time. The computer sends out commands via MIDI information to the lights and other devices. (MIDI stands for Music Interface Device something or other)

I know there's a lot here to absorb, it's a complicated subject. Once you understand what's going on, it's pretty easy, and the real challenge becomes finding the right music for the moments in your show.

Jeff
Micheal Leath
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Thanks a lot for the help. I am new to this, but I am a very fast and easy learner, so everything you have said makes perfect sense to me. I just about got it completely figured out.

One more question, on your webpage it says that, in Winamp, if you press CTRL + V, then it will advance to the next track and stop playing when that track is over. I have version 2 and pressing that key combination will stop the current track after it plays, but only if the track is already playing. It will not advance and play if it is stopped. Is there any way to get it to do as stated on you webpage? With how it is now, I would have to press a button to play the track, then press another to tell it to stop when that track is over. I hope this made sense.

Thanks so much,

Micheal Leath
Jeff Haas
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This is from the Setup page of my site, and describes how to set up the remote:

"Right Button: Press the down arrow, then press the Enter key, then press CTRL - V. End this sequence by pressing the right Shift key, as the screen prompts you to. (In Winamp, this sequence moves the highlight down to the next track in the playlist, plays it, and tells Winamp to stop after this track plays.)"

What the receiver on the remote does is string several commands together, so when you press the right button, the receiver sends the following three keystrokes to Winamp:

[Down arrow] [Enter] [CTRL + V]

Just so it's completely clear, each keystroke in the above example is in brackets. You can test this by having several tracks in the Winamp Playlist window. Make sure that the Playlist window is highlighted, and then move the highlight bar to the top of the window. Then press the keystrokes in the order above to see how it works. Winamp should play the next track and then stop at the end of the track and wait for your next command.

Note that [SHIFT + V] is the command that fades out the current track that's playing. This might've caused your confusion.

You can check the keystrokes yourself in Winamp: Press F1 to bring up the About dialog, then click on the Keyboard Shortcuts tab.

Jeff
Micheal Leath
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I got you. I had read it wrong the first time. Well, it can't get anymore clear than that. LOL Smile
Jeff Haas
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Hi guys...a few new updates to the Remote Show Control site.

- A page of Tips on configuring Winamp.

- A link to Stage Research, who makes SFX show control software -- and their library of case studies of SFX in use in many different shows. Fascinating reading!

And one interesting change on Tripod...they now seem to have some sort of intelligent ad placement software. This means that there are a few boxes of ads that run across the top of each page of the site. What's impressive is that the ads are based on the content of each individual page!

For example, on one page I discuss buy-out (royalty free) music. There are ads for companies that offer this on the top of that page, and no others in the site! I also mention David Copperfield's use of music...and there's an ad for tickets to Las Vegas shows. Sometimes it mentions David Copperfield, sometimes Lance Burton.

Jeff
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