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g0thike
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“Poor Man’s Remote Control Sound Cue”.


The following is my opinion/advice, I am not getting any money by endorsing any products, websites or software.

I have learned a lot of valuable information from members of this forum so I wanted to add something that will be valuable to someone. Personally I don’t have the $2,000.00 for a SoundTech or money for the other MiniDisc systems which range in the hundreds. I call this the “Poor Man’s Remote Control Sound Cue”, personally I spent about $75.00 on my system plus my time.

If you are interested in the MiniDisc systems check out the other threads in this forum but here is an option.

Recently I bought a laptop to control my own music via a computer. I read and dissected Jeff Haas webpage on the topic. Here is my experience and my set-up and advice based on his information located at http://members.tripod.com/remotelaptop/

I bought a low end 133 MHz speed laptop for $60.00 on EBAY about 3 months ago. When I got the laptop I deleted all the programs and files that I did not need. Of course you can get a higher MHZ speed laptop but it costs more. If you know how to wipe out Windows and reinstall it, do it.

Anyhow I installed the new “lite” version of WINAMP 5 for FREE. I also bought an IR (Infra) remote control from Creative Labs for $11.98, which is the same size as a credit card. Plus it includes software that controls Winamp, no programming. It stops, plays, forward, rewind, volume up, volume down, fast forward, pause, rewind. The range of the remote is about 20 feet, sight vision. I bought mine from http://www.tekgems.com they also carry other remotes.

Note: Type “remote control creative labs” in any browser such as yahoo or google to bring up websites that sell the item, price compare. All of the websites will say that it is compatible with WinAmp 2.0 only, but Winamp 5.0, the current program recognizes the 2.0 Winamp language and plug-ins, the remote works.

Another remote route will be RF (radio frequency) remote will run you about $60 or more if you go that route. Jeff Haas recommends a programmable keyfob RF remote that is a little costly but gets the job done. Personally I wanted to experiment with the laptop system and the economical IR remote to see if it was my style. Currently I am window-shopping for an RF remote.

If the Creatives Labs remote or any other remotes fail, which happens even in RF ones and the minidisk systems, just go to the laptop and Press the “V” key on the keyboard to STOP. The “X” key is for Play and other keys do the rest of the other functions. Put stickers on the keyboard to remember. But in the past 3 months the Creative Labs remote has Not failed me yet. But with my Winamp cue behavior it plays a track and stops.

Additionally I downloaded Free plug-ins like “Next On Stop” which forwards to the next track when you hit Stop or the tracks ends. I also got “Enhancer” plugin a mixer, which tweaks audio to give you a better sound, it adjusts the lows, mids and highs and it is also Free. Additionally WINAMP has other plugins for Free such as compressors, equalizers, reverbs, sound effects, limiters, gates and misc. Your basically savings thousands in audio equipment, a sound tech and getting it for FREE.

Winamp also has its own built customizable equaliser and the ability to play “Playlist”. I copied all my MP3 of my different shows in a folder and I use Playlists for sound cues. To learn “Playlist” download Winamp 5 and mess around with it. Editing lists and creating lists is easy.

I also increased the size of the Playlist, which now makes my laptop a Prompter. I named my MP3s after the effect. Instead of seeing, track 1, track 9. I see, levitation, sub trunk, snow storm and other file names. I also sometimes add an empty audio track between songs to remind myself of jokes, lines or any information.

Another great part of Winamp is the Fader, instead of the sound stopping obtrusively you set the music to fade away which makes it sounds like you have a sound tech adjusting the sound. The Fader can fade in the start of the music, the end, when you hit pause or stop and others.


Here is how I set up CUE behavior:

Go to File-à Optionsà PreferencesàPlaylist, and then deselected “Manual Playlist advance”. By unchecking on that box, Winamp will stop after every track and/or when you hit STOP and NOT Play the next track, it is manual. Then with the “Next On Stop” plug-in, when it receives a Stop command it will forward to the next track BUT it won’t play until you press Play it will be cued. Hope that makes sense.

Furthermore the laptop has an audio-in and an audio-out. In the audio-in you can connect a microphone, to set that up, look it up on the net. Then in the audio-out buy some cheap high watt computer speakers to blast to the show. Go to Circuit City or some computer store so that you can blast them and hear them before you buy.

If you got the cash buy a portable PA system, see threads for this. Or the laptop can be plugged into most PA systems, DJ systems, just buy the appropriate audio-out connectors like the stereo to XLR and/or stereo to ¼ inch.

Finally most huge amusement parks run their sounds thru computers, huge concert also use computers, David Copperfield uses computers to run sound. Not to long ago you needed to spend thousands in audio equipment, equalizers, mixers, pre-amps, lighting controls, effects racks, compressors, limiters and misc. equipment. Now it is all contained in computers.

G0THIKE
MikeJRogers
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G0thike,

I've been doing the EXACT same thing since the start of this year.

The Creative Remote, I believe is GREAT! Even though it's IR it still works real well. I saw it on EBAY and hadn't seen it mentioned here but I took the risk purchasing one and it worked great for show control.

Others should give this a shot if your looking for a cheaper but still good quality system.

Great minds think alike g0thike!

Mike
Mike Rogers Illusion Design - Australia - http://www.mikerogers.com.au
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Regan
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Sounds like a good idea. I may give it a shot.

Could you play cd's on a system like this through the cd-rom drive? Would the remote control work the same way?

Regan
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MikeJRogers
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Sure will.
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Regan
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Sounds great!..or does it? Will high wattage speakers really generate enough sound...for say, a school auditorium or gymnasium?
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g0thike
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You can play a CD from the CD-ROm but it will have a little delay since the CD player has to start spinning.

I recommend that you convert the audio to MP3's and put them in your harddrive.

That Creative Remote works and I actually own 3 of them. I carry the other 2 just incase.

G0THIKE
Jeff Haas
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G0thike, it's great to see that you're getting some use out of the info on my web page. It's rewarding to hear about people who took what I wrote up and did something with it.

The Creative remote looks like a good one to start out with. Eventually, as you do bigger shows, I think you'll want to upgrade to the RF remote I use, because you can keep it in your pocket and press the button through the cloth. This allows you to trigger cues in the middle of a routine without having to pull out the remote. But if you're getting good use out of what you've got now, go for it!

Mister Mystery, if you have big enough speakers, you can fill a school gym. I have a set of the Fender Passport 250s. These are 250 watts total, with a big amp that drives the two speakers.

Recently I did a show in a local elementary school gym/multipurpose room. There were about 300 people there, and the Passport system filled the room with ease, and it wasn't even turned up all the way.

The speakers simply amplify what is put into them. The remote-controlled computer system is just an easy way to set up a bunch of sound cues and trigger them. And now that older laptops are so inexpensive, you can set up a starter system for less than $100.00, which is so much cheaper than when I first did it a few years back.

Then, when you get your system put together, you'll learn the hard part isn't triggering the cues...it's picking just the right music for the moments in your act.

Jeff
g0thike
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Mister,

High watt speakers might fill up a school gym or auditorium. Personally I have used my computer speakers for smaller shows and I connect my microphone into the microphone input of my laptop and it works fine. I would seriously go to a Circuit City, COMPUSA or other computer store and use their high watt speakers and blast them and see how far and loud the sound travels.

Personally for gym or larger shows I use a Fender Passport 250 PD (make sure it is PD that is the digital one) if you shop around you can pick one up for about $750.00. Look it up on the web or on EBAY for more info.

Jeff,

Thanks for your webpage, it saved me several hundreds of dollars. I was considering a minidisk system but the laptop works better in my opinion. Since I have some computer skills I was able to put together the system and make it work in less than 30 minutes.

I like the key fob that you recommend but I am looking for a key fob or credit card size remote that has at least 7 buttons. I would like a small RF remote that I can assign the keys Play, Stop, Pause, Fwd, Rew, Volume Up, Volume Down, without having to press and assign key combinations.

The Creative Remote has all the buttons that I need, since it is IR I just stand closer to the laptop, but my assistant usually runs the sound herself from the remote. I just carry a spare remote in my pocket just in case.

I looked into some remote that are X10 but I had no idea if they would work. I am not that TECH smart. If anyone knows about X10 or about a programmable key fob or credit card size 7 button or more button RF remote control that is programmable for WINAMP let us know?

G0THIKE
CamelotFX
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The more RAM (random access memory) the computer has, the better this "Poor Man's System" works. Most newer machines can hold 512 meg of RAM (or more!) and it's cheap: 15 to 20 cents a meg! A 256M upgrade is around $50.
Having maximum RAM allows Winamp to load the entire playlist into RAM and it will play immediately with absolutely no "lag" or delay and no need to "swap in" from the slow hard drive or even slower CD. I've been using this technique in live theater for years for sound effects and even music.
Jeff Haas
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G0thike,

After using the system for awhile, I found I only need two commands:

- Play next cue
- Stop and fade out the current cue

Most of the cues in my show are set up so I play them and they're just long enough. The only ones I need to stop are the "audience member comes up on stage" cues, because you don't know how long a kid is going to take to get up from his seat and join you onstage. So those cues are longer than I need, and I cut them off when appropriate.

I found adjusting the volume with the remote isn't as effective as doing it on the speaker system. That's because the remote will only control the computer's output, which has limited range, and when you're using the Fender Passports, you really need to tweak their volume control to fit the room.

Jeff
Regan
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Thanks GOTHIKE.

Sounds like it's worth checking into.

Regan
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g0thike
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Jeff,

I use all the buttons since I always have different sets, music and add material on the spot. I usually get a feel for the audience while performing and if they are a fun happy crowd I do certain effects that require certain songs.

When I get the “I am bombing” or “the show is dragging” feel I skip certain parts. I can honestly say even though I have been performing for years to all sorts of venues and audiences, I can’t pick my audience and make them behave a certain way. I just get feelings and know when to add and delete effects or cut the show short. I love it when I press stop and play but my shows about 75% of the time require forward and rewind. Audiences are unpredictable.

I also use the Volume up and down to control WINAMP’s volume. I have certains effects like a sword suspension and snow animator that make noise.

G0THIKE
Jeff Haas
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I get it, now I see why you'd need all those commands. When I do a standup gig, I really don't feel comfortable improvising the order of the show, but that's just me.

Glad it works so well for you!

Jef
MagicalPirate
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Thanks for the info guys. I bought six laptops off of ebay last year after reading Jeff's information. This is a much better price break for getting started. On my way to Ebay now.

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g0thike
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UPDATE:

PLAYLIST (Prompter) CUSTOMIZER

I use my laptop as a prompter, but I never liked the default Winamp green color since it was sometimes hard to see when it was sunny. I searched and finally found a plug-in which is called WPT. That plugin allows you to fully customize the playlist look and feel. It will change the color of the background of the playlist, you can change the font size, type of font, font color and others. It is one of those WOW programs.

Go to http://www.winamp.com then in the right side of the webpage is a search function, select Plug-in then type in WPT and hit search. When it pops-up, download the plugin on your desktop.

It is simple to use, just double click on it and play with it. To see changes just hit the “Save” button at the bottom of the WPT program. Then close WINAMP if it is open and start it. Simple.

If anyone can add anything positive to this thread be my guest.

G0THIKE

UPDATE:

So I sat today thinking about the Café Members from other countries. The WPT plugin mentioned above will allow you to change the font of the playlist. Just make sure your particular language font is load in your computer.

Another great plug-in is called Fontplug20 it changes the color/size/font of the title bar. The Title Bar is above the Play/Stop/ReWind etc buttons on WINAMP. With Fontplug20 you can also switch to your particular language.

To change the name of the mp3 track/song that appears in the playlist, just select any Mp3 track and right click on it. Then select “View File Info” and change it to the desired name.
Jeff Haas
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G0thike, those are some great tips!

Do you mind if I incorporate them into the next update of my page (whenever that is)?

Jeff
g0thike
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Jeff,

You can copy the text word for word if you want. Go ahead and use all or any of the tips I gave. The original information is yours anyway.

Any other useful tips I run into, I'll post in this thread.

G0THIKE

UPDATE July 14, 2004

I got some Private Messages and here are some answers and notes.

The Plugin WPT only works with Windows 98 and above operating systems, that includes 2000 and XP. If you got Windows 95, WPT won’t work, the solution is to update the operating system.

If you do an outside show and it is sunny, direct sunlight on the laptop display is not good for the computer, plus it is harder to see the screen since it is so bright. The solution to this problem is to house the laptop, get some black cardboard or black material such as plastic and cut down 3 walls, 2 for the sides and 1 for the top, use Velcro to put them together. The walls will shade the screen making it easier to see.

For an external LCD display (which is the new toy available in the minidisk systems) go to winamp.com and download one of the plugin’s . I have not used the plugin’s or do I plan to, I also have not bought the LCD display required to test it. You are on your own. But it will work.

Anyone have anything POSITIVE to say, maybe your experience with this system and not a sales pitch for a minidisk system, please do so.
shawn popp
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Anyone out there using a Macintosh? I have a powerbook titanium with a 30GB hard drive. I've run music for my show from the laptop but currently there is no software with the fade feature. The 2-3 times I used my laptop, my assistant ran ran the audio and adjusted the volume appropriately using a Griffin Tech. jog dial. I am still searching for a WinAmp equivelant for the mac. Anyone?
Natural Mystic
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Shawn Griffin,

Here's a link on Jeff Haas site,

http://members.tripod.com/remotelaptop/L......nfo.html

Look for the link to a free download of MPLAY for the MAC.

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Jeff Haas
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Shawn, let me know if MPlay does what you need.

I think the software has changed, but I don't have a Mac to check it out and see. When I put the link up, his webpage listed the right features, but the webpage is organized differently now.

If you can verify the Mac solution, it would be great.

Jeff
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