Programming QLab for LIVEworks V

The President of Acorn Pictures asked me to help with the video and sound for LIVEworks (something I've done for the last 2 LIVEworks and for a lot of other shows).  This is something I've gotten pretty good at using QLab.

The first thing I do is get as much of the media as I can together.  What we have is:

  • 7 mp3's (one for the beginning of each piece, a pre-show and a post show)
  • 2 short films (H.264 format / aac sound)
  • 1 animated title card to go with the 5 mp3's and be there for pre and post show

and, as I always have,

  • 1 Black Jpeg (which I'll get to explaining it's importance)

The one piece of media I had to create was the animated card for between the pieces, it needs to run infinitely and be extremely flexible for short to long scene changes.  I used Motion and created an 8 second clip that begins and ends in the same place:

The "V" rotates.  The beginning and end of the card have the "V" flaring it's glow to give it a little pizzaz.  It's important to make it exactly 8 seconds so it's easy to loop in QLab.

Now I have all my media, I start to build the show.  It's important that I organize the show as well as possible since I'm not going to be running it.  I start by creating folders for each piece, labeling them as to where they are in the show, such as

  • Lose the Banter -> Wonder Woman

It gets tricky defining what happens in between pieces, so you can be to verbos - but also need to keep it simple.

I build the show as if it were playing in front of me.  What should be automatic?  I make the assumption that after each of the two videos, they should automatically go into the next cue.  It saves the stage manager a cue and the cast should be ready to go if they have had a break thats 3 to 12 minutes long.

After it's built and I've decided what's automatic, I color code the cues RED that are the GO cues - the ones that are manually pressed.  This should help anyone in the booth if they have a brain fart or have to stop a cue and go back.  They won't have to guess - they just restart the sequence wherever.  The show ends up looking like this:

I mark the Movies in Green to indicate that they are LONGER cues and they play there entire duration (I even mark there length so stage management always has a clear idea for time).  The blue line is what the next manual cue is going to be called - it moves automatically as the show moves along.

Lastly, the black JPEG.  I use it in two places:

  1. As the very first cue in the show that never stops running - this way, there's always a back background produced by QLab itself.  As long as you don't have to stop the show, this will always run.
  2. I load this as the desktop background.  Sometimes things go wrong and you need to stop the sequence.  In a show scenerio, you don't want your usual Desktop (be in nature, abstract colors or vacation photos) to pop up.  The screen will remain black which is how you want it between pieces even if QLab isn't running at all.

Those are some of my secrets and mantras on QLab.  It is the some of the most powerful performance software I have and is always taken for granted because of it's ease of use.

I used it for a show at UCB (both LA and NYC).  There's a ton of music and sound effects that move quickly in a farcical comedy.  People always think the music is being performed live and are blown away by the timing of the SFX!