Using cues, timelines and VJ software for performances

These days as a part of the Obscura crew I am ofting doing visual shows that have more in common with theatre productions than traditional VJing. Often there is some sort of script for a show or a piece of music that is rehearsed. For these types of jobs I have found good use for the application called QLab which is great for triggering a pre planned sequence of events.

Actually the whole point of QLab is to line up a sequence of audio, video files or other types of events and being able to trigger them with a simple ‘Go’ button at the exact right time during the show.
QLab was originally developed with audio in mind and has later been extended with video features so it does not have many features as VJ applications when it comes to live manipulations of images and video. But for those of us who sometimes wish for a timeline in our favorite VJ application, QLab may be an option if you set it up to run alongside your VJ app.
For our shows we typically use Modul8 and I found two ways to achieve this.

1. Capturing the video output of QLab and using it as input in Modul8. This is done with two computers – one with a video capture card such as the Blackmagic Intensity hardware or the Matrox MXO2 mini and the other computer running QLab. With this method you run some images or videos using QLab and you are then able to manipulate them live in Modul8 as you would do with any other source.

2. Setting up QLab to send midi and mapping the buttons in Modul8 so that they respond to the midi commands. This can be done using one computer running both apps or using two computers and a midi connection between them. In this scenario QLab is merely the ‘conductor’ telling Modul8 what to do. Modul8 holds all the images or videos used.

qlab setup

The advantage of these two methods is that you have some way of combining improvised VJing with a sequence of planned cues. For instance – as we did recently you can use the first method to trigger a series of slides containing the lyrics of a song and then use Modul8 to distort and manipulate them. Furthermore as this setup involves two computers two people are able to share this task – one person triggering the lyrics at the right time and one person adding effects. This could be done using any VJ application that is compatible with the video capture card not just Modul8.

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4 Comments

  1. mosu
    Posted 19 November, 2011 at 05:05 | Permalink

    hi!! this article is really a treasure for me!! thanks Udart!
    My studio hold some dance performances, that Qlab will be a great help doing stage performing with Modul8!

    Right Now I have some MIDI connection problem, as you say Qlab can send MIDI message to modul8, but my connection doesn’t work…

    My setup:
    1. map MIDI controller (codanova v64) CC (channel 3 / number 117) to modul8’s button
    2.set Qlab MIDI cue with channel 3 / number 117 / value from 0 to 127

    Then I trigger Qlab’s MIDI cue, nothing happen in modul8…
    I also checked both MIDI were connected to my MBP’s MIDI network session…

    Can you tell me is there any wrong step I made?

    thank you!!

  2. Posted 10 February, 2012 at 20:51 | Permalink

    Nice to know…I worked on a show last year that we wanted to utilize both Modul8 and QLab, and ended up using only Qlab.
    Thanks for posting this.
    Best
    Kelley

  3. Udart
    Posted 28 February, 2012 at 13:20 | Permalink

    mosu, your performance is probably over by now – I haven’t checked these comments for months. I would make sure what bus QLab sends on and make sure that is turned on in Modul8.

  4. decenubal
    Posted 16 May, 2012 at 10:37 | Permalink

    Hi,
    Could you tell me if Qlab used extended desktop feature? (in the first scenario)
    I am intrested to play content from a MacBook Pro running Modul8 to a Mac Pro via a capture card.
    Thank you

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  • About me

    Vibeke Bertelsen is a visual artist based in Copenhagen who specializes in motion graphics and video projections for live music and other events. Per 2010 I am a part of the group called Obscura working full time doing large scale visuals and video installations. Contact me on

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