(frequently asked questions)
Check this page in the future as new items will be added to the FAQ as new questions are asked. If you have a specific question which is not addressed below, please send your inquiry to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Common Questions about Performer software.
How do I control the MidiLite dimmers?
As the name implies, MIDI (musical instrument digital interface) is used for controlling the dimmers. The MidiLite interprets note on/offs and controllers for control of individual dimmers and groups, poly pressure for setting fade times and other system settings, program changes for preset combinations and for complex effects, and system exclusive data (sys ex) for system set-up parameters.
A MIDI sequencer such as Digital Performer is generally used for musically synchronized production. Our MLcontrol Touch Screen controller is also a way to control the system, and it is capable of a cue-based programming approach.
How many dimmer channels can be in a system?
The original MidiLite frame could contain up to 54 channels.
The new MidiLite II frame can holod up to 90 channels. Up to 15 frames can be controlled by a single MIDI cable (1,350 channels). By using multiple MIDI cables with a MIDI Time Piece or similar interface up to 16 MIDI streams could be used for up to a theoretical 21,600 channels. Is that enough?!?
What are the power requirements?
New MidiLite systems now come in our MR series racks, which have internal power distribution / breakers and input power is via CamLok style connectors.
1) 240 volts single phase is the preferred power for the MidiLite. The MidiLite's original design was based around single phase power, so it is quite happy with that.
2) 120 volts single phase. For small applications or for "scale model" simulators, you can run any MR series rack on 120 volts, assuming that your amperage load is within specifications.
3) 3 Phase Power (208v). We are able to build our MR series racks for 3 phase power, where each MidiLite frame within the rack is actually running on a single 120v phase and the load is distributed among the phases. We still recommend using single phase 240v power if possible, but we can build systems in a 3 phase configuration. Note, that a few thre phase users have experienced occasional flickering problems at certain levels due to neutral interaction between phases. This seems to depend on how "dirty" your power is and does not happen with every 3 phase user.
What is the maximum load?
A single channel is rated at a maximum of 600 watts (5 amps), but a limit of 1800 watts for a block (the 6 channels, typically the 6 colors). An entire frame has a maximum capacity of either 9,600 watts or 12,000 watts, depending on the input power type (see above). This means that not all channels could be a maximum load simultaneously. This should be taken into consideration when planning your system.
In a Living Christmas Tree or other matrix-type application, typically each channel is only pulling between 24 and 150 watts.
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What type of computer or controller do I need to use?
Since the MidiLite uses MIDI as it's communication protocol, any device capable of sending MIDI data can be used. For computer control, we recommend and support Mac OS systems running Digital Performer, but any computer with a MIDI interface and sequencing software can be used. All of our MidiLite software (MLdesign, MLcontrol, MLsim, etc.) is all Mac OS based software.
What is the maximum length of a MIDI cable?
The MIDI specs states that MIDI cables should not be any longer than 50 ft. You possibly could go a longer distance but risk data deterioration with high throughput (which is quite possible with the MidiLite!). If you need to have more than 50 ft. between your computer/controller and the dimmers, we recommend using our MidiLink transceivers (see our accessories page) which converts the MIDI signal into a form which can be sent up to 4,000 ft. using CAT 5 cable or even standard XLR microphone cables. A small transmitter/receiver box is placed at each end and allows bi-directional MIDI using a single CAT 5 cable or with adapters can use standard Ethernet cable or two XLR microphone cables. The MidiLink is also used as the communication "front end" for our MidiLite II dimmer racks.
I get a buzz in my audio when the dimmers are in operation.
The MidiLite contains 2 microcontrollers, a Digital Signal Processor and 54 discrete dimmers. Add all of these up and you have some major RF emissions. If you are getting any interference from the dimmers, it is likely due to a broken audio wire, poor grounding, unshielded cables or unbalanced audio lines. Make sure to use high quality audio cables, well shielded equipment and try to avoid unbalanced signal paths wherever possible. If you must have unbalanced signals, try to keep the cables as short as possible. Unbalanced or unshielded cable paths make great antennas!
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My dimmers locked up... what should I do?
The most drastic approach is to turn them off and then back on again. This will cause dimmers to possibly flash on power up though.
Original MidiLite Systems - The "polite" way of resetting a dimmer frame is to send the System Exclusive (sys ex) code for a reset (see your manual for this). You can reset an individual frame or use the "all call" to reset all frames. The dimmers also understand the MIDI System Reset command (FF) which will cause all frames on the system to execute a reset. Please note that a reset will lose any system set-up data which has been set (i.e. low burn parameters, matrix configuration, etc.) and these will need to be retransmitted to the dimmers. We recommend programming a button on the PC-1600 to be an "all call" reset.
MidiLlite II Systems - You can press the RESET button on the MidiLink box or reset individual frames by using a small tip (pen, small screwdriver, etc.) and press the reset button on the front panel of the control card for that frame.
How do I synchronize the dimmers to music?
Synchronized lighting effects are easily achieved using a MIDI sequencer which can lock to SMPTE time code. An interface with a SMPTE reader is required. Lighting effects can then be synchronized to audio or videotape using your MIDI sequencer. Using Performer, you can create a tempo map of your music which allows programming to be done musically rather than by a time code number.
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What are Color Groups and Blocks?
Each MidiLite frame internally arranges dimmers into groups and blocks. Each block contains 6 channels. Corresponding channels in the blocks form the groups. Generally these would be different colors of lights so we refer to them as color groups. Each output connection represents 1 block of 6 channels as well. Once your system is designed around these blocks and groups, complex effects involving hundreds or even thousands of channels are easily done using the hundreds of built-in special effects programs included in the dimmers.
What is the Low Burn Adjustment all about?
Different types of lamps and varying input voltage can greatly affect the available range of intensities. The two low burn adjustment parameters (sys ex commands) allow you to set the "high burn" and "low burn" points to ensure that you have the full resolution available to you (0-127). When this is properly set, a value of 0 is off, a value of 127 is full on and a value of 1 is just barely burning the filament. Note: always set the high burn parameter first (make sure that a value of 127 is full on but just barely) and then set the low burn parameter (make sure that a low value, 2-6 is all the way off). Make sure to set this in a totally dark room! As of version 2.5 firmware, you can store these parameters (along with matrix settings) in non-volatile user memory. Please consult the manual for further information.
The MidiLite II uses similar commands and the high/low burn parameters are also stored in non-volatile user memory.
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How do I configure a MidiLite Matrix?
A MidiLite Matrix is created when controlling a Living Christmas Tree or similar complex lighting arrangement. In a single frame set-up, this would depend on the number of row or tiers in your system. Use the "# of blocks" parameter to match the number of rows and any remaining blocks can be used as auxiliary. Program changes and color groups will now only affect blocks contained within the matrix.
In a multiple frame set-up, generally a frame would be assigned to each row or tier and blocks within each frame are assigned to each column or section of that row. You would then set the "# of rows" parameter to equal the number of rows and the "# of blocks" parameter to equal the number of columns or divisions within each row. Again, program changes and color groups will now only affect blocks and rows contained within the matrix.
The "# of colors" sys ex parameter can also be used if you are not using all 6 color groups. This would allow you to use addition channels in each block for other auxiliary purposes without being affected by matrix effects.
An example of this would be a Living Christmas Tree with 8 tiers and 8 divisions within each tier. This would be an 8x8 matrix. By using 8 MidiLite frames, you could fully control the tree and have 1 block of 6 channels on each frame free for auxiliary sources such as a star, cross or other lighting applications in your program.
The original MidiLite can have up to a 15x9x6 matrix whereas the MidiLite II can go up to a 15x15x6 matrix.
Can I control my regular DMX stage lighting via MIDI?
Yes. Many DMX lighting consoles have built-in MIDI capability. This generally only allows you to recall cues and control bump buttons on the console. The LanBox allows for much better control of DMX devices via MIDI which will allow your standard DMX dimmer packs, moving lights, color scrollers, etc. to be controlled right from LCedit & Performer to provide a single environment for controlling all of your synchronized lighting!
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What is the difference between Performer and Digital Performer software?
Both are software products for the Macintosh platform by Mark of the Unicorn. We recommend these MIDI sequencing programs because of their flexability and ideal integration with the MidiLite system.
Performer was the original MIDI sequencer by MOTU, which has since been replaced by Digital Performer which takes all of those MIDI features and adds Digital Audio capabilities. With the MidiLite, this allows programming your show to music without requiring an actual tape deck. Cueing is virtually instantaneous while programming. Digital Performer also allows for powerful professional audio editing along with your MIDI data. Digital Performer currently requires a DigiDesign professional sound card (or similar) but an upcoming version due later this year will allow digital audio record/playback features with a PowerPC Macintosh without requiring any special add-on hardware.
For more information on Performer, Digital Performer or their Midi Time Piece interfaces, please visit the Mark of the Unicorn Web Site.
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