Gone are the days of huge DMX consoles for the simplest of light show, with the amount of power that can be contained in a tiny USB interface growing from day to day. With a market that seems to be increasingly flooded with USB to DMX controller options, it’s hard to know which devices can give you the simplicity and convenience required whilst still providing an adequate level of control and reliability. Step in Light’J from Steinigke, a software platform designed to bring ease and convenience to DMX control, whilst still retaining the flexibility for creativity. And what’s best about this is that it’s also completely free!
Okay… the APP is completely free, but to use it with both Eurolite and other branded lighting fixtures you’ll need to get your hands on a EUROLITE freeDMX AP Wi-Fi Interface. But still, at an RRP of under 150 Euros, it’s really not going to break the bank, and comes in at a highly competitive price point when compared to many other DMX Interfaces on the market, especially with the built in wireless connectivity.
The main difference between Steinigke Light’J app and other simple software DMX controllers available on the market is immediately apparent as soon as you enter the application. Unlike many applications which imitate the layout of a traditional console, with graphical faders and dials, Light’J provides a far more intuitive and engaging interface. It provides immediate access to control functions that are most commonly associated with intelligent fixtures, such as colour, movement, gobo, strobe and dimmer control. These controls can be thought of as “pre-programmed macros”, which are ready to use straight from the fixture library.
This works great for fixtures that are already available on the fixture library. However, as you can imagine, someone has taken the time to programme these in, particularly for fixtures that are not created and distributed by the application’s creators – Steinigke. With this in mind, if you are planning to use Light’J to control fixtures that aren’t already stored in the fixture library, then be prepared to spend a little bit of time creating these fixture profiles in the fixture profile editor, and fine-tuning them to work properly with these control options. That said, once you have them stored, you’ll be ready to efficiently and quickly control your fixtures with a fun and intuitive platform.
As well as immediate access to these most commonly used functions, the app can also be used to programme cues and chases. Once you have programmed in your scenes, you simply hop into the the cue page, hold down on an empty cue, and your current settings are then stored into that cue, ready to be recalled at your convenience. If using these cues to create a chase sequence, you can simply return to the main window, make the changes to your current scene (this will still be stored from when you saved it as your first cue) and repeat the save process to form the basis of your second step in the chase. These cues can then simply be loaded into the cue editor.
The app also provides a more “traidional” channel editor view, which enables users to view faders for functions that are not supported by the basic app structure. It’s also worth noting that this page can be incredibly useful for finding out the DMX values for unknown quantities. For example, if the user knows they want a particular strobing speed from their fixture, but does not have the DMX value noted for this speed, then the basic channel editor can be used to ascertain this value for use within another element of the app, for example the scene creator.
Here are the specifiation for both the application itself, as well as the EUROLITE freeDMX AP Wi-Fi Interface.
Supported Platforms: iPhone, iPad and iPod touch and Android devices (tablets) from 7″.APK filesize: 1.3M
Requires: 4.0 and above for andriod, iOS 9.0 and above for iphone/ipad.
In-app Purchases available: NO
EUROLITE FREEDMX AP WI-FI INTERFACE:
Supported devices: iPhone, iP ad and iPod touch and Android devices (tablets) from 7″.
Also Works with LED Command (Android) and FreeStyler version 3.37 or later (Windows PC)
Modes: Access Point and Infrastructure mode
Administration via web brower
Wireless Standard: IEEE802.11b / g / n.
Can be used as wireless transmitter/receiver (DMX via WLAN)
Connections: 3-pin XLR connectors for DMX in and DMX out.
LED status indicators
Power via included power supply
Made in Germany.
Dimensions (Without Antenna): L 112 x W 88 x H 40 mm
Weight : 0.35 kg
Usually our field tests start out on the job, but for this particular test we thought it was probably best to spend some time with the product before the event, just to make sure we had everything ready to go. That said, we really didn’t need to, because the application makes programming so simple that we could have carried it out in 20 minutes before the show. The event we used Light’J for was a basic indoor gig, a small venue, with 12 Eurolite LED ML-56 QCL RGBWA pars and 6 Chauvet Q-Wash 560Z-LED moving heads. Nothing too complicated, but plenty for a first test of a new control platform, and an opportunity for us to test the app with both Steinigke branded fixtures as well as those from other manufacturers.
So, first things first, time to define our fixtures. Adding in our 12 Eurolite ML-56 was simple, as these were already included in the fixture library. However, for our moving heads we had to do a bit of manual fixture creation. At first we thought that maybe this was a bit contradictory to the “simple and speedy” mantra of the software, but from having a peak at the manual built in to the application, we found this not to be the case. In fact, the manual provides useful tips for programming in your fixtures, including a useful colour guide, as seen below. Of course, one would like to think that working out the colour values needed to make blue from an RGB fixture would be simple, but it does come into it’s own with recommendations for a whole range of colours, including various temperatures of white. Okay, not the most exciting or “coolest” of features out there, but for the market this application is aimed at, certainly very carefully thought through.
Once at the gig, and with everything out of their flightcases, it occured to us that we had forgotten to factor in one piece of equipment, our haze machine. This was something that whilst programming in my scenes I had completely overlooked, but fortunately Light’J has an answer for these types of fixtures. As you can see from the home screen, the app allows for the access of 3 auxillary channels, which we mentioned earlier. These can be set to fixtures of just this nature, and although these aux channels are limited to the control of 4 DMX channels, but for a fixture such as a haze machine or basic follow-spot for example, this isnt a problem. In fact, it’s a really useful and efficient method of having direct access to a fixture which may require more adhoc control and less rigid programming from scene to scene.
Once everything was connected up, the rest was simple. Our pre-programmed scenes worked a treat, and there was no need to be concerned over the usability with non-steinigke branded fixtures. The software performed consistently throughout the show in terms of stability, with no crashes or freezing occuring even with some pretty speedy switches (primarily caused by user error). In terms of practicallity, we were using the application on an iPad, and although we found the scale of the application to be well suited to this size of screen, we could see how users may struggle with the smaller screens of iphones, for example. Nevertheless, i’m sure the same could be said for many applications which span across the two types of devices.
We did find ourselves having to go into the channel editor (a section of the app that more closely resembles a standard fader bank) to make some minor adjustments to settings as we went along, however these were all things that could have been adjusted using the function controls if we were to repeat the process and make some changes to our programming.
There’s room for improvement within the application, but that’s where the beauty of having a software-heavy platform comes in, allowing for easy of update. For example, we can’t currently find any way to share fixture library between ipads or devices, and it would be nice to be able to share fixture profiles back to other users in some form of common marketplace. Another thing that we could potentially nitpick at is that with simplicity comes sacrifice, and some DMX controllable functions, such as fine pan and tilt, cannot be programmed into the designated areas. Although it could be argued that these would be cumbersome anyway for those utilising this kind of control platform, and they can always be accessed from the basic channel editor.
Although this certainly isn’t the most powerful or feature-packed piece of software on the market in this area, one thing it does seriously compete on is intuitiveness and accessibility. However, this is an application that can certainly make DMX enabled fixtures accessible to much wider audience. Not only does it provide a much more intuitive workflow for those who want quick and visual control of a lighting system (for example a sound engineer who needs to do some basic lighting operation during a show), but it also offers the option of DMX lighting to a range of new users, such as solo performers or DJs. With a small and convenient user interface, that can be easily positioned to the side of your decks, or even clamped onto your microphone stand, it enables these types of performers to add an extra dimension to their shows.
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