[PD] Approaches to "show control" platforms

Simon Wise simonzwise at gmail.com
Thu Nov 13 14:04:06 CET 2014

On 13/11/14 21:10, João Martins wrote:

> Each function is apparently simple to implement and I've used some
> experimental patches in shows of my own, but I've met some resistance from
> "conventional" technicians. Some testing with Qlab, has led me to the
> conclusion that a Pd solution could be built and useful, but it would need
> a simpler GUI for the final control aspects, to resemble as close as
> possible existing paradigms (some sort of hybrid between an audio mixing
> board and the normal controls on a CD/audio player, the cueing principles
> of lighting systems and existing video mixing consoles).
> A modular system would be perfect for this, and I'm trying to figure out
> how to start.

I have run many installations and shows with pd ... its strength is also its 
weakness for this. Pd is a language, it isn't a modular GUI system. That means 
you do pretty much whatever you can find the time and programming skills to 
make, test etc. You are freed from the constraints of the current set of 
interface paradigms. You are on your own. It means you need to make any elegant 
or conventional-style interface you want to present to an operator, and it means 
that operator must be happy using a custom, hence unfamiliar, interface (often 
labelled "un-intuitive" because it isn't an exact copy of the tools they know well).

All this takes time and effort to get right, if you are simply looking for the 
cheapest way to plot and operate a show (including costing some of that time) 
then buy whatever tool your operators already know, and spend your time setting 
that up well. But that imposes quite restrictive workflows, it limits what you 
can do (but in familiar ways that people accustomed to working that way will 
readily accept).

Use pd when you will operate the show yourself, use pd when it is behind a 
physical faders and knobs surface, use pd when you really have the time to make, 
test, learn and teach a custom interface and are working with people willing to 
embrace that, use pd for creating all kinds of responsive or semi-autonomous 
systems, use pd when you want to set up particular sequences and scenes yourself 
and can simply expose a series of GO buttons plus maybe a volume control or such 
for an operator to use.

Certainly build up your library of parts/modules for this, and borrow from the 
many published collections of such! But it is a lot of work to polish an 
interface to plot and run a show, and to make it bulletproof ... especially in 
the hands of a nervous operator in front of an eager audience ... that is what 
you are paying for when you buy a cueing system (and some of them do provide 
just that). It can be a very good learning process to re-invent the wheel, if 
that is your goal, and very satisfying to DIY if your have the time and patience.


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