Astera App, Sidus Link, Luminair, Blackout, CRMX Toolbox, myMix, Artnet Control, DMXcat- what are all these apps and what do they mean to me? Welcome back to the series that attempts to help live event programmers make the transition to film programmer. This week, it’s all about the apps. I remember my first conversation with my first Gaffer (the one who called me asking when I was touching down that day when I hadn’t yet been booked for the gig) and him mentioning apps I had never heard of that I would be expected to run. I was a bit overwhelmed. Though I don’t intend to tell you how each one of the works, I’ll fill you in on what they do and how they behave…or misbehave. And since so many of them are useful for prepping your rig, I’m placing it fifth in the series following the first two intense prep entries.
Your Console Remote
Whatever console you program on, make sure you have the best wireless app to control it. There will be many times when your line of site isn’t great or the Gaffer and or DP will want you on set to make changes. Be sure to have tested your wireless network to insure function from at least 100 feet if not more.
The Astera App allows you to configure many Astera products all at once. You can even create cues on it (though only for Astera products). This app is both the best and the worst of the industry in one. It has amazing features that allow you to work very quickly, and more importantly, change settings on lights while they are still rigged high above you. But it will struggle to do basic things, pick the absolute worst moments to update your firmware, and require you to do the same thing four times before registering it once. I remember my first experience with this app and I assumed it was my iPad mini 4 being a little long in the tooth. It’s not your iPad (or android device), it’s the app.
A few things I wish I knew:
- Astera makes pretty great videos walking you through the app and I recommend them. HERE’S A LINK. Beware- you will never hear the word “simply” overused so much.
- Be sure to set your Radio Pin to a number of your choice. Choose a number for the truck package and at least one number for your drop packages and another for your stage rig. (Having too many fixtures paired and active in the app at once can seriously slow it down, so think hard about how many pins you assign to each location.). The pin allows you to use any Art7 to gain access to the lights through the app. It’s a great feature.
- If you have long days of running things through the app, you will need a battery pack for your tablet/phone. It burns through battery pretty fast.
- The Magic wand tool is amazing and means you can batch prep Astera products all at once.
- Touch the Pencil icon to be able to deselect things.
- The Tile system for colors, levels, and looks is painful for me as a programmer. It’s awkward and you have to just struggle through it.
- The Color functions have a color library reference that is quite good. And you can choose between a white point of 3200 or 5600.
- You will have to forget the ART7 many times through your tablet or phone when it refuses to pair.
I do not find this app useful, personally, but people who are not programmers do. It’s an app that gives you mesh control of Aputure lights (and other fixtures that license their protocols). For what it is, it’s amazing. You can pick colors, trigger effects, build scenes, draw light plots, etc. If I wasn’t used to programming on consoles, and if it wasn’t limited to one product manufacturer, I’d be into it. That said- you can probably skip this app, since you are on set to program with your own console.
This is an iPad-based lighting control app. I do not use it, but people will talk about it. It gives you control over any DMX-based fixture through wireless control. The app used a slider-based system to build looks. It’s pretty cool because it is hardware agnostic- any device that takes Artnet or sACN and turns it into DMX will work with Luminair. Limited to 4 universes.
This is the only iPad “console” I take seriously. It’s patterned far too much off of ETC’s approach to syntax and concept, but that makes it pretty easy to learn for Eos users. It’s rather full-featured, for an app. Artnet, sACN, a great fixture library, a well-rounded effect engine, and a very active developer who actually uses his own product. You can program looks, have color palettes, control movers, etc. Limits are currently no submasters, no hardware to dock into to give you faders or tactile buttons (this might be an age thing, but I still find touch screens less reliable than a hard button). Pricing is super reasonable at $500 for 1 universe, $1500 for 256 universes. You will need the best chip you can get to truly unlock your 256 universe potential, so consider the iPad M1 Air or a Pro. I programmed it on my Mini (A15 chip) and I was pleasantly surprised that the screen wasn’t so squished I couldn’t program. This app delivers on the dream of having a console in your backpack. That said- I only use it when someone insists that I do, as I find it far more limited than a full console.
This app is pretty great. It offers configuration controls to anything that uses the Lumenradio TimoTwo chip. You can configure transmitters and receivers easily. It doesn’t have a ton of uses, but what it does, it does well.
This app is only needed if you use Rosco DMG lighting products. Our truck package currently has 4 DMG Dash fixtures, so this is a way to update firmware (when it works) as well as control your lights from your phone.
No one suggested this app or spoke of it to me. I searched it out and found it. This app will scan your network and show you any Artnet outputs. It will tell you how many nodes there are and what their IP addresses are. It will also allow you to output Artnet from your phone to test. It’s cheap and fully featured. A great app for troubleshooting.
If you don’t own a DMXcat, I feel anxious for you. This device (and app) is essential for setup and troubleshooting. It delivers the promise of RDM in a package that actually WORKS. You can stab this into any DMX line to either scan the universe or output. It makes configuring fixtures remotely a dream and is the only way to configure the infamous RC4 products without a fast descent into madness. Highly recommend. If you can’t afford it now, literally- buy it with your first check from your film. It’s so good I regret the years it existed and I hadn’t yet bought it.
There are many other apps, but these are the ones that people will mention to you, and/or apps I think you should know about. If you think I left out something important, please comments below! It takes many points of view to make a resource like this.