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Building the Ultimate One-Man-Band Live Performance/Looping Rig - Workstation Frame & Cases

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Building the Ultimate One-Man-Band Live Performance/Looping Rig - Workstation Frame & Cases

Postby joshhpmusic » Mon Jul 27, 2020 3:18 am

Hey all,

Hopefully I'm posting in the right place- I'm currently in the process of building my dream live performance / looping rig, which I plan on using to jam and bring along on trips and for performance purposes. The main thing I'm trying to figure out right now is the structural 'framework'.

The concept is simple; an all-in-one mobile live looping rig for an all-in-one kinda guy :D I primarily play guitar, and have been looping as well as recording for some time now, with other instruments as well. Recently, I've been using the Akai Force to record guitar loops, adding synth and drum parts, and recording bass as well- but I'm pretty unsatisfied with the sonic and workflow limitations of the device, not to mention Akai's disastrous lack of support for crucial feature updates.

As such, I came up with what my dream rig would look like in order to do multi-instrument jams with full flexibility, as well as transporting the rig easily and using for live performance. Here are the key components:

  • A small computer as the brain of the system (I've just Hackintoshed an Intel NUC8i5BEK, which is smaller, faster, & cheaper than any Mac Mini. Let's call it the Mac Nano)
  • Performance/DAW software of choice (I'm using Logic Pro X with its new live looping features)
  • An audio interface for I/O (Focusrite Scarlett 8i6 3rd Gen.)
  • A MIDI controller with keys, pads, & knobs (M-Audio Axiom AIR Mini 32)
  • A portable touchscreen monitor for no-mouse control of DAW
  • A MIDI foot controller for switching presets and triggering loops/recording

These are the core pieces of music gear that constitute the rig workflow and functionality. Most of these I've already managed to put together, and feel good about the gear purchase decisions I've made and these should work well together.

However, the big struggle I'm facing now is how I can deal with the physical form factor or 'structure' of this rig, which will hold the gear and allow it to be both transported and used as a workstation. Here are the key components of the structure I'm trying to figure out:

  • A frame, with wheels, that can be collapsed down for transport but also used directly as a live performance station, and
  • Case(s) to house the gear, which can mount to the frame at the correct height for performance:
  • Upper case which can be opened up to work with during performance, but also be transported independently of the frame. Doesn't need a ton of protection- will not be a flight case, just in my car. If possible, I'd like it to have a separate compartment for the power supplies and any miscellaneous cables.
  • Lower case for the foot controller. Again, can mount to the frame or be transported separately.

Here's a CAD drawing that includes the basic components and the frame/case concept I've outlined for visual reference: 

ImageImage Image Image

(The items in white are the gear I listed above, to correct scale, but the frame/cases are not necessarily exact in any way- because they don't exist yet! Just a visual aid.)

So, what I'm really looking for help with is if anyone knows how I can actually build or get a frame / cases that can serve as the infrastructure to put together the gear as outlined, and be used for portable and performance purposes? (A lot of p's, that's for sure)

A couple other considerations for this part would be that I'd also like to be able to have the frame extend taller or shorter depending on if I'm sitting or standing when using it, and it can collapse for portability in the trunk of my hatchback. Furthermore, I'd plan on having a 'shelf' (not pictured) just above the foot control section that my Alto Music PA could sit on if the location doesn't have a house PA.

Again, if anyone has any ideas on how to build or piece together a frame that can satisfy these general constraints, as well as how to find or make a working gear case that satisfies for the gear housing purposes outlined above, please drop it down below!

Thank you in advance, and looking forward to this journey with you all! :thumbup:

-Josh
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Re: Building the Ultimate One-Man-Band Live Performance/Looping Rig - Workstation Frame & Cases

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Mon Jul 27, 2020 8:45 am

Don't know which part of the world you're in, but what you're describing is very similar in concept and requirement to the kind of trolley professional film and tv sound recordists iften use. Examples here:

https://www.locationsound.com/carts-24 (USA)
https://www.raycom.co.uk/category/sound-bags-carts/sound-carts/ (UK)

The most obvious challenge with your draft design is stability because it appears that there's potentially a lot of weight high up.
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Re: Building the Ultimate One-Man-Band Live Performance/Looping Rig - Workstation Frame & Cases

Postby Arpangel » Mon Jul 27, 2020 9:06 am

Hugh Robjohns wrote:The most obvious challenge with your draft design is stability because it appears that there's potentially a lot of weight high up.

Hugh has a good point there, it looks way too unstable.
If you’re handy with wood you can knock something up in no time, and use heavy timber for the base, there are places that do various wheels and fittings for those who make home made cases/racks etc. Slosh a load of matt black paint on it and you’re done.
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Re: Building the Ultimate One-Man-Band Live Performance/Looping Rig - Workstation Frame & Cases

Postby Folderol » Mon Jul 27, 2020 10:42 am

Agree with the others. I'd suggest putting everything except the touch screen on a shelf just above the pedals.

Keep the top platform as protection for the screen when closed, and also a place for a pen, notepad and merchandise.
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Re: Building the Ultimate One-Man-Band Live Performance/Looping Rig - Workstation Frame & Cases

Postby joshhpmusic » Mon Jul 27, 2020 4:42 pm

Arpangel wrote:
Hugh Robjohns wrote:The most obvious challenge with your draft design is stability because it appears that there's potentially a lot of weight high up.

Hugh has a good point there, it looks way too unstable.
If you’re handy with wood you can knock something up in no time, and use heavy timber for the base, there are places that do various wheels and fittings for those who make home made cases/racks etc. Slosh a load of matt black paint on it and you’re done.

Yes, for clarification- this is by no means a precise design drawing. Merely meant to illuminate the concept I've got up in the brain :)

I'm leaning towards some sort of metal piping system with connectors if I have to build completely from scratch, for aesthetic and structural reasons over wood. I think there might be a few DIY systems with connectors to help with this, but have to do a little more research.

Do you have any links/examples to wheels and fittings, and custom made cases? The cases is definitely something I'm unsure about at this point.

Folderol wrote:Agree with the others. I'd suggest putting everything except the touch screen on a shelf just above the pedals.

Keep the top platform as protection for the screen when closed, and also a place for a pen, notepad and merchandise.

Do you mean all of the gear, computer, interface, and keyboard? Why in a separate place from the touchscreen? Seems like it would be hard to reach near my feet..
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Re: Building the Ultimate One-Man-Band Live Performance/Looping Rig - Workstation Frame & Cases

Postby joshhpmusic » Mon Jul 27, 2020 4:43 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:Don't know which part of the world you're in, but what you're describing is very similar in concept and requirement to the kind of trolley professional film and tv sound recordists iften use. Examples here:

https://www.locationsound.com/carts-24 (USA)
https://www.raycom.co.uk/category/sound-bags-carts/sound-carts/ (UK)

The most obvious challenge with your draft design is stability because it appears that there's potentially a lot of weight high up.

Also those links you shared are almost exactly what I'm trying to do!!! Except not spend $2000 :lol: Wonder if I can find something like those for cheaper?
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Re: Building the Ultimate One-Man-Band Live Performance/Looping Rig - Workstation Frame & Cases

Postby MarkPAman » Mon Jul 27, 2020 5:03 pm

I've seen a similar setup* built into a couple cases something like this: https://www.dv247.com/en_GB/GBP/DAP-Cas ... FobL.P7Dz7 - maybe a little larger.

These were then placed on a reasonably robust, 2 tear X frame keyboard stand. I believe there were only 3 or 4 cables needed between the two cases, and a midi foot controller was just lifted out of the lower case and placed on the floor, already wired up.

The artist was using an iPad to run the DAW I think, which was supported with an adjustable tablet clamp to the top of the keyboard stand (which may well take your touch screen). Probably not this one, but something like it:
https://www.tattooeverythingsupplies.co ... 7852945463

Bonus points were awarded for providing all her own DI boxes, and 2 mics on a twin mount stand (one for looping, one live). Also only needing one mains socket. She'd had time take lids off backstage, and only needed a few minutes on the stage to be ready to start.

* By which I mean it could achieve the same thing. I've not really got any idea what the equipment was as it was a festival with the usual overly optimistic running times.
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Re: Building the Ultimate One-Man-Band Live Performance/Looping Rig - Workstation Frame & Cases

Postby Folderol » Mon Jul 27, 2020 5:51 pm

joshhpmusic wrote:
Folderol wrote:Agree with the others. I'd suggest putting everything except the touch screen on a shelf just above the pedals.

Keep the top platform as protection for the screen when closed, and also a place for a pen, notepad and merchandise.

Do you mean all of the gear, computer, interface, and keyboard? Why in a separate place from the touchscreen? Seems like it would be hard to reach near my feet..

Computer definitely, interface yes unless you need to frequently reach it, keyboard probably not - didn't know you'd be using one.
The reason is mostly to get the weight as low as possible for best stability, but also to reduce clutter in your working area.
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Re: Building the Ultimate One-Man-Band Live Performance/Looping Rig - Workstation Frame & Cases

Postby joshhpmusic » Mon Jul 27, 2020 7:03 pm

MarkPAman wrote:I've seen a similar setup* built into a couple cases something like this: https://www.dv247.com/en_GB/GBP/DAP-Cas ... FobL.P7Dz7 - maybe a little larger.

These were then placed on a reasonably robust, 2 tear X frame keyboard stand. I believe there were only 3 or 4 cables needed between the two cases, and a midi foot controller was just lifted out of the lower case and placed on the floor, already wired up.

The artist was using an iPad to run the DAW I think, which was supported with an adjustable tablet clamp to the top of the keyboard stand (which may well take your touch screen). Probably not this one, but something like it:
https://www.tattooeverythingsupplies.co ... 7852945463

Bonus points were awarded for providing all her own DI boxes, and 2 mics on a twin mount stand (one for looping, one live). Also only needing one mains socket. She'd had time take lids off backstage, and only needed a few minutes on the stage to be ready to start.

* By which I mean it could achieve the same thing. I've not really got any idea what the equipment was as it was a festival with the usual overly optimistic running times.

I definitely feel like that artist was on a similar wavelength to this idea, especially with the smart rig I/O, easy deployment, and only one cable for the main power (looking at an individually switched power strip). I may also want to mount a mic for similar usage on the unit.

That case also looks fairly close to what I'm looking for- like you said, may need a slightly bigger option. Still skeptical about using an iPad though, as it will complicate the system (and cost more), but if the touchscreen does work out it won't be a problem.

Folderol wrote:
joshhpmusic wrote:
Folderol wrote:Agree with the others. I'd suggest putting everything except the touch screen on a shelf just above the pedals.

Keep the top platform as protection for the screen when closed, and also a place for a pen, notepad and merchandise.

Do you mean all of the gear, computer, interface, and keyboard? Why in a separate place from the touchscreen? Seems like it would be hard to reach near my feet..

Computer definitely, interface yes unless you need to frequently reach it, keyboard probably not - didn't know you'd be using one.
The reason is mostly to get the weight as low as possible for best stability, but also to reduce clutter in your working area.

One thing I forgot to mention is I'd like to be able to remove the upper case and use pretty much standalone (just without foot control) if I'm on a trip and want to be able to just jam. For that reason, I'd probably want to keep the crucial components (computer, interface, MIDI controller, and touchscreen in the upper section).

Here are the weights and dimensions of the objects pictured on the upper case:

Computer (Intel NUC) - Weight: 2.5lb - Dimensions 4.4 x 4.6 x 1.4in
Interface (Saffire 8i6, with PSU) - Weight: 2.4lb - Dimensions 8.27 x 5.89 x 1.87in
MIDI controller (M-Audio Axiom AIR Mini 32) - Weight: 2.5lb - Dimensions 15.6 x 7.7 x 1.5in
Touchscreen - Weight: 3lb - Dimensions 14.45 x 9.13 x 0.4in

So, interestedly each have very similar weights which are also fairly low, all four of these components totaling 10.4lbs. If I include a plastic power strip in the upper case, let's say that's an extra 2lbs. The question is if I can build a case fairly light to deal with the weight balance. I believe the Helix LT at the feet is around 15lb.

I may also purchase a small keyboard/trackpad, which I think could actually rest on top of the NUC and Saffire side by side, to save real estate if they're in a smaller case side-by-side - the tops of these devices aren't used anyhow!

The big question though is, how will I mount these devices to the case so they stay put during transport? They all have Kensington Lock ports, so maybe there's a way to hard-mount them into the case using those as anchor points?
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Re: Building the Ultimate One-Man-Band Live Performance/Looping Rig - Workstation Frame & Cases

Postby blinddrew » Mon Jul 27, 2020 7:19 pm

I think if it were me I'd be looking at buying something like this:
https://www.diy.com/departments/hand-tr ... 676_BQ.prd
Then buying some flight cases and bolting appropriate hooks to the back. Bring it all in with everything loaded on the bottom of the trolley, then lift the performance levels up to the right height and open up.
Alternatively you might be able to customise something like this: https://www.diy.com/departments/mac-all ... 838_BQ.prd
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Re: Building the Ultimate One-Man-Band Live Performance/Looping Rig - Workstation Frame & Cases

Postby joshhpmusic » Mon Jul 27, 2020 7:34 pm

blinddrew wrote:I think if it were me I'd be looking at buying something like this:
https://www.diy.com/departments/hand-tr ... 676_BQ.prd
Then buying some flight cases and bolting appropriate hooks to the back. Bring it all in with everything loaded on the bottom of the trolley, then lift the performance levels up to the right height and open up.
Alternatively you might be able to customise something like this: https://www.diy.com/departments/mac-all ... 838_BQ.prd

That is precisely how I would like to use it; both cases stacked at the bottom for rolling it in, and then raise to the performance height.

The hand truck is the idea too, with one exception- being able to raise and lower it in two or three sections. Which is much like the suitcase handle type deal in the second link you sent! I couldn't tell how modular that one is, like if I can get the handle assembly without those units and then mount my own to it, or even the smaller ones they sell...

We're getting on the right track, now if I could only get to those approaches combined :thumbup:
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Re: Building the Ultimate One-Man-Band Live Performance/Looping Rig - Workstation Frame & Cases

Postby joshhpmusic » Tue Jul 28, 2020 2:17 am

Update on this; I got the touchscreen in the mail today, plugged it in, and it worked! It works with no setup on both my 2016 MacBook Pro and the Intel NUC8 Hackintosh, running macOS Catalina 10.15.5 and 10.15.3, respectively. The brand is "Uperfect" and it can be found on eBay for under $200. It's even got internal speakers and a screen cover. It does work as a mouse, and while it's certainly strange getting used to a touchscreen mouse with macOS at first, it does indeed work and it's actually super smooth. Even does right-click control! No multi-touch gestures though. I'm not sure why there's such consensus on the internet, even the product pages, that macOS does not support touchscreens. They can work quite well, as if you're using your finger directly on the screen as a mouse. Beats a trackpad if you ask me, at least for this purpose!

I also have come to believe that something like a foldable hand truck might be a good way of doing what I'm trying to do pretty sturdily. Here's an example, but there are a ton of these & I would want to shop around more to find the right height and form-factor: https://www.uline.com/Product/Detail/H-2638/Hand-Trucks/Folding-Hand-Truck-275-lb-Load-Capacity There are also luggage carts that are similar and folding, but would need to find one sturdy enough. Here's an example: https://www.hand-trolleys.com/products/265lb-aluminum-foldable-hand-trolley-dolly-luggage-trolley-cart/

As you can see, I have an idea of what I'm looking for, preferably the design where the bottom support is flat on the ground, for pedal controls, and they fold down to shorter height- they even fold flat! Most of these units stand at around 40" high, which I thought was too short, but after measuring just now to see what a comfortable height would be, if the case can be mounted at 38" or even 36" off the ground, depending on the thickness, it should be comfortable to use standing (I'm 67.5" tall, and if the case with lid open is 14" high, the screen should be just below head level)

With one of these, the real tricky part will be how do I mount a case at the upper level? I'd also like to be able to remove the case when I don't want to take the whole rig assembly with me. Also still need to figure out the best option for a case, or creating a custom case assembly similar to as pictured in the first post. Any ideas?
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