This compact unit allows you to add MIDI‑controlled lights to your performance for less than the cost of a modest sound module. Paul White checks it out.
Electronic music goes hand in hand with lasers, dry ice, smoke machines and other lighting extravaganzas, but if you're working the clubs and wine bars rather than festivals and stadia, you may have to settle for something more modest. That's where products like the Lite Show can earn their keep, because for relatively little outlay, you can set up a sophisticated light show, controlled by the same sequencer (or MIDI data filer) you use for your music.
The Lite Show is an 8‑channel lighting controller in a case no larger than a box of chocolates. Each lighting channel can control up to 300W of filament bulbs, and unlike a sound‑to‑light unit, a channel's output is controlled by a single MIDI note. The MIDI channel is fixed at 16 and channels 1‑8 respond to MIDI notes 60 to 67 respectively, which in real money is middle C to G. Unlike MIDI sound modules, however, the Lite Show doesn't use note offs — light intensity is simply related to note velocity. Once the note has ended, the light stays at the same brightness until a new note of a different velocity comes along, which means that to turn a light off, you have to send a new note with a velocity of zero, or very close to zero. This allows smooth lighting fades to be programmed, using a series of notes with decreasing or increasing velocities.
Aside from MIDI note control, there are also 80 preset lighting scenes which can be called up using MIDI program changes. The first 64 of these scenes are fixed on/off patterns, but the remaining
16 'special' scenes are rather more interesting, containing dynamic effects such as rippling fades or other simple lighting sequences. These special scenes are useful as fillers in between programmed pieces, or in an emergency if some disaster befalls your sequenced lighting information.
Though the Lite Show is definitely a budget piece of equipment, it's solidly built and I found it very easy to use, though programming a complex lighting sequence is every bit as tricky as programming a piece of music. The lack of any user options such as MIDI channel switching or note mapping can be a minor inconvenience, but most users should be able to work around this. Another minor irritation is the lack of a MIDI Thru port; if you're using several MIDI modules, the Lite Show has to go at the end of the MIDI chain. However, the designers have very sensibly included a properly isolated MIDI input, so in the event of some disastrous electrical failure involving the lighting system, your MIDI modules are unlikely to evaporate.
Ultimately, the Lite Show is far more flexible than a simple sound‑to‑light unit, but it also requires a lot more effort. When programming a lighting sequence from a keyboard, turning the lights on is no problem, but playing a key with a velocity at or near zero to turn them off again is rather more tricky, which invariably means some event list editing. Alternatively, if you're a dab hand with the Transform or Logical Edit pages of your sequencer, no doubt many of these chores could be simplified.
In an ideal world, the unit would also include a sound‑to‑light facility, perhaps as one of the presets, so that instead of having to program an hour's worth of lighting to go with your show, you could concentrate on a few important programmed set pieces, with the sound‑to‑light preset filling in the rest. Having said that, I know It wouldn't be fair to ask for a sound‑to‑light facility to be included in a unit of this price, but in the next model — perhaps?
As it stands, the Lite Show is very good value for money; the results that can be achieved are limited only by your imagination and your patience. If you enjoy programming and want a light show which ripples, fades and flashes with every nuance of your music, the Lite Show and some coloured spots will deliver the goods. On the other hand, if you want an easy life, buy a sound‑to‑light unit and plug it into the output of your drum machine!
- Very straightforward to use.
- Eight channels of lighting at up to 300 Watts per channel.
- Useful preset lighting combinations and effects.
- Programming is time consuming.
- MIDI channel and note mapping fixed.
A practical and well‑designed unit that offers the chance to create a sophisticated MIDI‑controlled light show at very little cost.