This book introduces concepts around automated show control for live events.  It is a fairly comprehensive look at the state of the art of technology in 1994.  Even though its 9 years old, it discusses many issues of importance in the construction of live performance and the use of technology in that process.  Much of the discussion is very close to my thesis work and still relevant. 


The book's emphasis is on a technical perspective of how a show is coordinated and run.  No reference is made to the need to make the technologies more compatible.  The book isn't a theoretical work, however it does contain some useful viewpoints.


Definition of live show control: linking of multiple production elements of a show for coordinated action. (summary of pg xii).


Recognizes Theater as the most demanding and difficult of the live genres (preface xiii).


Show elements:





Film Projection,

Process Control,


Show Control.


My Note:

            There are many ways to organize show elements, I am still uncertain about how to categorize things.  A way to think about it is to take a point of view and recognize differences and organize the elements based on those differences.  Personally, I like looking at the elements in terms of what kind of cable is required to deliver the media from production/control device of the media to the rendering device.


cable view: defined in terms of the cabling in the system.








machinery, and

process control.


Where things get messy is when the production method for the media meshes with the control system for that media type.  Lighting has a very specific control paradigm in place brought about by many hundreds of years of integration.  Video on the other hand is still evolving in live performance and has a possibly inadequate way of being integrated into live productions. 

            At some point, an in-depth look at all the different kinds of media is needed.  By doing this, a generalized control strategy can be formed.  My preliminary hunch is that my notion of something referred to in the entertainment industry as "transport" can be applied across the board to all media types (more on transport below). But, this can only happen if the integration of media types into a production is organized in a consistent manner.  This way of thinking addresses the final preparation and construction of a control paradigm for a live show.

For instance, a live compositional machine may have complicated control parameters to make it function, but ultimately it produces an audio signal.  This compositional engine has elements of transport that can be applied to it: init, start, stop, pause, resume, speed, and parameters.  As an audio signal it possesses certain properties of audio that allow it to be integrated with other audio elements:  layered mixing, cross-fade, localization, muting, etc.  In this way it can be integrated as an "audio" element even though it may be more complicated than just pressing play on the CD player.

For video, there are certain properties that allow all video signals to be integrated together.  Similarly, a graphics signal (normally run down a VGA cable) possess certain physical properties that define how different graphics signals can be combined.  These two media types produce images and moving images yet do so in incompatible ways up to a point. At the point where the images are translated to identical media representations they become inherently compatible because they are images.  For instance at the point where a VGA signal is converted to video or after both signals are rendered into light by a projector.  At this point the image produced is compatible with certain features of the lighting elements.

With digital video there are limitations related to construction of multiple layers of imagery.  Currently, in low end systems, more than 2 or 3 layers slows the rendering down to unacceptable levels.  Often because of the look or beauty of the visuals this is accepted as a necessary compromise. But it also as prevented the formation of a standardized way of thinking about video control in performance creation.

Likewise, audio is not compatible with video because it is not a viewed image, but a heard one.  Its production, manipulation, and rendering mechanisms are incompatible.  however it can be used to produce an image that then can be compatible with one or more visual elements.


More notes and musings:

            The word transport is often taken to mean the method by which data is delivered over a network.  In this context it refers to a particular mode of control used with media devices.  since there is no formal theory about transport that I can find at the moment, I am using my experiences to define and theorize about it.  Because of this the theory is open to change and critical review.  Transport consists of control signals for media used during its presentation.  The signals consist of "play/resume", "stop", "pause/still", "speed #", "seek to #", "select".  For convenience, signals of "reverse", "fast forward", and "fast reverse", may be included but are not necessary since they duplicate capabilities already contained within the previously defined set.  In addition to transport can be used as a "transition" and "mixing" protocol with the same signals, but with slightly different semantic meanings, that defines how separate channels of media are combined in space and time.  This protocol consists of "go", "stop", "back", "timing #", "mix %", "select".  Note that "stop" and "pause" collapse down to one meaning due to the semantics of transition and mixing.  Also "timing" replaces "speed" and "mix" replaces "seek". 


I am defining the term "media" to be the plural of "medium".   Specifically, the meaning of "medium" I am using is the art context meaning of a type of physical material with which a work of art is created.  However, I am taking this word to have a broader more modern meaning and include digital forms


Media: Types of digitally manifested or controlled forms used by artists to create a work of art.


A list:














These categories can be divided into five classes:  (of course each media type has elements of multiple classes, yet the primary class is its category).


Image:  Visually projected or  rendered.

Light:  Illumination.

Sound:  Generated for the ears.

Machinery:  Physically manifested movement.

Aromatics:  Rendered smell (rarely used).

Pyrotechnics:  Explosions and fire.


I am not sure yet where or if to place "process" in the scheme of things somewhere.