QLab is a great Mac application for producing live audio and video shows. 

Who needs QLab…

Anyone who is frustrated by trying to use Keynote, Powerpoint, DVD Player, Adobe Director or even iTunes to control what people see and hear at live events. Whist Keynote & Powerpoint will both handle audio & video they become a bit unwieldy when under the time pressure of live shows. They don't offer tools like mixing multiple audio/ video tracks at any point in time or creating loops that break out when you want. Removing or adding items is not something I'd be willing to do 20 minutes before an event starts, but QLab changes all that.




What is QLab…

It's basically a playlist manager, but with the ability to add fades & mixes between footage or audio tracks. The playlist can be non linear due to scripts, or user choices. It uses multiple monitors in spanning mode so that you have full access to the UI whist the second (or third…) monitor is presenting the show.

I have been looking for an application to control video & audio for well over a year. There are many PC applications that claim to do it, and a few Mac applications that seem geared towards church services that mix live cameras with text (hymn lyrics) & video (dancing baby jeebus presumably). The prices start at a few hundred dollars, sadly more than small budget community projects are willing to pay for software on one or two shows. Other free (& open source) softwares like YGBox offer similar possibilities but a steep learning curve by using the Apple developer tool Quartz Composer as an engine to drive the content. 

I stumbled across a post on a forum that mentioned QLab. So far it has been the answer to many problems.  

It works with Audio/ Video and MIDI. It has a nice elegant Mac UI that is mostly great. It is a single window that contains the main cue list and other optional controls such as the playback of running items, settings for the selected item etc.

Each item can have specific pre and post timings, so you can fire an event that will trigger other events at any point in time. It is also capable of controlling lighting, sound and video desks via MIDI or other commands provided you have the required hardware. The events can pause or cascade through in sequence or all fire at the same time. It can run 48 separate audio tracks so you can deconstruct music into components to be mixed live if necessary.

Figure 53 has a genius idea that allows you to by a licence for a day for just $3. They also have cheaper education licences. I brought a rental licence, it arrived in seconds and involved opening a file and it was licensed, oh and the rental licenses are for unlimited Macs, how can they get this so right? Simple, elegant and efficient.


This application has lots of moments where you think, how do I … oh crap they thought of that too. It has many layers and requires a bit of poking around to learn. The manual & tutorials are both good, and there are some video guides too.

Look on their site if you think you might need it, download the demo & tutorials, and give it a spin. To be able to play video it helps to have a second monitor, a single monitor can be used, but you loose sight of the cue list.

I don't think this is for an average user, Keynote does enough for most people but QLab is brilliant for anyone who want to provide an interactive way to present audio or video. I managed to add a script to Griffin's AirClick USB application to allow people on stage to wirelessly click through videos at their own pace, with loops & fade mixes.



Needless to say when using QLab the limits are probably due to your own imagination.

Check out QLab & the QLab tutorials.


Average: 4.7 (3 votes)


Anonymous wrote 8 years 8 weeks ago

Q lab pricing

With regard to short runs and small companies Qlab is available on a daily pay scheme, just pay for the time you need, it is easy to set up and works instantly, cost is between 1 and 3 dollars a day depending on whether you qualify for educational discounts. really good for a trial run if you dont want to shell out all that cash in one go.
Steve Hawkins,

Anonymous wrote 7 years 34 weeks ago

In the pro presentations

In the pro presentations world making changes to a presentation minutes before a presenter takes to the stage is quite common. Having said that Qlab does allow for control over a large range of variables for large shows. This is where it would excel. THe problem is that the initial buy in cost is high. I dont understand how the rental concept works although on the surface its a nice idea. The problem is that one cant develop and demo in order to sell a client on the concept with a daily rental license. Purchase price of the full system is possibly prohibitively expensive without prior experience of the system on both the tech  / creative's part and that of the end client.

Anonymous wrote 7 years 28 weeks ago

Airclick USB script

Hi Based on your review, I purchased a airclick USB in order to control QLAB for a one man show.Perhaps you could help me with the script you created ?Would be much appreciated.Warmest Regards,Adam

admin wrote 7 years 26 weeks ago

I emailed you…

I sent a message to your address Adam, but haven't received a reply. I also sent the modified version of the Airclick.app, please check you junk/spam since it came from my own email address and not a mmug one. Feel free to post another comment or contact message if you can't find it. Drew

admin wrote 7 years 22 weeks ago

QLab pricing

QLab seems reasonably priced, $249 is more than just buying Powerpoint at $139, but you have more control & power with QLab. I suspect you would need both software's when dealing with other people's presentations, but there is not a similar flexible 'rental' system from Microsoft. Figure 53 have it about right.