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