Re: Computer Controlled Shows

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Mike McCarthy
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Re: Computer Controlled Shows

Postby Mike McCarthy » Thu Aug 27, 2015 5:31 am



Hello Mike,

Thank you very much for your input. Just to set the record straight, I am not the theater producer who has no technical understanding. Not only did I design and operate the technical operations of three different theaters, Miners Alley Playhouse was a trend setter with our SAMC show control system that eventually was converted to the very popular QLab system which the theater is using today.

The issue is not with MIDI or Canbus, the issue is with moving targets, metal cars, need for electricity, and time to be able to explore all possibilities. For this year, Jack's system should work just fine, primarily because he is invested and he believes it will work, and he is willing to supervise it's implementation. I simply do not have the time. We should know more on Wednesday when we fire up the system and see how it works.

What I have learned, Mike, is that by accepting or at least feigning ignorance, great alternative ideas come from passionate people who ultimately help me bring my visions to fruition.

I'd rather have input and participation than impose my limited knowledge on a group of highly intelligent people, such as yourself, who can find unique solutions to problems that I may have only limited options to solve.

As Einstein once said, "I only learn when I shut up."

Rick Bernstein
Director of Events and Volunteers
Colorado Railroad Museum
(CRRM): 303-279-4591
(Rick Direct): 720-274-5153

July 2015: "Celebrating the Birth of our Nation." On Saturdays July 4, 11 and 25th we will present campaign and inaugural speeches from Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Performances will be at 11am, 12pm, and 1pm on the platform of the No. 96 Presidential Car. Also in July, join us on July 11 for our birthday celebration of our locomotives, No. 346 and No. 491. We'll be singing happy birthday and serving cake at 2:00pm at the Roundhouse. July 18 is Dinosaur Express featuring artifacts and fossils from Dinosaur Ridge and Morrison Natural History Museum. And of course, every Saturday are train rides around the museum. July is a great month to enjoy the Colorado Railroad Museum.

Check the website for details.

Thanks to SCFD...making it possible!

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Computer Controlled Shows
From: Mike McCarthy <>
Date: Fri, July 24, 2015 10:25 pm

Hi Rick,

I was surprised to learn that far from implementing CANbus and MIDI per
my memo to you of two or so weeks ago, which Jack said had been agreed
to at least as regards CANbus, for Polar Express we will instead be
doing the show in a way that Jack believes represents the simplest
possible approach, deferring the complications of audio, CANbus and MIDI
to 2016.

This is fine up to a point -- we will get you the Polar Express show you
want, the theatrical lighting controlled by you, the show theatrical
producer, via Jack's base station software and modules communicating
with modules that Jack and Jim Ferraro have specified (I hope), that
will mount on PCB boards of Jack's design that Jack will be taking to a
board layout service for fabrication, and that I will program.

All of this is technical stuff which is of no interest to you and I
understand that and appreciate it However, the Campbell approach goes
to the core of issues of system reliability, system capability and
system cost. Therefore I must tell you now that any show platform I
cause to be created for MCI in Los Angeles, for example, or for MNHM in
Morrison, will take a radically different and much simpler approach
using proven off the shelf DAW and MIDI sequencing software
communicating with DMX lighting control boxes over CANbus radio links,
just as I speculated in my earlier memo should be possible by now.

None of this would make any difference to a non-technical theatrical
show producer, but the experienced product and project manager in me is
here to tell you that the technical stuff you don't care about directly
affects the four main issues in technical project management -- cost,
calendar time, staffing levels and technical risk.

It is not my goal here to derail the Campbell project, which I will
implement in whatever way Jack wants it done. Rather, I'm telling you
that my suspicions about how far DAWs and MIDI have advanced in the 25
years since I last saw them have proven correct and then some.
Therefore I'm duty bound to recommend a different approach for show
platforms I control that are outside the context of CRRM.

I do hope we will be able to collaborate on a show for MNHM. You could
design something absolutely unique and mind blowing for them, and I
could get it built to your specs I'm simply letting you know that your
range of show production options would be much larger than at CRRM and
would include possibilities for control of audio, video, sequenced music
with sophisticated audio chain effects processing, with those
capabilities available today, not some day in the future that may never
come to pass.


I'll not bring this stuff up again because as you correctly observed we
have a tight schedule on Polar Express. All we need to do is get to
something that works for the theatrical lighting that you and Star have
planned and specified.

I guarantee you that Jack's approach will work, my only concern being
that I will be out of town during the periods mon28aug-15 through
wed07oct-15 and again from mon28sep-15 through wed07oct-15. I had hoped
to begin experimental coding during the coming week. However, Jack left
town without helping me load up my new Surface with his software to
speed my familiarization. Accordingly, while the lighting approach
functional test scheduled for tue28jul-15 should not be impacted, I have
told Jack that I believe we just lost a week off the already tight
software development schedule.

You will get your system -- I will do whatever is necessary to make my
part of it happen without fail (which is why I have taken the step of
buying my own surface identical to Jack's) -- but at age 71 I cannot
operate in panic mode as a way of life.


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