Time Code Playback via Ableton Live

This last winter, while working on a Christmas Service, I came across a fairly common scenario. A church that I do a fair amount of work/ volunteering for wanted to synchronize lights and video for one number as well as lighting for a another show piece song. Normally this is no big deal, but I was unable to be there for the actual event and they were not equipped with any of the methods for generating/ playing time code that I had used previously.

After doing some research I found I way to make it all work. In order to provide a click track to the band and well as some additional audio tracks, the worship leader was using Ableton. Ableton is a DAW that is well suited very for playback of multiple tracks to various locations making it great for live work. The tracks can be used for samples, loops, or instruments which can be routed to outputs as needed and started through cues. I ended up loaning the worship director my audio interface a Focusrite Saffire 6 (now outdated, current model is Sacrlet 2i4) so he could output more than the usual two he uses for worship. We inserted another track and dropped some premade SMPTE .wav strips for him to playback along with the click track and samples. After some adjustments to their start as locations everything was great. This enabled him to send a SMPTE track to the church's ETC Ion which we translated to MTC on the console end using a Horrita TR-100.

The SMPTE stripes that we ended up using were the pregenerated in one hour increments (song 1= 01:00:00:00, song 2= 02:00...) for each song. In order to get these stripes I used a SMPTE generator website with the flavor I wanted and gave 10 minute stripes to the worship director to add to each song. Ten minutes may have been a little long but I wanted to be safe. I could have used Reaper to generate the strips but the website was faster. Another option we looked into was ClipSMPTE. It appears to actually generate time code on the fly but we didn't have Ableton's Max for Live edition to test it out.

The final piece of the puzzle came from the video playback. For lyrics and motion background the church uses ProPresenter which has the ability to send and receive Midi triggers. We ended up using an Ableton midi track to send a trigger to start the ProPresenter video cue. This did require an extra upgrade back to ProPresenter to make everything work but it is now used often by the church to advance lyric slides during worship. In order to send the trigger we created a private Wi-Fi network to send the commands over. Here's a tutorial from MusicRadar on how to set the network up. Another possibility would have been to use a longer SMPTE preroll from Ableton and have the Ion send a wired trigger a couple of seconds after it locked on.

For a look at how this worked on at Easter take a look here.