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Show control

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Title: Show control  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: MIDI Show Control, Richmond Sound Design, Outline of stagecraft, Stage management, Amiga
Collection: Stagecraft
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Show control

A screen capture of a common Windows based show control program.

Show control is the use of automation technology to link together and operate multiple entertainment control systems in a coordinated manner. It is distinguished from entertainment control (a term much less common than its specific forms, e.g. lighting control), which coordinates elements within a single entertainment discipline such as lighting, sound, video, rigging or pyrotechnics. An example of show control would be linking a video segment with a number of lighting cues, or having a sound track trigger animatronic movements -- or all of these combined. Shows with or without live actors almost invariably incorporate entertainment control technology and usually benefit from show control to operate these subsystems simultaneously or independently. Shows which are performed once or only a few times are often not considered candidates for show control since considerable preplanning and programming is usually required, but this may change as the technology, ease of operation and programming of show control software and systems matures.

MIDI Show Control

The MIDI Show Control (MSC) standard is an open, industry wide international communications protocol through which all types of show devices may easily communicate. To create the MSC spec, Charlie Richmond headed the USITT MIDI Forum on their Callboard Network in 1990, which included developers and designers from the theatre sound and lighting industry from around the world. This Forum created the MSC standard between January and September, 1990. it was ratified by the MIDI Manufacturers Association (MMA) in January, 1991, and the Japan MIDI Standards Committee (JMSC) later that year, becoming a part of the standard MIDI specification in August, 1991. The first show to fully utilize the MSC specification was the Magic Kingdom Parade at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom in September, 1991.


Generally, there are two kinds of show control systems, PC based and embedded systems. Manufacturers of embedded show control systems use their own micro controller designs. They have to develop the software and hardware. PC based show control systems use standard PC's, enhanced by standard interfaces (RS232/422 ports, Ethernet, USB etc...).
System Pros Cons
Embedded Small devices with low power consumption. Usually robust, disk less systems. Expandable only with controllers from the same manufacturer. More expensive than PC based solutions.
PC based Cheap and manufacturer independent hardware platform, available everywhere in the world. Expandable with any standard PC interface from any manufacturer. Most PC based show control software runs on Windows only.

External links

  • John Huntington's Show Control Web Page has further definitions and links to many Show Control resources.
  • Show Networks & Control Systems (version 1.0) by John Huntington, Published by Zircon Designs Press, 2012, ISBN 978-0615655901
  • The MIDI Show Control (MSC) standard (V1.0, still a valid subset, is now superseded by V1.1)
  • The Show Control Mailing List subscription page.
  • Index of Books and Articles related to Show Control.
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