Talking to the Lights with Natural Language Control

Natural Language Control's objective is to provide an intuitive programming experience and a versatile control system that when played back can actually provide the operator information about the system it is controlling.


Natural Language Control does this by porting the control to an 'abstract' layer. This has a number of benefits:

  1. The 'handles' you use to control LEDs and moving lights are more inline with what you would do to manipulate white light.
  2. The numbers and 'words' you use to build cues will actually mean something. You will have an idea of what you can do with the lights and what is on stage by reading the display.
  3. If you have mixed equipment, the methodology you use to communicate is consistent regardless of the protocols defined by the equipment manufacturers. The attribute controls are laid out the same for every and any light.
  4. Building a set of looks with one group of lights in your rig can be copied to another groups, regardless of what type of lights they are.
  5. The cues you have in your show file can be played back with any equipment allowing you to swap out gear at the last minute if need be.

One of the key things in Point #2 above that bears repeating is that Natural Language Control uses numbers and 'words' to control lighting. One might claim that has been done for years with the use of 'named' palettes. For example, moving lights desks can use labeled position palettes to build cues and the cue displays these 'words' to make it easier to read. Don't lose sight of the fact that palettes, like "Down Stage Center", are just placeholders for a combination of values between 0 and 65535. The words themselves do not mean anything to the desk. They are just displayed on the screen for convenience. In contrast, with Natural Language Control, the words do mean very specific things within the cue structure. Some of the words used include:

During regular operation, these 'words' need to be converted into 'values' that DMX512 lighting fixtures can use. The trick with Natural Language Control is that this conversion is done each and every time a light is selected, a Memory is recalled or GO is pressed to start a cue (and not before). That means that the protocol, the mode, the model or the manufacturer of the lighting fixture can be changed at any time. Moreover, each and every light, regardless of who makes it, appears similar to the user, giving a more consistent experience when programming the controller.


Apart from the benefits described above, this method of controlling lights is not restricted to traditional linear channels mapped to attributes on the light. A few examples below will demonstrate the intuitive nature of describing lights' attributes as opposed to traditional convoluted methods that sometimes group completely unrelated behaviors on the same control channel.


Next: Pan and Tilt Example