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Electronic Theatre Controls Inc

Content Effects Tutorial

In this short tutorial, I'll walk you through the creation of a Content Effect Playback and how to get that effect running on stage. This tutorial really requires that you use the Demo Play "Demo Concert" and its associated Training Project (Browser>Media>Training Projects).

Basic Concepts

Content Effect Playbacks are used to combine groups of channels with series of steps containing various pieces of content from your play - palettes, presets, absolute parameter values. Each Content Effect Playback has twelve parameters that include intensity (masters the intensity output of the effect, if there is any), channel source, series and various other settings described below. When the Content Effect Playback is above 0% intensity, the effect can be said to be "running". When the Content Effect Playback is brought back to 0%, the effect can be said to be "stopped".

There is one new object required for using a Content Effect Playback - the Series. The Series contains steps that contain pieces of content. You must also have at least Groups recorded in order to determine which channels will be used in the effect. Groups are referenced by the Content Effect, so if you change the Groups, the effect will also be changed. An optional object called a Channel Set may be used instead of a Group. A Channel Set contains channels and specific sub-groupings called Parts that allow you to determine your own specific channel distribution.

Create a simple content effect:

  1. Type [INSERT]&[EFFECT] (press and hold the [INSERT] key then press the [EFFECT] key, then release both keys) - this will open a dialog box that you can use to set the Effect Playback type.
  2. Use the [TAB] key to move to the second tab, Content Effect, and press [MODIFY] to insert the Content Effect Playback. The new effect playback is selected after you insert it so all you have to do to get the effect running is determine the settings you want to use and then bring the level wheel up above 0%.
  3. If the Effects Dock is not already open, press [SETUP]&[BROWSER] to open the Dock setup dialog. Docks are special display areas you can add to any screen connected to the Congo, the Browser is a Dock area that we open by default. In the "Bottom Area", open the drop-down menu and select "Effects", then select the MODIFY button and press MODIFY to close the dialog and open the new Effects Dock. In this dock you can see the inserted Effect Playbacks.
  4. Open the Series list from Effects softkeys (press the [SERIES] key) or from the Browser>Effects>Content Effects>Series. Press [INSERT] to insert a new empty series in the list. Arrow to the Text cell for this new series and name it "Color". Arrow over to the Steps cell and press [MODIFY] to open the editor for this specific series.
  5. Press [INSERT] three times to insert three new empty steps in the editor. Arrow over to the Intensity cell of step 1 and press [COLUMN] to select all the intensity cells for steps 1-3. Type [100] [MOIDFY] to set all steps to full intensity - this will guarantee the channels output light while the effect is running and is completely optional. Arrow over to the "1. Content" cell for step 1 and press [COLUMN] to select all the cells for steps 1-3. Press [MODIFY] to open the content drop-down list and arrow down to "Color Palette", then press [MODIFY]. All three steps should now have Color Palette displayed in that column. Now, arrow over to the Value cell for step 1 and type [2] [MODIFY] to set that step to recall color palette 2. Repeat for steps 2 and 3 so that they recall color palettes 4 and 7 respectively.

    Each step can contain three different types of content and an intensity value. Each piece of content and the intensity can have their own "Attack" time. The Attack defaults to 100% of the Attack time set on the Effect Playback - making it easy to adjust manually. You can also enter "real" times if you know that you want the effect to play back in a fixed way.

    Each step also has its own "Step time". Think of this as the tempo of the effect - the step time determines when each step fires and starts its attack times. The Step time also defaults to 100% of the step time set by the Effect Playback so that you can adjust it manually. You can also set "real" times if you know exactly how you want the steps to fire.

    For now, leave everything at 100%. Now you have a three-color Series in addition to the others provided in the Demo Concert play.
  6. Type [#] [EFFECT] to reselect the Content Effect Playback you inserted before, then press the U1 encoder page key. The left-most encoder should display the Channel Source parameter, and you can use the wheel to select whether to use Sets or Groups (Sets is the default).Choose Groups and use the encoder to the right to select which Group to place the effect on. In this case, select Group 3 - M300 L. Because a Group has no offset information in it, the next two encoders allow you to break the group up using various distribution options. For now, leave it as 1 Part and Sequential Distribution.
  7. Press the U2 encoder page key. This loads the encoders with Part Direction, Series, Play Mode and Mode parameters. Part Direction determines the way the distributed channels will play back the effect, Series chooses the series you want to use, Play Mode determines the direction of the steps in the Series and includes options to pause or stop the running effect. Mode will be described in further detail once you get the effect running, since it's easier to "see" what it does than to explain it in words. For now, simply set the Series parameter to your Color series (should be series #7).
  8. Bring up the intensity of this Content Effect Playback using the level wheel (you can also use keypad commands to set the intensity, just as you would for any other channel). You should see the Mac300 fixtures on the left start running a 1 second color fade effect - all of the lights should be fading from color to color together at this point.
  9. Press the U3 key to access the timing parameters of this Content effect. There are two pages in this category - the first page includes the Loop Time and TapRate parameters. The Loop Time is the amount of time it takes to make one pass through the entire series. You can adjust the overall rate of the effect using the TapRate encoder, by typing a number and pressing the TapRate wheel key, or by tapping the wheel key in time with music. Press U3 again to page to access the Step and Attack times for the steps of the series. Set the effect to use a 0 attack time instead of the default 1 second fade. Now the colors should snap in with a new color every 1 second.
  10. Press the U1 key. Change the GrpParts to 4. Now you should see four distinct groupings of channels - 17+18, 19+20, 21+22, and 23 by itself. This is Sequential distribution. Change the distribution to Interlaced and watch what happens on stage. Change again to Symmetrical and watch what happens on stage. There are inverted versions of these distributions as well. Also, there are two randoms - Random uses an even distribution of channels across parts, but selects them in random order. True Random gives you random distribution and order for really really random effects. Now, change the Group to Group 4 - M300 R. Now change to Group 5 - M500 ALL and watch what happens... Before moving to the next step, change to Group 6 - M300 ALL and set the number of parts to 8, with Sequential distribution.
  11. Press the U2 key now and change Mode to Build. So far, you've been looking at a Continuous effect - this means all parts are always running some step from the Series. In Build mode, the way the parts execute the steps changes so that all the parts execute step 1 before any of the parts move on to step 2. You can use this Mode to create a wipe of color (or anything, really) across a number of channels.
  12. Ok, now we are going to look at a Break Mode effect. Change the number of parts to 16 and then change the Series to the provided "Fly in" series. Watch what happens on stage for a while - notice what the lights are actually doing. Let's just look at one light as the effect runs - it starts pointing up and out, the intensity fades up while the light tilts downward, then the intensity goes out. Then the light returns to its up and out and dark position to WAIT until all the other lights have performed this maneuver. This is the essence of a Break mode effect - each part performs the active steps of the effect, and when done goes into a special "Background State" to wait (or take a break, get it?) until all the other parts have done their thing. Let's take a look at the "Fly in" series...

Open the editor for the "Fly in" series: Browser>Effects>Content Effects>Series>Fly in. Close the Browser to get more room on screen if needed. This series has three "active" steps and the Background state. The Background places the channels in a "marked" intensity state (be dark) in Focus Palette 3 and Color and Beam Palettes 1. The first active step turns the intensity to full and sends the channel to Focus Palette 2. The next step turns intensity back to Mark and Focus Palette 0 (the Home position). Step 3 in this effect builds in a gap - it's just a repeat of step 2. A note about intensity - there are three possible intents for the intensity cell in the step. Be at a level other than zero, be at zero, or don't change. In order to differentiate between "be at zero" and "don't change" we use the M state to indicate a hard zero. [C/ALT] [MODIFY] will clear a cell, meaning that cell will have no impact on the current state of any channel running in the effect.

Now, this is one version of a Fly In style of effect. There are many other ways to write a Fly In depending on how you want the lights to behave. The whole point is that it is your Fly In, and it might be different from my Fly In.

Fly In effects are a bit complicated to use for describing the next two time settings, so create yourself a two color series that has one active step set to use Color Palette 0 (white) and the Background step set to Color Palette 4 (Blue). Both the step and the Background should also have 100% intensity. Name this series BlueWhite and set its default mode (in the Series List) to Break - this will ensure that it plays back correctly whenever you select it in a Playback. Change your current Effect Playback to use the new BlueWhite series. Watch what happens. One by one a new channel should start fading to white then snap to blue. In Break Mode effects, only the active steps have time - the Background state is just the content that channels should play back when they are not performing active steps. In this series we have one active step - be white - and one background state - be blue. You can apply timing to the White step only - and there are 4 times to be set - Step time, Attack time, Sustain time and Release time.

Here's what they mean:

Step time: how much time elapses between parts executing the White step.
Attack time: how fast does the part fade up into full White.
Sustain time: once at full White, how long each part stays at full White.
Release time: once the sustain time has expired, how fast does the part fade back into the Blue background state.

Play with these times on the running BlueWhite effect and watch how different you can make the effect look with these small adjustments.

If you want to be able to play back more than one content effect at the same time, you need to insert more Content Effect Playbacks. This is easy to do live, using [#] [INSERT] & [EFFECT] again, or you can open the Effect Playbacks List in the Browser and use [INSERT] to insert a new playback into the list. Use [#] [EFFECT] to select a new playback and use the encoders to set it to play back the other content effect, then bring up the intensity.

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