Synchronizing laser shows and music | Pangolin Laser Systems

Synchronizing laser shows and music

More and more, people are fascinated by laser light shows. With the different colors, shapes, and patterns that can be created, laser shows can truly take over an event, helping transport people to an entirely new realm.

Creating laser shows and synchronizing them to music used to take a lot of time and skill. But thanks to new features inside of Pangolin Laser Show Software like QuickShow and BEYOND, combining your favorite music to beautiful laser effects, is now easier than ever before.

Lets take it a bit further, and learn how to perfectly time your favorite music, to your favorite laser show effects!

Laser show synchronized to music

Understanding Laser Show Styles… Different types of music, mean different types of laser shows

There are different essentially two types of laser shows that can be created, and these include both “live” laser shows (where you are performing live, and to the beat of the music), and preprogrammed laser shows (where you program the entire show in advance, generally to a specific song or audio file). So the type of laser show you are performing, will dictate to a large extent, the manner in which you sync it to music. We will start by explaining how to sync laser shows and music during live shows, and then also show you how to do this with a pre-programmed show.

To sync music and lasers, you need Laser Show Software

To perfectly synchronize laser shows and music, you need laser show software to design and create the effects, so that they work in conjunction with the music playing. We at Pangolin are the world’s leading provider of laser show software, and we offer two software solutions that allow you to synchronize music and laser shows, for both live laser shows and pre-programmed laser shows. These programs are called QuickShow and BEYOND.

Quickshow is great if you are new to lasers, or are looking for a simple and easy to use user interface, with which to design and create laser shows from. QuickShow has several tools inside, that also allow you to easily sync laser shows, with music. These include our BPM tool and Virtual Laser Jockey Feature, as well as advanced plugins for popular DJ software like Virtual DJ (with plugins for Serato and others, coming soon).

BEYOND is a higher end professional laser show software, that expands upon the features offered in QuickShow, providing more effect options and multimedia control tools. In addition, it offers some additional timing and synchronization features that are shown below, in the tutorial video series of BEYOND.

Live laser show requirements

When performing a live laser show (for example at a festival laser show), you as the operator are going to need to be able to perfectly synchronize your effects with the music the DJ is playing. And as DJ’s can tend to change things without notice, you are going to need some tools to make sure the show stays in sync.

Both QuickShow and BEYOND laser show software have a custom BPM tool inside (for beats per minute), allowing you to trigger your effects in perfect harmony with “live” music that is playing, so that you stay in beat.

The beat of the music can then be manually taped by you as the laser operator (this can be done from a lighting console, MIDI console or PC). To enable this, the BPM recognition feature only needs to be activated once, and then the speed of the beat can be determinded by pressing a button or key (button on a console, key on a PC). After a very few taps the beat is shown in the top display. That can be done in conjunction with, or independently of the type of music.

The second way to synchronize a live laser show to music, is to make the software automatically recognize the beat of the music when playing. Both QuickShow and BEYOND have an AutoBPM recognition tool inside the laser show software, and you can select an input source for the audio to be picked up from.

That input can be any source set within the operating system as a recording device. It can also be the internal sound mixer, which handles all incoming audio signals. This method works best on music with a strong clear beat. After activation, the incoming beat is visualized within the BPM display in the software. The BPMs are then clearly shown, and even on a beat change, the BPM counter is adjusted.

The third way to synchronize a laser show with music during a live laser show, is to use our DJ plugins. Currently we have this available for the popular Virtual DJ software, and we have more plugins coming soon for other popular DJ software like Serato. These plugins are very easy to work with. Pangolin laser show software simply recognizes that Virtual DJ or the associated DJ software is running, and then it enables the software to grab a timecode signal directly from the DJ software, reading out the BPM and audio track position instantly.

Check out an example of this below (using the BEYOND software, and a MIDI console) below

Here is a tutorial video showing some of these basic concepts in QuickShow, using a simple PC. Again, the same principles carry over to our BEYOND software, as well as to control from a console.

Now, lets watch some awesome live laser shows that were programmed in Pangolin Laser Show Software, and perfectly synchronized to music!

Preprogrammed Laser show requirements

Preprogrammed laser shows are very common at events, where you know the exact music that will be playing in advance, and you can then prepare your show around it (think about a concert, theme park attraction, corporate event, etc. – These are all examples where preprogrammed shows are common).

Preprogrammed laser shows have one big advantage over live laser shows and that is, preparation time. This gives the laser show designer the opportunity to prepare in advance, and program the show completely on a timeline – Where you can import the music’s audio file, and see the waveform directly on the timeline, and then build your show around that.

Both Quickshow and BEYOND have incredibly powerful timeline features built into the software. They are so powerful, that both QuickShow and BEYOND were awarded ILDA Technical Achievement awards, in part because of the power of their timeline features. Let’s explore these a bit more.

It all starts with loading the music. In Quickshow, one music track can be loaded per show into the background. In BEYOND several media files can be placed on a media track and then visualized as a waveform. In both programs, the laser content (and this can be beams, graphics, full animations, or any other type of content you can imagine) are placed on the timeline, and then convenient marker and snapping tools allow you to position effects and other elements in perfect harmony with the music’s waveform you need to synchronize with.

Quickshow and BEYOND also enable you to define custom start and end markers, which serve to define an area in which the play marker can be looped. By that, specific parts of the music can be played continuously and animation elements can be placed exactly as desired. BEYOND as a more professional laser show programming and control software provides some more powerful tools, including a tapped-in beat marker, automatic crossover effects, and more.

In addition, BEYOND supports the popular SMPTE timecode protocol, which adds further laser and music synchronization elements, for large scale multimedia shows, festivals and events.

You can see screen shots of the timeline in both QuickShow and BEYOND, below.

Pangolin-Quickshow-Timeline synchronized to music
Pangolin-BEYOND-Timeline synchronized to music

You can watch a full tutorial series showing how to use the BEYOND Multimedia Laser Show Timeline, to create preprogramed laser shows below.

Now, lets watch some awesome laser shows, that were programmed in Pangolin Laser Show Software, and perfectly synchronized to music!

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