FocusTrack and grandMA2

MA grandMA2 Console

FocusTrack now supports the grandMA2 range of consoles.

This functionality has already been used on some big shows, including the new Blue Man Group show in Las Vegas. It can be found in the current version of FocusTrack, available for download.

Getting grandMA2 Show Information Into FocusTrack:
Download the current version of FocusTrack.

You first need to get information out of the grandMA2. The easiest way to get the files is to plug a USB drive into the console then export the data files to it. From FocusTrack 2.374 onwards, the show data should come from a console running grandMA2 software v3.1.2.5 or later.

To export the show data:

1. In the macro pool you will find a pre-defined macro called “Export all layers to default”. Assign that to a macro key.

2. Insert your USB key.

3. In the command line type:
SelectDrive 4 [this selects the USB drive]

4. Run the “export all layers” macro.

5. It will ask for a filename. Give it the name: FT_MA2_Patch.xml
[this exports the patch]

6. In the command line, type: Export Sequence 1 “FT_MA2_Cues.xml”
[this exports sequence 1]

Replace ‘1’ with your sequence number.

To export multiple sequences: Export Sequence a thru b “FT_MA2_Cues.xml”
replacing a / b with the first and last sequence numbers you wish to export.

Note that for a big showfile, it will take a while to export the sequences - don't do this just before a show (or use a separate onPC to do it).

7. On the USB key, you will find those two ‘.xml’ files inside the “Import/Export” folder inside the “grandMA2” folder.

8. Take those two .xml files, and place them in the ‘from grandMA2’ folder inside your FocusTrack folder.

9. In FocusTrack main menu screen, select 'MA grandMA2' from the pop-up menu.

10. Press the Console Import button.

11. Specify the 'min int% counting as on' - ie. if you preheat your lights at 5% and don't want that to count as the cue where the light comes on, set that to 6. If you want to count everything, set it to 1.

12. Specify the start cue of a cue range, then the end cue of a cue range. (This is common across all cuelists at the moment; that will change, but for now specify a cue range that encompasses the active cue range of all of the sequences you are importing).

13. Select the other options:
Import Console Patch: imports the patch from the console into RigTrack

- Process Pan/Tilt Only: only deals with pan/tilt. This means that you can't see which colours/gobos etc are used in the show, but it's much faster. You can come back later and re-do the import for all other attributes/paraemeters.

- Show Matching Downtimes: if the MA has only one cue time, do you see just '5' in the FocusTrack cuelist, or do you see 'up: 5, down:5'.

- Import all posn palettes stored in a cuelist, not just those where the intensity is on: This will list ANY focus stored in a cuelist, regardless of whether the light comes on or not. It's intended for the situation where you have a sequence that is an effect that moves the light but where the intensity is controlled by another sequence. However, it's also much faster because FocusTrack doesn't have to figure out what actually gets used.

- Quit after completing import: FocusTrack quits (and so ensures everything is written to disk) at the end of an import. This is useful on really big shows where you just want to leave FocusTrack running unattended.

14. Once you've set the options, press the 'MAKE/UPDATE FocusTrack' button. After a bit of thinking time, you will hopefully see some information about your show that you recognise - moving light focuses in FocusTrack, rig information in RigTrack, cue list in CueList.

Controlling The Console To Photograph Focuses:
(There’s more information about the whole process of using FocusTrack to photograph focuses here)

FocusTrack can talk to a console on Macintosh computers only. It effectively 'types' instructions into the console using either onPC running in Fusion or Parallels, or by talking into the console using Telnet via the Mac's Terminal application.

To configure this, go to the FocusTrack Prefs page, scroll down to console control, and set the 'Console Control Application' to either Fusion or Parallels (if using onPC) or to Terminal (if not).

Also set:
grandMA Clear Programmer - if you want FocusTrack to go 'clear clear clear' at the end of each session of turning lights on.

Send Seq/CueList & Cue Num: with this off, FocusTrack will just set a light as it is in cue 1 - ie. cue 1 of the selected cuelist.

Console Communication Delay: set this to ‘No Delay’. It’s there to slow down communication between FocusTrack and the console on older, slower computers, but in most cases you should set it to No Delay to make things work as quickly as possible.

Before you do anything else, SAVE THE SHOW in your console with a clear, obvious showname, just in case anything goes awry. And perhaps turn autosave off so you don’t accidentally wipe over that version of the showfile.

For onPC:
- run Fusion or Parallels.
- run onPC.
- do whatever you normally do to make it talk to the console.
- make sure that you click inside a command line in onPC so the cursor is in the command line.

For Terminal
- give your Mac a suitable IP address within your grandMA2 system, via the Networks control panel.
- in the FocusTrack Preferences screen, press the 'Connect Terminal to gMA2' button.
- specify the console's IP address and a username (this will be guest by default).
- watch the terminal window open and make sure it connects to the console - you should see a big 'MA' appear and then see FocusTrack log in to the console.

NOTE: in gMA2 v2.7/2.8 and later there is a console setup option to enable or disable telnet logins to the console. This needs to be enabled for Terminal to connect to the console. The option is in Setup > Console > Global Settings, then set Telnet to Login Enabled.

Once you have a connection, switch to the FocusTrack Photo Shoot screen and press either 'Light ON in pos' to see a light get set into a position, or Photo Shoot Loop Console to have FocusTrack step through a whole series of lights.

Note that FocusTrack sets a light to a position by recalling the light from the first cue its used in a position, then turning it on to full. It does this to ensure it gets anything stored in the cue but not the palette (eg. zoom, gobo, index, edge etc, depending on how you've programmed the show). That means it will also get colour, whereas you normally want to take pictures of the lights in open white. So before you start, 'pause' the colour of the lights. After you get done, remember to unpause them so your show looks right that night.

Note also that because it's recalling from a cue, FocusTrack will pull back any effects running in the cue. The easiest way of dealing with this for now is just to then release the effect manually at the console or on onPC.

Alternatively you can get around both problems by having FocusTrack recall the light from a cue via a filter. To do this, make a suitable filter in the console (perhaps recalling everything except colour, strobe and timing channels, and not recalling effects). Then in FocusTrack’s Preferences screen check ‘MA2 Apply Filter’ and specify the filter number.

onPC or Terminal? We’ve found Terminal to be much faster and much more reliable way of getting FocusTrack to talk to the console. It’s particularly useful if you don’t have a PC emulator on your Mac since you don’t need to run onPC at all. The disadvantage is you can’t see the console screens so you can’t check what’s going on if there are problems. If you have a PC emulator we’d suggest running onPC so you can see what’s happening at the console, but using Terminal for the FocusTrack-grandMA2 communication.

Help FocusTrack To Help You:
Import time is proportional to the size of the files the grandMA exports. These files get bigger the more sequences you export, the more lights you have, and the more instructions there are in each sequence, including blocked instructions. So you can make things faster by:

- only exporting sequences you're interested in. In particular, some people make copies of the master cue sequence as a backup. It's tempting just to export all of the sequences, but if there are multiple copies of a very big master sequence things will get very slow indeed, both exporting from the MA and importing into FocusTrack.

- you can't do this on the 'active' show, but if you're exporting from onPC consider unblocking the main cue sequence, particularly if it's very heavily blocked as this reduces the number of instructions FocusTrack has to work through.

- you can't do this on the active show, and we hate suggesting this, but, again, if exporting from onPC consider deleting channels that you don't care about as this can speed things up. (We’re trying to persuade MA to make Export be filtered by World as it was on the MA1 to give an easier way of doing this).

- consider importing with FocusTrack’s 'pan/tilt only' option turned on, particularly if you just want to import a show quickly to take a look at things.