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Chamsys....for Dummys/Sound Engineers!

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Category: Other Chat
Forum Name: Lighting Talk
Forum Description: All your lampy, laser and 'other' special FX needs....
Printed Date: 17 January 2021 at 10:25pm
Software Version: Web Wiz Forums 12.03 -

Topic: Chamsys....for Dummys/Sound Engineers!
Posted By: kevinmcdonough
Subject: Chamsys....for Dummys/Sound Engineers!
Date Posted: 21 December 2015 at 8:13pm
Dispite my other thread looking for software that wasn’t Chamsys, I’m a convert lol. Nothing else looked like it was as easy, flexible or powerfull without SIGNIFICANTLY more money (even factoring in buying a Chamsys hardware control surface to plug into the lappy down the line).


While there are a fair few experienced Lampies here, I would guess that most people are like me in that they are primarily sound guys.  Yes we understand what a DMX address is, and can chain a few lights together and make them flash in a vaguely pleasing way, but we’re largely in the dark (get it!) when it comes to the finer details of lighting.


I remember first downloading Chamsys and having a look at it as a possible cheap solution for controlling some lighting, and instantly thinking WTF when the screen first loaded. Looked very complicated and hard to get started on.


However, as I’ve began to work my way through it over the past couple of days, I’ve found out that it’s actually surprisingly easy to get it up and running and get some basic lighting scenes going, and while the layout looks a bit scary at first it’s actually very intuitive and easy to work once you get your head around it, so much so that even though it’s not got the most fantastic support for midi (a big requirement for me), I like the way the rest of it works so much that I’m gonna find ways to make it work.

Remembering how scary it looked when I first downloaded it, I thought I’d put together a quick How To showing what I’ve learned over the past few days and that it is actually fairly easy to get started. I’m sure that proper lampys would tell you different or easier ways to do things, but from a noise boy’s point of view (or at least someone with only a little experience of lighting) this will at least get you started and get your head around the basics of how it works.

It assumes you have a few basic lights, and know how to set DMX addresses etc, that you have at least a very basic knowledge of lighting in general, but you want to know how to transfer this to using Chamsys.

Everything pretty much crosses over between the hardware desks and the PC software, though you may be clicking buttons with a mouse or touch screen press rather than physical buttons. 


Posted By: kevinmcdonough
Date Posted: 21 December 2015 at 8:16pm

So the whole thing revolves around the screen, real screen on the hardware desk or virtual "screen" thats on the console layout on the PC. It displays all of the information for what you’re doing, and allows you to control most things.

The main square in the middle of the screen can display a few different pages of information, selected by the black buttons in the “view” section. All of these windows can be sized to take up the whole screen, half of the screen (vertically or horizontally) or a quarter, and in the layout 1, 2 and 3 buttons you can store your own custom layout of the windows. More on these later as we go through working things.

Along the top of the screen you have a row of soft buttons who’s function changes depending on what screen you have selected. 

On either side you have the display for the control wheels. A, B, C and D down one side of the screen, and E, F, X and Y on the other.  Whatever is in these boxes is what the control wheels are adjusting at that moment, and again this will change depending on what view you have selected.

When you have the PC version and you don’t have the physical control wheels in front of you, you have little virtual ones to turn in the newer version of the software, or if you have older software (or switch to the older view) you have half circles where you click the top to go up and the bottom to go down. The boxes themselves also act as buttons and you can click the top half to increase the value of whatever it is representing at that moment, and the bottom half to decrease again.

This is the main way you’ll adjust colour, position, gobo’s etc etc when you have fixtures with multiple DMX channels (moving heads, scanners, LED pars etc).

The row of squares along the bottom of the screen are part of the playback area and match up with the row of faders along the bottom of the screen. More on that later. Just above these you have two longer spaces, the left one giving status messages and the right for text input, when you type on the keyboard this is where it appears.

For the black hardware buttons (or PC versions of them) below the view section you have the movers section, for dealing with moving heads/scanners etc primarily. Then you have the programming buttons for storing cues, moving things about etc, then finally at the bottom the keypad and some more view buttons.  

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Posted By: kevinmcdonough
Date Posted: 21 December 2015 at 8:19pm
Adding lights

Once you press new show you'll start with a blank file (choose normal/live for now) and all the settings will be shown on the screen. Ignore for now and leave these as they are. 

The first thing you’ll want to do is add some lights, and so to do this you press the black “patch” button to get to the screen for this.

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You’ll note that the soft buttons along the top all change function to now do things to do with selecting and patching lights, and the info for the scroll wheels down each side now shows that you can change some different parameters to do with this.

Firstly you choose your light. If it’s a basic traditional light on a dimmer, a par can or whatever, press CHOOSE DIM/MEDIA, and if it’s a moving head or LED par that has a few control channels then press CHOOSE HEAD and navigate through the brands to find your light.

(you can create your own profiles for lights you may have that aren’t listed here, but we’ll save that for another time and assume it’s something listed you have.)

Once you’ve chosen the light you then press PATCH IT on the top row to tell it what DMX addresses to use. This is done using a little text command, formatted as follows:


This would say add 3 of the lights I’ve just selected, and put them on DMX universe 1, starting at channel 15.

So, as an example I’m gonna patch 4 dimmers, 4 LED pars and 4 movers.

Hit CHOOSE DIM, tell it generic dimmer, press PATCH IT, and I’ll enter 4@1-1

A basic light on a dimmer like this only takes up 1 channel so these will be automatically patched as DMX channels one after the other from where I started, so in this case they’ll just be 1, 2, 3 and 4.

If I had a reason for spacing them out I can do that by adding a slash and the number I want to space them by. So I could say  4@1-1/3  and this would patch my 4 dimmers again on universe one starting at channel 1, but would assign 3 channels before starting the next. The first dimmer would be on 1, two blank channels and the next dimmer on 4. Two more blanks, and the next dimmer on 7, then two more blanks and the final dimmer on 10.

There are more commands and modifiers you can add to do different things, but being basically patched onto 1, 2, 3 and 4 will be fine for us just now.

So for the LED parcans, next I’ll hit CHOOSE HEAD and select LEDJ, then Performer 18 QUAD. It’ll ask if I’m using it in 4 or 8 channel mode, and I have these set to 8 channel on the back of the light so I’ll select that. Next press PATCH IT again and type my code. I’ll be starting at DMX channel 5 this time after the dimmers, so it’ll be  4@1-5.  It’ll put the first LED par on channels 5-12, then start the next one at 13, and so on (unless I tell it to space them or add a different modifier).

Finally I’ll choose a Martin MAC 250 and tell it I’ve got it set to Mode 3, taking up 13 DMX channels. I’m starting at DMX channel 37 after the LED pars, so it’ll be 4@1-37 and it’ll automatically patch them after that.

Once all done my screen should look like this.... and all my lights are programmed in and ready to go.

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Posted By: kevinmcdonough
Date Posted: 21 December 2015 at 8:21pm
Setting Groups

Next I want to create some groups for my heads, so when I’m selecting things I can select them in various combinations. So I’m going to press the “layout 1” black hardware button, which unless you save over it with something else defaults to your main programming window. It’s split into quarters and you have the Groups window, Colour window, Position window, and Beam window all open. This screen with these 4 windows is where we’ll do a lot of our programming and create most of our “scenes”.

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In the group window you can see that when you patched the heads the system will have already created some groups, an “ALL DIMMER” button, and “ALL Performer 18” and “ALL Mac 250” buttons too. Clicking on these will, as you would expect, select all of that group to then give some commands too.  If you click on the All Dimmer button it’ll turn red to show you’ve selected this (you can change from “view groups” to “view heads” in the soft buttons along the top of the screen and you’ll see that all 4 of the dimmers are selected).

However I want to create some more handy groups in case I want to do things with them.  How you decide to group them is totally up to you and how you’ve laid them up, but I’m gonna imagine my 4 dimmers are connected to traditional Par Cans across a front truss lighting up the band’s faces.

As well as my All Dimmers group, I want to create a group just with the inner two for lighting the singer.  So I’m gonna select these two heads and put them in a group. I can either do it by clicking on those two heads on the “VIEW HEADS” screen, or I can use the keypad and type the fixture numbers in. These would be fixtures 2 and 3, so I’d type 2-3@@  (press the @ button twice) and press enter to select.

Then I’d press the record button, type a name (Centre Pars) and click the box in the group window I want to save it in.

(this is pretty much the process to record everything, scenes, cue stacks, groups etc etc.  Select what you want, press record, give it a name, and then click the box you want to save it into).

I’ll also make an outside group with the two outer ones, and a left group with the two left pars, and a right group with the two right ones using the same method. Now I have some easy selection groups and depending on whether I want to make changes to all the Pars, just the left, just the right etc etc I have an easy way of selecting them.

Similarly I’ll make left and right groups with the LED Pars and Mac Movers, inner and outer groups, and probably odd and even as well to make it easier to select things.

So I end up with this....

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(Some of my groups are in columns down off the group screen when it is in it's small quarter screen size, you can either scroll down using the black cursor keys or as it shows along the right of the screen the F scroll wheel, or you can change the view to half or full screen to see them all. Also, if you hold down the black GRP button it’ll temporarily become full screen and return to quarter size when you let it go).

Posted By: kevinmcdonough
Date Posted: 21 December 2015 at 8:22pm
Creating some scenes.

OK, assuming you’re all wired up and you’ve set all the DMX addresses on the backs of the lights to match what you’ve entered into Chamsys, you’re ready to make some basic scenes. And it’s actually really simple.

Whenever you click on any of the dimmer groups (or an individual dimmer) all the buttons on all of the other windows (colour, position, beam) all grey out, as it only has one control it’s intensity.  It shows you on the screen that you can adjust this using the X scroll wheel, or you can go to the intensity page and do it there.

Once you’re happy with how you’ve set them, click on one of the LED par groups.

Things change because now all the buttons on the colour window brighten up, as we can use them with this fixture. On the beam and Position window all the buttons stay greyed out as the LED pars have no gobo or movement, and this will be the general way these windows work, they'll stay greyed out when the lamp cant use that function, or brighten up when it can.

With your group still selected and red, press the black “col” button ( or click on the top of the colour window or an empty box) and you’ll now be in colour selection. Straight away you’ll see the buttons along the top change to be to do with the colour, and similarly the info along each side of the screen for the scroll wheels as they're now controlling functions to do with the colour as well.

You can either select one of the colours yourself from the colour window (All of these colours have been programmed in by whoever created the info file for that light) or as the screen says you can use the scroll wheels A, B, C and D to mix the RGBW manually and create whatever colour you like.  (if it’s a colour you will use again then once you’ve mixed it you can press Record, give it a name and click on an empty slot in the colour window to save it for use again later).

Again you can adjust the overall intensity by maxing the group window active again and using the X scroll wheel, or go to the full intensity window (black int button) where you can adjust the intensity for all the lights. 

Once you’re happy we’re now onto the movers. Click on one of the groups you made for the movers and you’ll see that all of the windows light up now, because the movers can use colour, beam and position attributes. Like before, with each of these windows you can either select the pre-programmed buttons or use the scroll wheels to adjust the fine detail yourself and create your own (saving them when needed).

In particular, pay attention to the fact that the Beam window has a few pages. For very complicated movers that have lots of prisms and rotating gobos and things there will be options on a few of the pages. You see these by pressing the different page buttons at the top of the screen (when the beam window is selected) or by pressing the black beam button a few times to move through the pages.

You can also go to the FX page and add some effects to the lights. Chose your FXs from them menu and add them to the FX page, and then add them to your lights to create some movement, vary the colours within the scene and etc etc. 

Posted By: kevinmcdonough
Date Posted: 21 December 2015 at 8:24pm
Saving your cue to a playback.

All the changes you’ve been making, all the red buttons you’ve pressed and options you’ve selected, are stored in the “programmer”. You can press the prog button at any time to see the list of everything you’ve so far selected for this scene.   If you want to start again you can press the clear button to clear out the programmer and start this scene again, however once you’re happy with how you have the scene set up, you can store all the info in the programmer as a cue into one of the playbacks. These are the 10 faders along the bottom of the main window and the associated soft buttons just above them. While you can store your scenes in a few different ways, this is the main place we’ll use to store them and to play the back from at show time.

With your scene all set up and everything adjusted as needed, go through our same record process as before:  hit record, type a name for the cue, and then click in one of the playback soft buttons and it’ll be stored to that playback.

If you just have one cue stored in a playback, moving the fader will just fade in and out that scene, and act as a aster dimmer for everything that is set up in that scene. If you can set up subsequent scenes and store them to the same playback you create a list of cues called a Cue Stack.

A cue stack can be programmed to act in a few ways. It can start playing as soon as you start to move the fader, or it can wait until you press the Go button ( black button above the fader with the play icon).  It can hold on the cue you are on within the stack until you press go again to move it to the next one, or it can cycle through them in a chase with the hold and fade times set as needed.  Double click on the button for that Playback to bring up the options for all of this and set it to how you want it.

And really in it’s most basic form, that’s about it. With a little bit of practice you should be able to create a few basic lighting scenes, store them in a Playback and then recall them again and play them at a show. However obviously this is a very complicated, professional program and there are loads more advanced features you can learn about and work through in time.

Hope that helps a few people get their head around it. 


Posted By: MattStolton
Date Posted: 21 December 2015 at 9:27pm
Cheers buddy. Only had time for a quick skim over, but I'm sure I will come back again, and again....

As a noise boy, with DL on the CV, I have always hired in something big and heavey as required.

Laptop software and a wing would make so much more sense, and this Chamsys seems to be the "choice du jour". Most of my shizzle is static scene, fade to black, cue next scene, fade up, etc; theatre style to some extent so cue stack is useful.

Thanks for your efforts.

Matt Stolton - Technical Director (!!!) -" rel="nofollow - Wilding Sound Ltd
"Sparkius metiretur vestra" - "Meter Your Mains"

Posted By: norty303
Date Posted: 22 December 2015 at 12:39pm
I love this!
I also love that you have had the journey basically everyone does with Chamsys:
1. WTF!!!
2. Seriously, WTF, spent a couple of hours on this now...
3. Put it down for a few months, came back, still mostly WTF!
4. Aah, I get it now, its not nearly so WTF as I first thought, I just needed to understand its running on Windows but its not actually like Windows...

I haven't read all of your posts in detail, but there are some base settings I usually always change:
'Unused channels return to zero' (or something like that)
'Multi select groups/heads'=Yes
turn off confirmations.
I'll have a think about the others.

It is also possible to save the config settings separate from the showfile. I've got mine on a USB key on my keyring so I can load them onto another desk if I need to use it. They can be made to operate quite differently if you need/want them to.

My laser stuff:" rel="nofollow - Frikkin Lasers

Posted By: Marios
Date Posted: 14 February 2016 at 3:29am
So i'm working a clubnight and i've got tons of time to kill, cause the DJs are very well behaved. I've been playing with this for the last 2 hours. This is such a helpful post.
Thanks  Kevin. I think i can get my head around this. 

MGS Productions

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