Why Professionals Don’t Use Bluetooth Remotes

Why Professionals Don’t Use Bluetooth Remotes

Is Bluetooth Reliable?

Often, professional entertainers, like magicians jugglers, and speakers need to control their own cues from stage.  When searching for a solution to control your music, slides, and lighting, you might be tempted to grab a basic Bluetooth remote from Amazon. DON’T!

Why?
Pros don’t let pro’s use Bluetooth live.

Let’s explore the real “why”.  Have you ever had the problem of your wireless earbuds disconnecting?  Has your music ever stopped playing on your wireless bluetooth speaker?  Do you have a bluetooth link in your car that has failed?

These everyday annoyances are frustrating but imagine losing control of your presentation at your event. That moment of panic, in front of the audience is downright embarrassing (and Bluetooth technology is to blame). No matter how much you saved, in that moment, you’ll do anything to fix the problem. 

No Bluetooth

Don’t you hate it when your wireless earbuds disconnect from your phone? Or when your music cuts off from your wireless speaker? These everyday annoyances are frustrating but imagine losing control of your presentation at your event. That moment, in front of the audience, is downright embarrassing (and you can blame Bluetooth). You’ll quickly wish you would have chosen a professional remote control system, no matter how much you saved at the checkout.

Common interferences for Bluetooth are two-way radios, WiFi, internal wiring, power lines, wireless speakers, phones, satellite dishes, RF video transmitters, monitors, poorly insulated cables, LCD screens, and more. Did you see how long that list was?

Bluetooth = bad idea
I can match every “success story” with a horror story. Don’t bet your reputation on Bluetooth. It isn’t worth it. 
I’ve seen microphones fail, audio speakers disconnect with a loud “beep”.  The worst is when someone has to stop the show and walk off stage to try and fix the problem.  We all make mistakes but choosing unreliable technology is a surefire to increase issues and decrease your chances of getting booked.

The Most Reliable Technology for Wireless Remote Control Systems

Almost all professional wireless remote systems communicate via RF technology.  RF stands for Radio Frequency.  With the use of antennas and transmitters, an RF field can be used for various types of wireless broadcasting and communications.  Due to its long range and reliability, many wireless technologies make use of RF technology.  This includes mobile phones, radio and mobile broadcast systems and WiFi.  Remote wireless systems are programmed to operate on less crowded frequencies, to prevent interference.

The Best Remote for Professional Entertainers

What does a professional remote control system need?  For starters, it should be built specifically for live event environments, with crowded airwaves and a high-risk for multiple interferences.  Furthermore, it should be designed to control a variety of software and hardware, in order to meet the high demands of seasoned performers.  Finally, it must be easy to program and operate.  The last thing you want to do on stage is have to worry or think about your show control system.  A reliable system just works.  

Learn more about Audio Ape Pro Remote and check out the exclusive interview below with Audio Ape founder, Charles Peachock.

The Audio Ape Pro Remote

After working with most remotes on the market, I can say that Audio Ape Pro is the best designed remote. Period. This system features military-grade wireless technology. When you press a button, it sends the command on not one, but multiple channels. Even if there is interference on one channel, your command still gets through on several others. This redundancy serves as a safety net for every single cue.

This remote system can be used without a computer (music playback mode with built-in SD card) or connected to control programs like QLab, PowerPoint, Keynote, and pretty much anything else you can imagine.  It can even control multiple programs at once, from a single remote.

It’s built to be rock solid and stupid-simple use. Best of all, it was developed and refined by professional entertainer Charles Peachock. He’s stress-tested it over thousands of shows. I’ve used Audio Ape’s products to control my own show and they constantly impress me!

Audio Ape Screen & Remote

Disclaimer:  This article contains an affiliate link.  We may earn a commission if you purchase a product using our link.  We were not paid to promote this product nor was an item provided to us at no cost.  As always, you can trust that the products that we recommend are used by ourselves, our clients, and/or by well-respected colleagues.

The Show Control Showdown: Media Monkey VS. MediaStar Pro

Two Show Controllers Face Off in an Epic Battle

When it comes to remote show control systems, two quickly rise to the top.  I’m talking about Media Star Pro by Live Show Control and Media Monkey by Audio Ape.  As a touring performer, I’ve used and enjoyed both.  Often I see entertainers trying to decide which system to purchase, which is why I created this article.  

My First Show Control Experience

My first ever show control system was the MediaStar (by ProMystic, at the time).  I remember seeing David Kaplan use this in his act, when I was in my early 20’s. I was blown away watching him cue all sorts of odds and end using an ankle switch.  I had to have one!  While Kaplan made it look easy, I remember programming as a rather frustrating experience.  The software worked but left much to be desired, in the way of user experience.  The remote also had its issues.  Sometimes the darn thing just didn’t fire.  I can remember being 20 feet away from the unit onstage and firmly pressing the button to no avail.  After having to walk over to the unit a couple of times in a show, I was done with it.

Needless to say, when the Media Star Pro came out, I was one of its biggest skeptics.  Sure, I had heard electronic wizards and performers, like David Hira, sing its praises.  People reassured me that this was lightyears ahead of the old technology.  I was told how the creators were offered money left and right, by entertainers, just to take home a prototype.  Still, I didn’t want anything to do with this unit.  I had tried Media Star and was scarred by my embarrassing moment on stage.  “Never again”, I said.

As someone who is a motivational speaker, illusionist, and production manager for multiple touring shows, I now rely on QLab. For many years, it’s been the software solution behind our video, music, live camera, and all other cues.  For me, a remote system must be QLab compatible.  No excuses.

Media Monkey by Audio Ape

The name Audio Ape has long been respected by magicians, jugglers, and other entertainers who rely on it to control music in their show. Founded by professional juggler Charles Peachock, it’s pretty clear that this would have to work in the toughest environments under the strictest conditions.  How does a juggler even hit a cue button?

When I discovered the Media Monkey, I fell in love (don’t tell my wife).  Finally, a remote system designed to control QLab.  Media Monkey is built like a tank.  It connects to your computer via USB and is designed to work long-range in the most challenging (and signal-noisy environments).  I pushed this thing hard on tour.  We’re talking 4-6 shows per day, all in different venues.  During performances, it was stuck in the wings, way back in the lighting booth, and in a far closet in huge gymnasiums.  I can only think of maybe one missed cue (that wasn’t my fault).  It works like a dream!

Media Star Pro by Live Show Control

The guys at Live Show Control took their time releasing this – and for good reason. You’d be silly to even try and compare this with the original Media Star. It’s like comparing a Tesla with a Ford Model-T.  The Media Star is tiny (just bigger than a flash drive) yet it’s connectivity, versatility, and reliability will turn the head of any pro entertainer.  

There are numerous features built inside of this little system. It actually takes more work to wrap your head around the various ways to use it, than to actually use it than it does to use it.  Plug it in or use a power bank.  Connect your tablet, your smart phone or your computer, Use this adapter or that one.  There’s a lot to consider.  You’ll likely need to take some time considering and building the best workflow for your scenario.  Still, I love the options.  That’s what this unit does best.  – It gives you many options and then does whatever you tell it to, REALLY well.

My Personal Favorite

First, let me start by saying that I’m a raving fan of both systems.  I’ve toured with both and my personal preference all comes down to my usage scenario.  As an entertainer in the education market, I’m in several venues per day with only minutes to setup and teardown in each. Since both systems are reliable, I choose my personal systems based on time, portability, and versatility.  Sometimes I need to control other applications (like Power Point or Keynote). Ultimately I chose the Media Star Pro.

Being in and out of 3-6 venues per day, it fits in Show Control Showdownmy pocket and is quickest to setup. The vibration of the buttons is another plus. Additionally, the Live Show Control team continually releases firmware updates to strengthen the product and offer additional functions.  They are very active in their Facebook Group and often seek the feedback of the community, for product updates.  

Media Monkey would win the award for the most rugged as the Media Star Pro Remotes aren’t as durable. If dropped, the battery will often fall out.  This has happened to me twice. The Media Monkey remote is a bit bulkier but fits more naturally in the hand.  You cannot accidentally switch it to another program because it only does one and does that one thing well.

While both systems can be triggered with a magnet, the Media Star Pro is the only one to do this out of the box.  You’ll need to do some arts and crafts with reed switches to configure the Media Monkey,

Media Monkey has some hidden features that could help you in your usage. You can wire any buttons on M.M. remote to and switch, magnetic or tactile. Also there are 6 other hidden commands in addition to the 7 commands that correlate to the 5 built in buttons. So you can have 13 commands wired to any switches you like. You can also run M.M. receivers in parallel with one or more paired remotes. The free iOS Lab Monkey app by Audio Ape allows you to monitor show cues on an iPad or iPhone. It’s a great tool for QLab that I use in every show!

How to Livestream Your Show

Technical Advice for Entertainers

Across the world, entertainers are turning to live-streaming, especially in the midst of COVID-19, the Coronavirus.  It seems like every day there are more online magic shows, magician’s lectures, and online summits being offered.  This trend has many folks turning a room in their house into a makeshift home studio for performances and virtual meetings.

Live-streaming can feel overwhelming.  I remember feeling very anxious about the technology during my first broadcasts. It can feel like a lot of pressure when you’re manning the controls and trying to put on a professionally polished show.  Often I didn’t go live, for fear that I would embarrass myself.  Over time though, I learned several tricks that made going live a breeze.  Now, instead of stressing, I focus on connecting with my audience.

As a full-time speaker and entertainer,  I too have found myself turning to live streaming more and more.  In addition to being a performer, I also own a production company, which offers live event services.  Today, broadcasting and simulcasting live events is becoming increasingly popular for everything from concerts to conferences. Today, I teach entertainers and small businesses how to “go live” and share their message with the world.

Most basic livestreams are shot from a single camera angle and hosted on ZOOM or Facebook . This is the common the setup that you most often see on a webinar or training video. While this gets the job done, it has little to no production value. In fact, it’s usually pretty boring. If you desire to put on a professional show or want to charge for your performance, up-level to a multi-camera setup.

Jeff Veley Switcher Studio Setup

In this article, I’m going to outline my preferred hardware, software, and special tips so that you can start broadcasting almost immediately, with little to no investment.

Getting Started with Live-Streaming

You might think that you need to buy expensive cameras or rent a studio space to start broadcasting.  Believe it or not, you may be able to get started with items currently in your pocket or on your desk.

I broadcast through an app called Switcher Studio.  Switcher is an iOS-based solution, meaning that it uses Apple devices to capture audio/video and control the broadcast.  Additionally, you can bring in pre-recorded video, animated graphics, your logo, and video chat with your viewers. If you have a couple of iOS devices and a dependable WiFi signal, you’re good to go.

Designing Your Show

Before we get into the technical weeds, let’s first look over what you want your show to look and sound like.
Grab a sheet of paper and answer these questions. We’ll use that next.

1. Where will you film?
A room with hard surfaces is less desirable than one with carpet, drapes, etc. Anything that can help absorb sound will help.

2. Will you be performing stage, parlor, or close up?
If you’re doing a a combination, I’d suggest two iPhone cameras (wide shot and close up shot).

3. How many people will be filmed?
Plan on one microphone per person or a single overhead mic.

4. Will you control the broadcast or do you have help?
If you’re flying solo – simplify your setup.

5. Will you use music or sound effects?
If so, you’ll want to be sure this is heard clearly in your live feed.

Hardware

Now that you’ve designed your show, we can look at the actual physical equipment that you’ll need. For most performers, I recommend running their broadcast with two iPhones (as cameras), an iPad (as the switching device), a few film lights, and a lavalier microphone. This setup is the easiest plug-and-play, especially for solo performers. If you aren’t tech savvy or don’t want to get distracted with equipment, start here. You can always add more later.

Most professional broadcasters will agree that viewers will forgive choppy video over poor audio. Don’t trust the mic on your switching device alone. Using this will bring in ambient room noise. Instead, use a lavalier microphone.

If you normally perform with a handheld or headset microphone, it is possible to connect that via a mixer. The simplest connection though, is using the Rode smartLav+. This mic plugs directly into switching device and requires very little adjustment. If I could make only one investment for my live-stream setup, this would be it.

An important point to mention is lighting. It’s best to start by getting three lights that diffuse the light and can be temperature controlled. The most popular for those starting out are “LED panel lights” and “soft boxes”. These provide a lot of bright light without casting harsh shadows or washing out the facial features of the subject.

BASIC HARDWARE LINKS

iPhone
iPad
iPad Pro
Camera Tripod
Smart Phone Tripod Adaptor
Wired Lav Microphone: Rode smartLav+ & 20 ft extension cable
Wireless Lav Microphone: Rode Wireless Go
LED Film Lights

ADVANCED & OPTIONAL ACCESSORIES

TV
Laptop
HDMI Cable
Audio Mixer
AirPods
iRig (connect mixer to switching device)

Software

Switcher Studio offers a 14-day free trial. Practice using it and rehearse performing with it. If you don’t have someone manning the controls, pick one camera angle per trick and switch in between, to avoid distractions.

Switcher Studio offers something called SwitcherCast. This makes it possible to bring in your laptop as a source for your broadcast. You might use this to show PowerPoint slides or bring in guests via their Video chat feature.

It’s also possible to connect Switcher Studio to ZOOM. This makes it possible for you to see your audience and interact with them face to face. This is more of an advanced setup, but you can figure it out with some help.

SOFTWARE LINKS

Switcher Studio (download on each device)
Restream (if you want to broadcast to multiple platforms at once. i.e. Facebook and YouTube)
ZOOM (if you want to see your audience and boost interaction)

Tips for Performers

As a magician, it’s incredibly important to connect with your audience and get feedback. A lot of performers tell me that this is hard for them when lives-streaming. Here are a few tips that will instantly better your performances.

Add a TV Monitor

My favorite tip to give performers is to connect a TV or computer monitor, with a live output of their broadcast. It’s helpful to know what your audience sees on-screen. Imagine performing a card trick where the light was reflecting off of the cards. No one would be able to see what card was chosen. Or perhaps you are doing some fancy manipulation, with your hand just out of frame. Mistakes like these are a big reason why people tune out or log off of your broadcast. Thankfully this can be easily avoided.

A TV monitor allows you to see exactly what your audience sees, in real-time. To accomplish this, simply connect an HDMI to USB-C or HDMI adaptor to Lightning port from your switching device to your television. When placed directly in front of you, this screen will act like a mirror, allowing you to see every move while appearing that you’re looking out into the your virtual audience.

Make “Eye Contact”

Position your TV monitor on a stand so that it’s at eye level, across the room. Next, position your main camera device directly in front of it. When setup correctly, you should be able to look yourself in the eye on screen, while creating the illusion that you’re looking directly into the camera lens. This gives the illusion of eye contact. The beauty of it is that everyone watching experiences this at the same time. This is one of my greatest live-streaming secrets for performers.

Create Audience Interaction

Many performers greet those that join the broadcast as they appear or respond to comments, in the feed. In most cases, I feel that this disrupts show flow. Consider going live a few minutes ahead of schedule to greet your audience instead. Then, create a dedicated question and answer time, at the end. You can also bring people on screen to pick a card, think of a number, etc.

Consider putting a trick early in the show in which everyone can guess, comment, or participate as part of the effect. This helps people feel engaged and included. As Jeff McBride would say, it creates participants, instead of spectators.

Get Support

It really helps to have a mentor answer a few questions before your first few live-streams.
At Veley Productions, we help people get started with live-streaming and offer equipment rental to up-level your broadcast.
Have questions? Want us to run your broadcast remotely?

Contact us or schedule a free consultation call.

Audio Tips: What Causes Feedback?

Simple Advice for Operating Sound Equipment

The core advice in the following post was taken from a training manual for new sound engineers, written by Larry Veley.  It has been edited and expanded on by Jeff Veley.

What is Feedback?

Feedback is the annoying ringing or squeals heard from audio speakers. 

Those new to operating sound equipment often find themselves frustrated and even embarrassed by this unpleasant sound.  It is a clear indicator that something has gone wrong.

What Causes Feedback?

Feedback results when the microphone feeds back into the speaker system and vice versa forming a continuous oscillating loop.  Upon exiting the speaker, the sound enters the microphone again.  Here it is amplified, exits the speaker and starts the entire again.  After a few seconds the sound is amplified to a level in which the ringing or squeal can be heard.

Remember, feedback is not always high pitch.  Feedback occurs at the loudest and most dominant frequency.  This means that it could be a low note too.  Often low feedback sounds like a low droning, hollow sound.  Either way, feedback can damage both audio equipment and the ears of audience members.  It’s important to stop the feedback loop as soon as possible.

Feedback Loop Diagram

How Do You Stop Feedback?

If you should encounter a feedback problem, simply turn down the channel.  If you have more than one channel on at a time and system starts feedback, you will have to turn each channel down, one at a time, to find the problem channel. 

One of the most common causes of feedback is speaker positioning.  Speakers should always be positioned in front (or downstage) of where microphones will be used.  People that are unexperienced with using a microphone will wander in front of the speakers.  This action will produce loud feedback within seconds.  Often this person looks at the sound engineer, unaware that they are causing the feedback.  

Feedback Prevention

A simple way to prevent feedback is to conduct a sound check, prior to your event.  In addition, hold a brief meeting with those that will be using a microphone.  Let them know that “the speakers will squeal loudly if you walk past them with the mic in your hand”.  This saves you and your hosts from embarrassment while also protecting the ears of your audience members.

Essential Items for the Traveling Entertainer

What’s in Your Backpack?

Interested in traveling with your show? Want to cover your bases for any situation that may happen at a gig? if you are (or aspire to be) a full-time entertainer, you’ll quickly find a few must-have items. These are the things that you can’t leave home without. By the end of this episode, you’ll learn what items to pack, why they’re crucial, and where to get them.

ITEM LIST

BACKPACK

SHOW CONTROL

AUDIO

VIDEO

PHONE & POWER ACCESSORIES

STAGE PROPS & ACCESSORIES

FOOD & BEVERAGE

MISC

That’s it! What do I ask in return for sharing this with you? A comment or a share would be awesome! Really though, I hope to save you a lot of time and frustration. Find what works for you and keep spreading joy through magic and entertainment. Together we can make a difference through smiles and laughter – one show at a time. Cheers!

What items are essential for your show?