LightKey – Is it the right lighting software for me? + Interface Guide – Learn Stage Lighting .com
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LightKey – Is it the right lighting software for me? + Interface Guide

By Kari / a few months ago

LightKey is what I would consider to be an intermediate console and it’s definitely made it’s way to the lighting community. But is it the right fit for your needs?

In this post, we’re going to cover some of the pros and cons of working with LightKey as well as why it’s users enjoy working with this lighting software.

LightKey is a lighting software that works very well for Mac users. Like any intermediate console it does have it’s strengths as well as some negative points.

Ease of Use

One of the best strengths of LightKey is the ease of use and being able to learn how to use the software. With tutorials on how to get started with LightKey, you can generally learn your way around how to use the console very easily.

In most cases, you would find this when working with the basic level consoles but being able to work with an intermediate console that is easy to use can be very refreshing.

Easy Setup and Walk Through

One of my personal favorites when working with LightKey is a very easy setup and walk through when you get started. The software offers a step by step process from installation, connecting your lights, to building your first lighting scene.

Having this feature available makes it much simpler to get set up and get the lights going.

MIDI Controllers

Another strength when working with LightKey is the ability to integrate MIDI Controllers and setting up programs such as Pro-Presenter or Ableton to trigger those lights.

I see a lot of users flock to LightKey for this feature alone because it’s very easy to set up and be able to use that feature for their lighting.

Mac Users

Just as you would find in the Windows community, you’ll find that many Mac users absolutely love working with LightKey. While this isn’t entirely a negative point it does limit who is able to try out LightKey for managing their lights.

Multiple Lights and Types

On the negative side of working with LightKey that I try to make others aware of is that once you start reaching over 20 lights or many different tyoes of lights, it can really get difficult to navigate inside of LightKey.

LightKey is able to handle more than 20 lights and different types of fixtures. In some cases, you may need to purchase an extra universe. But as far as being able to keep your lights, palettes, and cues organized it does get very busy inside of the program.

For example, you want to program your lights for the color red. To do this, you have to a Preset Palette for each type of light that you would want to do in red. When you have a lot of lights and start adding in multiple colors, it builds up very quickly.

Is LightKey a Good Option For You?

If you are someone that enjoys working with Macs and you’re looking for an intermediate console, then LightKey may be a great option for you. As I mentioned earlier if you’re looking to integrate and work with MIDI Controllers, LightKey does make it very easy to do so.

I always recommend checking out a demo if there is one available. Even if you don’t hook up any lights, it’s a good practice to just log in and try out the different functions. This gives you a feel of how different tools work.

You can test the demo version here: https://lightkey.evyy.net/1kZkx

What DMX / Playback Interface Should I Use with LightKey?

If you have decided that LightKey is right for you or if you are wanting to learn more, we’re going to discuss the output options that would work with LightKey.

One of the unique pieces about LightKey is that it does not sell any output hardware. LightKey also doesn’t sell any faders, buttons, or wings. It is strictly just the lighting software. So, what does that mean for you?

Because LightKey does not sell any output hardware, it may end up costing you more than the licensing if you decide you want more control options for your setup.

When you first set up LightKey, you are presented with a few different options in regards to the output. But which method is best for you?

USB to DMX

In the previous years, the USB to DMX has often reined as king but over the years I have noticed a trend that it’s beginning to fade out USB, Art-Net and sACN are becoming more popular.

More than ever USB DMX output is becoming difficult to set up. For example if you decide to go with a less expensive USB to DMX hardware, it may be difficult for your computer to process the signal and cause your lights to blink which eventually means it’s no good.

There’s also the distance factor. Your USB to DMX output hardware cannot be setup over a certain distance which can make it more challenging for a setup.

Overall, I do recommend steering away from this option and considering the networked approach instead.

Networked DMX

More than ever, we’re hearing about Art-Net and sACN being used in lighting. With output hardware, there are devices that offer two outputs,and that allows you to do so much and be able to change or extend your setup.

For more details on how Art-Net and sACN work you can read the full post: What are Art-Net and sACN?

When working with a network DMX option, you also won’t have issues with the distance as you would when working with USB to DMX.

Future Proofing

Things change, and you might not plan on using LightKey forever. So, by choosing to invest in an Art-Net or sACN node will mean that you can take that output hardware and use it for a different setup.

With USB to DMX output hardware, that is most likely not the case. When it comes to future-proofing, you always want to consider that circumstances will change and there may be upgrades in the future. Having the hardware and equipment that can roll with those changes helps save more money in the long run.

Faders

A last point I want to touch base on with LightKey is that they don’t offer their own wings, faders, or extensions. That’s why it’s so great that LightKey is easy to integrate MIDI Controllers with.

Depending what you have available or what your budget may allow, you have multiple options on what MIDI controllers would work. I do want to note that LightKey does not offer any OSC control.

If you’re looking for additional control and options when setting up LightKey, you definitely want to factor in the cost of the licensing as well as any additional hardware you may need to purchase for the setup.


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