Use light to write better scores – Part 2: control lighting with MIDI

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Your DAW is the remote

In our quest to exploring alternative ways to boost a composer’s productivity, last week we explored the beneficial practice of immersing oneself in colored light while composing for visual. This week we are taking the concept a step further. Here is a step-by-step guide to add smart lighting control capabilities to your DAW using MIDI. As you can imagine this unlocks the possibility to record light changing performances that will playback in sync with your music and videos.

What you will need

To follow this method you will need one or more smart lightbulbs that are compatible with IFTTT, a free account on IFTTT, and the software Keyboard Maestro. Unfortunately Keyboard Maestro is not available on windows computers at the moment. Should you know of fitting alternatives on PC please let me know and I’ll add them to this article.

Easier to show you…

In this video I show the concept and highlight the necessary steps to make it work:

If you would rather read

If you can’t watch the video here is a very essential list of steps instead:

  1. Sign up for a free IFTTT account
  2. Abilitate webhooks on IFTTT
  3. Purchase and install Keyboard Maestro
  4. Download and install the Send to IFTTT Keyboard Maestro plugin. To install drag the zip file into the Keyboard Maestro interface (OSX automatically unzips the file and discards the zip file, look for it in your trash once the download is complete).
  5. Go on your webhook setting and copy your webhook key in the clipboard (your key is the last part of the displayed URL, like so:
  6. Create a new Macro on Keyboard Maestro and choose MIDI trigger.
  7. Select your desired MIDI message and output. Using a unique output is strongly advised.
  8. In the actions library look for the Send to IFTTT action and choose it.
  9. Paste from your clipboard in the “Key” field
  10. Choose a unique name for the “Event” field
  11. On IFTTT create a new applet. Choose webhooks as input. Click on the “Receive a web request” trigger.
  12. Input the exact same event name from your Keyboard Maesto macro and click “create trigger”
  13. Choose your lightbulb app as output, and configure according to the desired effect.

What to expect in the future

Harnessing the power of the OSC protocol I will show you how to create a powerful touch controller that interact with your studio mood directly in your DAW. Stay tuned!

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Giovanni Rotondo

Giovanni Rotondo

Editor in Chief of Film Scoring Tips. Giovanni Rotondo is an experienced film and television composer based in London. He has scored many award winning feature films (Elijah and the Rock Creature, Orphans & Kingdoms), TV movies (Il Giudice Meschino, Il Confine), documentaries (Ilaria Alpi - L'Ultimo Viaggio) and video games (Thunderbird: The Legend Begins). More info here:

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