Using Ableton and ProPresenter to Automate Easter Services

Every Easter at The Crossing Church we try to add some unique production elements, and this past year consisted of a live crucifixion scene, ascending mirror ball, and a vertically aligned center screen. While each had it’s unique challenges, running a center screen with limited video equipment was an enjoyable task to conquer.

Our normal weekend setup includes two iMacs for ProPresenter, one main machine and another for backup. But our video switcher had no third output to push content to a different size screen, and no SDI or other video cables are run on-stage. So we decided to power the center screen by connecting a MacBook Pro directly to the projector.

We had two people, one operating the ProPresenter slides going up on our side screens, and one running the MacBook onstage, but I wanted to have them in perfect sync. We also had several video elements that needed to be played precisely together, and for that I tried ProPresenter’s Master Control Module.

While not a flawless plugin, I found it simple to setup and worked 96% of the time. You have to have your playlists and documents named exactly the same, and they need to be at the root level, at the top of your ProPresenter Playlists on both machines, but once we arranged this our main CG iMac could control the on-stage MacBook Pro over our network.

Side note: While we did rehearse several times with all machines on Wi-Fi, I highly suggest having each on a direct ethernet connection for reliability.

This setup allowed us to have text-only lower third lyrics on our side screens, and a bold, centered font over B-roll backgrounds on the center screen.

Now we could have stopped there and had one CG operator manage all slides, but I finally wanted to get Ableton and ProPresenter talking so every slide could be triggered perfectly.

For reference, this video is all I needed to follow. Watch it start to finish and don’t miss a step, otherwise it won’t work.

After some trial and error with a third machine running Ableton on stage, we managed to have it trigger the iMac running ProPresenter in our crow’s nest, which controlled the slave MacBook Pro running the center screen.

One might think it was foolish to try using Ableton controlling ProPresenter over MIDI AND using the Master Control module for the first time on Easter weekend, and to that I say balderdash.

For the record: everything worked very well over six services, with only one frozen lyric screen that was remedied with a Clear-All in just a few seconds.

Some people ride roller coasters, others skydive, I try two completely new ProPresenter modules on Easter weekend.