1996 Lightning II
LIGHTNING II is a specialized MIDI controller that senses the position and movement of handheld wands and transforms this information to MIDI signals for expressive control of electronic musical instrumentation. In addition to functioning as a powerful MIDI controller, LIGHTNING II, with its self contained 32 voice synthesizer, comprises a complete, ready to play instrument.
The bulk of LIGHTNING II’s electronics is housed in a half rack cabinet.
A remote head, designed to be mounted on a standard mike stand in front of a performer, contains optics and numeric displays.
Based on principles of optical triangulation, LIGHTNING gathers its information by tracking tiny infrared transmitters that are built into baton-like wands. Unencumbered by wires, these wands provide complete freedom of movement within a performance space that can be as large as 12 feet high by 20 feet wide.
Basically, LIGHTNING II senses the horizontal and vertical position of each hand, for a total of four independent coordinates. From this information, LIGHTNING’s digital signal processor computes instantaneous velocity and acceleration, and performs detailed analysis of gesture. An easily mastered, musically oriented interface language allows the user to define relationships between various gestures and potential musical responses.
In one sort of implementation, LIGHTNING’s coordinates might be mapped to various MIDI controllers on multiple channels. Spatial pitch wheels, pan pots, level sliders and modulation wheels are easily defined and great fun to play. Performance gestures can be analyzed for direction and velocity and can be used to generate a variety of notes as well as other musical events. Multi-dimensional zoning capability can be used to create different musical responses in different regions. Everything you need to create the conceptual ensemble (an invisible, acoustic virtual reality).
User definable scale and tuning tables allow one to determine the range and selection of notes occurring along a horizontal or vertical axis. Pitches can be in any order, and the boundaries can be set where ever desired, facilitating the creation of spatial instruments and imaginary orchestras.
LIGHTNING II features a conducting facility that can analyze a conductor’s gestures, display deviations from a preset tempo, and signal errors such as missed beats. Simultaneously, LIGHTNING can transmit a synchronous MIDI clock for controlling external sequencers and output programmed note data to accompany specific beats within a measure.
Those tiny, postage stamp size boxes hanging out with Marilyn are memory cards for storing presets. As many as thirty presets can be stored on one card. An additional thirty presets can be stored in RAM, and yet another thirty ROM based presets are provided as tutorial examples (good places to begin the LIGHTNING experience).
To facilitate its use in conjunction with other controllers, LIGHTNING possesses intelligent MIDI merging capability. A complete system exclusive implementation enables LIGHTNING presets to be stored and edited via external computers and sequencers.
INPUT / OUTPUT FACILITIES
MIDI Interconnections: 1 Input, 1 Output, 1 Auxiliary Output. Foot Switch Inputs: 1/4 inch phone jacks for 2 foot switches. Memory Card Receptacle: accommodates LIGHTNING II memory card. Audio Outputs: standard 1/4 inch phone jacks.
Main Box: dimensions are 1.7 x 8.5 x 10 inches (h,w,d); weight is 3 pounds. Remote: dimensions are 1.5 x 6 x 8 inches (h,w,d); weight is 12 ounces. Wand transmitter: 11 inches long x .8 inches diameter; weight is 3 ounces. Memory Card: 1.1 x .8 x .3 inches (minuscule); weight is .2 ounce.
Receiver: 7.5 volts D.C. at 1 ampere, or 110 volts A.C. at .06 amperes, or 220 volts A.C. at .03 amperes (A.C. adapter is included) Wands: dual range, powered with a one AA cell; playing time to sixty hours.
CIRCUITRY AND ARCHITECTURE
Supervisory control and signal processing: TMS370 micro controller. Internal memory: 32K bytes of RAM; 130K bytes of PROM. Software: high level performance optimized user interface language. Displays: 48 character liquid crystal display, four numeric displays. Editing inputs: Six dedicated panel switches. Performance variables: horizontal and vertical position for each hand; momentary switches for each hand; software derived variables include velocity and directional “strike” gestures. Internal sound source: Thirty-two voice General MIDI sound card.