Stage Lighting Control

ChamSys MagicQ PC – Free Lighting Control Software

On Stage Lighting has always liked the ChamSys MagicQ and MagicQ PC, the free PC lighting control software, is the cheapest way to get your hands on a professional console. What makes MagicQ PC so great and why is it worth learning?

MagicQ PC

This month UK lighting control firm Cham Sys announced an affiliation with PRG Group to distribute the new MagicQ Pro series of lighting consoles in the US, Canada and Japan. This distribution partnership should mean that the MagicQ will become used more widely . The MagicQ Pro range was shown at PLASA 2007 and is aimed at the top end, professional users with complex stage lighting systems. The other MagicQ desks are no less “Pro” though.

Many features are common to all MagicQ control products, including the free MagicQ PC software. And, with the aid of a laptop and cheap DMX USB dongle, you can actually use MagicQ PC to run your shows.

Why is the MagicQ PC software free?

When MagicQ PC hit the scene, it was one of the first free PC versions of a professional lighting controller that wasn’t just a simulator and didn’t require expensive hardware to output DMX. ChamSys obviously decided that, in order to break into market dominated by a few well established players, they had to get their system used by as many people as possible. So, with 50 odd Euros of Enttec Open DMX USB dongle, you can download the free software and get cracking. Now MagicQ supports a number of third party PC DMX interfaces and ChamSys also produce their own hardware for outputting both DMX and Ethernet protocols. More about that later.

Why do the professionals like the MagicQ?

Looking for free lighting control software, you will find plenty of lighting professionals singing the praises of MagicQ PC. This is partly due it’s the range of lighting control features, but also comes down to familiarity. The workflow and interface of the MagicQ ranges are closely matched to other professional lighting consoles that we all know and love. Any operator who has a knowledge of popular lighting consoles such as the Flying Pig Systems Hog II or the Avolites range, can start programming, even without the manual or the on board help screens.

Other PC lighting control software is often less like a real lighting desk (why would it need to be?). The benefit of learning to use PC software like MagicQ PC is that becoming familiar with a console workflow is improving programming skills for real world situations.

What are the best features of MagicQ PC?

As well as dimmer and moving light control, the MagicQ also has features that are now the norm in good lighting consoles. LED array programming (media engine), Media Server integration and networking capabilities are a must have a professional lighting desk. A decent shape generator and Programmer based recording (the entire output of the console is not recorded – just the values set by the operator) are par for the course.

Another widely adopted feature includes spreadsheet manipulation and importing of data such as patch sheets and fixture information. A fixture personality editor gives you the option to tweak existing fixture files or create your own.

Graphical rig layouts and gobo/media icons are great for find the stuff you need quickly. All the major 3rd party visualisers are supported for pre-programming of shows.

A big selling point of the MagicQ system is flexibility. Busking shows, creating theatre stacks or triggering media events are all available in a user friendly format.

Some of best features on the MagicQ are found in the details of advanced use. Just some of these are:

  • Fixture Cloning – Adding additional fixtures to your rig and using existing palette/memory information to “force” them into your original programming.
  • Fixture Morphing – Swap all you WobblyLite 700’s for Noddin Buckette 2000’s and the desk will automatically try to work out how to get your show right.
  • Auto Move While Dark – A feature from theatre stack moving light consoles such as the Strand 520. Auto Move While Dark sets fixtures not in the current cue into position, ready for it’s next use. This means that the programmer doesn’t have to worry about creating “Mark” cues ( a cue that presets a moving light, ready for it’s next cue).
  • Advanced Fixture Selection – Selecting generic lighting by gel numbers, moving heads by rig postion etc. Speeds up the process of programming.
  • Complex playback timing – Fade time options for seperate moving light attributes such as Pan/Tilt, Colour etc. Wait times can be “fanned” into the programmer.
  • Submaster Playback options – Theatre stacks, chases, shape size/speed all controllable from the playback faders.
  • Virtual Faders – The MagicQ doesn’t have individual channel faders but makes up for it with a GUI that includes “virtual sliders” on it’s touch screen. MagicQ PC can be used with external touchscreens or a tablet laptop.
  • Media previews and thumbnails, LED drivers and other Lighting 2.0 stuff.

What operating systems can MagicQ PC run on?

There are versions of MagicQ PC to suit most users operating systems such as Windows, Linux and MAC (Intel and PPC).

How do I get DMX out of the MagicQ PC software?

MagicQ PC can now be used with a variety of 3rd Party devices that output DMX. If you want to buy a cheap USB to DMX dongle that works well, I recommend the Enttec USB DMX Pro. Although the original Open USB DMX dongle works with MagicQ PC, some users have DMX signal problems. This results in twitching of moving lights and a DMX tester reveals framing issues – these can be rectified by cutting down the number of channels that the MagicQ PC outputs. The DMX Pro is based on different hardware and doesn’t suffer from this problem. For a cheap USB to DMX dongle, you can can’t really go wrong with the Pro, which can also be used as a DMX input device for many visualisers and other applications.

The downside to this lovely free stage lighting controller is, on a laptop, you don’t get to play with faders and wheels. This becomes a pain when trying to program more complex lighting rigs. ChamSys make the MagicQ PC Wing, which has all the major buttons and encoders plus the playback faders and go buttons. The PC wing also has two DMX universe outputs, giving you plenty of control capacity for shows. Using the MagicQ PC wing and a tablet laptop or touchscreens is near as you can get to owning a really high quality, professional lighting console without spending tens of thousands.

Cham Sys now produce all manner of fader wings, cut down consoles and add ons – all using the same platform. Something for everyone, you might say.

Learning the MagicQ Software

The MagicQ lighting control range is gaining industry popularity. It takes time for new manufacturers to become really established in a market but Cham Sys have a good product. They also have the right attitude towards their users and with growing market penetration, could become an “industry standard” brand. It also seems like their presence has forced a few other lighting console makers to up their game.

Download the free MagicQ PC lighting control software and play around with it – the features and work flow of the MagicQ are worth learning. Similar to many desks in the current generation of professional lighting consoles, the free MagicQ PC software with a cheap DMX dongle is an offer too good to refuse.

If you have used the ChamSys MagicQ software and have any thoughts, let us know in the Comments section. If you would like On Stage Lighting to feature MagicQ tutorials in the future, get in touch.

Our MagicQ Tutorials

On Stage Lighting has created a series of tutorials to help you find your feet on the Cham Sys MagicQ PC software, as well as learn more about about show lighting control in general:

  1. Dimitris

    It is a great piece of software indeed. My What I discovered by reading the manual is that it is oriented mostly towards the consoles and not the PC version. Therefore keyboard (not keypad) hot keys and such is not covered in detail.

    So… yes please. A starting level tutorial (for people who have no experience in Hog or Pearl) would be great!


  2. Rob

    Hi Dimitris

    Information on the PC version is a bit scarce. I will bear that in mind and try to get some tutorials for the MagicQ PC together.

    Thanks for your comment.

  3. relaps

    magicq pc is definitely console software. i’ve used it with movers and leds and dmx lasers. i was able to easily make nice looks and movements for my movers quickly. if you want to use your trackball for pan/tilt however, you must purchase the magicq pc wing or maxi wing 🙁 also, the midi implementation seems limited and there is little explanation as to how it can be used. they definitely are looking to sell some hardware, which i have no problem with.

  4. Rob Sayer

    Hi Scott, thanks for your comment. Do you have any specific reasons for not liking the MagicQ? Apart from it having “no lights” (?). Also, a 3D visualiser is not something I would expect to see on what is effectively a free controller, but outputs such as the pixel mapper can be monitored.

    Let us know what you think. Cheers

  5. Rob Sayer

    @Scott. I looked up the LS 60 pack you mentioned at it seems to ship with the T16F “controller” which looks like a dimmer/scene memory hybrid. According to the spec, the controller can accept the footswitch or a DMX input so the MagicQ PC could control it (as long as you have a DMX interface to output from the PC).

    Using a complex lighting controller just to run a few PAR 38s seems a bit overkill, though.

  6. Sam Campbell

    Hey, I just used the Chamsys Mini Wing in conjunction with my Mac Book at my first little gig (Four LED cans and a couple of GLP Ypocs) I have to say it was a treat. Considering this was it’s first outing I had the control system patched and flashing lights within 15 minuets and had a basic busk show, complete with chases ‘n all set up soon after.

    The only snags were, inefficient moving light control via the computer (This would be rectified by buying the full or maxi wing which I’m definitely going to do) some gaps in the personalities from Chamsys (My LED’s run -Dim+Strobes,Red,Green,Blue- there appears to be no such personality??(Although they are cheap and cheerful Showtec LED’s)) And no pre set colour or gobo palettes for my GLP’s which was a tad annoying but may again just be a lack of pressing the right buttons whilst patching.

    Anywho, I’m about to take this system to Russia in case I really can’t figure out the in house desks. Will let you know how it goes.

    Thanks, Sam.

  7. Franky Aneca

    Just bought 2 American DJ Revo 1 devices.

    I can’t find the ADJ Revo 1 (or any other Revo device) in the MagicQ fixture personality library … so I’ll have to create a personality myself I guess.

    Since I’m very new in this area … can anyone help me out creating the right personality ?
    It uses 4 dxm-channels :
    ch1 > Mode (Pattern, Chase, Stand Alone)
    ch2 > Pattern / Chase
    ch3 > Pattern Strobe / Chase Speed
    ch4 > Dimmer

    Thx !!!

  8. Matt Lemon

    Drop me an email to matt at

    We have recently created the personality file for the Revo fixture so I’ll forward this onto you.

    Best regards,

    Matt Lemon
    ChamSys Ltd

  9. Morgan

    Just letting you know, I’m a student at a sydney school in year 11 and I borrowed a console for a musical in Sydney, Australia earlier in the year and along with the owner we programmed the whole show in a couple of days.

    Opening night, BAM! The console’s hard-drive died. We had an hour till doors and no lights. Borrowing an internet dongle from a sound boy we downloaded the software and then ran the season off a Mac powerbook G4. Slightly slow but it worked fine because it was all backed up on a USB!

    Just saying, programming the show on a console was immensely helpful, but having the free option for the computer was completely invaluable. thanks chamsys. i just need to find a way to afford a console of my own now :S

    – M

  10. ian torqueza

    just want to know if i can use and run this program to my laptop. Mac G4 powerbook 1ghz 1.25gb memory, 160gb HD.

    thank you and best regard

  11. Jim

    I love Magic Q and if I had my druthers the Shop I work at would get rid of the other consoles and switch over exclusively to Magic Q. I bought the Enttec USB PRO and it was super easy plug and play; it worked immediately with no issues…I’m actually running a (small) show as I type.

    Just as an example, reading a little of the manual and trying things out as I went, on day one I was able to find most of the fixtures I commonly use throughout the year easily enough and built 2 LED profiles in no time; I was writing cues, creating custom effects, etc. no worries.
    I love the movement view option and the grids are great for monitoring values coming and going on stage. I have not tried the pixel mapping feature in real life, but again, reading the manual and 10 minutes later, I had a viable working example of my cueing being played back as I expected it to.
    When I showed some of my hard to convince coworkers’ these options they were more than impressed. When I told them that the smallest USB to DMX dongle was fully compatible with the Flagship model, they were floored! You aren’t investing in incompatible equipment and it all can be used together as a backup when you step up to a wing or console and all without paying thousands of dollars to see if you even like it.
    I cannot think of a Console Company who wants you to use their program or hardware more than ChamSys. 18 universes, 50 different Media Servers, Free software, affordable solutions for playback or backup and the outstanding list of features sealed the deal for me before I even pressed “Patch”. Now, after I running a few real world examples to get acclimated and a show or two later, I’m glad to be “off the hog” I’m not looking back either.

  12. Rob Sayer

    Hi Jim

    Nice to hear your thoughts on the Cham Sys. Anyone who knows me will know that I’ve been going on about the desk since I saw some of the first prototypes yet still there are people who have never heard of it. I’m pretty easy going about the desks I use but looking at functionality, ease of learning and the cost, the MagicQ is hard to beat IMO. Many Hog guys went with MA not long after the dodgy early Hog III years but I think Cham Sys haved picked up plenty of Hog users, Avolites fanatics and, most importantly, the next generation of programmers who just get it.

  13. MMANI


  14. Deda

    Hi there
    Is it possible to output DMX from MagicQ using Art-net output and Enttec ODE on a same network. Does MagicQ PC support this option and if does how reliable is this option.

  15. fernando inacio

    ola rob sou do brasil ..
    e aqui pouca gente conhece chamsys magic e magic Q
    compre uma interface three universe
    e aqui nao tenho suporte da chamsys em portugues
    mas esse console aos poucos esta ganhando o mundo assim como avolites; grand MA ;jands
    espero um dia ter representantes aqui da chamsys para suporte tecnico e palestras sobre os produtos e consoles

  16. Hilli


    I’m a little bit of a newbie to the lighting programms and worked more on consoles (but small ones)
    I’ve got a enttec usb pro interface and tried playing around with freestyler but the results with my led bars were not sufficient.

    Now I started getting into chamsys and so far I like it.
    It’s just that I don’t have too much experience with building my own fixtures so I don’t know exactly how I have to put the values….
    Made me happy enough that there finally is a programm in which I have a dimmmer mode channel and more than 3 rgb channels but still I don’t know what values I have to fit in to make it decently work

    So my question is are there any tutorials on how to create your own led fixtures (maybe for dummies…) cause I already did spend a lot of time on this but sometimes it takes hours and lots of researching on the net until you find what you’re really searching for…. a little help would be greatly appreciated


  17. James

    Hi there.

    I was a long time Martin Light Jockey user… I had the really old ISA card version of LJ… I got sick of bringing a giant old desktop to shows.

    I sold the LJ card and looked around for something new… I bought an Enttec USB pro and started tinkering around with the new free lighting control options…. First I tried Freestyler (which is an open source 70% copy of Light Jockey)… It worked well, but I wanted more.

    I found this introduction and the following tutorials and I was officially a Chamsys guy… I fell in love with this system.

    I showed it to one of my church tech interns… He read these tutorials and the next week, he had successfully patched and ran a show in our youth space at church (8 movers, leds, conventionals) with his laptop.

    I eventually purchased an ASUS EEEtop to exclusively run Chamsys. I had such a great time having more hands on control that I purchased a Mini Wing… I had the Mini-Wing for 2 weeks, but I still wanted encoders… I took back the mini wing, scrounged up some cash and purchased a PC wing, and I love it do death!!!!

    Chamsys is great. I started more than 2 years ago with just a dongle and now I have a wing…

    I have turned several churches, bands, and lighting guys onto the software.

    I only have 2 complaints about chamsys:
    >Lack of video tutorials on youtube… I can get piles of tutorials for ETC, Martin, and Grand MA….there isn’t anything to show you how to get started except these tutorials. I have lost 2 churches to ETC only because they had watchable videos on youtube for their volunteer techs.

    2 – Dealing with PRG…. PRG is the only supplier in the US…
    I would call the reps that PRG recommended… Leave them a really detailed message (what console I am looking for and my contact info) and I would get a call a week later and the first question the reps would ask is “what are you looking for again?”….. Then they say they will call you back with a price…. I wouldn’t get a call/email for another week (even with the advances in computer technology that can give you instant information)….

    The process of getting a wing from calling the first (out of four PRG reps) to actually ordering the wing took an entire month!!!

    I am not bashing PRG, they are a great company that does a lot of cool stuff…. From a sales stand point, they really suck…. I understand that I am not buying a pile of Vari-Lites, but that does not excuse taking that much time to actually purchase something.

    Thank you for taking the time to write these articles.

  18. Rob Sayer

    Thanks for your story, James. It’s great to hear that you enjoy the MQ. I know that Cham Sys have been talking for a while now about creating some YouTube video tutorials, which is in part why I haven’t started down that road. Cham Sys are a great company but they are still really small in terms of staff and their popularity seems to me that the guys there are always to flat out to spend a few days creating vids.
    Maybe they should pay me to do ’em…… 😉

  19. Elizabeth Day

    I found this website…and was wondering what it means when the MQ lights flicker…even when turned OFF……if anyone could offer a bit of wisdom in this matter….it would be GREATLY appreciated!

  20. brennie

    We have an Entec DMX-PRO and have been trying to sync via MIDI with an Expression 3x but with no luck. The Expression outputs MSC Midi Show Control. Does the Chamsys PC software support MSC. Any other ways to sync (trigger GO)the two consoles?

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