The Behringer BCF2000 controller is an 8 channel MIDI fader wing with dozens of applications and uses. I’ve looked at it with a view to using it in conjunction with software based lighting controllers. However, it is in no way limited to this purpose, in fact it wasn’t really designed with this use in mind at all. Behringer don’t even list it as one of the ways you can use it on their website. They designed it for the home studio market for use with applications like Cubase and Logic Studio. The fact that it is just a MIDI interface though means that it can be used in many more ways than just those it was intended for!
All the lighting consoles you can buy from the main manufacturers these days are essentially just PC’s inside a desk with faders and buttons as the interface rather than a keyboard and mouse, though of course some lighting desks come with those too.
These dedicated solutions are very expensive, but is it possible for someone on a budget to get a similar level of control with just their laptop? Well, with the aid of a software package and the addition of a BCF2000 you can certainly take a big step towards that goal! I’ve tested the BCF2000 with Cuelux from Visual Productions, but the beauty of this unit is it will work with any program that has support for MIDI controllers such as LightJockey or LightFactory. You just plug the unit into your PC via a USB lead and set up the relevant options in the program. It’s very easy to get up and running with the unit, I was controlling the software faders with the physical faders on the BCF2000 within minutes of opening it.
My first impression of the unit was that it has a fairly solid construction, it is made from part metal and part plastic. The chassis is metal and the sides and top are plastic, but it all looks and feels very sturdy. The faders have a nice weight to them and the knobs have enough resistance to make them feel just right, the buttons on the unit give a nice responsive click and the whole controller gives the impression of costing a lot more than it actually does. One of the first things you’ll notice is the lack of labelling on the buttons though, only a few give any clue as to what they might do. There is a good reason for this, all the controls will take on a different role depending on how you are using it. For example, in a sound recording program the dials may be used for gain, while in a lighting program it could be used for setting the tempo of a chase. Likewise with the faders, they could be for intensity of the lamps in Cuelux or for setting levels on your multi-track recording in Cubase. To help with this you can download a PDF template from the Behringer website and print it out to use as an overlay. Though in reality you probably won’t bother as it only takes a few minutes to learn what the buttons do and you won’t forget.
One thing I’ve not mentioned so far is that the BCF2000 is actually a motorised fader wing, this means that each individual fader has a motor attached and can travel up and down automatically. This is essential when using it with a software application because it keeps your physical controller in sync with the program. Move a fader on the BCF2000 and its on screen equivalent will also move, however without motors if you moved the on screen fader you would get nothing on the controller. Thankfully this isn’t the case and when you drag the fader with the mouse on the screen, the fader on your BCF2000 will keep up automatically. This is sure to bring out your inner child and you will inevitably play with this for hours, it just never gets old!
The BCF2000 is a good size, the faders are nicely spaced and each one offers a generous 100mm of travel. There is ample room between buttons such that you won’t press two at the same time by mistake and there was no sign of any delay between moving the fader and the action being represented on-screen and vice-versa.
The motors certainly aren’t the quietest I’ve heard though, and the movement can be a little jerky at slow speeds. However, they have a good response and will go from zero to top very quickly. Again though, noise is as issue here because the faders tend to slam into the end stop positions quite hard. Most of the time you will be using the physical faders anyway so it shouldn’t cause a big problem. After all, why would you buy a fader wing if you’re going to carry on using the virtual controls?
While the BCF2000 did work straight out of the box for me I did encounter a couple of issues. By default the buttons are assigned to toggle rather than flash, this doesn’t make sense when using it with Cuelux because you want to press a button to trigger a cue and not have it latch on. You can go in and manually edit all the controls and customise them yourself, however this isn’t an easy process and I found the manual difficult to follow. The program that Behringer supply on their website (B-CONTROL EDIT) is also very confusing. Fortunately Visual Productions have created a file you can transfer to the BCF2000 that will set up the controller for you to use with Cuelux. This was very simple to install in the BCF2000 and once I’d done that everything became much easier.
Within Cuelux each of your eight playback faders corresponds directly to a physical fader on the controller, there are two buttons at the top of each fader. The bottom of the two acts as a flash for that channel sending its value to top while you have the button held down, when you release it the value returns to where ever the fader is. The top button is the playback button, press this to advance a cue in the stack. If you keep the playback button held down for longer than 2 seconds then as in the software it will stop the playback. Finally, at the top the rotary knob will act as an override for the playback speed. Unfortunately the knob doesn’t have end stops or a detente in the middle, so you will have to use the LED lights to judge what the position is. This is awkward as the knob blocks the LEDs making it hard to work out where you are without leaning over the unit to look.
You are able to use the four buttons located to the bottom right to change pages and also set the tempo. A nice addition that makes setting up chases much easier by enabling you to tap your finger to the beat. By default the final button of the four controls the global ‘Fog’ button.
That more or less covers everything the unit enables you to do in Cuelux, but you simply cannot underestimate the value of having physical faders to use. For a start it enables you to do cross fades, something you’ll never manage with a mouse because it can only control one on-screen fader at a time!
If I could add anything it would be a couple of extra USB ports on the back on the unit as a hub. This would enable me to plug in the DMX dongle directly to the controller and also add a goose neck lamp. For the price you can buy this for I can’t imagine anyone who buys a package such as Cuelux not getting one of these to compliment it. You are given so much freedom being able to just reach out and push a fader and it makes the software solutions a much more attractive proposition to somebody on a budget! You could buy the entire set up for around £500, and if you don’t already have a laptop to run it on you could pick up a budget machine very cheaply and you’ll still be saving money even on a second hand lighting console.
If you own a software lighting controller and have ever given thought to investing in a fader wing, think no longer and buy one!