Almost two years ago I dedicated a column to Figure53’s debut of QLab Video. Since then, Chris Ashworth, creator of QLab, has been a busy man. Version 2.0 has been out for a just a little while, but it is already making a huge impact. I’d say half of all the working professionals I know in media and sound design and technology have emailed me to say, “Have you checked out QLab 2 yet? It’s great!”

Version 2.0 adds a slew of new features across the board, including synchronization of both sound and video cues and a visualizer window that allows you to custom create curves and edit waveforms in real time. For video in particular, QLab 2.0 has more than doubled its feature set, allowing animation, customizable geometry, and a live camera input. For intermediate and advanced users, the application has integrated another powerful Apple tool: Quartz Composer. Now every video cue can have a separate custom renderer created in Quartz composer (so long as each Quartz composition has an “Image” input port), allowing users to map imagery to 3D objects, apply CoreImage filters and do much more complex animations than are natively possible in QLab itself. And since Quartz’s rendering engine is built into the structure of OS X, this solution is much more robust than a secondary application might otherwise be. It’s a fantastically elegant solution.

Features aside, though, QLab’s most interesting innovation might just be its licensing structure. In many ways, licenses are handled just as they’ve always been with QLab: the basic version is totally free, and the Pro Audio, Pro Video and Pro MIDI licenses are $249 each, with a bundle of all of them going for $599. The brilliant addition to this scheme is the rental license. For three dollars a day, now you can “rent” any of the Pro licenses for installations on as many computers as you want. Essentially, this means a designer who wants to use QLab can create a show with the Pro features without the necessity of the venue or producing organization paying for a permanent license. As long as they have an Intel Mac, they can run QLab Pro ultra cheap. I have to believe that this is going to be a game-changing model for the entertainment software industry.

I’m very much looking forward to seeing what Figure53 does with the next release, because 2.0 is an impressive step. (Here’s hoping for DMX input/output over ArtNet!)