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Control Console

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by Charc, Mar 18, 2007.

  1. Charc

    Charc Well-Known Member

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    So by posting this, I pretty much make it public that I don't know much about tech. theatre... I blame the schools these days. Anyways. We have a Strand 300 series console. After much of teaching myself, I'm now pretty comfortable with it, and love it to death (shh, it's a step up from our other systems, I won't even outline it besides it was a CHEAP system... in 1968.). Anyways, I know I'm not even using a 1/10th of it's power, but I still think it's great. Well I've been looking around at other consoles. One that seems common is the ETC Expression 3. From what I can tell, it has 24 faders (or are those subs?). I really haven't ever gotten my mind around instruments not on faders. And we don't really understand / use sub-masters. From what I understand, our board has a max of 100 channels. And on 2 scene mode (our default so to speak) we have 48 channels. We completely ignore the other 52. Well, all 52 except channel 99. See, no one actually taught me (and subsequently those under me in the hierarchy) how to use the board. (Our old TD retired last year.) So, since we don't know how to remove dimmers from channels, we just repatch them to a new channel, because a dimmer can not be in multiple channels. So channel 99 has now become our "Dump channel". I know, it's pretty stupid, but we are pretty much over our heads on anything more complicated then recording cues and patching stuff in. (Speaking of recording cues, I got into a semi argument with our director over Live vs. Preview modes. Any thoughts on that too?) But I digress. With a board like Expression 3, when creating a show, do you just do everything digitally (ex: 43 @ 65 *), without any slider control? Can you patch channels to sliders, so to speak? How can you work manually, on the fly? Any thoughts?
    Thanks, Charlie
     
  2. Les

    Les Well-Known Member

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    The Expression 3 might be more than you need. I believe our model had a capacity of 1024, but I'm not sure because it was a pretty long time ago. The faders are, in fact submasters. You can patch any channel or group of channels onto a single fader. However, a light does not need to be on a submaster for you to be able to write it in to a cue. To complicate things even further, you also can program ten pages of submasters giving you a total of 240 different options. These can be labeled on the list on the monitor. To run a show on the fly, it is easiest to pick what looks you want and program each on to a different sub. Accordingly, you can also program subs to chase selected lights, and even add fade (dwell) times. Using your lights without touching the submasters is easy to do also. Just type in [channel] [1] [full], for example. Everything is always there without needing any kind of patching. It's complicated and can sometimes be prohibiting only having 24 submasters to work with. I would prefer a higher-level Express with about 96 manual faders and 24 submasters.
     
  3. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    I hate to disappoint you but unless you plan on a whole ton of money for Moving lights coming your way soon. The Strand 300 is probably a pretty good match for your needs. I personally would prefer an ETC Express. But the 300 is a very solid board for standard conventional lighting.

    Let me give you a board operation strategy to get you started. Most newbies want a slider for every light. While this is convenient at times you note that most of the high end boards don't have channel faders. Thats because in time you develop the skills to run most things from the key pad. The sliders can actually slow down a really good board op.

    Once you've got all your lights focused and gel in them. Break them up into groups based on areas of the stage they light, specific scenes, color washes, specials, any combinations you can think of. Record each of these as a submaster. Now you have think of these submasters as your crayon box to color the stage with. Mix the look you like with the submasters, add in something from a single channel if you need it, and record the cue. It won't take long until you see what the fader channels are really unnecesscary.

    Here is the link to the Strand webpage for downloading manuals. Start by reading the manual and quick start guides. This isn't easy but you only need to understand the basics of programing a cue, adjusting fade times, and things like that.

    I know we've got some Strand 300 experts around here who can help you out... I'm sadly not one. But ask specific questions of how to do things and You'll get answers quick.
     
  4. DarSax

    DarSax Active Member

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    I'd definitely second the thought that the Expression is too much for your venue. Get some model of Express--how many dimmers do you have?--and it'll probably be perfect for you. It's a great learning tool, it's unbelievably simple and everyone and their grandmother swears by it for everything except intels.
     
  5. SteveB

    SteveB Well-Known Member

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    At this point in time, I would not be investing on consoles that were introduced over 10 years ago, which is pretty much any of the ETC Expression/Insight/Express series (as good as they are), as well as any of the older Strand series.

    I agree with others that for the time being, the 300 probably suits your current needs. The next generation of Strands, currently being introduced, as well as what will be coming out of ETC in the next year or so, will offer a lot more bang for the buck, especially in terms of dealing with moving lights and intelligent accessories. As example, rather then plunking down $12,000 (US) for an Expression, I'd be buying a Congo with playback wing.

    I know that it can be difficult trying to read and understand the manual for the 300, but that's pretty much what you should do. Then keep posting lots and lots of what seem like annoying newbie questions here on CB and ignore the sarcasm from the experienced folks, as there will be *some* answers that will guide you along. That's what we're here for.

    SB
     
    Charc likes this.
  6. Charc

    Charc Well-Known Member

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    Yea I'm sticking with the 300. I was just curious as to how one would go about using the newer generations of boards. Though I guess I should focus on what I have right now. I've through relevant parts of a couple of tutorials, but not all of that information sticks. Especially if it's something I'll use once per show. Thanks for the input though.
     
  7. Bucky

    Bucky Member

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    i have been using a strand 300 for like 5 years now and i call my self somewhat of an expert on its use in small venue i my self am Underusing it rtight now i only have 50 dimmers and am using all 4 pages of submasters but for the most part when it comes to running a show i do it all of the go button and i prefur the live screen because it lets me know what is really going on at the time
     
  8. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    First off the Strand 300 was only pulled off the market in December so don't think of it like it's an "OLD" piece of junk. Although like the Expression and Express it first came out a long time ago and has been replaced. SteveB's right a Congo Jr. is a great way to go right now when it comes to bang for the buck. The new consoles that came out to replace the 300 are a little more intuitive in their software and handle moving lights a lot better, but the basic operation is the same. Take a look at the strand palette series page... you'll find some familiar looking boards... although not as funky modular as yours. The basic functions are the same.

    Anyway to answer your question about the Expression 3. That's 24 submasters. Each submaster can be programmed to control one specific channel or any number of channels at any chosen levels. Like programing a cue, you set the look you like and then record it on a submaster fader. The Expression 3 has 10 pages of submasters. That means you can record 10 different looks on each fader. Your faders are subs 1-24, then hit a button and those faders are now subs 25-48, hit a button and they are now 49-72... all they way to 240.

    On some of the high end boards, like the new Strand Light Palettes or EOS, you'll see playback faders. These are sort of like having 10/12 different grand masters faders. It's hard for someone who is used to just using a limited number of conventional lights to imagine needing to run cues on multiple grandmasters at once. But that's how it is in the big time.
     
  9. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    With your Strand 300, you actually have more control power at your finger tips than you really would with with the Express(ion) series from ETC. One of the wonderful things about Strand is that up until the newest generations of consoles, all of the consoles have run on the same operating system. This means that you could take a show from a 300 to a 500 or vice-versa. You can also take a show from a 300 or 500 up to one of the new Palettes. Also, one of the the nice things about the Strand OS is that if you ever need more than your 100 channels you can call your local Strand dealer and they can sell you a software password that will unlock more channels.

    But here is more on running your console. As it was mentioned before, pretty much everywhere you go as you progress in the theatre world you will find that few people use the phyisical faders on their consoles for much more than submasters. Most cueing and level setting is done via the keypad. You might find that you have a leg up when you get to college (if you stay in theatre) if you start to learn to key in your commands.

    On to patching. One of my favorite things about Strand is the ability to add and delete channels. When I start a new show I will completely clear the patch. This is accomplished by going into patch and hitting the (CHAN) softkey (this is the second from the right under the LCD on the facepanel). Then you can select channel numbers, in your case it sounds like 1-99 and then hit the (DEL CHAN) softekey followed by [*]. You will probably be asked if you are sure, in which case it [*] again. Now when you go back to live you should see no channels on the display. When you go back into patch you can patch any dimmer (Output in Stand speak) to any channel and only the channels that you use will show up in the LIVE display. Also, if you make a mistake patching, you don't need to assign the dimmer to a channel, you can unpatch a dimmer by pressing 21 [@] [*] for example (to unpatch dimmer 21).

    Here is something on your LIVE vs. PREVIEW debate. At the most basic, the names of each mode speak for themselves, when you are in LIVE, anything you do will show up on stage. In PREVIEW you can edit cues, but you won't see them on stage. When you are in LIVE, any changes that you make to cues won't be recorded until you record or update a cue. In PREVIEW all changes are recorded as soon as you hit [*]. This is especially important to keep in mind if you keep your console in Tracking mode ( you will know if you are in tracking if under the LIVE at the top of the screen it says "Tracking on") as if you want to only change the current cue in PREVIEW then you have to press the [Q-Only] button before you press [*].

    Another useful thing to note when writing cues is the differences between Record and Update. Record will either create a new cue or record over an existing cue. When you record over a cue the commands for each channel are stored. Update can only be used when working on existing cues, but what it does is only record new information to the cue. So if you change the level of a channel and then hit Update the console will record that change into the cue, but won't touch the information on any other channel. This again is something that only makes a big difference if you work in Tracking mode.

    Submasters, touched on a little in this thread, let me see if I can elaborate/clarify. A submaster is like a cue, but instead of recording it for playback on the GO button, you assign it to a physical fader so that it is readily accessible all the time. So, say you have a look that you use in your space every time that there is an orchestra concert. You can record that to a sub and then all you have to do is bring up one fader and you are set. This of course only works if you don't change your patch all the time. I always write a sub that has the house lights so that I can bring them up quickly if we need them. As it was mentioned before you can record FX to subs for easy playback as well.

    I could ramble on, but that may not be too helpful for you (i suppose it could be though). I work on Strand consoles every day, and there are many other here on the boards that do as well. I (and the rest of us) would be happy to keep offering any help we can. And I know you said you weren't going to at the moment, but I wouldn't recommend a switch to ETC until you can get an EOS. Why? Because your Strand 300 is more similar to and Obsession than either the Express or Expression line. Stick a mouse on it and you have, IMO a comparable or superior console to the Obsession (I used to be someplace that had both and I loved the 300).
     
  10. Charc

    Charc Well-Known Member

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    A lot of great info, thanks. On submasters, I think we don't use them as our light plot is a very dynamic change. If we are within 6 weeks of a show everytime I have a free, it'll change. It makes submasters impractical. And about live vs. preview, I think I'll stick with live. Things I would like to learn more about, FX. I'm thinking of our upcoming show (Rhinoceros) and solely because I want to get some experience. I'm thinking of one scene, where there is a stampede passing through, and perhaps we'll have some instruments flashing and maybe a steel rhinoceros gobo. So FX, if I understand it, is the way to go, but the tutorial isn't very clear on FX in general...
     

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