Control/Dimming Controlling conventional dimmers and LED pars

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by vanness, Jan 11, 2013.

  1. vanness

    vanness Member

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    My HS theatre is currently upgrading from its old Teatronics system. The new system is 24 conventional dimmers and 8 LED par cans. I'm unsure of the best way to control it. I am between the ETC SmartFade 2496 and ML. I've been looking online but can't tell which is better for the situation. From what I can tell the 2496 looks better for conventional dimmers and the ML is better for moving lights.


    I'm open to other options as well, the $1,500-2,000 price range is ideal, but I could go up to $2,500. I want a physical board and not a computer.
     
  2. Les

    Les Well-Known Member

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    For only 24 conventional dimmers, the ML works just fine. Really well actually, since there are exactly 24 faders on board. Certainly would be less of a headache than controlling the LED pars with the 24/48//48/96. You can toggle between INT A and INT B to get to the set of lights that you want without disturbing the look on stage. The best thing about the ML are the palettes which enable you to quickly select frequently used colors instead of manually dialing them in, which you would have to do on the non-ML desk. Assign the LEDs as 'Fixtures' and choose groups, individuals, etc. Not the most intuitive desk, but pretty easy once you can think on its terms.

    As a high school student, are you in charge of choosing a console (which seems odd) or are you simply making recommendations? Reason I ask is because while the Smartfades are wonderful consoles (er... depending on who you ask; but probably the best physical consoles in your price range), you must look past what you want and consider what may actually be the best fit for the long-term goal. Generally, that stuff goes out to bid unless the theatre department is funding it directly.

    Welcome to the booth!
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2013
  3. vanness

    vanness Member

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    Yeah, it looks like the ML would be better for controlling the LED pars, but the 2496s ability to do 96 one-scene operation would be useful for people who aren't trained on the board.

    Yeah, i've talked to several people in the field (and now asking online) to get a range of opinions, but I get to make the final decision. I've previously upgraded the entire sound system and made upgrades to the lighting system. This year as a senior I'm finishing by upgrading the dimmers/board.
     
  4. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    Les is exactly right. Of those two (and in that price range) the ML is the best choice. However, I would be concerned about recommending it to you without a very clear understanding of your planned useage. The Smartfades are well built devices that do what they were designed to do very well, but they are not traditional light boards and you are very limited if your needs expand in the future. They can be an excellent choice but they can also be frustrating if it's not what you really need. So make sure you have a really solid understanding of how they work, what they can and can't do, and what you plan to do with them first.

    I think if you can get up into the $4k range you can get into a Strand Basic Palette 2 which is one of my favorite choices for smaller schools, community theaters, and churches. It has it's limitations as well but you are getting a real pro-style light board and some things about it are upgradeable. Sorry I haven't heard an accurate price for about 4 years so I'm not sure what they are actually selling for.
     
  5. Les

    Les Well-Known Member

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    I'm not so sure I agree with that. Depending on which LEDs you get, each fixture could use up a block of 6 or more sliders. Multiply that by 8 and it would be very laborious to make a relatively simple change. For shows, you will probably operate it in scene mode, but the setup time would still be much longer. It would also be harder to get consistency among colors when they're all on separate sliders. This is just from my understanding of how I assume Wide Mode on the 48/96 works, so take from it what you will.

    Once the ML is set up correctly, it's not hard to operate. I do contract work at a church where volunteers use one to run 24+ channels of conventionals, 8 LED pars and 5 Robe moving heads. The board is programmed by staff (er, me) a few days before service, but once it's online it's not so bad. A printed out 'Quick Start' near the console could help further. The only thing is that with the ML, Scene Mode is somewhat limited in that you are only allowed 24 looks per page. Of course, you can switch pages but that's sometimes not the most fun thing to be doing mid-show. I'm not sure how many scenes per page the 48/96 offers. Again, these are all considerations that should be taken for not only what works for you, but will work ten years in the future for different operators and skill sets. Don't sacrifice functionality to cater to those who can't be bothered to learn the console.

    What type of dimmers did you choose, out of curiosity?
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2013
  6. AhClem

    AhClem Member

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    I'm biased... I'm the manufacturer of the BlueLite X1 system.
    I know you're not looking for a computer based solution, but I'd urge you to at least watch our video showing how you gain the best of both worlds using our system (i.e. Using a console as the control surface for operation).
    You can create a cues that can contain (control) anything from a single DMX channel to up to 8196 channels across all 16 DMX universes (i.e. dimmers, LED's, Media Servers, moving lights, Hazers, etc.), assign the cue to an X1 "Submaster" then use your external console as your control surface to operate the show. I've performed shows using the an ETC Smartfade console (I really like that console), but I've also used Lepruchaun and even low cost Chauvet consoles in a pinch. You can still use any of the consoles internal functions (chases/scenes/whatever) to help enhance the show. Take a look at our website and contact me if I can help.
     
  7. dgourley

    dgourley Member

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    I agree with gafftaper's assessment. For a Theater who can't afford an ion, I will set them up with a basic palette console with 256 channels as a good board for theater use. Split faders, proper syntax and handling of LED and basic movers is better than a limited console that does not work remotely close to a house board (ala the SFade ML) I have seen ML's used for everything, even stage manager stations, and shudder with each use. There are better solutions at that level and price.
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2013
  8. alyx92

    alyx92 Active Member

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    I agree with an Ion, I think it's a great education console. If you cant afford it, I'd look into an Element. Same software and syntax, but a little less expensive and would be fine controlling a few movers in a high school setting.
     
  9. dgourley

    dgourley Member

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    Actually, it's not the same software. Syntax, yes. Software, no. The Element is more expensive than a basic palette and with limited intelligent fixture ability.
     
  10. Tex

    Tex Active Member

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    The Eos Family Software is the only available download for all four consoles. I'm sure there are variations as to what gets installed on each console, but it's pretty much the same software.
     
  11. lwinters630

    lwinters630 Well-Known Member

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    I would recommend the ION or any of the express, expression, insight boards. We have a ML in one of our venues and it is not user friendly. You really need to understand it in order to run or change things. The ML is set up with 28 led pars, 4 S-4's, and florescent relays. I am constantly getting calls from students and leaders on how to run it.

    Three other venues have express, expression, insight 3 and are running leds pars and conventionals, and anyone with a few minutes can run them.

    The high school venue upgraded to the ION 18 months ago. It is running 24 Led par zoom's, 6 vivid -r led cyc, 40+ conventional and some movers. I can train the basic to any student/staff in 15 minutes on how to run and bring up basic looks.

    Running full shows is very easy on the ION. I would suggest to have you vendor give you a demo for a week or two for each and it will become very obvious why I suggest not to go with the ML.
     
  12. danTt

    danTt Well-Known Member

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    I would not reccomend an express, expression, or insight to anyone at this stage. They are pushing 20 years old and their ability to deal with LED's and other devices that are becoming more and more standard is very poor compared to todays alternatives. The Element is certainly your best choice, if you can find a little extra money. It's much more future proof than the smartfade, and is really an excellent console for it's price. You will regret the smartfade choice down the road, I think.
     
  13. xander

    xander Well-Known Member

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    I hate that all of these threads turn into "get more money and buy and ION." He has a budget. Suggesting a console that is more than 3 times his budget is not helpful. Even the Element costs twice the high end of his budget. How is this helping the OP?

    $2k is a tight budget for a fully functioning, "real world," theater desk. I'd say that SmartfadeML is an ok choice, but, as has been noted, will not prepare students for the professional theater world. Smartfades are pretty unanimously regarded as infinitely easier to use with a PC running Smartsoft attached. And that adds to the cost. But of course can also be something added at a later date when more money is available. Another option you could look at is a very simple board that still has at it's heart the preset philosophy, but can store cues. I'm thinking of the Leprecon and Lightronics style desks here. They are not the fanciest or greatest consoles, but they still have all the necessary functionality to perform what you need. Something like the Lightronics TL-2448 has a softpatch, a moving light function, cue stack. It's quite similar to the Express 24/48 in it's functionality. It's a different syntax, obviously, but once learned, it's not difficult.

    Everybody has to start somewhere. And not everybody can afford ETC or Strand. There are other options, though. Maybe you can get by with your current system for a while longer until you have the money for something like an Element or Basic Palette?

    And, as I think only one person so far has mentioned, GET A DEMO. A console is a big deal. Get demos of anything that you are considering buying before you make any purchase. If your dealer or manufacturer is not willing to demo a unit for you, then you don't want to be buying from them anyway because they clearly don't have your best interests in mind.

    My $.02,

    -Tim
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2013
  14. AudJ

    AudJ Well-Known Member

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    I'm no pro here, but I thought the EOS ETC, and the Palette Philips/Strand?

    I originally wanted an ETC Element, but ended up with the 48/96 Strand Preset Palette. I love using the software, but the board is huge. In my opinion, the Basic Palette would be just fine for this situation.
     
  15. Tex

    Tex Active Member

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    That's correct. I was commenting that the Eos, Ion, Gio and Element all use the same software.
     
  16. lwinters630

    lwinters630 Well-Known Member

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    I would throw away our smart fade if it was up to me, that's how much I do not like it. I think the element is still out of the OP's price point about $4,500. And as Xander points out the OP has a limited budget which is why I suggested the express, expression, or insight. There are very good used ones out there and they are still fully supported. I use all of them including the smartfade ML and ION on a regular basis with students and adults volunteers. The OP is not running a huge ML rig. He is also in a HS and needs the tactile functionality and does not want a computer. That said given the budget if he could find an insight or expression he would not only get channel sliders, sub-masters, on screen labeling cues, but also have encoders for the LEDs or movers and be very happy.


    No disrespect to anyone, its just MHO.
     
  17. JohnD

    JohnD Well-Known Member Fight Leukemia

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  18. TimMiller

    TimMiller Well-Known Member

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    I have used the 301 and loved it. It was very simple to learn and operate. The user manual was simple to read and understand. I am sure you could get a demo easily.
     

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