# etc boards

##### Active Member
So here it is,

I have about 1 1/2 months to select a new lighting console. Our old colortran is ready for the grave yard. I work in a 365 seat junior college theatre. I want an ETC because it has been the industry standard for the last 10+ years and I think it will continue to be so for awhile. So, I thought this would be easy. Then I find out that the expression line is going away...what am I left with? I'm scared of the congo because I hear that if it breaks down...I would have to send it halfway around the globe to get it fixed (I live in TX). The AEO is so new...and I don't know if I can get a demo on it. Both of which I might have to get a new dimmer rack for as well. Question, if you had to get a board from ETC for a small college setting...what would you be looking at?

#### pyrus

##### Member
how big s the lighting system? and do you have many moving heads,color scrollers,ect.? The Expression 3 is the one I would reccomend. It uses Emphasis, and has a good intelligent lighting lighting setup.

The Congo isn't too bad, but the intelligent lighting section is it's one saving grace. Many of the keys are still "reserved for future use" and the control syntax is backwards to the rest of the world. I do love the ease of patching in intelligent fixtures, there is a special browser window that make this a snap. It also has a really cool feature that makes dimmer-checks a breeze.

I hear EOS is pretty good, but that may be overkill for your operation.

The place I am working right now has a Congo, and it has about 400 seats (I think), but it also has a lot of intelligent lights- mostly color scrollers, Nexeras, and S4 Revs.

#### jmabray

##### Active Member
Can I ask where in Texas that you live?

I can arrange for Demo's to happen in many parts of the state and will be happy to help in any way that I can.

Jeff

#### Van

##### CBMod
CB Mods
Texas ! Why, thats the home of Etertainment Technology now!
No, I won't suggest Horizon this time. If you are bringing in road shows and te like it's a little too difficult to program and not standard enough for most Road guys to work with.

#### Footer

##### Senior Team
Senior Team
I would seriously consider looking elsewear if you are in a small venue. The expression line is VERY VERY old and outdated technology. PC controls have come a long way, and are a valid form of control. Also, you might want to look at the strand line or the strand "mallets" as they are being deamed. If you could pick up a 300 series or 500 series that would also be a very nice console for a small venue. Don't go with the expression, there are just wayyyyy to many things that they do not do that other boards do do that sell for much cheaper. There are too many non expression consoles out there that have really nice conventional controls plus a nice moving light package. The expression was great for what it did at the time, but its over 10 years old technology.

#### gafftaper

##### Senior Team
Senior Team
Fight Leukemia
What's your budget? How many dimmers? Are you using all conventionals? How many DMX toys are you running off this?

My college is getting a new theater this summer so I'm well studied up on the subject and I've seen a lot of demos. Unfortuantley, you are about a year or two too soon as all of the lower end ETC boards are going to be replaced in the near future. Until then if you insist on going ETC your choices are limited:

You could go with an old ETC board that has the Emphasis server band-aid attached to it. I'm not all that impressed with that system. From what I've seen a few years ago instead of going for a redesign they said let's attach emphasis to the system as a patch to get us through a few more years while we do an even bigger redesign. I haven't used it but I know an old school L.D. who hates it because it's not really a low end ETC board and yet it also isn't a high end board. Emphasis is a high tech band-aid to provide a few more functions. He complained that there are a lot of features some of them very basic that are a big hassle to deal with.

Unless you are using a TON of intelligent lighting, EOS is probably not for you... it's also like $35k-$40k. EOS is one of those Connan O'brien "what if they made it" scenarios. It's what would happen if an Obsession had a baby with a Whole Hog/GrandMA. It's a great board for the Broadway/Vegas market but it's probably over kill for your needs. They are planning the release of an "EOS Jr" soon that will be stripped down a little, smaller, and cheaper but it'll probably be too late for your needs.

Congo/Congo Jr. are great boards. I've used them both in 3 different demo's now and been very impressed. I heard some criticism when it first came out about the use of the reverse programing language... but from what I've seen it takes 20 minutes to learn the new syntax. The Europeans have been using this syntax for years and it supposedly cuts your programing time down quite a bit. Congo's pretty cool and I would definitely get a demo. I really like the flexibility of Congo. It literally has a switch that turns off all the high-end intelligent features and makes it the worlds largest two scene preset board if you want. I like the fact that you don't need a mouse to do anything (unlike the Strand boards... more on them later). It was designed with the idea that your hands should be able to learn where the buttons are and you should be able to program looking at the stage and the monitors, not looking back and forth between the keyboard and the stage. I think it was successful. Congo starts at about $23k and Congo Jr. starts around$15k. There is basicly no difference in features between the two models, it's mostly just less buttons, a smaller case, and less channels/universes. I tell you for that \$15k you are getting a TON of features that kick the butt of similar priced products out there.

If your willing to look at Strand I think you'll be very pleasantly surprised. The new Palette/light palette consoles are great. The software is a new variation of the Horizon system. So it's REALLY intuitive and easy to work with. No matter which of the new boards you buy its all the same software. So it's just matter of choosing the interface and number of circuits/universes you need. I'm getting the Classic Palette for my theater. It's a great option for a space that is mostly conventionals. I think if you take a look at the software (you can download it and try it out from the strand website) you'll agree that it's way ahead of what the low end ETC software is like these days. The sad thing is for us ETC guys that this is a little peak into what ETC will probably do with their new consoles... but we have to choose now, not wait for the future.

I'm satisfied with the Strand console I'm getting... not thrilled but satisfied. It uses the mouse and keyboard a lot which doesn't make me the most happy. I'm hoping through a big fund raising drive that we are having (including selling naming rights to the theater) that we get a big chunk of cash to spend on intelligent gear. If we do I'm going to go buy a Congo Jr. to go with my Strand board. If I were you I would take a hard look at Strand... but probably end up buying Congo. Get some Demos!!

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#### gafftaper

##### Senior Team
Senior Team
Fight Leukemia
My favorite Congo features.
-A set of buttons that can be programed to do anything and operate completely independent of what is going on with the rest of the board. Power up your intelligent gear, house lights, work lights, some sort of special... whatever you want at the touch of a button and it won't be part of whatever you are recording on stage.

-The inteligent lighting section is great. It has a whole bunch of pre-programed moves built in. No need to spend a lot of time trying to get your lights to all chase in a circle, just set your focus points and use a built in program to do the rest. Boom Done.

#### jmabray

##### Active Member
Just FYI....

Congo Jr with the master fader wing is less than 15K.

Hey Gaff

Great post.

Steve B.

#### gafftaper

##### Senior Team
Senior Team
Fight Leukemia
Hey Gaff
Great post.
Steve B.

Thanks Steve.

Like I said... I've spent the last year researching this very question. I've seen demo's and test driven Congo, Congo Jr. EOS, Light Pallet, and Palette. It's a tough time to be forced to make the decision with so much change going on right now.

Obsession is the current professional "standard" but what will become the next standard? EOS? Congo? Something that isn't released yet? What about Light Palette... there's no reason that Strand can't beat out ETC and become king again... it's just too soon to know. The best advice would be to wait 3 or 4 years and see how it all settles out, but we can't all do that can we?

#### pyrus

##### Member
Congo looks like it will be really good once they get al the features working, they released it before the programming was finished. The place I am working with is basically like the beta for the Congo and all improvements on it, so they tend to have more problems with it. Although I wish the 'Go' button weren't so sensitive, I can make it go several cues by hitting it too hard...especially since it has a thing for blackout cues.:neutral:

#### zac850

##### Well-Known Member
The Congo is great, the EOS will be great (once it stops crashing), but all of these are rather expensive consoles. If you have an unlimited budget with racks and racks of movers and other DMX toys, spring for a GrandMA or Hog3, and get a few DL2s to top it off.....

Of course, since this is a mainly high-school oriented forum, I'm going to assume you don't have an unlimited budget nor racks and racks of movers.

So, what is your situation. In my mind:
ETC is the way to go. Most any professional theater has an ETC console, and they all speak relitivly the same language.

If you have a tiny rig with not more then around 30 dimmers and maybe 2 dmx-toys, an Express 24/48 is the cheep way to go. Plus you an run it as a 2 scene preset if you felt the need (not sure why you'd want to though).

If you have a mid-sized rig, say 50 or 60 dimmers and 4 or 5 dmx toys, look for something in the Express 48/96 or the Express 125 or the Express 250 (depending on how many channels you want in the console).

If you have a large show, with a few moving lights then I'd suggest the Expression 3 (or if you wanted a ton of subs, the Insight 3).

If you have a massive show, with tons of moving lights, and can afford a Congo or the EOS, go for it. I haven't played with the Congo, but the EOS is darn sexy (just buggy, but ETC will get that fixed up) and if you have a dozen or more moving lights and a rig of conventionals, I'd suggest an EOS, but at 50k or so, may be out of budget.

Again, this is what I would do. Lots of people have lots of suggestions. All this talk of the Congo is great, but what do you really need? If you don't have any movers, a Congo is overkill IMO.

#### jmabray

##### Active Member
I'm curious to know why everyone seems to thing the EOS is so buggy.

I have played with several and had them out on multiple shows and had only one problem that could be described as a bug.

What problems have you found it to have?

As for the EOS, wait to see what happens at LDI this year....

Our local HS just got it's Strand Light Palette... one of the cool things is that you can use the off-line editor software on a laptop as a remote monitor or remote console. So, we can plug in a laptop in the house or backstage, and monitor and/or control the lighting console.
Thanks

several other consoles will do this as well... Express/Expression with Emphasis, Congo, Congo jr, and EOS will all do this.

#### soundman

##### Well-Known Member
several other consoles will do this as well... Express/Expression with Emphasis, Congo, Congo jr, and EOS will all do this.

Not 100% true, you can edit show files but you can not use the offline editor for ETC as a desk or monitor.

#### jmabray

##### Active Member
Can you clarify which desk you are talking about here?

As far as I know - each of the above desks can have a laptop as a remote desk or monitor.

With the Express or Expression with Emphasis, (notice that they have to have Emphasis running here) you have to have a copy of wyg running release or greater to enable 'Remote Virtural FacePanel'

With Congo or Congo Jr or EOS, its just a copy of the offline editor software and a dongle that is needed.

#### jmabray

##### Active Member
Last I knew, and this is before the current pallette line came out, you did need a dongle. it was called x-keys or something like that - I guess that they have done away with that.

I would imagine that ETC might as well at some point in time, but for now you do need the dongle.

#### gafftaper

##### Senior Team
Senior Team
Fight Leukemia
Going back a few posts someone was recommending Express and Expression consoles. I want to again stress that you should take a very serious look at the Strand Palette options before purchasing an Express or Expression. While those ETC models have been very popular, they are what 15 years old? They are going to be replaced by ETC VERY soon. Who knows which brand will emerge as the "standard" in 3 or 4 years once the dust settles... it's a gamble at this point. But one thing is clear, the Express/Expression consoles are now legacy equipment... not cutting edge. Yes I know that Emphasis helps it catch up, but Emphasis is simply a band-aid on old technology(Windows Me anyone?).

The power that is in the new Strand/Horizon software is amazing. You are getting the same software in the 2 scene Preset Palette as in the big moving light specialized Light Palette VL. Programing a mover on the 2 scene Preset Palette will blow your mind if you've ever tried to run a mover on an Express. The software is easy to learn, many of the commands are in plane English (i.e. rotate gobo clockwise at 30 RPM). I'm a big fan of Horizon software and they really have done a great job adapting it to these consoles. Here is the link to download the Palette off line software to try out on your P.C. If your theater is 99% conventionals a Palette is a much better route than an old Express.

If you are a house that has more than a few movers and want to go deeper into the intelligent word... then Congo/Congo Jr. is a great option... I've rambled enough about my Congo love above... moving on.

I would describe myself as an "ETC guy". If like me, you needs are mostly conventional lighting, my first choice would be wait a year or two to see how things work out and not be an early adopter of either brand. But, if like me, you can't do that and have to choose now, then it isn't even close, take the Strand Palette over the Express/Expression any day (My new Strand Classic Palette has already been ordered).

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#### fredthe

##### Active Member
Last I knew, and this is before the current pallette line came out, you did need a dongle. it was called x-keys or something like that - I guess that they have done away with that.
It was called xConnect. If you look at the literature for the new Palettes, it still lists the xConnect dongle, but the boards don't seem to need it.