ETC Express upgrade

Massey28694

Active Member
Joined
Jan 19, 2019
Location
Ashe County, NC, USA
Hey all! New to CB, but so far see a wealth of info out there! Small community theatre here with a 282 seat house. Have a ETC Express and looking to upgrade so we can start incorporating LED, moving lights, etc. Am considering an Element or Element 2, possibly preowned due to budget constraints. All thoughts and recommendations are welcome! Appreciate the help guys.
 

theatricalmatt

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 25, 2013
Location
New England
Depending on your inventory and dimming situation, I would look at (in no particular order), an Ion Xe, or a used Ion, or an Element 2, or a used Element -- actually, that probably is the order that I would select them in. The "used Ion" is a little chancy, as the older generation Ions may not be supported as well in the future.

Much as I loved working on an Express, they're horribly outdated now. I would keep it in storage just in case something blows up just before a show; maybe dust it off once a year to make certain it still works, or set it up in a smaller black box space / lighting lab set up.
 

JChenault

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 5, 2009
Location
seattle, wa USA
If you plan on movers I would probably not go to an element. My experience is that it is very difficult to control location on ETC boards without physical encoders.
 
  • Like
Reactions: RonHebbard

SteveB

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 20, 2004
Location
Brooklyn, NY
Depending on your inventory and dimming situation, I would look at (in no particular order), an Ion Xe, or a used Ion, or an Element 2, or a used Element -- actually, that probably is the order that I would select them in. The "used Ion" is a little chancy, as the older generation Ions may not be supported as well in the future.

Much as I loved working on an Express, they're horribly outdated now. I would keep it in storage just in case something blows up just before a show; maybe dust it off once a year to make certain it still works, or set it up in a smaller black box space / lighting lab set up.
Probably not recommended is the WinXP Ions as OS version 3 (we are at version 2.8 currently) is not going to be supported. So 1st generation Win7 would work. Or get a WinXP and get it upgraded.

Big advantage to the Ion over Element is physical encoders.
 
  • Like
Reactions: RonHebbard

RonK

Member
Joined
Nov 13, 2008
Location
Vermont
Good suggestions above, but if budget constraints don't allow for even a used Ion or Element, check out ETCNomad software, to run on your computer or Nomad with Puck (ETC mini computer). It's the same operating system and Element/Ion/Eos without all the hardware. Not the greatest for alot of moving lights, but for a few it's been fine for me. Add and X-Keys keyboard, touchscreen monitor, and maybe a fader wing, and you have a pretty powerful little package. And it's easy to upgrade into an Ion etc. later.
 

Gobokat

Active Member
Joined
Jan 14, 2015
Location
Chicago
@RonK - courious about your recommendation of the Nomad Puck - Nomad as a backup or design instance on a laptop I get, but once you price a puck and a gadget for DMX output and then, as you suggest add an X-keys keyboard or fader wing you're pretty much in the same price range as an Element2 - but have many more pieces to set up, pack away, etc. I've tried to put together Nomad Puck packages many times due to small spaces that I produce in but each time the price of the base system plus accessories just doesn't make sense against a full custom hardware face panel of the Element2.
 

Massey28694

Active Member
Joined
Jan 19, 2019
Location
Ashe County, NC, USA
Hey all! Quick question: currently running the Express board with SmartPac 10a dimmers. IF I were to acquire an Element 2, would it be a case of simply plugging in the new board or would I need other equipment to talk to my dimmer packs? All fixtures are old style, will be slowly moving to led and a few movers. Thanks in advance for your wisdom!!
 

SteveB

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 20, 2004
Location
Brooklyn, NY
Hey all! Quick question: currently running the Express board with SmartPac 10a dimmers. IF I were to acquire an Element 2, would it be a case of simply plugging in the new board or would I need other equipment to talk to my dimmer packs? All fixtures are old style, will be slowly moving to led and a few movers. Thanks in advance for your wisdom!![/QUOTE
The Express is running DMX so it’s just a matter of connecting to the DMX output on the Element
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: Massey28694

Massey28694

Active Member
Joined
Jan 19, 2019
Location
Ashe County, NC, USA
Appreciate the fast response guys! I know buying online can be risky, but I have seen some selling on eBay for unbelievable prices (a brand new Element 2-6000 sold for $1437 last nite from a seemingly legit seller!). Should I steer clear of these or just be sure to read the fine print? Community theater, so cost is always a concern. Thank you again guys!
 

theatricalmatt

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 25, 2013
Location
New England
@Massey28694 -- You would unplug the Express (DMX and power), plug in the Element (same DMX and power). You would still need to patch the dimmers on the Element.

eBay has some legitimate stores that sell new equipment; I tend to avoid used equipment like the plague, as it means that you're inheriting problems. Problems that sometimes even the seller isn't aware they might have had.
 

Massey28694

Active Member
Joined
Jan 19, 2019
Location
Ashe County, NC, USA
This is great news, as it will allow us to take a huge step toward upgrading our system! Now another related question, would LED fixtures (or even a mover) work running thru our SmartPac dimmers or is that where additional equipment might be needed?
 

sk8rsdad

Well-Known Member
Premium Member
Fight Leukemia
Joined
Aug 15, 2008
Location
Ottawa
Typically, a theatrical LED fixture does not require voltage dimming as provided by a SmartPac dimmer. Instead a DMX fixture is powered via a dedicated circuit and controlled as a DMX device. It might help to think of your SmartPac dmmer as a DMX device and a future LED fixture as another DMX device instead of thinking of the LED fixture as something that needs to be controlled by the SmartPac dimmer.
 

SteveB

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 20, 2004
Location
Brooklyn, NY
Typically, a theatrical LED fixture does not require voltage dimming as provided by a SmartPac dimmer. Instead a DMX fixture is powered via a dedicated circuit and controlled as a DMX device. It might help to think of your SmartPac dmmer as a DMX device and a future LED fixture as another DMX device instead of thinking of the LED fixture as something that needs to be controlled by the SmartPac dimmer.
And as an addendum to SK8's post, any LED's and/or movers you add to the system will want "other than dimmed power", I.E. you do not want to be powering from a dimmer pack, they want a dedicated relay or constant on power source. If you need to be able to control the on/off of the fixtures, the ETC ColorSource relay is an option.
 

JohnD

Well-Known Member
Fight Leukemia
Joined
Jan 11, 2012
Location
north central OK
Appreciate the fast response guys! I know buying online can be risky, but I have seen some selling on eBay for unbelievable prices (a brand new Element 2-6000 sold for $1437 last nite from a seemingly legit seller!). Should I steer clear of these or just be sure to read the fine print? Community theater, so cost is always a concern. Thank you again guys!
Just a warning, but there are lot's of counterfeit consoles online. The most frequent suspects are MA and Avolites. The Element 2 is too new of a console for their to be well used units at that low a price. I see that there is an Element 2 1K available from a New Jersey vendor (with a website and a brick and mortar store) for $ 4300, that is a much more realistic price.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Taniith

Massey28694

Active Member
Joined
Jan 19, 2019
Location
Ashe County, NC, USA
Hey guys (and gals). Y’all are a wealth of info and invaluable to a somewhat newbie like me! Hope you won’t laugh me off this board, but please give me your thoughts on this proposal. Small community theatre with a small budget. Currently running an old ETC Express, 48 SmartPac dimmers, and a slew of old fixtures. Remarkably, we put on some pretty fine productions and our lighting designer does a great job with what we have to work with. But an upgrade is well overdue and we have our sights on an Element 2 and transitioning to LED fixtures and movables. We had a ETC dealer give options for full replacement and a hybrid option, retaining some of the old fixtures. Both prices were well into double six figures, which is simply not reachable for us. So my proposed plan, in very simple terms...

I understand we can swap out the Express with the new Element 2 and it should work just fine with our existing setup (after patching in the channels). We have power and DMX (or extensions) available in all locations. Can we simply run a second DMX from our board, creating a second universe just for our newer LEDs and movables (running direct to the fixtures, not through the SmartPacs)? Looking at DMX fixtures (with my very limited knowledge), is it a case of where I supply them power and the DMX signal and they become controllable from the board? I would hate to sink 20-30 thousand into upgrades only to find out I need some expensive special relays or ?? to make it all run. And by having multiple universes, does that create special challenges when programming and playing back cues for shows?

We are trying to be realistic here and am hoping we can design sufficient upgrades to controls and acquire some new (or gently used) fixtures and bring this in for 20 to 30 thousand. Won’t be anything fancy, but it would open up a whole new lighting world for our little theatre. I am researching and trying to think through the details, but again my knowledge is limited, so I’m afraid I may be missing some crucial details.

Look forward to to your thoughts and comments and thank you all in advance for what you do to support our community.