Control/Dimming Help me pick a console!

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by icewolf08, Aug 10, 2009.

  1. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    As this topic comes up every other day I thought that it was just time to post a sticky with some general insight and links to relevant information in other threads. I would also like to take this time to reiterate the importance of the search feature here on ControlBooth.com. Please feel free to use this thread to discuss consoles, however don't use it bash consoles or to say that XYZ console is better than ABC console. I just want to try and consolidate information into one easy to find thread so that every week we don't have a new "Help me pick a console" discussion.

    Choosing a lighting console is not an easy task. There are many factors that need to be taken into account including: budget, venue size, familiarity with the product, ease of service and support, type of lighting rig you run, planning for the future, and the list goes on. In this day and age, as most lighting controllers are now computerized, it is important to take the same advice as when buying any computer: get the best product that you can afford at the time! Technology has a usable lifespan, and if you start with the best you can get now, the longer it will be able to serve your needs.

    There are many consoles and manufacturers to choose from. Each caters to different target markets, some manufacturers have products that cater to a wide market share. The best known manufacturers are:There are many other manufacturers out there (more complete list here), however you tend to hear about the above listed most often.

    One of the most important things that you should do when you are looking into purchasing a new console is GET A DEMO! Even with all the knowledge and knowledgeable people here on CB, there is nothing that will tell you more about a console than sitting down in front of it. If you call your local dealer. We even have a list of theatre suppliers in our wiki, so check it out and add your favorite local shops to the list. If your local supplier is not a dealer for a product that you are interested in, call the manufacturer. Most are more than willing to find a way to set up a demo for you as they all want you to buy their products. When you schedule demos, try to do it when you have a full rig in the air that is typical for the kinds of shows that you do, that way you can put the console through the paces that you would normally use it under. If you do a lot of work with moving lights or LEDs or other "intelligent" devices, make sure that you set some up to try out.

    If you can't get a demo scheduled then the next best thing is you see if there is any offline software available for the consoles you are interested in. While you won't get the feel for sitting at the desk, you can learn how it thinks and you usually can play with many of the features (aside form the turning the lights on bit).

    When upgrading to a new console you may also have to consider if any infrastructure changes are needed to accommodate the new technology. If you are currently running an old analog two-scene preset console you will have to do some work to have a new console interface with your system. If you were running one manufacturer's controller and are now switching you may need to purchase new protocol converters, nodes, or gateways. So it is important to take things like this into account, especially for the purposes of budgeting.

    Next on the list, your venue and what you do. When looking at consoles it is important to look at consoles that do what you need them to do, but are not overkill for your venue. It is also important when you are asking CB for suggestions that you give as many details about what you do, what your venue is like, and what you need to be able to do as you can. If you run a bunch of moving lights all the time then you need a console that is designed to handle MLs well. If you are going on a rock and roll tour then you probably don't want a desk that is geared more towards theatre. If you work in a school you probably want something that is easy to learn and understand.

    Another major concern when looking at consoles is the availability of service and support. If you don't have a local dealer for some manufacturer it may not be in your best interests to buy their console because if it goes down an hour before curtain on a weekend you may be SOL. If your only option for service is by shipping out your console, it could be problematic. By the same token, you might consider looking at what other local venues are using. If the majority of people around are using consoles by the same manufacturer then you might want to jump on the bandwagon as in a pinch you may be able to call up a neighboring theatre and borrow a console. Furthermore, having the same console (or family) in multiple venues makes it easy for technicians to work among them all.

    As to which consoles are better and what we recommend, it varies from person to person and case to case. Here are some links to threads about choosing consoles (all of which were found using the search feature):Have fun when you choose a new console, and don't hesitate to ask for advice! Also, stop by the CB Wiki as there are some entries that may be useful when looking at consoles, such as Pricing- "How much does a _____ cost?" and Best Dealers for Supplies & Equipment.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 9, 2010
  2. NickJones

    NickJones Active Member

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    I was thinking how cool it would be last night if someone could be bothered to write a flash thing that asks you a series of questions, and then gives you a list of possible consoles based on your answers.
    But such a thing doesn't exist.

    Here are some basics that I think about:
    What's the maximum amount of channels you will use on this console? (Go for around 30 channels per mover)
    What type of space is it going to go into? (No point getting a GrandMA for a small conventional rig with 2 I-Cues)
    How much have you got to spend? (Is this an absolute maximum? Remember you don't have to spend it all)
    What type of shows will you be running? (Single cue list, busking,)
    How long will it be until you get the chance to buy another console? (No point buying a EOS when you get a new one next year. (If you can afford to do this I'm jealous!))
    Who will be operating the console? (Volunteers, Professionals, Touring LDs)
    How many movers will you possibly end up with? (Including hiring)
    Do I want it networked? (It's nice, but will you use it?)

    There's a lot more, I think a collaborative article might be a better idea.

    Hope this helps someone, but I doubt this will stop everyone from creating a new thread.
    Nick
     
  3. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    Nick, the point of this thread is to give people the kind of starting point you are thinking about. I don't think that a "console picker" program would work as there is no universal list. You and I could have amazingly similar needs, but ultimately we might want to choose from totally different lists of desks.

    As I said before, the biggest reason that I started this sticky is to consolidate information. If we have one thread about picking consoles as opposed to one ever week, then the information is more readily available in one, easy to find, location.

    If this thread drifts too far off topic or doesn't head in the direction that I was hoping, I will close it.
     
  4. shiben

    shiben Well-Known Member

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    Might I ask why Avolite is not on the list of major consoles? At least around where I am, Avos are more common than Hogs.
     
  5. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    Avolites, while a fine console manufacturer to many, is not exactly a first choice when THEATRE (the primary focus of this forum) is concerned. Avolites IS included in the more complete list here link. No disrespect intended, I'm sure. This furthers the theory that the console needs to match the proposed use of the venue.
     
  6. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    I would personally reorganize Icewolf's original list above with a little clarification as follows:

    Top consoles for Theater applications with some moving lights:
    Top consoles for Concert applications and/or Theater with a LOT of moving lights:


    The middle of the road for theater application. Quality products but not as advanced technology. Lower priced. Over the years there have been several attempts to decide the best of this class of product. There has never been a clear winner. However over time it appears that the pack seems to be led by:

    Others manufacturers in this "middle of road" list include: AvoLite, EDI, Lehigh, Leviton, NSI, Zero88, Dove... and others. Searching around CB you will find that all these middle of the road products have both their fans and haters. If you are purchasing one of these middle of the line products the ones you have access to depends on the dealer. Most dealers in the US carry ETC and/or Strand however, the options of secondary "middle of the road" products they carry will be very different from dealer to dealer. A question was raised about Avolites above, they make a fine product but nation wide, they don't seem to be as popular as Jands or Leprecon. It could be you are experiencing some regional bias based on the product a local dealer installs (There's a LOT of EDI gear here in Seattle left over from installs in the 80's and 90's).

    While they do have their place in the market. We do not advise the purchase of DJ control consoles for theatrical use. Other products from these manufacturers may be recommended around here, but not the control consoles... unless you are a DJ.
     
  7. metti

    metti Active Member

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    I think that Chamsys MagicQ boards deserve a spot on the list. In my opinion they are on par with Hogs in most respects and even better than them in some ways. They also have a theatre mode which modifies some of the command line syntax and some other things to make them better for theatre.
     
  8. ptr250

    ptr250 Member

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    I run a small children’s theatre. I must admit my theatre tech knowledge is very limited. Currently we do our shows in our high school’s mini-theater. The lighting system is very simple, three banks of lights controlled by a dimmer switches on the wall. I recently discovered a DMX input on the wall and was told connecting a light controller would override the wall switches. Since we are a small community theatre, with limited funds I’m considering purchasing a Chauvet Stage Designer 50 DMX Lighting Controller. I basically need to turn the lights on and off, adjust intensity, isolate separate or group of lights and pre-program the board so I can accomplish each change with a push of a button. Will this board serve my purposes? What are its limitations? If we move to a larger venue would this board still be useable or would I have to buy something more robust? If you believe this board is not suitable any recommendations that are not thousands of dollars.

    TIA
    Paul
     
  9. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    I think we need some more information to make a good recommendation. What you need to find out is how many dimmers actually exist in the space. If you can find out what brand they are, that would be even better. Also, I assume that when you say that you can control the lights with dimmer switches that they are part of some kind of control box. It would be useful to know the brand of that as well. The more information that you can gather about the system and share with us, the better recommendations we can give you.
     
  10. ptr250

    ptr250 Member

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    Thanks for your reply. I'm still trying to get the answers for you, but the theatre is in use and it's hard to talk to anyone right at the moment. Meanwhile I've been looking at a few used $1000.00 or less consoles. What is your opinion of the following:
    Acclaim 148
    LP 148
    Pulsar Masterpiece 108

    Would any of these be suitable for a larger venue (250 to 300 seats) with a stage approx. 40 x 60 (including wings). Our community is exploring building such a theatre.
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2009
  11. shiben

    shiben Well-Known Member

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    Really depends on what your going to control. If you have a few dozen conventional fixtures, and if they have enough channels and the features you need (cue lists, etc), then your probably set. Now, if you have a hundred movers, your definitely going to need something more sophisticated.
     
  12. kiwitechgirl

    kiwitechgirl Well-Known Member

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    Avoid the Masterpiece. They're not known as the "Disasterpiece" for nothing! As for suitability for a larger venue, it's impossible to say - yes, they could work, but if the venue is going to have 250 dimmers installed, then it's not going to be a lot of use!
     
  13. denis

    denis Member

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    I am also searching for a new console. I have been looking at a Eurolight LC2412 (it fits our price bracket) but have seen some negative comment of these forums that have made me wary of it. Is there another desk at the lower end of the price range that might suit us?
    One possibly minor point. The cheaper desks seem to concentrate on the provision of chases. I am working in theatre mode and rarely use chases, though there are times when they do fit a particular scene.
    Denis
     
  14. NickJones

    NickJones Active Member

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    Check out the Zero88 Jester, simple, cheapish, and comes in 24 & 48 channel varieties, and we have a Zero88 guy on here, [user]pkirpup[/user] might be able to help you out,
    Nick
     
  15. ChrisMichigan

    ChrisMichigan Member

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    good comments about checking out what your local dealers have/support. This isn't like buying gel on the internet-- you're looking at spending some big bucks and you should make sure it doesn't just show up in a box. Oten I see dealers get in a console, do a demo (or arrange for one to be done), and generally put in a lot of legwork, then the customer finds one on the internet for a couple dollars less. Trust me- in the long run it's worth it to buy from the guy in town-- you'll need him later.
     
  16. gcpsoundlight

    gcpsoundlight Active Member

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    If you are looking for a simple desk that is easy to use and compact, then i would reccomend the LSC maXim Series of consoles - Welcome to LSC Lighting Systems - they are VERY easy to use, compact, and are reasonably cheap. I think a 24/48 desk with full soft patch was around $5000.
     
  17. NJLX

    NJLX Member

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    for that price you could get an etc element with 40 faders and 250 channels(found by googling "etc element price", may be different at your dealer)
     
  18. Smicks

    Smicks Member

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    Does anybody know the MSRP on any configuration of the ETC Eos console? Maybe I'm blind, but I've searched all over and have come up empty handed...
     
  19. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    I believe that it is priced on order from the factory. I believe that you actually have to ask for a quote to get a price as it will vary depending on what else you are getting at the same time.
     
  20. Mike9

    Mike9 Member

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    I'm shopping for a new console for our community college and was set to order an Ion, but now I'm looking hard at the Element 60/500. Looks like it would suit our facility better. So far $5370 for the 60/500 is the first quote I got. I need three more and am taking vendor location/service into consideration.
     
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