New Board


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As many others have posted on this site, we are probably getting a new light board. We're primarily lookng at the ETC Express 24/48. Our theatre has 78 dimmer channels and we use all conventional fixtures. Occasionally we'll plug a fan or something similar into a dimmer, but our stage isn't wired well to use fog machines and such with our board. The board needs to be simple to use for the average user who just wants lights on stage, but complex enough to do sophisticated effects and shows. Our shows are known for our lighting by several colleges and it is a major focus of our director. Do you feel that the Express is the correct choice?

Just to verify, although it only has 48 sliders, it has 96 channels, right?

Also, given that we do get that board. Any tips for switching from a parent written program on a computer to this board? What should I learn first and what should I know to make it easier?
Another board you may possibly want to look into is the Strand 300 series. They're quite good boards, it's what my school and the entire district have for their theates. I have also heard good things about the Express but I figured you may want to atleast consider this as another choice. Compare the two, see what seems to work best.

The Strand 300 is deffinetely an easy board to learn, very straight forward and capable of a lot of things. However, a reason one may be swayed to the Express is that ETC is a big power in the lighting world. Though Strand is quite big, some of the more common boards are from ETC and perhaps knowing a model of theirs one would have a better understanding when you're thrown onto something like the Obsession II. Though ALL lightboards are similar each company has different ways of calling something. For example "Blind" and "Preview" blind being an ETC thing (or atleast on the Obsession) and preview being the same thing but on a Strand.

I wasn't sure if this is what you were trying to ask in your last question but here is the answer to the question I thought you were asking: Things extremely important to know and know well when you swich to a lightboard is how to create cues, turn on lights, set faders and submasters, patch (patching not that important for basic knowledge but extremely helpful and convenient when designing), set fade times, and load and save shows. Hopefully I didn't leave anything off. You should read the manual when you get the board, but not only read it but actually sit at the board and go along with teh manual so you actually DO what the manual is saying, giving you a better chance of remembering how it's done.
You'd likely want ot go for a 96 channel model givne you have a 78 dimmer install. 48 channel board means you could never use mroe than 48 circuits at a time...

ETC isn't the only console out there. I'm a Strand fan myself. One thing the 300 has over the Express is it does moving lights very nicely. The Express does not. You may not have them now, but any DMX addressable hardware is very easy to deal with on a 300.
bdesmond said:
You'd likely want ot go for a 96 channel model givne you have a 78 dimmer install. 48 channel board means you could never use mroe than 48 circuits at a time...

This does not hold true on the ETC consoles; rather, the channel limit is twice the number of faders. So on the 24/48, you can control up to 96 channels/circuits at once (assuming they are patched 1:1), and on the 48/96 you can control up to 192 channels at once. Additionally, you can always patch more than one DMX channel to a channel for controlling additional channels.
I'd like to second that. You may think that 96 channels are more than you would ever need, but with intelligent fixtures, your channel needs go up considerably. If you used DMX control for a fog machine, it would probably be 3-4 channels. DMX control of an intelligent light is around 15-19 channels. With 78 dimmers, you would only have 18 extra channels with which to control things. And don't say "Oh, I can just repatch when I am using intelligents," because it is a pain and then you are limiting functionality. If you want to go ETC, then I would suggest the Express 125 or 250

THAT BEING SAID. I have used the 250 extensively, and it is a terrible beast to use for intelligent lighting. I have programmed a series of inhibitive subs to make programming intelligents a bit more intuitive, but just the same, it's like trying to surf on a fridge: You can do it, but you'll probably die trying.
Let me get this right:

For the Express 24/48, I can have 48 channels on faders and the rest simply on keystrokes, where I would need to type Channel Number @ Fader Level, or equivilant for whenever I wanted to use 49 - 96?

Also, anyone have any good places to buy an Express 24/48 for cheap that takes Purchase Orders?
If you have 78 dimmers don't buy the 24/48 it will be a huge hassel and not worth the money. Buy the 48/96 otherwise you will regret your purchase later on. You can't just switch lights when you have less channels then lights. You patch the channels you want to use into your console for each particular show and those 48 are what you have to work with, nothing more. If you do that, you'll be wasting your lights, so I highly advise you go with the 48/96, a purchase you won't regret.
Why do people keep saying that the 24/48 only gets 48 channels? Everywhere on their website it says it gets 96 channels. Someone please clarify.
Ok, sorry I was mistaken. The 48 has 96 channels where-as the 96 has 192 channels. Here is info comparing the 2 boards :

# Express 24/48
# 96 Channels
# 1,024 dimmers
# 24 channel two-scene operation
# 48 channel single-scene operation
# 96 channel preset memory operation

Express 48/96
# 192 Channels
# 1,024 dimmers
# 48 channel two-scene operation
# 96 channel single-scene operation
# 192 channel preset memory operation

In which case, sure I suppose you could go with the 24/48. I doubt you'll end up using the single and two scene preset modes anyway. You'll probably rely on cues and submasters in which case the 24/48 doesn't matter, just as long as you have enough channels, which you do. People rely more on the memory based light boards then manuals anyway, these particular boards we're talking about (Strand 300 and ETC express) are both memory and manual operated boards. However, the benefit of a larger board (48/96) is it gives you room to play with for future purposes. You're already close to your limit with the 96 channel board, perhaps some day your school may want to add more, and then they'll have to buy a new board. So sure, you can get the 24/48 but do think about the future not just the present.
Ok, I'm thinking more and more about the 48/96. Anyone have any suggestions as to where to buy cheaply?
correct me if i'm wrong.

If the board only has 48 faders, you can only contorl up to 96 channels on the faders. But DMX handles 512 so you can use as many channels as you like up to 512 (1024, if you use both universes). what limits the number of fixtures you can use is the number of dimmers/circuits.

If I'm running a show with only 3 dimmers, I could if i wanted to, patch them to be controlled by channel 1, channel 87 and channel 512 on any non-manual board. I would rely on key strokes to call them up, but thats what most people wind up doing anyway. I've never programmed a show using a faders, ever. Its too much of a hastle to make sure all the faders that I don't what up are not up etc. you're better off having a good magic sheet and knowing what each channel does and where you want it when you call it up.

but I digress, if you only have 48 faders on a board, you can still use up to 1024 channels.
No, the board itself in the programming limits you to twice the number of faders for the channels. You can patch multiple circuits to a channel, but the board does limit you to 96 distinct channels.
Yes, I do believe you are mistaken. The board itself will only go up to and allow use of 96 channels (or 192, or whatever your board says it will support). On the live screen you will see how the number or channels stops at whatever number you have. So no, you can't use 512 channels on a 96 channel board. Sure the DMX cable can support 512 channels, but the light board will only recognize 96 channels or what not. It’s like buying a motherboard that supports 2 gigabytes of ram, and putting in more, it will only recognize 2 gigs of that ram no matter how much you put in. As far as the board is concerned nothing more exists then what it is capable of using. In other words, you can't use something that the board doesn't recognize as existing. Why else would they say it only has 96 channels? To put you off from buying the board? It’s because that's all the board is capable of supporting.
Foxinabox10 wrote:
"Ok, I'm thinking more and more about the 48/96. Anyone have any suggestions as to where to buy cheaply?".

Maybe your local/closest ETC dealer ?. As in, the one who can give you decent service, decent price, quickly get you a loaner in the event....

Sometimes the best price doesn't pay down the road. Buying local (unless the price is way out of line) pays off in establishing a relationship that works to your benefit later on.

If there's nobody local, then I'd recommend Production Advantage up in Burlington, Vermont. They have some terrific sales folks who know their stuff. Deb, Rocky and Neal come to mind. Good prices and fast shipment as well, though for a console, I'd still go local if possible. Or Bob Cannon et al. at 4 Wall. Great folks, good service, longtime ETC dealers (They used to be Bash)

I'd also look at the Strand 300 series, as they offer lot's of bang for the buck. Essentially a lot of the console operating functionality of the larger 500 series, just a simplified keyboard and fewer channels and DMX capability. The way Strand deals with a channel attribute being an "attribute" to a single console channel is superior to ETC's style of thinking as example.

ETC does have much better tech support, though....

And to reiterate about ETC consoles:

Express 24/48:
- 24 manual fader channels in 2 scene operation
- 48 manual fader channels in single scene mode
- 96 console channels (including the manual fader channels) via kepad.
- 24 manual fader channels in single scene PLUS 24 submasters

Express 48/96
- Same as above, except double the manual faders plu 192 keypad channels
- 24 submasters on separate row of faders

Express 72/144
- Same as above, except additional manual faders plus 240 keypad channels
- 24 submasters on separate row of faders

All Express consoles patch 1024 DMX channels to X amount of console channels. Note the terminoligy.

For the Express series, how would I change lights in the middle of a show? Would I be able to adjust faders if running from memory mode or would I simply type it in?

Also, for programming lights, can I set it all using channels and subs and then capture that look for a cue?
"For the Express series, how would I change lights in the middle of a show? Would I be able to adjust faders if running from memory mode or would I simply type it in?"

Both. You can add levels to a look by bringing up the channel fader, the sub, or by key'ing in "Channel 1 thru 5 At", then use the Plus (+) key to sneak to a level. Only issue with manual adds is that you have to remember to restore to whatever for the next cue. With virtual channel adds, the console has a nifty softkey called "Update" where you can key in new channel levels (via the keypad) and once you like the look, you simply hit Update-Enter and the new look becomes the cue you were building from. It's unfortunate that ETC never allowed an update to occur from new levels built from manual faders and/or subs, so you have to pay attention of you want the look captered (Or you can simply hit Record Cue X Enter, but you need to remember to release, which opens a whole can of worms).

If you don't have time to cue a show, ever, then get a console that has enough manual faders to control the number of dimmers you might need. Remember that you might be ganging lights on a single dimmer as well as not using every dimmer for every show, thus you probably don't need 78 manual faders in 2 scene. A 48/96 might do finel.

If you do get time to run from cues, then you might get away with a 24/48. Remember also, that you can assign "virtual" channels - I.E., those accessable only via the keypad, to a submaster. These are useful for lights that need to happen on visual cues, for instance, or for running fireplace effects, etc... Essentially, the subs expand your manual channel capacity, among other things.

"Also, for programming lights, can I set it all using channels and subs and then capture that look for a cue?"

Yes. You can set levels via the virtual channels, via the manual faders, via submasters, which might be manual groups of channels, as well as recording groups, which can be thought of as virtual submasters. All of these are the methods for building a look that gets captured in a cue.

Just as a reference, what are you using now ?.

When you say the cue you were building from...does it adjust the levels for that channel for every cue until that cue was different in the programming?

Also, we program everything except for the little things that only need like 8 channels, so the 24/48 would probably work just as well.

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