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New light board for a high school

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by atm999, Jan 12, 2009.

  1. atm999

    atm999 Member

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    I know that there is already a similar thread, but it is outdated and my situation is not the same so I am starting a new one. I am the TD for a high school in central Illinois. Our lighting system from 1987 (Strand CD80 rack of 96 dimmers and a Strand Lightboard M) has been number one on my list of things to upgrade/replace, and not that the controller card in the old AMX rack has fried, the director (who controlles the checkbook) finally agrees with me. Because we are strapped for cash, the dimmer rack is not getting thrown out, we are buying a CD-2000-A retrofit kit from Johnson systems to make the rack DMX compatible. This means that we also need a new board. I have a friend who is willing to sell us a Leviton MC 24/48 for around 2k, but I am also looking to the possiblility of a board which is better for moving lights, which we will want to purchase at some point in the next 5 years or so. A convention and online research have led me to look at the Strand preset Palette and the ETC Ion boards. I am looking for feedback suggestions, and other advice which pertains to these other other recommended boards.

    Obviously we have only conventional lights since we are moving from a 1987 AMX system, but I want a board which will allow that to change in the near future. Now for one big complication: tech at this school is entirely student-run. I am a senior there right now, and will be leaving at the end of the school year. However, my assistant TD will be attending college ten minutes from the school and will be able to help them for the next four years with shows. Nevertheless, the board which we get must be user-friendly to students who do not have the same technical backround as my ATD and I (we went into business together selling computers and DJing dances and other such venues). The director is the only staff member involved in theatre at this school, and he will be leaving at the end of the 09-10 school year. He is not technically inclined, and we do not yet know who will replace him, so we can't count on the staff to be highly proficient with lights, either. Any help with this is much appriciated!
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2009
  2. venuetech

    venuetech Well-Known Member

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    I have 2 CD-80racks (1986) I Investgated the johnson rerofit some time ago and recall it was not within my budget range. i ended up geting an AMX to DMX converter from Doug Fleenor Designs, that got me on line with dmx in control.
    any control board you get is likely to be there for the next ten years. I think the ETC Ion would serve you very nicly

    as you forsee the real trick is going to be getting all this in place before the staff/student change.

    how much can you spend on this?
     
  3. Gretsch

    Gretsch Member

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    I recommend the ETC Ion. Its easy to learn, and easy to program. Thats just my two cents.
     
  4. renegadeblack

    renegadeblack Active Member

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    Can I ask what may be a stupid question? You said that you have 96 dimmers? You said that you were looking to buy a Leviton MC 24/48? Wouldn't that mean that you have 48 dimmers unaccounted for? I might be wrong but...
     
  5. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    I assume you are either in the area of U of I or ISU, all of these schools are beginning to get rid of their old Expression line consoles. It might be a good idea to contact these schools and see if they have a console they want to rid themselves of. Otherwise, keep talking to Grandstage, they do good strand installs and back up the consoles with great support.

    I have the Johnson upgrade in one of my theatres, and it works flawlessly. However, strand has a retrofit kit out that will upgrade it with the same interface used in the C21's that will allow you to use shownet and have better monitoring and control of the dimmers.
     
  6. atm999

    atm999 Member

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    In logical order of answers to your questions:

    I saw that Strand made a retrofit kit, but from what I can tell it is now discontinued.

    Because the controller card of the rack is broken, a DMX to AMX converter won't work, but that was my original plan until the card broke.

    Because the system does not work as it is now, we should be able to get some additional funding from the school for this, but the budget should still be kept as low as possible.

    Yes, I'm in the U of I area. I did call the KCPA (their performance center) and here's what I found: They have four expresses, but they rent a hog whenever thay need something better for a specific show. Because that only happens a couple of times per year, they are not going to upgrade any time soon.

    Why do you recommend the ETC Ion?
     
  7. thommyboy

    thommyboy Active Member

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    I have just made the change from a strand 300 to the ETC Ion a few months ago and have found it to be one of the most intuitive boards for a new user. That however was with the purchase of a fader wing to go with it. For those less technically inclined you can set all the looks you would normally use on the submasters and just use those. Where as those who have a the desire to go beyond can expand to multiple cue stacks, a robust effects engine and pretty solid moving light control capabilities.
     
  8. juanboquin

    juanboquin Member

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    I have worked with the Hog 1000 boards and i think those are extremely student friendly. As long as they read the manual and play around with it for a little bit you wouldn't have too much of a problem "passing the torch" when it comes to the light board. I personally learned the basics without reading the book in about ten minutes and i read the book in a couple of days, played with the board and now I'm pretty good. i would recommend it strongly.
     
  9. Darthrob13

    Darthrob13 Active Member

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    Retorfit kits from Strand are still available for CD-80 and CD-80AE racks. (And SV)

    They've been around going on 30 years...what's 20 more.
     
  10. Esoteric

    Esoteric Well-Known Member

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    Strand CD-80 are workhorses and the only thing besides Fresnels that I will buy with the Strand label on it. So definatly keep them and contact your local lighting dealer about the retrofit kit. I know you can still get them here in Dallas whether they are out of production or not. With a messed up controller, that is pretty much your only choice.

    As far as consoles, there are two that you should look. The ETC Ion is a great for what it does, but if you are looking for a theater desk, I would look into getting a used Express. If you are looking for future moving lights and the future is in the next 5 years or so then the Ion is a nice system and also look into a used Hog either 500 or 1000 (unless you really want a new one, there are still a few floating out there, I got one for a client not too long ago). All these solutions will run you in the $5k vicinity, but plenty of room for expansion. My only worry is that while the Hog is not difficult to use, it is not exactly intuitive for someone with little or no technical background and I know how in a high school environment knowledge can be passed down from generation to generation but it can also be lost with one bad link the chain.

    Mike
     
  11. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    I can see that we are going to get along so well... :twisted:

    Unless you just can't round up the money don't buy a used Express. I would consider the used Hogs, but not with much more than an Express. All of those consoles are old technology, the tech in the Express is 13+ years old. You wouldn't go out and buy a 13 year-old computer, so why would you buy a lighting console that old. Express is discontinued, and while ETC will support it until no one uses them anymore it just doesn't make any logical sense to buy one.

    Ion is a theatre desk, and it is really the ideal solution (in ETC land) for people in the OPs position. It comes in at $5-$6K for the basic model and a fader wing which is less than or equivalent to what you would have paid for a new Express. It is going to provide you much more in the way of future-proofing than any older used console will. There are probably features of Ion that you may never use, but the same could be said for any Hog console as well.

    The Strand consoles are very nice as well, though I am a little leery about their support. I did like what I saw when we had a demo, and the consoles ring in at a lower price point. Ease of use is about the same as the Ion.

    Whichever way you go, you will end up with more console than you need for the moment. However, in choosing one of the new generation consoles (Ion, Palette, Eos, etc) you will set yourself up better for the future than buying used.
     
    Esoteric and (deleted member) like this.
  12. Esoteric

    Esoteric Well-Known Member

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    No I agree with you on the Ion Alex (although not on the Palette as for yet). But if you are patient and look around you can pick up an Express for the $2k range. Some people just don't have the money to drop $5k at one time. If you do I would recommend the Ion or Hog 100%. If not then look into a used Express.

    Your analogy with computers doesn't work in this case. No I would not buy a 13 year old computer, but 13 year old computers are not still in wide use (or even an industry standard) and compatible with current programs. The Express and Hog consoles are.

    Again, if you are in the $5k-$6k range, the Ion and Hog are the way to go. If you are in the $2k range and like to have an actual console, you are either going to have to bargain shop for a used Express or go for a Leprechaun. If you are in the $2k or below range and don't mind not having an actual console, then I would go with a Hog PC. If you are in the $500 or under range, then I would go for the Chamsys MagicQ because you can use it as a computer based console, but expand it to an actual console later.

    Different options for different users. Depends on your price point.

    Mike
     
  13. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    The only stupid question is one that has been asked multiple times previously, whose answer is easily found in a search.:)

    From the Leviton Product Spec Bulletin:
    So the first 24 or 48 channels are available on sliders; the rest, up to 384, are available via the keypad. So all dimmers can be "accounted for," just not each one on its own slider. In any case, it is unlikely that all dimmers will be used for every show (a survey done in 2005 of over 100,000 dimmers shows an average of 17% of 120V dimmers go unused); a softpatch is desirable to put channels in a more logical order; and multiple dimmers can be patched into a single control channel (the cyc lights may take 9 or 12 dimmers, but can be patched into three [red, green, blue] channels.
    Note that the above is not to be construed as an endorsement for the Leviton MC 24/48. In this particular case, it would be an interim step at best, and money wasted.

    As long as I'm on the subject: [user]atm999[/user]--this is really a decision your director, and not you, should be making. He/she will have to live with this decision long after you're gone, especially true in this case. While is nice that your student ATD will be attending college ten minutes away from the high school, it places an undue burden on both him and the school if he's the only one who knows how to operate the fancy new computer light board (of which either the Strand Palette or ETC Ion would do nicely).

    Do what you can to not only show your director this thread, but also to get him/her involved in ControlBooth. We all agree you don't want your high school saddled with another Lightboard M for the next twenty-two years (although it was spectacular in its time:rolleyes:).
     
  14. Shillyer

    Shillyer Member

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    My theater just picked up an Ion this year and I have to say if you have the money to spend it is a great board. I would recommend getting a fader wing especially if you are teaching students to use it, they seem to work much better when they have actual sliders instead of just a screen and buttons.

    My only current complaint with the board is its offline software. It is basically an exact port of the software running on the board. While in theory this sounds good I find it is hard to get around on when you are missing all the extra buttons and rotary knobs.
     
  15. atm999

    atm999 Member

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    The target price is around 4k, but a little more might be found for a 5-6k console. How does the Leviton MC 24/48 compare to an Express? You guys clearly like the Ion, but not many have commented on the Palette. Is there some site that has done a review of both consoles? I have looked but not found any. As for my director making the decision, He will be gone before my ASM, so although we must obviously agree before we buy, he won't be around to use the console for very long. One other thing, where would you guys recommend buying the Ion (and a fader wing) if we go that way, the cheapest I have found so far is 5.2k for just the console without wings. The same question goes to anyone who recommends the Palette. Thanks again for all of the insight.
     
  16. Shillyer

    Shillyer Member

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    Our Ion ran about 7k I believe, that was for the desk and 2 19inch LCD's. you can probably find a much better deal than that though. We also ordered a 2X10 fader wing which I believe was somewhere around $1000. In our case we were in a bit of a time crunch to get the new board so what we paid is probably not the cheapest you could find it.
     
  17. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    I know that somewhere on CB I wrote a pretty detailed review of the Strand Palettes, do A search, I forget what I called the thread. We had a demo a couple months ago.

    If you really want I could probably write up a real review/comparison, but I would need a little bit of time to collect my thoughts and make it as objective as possible.
     
  18. atm999

    atm999 Member

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    I searched for reviews before posting, and I just looked again now with no luck. If you wouldn't mind doing a full comparison that would be awesome, but I don't expect you to spend that kind of time on this, I was just asking if anyone knew of an existing one.

    Shillyer, we have monitors (I assume it uses standard DVI or analogue computer monitors) so that would not be part of our expense. We would, however, want at least one fader wind.
     
  19. AndrewWebberley

    AndrewWebberley Member

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    I would also like to recommend the ETC Ion console for your school. It has a far more intuitive interface then the Hog consoles and is designed to be used in theatre. Even if you don't have any moving lights yet the Ion is fantastic for straight conventional show and in the future you will be able to add any new kind of fixture you want. The Ion also teaches you and your students the basics of the entire Eos line of consoles. The Eos console is the big sister to the Ion and is one of the most amazing consoles on the market right now. Everything you learn on the Ion works on the Eos. This allows someone to scale up through the Eos line in their career.
    I don't mean to be a Eos/Ion freak but I love programming them.

    Thanks,

    Andrew Webberley
    Professional Training for the Lighting Industry
     
  20. lieperjp

    lieperjp Well-Known Member

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    No, you will need monitors as the ION utilizes touch screens. Someone may correct me, though, as I don't know if you actually NEED the touch screens.

    Also, the thread Alex referred to was called Strand Demo Day and can be found HERE.

    CB User [USER]BHarrell[/USER] is also the one who conducted the Demo. You might be able to try sending him a PM if you're interested.
     

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