New lighting board / console / desk suggestions?

DannyDepac

Member
Joined
Jan 11, 2013
Location
Long Island, New York
Hi Everyone,

I work at a HS and we have a Philips Strand Preset Palette II 32/64 that has had trouble booting reliably for a couple of years now. I spoke with a servicer of Philips and he stated it would be pretty expensive to service and that it would be worth it to look at new boards.

I know VERY little about lighting, just enough to get by for our HS & MS musicals. If you had a $1000 - lets say $6 or $7000 to buy a new console / board / desk (whatever the right name is lol) What would you get?

I've always gotten the impression ETC was a good brand of board. I don't hate the Strand board we had but its a little "technical" for students to enter cues and work with

We have no LEDS, or moving lights (maybe one day fingers crossed). Just Source Fours on our trees and overhead colored lighting bars (from the 1950). I use about 45 -60 channels at most right now and hoping to expand in the future as we gain fixtures.

Any suggestions?


Thanks
 

JAC

Active Member
Joined
Jan 10, 2018
Location
Cleveland
I don't hate the Strand board we had but its a little "technical" for students to enter cues and work with

Thanks
For considerably less than that $6-7k you could look at Pathway's Cognito family or the ChamSys QuickQ family. If you're a power ETC or MA user you would probably find them maddening, but beginners seem to find them very intuitive. (Disclaimer, I have not actually run either.)

And, you may have no LEDs now, but you will!
 

BillConnerFASTC

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Jan 30, 2010
Location
Clayton NY 13624
I would agree with JAC but based on what you need, ETCs Nomad - the educator edition - would give you a lot of console on a desktop or laptop. It comes with a dongle for DMX (two universes now I think - was one). Basically ION software - just no real sliders but "virtual" ones on screen. $250. Add a programming wing later if you miss the sliders and wheels - in the $5000 range IIRC. Having a touch screen would probably help - but common today.
 
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JohnD

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north central OK
Since it is a HS, and funds are hard to find, I would seriously consider the 2 universe Element 2 which is near the top of your budget (~$6K or under if you shop around). There are several reasons, it is a real console, it will be supported by ETC for a long time, there are going to be more people familiar with the EOS system than many of the other systems. You will have to add a monitor or two, maybe even touch but the great thing about the upgraded EOS consoles that use imbedded Win7 instead of the older XP is that they can use about any monitor that is Windows compliant.
 

Jay Ashworth

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Feb 7, 2014
Location
St Pete FL USA
If you have a grand, get an ETC SmartFade 2496 (or ML, if you have movers or LEDs, or plan to get them).

If you have six grand, you can get a used Ion on eBay, though that may or may not be your best move; depends on your goals.
 

Fountain Of Euph

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Joined
Dec 16, 2013
Location
Illinois
For $6k a Element or used ION is going to be great. As a educational space I would shy away from Pathway or ChamSys, for two reasons:
1. As more niche consoles it may be harder to find local help if you get into trouble.
2. They won't really do anything for the students job experience wise. Having ETC EOS programming on your resume is useful (As is MA and Hog to some extent), but Pathway or ChamSys won't be much help to the general population of students who are going into college or the workforce. I had a Congo at my High School(and loved it), but I have never seen one since. I do see and work on EOS, Express, and MA consoles daily.

Just my two cents.
 

LPdan

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Joined
Apr 18, 2015
Location
NY
If you have a grand, get an ETC SmartFade 2496 (or ML, if you have movers or LEDs, or plan to get them).

If you have six grand, you can get a used Ion on eBay, though that may or may not be your best move; depends on your goals.
Not sure, but I thought the Smartfade was obsolete? Have you considered the Colorsource 40?
 

Butch!

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Dec 16, 2018
Location
Under there
These are all good suggestions, but I would suggest you stop and consider who the users of the console will be. Do you have a dedicated performing arts program where there is an in house tech who will operate the console or will it be the music teacher and some parents? Do the teachers have any interest in learning how to program a console? If it will be the students, is there someone who can teach each new batch of kids how to use it or will it be a case of 'there's the manual, figure it out'?

I deal with 9 schools in 6 different school districts and the console is the biggest source of problems. All of these schools do not have a theater instructor, and some teacher (be it a music, English, art or chemistry teacher) directs the play. In almost every case the teacher who has to deal with the tech on plays and assemblies has no idea how to operate the console and has no interest in learning how to. Most of the time they say something to the effect of 'If I learn how to run it then they'll expect me to do it for every assembly, guest speaker and play, and they won't pay me any more for the added job duty. It's sad but true.

So what happens? Several of the schools have ETC Express 48/96's or something similar and they put the console in single scene mode where they have a slider for every dimmer (they won't learn to patch) and then set a scene with the sliders and record it as a sub (sometimes they'll write a few cues). For them running a show is picking from a dozen or so scenes they've recorded. They also don't have the time to cue the whole show. In the schools that have consoles like an ETC Express 24/48 or similar they put it in one scene and subs mode where they have 24 channel sliders in the top row and 24 subs in the bottom row. Someone might patch the console at some point so that the 24 channels on the sliders are set up for front lights, red strips, blue strips, white strips, etc and they will do the same thing where they build subs for looks. BUT as soon as someone resets the patch or tampers with it (like an outside group using the space) the music teacher calls maintenance saying all the blue strips are broken (happened yesterday).

So I know I'll get hammered for saying this, but if you're going to have operators with little or no knowledge, consider something that will give them a slider for every dimmer so they can hunt and peck to create their subs. I know the Element can do this sort of with the knob that chooses which bank/page of scenes or subs, but it appears that the concept of turning a knob to pick is more than they can handle. The Express 48/96's (or their Lehigh equivalents) have given us the least number of problems when it comes to clueless users. And the Express 48/96's get abused, left on for weeks on end, never have a dust cover, etc and not one has broken down or had issues. Given that most people consider these consoles to be obsolete (when they still work great for a mostly conventional rig) they're really inexpensive on the used market and you could buy a few so that you had a spare in case the main one went down.
 

DannyDepac

Member
Joined
Jan 11, 2013
Location
Long Island, New York
These are all good suggestions, but I would suggest you stop and consider who the users of the console will be. Do you have a dedicated performing arts program where there is an in house tech who will operate the console or will it be the music teacher and some parents? Do the teachers have any interest in learning how to program a console? If it will be the students, is there someone who can teach each new batch of kids how to use it or will it be a case of 'there's the manual, figure it out'?

I deal with 9 schools in 6 different school districts and the console is the biggest source of problems. All of these schools do not have a theater instructor, and some teacher (be it a music, English, art or chemistry teacher) directs the play. In almost every case the teacher who has to deal with the tech on plays and assemblies has no idea how to operate the console and has no interest in learning how to. Most of the time they say something to the effect of 'If I learn how to run it then they'll expect me to do it for every assembly, guest speaker and play, and they won't pay me any more for the added job duty. It's sad but true.

So what happens? Several of the schools have ETC Express 48/96's or something similar and they put the console in single scene mode where they have a slider for every dimmer (they won't learn to patch) and then set a scene with the sliders and record it as a sub (sometimes they'll write a few cues). For them running a show is picking from a dozen or so scenes they've recorded. They also don't have the time to cue the whole show. In the schools that have consoles like an ETC Express 24/48 or similar they put it in one scene and subs mode where they have 24 channel sliders in the top row and 24 subs in the bottom row. Someone might patch the console at some point so that the 24 channels on the sliders are set up for front lights, red strips, blue strips, white strips, etc and they will do the same thing where they build subs for looks. BUT as soon as someone resets the patch or tampers with it (like an outside group using the space) the music teacher calls maintenance saying all the blue strips are broken (happened yesterday).

So I know I'll get hammered for saying this, but if you're going to have operators with little or no knowledge, consider something that will give them a slider for every dimmer so they can hunt and peck to create their subs. I know the Element can do this sort of with the knob that chooses which bank/page of scenes or subs, but it appears that the concept of turning a knob to pick is more than they can handle. The Express 48/96's (or their Lehigh equivalents) have given us the least number of problems when it comes to clueless users. And the Express 48/96's get abused, left on for weeks on end, never have a dust cover, etc and not one has broken down or had issues. Given that most people consider these consoles to be obsolete (when they still work great for a mostly conventional rig) they're really inexpensive on the used market and you could buy a few so that you had a spare in case the main one went down.

This is so helpful -Thank you. You sort of nailed it - I am a music teacher who runs tech and set design. I love learning this stuff since I have not real training or experience other than building. It took me a lot of using this forum and youtube videos plus manual reading to use our Strand board...almost exactly as you said. I really just create a look for the scene and create a cue -I don't patch (just really figured out what that is while reading this), I rarely time a cue or dim on a timer. I'd love to expand to those things but it will take time and maybe training for me to learn. I usually train a new student to be our lighting operator every couple of years and just show him or her these same basics. I'd like to expland our knowledge and their experience but I do like the freedom of a simple. A "plug and play" type of board like you described might be best - is there one that has both capabilities?
 

LPdan

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 18, 2015
Location
NY
These are all good suggestions, but I would suggest you stop and consider who the users of the console will be. Do you have a dedicated performing arts program where there is an in house tech who will operate the console or will it be the music teacher and some parents? Do the teachers have any interest in learning how to program a console? If it will be the students, is there someone who can teach each new batch of kids how to use it or will it be a case of 'there's the manual, figure it out'?

I deal with 9 schools in 6 different school districts and the console is the biggest source of problems. All of these schools do not have a theater instructor, and some teacher (be it a music, English, art or chemistry teacher) directs the play. In almost every case the teacher who has to deal with the tech on plays and assemblies has no idea how to operate the console and has no interest in learning how to. Most of the time they say something to the effect of 'If I learn how to run it then they'll expect me to do it for every assembly, guest speaker and play, and they won't pay me any more for the added job duty. It's sad but true.

So what happens? Several of the schools have ETC Express 48/96's or something similar and they put the console in single scene mode where they have a slider for every dimmer (they won't learn to patch) and then set a scene with the sliders and record it as a sub (sometimes they'll write a few cues). For them running a show is picking from a dozen or so scenes they've recorded. They also don't have the time to cue the whole show. In the schools that have consoles like an ETC Express 24/48 or similar they put it in one scene and subs mode where they have 24 channel sliders in the top row and 24 subs in the bottom row. Someone might patch the console at some point so that the 24 channels on the sliders are set up for front lights, red strips, blue strips, white strips, etc and they will do the same thing where they build subs for looks. BUT as soon as someone resets the patch or tampers with it (like an outside group using the space) the music teacher calls maintenance saying all the blue strips are broken (happened yesterday).

So I know I'll get hammered for saying this, but if you're going to have operators with little or no knowledge, consider something that will give them a slider for every dimmer so they can hunt and peck to create their subs. I know the Element can do this sort of with the knob that chooses which bank/page of scenes or subs, but it appears that the concept of turning a knob to pick is more than they can handle. The Express 48/96's (or their Lehigh equivalents) have given us the least number of problems when it comes to clueless users. And the Express 48/96's get abused, left on for weeks on end, never have a dust cover, etc and not one has broken down or had issues. Given that most people consider these consoles to be obsolete (when they still work great for a mostly conventional rig) they're really inexpensive on the used market and you could buy a few so that you had a spare in case the main one went down.
Totally agree with this!
 

eadler

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Joined
Sep 17, 2010
Location
Upstate NY
Agree with Butch's analysis here. I know, when I was a student, my highschool had just replaced an old manual dim system with a new dimmer rack and controller (I forget the make/model, it's not a common one) - it had two ~16 fader rows of single channel controls (yes, patchable, but we didn't have enough dimmers actually circuited for it to matter) and a row of subs, along with the ability to program cues. I was the first one to actually program it in any way other than the four subs they had preset - everything, front of curtain, 1st "electric", 2nd "electric" (we had 100W incandescent strip lights). I left additional subs programmed for stage left / stage center / stage right. I used cues for a test on a show once and with how little we had available circuit wise (and how inflexible the physical install was), I ended up just running on subs for most everything. I imagine they still use these subs for shows.

That said, the Element 2 looks like it could operate in a similar manner, especially if you don't have a lot of circuits. I'd think that in most any educational setting you would want something that *can* be programmed and used in a variety of different manners but can also be used in X/Y or pre-made sub-only mode. Even if you have the teaching staff with knowledge now, the future might not. Even if you don't know, the future might (or you might just have a student willing to read the manual). (Note: I've not used an Element 2, please check that it does do what you will want)
 
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soundlight

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Oct 27, 2005
Location
NJ & NYC
I'd definitely recommend ETC's Element 2 (if new) or Element (if used) for a school setting with conventionals right now with a high probability that color mixing LEDs will probably come in to play in the space sometime during the lifetime of the console. ETC products are built to last and the stellar tech support will be useful when you have questions. It has a dial to quickly select between individual channel control and submasters which is great for the single scene building as suggested by Butch, but also has the industry-standard EOS-line software if you get some students that really want to dig in to the software. One of the best things about the EOS software is the detailed training videos that exist, so you don't have to go take a class to really get a good knowledge of how to run the board, and students - if they want to go beyond what you can teach them - can really dig in to those and learn more.
 

NateTheRiddler

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Premium Member
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Location
Arizona, US
I personally believe in the
:: Power/Versatility
:: Cost
:: Volunteer-friendly/easy-to-learn
triangle. Pick your top two priorities and be prepared to likely sacrifice the third. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but it’s held true in my experience.

A couple consoles I have experience with that I can recommend:
Chamsys QuickQ (Cheap and easy-to-learn, not super powerful)
MA dot2 (Powerful and somewhat easy to learn, not very cheap)
MA2onPC Command Wing (Powerful and Cheap, not easy to learn)

I’m biased towards MA2 in this situation, so take that with a healthy dose of salt. Of course, I program MA2s for a living and work on programming custom UIs using macros and layouts, which allow volunteers to use buttons such as “Turn Lights On” or “Make Movers Dance” instead of “RlyLX1W/RlyLX1P ON” or “Pan/Tilt Cir LX1/2”.
 
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Fountain Of Euph

Active Member
Joined
Dec 16, 2013
Location
Illinois
I noticed no one mentioned philips strand
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't know of anyone with a Strand...Not really a popular choice for consoles, less so than the Pathway or Chamsys consoles.

The Express is perfect if you are only doing conventional. Its biggest limit is the lack of good support for even simple LED's. For that reason I would would disqualify it UNLESS you can get one for cheep/free and its only a transitional console while you wait for a total upgrade to LED's. While it may be a bit daunting, I would really go for a Element/Element 2. It has good support for LED's, and I would hate for you to see yourself in 3 years regretting purchasing a Express when you decide to get LED's. If you still feel that it is above your skill level, you could bring in a local pro to set it up/do a training day. One of the benefits of modern consoles is that they can be setup with pictorial images of the plot that can be clicked on with a mouse. Something like this or subs is really easy to use for students, IE set the look with fades/the mouse, and then hit record. If you really wanted to get fancy you can get a touchscreen too...
 

NickVon

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07003
I appreciate what @Butch! says in his post, and largely agree him with. In a friendly counterpoint, most venues (high school, middleschools) near me have moved to at least an Element for their auditoriums. The ones that haven't yet have Expresses, that after 15-20 years are failing and no longer reliable. You can't get the Express anymore new, and I'd be cautious of used markets as if it starts to fail they are no longer supported for repairs.

@Fountain Of Euph pointed out most dealers will do some training but get a local pro (or your Dealer) to set up with magic sheets that can do all basic lighting that a teacher who doesn't want to learn the console can be told "Power Button", Load file " THEATER DEFAULT DO NOT DELETE", touch the button on screen for "Stage Wash, etc."

\little rant
We live in a world where adapting and learning new skills is a must. My grandmother needed to learn how to use a Word Processor, Teachers have to learn how to use there new internal grading and conference portals, why do we not expect that teachers (especially those in the Performing arts or periphery) not learn new technology somewhat directly related to what they do. I'm not saying they need to be competent enough to program a musical with 400 cues with movers and LED, but they should not be scared of the basics. You better bet your Computer Science teachers, aren't teaching students how to use windows 98 and and COBOL or C++ any more; we expect them to know/learn/update as new systems come out.
\end rant :)
 

RonHebbard

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Premium Member
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Jun 12, 2004
Location
Waterdown, ON, CA
I appreciate what @Butch! says in his post, and largely agree him with. In a friendly counterpoint, most venues (high school, middleschools) near me have moved to at least an Element for their auditoriums. The ones that haven't yet have Expresses, that after 15-20 years are failing and no longer reliable. You can't get the Express anymore new, and I'd be cautious of used markets as if it starts to fail they are no longer supported for repairs.

@Fountain Of Euph pointed out most dealers will do some training but get a local pro (or your Dealer) to set up with magic sheets that can do all basic lighting that a teacher who doesn't want to learn the console can be told "Power Button", Load file " THEATER DEFAULT DO NOT DELETE", touch the button on screen for "Stage Wash, etc."

\little rant
We live in a world where adapting and learning new skills is a must. My grandmother needed to learn how to use a Word Processor, Teachers have to learn how to use there new internal grading and conference portals, why do we not expect that teachers (especially those in the Performing arts or periphery) not learn new technology somewhat directly related to what they do. I'm not saying they need to be competent enough to program a musical with 400 cues with movers and LED, but they should not be scared of the basics. You better bet your Computer Science teachers, aren't teaching students how to use windows 98 and and COBOL or C++ any more; we expect them to know/learn/update as new systems come out.
\end rant :)
@NickVon Are you suggesting there's no support for my abacus any more, what about my sun dial??
From north of Donald's walls.
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
 
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Fountain Of Euph

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Location
Illinois
\little rant
We live in a world where adapting and learning new skills is a must. My grandmother needed to learn how to use a Word Processor, Teachers have to learn how to use there new internal grading and conference portals, why do we not expect that teachers (especially those in the Performing arts or periphery) not learn new technology somewhat directly related to what they do. I'm not saying they need to be competent enough to program a musical with 400 cues with movers and LED, but they should not be scared of the basics. You better bet your Computer Science teachers, aren't teaching students how to use windows 98 and and COBOL or C++ any more; we expect them to know/learn/update as new systems come out.
\end rant :)
I agree so much it hurts!
 

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