I have have spent four hours this afternoon on a presentation of the new Strand Palette lighting boards. This was more a talk then a hands on workshop but I got touch it. The Strand rep came out from Los Angeles to do a three day promotion tour. He had with him two of the models a PresetPalette which is the new replacement for the 300 series although it is more like a replacement for the 500 series. The other board was a LightPalettClassic. Most of the time was spent on the PresetPalette. Of course the Light Palette can do what the Palette does. Apart from no. of channels one of the main difference is the LightPalette has hardware rotary encoders for intelligent whereas the Palette has them done with software using a trackwheel or the mouse. I'll now stick to comments on the PresetPalette. The basic board has 300 channels but you can buy more. The preset boards have a different number of presets depending on the model you buy. Eg 48/96 . They can be run as a preset board for learning purposes or if you prefer to set cues using faders instead of keypad entry. But they still have all the memory features of the non-preset boards. The console is run on embedded Windows XP. It has been locked down so that people can't muck it up by loading their own drivers. They have made all the modules such as the sliders, keypad etc connect using USB. They have designed a system where if the computer fails in the board you can connect the control boards through an externall powered USB hub. You then connect a computer running the software this will send out the DMX via the control board it also gives you access to the sliders and buttons. The console has an ethernet connection which can be used for shownet or to connect to a local network for things like (according to the manual) internet access, printing show files, outlook express etc. The console uses soft buttons like the 300 and 500 series. The console can worked in two main ways, although you can use it in any combination. There is the standard push the button and use the track wheel and/or mouse to do things. The other way is to go Windows and select options with mouse clicks and rolls. In this mode it is just like using any other Windows program. With on screen buttons, drop down menus etc. This will make it easier for people who have not used a lighting console but can a computer. I would probably use the console hardware buttons more then the mouse. They have simplified a lot of things. For instance to make a chase you just click the channels on the live screen in the order you want to chase. Then you record it. Chase done. Of course you can edit it. You can also have more then one channnel change in each step of the chase. When you record cues or subs when you press the record button it will bring up a windows box. In it you can put the cue no, cue time, cue label etc. Also a double click on the record button will record it withoput having to enter stuff in the box. Intelligent light handling is definetly worth a look. What Strand have done is written their own fixture libraries. You can't make your own as Strand haved done some thing special with the fixtures. Once you have patched the intelligent light you will probably not need to look at the DMX tables in the back of the fixture manual again. Most of the things you need to control the fixture either have button options or drop down menues. For example instead of having to remember the DMX code for lamp strike you get a menu that has lamp on, lamp idle, lamp off and I forgot the other thing. There are a number of options for selecting colour on a fixture. The Strand will take the option you select then convert the actual output to what the light fixture needs. For example we had a Mac 250 attached. This uses CMY for colour mixing. If you want to use RGB mixing you can. The console converted the RGB colour choice to the CMY for the 250. There are other options such as using HLI. You can also use scanned in colours. They had scanned an apollo swatch book. You could click on a colour and the 250 would do it's best to output that colour. The final outcome is dependent on your fixtures capabilities. But you can use these methods to get close to the colours you want. Then using the individual attributes you can tweak the colours. Pan and tilt are now done in degrees. You don't have to remember the DMX values. The fixtures default when they are patched to a postion where the light is parallel to the lighting bar. The head is pointing straight down. This is the 0,0 degree position. When you move them you can specifiy the degrees to move. Or use the wheel /mouse to move them.The console calculates what actual Dmx values to use. If you have a zooming profile it will automaticaly be set for a beam angle of 20 degrees. You can select how you want the fixture to handle the colour change between cues, how the shutters move etc. If you want the fixture to move from one place to another with the light still on you can specify how it moves. If you want it to move in a straight line it will tilt the head as well as pan so you get a straight line not an arc. When it is finished the head will be tilted exactly where you wanted it. There of course is an effects library. So you can see there is lot to look at on these boards. Depending on how many channels you need I believe these boards would be very good in school situations as well as larger venues. In schools you would have a good conventional board but if you hired or had intelligent fixtures then programming them would be really simple. I know of a few venues that I would like to get one of these boards into. I have no connection to Strand or any dealers. I just like Strand gear and was very impressed with these new boards. Also I have been assured Genlyte is fully behind Strand so these boards won't become orphans. Look at how Genlyte improved Varilites position in the market. Also Strand will provide software upgrades. I have included a link to where you can try the offline editor. http://www.strandlighting.com/US/Index.htm This is just my personal opinon but I think if you are looking at buying a new board it would be worth at least getting a demo.