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Smartfade hate

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by Esoteric, Jan 8, 2009.

  1. Esoteric

    Esoteric Well-Known Member

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    Hey guys, I know I am not a huge fan of the Smartfade (it feels like an old DJ board to me), but I see it gets no love anywhere, why is that?

    Mike
     
  2. soundlight

    soundlight Well-Known Member

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    Because those of us who are happy with it using it for its intended purpose (not places where you're using a theatre stack, but for small, busked productions) are quietly using it happily.
     
  3. xander

    xander Well-Known Member

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    I have never used it personally, but I have talked to an ETC rep about it at USITT and it seems like an awesome board for its market. In my opinion it seems like it fits in a club atmosphere. Live bands, different every night, but still the budget for movers and fancy toys that we in small professional/community would never use. It has a lot of power and control over MLs but when you are in the level of theatre where you actually use a lot of that stuff, you are also in the level of theatre where you use a MA, or Hog, or Eos, or Congo. It just doesn't have a place in theatre, so when you try to use it in theatre, you are going to be sorely disappointed and angry.

    -Tim

    P.S. ETC is constantly updating and adjusting it in an effort to increase its ease of use, but IMO it just doesn't belong in theatre.
     
  4. Esoteric

    Esoteric Well-Known Member

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    Interesting. I ask because I do a lot of work for churches that are actually set up like small clubs with several movers, 24 basic channels, etc, but also need theater stack programming (because the console is run by volunteers, sometimes a different one every week). It is an interesting conundrum.

    Mike
     
  5. soundlight

    soundlight Well-Known Member

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    The Smartfade ML runs a great basic stack if you're not doing complex timings and needing to do follow times and so forth. The stack does work, it's just not as straightforward as, say, an Express. However, because it has actual palettes for focus, color, and beam as well as shape effects and 24 step sequences, you can really do powerful things with the board. It's also a very intuitive board. I was able to do a lot of the programming quite easily without reading specifics in the manual. You can learn a whole lot by watching the training video on the ETC website. That's all I did except for building user profiles to learn how to use the board. Everything else was intuitive after watching the intro video.
     
  6. Esoteric

    Esoteric Well-Known Member

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    Does the Smartfade support a monitor hookup!

    Mike
     
  7. soundlight

    soundlight Well-Known Member

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    No, but you can use SmartSoft as something of a monitor by hooking it up with a USB cable.
     
  8. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    I agree with [user]Soundlight [/user]that Smartfade is good for a DJ/Club sort of situation. Like everything else, it has it's place. However, I have to disagree with the implication that is it's only "intended purpose". I've seen four demos and I've been told over and over it's a great console choice for schools, churches, and small theaters with low dimmer counts.

    My problems with it:
    -No monitor output... no built in video card. They just recently added the option of providing your own computer, running the software and connecting the Smartfade to it. Um, ok. That's "convenient".

    -You can sort of run a cue stack but not in a normal sense of having things like having nice "go", "stop", and "back" buttons.

    -It's confusing. Too many tiny buttons with multiple functions depending on what color they are lit. It doesn't work anything like a typical theater console. I've seen four demos of Smartfade. In three of those demos the person doing the demo got lost and confused (1 was an ETC regional sales rep, 1 was an ETC employee at LDI, 1 was one of those ETC LDI award winning student designers trained by an ETC expert. The only Demo I've seen that didn't get lost was a Barbizon sales guy).

    -There are high expectations in the industry that ETC consoles will be quick to learn and have some uniformity of design, terminology, syntax and operation (The main reason Congo get's trashed as well). Anyone who has experience on an Express(ion) or Obsession can walk up to an EOS/ION and figure it out fairly quickly... good luck with that on a Smartfade.

    -In the end it's biggest problem is it's not an Express replacement. It's something far different. As you know, Ion/Eos/Congo/Jr. are all much more than many schools/churches/small theaters need. When Smartfade came out we knew Express was going away and it was exciting to see what would replace it... and we are still waiting. While I completely support ETC's "no 2 scene preset" stance, there's a hole in the product line between Smartfade and Ion where a lot of us live. An Ion with one wing panel has a street price around $6k. A Smartfade 24/96 has a street price around $1600. There's a HUGE gap there in price, quality, and abilities. A hole that used to be occupied by an Express 24/48 with a street price around $4k.
     
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2010
  9. soundlight

    soundlight Well-Known Member

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    It's not designed to be an Express replacement. It was designed as a better alternative to boards like the NSI MC series and the MLC16 and Elation boards for movers. For people who have used these boards (as I have), everything makes perfect sense. The different modes that buttons can be in depending on what fader or select mode you have, the ways of recording sequences to faders and setting times on the screen, all of these come easy to someone who has run Elation boards, the NSI MC75xx series, and the MLC16. The Smartfade ML is the only board with its featureset in its price range.

    ETC has yet to release a true Express replacement. Maybe they'll finally get something decent out at USITT.
     
  10. gafftapegreenia

    gafftapegreenia CBMod CB Mods

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    I'm another quiet fan of the Smartfade. It's small size can be fooling but its a really powerful board. Packing more features, it is a bit more confusing than the typical busking board, but it's not too difficult to figure out, the biggest offset being that its not "typical" ETC syntax. With the coming monitor upgrade, it will be an extremely useful board. A friend of mine is happily using one for Game Show Network, so it seems to have great studio potential as well.
     
  11. xander

    xander Well-Known Member

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    I'm not exactly sure how you can say that you agree with the people trying to sell it...
    But then list all the problems that will arise in a small venue such as those listed above...
     
  12. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    Perhaps to the novice lighting volunteer at his school, church, or community theatre the SmartFade is an appropriate choice. For those too entrenched or pig-headed in their ways, perhaps not. The same can easily be, and often is, said of Jands Vista.

    Didn't we ALL think our first board was the greatest thing ever? I remember being amazed at the KliegPac 9, once upon a time.:)
     
  13. Esoteric

    Esoteric Well-Known Member

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    That is a good point Derek, which is why I was asking around. I know I hate the Smartfade because of the lack of monitor, traditional cue stack, no keypad, changing button uses, etc (like a user said, it feels more like a Scene Setter or some kind of Elation console, which I used for DJ gigs but HATED to use), but I thought maybe I was being pig headed because of my love for the Expression (my first console), Express, Hog, Avo, etc.

    But the Smartfade seems like an expensive Scene Setter to me rather than a reasonably priced mid range console.

    The upshot of all this is that it may drive a long time, die hard ETC cultist over to Strand. Although to me (I have never used a 100, 200, or 300) that series seems like the Smartfade.

    Mike
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2009
  14. soundlight

    soundlight Well-Known Member

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    Being flexible with consoles is a skill. While I can step up to an ION, any flavor of ETC Obsession, an Express, an Expression, an Insight, or just about any other regular ETC desk and start programming right away, I can also walk up to just about any DJ board or fader controller and figure out intuitively how things work.

    Oh, and don't compare it to the Scene Setter, that's not what it is. It's much more like an NSI MC75xx series in syntax and thought process, or a Show Designer, MLC16, or Magic 260 on for the SFML. You just have to have a flexible concept of where things are, and know that it's based on this setting or that button. Then it's easy.

    For instance, on the SFML, there are 24 buttons and 24 faders. There are a few different buttons that determine the function of the main bank of 24 buttons, and a few different buttons that determine the function of the 24 faders. Once you know what does what when, it's a piece of cake.

    And besides, show me another hardware console for $2K that has focus, color, and beam palettes, 12 pages of actual playbacks, shape effects, sequences, a basic theatre stack (which is actually a piece of cake if you approach it with a clear mind and not a super bias towards keypad based theatre boards), and parameter and fixture masking for recording memories. There isn't one.

    Basically, a lot of the complaints that I hear about the board are "baaaaaah, it doesn't think like any other ETC board so I'm dead in the water!!!". What you should think is "Well ****, for the price, that's a powerful board. Knocks everything else in that class out of the water."
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2009
    Taylor101 and (deleted member) like this.
  15. xander

    xander Well-Known Member

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    I don't believe that my last post (which I believe you are referencing here) had anything to do with the Smartfade directly. In that post I was simply implying there was self contradicting sentiments in gafftaper's post.
    In regards to your statements--yes, the Microvision FX is the "greatest thing ever," :lol:but my point is simply this:
    Like I said in a previous post in this thread, I think the Smartfade is a great desk for certain markets. But, as I also already stated, in my OPINION, it does not belong in theatre. Whether the "novice lighting volunteer" can handle it or not does not matter. I don't think that the way the desk was designed lends itself for theatrical use. Again, IMO, it is amazing for busking, but in theatre you are not looking for that as much as you are looking for cue stacks, timing, fading, effects, conventional fixtures, and most importantly, consistency.
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2009
  16. Esoteric

    Esoteric Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, I guess I am just not as flexible. I can run anything from an Express up to an Obsession, Ion, etc or move over to an Avo, Hog, MA, very easily. But when it comes to stepping up to these type of club/DJ consoles, it takes me hours to program a basic show, while I can cue complex shows with dozens of moving lights in no time at all.

    But that could just be me.

    With that in mind, why have palettes on a board with 24 channels? That will run what? two movers? Isn't that kind of silly? Why have palettes with anything less than a full universe of DMX?

    Mike
     
  17. soundlight

    soundlight Well-Known Member

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    The Smartfade ML will control 48 channels of intensity (completely patchable), and 24 full moving lights (not 24 channels). I've got a rig patched in to the SFML that's on loan to me from ETC for the next few days that's got 14 independent zones of LED Pars (some single fixtures, some doubled up or quadrupled up, because I have a lot of 'em for this gig), 6 movers (4x MAC250 Entour, 2x Roboscan 518), and some dimmers (just Leprecon and Chauvet packs).

    The regular smarfade (1248, 1296, 2496) doesn't have palettes and whatnot, it's just a fader board with a few more capabilities than an MC75xx.

    Do yourself a favor and download the video demo of the SFML from the ETC website (under the downloads page for the SFML), and watch that. It gives you a good overview of the console.
     
  18. Esoteric

    Esoteric Well-Known Member

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    I will check it out. I might start using them for club installs and DJ stuff. I cant imagine programming moving lights without a monitor. But that is just me and my old fogey ways. ;-)

    Mike
     
  19. soundlight

    soundlight Well-Known Member

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    Hook it up to a laptop with the SmartSoft software on it. Piece of cake.
     
  20. atb3185

    atb3185 Member

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    I have been using the SmartFade for four years now at my high school. I graduated last year and am now in college, but the school hired me on to do lighting design for their musical this year - again, obviously, with the SmartFade.

    Going into my 5th show with the SmartFade, I can say that I have never had any issues with it. I've used the stack with each show - all of them contained 75-120+ cues. (You can achieve more than 99 cues with partial cues.) However, this year, I am attempting to use some ColorCommands. I fear that my story will change. This will also be the first year using SmartSoft. The SmartFade is great, in my opinion, for a high school that is short on dimmers and even shorter on cash.
     

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