Teaching an Ion Console

Schniapereli

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The high school where I teach is getting rebuilt, and getting brand new equipment, namely the ETC Ion console. My main concern is how to teach a group of students how to make the change of thinking from a preset board to a tracking board. I have downloaded all the Ion training videos, and the Bobblehead Fred "Why did my console just do that" video explaining Preset vs. Tracking consoles.

I know how to relate this board to the ETC Impression 2 we previously had, but not much about how to relate it to the Strand 300 console that they used as Jr. High students. (The last time I used a Strand board was when I was in Jr. High myself)

So, how would you categorize the Strand 300? Preset or Tracking, or somethign different? I know it doesn't have a release key, and it has a command line somewhat similar to the Ion Console. I haven't been able to find anything on the Strand site that was really helpful.

Also, any other good videos, sites, or tips on teaching to use a tracking console?

Thanks :grin:
 

sk8rsdad

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We moved from Express to Ion in 2008 and had to retrain our volunteers. Here's what I learned from that experience...

Avoid the comparison. Tracking is a different paradigm from Preset so filling their heads with comparisons is not going to help them start thinking in a new way. Teach it like they don't know anything about lighting consoles and let them fill in the blanks in their own way.

The mechanics of recording a cue is not really any different. The contents of a cue are significantly different. Develop new habits that take advantage of palettes, presets, and all the other time-saving features.
 

derekleffew

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This comparison may no longer be relevant as so many students have never run or seen a resistance or autotransformer board, but ...

If you're going to use any comparison, make it between a tracking or "move-fade" console and a manual system. You put a handle at a level. It stays there forever until/unless it gets a "move" instruction. Doesn't matter how many cues come in between. The operator's cue sheets only document handles that move in a cue, not the level of every single handle as on a "state" or preset console.

The wiki entry Cue Tracking contains a good illustration, similar to the "Bobblehead Fred" video.
 

Footer

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So, how would you categorize the Strand 300? Preset or Tracking, or somethign different? I know it doesn't have a release key, and it has a command line somewhat similar to the Ion Console. I haven't been able to find anything on the Strand site that was really helpful.
Depends how it was set up. The console does both. Strand has been been making tracking consoles longer then anyone else currently out there. If the console was in "lightpallet" mode, odds are it was running tracking. If it was in "geniuspro", it was running cue only. Most left in schools are set to geniuspro with tracking off. Really the only "something different" out there is the expression line. They were cue only consoles that could track if you knew what was going on in the console.

The auto-transformer analogy is the best and the one I used when teaching.

Really, the EOS line is more simular to the Strand consoles then the Expression line of consoles. I would actually tell your students to forget more from the expression then the strand 300. Most people I know who are Strand people adapt to the EOS line faster then people who are coming from an Expression.
 

kiwitechgirl

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As Footer says, it depends which mode the 300 was running in as to whether it was tracking or cue-only. We've just switched to an Ion from our much-beloved Strand 520 (which runs the same software as the 300, just has a different control surface) and it's been a pretty smooth transition. We always ran the Strand in "Direct 2-digit" mode, so we've had to adjust to a different syntax and pressing the ENTER key after every command - so rather than typing "1 @ 50" you have to type "1 @50 ENTER", and typing "RECORD CUE 1 ENTER" rather than "CUE 1 RECORD", but that's pretty minor and we've all coped fairly well (does anyone know if you can put the Ion into 2-digit mode?!). The whole tracking thing hasn't been too difficult - we'd started to run the Strand in tracking mode of late anyway, but it's not too hard to get your head around - the biggest thing I find is that I have to remember to hit the CUE ONLY button when I need to - have dug myself a few holes by forgetting it...
 

avalentino

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It is true that most students have never worked on, seen, or in many cases heard of transformer dimming. However, as a basis to understanding tracking and move fade behavior, its an easy way to put the concept of "things stay where they are until you give them a new value, and nothing changes without a move instruction" in context.

Without this background, tracking/move fade can seem like a very arbitrary set of rules. With history, the rule set for why channels do what they do becomes very clear and consistent.

It's sort of like trying to sort out the politics of the middle east (as an example) without knowing the history. You may learn the facts, but you'll never understand the why part. And the why part is really important when attempting to make the behavior understandable and predictable. :)

Tracking is most easily understood by working in blind spreadsheet. Edit some channel data, make some new cues and see what happens. Use both tracking and cue only. Delete some cues using both tracking and cue only. Many people new to tracking are afraid of it.... they understand that they have to use cue only (or set the desk in cue only mode) in certain instances, but they don't really ever learn why .... they only know if they don't do certain things, bad things possibly happen. When you understand it, you can harness the real power of it and significantly speed up the programming process. This goes hand-in-hand with update. If you really understand updating, in relationship to tracking, you find that you can often work much more quickly.... and have confidence that you won't pooch your show.

If there is anything I can do to help craft additional information for your students, please feel free to drop me an email at [email protected]. I'm happy to help.

Anne Valentino
Eos Product Line Manager
ETC
 

Schniapereli

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It is true that most students have never worked on, seen, or in many cases heard of transformer dimming. However, as a basis to understanding tracking and move fade behavior, its an easy way to put the concept of "things stay where they are until you give them a new value, and nothing changes without a move instruction" in context.

Without this background, tracking/move fade can seem like a very arbitrary set of rules. With history, the rule set for why channels do what they do becomes very clear and consistent.

Anne Valentino
Eos Product Line Manager
ETC
The historical background helped me understand it a lot myself. The Bobblehead Fred video you guys made was enormously helpful.
I'll definitely try to demonstrate with the blind spreadsheet.

Thanks everyone for what's been posted so far. I myself have never worked on a tracking console either, and so this is going to be very informational for me as well, and it will open up a lot more possibilities with lighting control.
 

GageStryker

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I still remember the first time that I worked on a tracking console - I had to learn from the manual and from trial and error, and the fact that this console could track or not OR... (moved up to an MA from an ETC Insight 2x).

I've trained a fair amount of our techs on the move over, and I've found that tracking is a double edged sword. I generally spend a fair amount of time reinforcing and providing practical challenges to reinforce their cue building skills and work with palettes "ALWAYS build your palettes and then build your cues from your palettes." Then it's time for tracking.

Just like everything else, get them to ask "why would I want tracking?" Ask them to do real world things, like update the level of one instrument in every cue, and then show them how much easier it is with tracking.

In my mind, once you get the idea of palettes down, tracking is much more intuitive... because palettes you're recording data inherited from predefined sets (the palette) and tracking you're recording data inherited from predefined cues (the last cue with values). Once you get the concept of how powerful it is to inherit items in programming, then tracking becomes just another method of inheritance.

If you REALLY want to get your point across and be mean and evil, get someone to program without palettes or tracking with movers, and after they've done their hours worth of work on seven or eight cues, get them to move the DSC position of all the movers. THEN teach them palettes.
 

NevilleLighting

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All of the posts above have sage advice. As a professor I find tracking to be one of the hardest things to teach. As a lighting designer I rely on it every day. I try to teach the idea that a channel will continue as had been told intil it has been told to do something else. In "old timers" terms we call that a "hard level" or a "hard move".

The key is to put a blocking cue at the end of every scene or song to prevent the changes from affecting the rest of the show.
 

millamber

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Whenever I need to train people on tracking I use a visual aid. I carry with me in my toolbox 3 Lutron wall dimmers from Home Depot with the dial riostat control. I have them labelled ch 1, ch 2, and ch3. I will have the students use these 3 wall dimmers to set the ch 1 and 2 dials to full and the ch 3 dial to zero. "That is your cue 1," I'll say. Then I have them set ch 2 to 0 and ch 3 at full for "cue 2" making sure they notice that ch 1 is still at full because it "tracked" through and I only needed "move fade" instructions to my changed channels.

It sort of sounds confusing as I write it down, but I've found that in person, the visual aids help quite a bit to get students to understand what is happening in the console, and I have gotten positive feedback from it, while it only cost me around 20 dollars for the dimmers.
 

mstaylor

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Whenever I need to train people on tracking I use a visual aid. I carry with me in my toolbox 3 Lutron wall dimmers from Home Depot with the dial riostat control. I have them labelled ch 1, ch 2, and ch3. I will have the students use these 3 wall dimmers to set the ch 1 and 2 dials to full and the ch 3 dial to zero. "That is your cue 1," I'll say. Then I have them set ch 2 to 0 and ch 3 at full for "cue 2" making sure they notice that ch 1 is still at full because it "tracked" through and I only needed "move fade" instructions to my changed channels.

It sort of sounds confusing as I write it down, but I've found that in person, the visual aids help quite a bit to get students to understand what is happening in the console, and I have gotten positive feedback from it, while it only cost me around 20 dollars for the dimmers.
Not having used a tracking board, I aassume a blocking cue is all dimmers to zero. Then when you start a new scene all the active dimmers have to be changed.
 

derekleffew

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