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Control/Dimming To scene, or not too scene; alas poor Express...

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by derekleffew, Jun 17, 2008.

  1. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    As we've discussed on CB many times, the two-scene preset console is quickly approaching Obsolescence™ (coming soon from a video company near you). David Lincecum of ETC, expresses the company's philosophy here, in an expression of his obsession.

    Discuss among yourselves. I'm on vacation.:)
     
  2. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    All I have to say is "I told you so."

    By the time that IONs really make it into the educational market on the high school level, the teachers are going to be the the students that were talked of in the article. That and even though cities cut budgets for arts people are realizing that they need to have instructors who know what they are doing.

    It is about time that the Expression was discontinued. It was a great workhorse, but the operative word in that sentence is "WAS." It is time for new things. Frankly I find it a little disappointing that it takes so long for our industry to move ahead with technology, though I suppose it is cost prohibitive. Really, why can't a console cost the same as a top of the line computer, that is all it is, just with a few different buttons. If consoles didn't cost upwards of $8K for low end and over $40K for high end we might be able to advance the technology more. No one expects their computer to last 10 years, why should we expect our lighting consoles to last that long?

    Just my two cents.
     
  3. lieperjp

    lieperjp Well-Known Member

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    But, think about it. You get what you pay for. Sure, you can get a home PC for $200-300 at Wal-Mart, or order online and get one for just a little more. But you get what you pay for. I don't think many of these cheap computers would last for more than 4 years at most. Is that what you want for your light board? If you want a cheap board, go with Leviton. For me, I would rather have something I can depend on for a number of years and not have to worry about a crash, or parts falling off, or having to treat it with kid gloves to ensure a long-life.

    Of course, I never expect to work with a grandMA or Hog lighting system. I would still like to see an ION come down in price, of course, but even then I don't mind spending $8,000 on an extremely specialized computer, especially when I know I won't have to spend $8,000 for another ten years, all dreams aside.

    I understand what you're saying, though. If the low end and high end systems could come down to a price range where development could pick up, then theatre would benefit, but at a cost. Say the low end systems drop to $3,000 but to keep up with development you have to buy one every three-four years - you're still spending the money but with a lot more waste - especially in materials, and time spent to become accustomed to a new interface.

    If you want development to go rapid-pace, I would look to pc-based lighting programs because those are cheaper, and can be installed on a cheap(er) system and also they can be replaced. Sure, they aren't as nice or as efficient as a light board, but as development continues, I wouldn't mind switching from a light board to a PC.
     
  4. BillESC

    BillESC Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    You're missing market potential. Computers are cheap because how many are purchased a year? A million, five million, twenty five million?

    How many lighting consoles are purchased a year? I suspect it is a very small fraction of the numbers enjoy.
     
  5. Darthrob13

    Darthrob13 Active Member

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    Hardware is dead.

    The issue is the software that it runs. Period.

    Like it or not, Ion--Palette--GrandMa--Hog....they are all PC based lighting consoles. True, they come with special keyboards (ie, interface panels), but that is all they are.

    Software is king. Long live software.
     
  6. Grog12

    Grog12 CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    Feel better now? ;)
    And for the record we all knew it was coming from the day they released Congo...it was prolonged because Congo sucks.

    And by the time those intstructors are making names for themselves they won't want to give up the Ion for the next big thing.

    Here's where your wrong. It is a great workhorse. Its still better than most of the lower end boards released in the past 5 years and that includes Smartfade.


    They tried new things...and a lot of the fell flat on their face...look at Emphasis.
    And as its been pointed out, a lot more computers get sold a year than lighting consoles.
     
  7. MNicolai

    MNicolai Well-Known Member Fight Leukemia

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    Consider retail department stores. The price you pay for a shirt isn't the cost of materials alone, but all factors. That means that you really pay for materials, labor, store employees, insurance for those employees, theft, shipping costs(gas), and a lot more. Think about it, stores don't really lose out hard on thefts, because it's already accounted for. Then of course, when everything is said and done, you also pay to gain that store profit.

    So let's say that the materials used to build the Express series are becoming outdated; suppliers stop supplying, or raise their prices for the abstractness of the purchase. For all anybody knows, if ETC keeps making these for years and years to come, the quality doesn't improve, but maybe the price does, but then you've got a PR problem.

    I would agree that technology does have to progress on. You can't expect a company to continue producing each product they've ever made on the basis that somebody might want to buy it. That's like saying Nintendo should keep producing the original Gameboy, as well as Gameboy Color, and any other variations; you know? Keep the customer's options open?

    HOWEVER, I would still like to see two-scene's in use sparingly as a building block for users. This is because, I know at our local high school, we have plenty of options. By this fall we'll have three performance spaces and an additional rehearsal hall. That means we can have our Congo Jr. setup in our 750-seat PAC, but could still have a building block Express 24/48 for students to start on in our 150-seat house, and then have our outdoor stage to learn how to set systems up as needed.

    For the student level, I've noticed, at least with sound, that the killer is having a solid system which never moves. Our local high school has nobody besides myself that can setup a system on their own because the few that have learned how to operate never had opportunities to also set the system up, and then when something goes wrong if the right person isn't in the right spot at the right time, their SOL. That's why I like having a complex installed system, a simple installed system, and a touring rig. That means that a student can be built up progressively into each concept of learning. That comes with technical progression though.

    I just designed a $32k upgrade to retrofit our Express 24/48 and cross-bussed Unison DR12 dimmer racks into our 150-seat house to update the electrical system from the Electro-Controls slide-patch hell of the 60's that still sits in there. The price tag for upgrading beyond the fiscal edge is that students will not be taught simple patching, but that's hardly a problem, because once they work their way up to the Congo Jr. in our 750-seat house they will learn the same concept of patching dimmers to channels on the back-side instead of the front-side of the program.

    For sound we will have the same progression. First students learn how to use a Mackie 1604VLZ-Pro, then they will learn how to tour it and set it up for different events in the school district, and once they've made their fair share of educational mistakes on school board meetings and talent shows then they will work their way up to learning how to use our Yamaha LS9-32.
     
  8. SteveB

    SteveB Well-Known Member

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    As posted over on ETC Forums:

    First off, a great blog by David, and I think you’ve hit the nail on the head about “2 Scene” operation, but hopefully not driven the nail too far into the manual console coffin.

    Having read the many, many forum posts about 2 scene and manual control, a subject I am passionate about, I keep coming back to a need to separate the concepts of “Cuing” a show and “Running” a show.

    Sometimes you get to Cue before the need to Run. Sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you need to have a lot of Cues/Presets/Looks etc… ready to run for an event that has no time to properly run through the sequence of looks (fondly referred to a as a Cue to Cue) - Busking is the current term. It really doesn’t matter if it’s an incandescent S4 on a dimmer, or an LED ParCan, or a set of ML’s doing whatever, there is always going to be a need to run it all on the fly.

    Trouble is – How ?. Or, how on an Eos/Ion, when a Congo/Jr. Isn't your cup of tea.

    Multi-scene consoles (those 3-10 scene beasts) are not the answer, and have been dead for decades, being correctly replaced by the “Memory” console, some 25 years ago. In my world, a console that had 2 Scene capability wasn’t so much a device intending to be a simplified multi-scene console, as much a device that offered some form of manual control, for those times when there’s no time, or need to record cues. As stated in my ETC Forums post, I rarely run in 2 scene (except for every June, with those annoying dance recitals) and am currently paying very close attention to how I operate the Express, with the thought that someday it's going to be an Ion with subs. Maybe.

    'Cause as good as the current crop of desks is and as much as they've all improved over the years, there’s still no substitute, nor anything as fast and simple – yet, for a piece of tape under a manual fader that is labeled “Podium Special”. Not even a touch screen is as quick, mostly as there’s no great way to label the channel on the screen (talking theatrical cueing console) Having to look at a magic sheet to find the “Podium Special” then back to the keypad to sneak up a channel number is simply not as quick.

    And before we get too carried away using the digital audio desk as a comparison, remember that each and every digital audio console (I’ve ever seen) used for a live event, has the basic gain control on a manual fader. Usually 40 or more, plus a lot of group faders. All that’s being automated is the stuff that doesn’t need to change much during the event, namely all the EQ settings, monitor mixes, etc… So obviously, the audio folks also feel the need for manual control where it works best.

    What the Ion offers, with the ability to add-in upwards of 240 submasters, seemingly fits the bill for the Express/Expression/Insight replacements, and I applaud the thinking at ETC to get the “art” up to what the “state of the art” is capable of.

    Certainly the mix of LED's needing tons of attribute control, as well as the needs of moving lights and the difficulty of doing busking with all this stuff, forces the console designers to think way down the road and to come up with products that are not obsolete in 5 years. I for one, am not yet certain of the best methods of controlling 40-60 manual channels, as well as a dozen ML's , all in a fast moving and totally unrehearsed event. That is what I do a lot of and why I ask “How” do I do this in the future ?”.

    Davids post did not touch much on the issue of manual control, more about what students and educators are using now and where ETC would like to lead them. All fine and well, but I'm not a student, nor are the folks at places like Avery Fisher, or countless other professional houses who do one-offs as I do.

    Thus I had trouble with 2 comments, quoted here:

    “The very nature of the Move-fade and LTP operation of the Eos system made 2 scene difficult to wedge in. These two things just don't go together well. When you wedge things together you make compromises.“

    OK, no big deal about 2 scene – and I understand the underling conceptual differences with a 2 scene being a so-called “presetsystem, while Eos/Ion is a “Trackingconsole. But how 'bout simple manual control ?. Is that beyond Eos/Ion ?, or have we lost track of what a lot of users are doing in the field ?, and why then 240 submasters , which by-the-way, I cannot fathom how to reach all those faders without standing to operate the console.

    “We provide 2 scene operation on the Smartfade console - so students can still see what it was like when "we had to work during shows."

    I don't actually prefer having to run one-off's on a manual console. I like nothing better then when an event walks in with a disk in Express/ion format and I can use the wonderful Merge capability of my Emphasis to load in the cues and not touch the patch or macros. Or when we actually have time alloted to write cues. Running a show manually means work, though sometimes watching a European LD, or Rufus McDonald of the National Dance Theater of Jamaica run a show manually and create art is a learning experience. Rufus runs crossfades in 2 scene and on subs that would take hours to re-create on a cuing console, all timed to what's happening as he sees it.

    Is all this going away ?. Or are the design wizards at ETC going to find a way to squeeze some of this functionality out of an Eos/Ion ?.

    The original post by BWTRIX asked a simple question and wondered whether a bit of additional code writing was possible to trick an Ion into thinking it's a 2 scene. In my mind, if you need a lot of manual control, for whatever reason, chances are you are not concerned at that very moment about Move Fades, or Tracking vs. Preset. You just simply want a simple method of getting some simple looks up on stage, but whatever you need is more then what a Smartfade can handle. My post way back in December of '07 had the following suggestion.

    “{If} Eos/Ion {is designed to} to do a simple trick that Emphasis is capable of, you can make 2 of your faders on a 2x10 into Supermasters, able to master a set of Playback Faders (I'm going to call the Submasters - "Playbacks", which reflects my optimism) - with one of these supermasters controlling Playback 1-40, the other as master to playback 41-80. With a Channel to Playback config as 1:1 for Playbacks 1-40, repeating on 41-80, you now have a 40 channel 2 scene with 18 Subs/Playback extra - also known as an expensive Express 48 2 scene, with all of the new bells and whistles for ML's,scrollers and LED's”.

    Thus was my optimism at the time. I hope it's still possible.

    Steve Bailey
    Brooklyn College
     
  9. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    Look through the 1977 Kliegl catalog. A 1355 was almost the exact same price as today's SourceFour. Adjusting for inflation, this means that "state of the art" conventional ERSs have actually come down in price, significantly. I cannot recall the exact price of my 1979 S-C Light Palette V4J, but I know it was in excess of $100K with every available option (floormats, cruise control, moonroof). The $10K Ion is ten times what that Light Palette was. In the 1970s, who, (other than perhaps Steven Skirpan) would have thought we'd be using touchscreens for lighting monitors today? Naturally, all theatre technology is "acquired" from other, larger industries.
     
  10. jbart74

    jbart74 Member

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    I find it a little disappointing that there are designers out there that feel they can never expect to work with a GrandMA or a HOG. To those who do feel this way, I suggest you take advantage of the many product demos offered around the country on a regular basis for both of these consoles. I've been a HOG guy for about 12 years now and will never go back to the educational ETC line. It just doesn't add up. HOG (and GrandMA) does everything any ETC board does but it does it faster and easier by a longshot. Oh, and it does a lot more too... You guys in eduacation should not consider these consoles out of your reach. As High End Systems, now a subsiderary of Barco, moves forward with their line of HOG III systems, the Hog II, HOG 1000, and HOG 500 are coming onto the used market like never before. Check out the websites, buy one cheap, and teach your students on the console they will most likely be working with in the professional world of lighting design with automated fixtures.

    jb
     
  11. SerraAva

    SerraAva Active Member

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    I agree with SteveB on a lot of stuff. The bulk of what I do is on the fly, no or little time to program.

    The ability to sub and group stuff out, and just grab quickly is great. I have done dance concerts on an Insight 3 programing as many as 8 pages worth of looks/control and ran on the fly. Don't care who you are, a Hog isn't doing that any faster. Page number whatever and run up a fader, page number whatever and run another one, etc etc, then record and hit a sub button, have that look saved, run down those faders and do it over again and over again. You can even do it on the fly easily, edit blindly easily, and both are easy to do during show. Blind easy to access as well.

    I will always be a sub/channel fader junkie. Gives me more control on the fly. And for a theatre show with nothing but conventionals, I will still take an Express over a Hog, Ma, Vista, Ion, Eos, whatever. Even if I have more dimmers onto a smaller channel count, I still make it work. I also work to squeeze down to everything my channel faders. Having 72/144 channels at your finger tips with cues, groups, and 10 pages of 24 subs per is still a very powerful thing.

    I moron the death of not so much the Express as the lack of control that goes with it. There will always be a need for conventional lighting, and shows that use just that.
     
  12. Charc

    Charc Well-Known Member

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    Sorry, I just thought this typo was hilarious.
     
  13. SerraAva

    SerraAva Active Member

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    :lol:

    Hey, I thought it was pretty good after an 18 hour day on 4 hours of sleep with an 18 hour day before those 4 hours. I am on an hour now, so make sure to proof read this one for me too :lol:.
     
  14. SteveB

    SteveB Well-Known Member

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    You are missing the point.

    Hogs, Grand MA's and Vista's are great consoles for what they do - control ML's and LED systems, even in busking situations.

    What they don't do well is events that need a lot of manual channels, They don't offer a lot of manual channels, and trying to use the touch screens as a substitute is not as fast as having a fader. Period.

    Hogs, GrandMA's and Vista's are also enough of a different operating style that many traditional theater LD's "still" have trouble getting their heads wrapped around what the consoles can do, thus the Eos is off and running with a lot of Broadway style shows and tours. It's a traditional - Obsession style theater desk that is seemingly great at doing ML's.

    Certainly the students and teachers at the assorted schools should indeed be teaching with the baby versions of the ML desks and that's happening. NYC Tech College - CUNY teaches ML control on Hog II's currently (they really need to move up to the Hog III or GrandMA and they know it - but money's tight).

    The current debate and commentary on the ETC forum as well as here on CB, is not about what the students should be learning on, it's about what a whole industry full of LD's and console operators find themselves needing - better manual control on the new consoles. Thus the request at the ETC site, for some additional functionality out of the submasters on the Ion.

    ETC is SO close to having this, they are just very coy about letting out if and when any of these requests for functionality can be implemented.

    OK, so we whine and we wait, I'm very good at that !.

    Steve B.
     
  15. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    I guess I don't see the point of morning over the death of two scene. The idea that you can teach something important with one doesn't impress me at all. You can teach how we used to do it but does that do anything for the new designer than impress them with how cool you were back then? Starting out on a submaster system is far more valid in my opinion and just as easy to operate. It takes 5 minutes to read the manual to figure out the key sequence to call up individual lights and activate a submaster but that's it. If the technophobs (Mrs. McQueen the English/Drama teacher or Pastor Leffew) want to learn how to use the light board they can master the use of submasters in a few minutes. However it opens up a much larger world of programing then a two scene for the students who want to learn something. The payoff is simply better.

    What I find most interesting is that ETC is willing to say, we may loose money on this but we are going to do it because we think it's best for the industry. It opens up the way for Strand, NSI, EDI, Leviton, etc... to clean up in the low end market. It's the right thing to do. I don't think I would have done it myself... but it's the right thing to do.

    By the way pricing... You should be able to get an Ion with a fader wing for around $9k. A Strand Palette Basic 100 (16 subs-100 channels-500 channel upgrade available) starts a little over $5k. As always prices will vary depending on the volume your dealer buys at, the total size of the package you are buying, and the amount of profit the dealer is willing to give up in order to make the sale to you... How is your relationship with your local dealer? Strand also has a 48/96 2 scene preset Palette for the true Believers for around $7000
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2008
  16. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    Yeah, you all know that it is MOURNING right?

    We should not mourn the discontinuation of Express(ion) as the technology is just outdated. It is possible to get your submaster functions on all the new desks, and I can't remember the last time I needed individual channels on faders. This is theatre, we adapt, and we move on.
     
  17. Grog12

    Grog12 CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    While I can't speak for Hog II/III or Vista this statement is completly false in terms of grandMA (btw Grand MA is that lady who gave birth to one or if you live in Arkansas both of your parents grandMA is the lighting console).

    With the MA I have the ability to create subs, run each channel individually, program a Q-stack or set a chase to a push of a button...virtually at the same time. No ifs, no ands no buts. Quick and easy.
     
  18. SteveB

    SteveB Well-Known Member

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    Grog

    GrandMA original has 20 faders.

    GrandMA 2 has 30 faders and only now has a Fader Wing, with up to 4 allowed, for a total of 90 faders, which FINALLY is a step in the right direction.

    Ion has potentially 240 handles.

    Express 48 has 120

    My point is that I, and many others have a requirement for a LOT of handles. I've ran a GrandMA (years ago - when it first came out) and could not do justice to an event that the year before we ran on a Hog II for ML's and an Express 48 for conventionals. We tried, we thought the GrandMA could handle all the moves. It couldn't.

    Now don't get your panties all in an uproar. This is not a put down of the GrandMA. It's a great console. But it (till the 2) could not do as well some functions that an Express could do. Like grab 30 or 40 handles and quickly build up some looks. Not to mention importing cues from a visiting show that cue'd on one of the other 14,000 Express and Expression consoles in use.

    Thus I am of the opinion that the manual desk is not dead, should not be dead and obviously the manufacturers are listening, if reluctantly, witness MA's addition of the wings and ETC's Ion and Congo series. Not to mention that Avo still finds enough users needing a Diamond to continue manufacture of that beast.

    Thus, I am puzzled by the comments of the folks, who don't run events the way I (and many others) have too and are seemingly insisting, with comments from Icewolf such as "I can't remember the last time I needed individual channels on faders. This is theatre, we adapt, and we move on" that this method is the new and ONLY way to run an event.

    I find it odd that I am being asked to have to explain, somewhere in the future, that a very quick and simple operation I could do on a 15 year old Express is no longer possible because we've "improved the product".

    Beating this subject to death.....

    SB
     
  19. SerraAva

    SerraAva Active Member

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    I think that some people just want to use new technology because it is there, not necessarily because it is 'better'. When the Hog 3 first came out, no one, and I mean no one, would use it. It was horrible next to the old Hog 2. It took High End years of updates and patching before it became stable and and more useful then the Hog 2. Even now, I can still manage to crash the thing. I still haven't crashed a Hog 2, 500, or 1000 yet.

    While the Ma is a great desk, it can not do what an Express does with conventionals, both in speed and control. Sure, you have 20 handles and can page through. As SteveB pointed out, an Express 48/96 has 120 handles, with out paging. On top of that, you can still hit the group button @ whatever percent, then enter. The other big boys, the Insight 3 and Express 72/144, have 108 and 168 handles respectfully.

    Let's take the Insight 3, 1080 subs, easily accessible. Page number whatever, enter. They are there. Now, I forget how many window buttons are on a Ma, but going by strictly faders, you need 54 pages to match the number the Insight has.

    The Hog 3 has 10 handles, and 6x5 or 12x5 buttons per window, 30 and 60 per window respectfully. That is 108 pages to have the 'looks' on handles, 36 pages for 6x5, or 18 for 12x5. And paging on the Hog for the Windows isn't the greatest either. Then you also need releases for those things that are in windows and not on handles. Plus the fact that you have to either enter the number, touch it, or click it and then hit enter takes more time then just running up handles. And if you want to adjust the percent, repeat the process (I realize there are easy ways around this, but with a ton on conventionals, just not an option at times).

    I could go on and on about ways the Express line is faster and 'better' then more modern consoles. I adapt to new technology when it benefits me, not when it hurts me, makes my job harder, and/or makes my job that longer. You can sit here and try and tell me that it is this or it is that, it is prettier, it is 'faster hardware', more memory, whatever. Does it help me or take a step backwards for what I am doing?
     
  20. Grog12

    Grog12 CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    No...MA has 19980 faders...you just have to hit the page plus button to get there. 999 pages, 20 faders a page. And with motorized faders each page is exactly the way you left it.

    This I agree with wholeheartedly.

    But honestly I find it funny that people look at the MA and don't see it as a manual desk when it very much and very easily is.
     

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