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Author Topic: Software Controller upgrade - with hardware control  (Read 1298 times)

Jonathan Hiemberg

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Re: Software Controller upgrade - with hardware control
« Reply #10 on: August 16, 2019, 06:28:01 pm »

How many universes do you need?  Everything comes with trade-offs, and oftentimes itís worthwhile to give away excess capabilities such as universes youíll probably never use in return for getting more faders/buttons or a better-fitting product all together.  That was my case when I bought my ETC Congo Kid - Iíd rather live within fewer universes but get more surface to use.  Even though my Nomad license is the 12 universe version I rarely need more than 2. 

Whatís your budget for the project?


Universes - 2 would more than likely be sufficient. Right now we're using 2, but very little in the second one (and could probably squeeze to one).


Budget: The original budget specified was for a pack of new movers, using existing control. Being as I am the one doing the programming (not really my wheelhouse) I started looking for a smoother way around that.


Around that time I was at another venue that was pulling off the basic looks with similar fixtures I was after with Enttec D-Pro, and thus began the search.


So - the budget for the controller was essentially nil but I was thinking about squeezing one into the new package if I could swing it. If I was able to sell the Element 40 on the backend that would make it easier.


To clarify: This venue is doing little to no scene or cue list programming, really just busking groups of effects, colors, movements and effects that the volunteers can mix to taste during the music. With the addition of faders to control static front washes, house lights, etc. And any programming that does happen has up till now been done by myself, not the volunteers.


Thanks for all your help!
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Jeff Lelko

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Re: Software Controller upgrade - with hardware control
« Reply #11 on: August 17, 2019, 10:35:52 am »

Thanks Jonathan.  I personally think you need to be very careful not to take a step backwards here.  While Iíll be the first to admit that the Element isnít really intended for use with busking larger rigs of moving lights, itís still a very respectable console from a reputable manufacturer. 

Cheap control solutions are great until theyíre not, and it seems that youíre already past the point where the average bar/band controller wonít offer enough for your needs.  Youíre at the level where any true upgrade is going to be costing upwards of $10K and even a sidestep isnít going to be cheap to not be giving something up.  Iíd take an Element any day over a PC solution with no wing - something about the faders and buttons for busking is just too important to me.

My two cents would be to plan out the fixture upgrades first and see where that lands you budget-wise.  Your Element isnít going anywhere, so give that a try and see what you can pull off!  You might be surprised.  If you can manage to squeeze another 5-10K out of your budget for a new board then maybe shop around, but until that happens Iíd stick with what you have.  Hope this helps!
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Nathan Riddle

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Re: Software Controller upgrade - with hardware control
« Reply #12 on: August 17, 2019, 11:38:27 am »

While another perspective is certainly valid. I disagree with Jeff's (we're friends so it's okay :P ) statements about the Element, it's old and doesn't do anything easily and is a pain to teach volunteers.

Also the cost.
You can easily get into a jands situation or a used GrandMa (heck the Dot 2 is free) or a MPC situation for less than 10k. Heck, probably less than 5k even with faders. Now to Jeff's defense he's probably calculating labor in installing these systems. But for Jands it should be easily under 1k to install and train.

For Jands I don't think faders are necessary, but if you see people busking on this console then yeah a S1 or EX surface makes a lot of sense.

Let's define what you need:
2 universes. (maybe squeeze into 1 and have expandability)
Easy to use for volunteers
Hardware control (vague, faders, buttons, what?)

There's an used M1 with 2048 dongle for sale ~$2500: https://www.gearsource.com/catalog/stockitem/jands-vista-m1
(I'd be willing to trade up my 1024 dongle for the 2048 dongle as I'm using more and more LED pixels in my shows).

Chroma-Q CQ676-1024 Vista EX Control Surface with 1024 Channel Dongle is $5600 MAP (can quote you a slight deal)

MA Lighting grandMA2 onPC Fader Wing USB Fader Wing with 15 Faders and 60 Buttons - $5400 MAP
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Jonathan Hiemberg

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Re: Software Controller upgrade - with hardware control
« Reply #13 on: August 17, 2019, 01:55:32 pm »

Thank you guys so much for the input and help.


I will say, as far as the Element goes, I would hate to program more complicated movers - although it is definitely possible. Right now the only movers we're using are non-zooming RGB washes. I'll be adding fixtures with zoom, gobos, etc - a lot more complexity.


I see your point (Jeff) about upgrade or even sideways move - but I really feel like I don't need either for this venue, the Element is just a different type of console than what we're using. I purchased the Element thinking we would be doing a lot more theatrical work in this venue, when in reality it's basically a variety concert weekly, with semi-annual theatrical productions.


Right now as it's set up:
-touch screen magic sheet allows selecting fixtures or groups, then apply color palettes and focus palettes
-20 faders are programmed for individual intensities on front wash pars (will reduce that to 6 - we don't need that much individual control)
-10 faders are a mix of: Movement effects, strobe effects, color effects


So in practice, the user selects fixtures and gives them a static color, uses the faders to make things move/flash/change colors, and uses faders to bring up the front washes and house lights.


In reality, they need a really simple front end - 12 faders with a bank or two of buttons to select effects, strobes, motion effects would probably be more than sufficient.
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Jeff Lelko

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Re: Software Controller upgrade - with hardware control
« Reply #14 on: August 17, 2019, 02:23:07 pm »

No worries Nathan!  Even though we're friends in real life I'm always happy to have constructive debates with people who know what they're talking about and can present valid arguments  :)  We need to meet up again one of these days when we're both on the same side of the state!

I certainly won't deny that the Element is an older board and that it's geared towards high schools, community theaters, and other light-duty applications.  I guess what I'm really trying to say is that while there are certainly better options out there, there are plenty of worse things you could be using too!  Band-aided Expresses, point and click software, and DMX Operators are all things I've seen plenty of times in the wild that I'd take an Element over any day.  On top of that, your Element is paid for (presumably), so it costs you nothing to keep using it.  Programming will be a pain, yes, but if it's more or less a once-and-done it might be worth putting up with to save some decent money, at least for now. 

As an owner/user of many different types of equipment, I always try to make any upgrades really count.  Replacements are a different story, but if an upgrade is what's really needed, I want my investment to be worthwhile and not just an expensive side-step.  As example, last year I upgraded from an A&H Qu-PAC to a dLive.  Very big step up, but worth every penny to me.  I'm glad to see you jumped on the dLive train too Nathan!

Yes, I'm shooting a bit high with 10K, but that's a ROM for all said and done.  As far as the products I have in mind, a true upgrade would be to a flavor of ETC ION.  That said, since scripted playback isn't something that you do regularly, that probably isn't your best upgrade path.  Your type of application would be a perfect fit for my ETC Congo Kid, but sadly Congo/Cobalt is now a legacy product and I'm not giving mine up anytime soon!  Something from the Hog or MA product lines would probably be the most natural choice if a true upgrade to an industry-standard busking solution is what you desire, along with possibly a ChamSys option. 

Now, for full disclosure, I know a number of people that have gone from the ETC Express (or Element) to a Pathway Cognito2 and been very happy.  It's a very "different" type of board, but different isn't a bad thing here, especially for a volunteer user compared to a seasoned professional designer.  I certainly can't compare to Nathan's experience with Jands, so I'll let him champion that option!  I'm mostly an ETC user with the occasional ChamSys/Hog/MA project. 

Jonathan, what I'd suggest doing is taking the few desires you outlined in your latest post and compare them to a number of available options to see what fits best.  I did something similar when buying my Congo Kid which I discussed in my review here.  Getting demos of your short-list options never hurts either, and most software allows for a free download to click around with.  I'm glad to hear we're helping guide your decision!  Good luck!
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Nathan Riddle

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Re: Software Controller upgrade - with hardware control
« Reply #15 on: August 21, 2019, 01:25:16 pm »

No worries Nathan!  Even though we're friends in real life I'm always happy to have constructive debates with people who know what they're talking about and can present valid arguments  :)  We need to meet up again one of these days when we're both on the same side of the state!

Agreed! I need to visit NASA one day :)

I wholeheartedly agree to not downgrade with a crappy software console. IMO, the only runners in consideration are Jands, MA, and Onyx. Maybe ChamSys.

Not as familiar with the other consoles you suggest so I'll differ to your expertise. ETC long time, but we escaped to Jands around the time the ION came out, so I'm in the dark about ETC by now.

I agree you can download a lot of software options and watch some youtube videos to get an idea of the software solutions.

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Jonathan Hiemberg

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Re: Software Controller upgrade - with hardware control
« Reply #16 on: August 21, 2019, 05:14:19 pm »

Agreed! I need to visit NASA one day :)

I wholeheartedly agree to not downgrade with a crappy software console. IMO, the only runners in consideration are Jands, MA, and Onyx. Maybe ChamSys.

Not as familiar with the other consoles you suggest so I'll differ to your expertise. ETC long time, but we escaped to Jands around the time the ION came out, so I'm in the dark about ETC by now.

I agree you can download a lot of software options and watch some youtube videos to get an idea of the software solutions.


Thanks again for all the input. I'm taking my time to work through the options and make the right choice.
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ProSoundWeb Community

Re: Software Controller upgrade - with hardware control
¬ę Reply #16 on: August 21, 2019, 05:14:19 pm ¬Ľ


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