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Author Topic: New Console thoughts  (Read 3695 times)

Grayson MSA Rech

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New Console thoughts
« on: December 05, 2023, 01:53:13 PM »

Hi all,

Its been a very long time since I've last posted (nearly 10 years) and since then I've really stepped into the Lighting realm from the Audio home I thrive in.  That said I've grown leaps and bounds in the Lighting LED world but like anyone here, a true professional is always learning from others.

So I'm hear to ask the talented folks what desk they might give a serious look towards with the given critieria.
- Price point $15-$25,000
- Minimum 4 universes
- Primary Roll -theatrical Cue operations
- Close secondary roll - Live on the fly mixing with intelligent lighting and effects.
- Will live 95% of the time in a fixed auditorium (non-mobile touring applications).
- Intuitive for advanced users and total beginners (students)
- Support in the area of lots of info out there from general industry masses and not just relying on manufacturer help desk.

I've been using Strand NEO consoles pretty much exclusively the last 8 years and for the primary role of Theatrical which is what our auditoriums mainly are used for they are pretty weak on the live-on-the-fly side of engineering flow IMO.  Our 2 auditoriums are both 100% full LED systems utilizing 2 full universes so a more robust platform is something I'm looking to upgrade in the near future.  I have a Chamsys QuickQ20 for mobile operations but wished the QuickQ30 came with motorized faders and larger screen capabilities.  (I know they aren't the same level desks)

So the main question is what brand / models would you suggest given the criteria above.  The GrandMA line appears to be the big daddy folks like on the road but is just too much to consider given I'm looking at 2 desks across the next 3 years or so.  My Strand NEO isn't a bad desk but all experienced light engineers kinda laugh at it and need alot of hand holding to navigate it as its apparently quite a different approach to driving than say ETC or GrandMA.  I don't have riders to meet and guest engineers are rare but I have an elite few students who I'd like to learn on something that is widely used or shares work flow should they continue beyond High school. 

Any points are warmly welcomed.
-Grayson


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Jeff Lelko

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Re: New Console thoughts
« Reply #1 on: December 05, 2023, 02:50:45 PM »

…Primary Roll -theatrical Cue operations…

…but I have an elite few students who I'd like to learn on something that is widely used or shares work flow should they continue beyond High school…

Hi Grayson, based on these two criteria alone the ETC Eos Family would be the only family of desks that I’d consider.  ETC will gladly demo the desks and help you pick the right choice for your needs.  ETC Eos is the industry standard in theater and going any other direction would be a sidestep at best.  Hope this helps!
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John L Nobile

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Re: New Console thoughts
« Reply #2 on: December 05, 2023, 03:23:27 PM »

Have you checked out the GrandMa 3 on PC? I have the 2 and everyone that's come through here has used it without any hint of complaints. I have mine setup with 2 touch screen monitors.
Disclaimer, I'm not a lighting guy.
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Brian Jojade

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Re: New Console thoughts
« Reply #3 on: December 05, 2023, 03:35:03 PM »

+1 on the ETC controllers. They are y the most common I've seen in theaters in the USA.

Other common touring systems are MA systems and High End systems and Avolites are the primary other somewhat standard players in the above MI market.

With the bankruptcy of Strand last year, I'm guessing their product got taken off of the request list for a lot of installs it may have gone into.

The problem with lighting consoles though is that they ALL are different.  Unlike with audio mixers where you could probably walk up to any foreign console at factory reset state and get some sort of mix going, lighting consoles require a bit more hands on experience before one is comfortable with them. 

If you've got visiting engineers coming in all the time, maybe it would be best to poll THEM and see what they would prefer.  I'd take a desk I'm familiar with any day over a better desk I've never used if show time is this week!
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Erik Jerde

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Re: New Console thoughts
« Reply #4 on: December 05, 2023, 08:48:40 PM »

I guess I've never found a pro level lighting console that is easy to use for beginners.  I've worked quite a few low to mid-end ones that are absolutely terrible too.  Part of the problem is that each lighting system is completely different.  They share little (if any) common "language" between them.  On an audio console you can expect a compressor to work in pretty much the same way on any system.  All bets are off with lighting, even if the functions share the same name.

If you'd like to give your students access to equipment that will give them marketable skills then it would be hard to beat MA.  The OnPC option is great if you're budget sensitive and they do have a wing available which can help make the computer system seem more like the real deal.  I haven't used ETC in years but it's my understanding like was stated elsewhere that they're a pretty big deal in theater so if that's the direction the kids are looking then invest there.

Something to possibly consider is bifurcation of the lighting job into two roles:  Designer and operator.  Given a system like MA (which I'm writing about since I'm familiar with it) - you can have an experienced and interested person be the show designer do all the complex work of building a show and then present that in a way that a less experienced operator can just run.  That way you have the power to do really cool things but a simplicity of operation that a newbie can run with little hand holding.  That would also give a path to advancement for the kids as well as a way for those kids who get really into it to just come in when the theater is otherwise dark and play.  High school kids who have interest have come up with some AMAZING things on lighting desks when they're given enough leash to play and learn.  Not sure how much intersectionality your theater program has with computer nerds (it was high in my day many decades ago) but MA has a full LUA engine and someone motivated can even go in and write their own code to do some really cool things.
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Rob Timmerman

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Re: New Console thoughts
« Reply #5 on: December 05, 2023, 08:50:15 PM »

With the bankruptcy of Strand last year, I'm guessing their product got taken off of the request list for a lot of installs it may have gone into.

Strand consoles have been taken over by Vari-Lite, and are still very much available.  Corporate entities aside, there was basically no impact to the Strand product portfolio as a result of the bankruptcy filing.
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Grayson MSA Rech

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Re: New Console thoughts
« Reply #6 on: December 06, 2023, 03:01:25 PM »

Have you checked out the GrandMa 3 on PC? I have the 2 and everyone that's come through here has used it without any hint of complaints. I have mine setup with 2 touch screen monitors.
Disclaimer, I'm not a lighting guy.

Thank you all for your thoughts and insights to my questions.  I'm going to investigate the EOS line and the GrandMA3 line.  The idea of a 2 stage approach . . . designer and operator made sense for sure.  As my student team learns and grows, I give them alot of grazing ability to work the system and practice learning advanced applications and trying new stuff.

I know I'm in a VERY rare situation here where I have high end sound and lighting gear especially for a high school and I've built a full mobile in house production company for an 11 building district from the ground up.  200+ events annually (95% are in-house produced so not a huge amount of outside touring coming through meaning low rider friendly needs) have me hopping and my elite team of students get access to some very impressive gear to raise our entertainment and event value for all.  The more they use and learn, the bigger our events can be and we rent next to nothing.  I let them run the shows as they become able to handle.  We were one of the first users to take possession of the Strand NEO desk series and while it has taken us this far and given me alot of experience, It is the weakest link in our systems in terms of navigating and learning curve. 

The EOS has been on my radar by a fellow staff member who used older ETC a decade ago but I have wondered if its robust enough to handle the nearly 100 LED system with ease.  Final thought . . . the question of going with ETC EOS or wait an extra year for a higher end console like a full GrandMA?  The gear head in me says wait for GrandMA but the steward of budget money says EOS will do the job just as well . . . ?

Again your insights are a big help to me and my tech team.
-Grayson 





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Jeff Lelko

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Re: New Console thoughts
« Reply #7 on: December 07, 2023, 05:26:25 AM »

Strand consoles have been taken over by Vari-Lite, and are still very much available.  Corporate entities aside, there was basically no impact to the Strand product portfolio as a result of the bankruptcy filing.

I haven't touched a Strand desk in probably 15 years and have no desire to do so again. 

The EOS has been on my radar by a fellow staff member who used older ETC a decade ago but I have wondered if its robust enough to handle the nearly 100 LED system with ease.  Final thought . . . the question of going with ETC EOS or wait an extra year for a higher end console like a full GrandMA?  The gear head in me says wait for GrandMA but the steward of budget money says EOS will do the job just as well . . . ?

ETC Eos can absolutely handle large LED systems with ease.  Their offerings have come quite a ways since the Express days back when dimmers were the norm.  Generally speaking, ETC will be happy to either bring a desk out to your location or host a demo at their regional office to help you pick the right setup for your needs.  ETC also offers 24/7 live assistance and supports their product lines indefinitely (even after being discontinued) so you can rest assured that your investment will be taken care of.

You really can't go wrong with either Eos or MA3.  MA as you know is the industry standard for most touring acts and what we call "busking" - where there's little to no scripted playback and you're essentially making it up as you go.  ETC has come a long ways to support that functionality in Eos, but their market share is still largely professional theater.  That being said, I certainly wouldn't turn my nose up if given either of those boards to work with.

Talking prices, you can definitely find an Eos product that fits nicely in the $15-25k range while meeting all your requirements.  MA3 is a bit trickier to pin down depending on availability, but an MA3 Full Size will set you back 3-4 times that.  You'd have to decide if that additional cost is worthwhile or can be better invested elsewhere.  Good luck!
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Robert Healey

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Re: New Console thoughts
« Reply #8 on: December 08, 2023, 02:55:56 PM »

Hi all,

Its been a very long time since I've last posted (nearly 10 years) and since then I've really stepped into the Lighting realm from the Audio home I thrive in.  That said I've grown leaps and bounds in the Lighting LED world but like anyone here, a true professional is always learning from others.

So I'm hear to ask the talented folks what desk they might give a serious look towards with the given critieria.
- Price point $15-$25,000
- Minimum 4 universes
- Primary Roll -theatrical Cue operations
- Close secondary roll - Live on the fly mixing with intelligent lighting and effects.
- Will live 95% of the time in a fixed auditorium (non-mobile touring applications).
- Intuitive for advanced users and total beginners (students)
- Support in the area of lots of info out there from general industry masses and not just relying on manufacturer help desk.

I've been using Strand NEO consoles pretty much exclusively the last 8 years and for the primary role of Theatrical which is what our auditoriums mainly are used for they are pretty weak on the live-on-the-fly side of engineering flow IMO.  Our 2 auditoriums are both 100% full LED systems utilizing 2 full universes so a more robust platform is something I'm looking to upgrade in the near future.  I have a Chamsys QuickQ20 for mobile operations but wished the QuickQ30 came with motorized faders and larger screen capabilities.  (I know they aren't the same level desks)

So the main question is what brand / models would you suggest given the criteria above.  The GrandMA line appears to be the big daddy folks like on the road but is just too much to consider given I'm looking at 2 desks across the next 3 years or so.  My Strand NEO isn't a bad desk but all experienced light engineers kinda laugh at it and need alot of hand holding to navigate it as its apparently quite a different approach to driving than say ETC or GrandMA.  I don't have riders to meet and guest engineers are rare but I have an elite few students who I'd like to learn on something that is widely used or shares work flow should they continue beyond High school. 

Any points are warmly welcomed.
-Grayson

The head of ETC's console development pointed out to me at LDI that the ETC Nomad works with both the PC version of Eos and Hog software interchangeably. That would allow you to use Eos for theater and Hog PC for busking and to expose your students to both softwares. You don't get a full sized desk and have to support a PC, but there are physical wings available for both options that connect to the PC via USB.
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James Feenstra

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Re: New Console thoughts
« Reply #9 on: December 09, 2023, 08:09:33 PM »

Realistically you can't go wrong with MA.....the 3 compact is probably accessible at the upper end of your price range, but I'd personally spring for the XT, since it's not a whole lot more and the extra touchscreen, encoders, playbacks, and faders are definitely worth it. If new users (ie students) are going to learn a console, MA is probably the best place to start given the market share

Second option would be ETC
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Re: New Console thoughts
« Reply #9 on: December 09, 2023, 08:09:33 PM »


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