Welcome to the Learn Stage Lighting Podcast and today we’re discussing three types of console setups that will work for any size venue.
Main Segment (0:12)
Choosing a Console For Different Venue Sizes
David: What I wanted highlight today is some different options and what people might head for in different size venues. So at the end of the day, when I think about a console; a console used to mean some specialized piece of lighting board that’s a physical thing. Where you’ve got to put it somewhere, it’s got some faders, buttons on it, and you make lights happen with it, but today our options are a lot more diverse. So let’s talk about the very smallest venues. Some people like to run things just off tablets, and that’s totally doable, but at what point should people go with a physical console and have faders?
Troy: It all depends on the application but if, you know, it’s a church setting where you’d not necessarily have a lot of movement going on, you just want good clean light, to be able to move up and down at the appropriate times, a tablet is perfectly reasonable for the application. I’ve found with the tablets when it comes to concerts and those types of things, it starts to get a little tough. Once there’s more movement involved and you want to have a little more faders, more buttons, more knobs at your disposal; once you start to navigate towards doing more live shows that might be the time.
David: I think that brings an excellent point there, because all but for the simplest needs a tablet will leave something to be desired. So, if you’re looking at doing something for a small venue I always recommend, go fully wireless if you want but it’s always good to have some sort of a back up plan. There’s a whole blend of things between the full fledged lighting console and just a tablet. Tell us a little about your rig that you use most often and what some of the options are in the middle.
Troy: Sure! Right now I’ve been a fan of the ONYX software. It was the easiest introduction into an affordable professional lighting software that I could download right to my computer. My main for a 500 capacity club with a band I’ll bring my Windows based PC and I have two endplays. It gives me all the control I need as far as faders, the playback buttons are great, you can assign anything you want on them. So I prefer that. It was one of the cheaper options, it was one of the best options I found. I also love a PC based setup because I can do most if not all of the prep work at my house before the show. I invested in a great visualizer that I use all the time and I’m able to walk into a venue and plug in my DMX lines and everything fires up accordingly. The last thing I’d add is that with a PC based setup you have the ability to expand your rig at your own pace and budget.
David: That highlights a very interesting point too. You don’t have to be fully in the professional console realm or fully in the clicking and dragging with a mouse realm. With Windows you can get a touch screen on a computer really easily which is great.
Troy: That is a good point too. Having a touch screen makes everything amazing.
David: I think that’s important to highlight too actually. At the end of the day your console doesn’t have to be massive to work well. When you’re talking to somebody about what type of console or hardware to get for themselves, how would you advise them on what they need?
Troy: It comes down to how active is your operation going to be. Generally I like to think anywhere from 8-10 faders is a good place to sit. I like to have my main fixture groups, basic intensity faders, I like having physical control of those. Something about the endplay that I love is all the playback button options and that you can put anything you want on any of those. What steered me towards a console with those options is all of the possibilities I could use them with. You never know what you’re going to need so it’s good to have something that’s adaptable.
David: Ultimately there is always something you want more hands on control of.
Troy: That’s a good point. Physical buttons provide a lot more accuracy.
David: Where the touch screen option falls apart in lighting is that you need to actually trigger things on the nose, on the exact time, so it makes a lot of sense to have your finger actually resting on the button before you press down. With a touch screen you can’t actually rest your finger on it without pressing it. So that’s a big difference there. Touch screens can be great, touch screens can be cool, we like them, we love them for programming. But you do have to be a little bit more careful playback wise because you don’t get that level of real time control. In lighting I think we need that more than audio.
Troy: As far as hitting stuff in time with music, I would say so.
David: And so to kind of wrap things up here, it’s a blurry line. On a basic level you’ve got a touch screen only, and then we’ve got PC based systems which are often customizable. Then at the top end we’ve got full sized professional level consoles too. We’ve talked a lot about PC based consoles because there a lot of advantages to them but there are also a lot of advantages to a “real” console as well. What has your experience been like there?
Troy: I look at it from a concert standpoint. If you’re a touring LD and you’re going into clubs, venues, arenas, or amphitheaters or anything larger scale, more than likely there’s going to be a full size console there and you’re going to want to know how to operate it. Or if you’re a large venue like a mega church or something along those lines, there’s benefits in having a full size console for durability, longevity, and universal compatibility with other LDs coming in and operating off of it.
David: A lot of times they are going to be more expensive than just a PC based set up, but then the upside is that these things are designed to last. Not only that but some top line consoles have additional stuff like LCD labels for playbacks. That’s always helpful. Sometimes it’s beneficial to get the big consoles because it’s simpler for somebody to walk up to. Ultimately you have the same stuff in the PC setup but with the larger console being able to walk up, hit the power switch, it boots up, you can’t get into other things, it’s just the console. And sometimes that’s a good advantage. I tell people, if you’re a venue that has a healthy budget for your lighting system and you’re looking at buying lights, take the time to look at the console route and decide if it could be right for you. And vice versa, if you’re thinking you have to get a console, take a moment to look at PC options because it might make more sense for you.
Troy: Totally, I’m with you. As you said, there’s something to be said for having everything in house.
David: Yeah, you can’t customize exactly the amount of playbacks you want and stuff like that, I mean depending on the system like within the ONYX world, if you have that M-Touch, the Annex Touch Now or you have a wing you can attach those to their big consoles and they work which is great, but ultimately you get what you get. So no matter what size venue you’re in, don’t just go with the first thing you set your eyes on console wise, especially when we’re talking form factor here, where that’s really kind of the focus on this show. What’s the look and feel like, for lack of a better term. Do you want touch screens? Do you want playback faders, do you want playback buttons? With any of these options you get choices in what you’re going to choose and how you’re going to put them together. Ultimately you want to choose the best thing for what you need. Somethings that meets your needs, isn’t too overkill, although a little overkill never hurts, and gets the job done.
Troy: We call that room to grow.
David: That’s right.
Troy: That’s the cool thing about our industry. Technology is moving really fast and I don’t think I ever realized before I got into it how many options there are. It’s just about doing a little research or hiring somebody to help steer you in the right direction.
David: That’s actually a good point. If you’re one of those smaller venues, you’re going to want to avoid those cheaper, stand alone type consoles. They’re going to cause you more trouble than they’re worth.
Troy: I’m giving David a very firm headshake on that. You’re trying to figure out how to program it and you just want to smash it.
David: And at the end of the day, we want you to buy something that you don’t want to end up smashing.
Thank you for joining us today and Troy we appreciate you coming on the Podcast to help bring some different perspective.
We’ll see you guys in a couple weeks!