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  • 5 Basic Things You Need to Know About Moving Light Consoles

 March 4

by David

I have been accused of being “old school” in the past.  True, I was the only guy in my lighting shop who could operate the old lighting console that’s used once a year, and true, I can cut get faster than a kangaroo, but that doesn’t make me old.

A few years ago, I started making the jump to moving light control, and boy did things get confusing fast!

Maybe you can relate.  You may have started your lighting journey as I did, working with rigs of only conventional lights and a big ole’ desk with tons of faders and no screen.

You spent your time behind a console patching channel numbers to dimmer numbers and doing fairly complex addition to make everything fit within the allowed channels.  Dip switches were your best friend.

But then came the moving light console.  Suddenly you were having to think in terms of colors(“I want orange” instead of “red at full, green at 50%), positions(“go to FOH” not “pan 73%, tilt 25%”).  This was very different, and a bit unsettling.

What happened, and where did all the numbers go? What happened was the abstraction layer.  This is the great feature of the modern moving light console that frees the designer from thinking mathematically, allowing you to just design.

Over the past 10-15 years this transition has slowly taken place, taking its fullest form in the newest lighting consoles available.  If you’re like I was, your first reaction to this change is to miss your numbers.  Abstraction can be confusing when you’ve never thought of your lighting in real-world units.

So what basic things do I need to know to transition into a new console?

I’ve boiled this down into 5 basics to get you started.  After these, go out there and play with a new console if you have the ability to do so, and you’ll have a great first step.

  1. Get excited that multiple fixtures and multiple color mixing theories can now be mixed without a thought.  With one click of a button, your CMY moving lights and RGB LED’s can be made the same color.  Easy peasy.
  2. Keep in mind that some consoles can do color in both the non-abstract way and the abstract way, but they don’t pair together well.  So choose one of the methods for your show and stick with it, or you may accidentally make all of your LED’s flash to white when all you wanted to do was bring up the intensity.
  3. Remember to still think about transitions for your gobos.  Since you can click one button to flip from one to another, you may not remember that your light has to go through 5 other gobos to get there.  This is important!
  4. Remember to never type in numbers to the command line for light attributes.  This will not help you move away from the old world!  Yes, it will work and turn the lights on, but let’s stay away- okay?
  5. Always test every cue you program before showtime!  This will ensure you didn’t program anything unwanted on accident, and that all of your transitions look as you want.

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