In this post, we’re going to tackle the question of “Should you use a PC based or a stand-alone console?” In the lighting industry and with technology advancing, consoles have come a very long way.
This presents the question of what type of console should you go with? The lines between PC based and physical lighting consoles have never been so blurred before.
In this post, we’re going to walk through some of the advantages and dis-advantages for both types of consoles to hopefully help you get coser to a decision.
A physical console is a stand alone unit that stays with the venue and fixtures. In most cases, it’s not running Windows or Mac and is most likely to avoid computer updates, viruses, etc.
One the greatest benefits of having a physical console such as the LightShark LS1 or the ONYX NX2 console is that these consoles run their own software making them extremely reliable units.
Not only is the reliability there. The general flow from the buttons, faders, and the screen is very easy to work with. Having your complete control options at your fingertips makes a great argument for having a physical lighting console.
PC Based Consoles
A PC based console would be the ENTTEC DMXIS that has a USB to DMX port or the LightShark Core which has both direct DMX port and Art-Net or sACN.
The benefits of going with this type of option is that it can be inexpensive compared to purchasing a physical consoles. These can be very easy to set up and units like DMXIS is great for those just getting started making it an easy to learn console.
The downside to PC Based consoles is that you may not always have a touch screen option. With Windows friendly units, it may be easier to pair up your console with a touch screen. With MAC units, this proves to be more difficult.
Another reason why PC Based consoles have a bad reputation is that the PC will have software updates that may clash with the console program, computer updates, viruses, and the computer getting used for other programs or apps.
Dedicated Lighting Consoles
Where having a physical console or a PC based console come together is when a rig is setup with a computer that is 100% used as a lighting consoles.
What this means is that the computer is most likely not connected to the internet especially during a show and this avoids any updates trying to install. Without being connected to the internet, any virus risks become almost obsolete, and this avoids any apps or software getting installed when you don’t want it to be used for other purposes.
Compared to the costs of purchasing a stand alone console, some are finding that it’s less expensive to instead have a dedicated computer running as a stand alone console only.
Which is a Right Fit for You?
There is no right or wrong answer as everyone’s setup, budget, and needs will vary. Having a PC based console may be a good fit if you’re a one-person team that doesn’t have to worry about others being on the computer. Production teams may find that having a physical console is more beneficial for their setup and needs.
It really comes down to what you’re wanting to accomplish, your needs, budget, and the resources you have available to you at the moment. If you’re not sure which console would be a good fit, I always recommend checking out the free demos that most companies offer.
If there isn’t a demo option available, then be sure to check out the tutorials instead. Just seeing the console in action or tryin it out yourself may provide more insight as to what you are hoping to work with and hat you expect out of your console.