When working with a console in lighting, regardless of what type of lighting, is a part of the setup that can do one of two things. A console can make the biggest impact on your lighting or a console could be a hindrance to your lighting capabilities.
So, what console should you use for theatre lighting? That’s what we’re going too dive into and discuss in this post.
Choosing the right console is deciding on one that is matched well to what you need and is able to do what you need it to very well. A console will be able to give you the creativity and the ability to make a great impact on your stage as well as being reliable and effective.
Related: Choosing Your First Lighting Console
Traditional Lighting Consoles
In some cases, I would recommend going with a more traditional PC based lighting console. The reason why is that most schools or theaters will have a PC and monitor available to work with. With lighting Softwares, such as ONYX, can run very well on a PC and not take up much space.
What are the pros and cons of this option?
The positive pieces to working with a traditional console would be that this allows you to program the lights along side the director and the tech team. Especially, when rehearsal is being done. This gives you the opportunity to highlight important scenes, test your lighting, and being able to work with others on creating a great production.
With a console like ONYX, you won’t have to fight over a computer or decide who can use it and when. Lastly, with ONYX you can get started with the console for free. There are limitations of course but you have the ability to use it and decide if you like it.
Related: How To Get Started with ONYX
There are some cons to this approach as well. Such as, you would have to trigger the lights manually during the production. Or if wasn’t you, you would need to train someone else to trigger the lights. Or you would have the lights trigger automatically but you would have to bring in a 3rd party source to do so.
A different type of console to consider for theatre lighting would be the Mac based program, Q-Lab. Q-Lab is a console that is specifically designed for theatre lighting.
Q-Lab is a program that is specifically designed for theaters. It allows you to bring in sound effects, lighting cues, and even video. You then can put these on a timeline so that the person running the program can trigger these throughout the show.
One of the perks I really like is that you can start with Q-Lab for free but there are some limitations. If you decide to purchase Q-Lab you will also have a rental option that can be as little as $4 a day. The benefits of renting Q-Lab is that if you decide to purchase the program you will be able to use what you paid in rental fees towards purchasing the unit.
With Q-Lab you can have your audio, lights, and even video all in one place. This can make it very easy to train someone how to run these during the production. Q-Labs does have the ability to trigger lights through MIDI so this allows other options to be considered.
Just like any other console, there will be some cons. One of the downsides to Q-Lab is that if you want audio, lighting, and video or even a combination of two, your rental cost will increase.
In my personal opinion, the Q-Lab lighting controls have improved but they are more of a learning curve to program than you would have working with a console such as ONYX.
With any console, there will be the time invested with learning the software, programming the lights, and so on. But once you have the right console and dedicate time to learning how to use it, it can be a very powerful tool for your lighting capabilities.