The development of new networking technologies has radically transformed the lighting control console market. S&S takes a look at the best lighting consoles from four of the industry's leading manufacturers.
Jands Vista T4
Australian lighting console manufacturer Jands is one of a new breed of companies making an impact on the professional stage lighting design market.
The flagship of the company's lighting console range is the impressive Vista T4, which Jands claims offers users a "fundamentally different" experience compared to rival consoles.
Jands attributes this bold claim to three key features inherent to the console's design: the inclusion of timeline-based programming, a simplified user-interface and a generic fixture model that automatically recognises replacement lighting fixtures and adapts the overall programming set-up accordingly.
Jands claims Vista is the first lighting console on the market to feature timeline-based programming, enabling users to make changes on the fly using the console's Windows-based interface and a digital marker instead of a keypad.
Jands claims the marker works in much the same way as a mouse, allowing users to 'draw' on the screen and drag and drop presets as and when required.
The Vista is also ideally suited to live performance applications, allowing users to pre-assign tasks and create shortcuts for specific design parameters.
Users can split fader banks to double playback or combine them to ensure dedicated control of timing, chase speed and a host of other features.
Encoder wheels can be used to set timing and chase speed, and to move through the timelines of clips as required.
Vista's generic fixture technology works by recording the colour, beam and other key details of individual lighting fixtures. So, when a fixture is replaced, the console automatically performs programming changes where necessary on the fly to ensure the new fixture best combines with the existing set-up.
MA Lighting grandMA
MA Lighting's grandMA series consoles have been utilised in the production of some of the biggest live events to be staged in the Middle East in recent years, including the opening and closing ceremonies of the Doha Asian Games and the 18th Arabian Gulf Cup in Abu Dhabi.
A firm favourite among rental companies and lighting designers working in the region, the grandMA series offers six unique hardware platform configurations, making it suitable for a range of applications, from live theatre and musical events to TV studio productions.
All grandMA consoles provide control of moving lights, conventional lights and effects, as well as LEDs and video content. The consoles can also be used in conjunction with MA Lighting's grandMA video media server, which provides access to stored media content.
The flagship grandMA full-size console features three colour touchscreen displays, two external displays, 20 motorised faders, 60+40 physical playback buttons, internal power supply and 2,048 DMX channels on-board, expandable to 4,096 DMX channels using an upgrade chip. The console also combines visualisation software, support for up to six remotes and 16,384 parameters (32,768 channels), with additional hardware available for DMX expansion.
MA Lighting also offers a scaled down version of the console known as GrandMA light. The console features a single colour touchscreen display, two external displays, 10 motorised faders, 30 physical playbacks, back-up power supply and 2,048 DMX channels on-board, which is expandable to 4,096 DMX channels using an upgrade chip.
Meanwhile, the smallest console in the range, the grandMA micro, features a single colour touchscreen display, ten manual faders, 30 playback settings, 1,024 DMX channels, free visualisation software and remote control support.
It is important to note that while the console boasts a tiny footprint, it does so at the expense of useful networking features such as multi-user, parameter expansion and tracking back-up functionalities.
HES Hog series
One of the key product releases at this year's prolight+sound exhibition in Germany was High End System's (HES) Road Hog automated lighting console, as featured in the June issue of S&S.
Boasting 2048 DMX control channels and two touchscreen displays, the Road Hog represents the latest technical iteration of a successful formula forged by HES with the Hog range, with the focus on streamlined control and maximum programme flexibility.
The top-line Wholehog 3 console features two full-colour, high-quality LCD touchscreens complemented by adjacent hard toolbar buttons, four encoder knobs, two encoder wheels, 10 playback faders, and a built-in illuminated trackball.
In terms of scalability, the console offers two monitor outputs, keyboard and mouse ports, MIDI input and output ports, two USB ports, fast ethernet via a rugged Neutrik Ethercon connector, and speakers with stereo audio output. The console also incorporates a built-in shock-mounted hard disk with CD-ROM drive and zip disk drive.
HES has also developed what it claims is the industry's first 'hybrid console', known as the Hog iPC. The small, mid-range controller is designed for use with the Wholehog 3 control system, but is also backward compatible with mainstay Wholehog 2 software.
Hog iPC uses four universes of DMX output direct from the console, expandable to eight universes using USB DMX widgets or a USB DMX super widget.
Two 12-inch colour touchscreens are included as standard, while a third monitor or touchscreen may be connected to the DVI port of the console, allowing additional windows to be viewed and adjusted simultaneously across multiple screens.
A backlit trackball with four configurable buttons provides cursor and position control, while 10 playback faders feature the familiar Wholehog 3 playback controls.
Other features include an internal hard disk drive and re-writeable CD-ROM drive and five USB ports for touchscreens, external drives, a printer or a comprehensive range of accessories. An ethernet connector allows communications with Hog 3PC computers, Hog iPC consoles, and Wholehog 3 console systems and devices.
Avolites' range of lighting control systems have earned a formidable reputation for their live production capabilities, having been employed extensively at this year's Glastonbury Festival and on tour with headline artists including Justin Timberlake, The Killers and Bloc Party.
Taking centre stage at Glastonbury was the D4 Vision console, which represents the latest iteration of the company's flagship Diamond 4 series consoles.
The D4 Vision boasts an improved feature set, a new processing engine and features such as Command Syntax, which allows users to instantly replay insertions and other programmed material.
Other standard features include 24 high-resolution graphic LCD screens, 28 cue playback masters with more than 200 pages, 128 preset faders, eight built-in DMX lines and ethernet capabilities.
Avolites also recently updated its iconic Pearl range, which still holds the mantle as the highest selling lighting console series ever produced. The Avolites Pearl Expert features a Pearl 2004 operating system but is powered by an Intel Core Duo processor. It boasts 20 master playbacks and new 'colour picker' technology, which provides instant and intuitive control of CMY and colour mix devices. Avolites claims that this represents the first of many updated software releases planned for the Pearl Expert.
Unique 'split roller' technology separates the 20 sub-masters into two banks of 10 allowing live mix and match of memories, while hard disk, USB memory storage and a built-in CD/DVD re-writer (and a floppy disk drive) provide for media backup.