Large Venues use Professional Consoles that have extensive features available to be allocated to a small number of faders for a small footprint. These desks require a lot of training and experience so are not suitable for most schools and community theatre. Examples are GrandMA3 shown USD$66,862.50 , High End Systems.
There are Compact Professional Consoles which include LSC Clarity VX20 Wing with 2 Universes $6,094, Chamsys MagicQ MQ40N $9,159, Zero88 FLX P3,959, High End Hedge Hog 4, ETC Ion.
Most schools and community theatres use Fader Based Consoles because untrained users can push faders up to get basic lights working. Experienced users can perform more complex lighting with these desks when required.
Early small lighting desks such as the Australian Jands Stage 12 made in Sydney could control 12 channels in 2 preset mode or 24 channels in wide mode, with basic features, then expanded to 24/48 channels.
Then lighting desks started providing memory recording of lighting cues which led to the Jands ESPII being introduced to schools. These desks had a third row of faders called Scene Masters and a scene or lighting cue could be recorded in each Scene Master. The desks had 30 Scene pages, so could record up to 360 scenes. The desk could also record 30 Chases with a Chase Master and controls.
The operator has a choice of playing scenes back manually or recording cues into the Xfade memory that allowed timed crossfades to be played back in sequence by pressing the XF button. This feature is known as a theatre stack.
The ESPII is one of the more common fader desks in schools as a lot of architects specified them.
Theatrelight in New Zealand produced the Scenemaster series on consoles that are used in Perth schools. These cam in 12/24 or 24/48 fader formats. The top row if faders was always channel faders, the second row could be preset 2 channel faders or Scene faders. It could record up to 500 scenes, has 4 pages of Scenemasters and a lot of programming features.
Melbourne based LSC Lighting made the Atom desk which had channel faders on the top row and the second row could be channel faders or scene faders. It did not have a stack feature so was not as popular as the Jands and Theatrelight desks.
The LSC Axiom had stack recording and playback but was not as popular as the ESPII which had the extra row of Scene faders.
The LSC Maxim desk has the third row of Scene faders, dedicated stach playback and the option of LED and Moving Light control with the PatPad option.
Computer Based Lighting Systems such as MagicQ, LightFactory, MyDMX3 where a computer program runs on a computer or laptop, ideally having a touch screen and an interface generates the DMX512A lighting control signal to send to the lights and dimmers. Usually the cheapest format but the low budget versions lack the user interfaces such as encoder wheels for moving lights.
Jands Stage CL RRP $1,599.00 was released in 2012 as a 12 fader desk designed for LED stage lighting, then after a software upgrade was able to control two pages to make it a 24 fader desk. With a RRP of AUD$1895 it has 4 scenes, 4 chases, a cue list playback (stack) snapshot (Grab) button and uses a simplified Hue and Saturation control of LED colour.
LSC Mantra Lite RRP $2,599.00 is a fader based console with a touch screen that allows for easy control of LED fixtures and has built in Apps for effects. The fixture Icons can be moved arrand the screen to indicate stage layout. There is a colour picker screen and you can save your custom colours, but there are no inbuilt swatch books because of the pricing structure of the desk. The desk has inbuilt help features. The 24 channel or fixture faders are always available at the top and there are ten scene or playback faders . Each playback fader can record cues or chases, so you can busk on this desk. Documentation is good, there are training videos on YouTube and an LSC Mantra Lite Forum for assistance. There are expansion wings available to add more channel faders. There are virtual encoder wheels on the touch screen, but this is an entry level desk so there are no physical encoder wheels.
The Mantra Lite has been released in the USA as the Altman Genesis Console https://www.altmanlighting.com/product/genesis-console/
The next level up desk in the LSC range is the Clarity.
Zero 88 FLX S24 RRP $4,999 & FLX S 48 RRP $6500 ( lower prices available) are fader based desks from Zero88 that use the same ZEROS operating system as the other Zero88 desks. They have 2 pages of faders that are Channel or Playback faders.
The internal 7″ touch screen can display Groups to give the operator the equivalent of the third row of Group faders on the legacy desks.
The FLX S48 has a DVI-D output and USB port to allow the use an external 24 inch touch screen monitor such as a Dell P2418HT 24 inch Touch IPS LED Monitor for $449 to provide easy access to the Colour, Beam, Shape, Position, Effect palettes.
They have four encoder wheels for moving lights, the ability to set up a remote tablet or smartphone as a remote screen or riggers remote. They come with one universe and can be expanded to two universes. They do not have built in colour swatch books but can import swatch book equivilant images using the image picker function.They have the Lee Mood Boards installed and can do command line entry for advanced operators.
The FLX S24 is ideal for small schools as one page of 24 channels can be single channel dimmers and the second page of 24 channels can be LED’s or movers.
FLX S https://zero88.com/control/flxs
If a school is updating to LED’s and has several dimmer racks, a FLX S48 is a better choice as the extra faders provides quicker access to lights without having to changes pages all of the time.
For more details and videos go to https://zero88.com/control/flxs
The next level up is the Zero88 FLX which is not a fader based desk, so has more powerful features including colour swatch books.
ETC ColourSource 40 RRP $5,895.00
ColourSource 20 has 20 faders that can be used as channel controls or playback controls with color indication, ColourSource 40 has faders that can be used as channel controls or playback controls. Both have 4 additional faders that can be assigned as submasters, group masters or a grandmaster. The touch screen provides a customizable stage map, colour and parameter controls, full palette system, effects manipulation and the Playback Toy live busking system. One DMX/RDM port, one USB port. Available in two sizes with optional audiovisual and ethernet capabilities.
No encoder wheels or colour filter libraries. 20 and 40 faders do not easily accomodate 12 channel dimmer racks.
ETC ColourSource https://www.etcconnect.com/ColorSource/
QuickQ 20 RRP $5,698
QuickQ 30 RRP $7,574
QuickQ consoles from ChamSys are have a quick and easy user interface, 9.7” touch screen, and built-in Wi-Fi allows for remote control from a tablet or phone, which can also serve as a 2nd external monitor! RDM autopatch, colour picker and inbuilt Gel library. These consoles are ideal for students, volunteers, or part-time operators, and comfortable to use even by professionals on small-scale shows.
QuickQ 30 has 10 Multifunction playbacks, 40 Multifunction fixture faders with Fixture, Group or Cue mode. Four attribute encoders, two dedicated Hue and Saturation encoders.
Chansys QuickQ http://www.chamsysquickq.com/
page updated 23 April 2021