New lighting console features give tech ministry types solutions to their toughest issues with control of light
When it comes to choosing audio, video and lighting equipment for a house of worship, the choices are plentiful and downright overwhelming. So many aspects of selecting gear are subjective, and what excels in one church may be a disaster in another. While audio consoles and video switchers all tend to operate somewhat similarly, lighting consoles can vary significantly in how they operate and can require significant training to learn the basics. This makes selecting a console a more complicated task.Key Factors & Features
“One of my first questions is, who will be programming and operating the console?” states Julie Sanders, sales manager for Leprecon. “For a house of worship user, it’s important to consider the user-interface of the console. A lighting console should be easily understood with minimal training, allowing the house of worship user to quickly learn programming techniques.” Fred Mikeska, vice president of U.S. sales and marketing for A.C. Lighting Inc., adds, “A lighting console should be intuitive enough that volunteers with no lighting experience can immediately be creative with their designs--and powerful enough that experienced programmers can quickly implement their designs and get the most out of their lighting system.”
AVOLITES | Arena 3q
Flexibility is also important, stresses Bryan Palmer, architectural market manager for Electronic Theatre Controls (ETC). “Houses of worship serve many functions in their communities, and a good console should do the same. A console must offer intuitive control that scales from daily or weekly worship services to weddings, special events and large-scale concerts or holiday productions.”
And lastly, some level of configurability is advantageous. “There may be certain things I don’t want the weekend volunteers to be able to access in the console,” says Chris Pyron, business development manager for the house of worship market at Harman Professional. “Having the ability to set up custom views or parameters that the operators can change, without giving them access to every setting of the console, can be most helpful.”
CHAMSYS | MagicQ MQ80
ETC | ColorSource Console
At the higher levels of production work, Phil Watson of ChamSys USA would also add these features to the must-have list: “A lighting console needs to be powerful enough to handle today’s increasingly complex instruments and techniques, such as pixel mapping and using video as a source. The console needs to be able to control lighting, video, audio and even camera switchers, if required, with a simple workflow, reducing the need for multiple operators and the coordination between them. The console should allow the use of today’s networked products from all manufactures and not tie the user to one particular lighting product vendor.”Vendor Recommendations
While no one lighting console fits every house of worship’s needs and style, the vendors that responded to our request for information suggest the following as products that generally work well for a church.
From Martin Professional, a Harman brand, Pyron suggests the Martin M2GO HD console. “The M2GO HD is right at home in the church as an affordable, very powerful all-in-one controller in a compact footprint. The user has access to all the features and power of the M-Series platform that runs on our flagship M6 Console in a portable, compact form factor.” Additionally, the M2GO HD includes an integrated 15.6-inch high-resolution folding multi-touchscreen; four physical DMX ports (although a total of 20 DMX universes are possible); 10 playback faders; and a built-in 3D visualizer. There is also a software-only version of this console available.
ELATION | Emulation Software
A hybrid offering of a software-based control application with a hardware control interface is what Ray Villasenor, product manager at Elation Lighting recommends. “Our Emulation Lighting software paired with an Elation MidiCon II is easy to use and learn. Most people can be up and running in just a few minutes.” It’s also multi-platform (Mac & PC); has an industry standard cue list system; is touch-screen compatible; has an iOS remote app, and is a multi-language platform.
For a large church, Avolites suggests investigating their Arena console. Brad White, the national sales director for the Avolites brand, comments, “Control is what makes the Arena great. Avolites Titan software provides flexibility at all times. Full cue list functionality allows for precisely timed control while still allowing split second control of any lights and video with timing live if a there is a deviation on stage. Direct hands-on control makes a change effortless and seamless.”
JANDS | Stage CL
MARTIN PROFESSIONAL | M2PC
The console also has full rendered Capture 3D visualization in every console, including the offline editor Titan PC Suite; quick sketch labeling drawn with a finger on built in touchscreens; 16 universes on board; 40 playback faders; a built-in network switch with five RJ45 ports and OpticalCon Fiber optic connectors; three effects engines; key frame shapes, a pixel mapper and shape generator. A software-only version of the console’s operating software is also available.
A.C. Lighting, distributor of the Jands line of lighting control systems, suggests investigating its StageCL product, particularly for small- to mid-sized houses of worship. “The volunteer-friendly Jands StageCL comes with factory pre-loaded color patterns, chases and effects that are quickly accessible via the built-in color touch screen,” states Mikeska. “The pre-loaded building blocks include a wide range of color combinations, sophisticated color chases and stunning effects including fire, water and star fields created by the lighting designers at Jands.” The StageCL controls LEDs, dimmers, and effects; has two pages of 12 playback faders; a built-in color touch screen; dedicated scene, cue list and chase controls; and a 512 DMX channel capacity.
LEPRECON | LPC-48V
Chauvet Lighting has entered the lighting console market through its recent acquisition of the UK console manufacturer ChamSys. Phil Watson, head of ChamSys USA, states, “ChamSys MagicQ is straight forward to learn, making it simple for inexperienced users to control complex lighting and visuals in their Church. ChamSys MagicQ’s free visualizer can easily be used to match the lighting installation allowing easy training of new users, even on a volunteer's own computers at home. The same console software and files can be used on the consoles, or on Windows, Mac or Linux computers.” MagicQ supports 24 universes of DMX; 10 playback faders with 200 pages; 20 execute buttons; 202 virtual playbacks; an internal Ethernet switch; and has a free visualizer app and media server app. MagicQ comes both as a console and a free software-only solution.
The ColorSource AV consoles from ETC bring both lighting and some video control to the smaller house of worship. “The console’s approachable user interfaces allow users to choose the style of control that works best for them,” says Palmer. “Operation can be done in a common recall function, but also easily adapted for live control. With the integrated touchscreen interface, adjusting the color of specific fixtures is quick and easy, even for a novice user.”
The console also brings to the table two local XLR5 DMX/RDM ports plus Ethernet (five universes total); either 20 faders/40 channels or 40 faders/80 channels; a comprehensive device library onboard with an app for creating custom fixtures; the Amigo platform-independent, browser-based remote control; and audio/visual functions for the cueing of sound clips, still images or visual effects and a sound-to-light function.
PATHWAY | Cognito2
Sanders states, “The biggest advantage to [Leprecon’s] LPC-series consoles is the user-interface. The console is easy enough for a new user yet power enough for a seasoned professional. The ‘Quick Looks’ feature offers HOW users of different experience levels to operate the console using general presets and greatly reduces intimidation of inexperienced users.” The console also has the ability to work with touchscreen monitors; has an effects engine; allows for custom chase patterns; provides a cue stack with over 9,000 cues; either 24 or 48 submasters; 512 intensity channels; and 1,024 DMX or 2,048 Ethernet (ArtNet) channels.
Pathway Connectivity offers the Cognito2 lighting console as being an excellent house of worship choice. “Our controllers do not require a user to learn and master a complicated command line syntax,” describes Van Rommel, director of business development at Pathway Connectivity. “Rather, the user communicates with the lights through a graphical user interface presented as a sequence of ‘Select|Control|Record|Play’ that guides the user through the process.” The console is scalable from 512 to 2,048 DMX addresses; has plug and play show control integration with MIDI, RS232, TelNET and contact closures; records looks as memories or cues; the ability to playback memories or cues with faders, buttons, show control triggers or as time clock actions.
While this list is by no means all-inclusive of either consoles or brands, it hopefully gives you an idea of what options are available when selecting a lighting console for your church clients. Visiting tradeshows like LDI and WFX and events like Church Production LIVE! can give you the opportunity to explore the options in greater detail.