Intelligent Lighting Control – Lighting Desk Basics 2

Thursday, November 22nd, 2007 - Console Programming, Learn Stage Lighting - by:

A top end professional intelligent lighting control desk and the moving light section on a cheap lighting control have common features. Understanding these elements, while not teaching you to become a moving light operator, can help a beginner learning any intelligent lighting desk. In the second part of the Lighting Desk …series, On Stage Lighting starts looking at the features of intelligent lighting control.

What makes an intelligent lighting control so special?

Can you use a conventional lighting desk to operate intelligent lighting? Well, if it outputs a
standard control signal such as DMX512 then, in theory, yes. But it won’t be easy unless you are controlling some really simple kit such as RGB colour mixing LED fixtures. The main “extras” that an intelligent lighting control has is a user interface designed to make controlling your fixtures easy and a system of cue playback which ensures that all the different attributes (gobo, colour, pan, tilt etc) are organised and replayed in the best way.

Any decent intelligent lighting console will allow you to also control your conventional dimmers.

Avolites Pearl Moving Light Control

Intelligent Lighting Attributes

The point of intelligent lighting fixtures is that they can do lots of things. Colours, gobos, movement, strobes and other effects are part of the armoury of the such lights and these features depend on the manufacturer and model. Previously, the lighting operator only had to worry about intensity control using a dimmer. Now each light has any number of different “attributes” that need to be marshalled with the console and the ability to handle this task efficiently is what makes a good intelligent lighting control. And a “moving light” operator!

So, an intelligent lighting desk will have a way of controlling and recording the different attributes of each fixture. But does the desk know how to control each type of intelligent fixture and where the send the colour or gobo signal? This is where the “Fixture Personality” comes in.

Fixture Personalities

Every make and model of intelligent lighting has it’s control channels allocated in a special order. So, the dimmer may be controlled by channel #1, pan (horizontal) movement by channel #2, colour by channel # 5 etc. This is laid down by the manufacturer of the fixture and is mapped out and presented in a table format, usually in the User Manual. This mapping of control channels is called the “Fixture Personality” and, using a Fixture Personality file, an intelligent lighting console connects the lighting operator to the correct Attribute and displays the appropriate information.

Have a look at the fixture personality for a Robe MSZoom 250 (open in new window). You will notice that Intensity (Dimmer) control is on channel #16 or #14 while Tilt is controlled using channel #1.

Intelligent lighting fixture personalities are usually created by the console manufacturer and are unique to a particular brand of lighting desk, often in the form of a text file. A personality file from an Avolites lighting control means nothing to an ETC desk.
No time for a quick rant on the standardisation of Personality Files. Another day, perhaps.

Some hardcore desk operators like nothing better than to create their own custom fixture personalities. If this isn’t for you, then you just make sure that you have the correct fixture personalities for the intelligent lighting you intend to control.

Patching

Patching an intelligent lighting control is telling it two things:

The types of fixtures that you wish to control.
The control channels to use for each fixture.

Using a DMX512 control system, once you have loaded the fixture personalities and assigned each fixture to a fader or button, you can allocate the DMX start address of each piece of equipment. These are the addresses that you will also need to set on the lighting fixtures themselves in order for them to listen to commands from the lighting control.

If you are new to DMX lighting systems, you might like to take a look at DMX Lighting Systems – Is Anyone Listening?

You Have Control…

Once you have your intelligent lighting control patched correctly and your fixtures set to the correct DMX start addresses, you need to actually get control of those waggly beasts and begin the building blocks of moving light control – Groups and Pallettes. These are the subject of the next part of the Intelligent Lighting Control series, Moving Light Control – Groups.

You might also be interested in :

Books On Stage Lighting – 5 of the Best
DMX Lighting Systems – Is Anyone Listening?

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Rob is a Lighting Designer and Moving Light Programmer and currently Senior Lecturer in Technical Theatre Production at Bath Spa University in the UK. He is also the Editor of On Stage Lighting and runs workshops in stage lighting practice.

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10 Comments

  1. muzzy:

    is the zero88 jester a inteligent lighting desk ??

    »crosslinked«

  2. Rob:

    Hi muzzy

    Zero88 have a couple of diffenent desk options in the Jester range. The Jester is a conventional lighting desk with memory control of dimmer etc. The Jester ML (with 3 control wheels) is the intelligent lighting desk but is if you have standard Jester, I understand that you can also get the ML control section as an add-on wing.

    HTH

  3. muzzy:

    thanks for that but wwhat is this add on wing and do you think you could hire it with a standard lighting board ?
    thanks
    muz

  4. muzzy:

    sorry rob but just to add im planning to hire a mac 250 instead of those LED lights i asked you about in a seperate post but i need to no if this light will work on a jester 24/48 lighting desk as i am surposed to be placing a order to hire both of these tommorow morning so can you suggest anything that may help me out of this tight space :) tar mate

  5. Rob:

    @ muzzy

    Been on a gig and not been able to reply.

    The Mac250 can be controlled using DMX and the Jester 24/48 outputs DMX so, yes, it will work. The Jester 24/48 is not actually a dedicated moving light control, with the features mentioned above. Other Zero88 modesl like the Fat FROG, Leap FROG and the Jester ML are designed specifically as intelligent lighting desks. Perhaps your hire company has something a bit more suitable than a Jester 24/48 for you.

    Have had a look at the Zero88 website , there are two models, the Jester ML and the ML24. The ML is the add-on wing that I was talking about. You can connect to a standard Jester 24/48 for expansion into controlling moving lights as well as dimmers. If you already have a Jester 24/48, that is. The Jester ML24 is the intelligent lighting control desk with faders for “hands-on” access to dimmers.

    HTH

  6. muzzy:

    tar rob
    thanks for advice
    im going to get a fat frog
    cheers
    muz

  7. Steven:

    hi rob, i wondered if you could help me. im doing a college report into live event technology and wondered if you could give me any pointers into areas of intrest. i am mainly focusing on lighting and special effects systems and how voltages/signals are sent to control the lights i different ways from the basic signal of turning a parcan witha blue gel in on to using LED lighting that can be positioned focused and changed in colour all by the programming of a lighting desk. i know this is a big ask but if you could point me in the right direction i would be very grateful. all the best
    steven

  8. Rob:

    Steven

    The control system technology is the same for turning on a PAR can or controlling a complex moving LED fixture. The most common control protocol is DMX512
    with other ethernet based control such as ArtNet, Pathport and, more recently, ACN. Have a read of
    DMX
    over Ethernet
    and Google search some of those other systems.

    How the lighting operator interacts with the lighting system is purely down the control console and it’s software.

    Thanks for visiting.

  9. Jay T:

    I am using the MagicQ PC with the XP version. I am using the Entech Open DMX USB adaptor and need to operate 10- VRL WASH 493 units and 8- Chauvet LED Rain 64′s (10 dipswitches). I don’t see a profile for these fixtures, can I operate these fixtures with the above described equipment?

  10. Colin Moore:

    If you read the manual for Magic Q it is not that difficult to create your own fixture profiles! or contact Chamsys and see if they can sort something!

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