Stage Lighting Control

Compulite Vector – An Introduction

An introduction to the Compulite Vector lighting control, a guest article by UK Vector trainer Joe Bleasdale. If you don’t really know much about the Vector, a favourite in control for TV lighting, read on.

I’ll keep it basic. I’m Joe, I am a Freelance Vector Trainer & Programmer and this article is an introduction to a great console. I run Training on request and look forward to bringing some more Vector knowledge to the stage lighting community. Enjoy.

Compulite Vector Blue Lighting Control
Image from Craig Finch at Shock Solution

The Desk

In 2002, Compulite introduced a new console to the lighting control market. This new console, Vector, ran two separate systems “under the hood”. The idea behind this was that one system processed the DMX output and front panels of the console, whilst the other system (Windows XPe) run the GUI. This way if Windows was to fail, the output of the console would remain unchanged and the operator would be able to continue firing cues and commands until it had rebooted.

Vector is in fact a product family, not just one console. There seven console solutions in the family, Vector Red, Blue, Green, Orange, Ultra Violet, Violet and Node. Red being the largest and most expensive and the Node being the smallest and cheapest. The family of console have been used in a wide range of production applications. Credits to the console include Trans-Siberian Orchestra, X-Factor (UK), Guns ‘N’ Roses world tour, Strictly Come Dancing, Got to Dance (UK), Britain’s Got Talent, Royal Wedding, Royal Variety Performance, Bundevision Song Contest and many more.

Compulite have a world wide distributor network of people and companies pushing the Vector consoles. I used to be the UK Distributor with a colleague of mine. Nowadays I reside as a Freelance Programmer and Vector Trainer in my own right. The consoles are not massively common, but once you have been behind one it is a programming experience you will not forget…

Using The Compulite Vector

The consoles have two modes and two syntaxes. This means, almost any programmer can walk up to the desk and have it working how they like it in a matter of seconds. Firstly there is Tracking Mode and then “Compulite Mode” – the latter is effectively Cue Only Mode. The first Syntax is Action and the next is the Enter syntax. In my opinion, Action syntax is the best to use, it allows most flexibility and fits the desk functions perfectly, however Enter works just as well.

The action syntax allows super fast programming and as you guessed it is based on your direct actions with the command line. For example selecting a channel would consist of [CHANNEL] [X] then you can go straight to altering parameters of that channel without having to confirm the selection. In fact, the Vector has tools to enable programmers to split fixture types up. It has 4 Sets. Channel, Spot, Matrix and Media Server.

Channel can be dimmers and dimmers with accessories such as Scrollers or Apollo Right Arm type devices. Spot is effectively Compulites name for “Fixture” it does not mean a hard edge fixture; you can patch anything under Spot.

Matrix is designed for patching large amounts of LED fixtures to use with the Matrix (Bitmap) feature of the desk.

Finally Media Server is for putting your Media Devices in. Spot, Matrix and Media Server are “cross compatible” so you could (if you wanted) put a VL 3500 in the Media Server set if you so wished. Each set also has its own “live view” (Programmer). This makes for easy show layouts and navigation during programming. It also helps the Programmer number crunch within the desk because Channel 1 just relates to “1” in that set. You can then have Spot 1, Matrix 1, and Media Server 1 – all their own fixture types.

By now your probably thinking, nothing special… other desks can do similar things. You would be correct, but Vector has more powerful features up its sleeve. Built in bitmap capability, Desktop, Media Server integration (Hippo V3, Catalyst V4, Arkaos), Contextual Displays, Attach Files to Objects, Parameter Pickers, Macros, Softkey Colour Coding, and an Effects Engine ™ a Programmer would die for…

Compulite Vector Screenshot

Parameter picker for the Rotating Gobo wheel on a Mac 500. Pickers are available on all Parameters that have “steps” in them, I.e. Gobo Wheel, Colour Wheel, Shutter etc. For linear parameters such as Dimmer, Pan, Cyan there are no pickers.

Compulite Vector Effects Engine

The main tab of the Vector Effects Engine™. The advanced tab contains other Effect Primitives, and functions such as Sync which allows you to sync effects together quickly so they run in perfect sync with each other.

Vector Effects Engine

One of the most sought after features of the Vector is its Effects Engine™. It allows simplicity and power in one package, which nowadays is rare. Deep down, Effects are applied to parameters with Effect Primitives or Curves that apply mathematical functions (such as a Sine wave) to values against a set time. However you don’t have to be a maths wiz to understand this Effects Engine™!! By looking at the image above, you can see that the layout is very simple and graphical making for easy selections and quick Programming.

For example… If I set my dimmer level to 50% then hit [EFFECT] then press {STEP} set the direction to {UP} and then set the size wheel to {50%} then hit {WAVE}. In these few simple steps, my dimmer is now stepping between 50% and 100% in a wave type offset. How easy was that!!

The only down side to this console is its availability, not many exist in comparison to other consoles out there. Most of the consoles I work with in the UK are owned by individual Programmers – not hire companies. This shouldn’t put you off however, Compulite distributors run training on request, and people like me run tailored courses to teach Vector on every level. Once you know who has them, hiring then becomes easier!

I hope you have enjoyed this little introduction to the Compulite Vector. I am hoping to write tutorials on the subject here at On Stage Lighting.

The Professionals – On The Vector

Reliable, Faithful and does everything we need it to do.
Roger Williams – Lighting Director & Moving Lights Operator UK.

I’m using Vector because it provides professional features in a fast easy-to-use way. Its stable, offers a lot of networking/backup features and customer support is very good.
Matthias Schöffman – Vector Programmer

When specking a lighting console for a tour, there is only one clear choice. The Compulite Vector series of consoles are ideal. Quick, Powerful, Reliable, and all any Programmer needs.
Greg Shipley – Lighting Designer & Programmer. Guns ‘N’ Roses World Tour

1) Its ability to do Automated Lighting as well as conventional equipment with ease and not take a ton of time to Program it.
2) When I use them on rentals, they are easy enough for a beginner lighting tech to operate them, but still have amazing power to create any show you desire.
3) The extensive fixture library and ease of Programming make it a great console for any LD to set up for any type of show.
That’s just a few things I like about the Vector console
Nate Ross – NJN Productions

What I like about Compulite desks is you get a lot of desk for your money. The new Ultra Violet is ideal for me with twenty playback faders and two internal touchscreens all in a package that is easily carried and easily fitted into a cramped lighting area.
Bernie Davis – Lighting Director. Royal Wedding 2011 – UK

Thanks Joe – Rob 🙂

  1. a user

    that is all grate,
    now write an article about all the ASSENT that is missing from Vector.
    And as a user i can say that there are quite a lot.
    Could had been wonderful console but it is still missing to much.
    Also to buggy…..

  2. Joe Bleasdale

    Well “a user” I would be interested to know what you think is missing. It has everything most other high end consoles do and a lot more in some cases. If you were a true user, you probably would not have said that.

    I would like to hear your views.

  3. Aaron

    Nice read Joe! I hope to see more Vectors get out there, its a little lonely in Canada right now… I know of maybe 3 other designer/programmers within 500 miles. As for a user’s comment on buggy, I am curious as well.

  4. Nazu

    i’m a bit disappointed to compulites way to do busines.
    I got Compulite Vector blue and i’m very pleased to that desk. But now i got a serious problem with it and i’m gonna tell it to you.

    My vector blue is an old model with RT unit in it. about ½ year ago my RT unit was having a problem and i send my desk to be repaired at my countrys service. They told me that RT unit was broken and it have to be replaced. That’s ok. they can do it and i’m happy. 1 week later service called me that Compulite doesn’t have any spare RTs anymore and those are not being manufactured these days. So i was saved by our countrys service that they sacrified one spare vector with RT unit to fix my console. But now that spare unit came to the end of road also and only way to get my console to run again is to refit it with new components and to my suprise it was going to be as expensive as a new vector blue console and i really don’t have that kind off money. So i’m very disappointed to that i have to buy a new console to do my job. because refit costs as much as new vector blue. So my advise to all who considers buing a vector is that DON’T BUY CONSOLE WITH RT UNIT! My only wish is that Compulite would come and make some reason to users who have bought their console at early years and solved problems with Vector software and reported bugs in system and refit those consoles with decent cost. Now it’s just so unfair that if your old RT console needs new parts to run, you have to buy a new console. Because there is no parts to fix it.

    Right now my countrys Compulite service is trying to hunt down any spare RT units to fix my console, but they got no luck. Now my console sits in case at corner of my warehouse. I really hope to get it working again. It’s a great desk with awesome features that i like. but i’m disliking the company that makes fixing impossible and way too expensive.

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