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Small Lighting Desk Review – Zero 88 Jester DMX Lighting Control

Away from the “glamourous” world of intelligent stage lighting, the humble manual lighting desk is still the cornerstone of small venue and school lighting control. The Zero88 Jester is actually a rather sophisticated DMX memory lighting controller aimed at a budget market who need control of a small conventional lighting rig. On Stage Lighting recently took a Zero88 Jester 12/24 on the road as part of a UK tour and noted the good and bad points of this small lighting desk.

Two sizes of the Zero88 Jester are available, the 12/24 and the 24/48 and they feature:

  • 12/24 or 24/48 channels of control
  • 24 or 48 submasters
  • Playback stack
  • Patching to 512 DMX channels
  • DMX in allowing snap shots of all 512 DMX channels
  • 12 or 24 auxiliary buttons
  • VGA-Text Monitor Output
  • USB storage
  • MIDI notes
  • Multi-lingual Online Help

Lighting Desk – Good Stuff:

Having both cue stack control and a good number of submasters means that you can control your school play or busk along to a band gig.

Chase memories can be assigned to submasters, giving you the flexibility of a grown-up DMX lighting desk.

The Jester can be used in Wide mode, giving you a huge 24 faders of control with the 12/24 (48 for the 24/48). Quite a lot for such a small lighting desk

The lighting desk can also be set up to control simple Auxiliary DMX channels, good for smoke machines, scrollers etc.

Although a small lighting control, the Zero88 Jester supports a screen via VDU output , giving you feedback about channel levels and times. You can also preview the contents of memories and patch information.

Labelling memories and chases using the flash buttons on the desk. Good for use with the screen.

Nice solid control buttons and faders and very good overall build quality for a budget lighting desk.

USB memory stick backup. No more messing about with floppy disk or special memory cards.

Sound to light control of chases. A simple way to control a band or disco lighting.

DMX input. Enables the Zero88 Jester to accept a whole 512 DMX universe AND record it to a memory for output. Good for using the lighting desk as a backup and playback complex scenes recorded using a larger controller.

Lighting Desk – Not So Good Stuff:

The functions are accessesed in the “usual” Zero88 way of using up/down, left/right buttons to navigate through menus. Using only the LCD screen, this can be a bit tiresome, especially with tasks such as patching. I frequently hit “enter” when I should have hit “>” – my own inexperience with Zero88 lighting desks.

No connection for a QWERTY keyboard Update: Greg tells us in the comments section that it is possible to connect a keyboard via the USB. Further investigation of the user manual says that this is available on the later r2 hardware version This would make labelling memories easier, not having to bump through flash buttons á la text message.

The rear connections, including DMX outlet, are protected by being set back inside the frame of the lighting desk. You have to tip the desk up to access connections and releasing the 5 pin XLR DMX connection is more difficult.

Complex patching and use of Auxillary outputs. Very useful idea but the concept of set up and use could be daunting for anyone new to stage lighting control.

The Auxiliary control channels cannot be recorded in a memory, but are fired using the flash buttons.

Conclusion.

The tour ended in London at the Purcell Rooms on the South Bank. A fully equipped theatre venue with a Strand 520i (aargh!) lighting control, the Jester 12/24 slotted in alongside, the house patch done and we were soon running the whole show from a console that looked like a TV remote compared to the monster beside it.

The Jester is a small lighting desk that is cheap enough for a school, with enough credibility and features for the professional. Many hire companies in the UK are replacing their ageing small lighting desks with the Jester range and with good reason.

A look at the Jester ML , the intelligent lighting control in the same Zero88 range, is definitely on the On Stage Lighting “Things To Do” list.

You will also like:

Beginner’s Guide To Stage Lighting Control

DMX Lighting Sytems

13 Responses to Small Lighting Desk Review – Zero 88 Jester DMX Lighting Control

  1. Simon Rickenbach May 28, 2008 at 12:07 am #

    hi,
    I do the lighting for my secondary school and i’ve been reading the site and it’s really helped out. Thanks a lot.
    One problem we do have is in one of our 3 venues (the oldest of them) we have 3 dimmer packs (of 6 channels, 2 plugs per channel) and when we plug the Zero88 Jester board in some lights appear to flash at random points for no good reason i can see, is there a reason for this?

    thanks in advance, simon

  2. Rob May 28, 2008 at 10:40 am #

    Hi Simon

    As the Jester is a DMX control, I assume that your dimmers are either DMX or you have a Analogue to DMX converter (DEMUX) that feeds each dimmer.

    If the dimmers don’t flash when the desk is not attached, then we assume that they are fine. Also assuming that the Jester is not sending out any memory/chase information, Grand Master @ 0, then the bits in the middle are to blame:

    Control Cables, DIN plugs, DMX wall boxes or the DMX input cards on the dimmers. Any of these could be to blame and you might like to read
    DMX Fault Finding
    if you haven’t already.

    I have had problems with dimmers flickering at low intensity levels that were not due to control issues, but this sounds unlikely for you.

    Thanks for getting in touch.

  3. Sam Glass February 14, 2009 at 1:15 am #

    Sounds like a bit of kit I will have to purchase!!

    Thanks for the great info guys.

    Sam

  4. Nat Pickett April 14, 2009 at 6:28 pm #

    hello,

    i im looking to buy this desk for my school, you talk about “use of Auxillary outputs” how are these oprated? are there bottons you press for on and off? also “Complex patching” what do you mean by that? is it another way of saying soft patching?

    Nat

  5. Rob Sayer April 19, 2009 at 11:48 am #

    Hi Nat, from memory the Auxilliaries are fired by a SHIFT/Flash Button combination but I think that you can also fine control the Auxs by fader.
    By complex patching I mean the process of assigning DMX values to the Auxilliary controls – it’s bit fiddly. Softpatching (the ability to assign specific DMX addresses to specific faders) and patching of multiple DMX addresses to one fader is simple enough.

    I think the Jester is an ideal buy for a school.

  6. Nick Ward April 28, 2009 at 6:05 pm #

    The illusion 500 put me off zero88 for life, and we had a hugely reduced price

  7. Kenneth September 12, 2009 at 3:25 pm #

    Our school is getting a new drama studio (lucky us), and I’ve just seen that we are going to be using this board. It’ll be installed within a few weeks, but I want to be able to show off when we start using it!
    Can’t wait to play about with it.
    What is meant by ‘Chase’ – is this the way that you store scenes, and scroll through them. If not, how do you store scenes?
    Also, in our big hall we have an ancient Stand MX 48 – does anyone know if it’s possible to store scenes in it?
    Thanks in advance,
    Kenneth

  8. Rob Sayer September 13, 2009 at 6:49 pm #

    Hi Kenneth, a chase is a series of scenes or looks that are linked together and loop round automatically creating a “chasing” effect. Scrolling through cues of a theatre show is reffered to as a cuse list or stack. You can store looks on the Jester as part of the stack or on individual faders that can be mixed together.

    You can store scenes on the MX48 – the user manual will be at the Strand Archive.

  9. Kenneth September 13, 2009 at 6:52 pm #

    Thanks Rob 🙂
    That’s really good.
    So, for a school show coming up, I can store a scene, by storing a chase, and then play each one individually? Would it store A and B, and then allow me to crossfade between?
    Thanks again
    K

  10. Greg November 15, 2009 at 9:21 pm #

    Just to let you know, it is possible to plug in a USB QWERTY keyboard to the Jester.

  11. Rob Sayer November 18, 2009 at 8:34 am #

    Gred, thanks for letting us know that the Jester now supports a USB keyboard. The original builds did not but the User Manual tells us the r2 board version does. Cheers.

  12. Brian Duran July 16, 2010 at 7:39 pm #

    My school is possibly getting this desk, we are also replacing our MX 24.

    At least it has a cue stack unlike the Strand MX, being the nice board it is you can only store scenes as submasters and play them back with the A/B crossfaders.

  13. lee August 24, 2011 at 10:14 pm #

    Hi there we are looking to buy a cheap desk for our church and this sounds like one how much would one desk cost

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