Stage Lighting Control

Wide Mode – Get Extra Channels Free For Your Lighting Desk

An explanation of the “Wide” mode that is found on a range of lighting consoles including budget models. Wide mode is useful because it doubles the number of control channels on a small lighting desk – great when you add some extra kit to your usual lighting rig.

Manual Lighting Control Basics

When lighting desks had little more than two banks of faders (known as a 2-preset), the top and bottom banks both controlled the same set of channels. Channels 1 – 24 on a 24 way 2-preset desk. One preset outputs the scene on stage while the other bank of faders are set to the next lighting state. Crossfade between the two presets and you have a cue. Simple – 48 faders, 24 channel of control.

More complex memory lighting controllers, such the Zero88 Jester, still have the useful function of 2 presets of faders to control your dimmers. There is no substitute for being able to push up a real fader when controlling “generics” (lanterns controlled by dimmers). A Jester 24 / 48 has two banks of 24 faders and, despite all the additional capabilities of a memory control, you can still use it as a 24 way 2 preset desk. Hell, you can even use an Avolites Pearl as a 2-preset but….

The extra function that modern lighting desks have is “Wide” mode – a handy idea that was originally only available on a few consoles but is now quite common.

Serious Wide Mode Manual Lighting Desk
Get this many channels for your lighting desk for nothing. Image by Fudj

What is Wide mode?

“Wide” mode is a setting that doubles the capacity of your faders by changing two sets of 24 faders into one set of 48. Usually, the top bank of faders gives you control over dimmers 1 -24, while the bottom preset handles 25 – 48.

How do I set “Wide” mode on my lighting desk?

If your lighting desk has “Wide” mode, the setting is usually either a button on the console or changed in the User Settings. Some desks also have a button that toggles a preset between 1 -24 or 25 – 48 (or whatever the capacity of your desk is – the Jester 24 / 48 can wide to 48 channels, surprise!!).

Can I use “Wide” mode to crossfade between scenes?

Ok, you say, but how can I do the whole, 2 presetty crossfading thing when I don’t have a second bank of faders?

Modern lighting desks that have a “Wide” mode also have ability to operate your show in 2 preset mode by using a temporary memory. Set up your scene using the faders in “Wide” mode and hit some kind of “store” button. This latches your scene to a A/B master, leaving the channel faders free to reset for the next state.

Next cue, crossfade to your new reset faders to bring up the new scene. When the lighting state is being output to the stage, press “store” and reset the faders again. “Did I press Store? Or was that the last cue? Oh, bother.”

Sounds like a recipe for cock-up, to me.

Well, using your lighting desk in crossfading “Wide” mode is not ideal. Much better to take 5 minutes reading the user manual and getting to grips with the memory stack or submasters, if you have the facility. Lighting desk manufacturers are just trying to provide new functions while retaining the ability to do things “your old way”. Hey, if we are going to that, let’s break out the lime or the saltwater dimmers!

So, that’s all there is to “Wide” mode. Get 100% extra control channels free. Unfortunately, setting your lighting desk to “Wide” does not instantly install a bunch of extra dimmers or buy more lanterns. It is useful for controlling those cheap LED PARs that you persuaded someone to let you hire for the next show.

If you have any questions or comments about “Wide” mode, put them in the box below.

  1. Dimitris Vidos

    Hi Rob,

    For the sake of completeness, I just wanted to point out that some cheaper desks (quite similar in appearance, brand differs only) have a “Freeze” button.

    Normally used for disco-type lighting, but can be used as the “Store” button you mentioned, if the user performs these steps:

    1. Press and hold down the “Freeze” button.
    2. Setup your faders as requested for the next state.
    3. Setup your “Fade Time” fader to desired cross-fade time.
    4. When it is time to take the cue, release the “Freeze” button.

    Excellent articles Rob!

  2. Rob

    @ Dimitris – Thanks for the additional info. Most welcome as it always useful to other readers.

    @ Jimmy – I suppose if you really need to flash certain channels, just make sure they are patched to the right preset – or save submasters, even if they are for one control channel.

    A few days ago I was using an ETC Smartfade, which uses the Wide concept to it’s limits. The Smartfade 1296 is a tiny desk, like a 12 channel, 1 preset. As well as loads of submasters, these few faders control up to 96 channels. That’s 4 pages of Wide!!! Seriously wide and not for the easily confused.

  3. Ian Grey

    I was scratching my head over that SP60 and what went in the hole. In the end I decided either house light buttons or (possibly and) FOH inhibit fader. (Assuming the green fader is the master).

    I liked that desk, particularly the SP80 version. The smaller ones with buttons were a bit rough though.

  4. Jake

    A late but an important note.
    Some desks, like the MA lightcommander tend to lock the patch function to the chosen mode. Thus it is important to choose channel quantity before actually patching the desk. Jands event will reboot and (I think) erase memories before opening extra channels.

  5. Anonymous

    Just pointing out as well, when using the wide mode on LSC consoles, next to the yellow and red bank master faders, there is also another master called the grab. Set your look in wide mode, press the grab button, make sure the grab fader is all the way up, then bring down the yellow and red masters, then set up a new look using all the available channels in wide mode.

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