3 Types of Lighting Consoles or Software – Which is Right For You?

3 Types of Lighting Consoles...How Are They Different?

Why is it important to make sure you find the right lighting console for you?

Working with others in lighting I often see that people will choose a lighting console that someone else recommended. But when they dive in they realize that it wasn’t capable of doing what they needed it to do or it’s just to complicated for them to get started with.

That’s why I bring up this topic very often!

A lighting console is the brain of your operation and it will tell your lights what it needs to do. If you choose the right console that will do what you need it to do then you’re life will be that much easier.

I separate lighting consoles into one of the three categories, Basic, Intermediate, and Professional. Each category has the pros to it and each has the cons. Let’s walk through threw these in hopes that you might find which one will work best for you.

Basic Lighting Consoles

Basic lighting consoles are mostly known as the basic entry level lighting consoles. These in some cases can be very easy to learn and don’t involve much of a setup process.

The types of lighting consoles I often classify as Basic would be the Chauvet Obey 40, pictured below. Or another popular basic lighting console would be ENTTEC’s DMXis.

3 Types of Lighting Consoles or Software

The pros of a basic lighting console is that it is able to control different types of lights and it’s typically easy to learn as well as getting started.

The cons of working with a basic lighting console is that you will be limited on how many lights you can work with….very limited!

With some basic consoles it can be difficult to program your lights especially if you’re working with multiple lights.

It does depend on what lights you’re working with, how many lights you’re working with, and what you want to be able to program those lights to do.

Intermediate Lighting Consoles

In most cases, when working with basic lighting consoles, people will eventually hit a “ceiling” with their consoles. You want to do more than the console is capable of, and this means you’re ready to upgrade to an intermediate lighting console next.

When I think of intermediate lighting consoles, I normally think of some of my favorites such as lightShark and LightKey. A change I have seen in the industry is that some lighting consoles are turning to be more software-based lighting consoles.

Generally, intermediate consoles are able to do more complex shows than a basic lighting console would be able to do. With intermediate consoles, you quickly realize each one does bring different perks. It just depends on what your focus is.

Some intermediate consoles may focus on what type of light show you can put together. While other consoles in that category may focus more on the number of lights it can handle.

The pros with working with intermediate consoles are that generally with very little lighting experience someone can learn how to program and use these consoles with little training.

The other pros to working with an intermediate console are that they are able to offer more channels and in some cases, you can program your lights much easier.

A couple of cons with intermediate consoles would be:

  • The cost of going from a basic console to an intermediate console.
  • The amount of different intermediate consoles to choose from.

This is why it’s so important to know beforehand what lights and how many are you going to work with as well as knowing what you would like to do for programming lights.

But just like working with a basic console, some can reach the ceiling of working with intermediate consoles and may be ready to upgrade to the next level. This could mean, someone may need more lights, or the ability to program different techniques, or even be able to expand on the effects side of things.

Professional Consoles

The last category of lighting consoles is working with professional grade consoles. This would be working with consoles like the GrandMA or ONYX.

What makes a pro-grade console different from an intermediate console?

  • The amount of lights or channels that console is able to offer.
  • The ability to program difference scenes quicker and having a button or fader option for those scenes.
  • The capability to have more options when working with effects.

The pros to working with professional consoles are that:

  • You generally have more channels to work with, different programming methods, and you have the ability to do whatever your heart desires with lighting, even pixel mapping.

The cons to working with more professional grade consoles are:

  • Sometimes the cost is a major factor but it depends on the organization’s budget.
  • There is also a learning curve to adjusting on how to program and work with professional consoles.

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