In my last post, I explained why I don’t think the ETC Element is a good replacement for the ETC Express. When I was at LDI 2009, I ran across the Rendition series of consoles from Lehigh Lighting. Based on the literature I picked up, and the extensive demonstration that I received from the Lehigh representative, it looks like the Rendition might be the true heir to the Express. It is targeted at a similar market: small theaters, churches, and schools. The physical layout will be familiar to anyone with theater console experience: 24 or 48 submasters on the left, dual cue playback controls in the center, and hardkeys on the right, with channel faders (48 or 96) along the upper right portion of the desk. The submasters are traditional theater-style subs. Each sub records a fixed look rather than an independent cuelist. Shows can be saved to a flash drive via a USB port.
While the console hardware is finalized, several additional features will be added in an upcoming version of the operation system. The console currently supports one external monitor, but dual monitors will soon be supported. An Ethernet port is already included on the console. In a future software release, it will be possible to add wings with additional submasters or channel faders. The advantage of Ethernet over USB is that a wing can be placed hundreds of feet from the console, and connected using existing Ethernet lines. This feature would allow a wing to to be used as remote focus unit. Using a wireless Ethernet bridge opens up even more possibilities.
The main difference between the two models, the 24/48 and 48/96, is the number of hardware faders. The software capabilities are identical. The price of the console depends on how many channels of conventional dimming are “unlocked.” You can choose from 125, 250, or 512 conventional channels. All models support 1024 channels of moving-light control. The two hardware DMX ports each support 512 channels, but two additional universes can be accessed via Ethernet (I’m not sure of the details on how this works). The console seems to support all the basic and advanced cue and effect functions that you’d expect: multiple cue lists, flexible cue timing options, macros, subroutines, and effects. I can’t really comment further about that, since I would need to spend a lot of time with the console to accurately gauge its reliability and ease of use. Moving lights are also supported, with fixture profiles for easy patching and a trackball for focusing. Once again, it looks promising, but the only way to really evaluate these features is to try to use them and see how intuitive the process is. Download the offline editing software and try it for yourself.
A more sophisticated console called the Rendition Pro is expected to be available in the second quarter of 2010. The Pro is aimed at more experienced users, and appears to compete with the ETC Eos and Ion. It will run the same software as the Rendition, so many of the features that are expected to be added to the Rendition are actually being developed for the Pro. The layout is similar to the Rendition, with playback masters on the left side, traditional cue playback controls in the lower center, and keys to the lower right. Two LCD displays with encoder wheels and softkeys occupy the space above the keypad, with no hard channel faders. Further, the submasters have LCD displays and additional buttons–probably “Go” and “Pause” buttons to support a cue stack on each sub.
From my limited experience, both of these consoles series are worthy of further investigation. They seem to be solidly built and well-engineered. The Lehigh personnel that I spoke to were helpful and friendly, and I appreciate their assistance in answering my questions.