The biggest cost found within any lighting budget seems to be the control aspect, with there being many options, bells, and whistles to consider. Therefore, it can be hard to choose what is an ideal match for your church.
Recently, there has been a rise in computer control solutions, such as Elation Lighting’s M-Series MPC control software, which is making its transition to the Obsidian controller line of products. Other options include MA Lighting on PC, Avolites, Jands Vista on PC.
I’m going to talk about why any of these may serve as a great option for your church’s lighting control needs.
The various onPC options that are available, end up being at a significantly lower cost, because they take out the manufacturer having to develop and include a computer aspect in the controller. They simply provide a PC option of their console software, for you to use on almost any computer or tablet, to convert it into a pretty power lighting controller. This is one of the major reasons that I choose to use an onPC controller in over half our Harvest venues, because I can install the same software that is on my full-size consoles, on a PC, that can be built for a couple hundred dollars versus thousands, but gives all the same fx and control features included with a full-size console.
I think PC controllers are perfect for youth rooms, as that’s where we usually start our newest lighting team members to train, about how to program and design. Starting on a PC program is a great way to get those members’ feet wet into to the basics of programming. When the newest members move on to a full-size console, they are prepared to tackle the physical features of the desk, instead of having to learn both at once, making for quicker training, in my opinion.
Not only are onPC controllers affordable, but they are completely flexible. My personal favorite is the Elation M-PC Program, with the addition of an M-Series M-Touch controller, for only about $430. With it, I can add a control surface with faders, and a programming section that’s durable and extremely compact.
I have two of these setups currently in two of our Harvest youth rooms, and they work great. Additionally, you can use MIDI controllers, or touch OSC control from an iPad as control surfaces. Flexibility is always important, when looking into onPC programs, because you want to grow the program with your design, as your venue and design grows.
As I stated earlier, it is extremely volunteer friendly to start your team members off on an onPC controller, where they can explore the program features, and even download it at home. I like to encourage my volunteers to download the program at home, where they can spend time reading the manual and practice learning where everything is, what it does. This helps develop their programming skills quickly, because of the portability of the program, allowing them to learn wherever, and in their free time!
If there is one thing that I would stress the most when looking for the right onPC controller, it would be the support and community behind the software.
With the Elation M-Series controllers I use, it is not only because of the budget friendliness of the software, but also for the amazing support from the controller team, not to mention the forum site for the series, where I can just post a question and get an answer from another user or support member, often in just a few minutes. That pays for itself, especially when you’re dealing with computers!
Many controllers have great support teams behind their software and solid communities. The Elation option just works for us and our needs at Harvest. I encourage you to investigate the Elation option when you’re looking into your next controller, though!
When on the lookout for the right PC-based lighting controller, remember that it’s not about what controller seems to be the “industry standard.” I’ve never liked that term, because the “industry standard” seemingly changes every few months to years. I prefer to choose what desk fits the needs of my venue, team members, and budget.
Whether deciding on an onPC or a full-size desk solution, I encourage you to look deeply into what your needs are, where you’re going in a few years, who is operating your system on your staff, and choose your controller based on that. Instead of what this church or that concert is using.
We should, of course, also consider that the budget we are spending is not ours, but a compilation of people’s tithes, and as such, should be spent with the best of stewardship and faithfulness to the Lord and God, and will bless us for being faithful.
If you have any more questions about this subject or any other lighting-related questions, please let's connect! feel free to email me or message me on social media.