Electronic Theatre Controls has a long history of great control consoles continuing with the introduction of the Eos, a paradigm shift in the lighting world that allows control of moving lights and conventional lights all from one console. The Eos was designed with a lot of forethought on how programmers and operators want to work, as well as what designers want to see in a console.
What It Does
“The Eos product was conceived as a fully integrated system to address the needs of modern lighting control,” says Anne Valentino, Eos product manager for ETC. “It isn't a hybrid, as that implies something that started as a moving light desk and added conventional controls or something that was a conventional desk that added moving light controls. Eos doesn't differentiate between the two. There are single-parameter devices and multiple parameter devices. They are controlled — by and large — in the same manner. One exception to that is intensity. All parameters are LTP [Last Takes Precedence]. Intensity can be set to have an HTP [Highest Takes Precedence] override on a cue list basis, if required.”
Dennis Varian, senior technical product manager with ETC, continues, “Eos was conceived from the onset to support multiple users on the network, all of whom may have different needs from the system. Up to 12 discrete users can access the system, each with his own desk defaults and display preferences. There are displays designed specifically with the needs of the design team in mind and different displays intended for programmers, who frequently need more detailed information.”
“The system was optimized for speed while also providing a familiar user interface to allow people to quickly begin to use the desk without having to understand every single element of it,” notes Valentino. “Eos has a generous control surface, with commonly used features on the front, without the need for paging. This facilitates muscle memory and reduces the modality of the desk.”
Eos has a number of interesting features, including:
- tactile response button overlays to provide the flexibility of touchscreens, but the responsiveness of traditional buttons
- force-feedback encoders that click to full frame for any device with a lookup table
- expandable bit-mapped images of gobos and scrollers/fixed colors
- query to ask questions about the rig of current or potential use, based on luminaire type or keywords provided in patch by the user, and then the status or possible status of the lights in that category
- both Automark and Referenced mark features
- discrete timing for any channel or channel parameter
- powerful but easily understood effects engine
- 5,000 channels (devices)
- 4,000 and 8,000 outputs/parameters
How It Came To Be
“Eos started with a 200-page specification of what lighting control systems in this age should be able to do,” says Valentino. “There was no consideration at that stage of how this would be accomplished. Once we knew what functions we were interested in, we answered three key questions. The answers to these questions served as the backbone of the desk, and all features were implemented around these core concepts.”
These questions were:
- How should the desk store and edit data? There were only two choices: tracking or preset style. “We decided this should be a tracking desk,” says Valentino.
- How should the desk manage multiple playback faders? “The desk supports multiple cue lists,” answers Varian. “This is necessary with a multi-playback fader desk that is also a tracking console. The nature of a tracking console is to allow only one cue from any given cue list to be on stage at a time. So once you have multiple cue lists and multiple faders, the question must be answered: Who owns data, and how is that ownership determined? We evaluated and discarded a number of approaches before we settled on making Eos a moving-fader desk. Channel parameters only respond to move instructions by default. This eliminates the need to remove parameters from a cue list once you are no longer interested in them or to set priority states on faders to force ownership. There are ways to modify this basic behavior, such as setting independent states or applying assert commands, at a cue, cue part, or channel/parameter level.”
- Once you have multiple cue lists, care must be taken in deciding what data gets stored in cues. “Unlike a single ‘Go’ desk, you cannot store the entire state of the rig,” comments Valentino. “We have two basic recording styles: The first stores all the information about any lights that have been moved from their home position, even parameters that you may not have changed from their default states, and the second stores only the parameters that were manually modified. There are a number of supplemental controls, like filters and selective store commands, to further modify this basic behavior.”
“Desks are tricky things to develop,” comments Valentino. “Unlike a luminaire or dimmer rack, they remain in development throughout their life. Desks must work in multiple market segments. Each of these segments has specific needs. Rather than developing Eos to try to address all of these segments at once, thereby making no one satisfied, Eos was targeted for initial release to the theatrical and television markets. There are still features that need to be added specifically for those segments, and we have an aggressive development schedule in place to address those. We'll then turn our attention to the live event and touring markets.”
What End-Users Have To Say
Kathy Halvorson, electrician in charge for the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, a part of the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa, CA, speaks about what features she appreciates: “I like that it is very easy to grab attributes on the moving lights. You can set up Groups very quickly. It's not exactly a manual board, but you can set it up in such a way that you can very quickly move from look to look. You don't have to be a moving light programmer per se, and that was one of the attractions for me. I like the feel of the encoder wheels. If you are doing gobos, it has the Notch feature, so you don't have to play to find the gobo. I like the whole layout of the touchscreens because I have a lot of guest LDs, so I can set up the screens for programming and rearrange them very quickly when we are doing the show, and they can grab groups on the fly and change the color with the encoder wheels, and it is all very fluid and organic.”
Lighting designer Don Holder remembers his first taste of Eos. “I had the chance to see a demonstration of the console in New York and was very impressed with its capabilities and the economy and clarity of its programming syntax,” he says. “When I was in the midst of planning for a developmental production of a new musical [The Three Musketeers at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre], I was given the opportunity to select the Eos as our moving light console. The Eos allows me to program the fixed portion of the lighting rig in a manner very similar to the ETC Obsession. Like the Obsession, the Eos is a tracking console that provides the designer with the ability to create multipart (and sometimes overlapping) cues using multiple faders. This gives me the ability to finesse the movement of the light so it has a seamless, fluid quality. I'm also innately familiar with Obsession syntax, and because programming on the Eos is quite similar, it allows me to draw on my previous programming expertise rather than rethink everything completely.
“In addition to superior conventional lighting control, the Eos gives the designer the ability to program the moving light portion of the rig at a level of speed and sophistication well beyond the capabilities of the Obsession,” Holder continues. “The Eos, as currently configured, allowed us to program the fairly substantial automated lighting package for The Three Musketeers at a level of speed and accuracy that was totally competitive with any other console I would have typically chosen.
“I particularly liked the new fixture marking features in the desk,” Holder adds. “Unlike the Obsession and other consoles, the Eos has the ability to automatically mark — and later update — fixtures without creating auto-follow or part cues. This helped to speed up the programming process considerably.”
Holder also speaks about improvements that he would like in the Eos. “I'd like to see some capability to retrieve data for individual cues or fixtures from a previous show file,” he says. “This feature was not available on the current version of the Eos, and I feel it's essential, especially when mistakes get made when you're trying to work very quickly.
“My experience was all in all quite positive, and I would be happy to use the console without hesitation on the right Broadway project, should the opportunity arise,” Holder adds.
Lighting designer Mike Baldassari discusses why he chose the Eos for his current show, 13, at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. “I think one of the things we need to be dealing with — especially with Broadway-type shows — in the future is having everything on one console,” he says. “The idea of having conventionals on one console and the moving lights on another console is a bit antique. So the stars all aligned to try Eos on this show. Everything on the show is all on the one console.
“I specifically like that, to me, it feels like it was ‘born’ from the Obsession II, so it's immediately comfortable in terms of the basic philosophy of the console,” continues Baldassari. “Many of the commands use the same syntax as the Obsession II, so while there are many advanced features on the console, you can get going very easily and learn the more advanced stuff as you go — sort of like upgrading from one version of a CAD program to the next. The Automark function is the best one that I've used. We wrote over 500 cues and didn't have to write a single mark. A few times, we had to trick it by putting hard marks a few cues ahead, but overall, it's excellent.”
There is always room for improvement. Here is what Baldassari suggests: “For my money, the Effects package still needs work. There are some elements that have been over-thought at the expense of ease of use. Overall, the effects engine is very powerful. Also, I've given them some very specific ideas for the Designer's displays. Again, there needs to be some simplification in this area.
“I think it's very important for designers to work with the manufactures to make the equipment better,” Baldassari concludes. “While it's difficult to sometimes be among the first to use a product, unless someone's willing to take it on, we're not going anywhere as an industry. If Tharon Musser had not been willing to use a computer control console, we'd all still be using piano boards. I really want to see the Eos succeed, and I'm looking forward to when it's available in the rental shops.”