The Marquee ILC console from Entertainment Technology and Horizon Control Inc. may appear to be the next logical step in the evolution that started years ago with the Horizon lighting control software, but it is also a breed of its own. Last September, they began shipping the Marquee, a traditional console faceplate that provides all of the sliders and buttons many end users expect in a console, and now they are ready to start shipping the Marquee ILC. The ILC variant is the next step, in that it has the encoders and is more geared to moving light controls along with conventional control. Marquee ILC has been used on a few productions and in beta test trials and will start shipping soon.

“There are two hardware faceplates; there is the Marquee and the Marquee ILC (Intelligent Lighting Control),” says Rob Bell of Horizon Control, which provides the software inside the Marquee console. “They both run moving light software; it is just that the ILC has the level wheel plus four encoders for moving lights. The other thing the ILC has is an unlimited number of cue lists.”

The Marquee console is a last action tracking console that starts out with 512 channels, and can be upgraded in 512 channel blocks. It has two DMX outputs as standard for 1,024 channels of DMX, and there are Ethernet-supported outputs available for up to 32,768 channels. Currently, there is a moving light button wing panel, and a 24 slider wing option panel with single and dual scene faders, as well as look masters (subs) with bump buttons; unlimited recordable look masters.

There are two configurable grandmasters, two configurable blackout buttons, as well as two manual playback faders with go and back buttons, and 12 auxiliary playback faders with go and back buttons. There is one monitor output with a dual monitor option available; two work light connections; options include MIDI and SMPTE interfaces and an architectural control interface.

Marquee consoles control dimming systems, automated lighting fixtures, and any DMX device. Designed to be ACN and RDM ready, Marquee uses Ethernet network to extend its DMX output through remote DMX nodes any place the network takes it. In addition to Ethernet and DMX, Pathport is also supported by the console. With its optional architectural control interface, Marquee provides direct support for Lytemode architectural control stations for house lights, work lights, and scene presets.

The software is designed with a lot of flexibility in mind. You can have multipart cues, block cues, an unlimited number of playback cue lists, as well as an unlimited number of cues per cue list. There are an unlimited amount of groups.

The software in the Marquee console makes it fairly easy to learn. For moving lights, Marquee uses Abstract Control Model (ACM) developed by Horizon Controls Inc. This means that regardless of who manufactured the moving light and what protocol it is using, it is presented to the user the same way. Cues are stored using words like “Blue,” “3 RPM,” and “11Hz.” This allows easy swapping of fixtures or copying of attributes between different types of lights. The ACM presents any manufacturer's moving lights to the user in consistent real-world terms like degrees, hertz, and RPM rather than arbitrary numbers.

Marquee uses a Graphical User Interface (GUI) and replaces the hidden command structure of the DOS-based tracking consoles with standard computer operations like menus and dialog boxes. Since each dialog box control has a softkey accelerator, your hands are not tied to the mouse. Marquee's completely configurable graphic display clearly shows you what the dimmers, fixed loads, and automated luminaires are doing.

The console does have a Channel Grid Display that uses industry standard color schemes, much like on a standard console. With the cue list display, a user has instant access to altering cue and attribute timing as well as labels, wait, follow, and loop parameters. The console also has context sensitive softkeys that even the most complex functions are not too far away.

How It Came to Be:

Bell explains the difference from the original Horizon controller and the Marquee control software. “We started on the Marquee project about two years ago. This is also new software so it is not the same software as Horizon,” he says. “We continue to maintain the Horizon software and will continue to maintain it into the future but Marquee and Horizon are two distinctly different software products.”

One of those differences is the new Abstract Control Module, according to Bell. “Marquee out of the gate does not have visualization built into it but it does have the idea that designers could paint a picture with words,” he says. “The objective was to allow them to do that with anybody's fixture and we would figure out the DMX. With this you say ‘take fixture five to blue’̵fixture five is anybody's light and it will go to blue. We figure out the DMX when you hit go. This was why it was two years in development. This also has a lot to do with the way ACN is going. If we ever get to ACN, the Marquee is already storing ‘please pan 15°, so we don't have to really go far for ACN.”

Designers and programmers can run into trouble when a moving light's attributes are not in a console's library. Bell and his team have tried to get as many fixtures into the model and can quickly add more on demand. “We can usually turn a new fixture around for the library in about a day,” says Bell. “We prefer to have the fixture but we can create libraries without the fixtures from just the specifications and we will be able to control them. We really do endeavor to use the fixture but we understand the need to turn things around in a timely way.”

What's Next:

Because Marquee's hardware and embedded Windows XP operating software comply with computer industry standards, you can upgrade the console easily and inexpensively to meet any future requirements. By using Microsoft® Windows® XP Embedded secure operating software, the console has a stable platform and allows it to easily expand versus older, closed systems. Bell points out, “Using XP Embedded is friendly and familiar and embedded means it is stable. Our operating system is one-fifth the size of vanilla XP so it is very streamlined. There is no C-drive; you can't get to it; you can't delete it. People like XP. Everybody today is using it. In fact, it is kind of the de facto standard of operating systems, and it uses the USB interface so it is not going to obsolete itself.”

Bell details what to expect next for the Marquee. “For hardware, the MQ Playback is next in the line of products to be released using this platform. That will tie into the Lightolier architectural products and be used for traditional Horizon Playback Controller projects.” The expected release is Fall 2005. “For software, the Marquee software will continue to develop,” says Bell. “The first interim release will have the effects package which is necessary in today's environment. Horizon Control will continue to maintain Horizon, but is also looking for technology partners to take advantage of the Abstract Control Model and our core fade engine technology.”

What End Users Say:

Lighting designer Richard Pilbrow used the Marquee ILC console when he and LD Dawn Chiang lit Princesses last Fall for Goodspeed Musical Productions at Chester Theatre. “It is a mighty software package behind a modest looking control surface,” Pilbrow says. He and Chiang did not have a chance to play with the Abstract Control Model in this application, but he does like the concept. “The concept of separating the actual controllable parameters of differing instruments into a common shared control language is pretty brilliant. It needs to take the next step: control of multiple instruments, groups, building blocks of light, etc.”

As for the future, Pilbrow has some suggestions. “While the interface of the Marquee is graphical, I would like to see it go much further. For many years I have been requesting fewer buttons and a more intuitive visually based interface. Numerals are really irrelevant to stage lighting. And timing: video and editing software has shown the way forward with timelines. So, out with numbers and buttons̵in with touch-sensitive visualization interface.”

Lighting designer Ken Billington is using the Marquee ILC for the May production of Encores! The Apple Tree at New York City Center. “I had the demo on it,” says Billington. “It looks like it might be a good console. I think that there is a lot to be conquered yet, but as a first pass, I thought it was an inexpensive, good way to operate moving lights with a command line that was easily understandable by a designer and a programmer.”

Specifications

Weight Console 32lbs (14.5kgs)
Dimensions Console 37.5”×17.5”×3.25” (95.25 × 24.45 × 8.25cm)
Weight Processor 7.4lbs (3.4kgs)
Dimensions Processor 18.25”×9.0”×2.5” (46.35 × 22.86 × 6.35 cm)
Power Input Console 100~240VAC, 47~63Hz. 60W
Power Input Processor 100~240VAC, 50~60Hz. 90W