Every Console is Unique, So Double Check Your Profiles!
By Chris Conti
Let’s talk about profiles and how they can be the source of problems on the site of a show. And no, I’m not talking about your Facebook or Tinder profiles. Profiles (the ones that lighting consoles use to control complex multi parameter lighting equipment) are the secret sauce of lighting consoles. They dictate which functions on a piece of lighting equipment gets controlled by what knobs or buttons on the console. How and where profiles get made vary as much as how many different types of consoles there are. Some console manufacturers require that they must build the profile for you, some let you create a simple text file that acts as the profile, some have a special app that lets you build the profile, and others enable you to build and/or edit the profile right on the console itself. The point being is that every console is unique which, sadly, makes them proprietary to specific consoles. That means you can’t take a profile for a new lighting fixture from a Hog 4 and use it on V676. However, what is universal is the DMX Map. Every piece of lighting equipment that can be controlled by DMX512 has one or more DMX Maps associated with it. The Map outlines which DMX channel controls what function on a piece of lighting equipment.
Here’s an example: above is a portion of the DMX Map for a Best Boy. On the Map you can see that Channel 1 drives the dimmer on the fixture. Also listed is a description for each channel, what their ranges are, and their home values. So, in the case of the dimmer on the Best Boy, a DMX value of 0 is out and 255 is the dimmer at full, with the range being 0 to 255. It also states that the home value is 0, meaning when I release or tell the fixture from my lighting console to go to home, it will snap out. Probably one of the most critical things to understand is that this information is taken from the DMX Map and then used to create the console profile. Once created, the profile is then loaded onto the console along with the show patch so as to enable control of fixtures.
So, now that we understand what a profile is and how it works, how can they be a problem on show site? The simple answer is bad profiles. A bad profile is one that was made incorrectly and or is missing items. A great example of this is when I had a customer call me up and tell me how much they loved the Best Boy fixture. Their only complaint was that it didn’t have frost, when in fact, the fixture does actually have it. What ensued was a back and forth of, yes it does have frost, no it doesn’t, yes it does, well there is no dial or button to control it on the desk! The long and short of it was that the console profile was bad. Whom ever had created it had failed to include the frost in the profile, which by the way is DMX channel 21 in case you were wondering. Another example was the time I received a call from a lighting director who was concerned about how “brown’ the lights were and that he wanted to immediately receive 100 new lamps for the fixtures. As luck would have it, I had been in the shop the day that those particular fixtures where being prepped. So, I had actually seen them before they shipped and knew for a fact that they were NOT brown. I also thought it was very odd that ALL 100 fixtures where the same shade of brown. Something was clearly not right, and it wasn’t bad lamps. After going through some basic trouble shooting steps we were able to quickly identify that the source of the lights being brown was in fact a bad profile. These fixtures had an additional CTO wheel and the home value in the console profile was set incorrectly. The result was instead of defaulting to 0, open white, the CTO was defaulting to 10% and making all the fixtures look brown instead of crisp white. Fortunately, as soon as we got a fixed profile loaded into the desk the entire rig was up and running in the proper open white. A simple fix of the profile saved a lot of aggravation.
Profiles enable us to control complex lighting equipment easily from a lighting console, but they can also cause serious problems too. A bad profile can make equipment perform poorly, if at all. So always double check and verify that the profiles are built correctly to prevent problems from occurring.