NEO makes life easier at the USI Performance Center
Theatre Projects installs the new console from Philips Strand Lighting for its pixel mapping and Philips Advantage DMX capabilities
Wednesday, June 10, 2015
by Philips Strand Lighting

In the spring of 2015, the University of Southern Indiana opened the doors to its new 300-seat thrust theatre, the USI Performance Center. With a design by Theatre Projects, the new theatre houses some of the most intricate lighting technologies available today. Wanting a single console that could offer control for all the lighting technologies inside, the design team found their answer in the NEO lighting control console from Philips Strand Lighting.

“This was a new construction project which was phase two of the University Center renovation,” began Eric Cope, USI Assistant Professor of Lighting Design. “In the new space everyone wanted a visually dynamic environment which led to the design of two large LED walls flanking the stage of the theatre that we could use for both performances and educational purposes. To control it, we needed a console that would give us pixel mapping abilities along with control of all our other intelligent and LED lighting instruments, and that’s how we found the NEO lighting control console.”

The NEO lighting control console marks a new chapter in the evolution of control giving operators the ability to grab, move, change color and motivate the lighting design simply and effectively through the inclusion of many timesaving features. Icons and Shutter controls are represented graphically on the display and Floating Windows allow the operator to configure their views their way making it easy to find information. Effects are revolutionized with “Time Line” features that allow for drag-and-drop options to create that perfectly timed sequence, and with its advanced pixel mapping abilities NEO is one of the most robust consoles available today.

Cope continued, “In the original project bid, we were planning to use a Strand Palette VL Console, but knowing the plans for the LED wall, Steve Rust at Theatre Projects saw the NEO at LDI and suggested we change the spec to NEO due to its pixel mapping control option. The idea of now being able to operate the LED wall with a single system as well as control all of our other lighting instruments with the same intuitive effects engine that is inside NEO was far more advantageous to us.”

Inside the new USI Performance Center, the majestic LED wall rises above the catwalks, measuring approximately 33 feet high. To light the wall, approximately 1100 Philips Color Kinetics iColor Flex nodes were installed, powered by 39 separate PDS-60 power supplies.

Cope explained further, “Because we needed to operate each CK iColor Flex power supply on its own universe, we purchased three universes of DMX with the console and then we are using 39 universes as part of the Philips Advantage feature. So our NEO is currently controlling 42 universes of DMX.”

Every NEO lighting control console benefits from the Philips Advantage DMX model which allows the programmer to patch Philips Entertainment and Color Kinetics brand luminaires without consuming the console’s purchased DMX outputs. With Philips Advantage DMX, you can control thousands of Philips Vari-Lite, Philips Selecon and Philips Color Kinetics luminaires at no additional cost or output license limitations. 

“The first time we used NEO was on our production of Picnic which was a straightforward type of design and it reacted exactly how I wanted a console to react,” added Cope. “It has a very clean user interface, did the tracking extremely well, our student programmer was able to pick up the new syntax very quick, and the patching was very intuitive. For our next show Spring Awakening, we knew that we would be taking the control of NEO to a whole new level where we were going to really open up the theatre and show everyone what it could do. In between the two productions, Bobby Harrell provided some advanced programmer training so we could now control of everything from the LED wall to the conventional lighting and the automated fixtures with one powerful console.”

Having never seen NEO before its installation, Cope relied upon the advice from his longtime colleague Bobby Harrell whom he had worked with previously in New York City. It was Harrell that assured him that NEO would not only be the best product for their unique control challenges, but also for the educational value the students.

“I teach a programming class using four different console platforms and I try to give the students a good bit of cross-training between the various consoles,” said Cope. “What I love about the NEO that the others simply don’t offer is an easy to use pixel mapping feature. Pixel mapping is very hot with contemporary lighting design and I like to prepare our students for the myriad of productions that they will encounter once they graduate. When it comes to dealing with advanced lighting products such as moving lights, LED fixtures, and pixel mapping, the NEO lighting control console gives them a great taste of that world and it’s very intuitive.” 

With the full installation now complete, the USI Performance Center breathes life into four main stage production per year. Showcasing a wide range of theatrical styles, the NEO lighting control console sits at the heart of each production allowing the student designers to achieve any look necessary, quickly and easily.

“When it comes to dealing with moving lights and LED fixtures, the intuitive nature of NEO allows you to quickly create some wonderful effects,” concluded Cope. “NEO has features that allow the programmer to easily move beyond the intermediate levels of programming into the more advanced styles with the user palettes and drop-down menus that allow for programming on the fly while still maintaining the feel of a traditional theatrical console. Additionally, if I were starting our search for a new console from scratch, I would probably have purchased even more Philips lighting products to take advantage of the Philips Advantage feature in NEO because it simply makes life easier for you.”

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