In the realm of small and inexpensive lighting desks, the Stage Designer
50 is notable because it can handle 48 channels in a very small physical
footprint and has some really useful and intuitive features.
It also has some subtle gotchas that can take the novice or unwary
operator by surprise, and a couple of minor hardware annoyances that in
this case needed to be fixed before being placed into live operation.
The user manual for the console is readily available online, but is rough going in spots where functionality is not explained as clearly as we'd like. Near the end of this page are some clarifying points that may help to understand the operational quirks and how to get this unit to behave to our liking.
|What we notice first on power-up is that the red and yellow LEDs are *very* bright -- so bright that they interfere with being able to see the labeling on the panel. The green ones are okay; the blue channel-output indicators are fairly bright but tolerable since when they're on, presumably the stage is lit at the same time producing more ambient light in general but even then, not necessarily in your dark little booth! Still, investigating any possibility of making them dimmer is one motivation for opening the board up for a look at the insides.|
Disassembly is straightforward; the main body of the desk is one big
circuit board mounted on standoffs under the top panel.
The power supply regulator and various I/O are on a separate part
mounted into the back panel, with a fairly minimal cable running
The case is all steel and seems quite sturdy.
A nice feature immediately noticed is that the slide pots all have dust guards, which should help them resist getting crapped up inside.
|All the chips are socketed DIP, which gives us a hint as to the vintage of the design but also makes parts easy to replace if needed. Unfortunately the dropping resistors for the LEDs are in the form of hard-soldered SIPs and all 220 ohm, meaning that specifically dimming the red and yellow LEDs by changing a few separate resistors is out of the question. So we'll do what everybody else does with these boards -- slap pieces of tape over the stupidly bright ones and get on with life.|
|In most settings there is absolutely no need for an "everything on instantly" button, which is too easy to hit by mistake. If we need all channels at full, we can easily program a scene for that [perhaps as a preheat?] but in the meantime this button has to *go*. A little cut through the relevant circuit trace permanently disables it.|
After receiving the unit, I spent a few days playing with it and putting
as many features as possible through the paces.
I had immediate questions to direct to Chauvet's technical support staff,
who said they'd welcome any feedback on the operational aspects.
The result was a monster
sent via email, albeit probably kidding myself about any hope of ever
being able to try revised firmware.
Without trying to write the complete "missing manual for the SD50"
from scratch, here are some of the relevant points from that series to
help clarify what the given manual leaves sketchy or leaves out.
Additional motivation for providing this came from finding
at Controlbooth on the subject, in which a new user worked through
much of his own early-on confusion and even remedied some of mine.