7 Cool things about the ETC Element – 40 Lighting Control Board with PNTA’s Alex Wren.

Element closeup2Based on ETC’s award-winning Eos® control system but with a simplified feature set, Element™ is designed expressly for modest rigs and maximum hands-on fader control. Affordable and easy to use, Element packs in the fundamentals of lighting control.              
Element comes in two hardware versions, based on fader count, to suit your rig. Each supports either 250 or 500 channels and two full universes of DMX output.

Supporting two external, Windows® 7-compatible high-resolution monitors (standard, single- or multi-touch), programming could not be any more straightforward and easy.

The Element is the perfect board for smaller venues, High Schools, Children’s Theatres or places with a single console operator.  It works great with conventional fixtures (spotlights, PARs, fresnels, etc. and their accessories – scrollers, mirror heads, gobo rotators, etc.) or LED fixtures and rigs with a small number of simple moving lights

Okay. Enough quoting from the manual, there’s a link at the end of this article that will take you to the details.  Instead we wanted to kick the tires of the Element with a real Lighting Designer, Get their experienced review.

Enter Alex Wren, technical specialist at our Partner PNTA, Pacific Northwest Theatre Associates …

Alex Bio Pic

Alex Wren specializes in Lighting Design at PNTA.  He’s also the founder of his own Lighting Design Company, Design4Excellence, as well as the Technical Director for the Theatre at West Seattle High School.  B.I.T.N. had the chance to hang out with Alex at the High School during final dress tech of SHREK – THE MUSICAL.




Shrek pic with Moon GOBO

As Technical Director for the High School, Alex chose the Element as the primary lighting board for the theatre. As we watched we were impressed by both the speed at which Alex was capable of working, but also with the depth and range of control he had over the cues using this tough little board.

Since he had so much real world experience with the Element, we wanted to get his take on it, find out what makes it a choice for him.  

So we challenged him to tell us seven cool things about the ETC Element.  Alex agreed and a week later we were in the demo rooms at PNTA, where Alex had set up an identical rig as the High School, with the same Element, two monitors and a keyboard.

Element in Demo Room_Moment

“This is the same board as West Seattle High School.  This is the ETC Element – 40 version,” Alex said, “There’s also a 60 version with more faders, double the amount.”

The  Element is low profile, (33″L x 18″D x 5″H) and lightweight, (the console weighs in at 30lbs, without monitor(s) and keyboard, which are sold separately).  With a solid road case, (and one to fit a monitor and a keyboard as well), this board can be easily transported and it’s design doesn’t take up a lot of space.


Element Switcher Knob_Moment

“This is a really amazing piece of equipment,” Alex began, pointing out a black knob top center of the board, “because it has a switcher to be able to switch down between many different channels, we got sub-masters, so the switcher let’s you control many different layers of the show.”

The addition of the switcher has allowed ETC to pack an amazing amount of control into this board.


The ETC Element comes with a proprietary software package that allows you to design offline, on any device. 

Alex held up a thumb drive. Thumbdrive into Element_Moment

“This isn’t my show file, but I can use this and pull up saved info from the High School,” He said.  He inserted the drive into a USB slot on the boards face.  The monitor identified the new info quickly and Alex continued talking as he quickly opened folders.

“I’ll do a lot of my cue structuring on my laptop with the same software.”  There are shortcuts to be able to  have the board buttons assigned to your computers keyboard.

“It’s easier for a designer or a programmer to get things going and then get to the space and do a little fine tuning.”

This makes the Element an interesting product for event production and Corporate Theater, where space may be at minimum and time may be a bigger factor.


Alex walked us over to another light board sitting off to the side.  Much larger, much heavier than the Element, but instantly recognizable as a not too distant cousin.ETC Express1_Moment

“This is the ETC Express,” he said, “This is what I learned on many moons ago.” He continued, “Notice how it’s pretty much the same, the Express and the Element.”

The Express, while larger, did have the same control layout as the Element  Technology has made it possible to stuff a lot more into the more compact Element, but as Alex pointed out, “ETC uses similar design in their product line.  For anyone who has used the Express it’s very easy to cross between boards, know where you are, and use all the different tools ETC brings to the table.”

“ETC is very intuitive to keep the user familiar and coming back.”

“So I’m gonna bring it up so that all the lights are on all pages of submasters.  There are 800 submasters, in increments of 40.”


“Page 1 is where I park my Cyc Lights, Downwashes, color-washes,” He says, scanning the keyboard, sliding the mouse with one hand and typing into the board with the other, “Then I switch to the next page and I have my Effect submasters …”

I actually began to get it.  The board was allowing him to instantly stack his lighting cues, keeping primary lighting and effect lighting separate and easier to manage.

“… Down in this submaster, I have things that I’m firing.  I can tell it to go and set the intensity at the same time.  This replaces a tedious manual operation.”  “I’ve got my effect that I’ve set all the steps for, I’ve set it on a submaster, I can pull it up at anytime without going through the process of selecting the channels for the effect.”ETC Element scrren3_Moment


Alex pointed to the monitor screen and began working the software. “Another thing I want to point out is the fact that you have “Magic Sheet” control on this.”


(A Magic Sheet is a graphical display of all of the lighting systems and specials used in a given production. The magic sheet includes channel numbers, color, direction and focus information).

“The Live tab shows us everything that is active.”  Alex then switched to another screen. “This monitoring layer shows you immediately what cue you’re in.  this is good for someone like the stage manager, who doesn’t need to see the intricacies of everything that’s going on.”


In the Demo room, Alex had hooked the board up to some LED lights already in the space.  He said, “Okay so I patched in one of these LED lights over there at 10.  The ELEMENT makes it easy to patch LEDs and movers.  Unlike conventional stage lighting that requires being plugged into a switch which is in turn specifically dimmer assigned this board makes patching in any LED’s and Movers a button push.”

Okay, impressive ...

“If you have newer moving lights, The ELEMENT board already has preset profiles for a lot of movers on the market.  The board already knows exactly how these lights move and it already knows the effects the movers can do.”

Okay, more impressive …

“With LED’s, it’s really about color and intensity,” he explains, “If we want to create a custom color change, say to a pink …” He pulls up a color chart and zeros the mouse to the pink section, instantly dropping the color into a sub-master.”color picker_Moment

“ETC has also made it easy to change the color by pre-programming every Rosco and Lee Gel color there is.”  So simply by going to the right screen you can digitally select the exact gel color for any LED or LED Mover.  If it’s critical to the production that you have Rosco #28, well, it’s right here.”

gel menu_Moment


“So maybe you made an error,” Alex began, “It happens.  ETC has designed the Element with features that make it easier and simpler to correct or erase mistakes as well as tinker with cues based on say, a directors feedback during the tech rehearsal.”

Alex reached again to the controls. “One cool feature is the “Blind” feature.  This let’s you manipulate one single fixture, within the entire cue without effecting the other lights in the scene.”

undo button_Moment

“Another feature is the “Undo” button.  Sounds funny but when your programming and manipulating the design, having the ability to undo changes quickly can be a lifesaver.”

The Element also has a “Park” feature. “This was something that was more hidden in the Express but with Element it’s more apparent.”  

Park gives you control over secondary lights like crew lights or some house lights, without recording them into your cues, saving your subs.

“It’s also good during cue to cue time,” Alex adds, “You can park cues for the director if they want to take a second look.”

At this point Alex pulls up a set of cues that compile a folder named FIRE 2. “This is for the dragon from Shrek,  There were 12 individual lighting cues in the effect. “So now say I want to duplicate the effect to another submaster.”

The Element allowed Alex to simply COPY TO a new submaster, in effect saving himself at least 12 steps.  

“So now maybe I like all the channels I’m using, but for this moment I want to speed it up, or I want to take out half the channels here and make them a different color.”Dwell Feature_Moment

Alex was clicking away, “Maybe I want to change timing, maybe just the dwell time, (In lighting design there is “In Time”, Dwell Time”, and “Decay Time”). “So I can instantly change the dwell times on only some of the channels and not others, you can get that specific.” 

“It may seem like cheating,” he observes, “But it’s really not.  Especially in Corporate Theatre, when you’re programming your designs into the board, it’s all about speed at that point.” 

“ETC and the Element keep things simple and well-organized”, Alex says finally. “For a Lighting Designer, who’s walking away, you want the show you designed to be flawless.”

These are just a few of the reasons that the ETC Element – 40 is on Alex’s list of favorite things.  As he said before we ended the session;

” … As a Lighting Designer, sometimes you may have a couple of days,. Sometimes you have a day.  All this time you’ve been designing on your laptop, pre-programming, and then you get to the space and you may only have hours to make sure everything is perfect, and you’ve got people asking you questions and coming to you and you’ve got to have the time to do the things you have to do.”


To See the full technical specifications and the list of functions click HERE

To learn more about Alex and Design4Excellence click HERE

To Contact Alex at PNTA to discuss your next lighting rental or purchase you can reach him at alexw@pnta.com

And dude, if you haven’t checked out PNTA you should, here’s the link





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