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Lighting Control Wall Panels

e:cue Light Drive Elite; Sunlite STICK; Philips Dynalite DTP100; Crestron TPS-6X

Issue 51 Oct / Nov 2009

David Morgan is impressed by four lighting control wall panels that target different areas of the market.

Lighting control systems are a vital part of most lighting design schemes. A variety of both analogue and digital systems are available to cover all sizes of lighting scheme from a single room to a complete, multi-storey commercial building. The only visible element of these systems is normally the wall panel through which the system is accessed and controlled.

There are many of these control systems on the market from the devilishly complex to the relatively simple. However, it needs to be kept in mind that what suits the lighting specifier may not be ideal for the end-user, while the architect or the interior designer will have another agenda altogether. The lighting specifier is likely to be concerned with the flexibility and ease of setting up the lighting scenes while the Architect may be more concerned with the panel’s appearance, range of effects that are available and the integration of control functions into one panel. The end-user may well be most concerned with the ease of use in selecting lighting scenes.

This review covers four different wall panels ranging from complex, high-end, networked AV and lighting control systems to simple all-in-one box lighting control systems.

e:cue Light-Drive Elite
The Light-Drive Elite from e:cue – part of the OSRAM group - is an elegant wall-mounted standalone DMX lighting controller and incorporates an interactive user interface. This is the only panel of the four that can be used to set up colour changing lighting scenes without the use of a PC.

Apparently it is designed for use in small projects such as clubs and bars and would be used in conjunction with other lighting controls for general lighting.

Colour changing sequences can easily be set up, saved and controlled directly using the six buttons and the colour wheel on a thin glass panel. The dimming, colour change and speed control interface via the colour wheel are highly intuitive, attractive and well-executed with separate buttons for changing colour or shades of white. When the colour pallet button is pressed the colour wheel shows the full spectrum of colours. Touching any of the colours on the colour ring then changes the displayed colours to give fine control. When the white light button is pressed the buttons change to show the range of whites and again pressing any specific colour then shows finer graduations of white. Colour chases can also be created for up to twelve luminaires.

The Light-Drive Elite is the smallest system in the e:cue range and there are larger systems suitable for complete building control.

Sunlite STICK
The Sunlite Touch-sensitive Intelligent Control Keypad, or STICK as it is otherwise known, is also a standalone wall-mounted DMX controller but in order to initially set up the scenes and colour changes a PC is required. The pre-set scenes can be modified via the panel but will revert to their default settings each time the panel is turned off.

The panel has eight touch-panel buttons which means it can recall up to eight static or dynamic pre-set scenes. A series of other buttons are used to control dimming, change speed and colour with LED indicators. SD memory cards are used so that almost unlimited amount of memory is available. There is a built-in clock and calendar so that lighting sequences can be pre-programmed to run and there is also a built-in microphone to allow sound activation. The controller can access two DMX universes of up to 1024 channels.

The various Sunlite software packages for dynamic lighting effects are well established for the bar, club and hospitality market and have a variety of good features. The new ESA Pro software has been developed specifically for architectural applications and includes some very neat features for setting up moving patterns on LED video walls.

Sunlite products have a distinctive appearance. Their widely used DMX controller is housed in brightly coloured transparent plastic reminiscent of early iMacs. While this probably works for a component that is hidden away in a cupboard, when it comes to wall panels the appearance is a more important part of the product. I am not sure that many architects or interior designers would be happy to find the STICK on the walls of their buildings but it would be fine behind a bar or positioned more covertly in a retail space.

Philips Dynalite DTP100
The Dynalite DTP100 panel is a very neat video touch screen that fits into a standard twin wall box. With a 4.3 inch TFT LCD full colour touch screen this mini wall panel can be used to control lighting, H&V and blinds. Via a network connection it can also be used to control music and video and the screen can be used to run sequences of images, video or view internet pages.

The controller runs windows CE and the graphics can be customised to show a wide variety of images such as logos, buttons, faders, floor plans and diagnostic icons. Pages can be created using Philips Dynalite’s touch screen editor or using a standard HTML editor such as Macromedia Dreamweaver.

Incorporating a microphone and speaker the panel can also be linked to a video door entry system to further integrate a wide variety of functions into one interface.

The panel connects to the range of dimmer racks and controllers for a wide variety of light sources. As with the STICK all the initial set up of lighting scenes is done via a PC with any changes made via the panel being only temporary.

The screen is surrounded with a simple bezel that is available in a number of standard materials and can also be supplied with custom finishes and materials.

It is understood that the panel is being specified for use in a wide variety of hospitality projects – hotels, clubs restaurants as well as high end residential applications.

Crestron TPS-6X
The Creston system is far and away the most complex and sophisticated of the four panels that have been included in this review.
The system controls and integrates a wide variety of video, audio as well as lighting, H&V and blinds / curtains and video door entry systems.

Although one of the first products developed by Crestron over 30 years ago was a lighting control system the company has been more focused on the AV market since then. In the UK most of their sales to date have been into high end residential projects but in the US market Crestron systems are widely used in commercial and corporate applications as well.

Their systems includes storage and control of libraries of DVD’s, home cinema, integration of cable TV and all other digital media via the panel. A variety of video panel sizes are available from 17-inch touch panels down to the 5.7-inch TPS-6X wireless touchpanel that can control all functions up to 70m from the base station.

Some of the Creston panels combine touchscreen operation with programmable buttons running up the sides of the screen. This gives the most positive button feel of any of the panels reviewed.
The appearance and detailing of some of the screen surrounds is rather fussy and over complex but they are now available in a number of finishes including polished chrome.

Programming the lighting scenes is not possible through the wall panel although scenes can be modified temporarily via the panel. Creston distribute their systems through specialist AV companies who do all the installations and set ups. Lighting designers would need to work with the installing engineers to set up scenes which may become more of a problem with increasing use of colour changing and dynamic lighting effects.

With the increasing use of colour changing LED luminaires and arrays the lighting control interface is becoming an important element of these systems. This increased complexity means that an ergonomic interface is more important than ever for the lighting designer when it comes to setting up scenes.

Complex integrated control systems such as Creston would require the lighting designer to work together with the installing engineer’s team to set up the lighting scenes.

Simple systems such as the Light-Drive Elite panel gives full control to the lighting designer but only handles lighting. This lack of multi-functionality could result in a situation with more wall clutter from diverse control panel designs which may be unacceptable to the architect or the interior designer.


e:cue Light-Drive Elite

  • Sunlite STICK

  • Philips Dynalite DTP100

  • Crestron TPS-6X

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