Like all Consoles, the Lighting Console controls the intensities and other parameters of lights and special effects. These boards range in size and complexity, from simple 2 scene presets to networked controllers.
Preset Boards are the oldest and simplest types of boards. They use banks of different faders to manually adjust the level of light. In order to operate this type of board the cue sheet must show the different faders in the positions that they need to be in for the cue, and must be manually placed in those positions to make the cue happen. While the cue is "up" the operator can then set the levels for the next cue and use the sub master to fade from one cue to the next.
With digital media and smart boards more prevalent these days, Preset Boards have all but been made obsolete. Not helping matters Is the fact that preset boards have a low limit to the amount of channels they can support and also they cannot control intelligent lights. However their low cost makes them a favorite for DJ's who do not worry as much about lighting cues as they do about putting on a light show. Small theaters and coffee shops may still use them simply because it's the only type of light board they can afford. If you are working in a theater using a preset board then you are probably not being paid…..
Memory Boards are the current standard at most theaters. In fact they've all but replaced preset boards for most theaters. These consoles can record cues, have a higher channel limit, and generally are superior in every way to preset boards. While these consoles still have a bank of faders they are rarely used. Instead using the buttons on the console you can set the level of the individual lights. When all the levels are set and the cue is established you can then record the cue giving it a numbered designation, repeat this process for all the cues in the show and you have your look. All the operator needs to do now is simply hit the "GO" button every time a cue is changed, and the lights will change to the next cue in the order.
There are several brands of different memory consoles, the brands may have certain features that make them unique or allow them to perform special functions that another cannot do. Most memory consoles are able to control intelligent fixtures as well, though again it depends on how many and the brand of console
Moving Light Controllers
The high end of lighting consoles. Moving Light Controllers are built specifically to control large amounts of intelligent fixtures . These consoles have either joysticks or wheels to help control the pitch, angle, and tilt of the light. There is also an LED display that shows in more practical terms how the light will look.
The greatest challenge for these consoles is to consolidate information from (possibly hundreds) of different moving lights into a single interface so the user knows what is happening with each of their lights. Operating this type of console is substantially more difficult, and requires more knowledge of moving lights in general
A relatively new addition to lighting consoles, computer consoles allow a user to download software onto the computer that lets in function as a lighting console. This usually also requires some additional hardware for the computer (DMX or USB) to allow the computer to operate the lights. The type of programs vary and some are more effective than others.
Going along the same line of the computers operating lighting systems. It is also possible to use a small remote device (iPhone, iPad) to control the lighting board through use of an application. While this is unlikely to be used in theatrical shows it is becoming a favorite for presentations, and is useful when moving the light board is impractical but control is needed from somewhere else.