If you’ve ever used an Axia Element Console, you’d know it has a handy Computer Monitor VGA output. This screen displays level meters, allows you to change options, and features a nice big clock. The default graphics are quite bland, and there’s no ‘official’ way to customise the visual appearance of this screen – unless you know how to modify the Firmware package. I’ll show you how (don’t worry, it’s easy).

Step 0: Backup your console

Before we begin, it’s important to backup your Axia Element’s CF Card. This CF Card sits within the Element’s Power Supply (or PowerStudio), and contains all the software used to run the console. If you make a mistake during this process, rewriting the CF Card to an older version may be the only way to fix it.

To backup the CF Card, you need to turn off the Element, open the case, remove the CF Card, and use the Axia Awrite utility to copy it to a .img file on your computer.

As these CF Cards eventually die anyway, it’s good practice to keep a backup of the image.

Step 1: Download the Element Firmware

This ‘hack’ requires you get a copy of the Element firmware. This is distributed as a ZIP file on the Telos Alliance website. You can also get older copies on the FTP site.

Step 2: Extract the Graphics

Extract the ZIP file to a directory on your computer, and look for the “img” folder. In the v2.5.0.9 firmware, it has 117 graphics.

These files are the ones we are going to modify. There’s no official listing of what all they do, so finding the files you want is a process of elimination.

I’ve personally only needed to modify two files:

  • bg.png (the graphic in the background of the screen)
  • mtrbg_stpgm.png (the frame around the level meters)

In version 3.0 and up, the files are SVGs rather than PNGs.

Step 3: Replace the console graphics

In your favourite graphics program, edit the graphic files you want to change and save them over the originals.

Most graphics will need to remain the exact same size, but for bg.png you can make it up to 1024 x 768 pixels (the native resolution of the output). If this graphic is smaller, it will tile across the screen.

One modification I’ve made is to draw on the Meter Graphics to show our nominal peak level. This gives presenters and panel operators a visual indication of where they should be aiming, level-wise. I’ve also seen certain Axia dealers make the same type of modification.

Step 4: Repackage the Firmware ZIP

With your files ready, recreate the entire ZIP file. I’ve found the easiest way to do this on PC is to simply copy and paste the graphics into the original ZIP file using Windows Explorer (this way you ensure the structure of the file remains the same).

You’ve got to be careful here – if you make a mistake when repackaging the ZIP, you risk the console not booting properly. Ensure the folder structure remains identical.

Step 5: Rename the Firmware ZIP

To ensure you know which version of the firmware you’re running on your Element, consider prepending the file with your name. e.g. element-2.5.0.9-mediarealm_custom.zip

Step 6: Upload the New Firmware

Once you have your ZIP file ready to go, login to the web interface for your Element. Go to the “Setup” screen, and upload your new firmware.

Setting this firmware as the active firmware will require a reboot.

Step 7: Test your console

Once the console has rebooted, test it to ensure:

  1. The graphics have been replaced as expected
  2. The rest of the console works

Once when I was testing this, I had an issue with certain Javascript files not getting saved correctly back into the ZIP. This caused some functionality to not work. Ensure you test everything thoroughly.

That’s it! If you customise your Element, post a photo in the comments below.

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I'm Anthony Eden, and I'm a IT Professional, Broadcast Technician, Software Developer, and Solutions Engineer. I've been working in broadcast media since 2008, and developing software and websites for just as long. Right now, I provide freelance services through Media Realm - in particular, to the media and not-for-profit industries.

Follow Anthony on Twitter: @anthony_eden