Are Your Projection and Lighting Systems Compatible?

In Uncategorized by tfwm

Can’t we all just get along? Yes, but it won’t be easy! Welcome to our world. The world where lighting – projection – and budget collide.

The same scenario repeats itself exhaustingly throughout the AV company world no matter who the client. A great budget is established by the client for new building projects, but the sound, lights, and projection suffer as they are limited to what money is left over.

It makes it frustrating for the AV companies when $40,000 worth of equipment is truthfully needed, but they must design and re-design to fit within a $20,000 budget. The client is actually the one that will suffer over the long haul when only half of what is needed is installed.

It is time for churches to wake up to the importance of their technical systems and start planning realistic amounts in the budget from the onset; just as they do for pews, carpet, and chandeliers. All of these items are important, and none should have to deal with “leftover” funds.

As churches, we have to remember that each person should not only be comfortable in their seats, they should also enjoy a pleasing appearance, and they should hear and see a quality service.

As an AV company offering design, sales, installation, and instruction for audio, lighting, and projection systems in houses of worship, we have found that no matter how much we educate, or how much customer service we offer, price wins every time – or does it? Let’s check it out.

The bottom line is an important part of any organization or business. But we forget that the cost may rise in order to give us what we need to get the job done right.

Often times we are asked to visit a church and take a look at a projection system that has already been installed. They describe the problem as not being bright enough. Nine times out of ten the stage lighting is the culprit.

Why? Probably because price won out over proper equipment. In these cases, price really didn’t win – it caused a loss (or added cost; however you want to look at it.)

When projection is the main item on the menu, lighting should be served as an automatic side dish – no substitutions.

Ambient light, stage lighting fixtures being used with projection, screen placement, and aiming are all things to consider when projection and lighting are going to play on the same field.

If you have fallen victim to washed-out projection and your lighting and projection systems are having difficulty playing well together, we would like to offer some simple tricks of the trade that you can perform yourself.

The first thing you may want to try is a simple solution. If you are using a lower lumen projector and the screen seems to be washed out, this trick often works without any cost and with very little time. Try moving the podium. There may be an area on your stage that is more illuminated than another allowing you to turn off some lights while leaving others on. Place the podium in the brighter area; the darker you can get the area around the screen the better.

If your projection appears washed out and moving the podium is not an option, here is another cost effective trial solution. Try re-aiming (re-focusing) your current lighting fixtures. By refocusing your current fixtures to not shine on the screen, it will eliminate a majority of the wash-out.

As with anything, there are snags to this quick fix. Find out what fixtures you are working with; track lighting, stage wash lighting, or overhead lighting? Take heed not to crop the light too low, causing heads and shoulders to “disappear” in the dark.

Track lighting can be re-aimed to some degree. Make sure your stage and podium are well lit, and aim the track lights so that the least amount of extra light hits the screen. Once again, don’t crop to low or the pastor, guest speakers, and/or singing people will seem “headless”.

Overhead lighting usually cannot be re-aimed because it is normally recessed. Consider reconfiguring your dimmers to separate the lights closest to the screen out to their own channel, so they can be dimmed without affecting any of the other lighting.

If you have installed stage lighting for drama that produces a stage wash, you are probably dealing with PAR fixtures. These are great for their purpose – creating a stage wash. The beam produced by PAR fixtures is not focusable. Each beam is fixed in a set spread width of either very narrow, narrow, medium, wide, or very wide.

You can re-aim the fixture just like a track light, but the brightness and beam spreads of PAR fixtures are usually much larger than those of track lighting. So even if you re-aim the fixtures, you may still experience a considerable amount of bleed over onto the screen; it just depends on your situation.

For a few dollars, take a look at investing in some barn doors. Barn doors are metal tabbed units that fit onto the front of PAR or Fresnel fixtures. By bending the metal tabs in and/or out, you will be able to control some of the bleed over.

Why do these situations occur time and time again? Most commonly, the culprit is budget, with a lack of understanding running a close second. But not to worry, we have a few more tricks!

You may ask, “Can’t we just get a brighter projector?” The short answer is yes, but the stumbling block again is budget. When the price of a 3000 or 5000 lumen projector is presented to most churches, jaws drop, hearts sink, and it’s back to finding another solution. Think of projectors like computers. The technology is changing rapidly and believe it or not, these babies are coming down in price. In the meantime, is there another way out?

The best budget conscious thing to do when incorporating stage lighting into the projection mix is to consider using Ellipsoidal type fixtures. They cost more than PAR fixtures, but are far less expensive than a 5000 lumen projector.

Your entire lighting system does not necessarily have to be made up of Ellipsoidal fixtures. When placed in the correct positions in amongst your PARs, the results can be quite pleasing. Oftentimes we’ve spec-ed a recipe of PARs and Ellipsoidal fixtures for houses of worship to create a cost effective yet correct performing system that meets their needs.

Ellipsoidal fixtures offer multiple functions. Although a stationary fixture, they have features that can be used for more than one setting. Shuttering allows you to crop a beam. For instance, if your podium is located stage left, and your screen is front and center, Ellipsoidal fixtures allow you to illuminate the person at the podium while cropping the beam off before it hits the screen.

Ellipsoidals are also standard stationary fixtures for theater/drama use. They have the capability of singling out one scene in a certain area, adding texture with the use of gobos, and giving the choice of either a hard or soft edge to the beam.

How many times has it been said: “Well, we have seen lighting fixtures for under $50 brand new! Why can’t we just use those?” There are a multitude of reasons: brightness compared to throw distance, functionality, etc.

In all honesty, stage lighting is the first to be cut from most proposals. If your AV company knows what they are doing and realizes there will be projection and stage lighting operating at the same time, they will spec the correct lighting fixtures and the correct projector. Once the client takes a look at the bottom line of the correctly spec-ed system, they usually gasp, and begin making cuts – lighting cuts.

Educating those who hold the purse strings is of major importance. Think of yourself – if you don’t understand what a product is, how it works, or what it is for, you are bound to turn-up your lip, shake your head at the cost, and move on thinking there is no need to ever have “one of those”!

Brightness is the most understood term when talking projection. Whether you want to use rear screen or front screen, the brightness of the projector is the brightness of the projector. The only other factor that allows the lumens to function at their optimum potential is choosing the right screen and hanging it in the correct location. The better the screen, the truer the image. However, if 10,000 watts of light are shining directly onto your screen, you will incur some level of washout.

For the best results when it comes to coordinating your lighting and projection systems, tell your AV company early on that both will be used, and make sure your AV company and general contractor communicate. This is the best trick of all when it comes to new building projects.

Remember not to use and abuse the AV company. There is a fine line between having a few questions answered and needing to pay for a professional consultant to steer you correctly.

So many times companies working with churches get a sour taste in their mouths because as budget driven entities, we find ourselves (the churches) trying to get everything for free. We know, because we have been there and have thought those exact same thoughts. On the flip side, we have learned our lesson, and found that paying a little more for a product often includes a much-appreciated higher level of quality customer service.

Can’t we all just get along? Yes! And now that you know some of the tricks of the trade, it just might be easier!