Tel: 905–690–4709 dk@tfwm.com - Darryl Kirkland, Publisher

Assessing Your Church Lighting Needs

The question is much like the one about the chicken and the egg. Is automated lighting becoming widely accepted across a number of new markets because the lights are becoming more affordable or are the lights becoming more affordable because they are gaining broader acceptance?

Whatever the reason, many congregations are discovering that automated lighting can greatly enhance not only special productions, but also their regular worship services. They are also learning that with some of the new products that have recently been introduced to the market, there has never been a better time to upgrade their current lighting system.

But before investing in a new lighting system, there are a number of things to consider. Some may seem obvious; others aren’t as evident.

The first thing to understand is that the lighting system isn’t being purchased only for use today; it is being purchased for use years down the road. As membership continues to grow, the lighting needs of the congregation will change as it looks to raise the level of quality of its productions. Since few, if any, congregations have an unlimited budget, it is critical to choose a lighting system that can grow along with the church.

The least expensive system isn’t always the best choice, and in many cases can actually end up costing you more in the long run. A less expensive system might serve today’s needs, but you run the risk of being stuck with a virtually useless and outdated system in just a few short years. Although an advanced system may require a little more investment up front, it will allow you to expand as the congregation grows.

Automated luminaires are more expensive than conventional lights, but they provide more versatility.

Because the automated lights are multi-tasking, they can perform the standard functions of the conventional fixtures, but they also provide movement, color change, patterns and flexibility for a wider range of performances. In addition, you can save hundreds of man-hours each year by not having to manually move, refocus or re-gel the lights for each production.

One of the most popular recent introductions into the lighting industry is the automated ellipsoidal reflector spotlight. For years, the ellipsoidal has been the standard theatrical lighting tool. Automation has taken all of the desired elements of the original ellipsoidal lights and put them into a package that meets a church’s functionality needs at an affordable price.

The edge of the ellipsoidal beam can be adjusted from sharp to soft focus, allowing the light to be used as either a spotlight or a soft-edged luminaire. Also, with its shutter system, the beam of the ellipsoidal can be cropped so that specific areas are illuminated. The shutters also allow programmers to light around obstacles such as video projection screens, windows or asymmetrical objects.

With an automated ellipsoidal, more flexibility has been added with features such as pan-and-tilt movement and color mixing. In addition, rotating gobos can be used in the lights to add texture or for effects such as twinkling stars, rippling water, ominous shadows or roaring flames ­ depending on the particular message of the program. Zoom lenses allow the size of the images to be increased or decreased automatically as needed.

Color changes can be made quickly to change the mood of the program from sadness and gloom ­ in a crucifixion scene, for example ­ to gladness and joy of the resurrection.

Many churches have found that in addition to improving the value of special presentations, the automated lighting packages also enhance their weekly worship services. Gobos can project images on the walls, ceilings or floors during regular services to support the message or theme of the day.

The lights are extremely popular for illustrated sermons. Because the automated ellipsoidal can be used as either a soft-edged fixture or a spotlight, it can go from a sharp focus on the minister during his sermon to a washed-out golden hue on the choir, right on cue. Or if a congregation wants to add skits and small performances to highlight points of the sermon, the automated lighting can be used to illuminate both, with a straight spotlight on the speaker, to movement, color changes and patterns for the action.

Regardless of its use, lighting should enhance the worship service and not distract from it. An often-overlooked aspect of automated lighting is the noise the fixture makes. Before purchasing an automated system, have the dealer set up demonstrations so that you can not only see the light in action, but you can listen to it as well. If the production depends heavily on spoken word or silence for effect, you don’t want to hear a constant buzzing sound from the lights’ cooling fans or motors.

The optimum light will be convection cooled so that the cooling fans aren’t activated until the ambient temperature approaches 50 degrees Celsius. When it is running, the fan should still be virtually silent.

Equally, you don’t want the lights themselves to stand out, making the sanctuary look like a concert hall. If needed, request that the exterior finish of the lights be white so that they blend in with the sanctuary’s ambiance.

Finally, you should purchase automated lighting equipment that is made by a reliable company. Seek the advice of consultants and lighting experts. Most lighting manufacturers have experts on staff who will meet with you to understand your lighting needs, tour the facility and then recommend lighting products that will allow you to accomplish your lighting goals ­ today and for the future.

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