Confusing Controls are Technology’s Curse
VCR. These three letters perfectly describe the pitfalls awaiting the innocent and unwary when it comes to choosing controls for any type of technology. The promise? Program, remember, recall, replay. The reality? The blinking 12:00. The utter failure to deliver as promised. The reason? Complicated controls that baffle the eye and brain.
What’s the lesson for house of worship lighting controls?
People need easy-to-understand, simple controls. Ideally, people want to press one button and “have the darn thing work.” Give them this and they will praise your name. Fail in this and your name will be profaned for eternity. Who is the idiot who…?
Simple Lighting Control Options For Any Worship Scenario
1. A Simple Solution For a Simple Scenario
The simplest solution is the tried and true light dimmer. Bright. Dim. One zone of light at a time. You draw little marks on the wallplate to show others where to set the lights. It is the perfect simple solution for a limited number of lights. Add a remote control to this and you have answered prayers.
2. Still Simple Control–For Complex Lighting
This solution is called a multi-scene lighting control. It’s actually simpler than using dimmers, because a multi-scene lighting control offers true one-touch simplicity. Even for hundreds of lighting zones.
A multi-scene lighting control is like having a bunch of dimmers in one box. You create lighting scenes by raising and lowering the lights using individual dimmer controls that reside out of sight from end-users. Then, typically, you press a scene button and the control remembers your light settings. When it comes time to change the lights for that special choir performance, you just press the same scene button and recall your perfect light setting.
In a typical sanctuary you might have four lighting scenes. Three scenes with various settings of dimmed lights for parts of the religious ceremony. Plus a “general,” full bright lighting scene for choir practice and clean-up.
3. For Complex Lighting and Audio/Visual Events–Still Simple
Okay, modern worship services are quickly becoming multi-media events. Projection screens, audio equipment, theatrical lighting–the works. In fact, some churches require the ability to mount full theatrical productions. Is it possible to maintain utter simplicity of control when lighting controls must “talk” to audio/visual equipment (RS232) and theatrical lighting fixtures (DMX512) using communication protocols?
Yes. And houses of worship should not be persuaded otherwise. The beauty of most multi-scene lighting control systems is that they can “speak” to other equipment, such as projection screens, projectors, and motorized window shades. And when properly designed by a design professional, all of this equipment should be able to “play” together, and be controlled by the touch of a single button.
And for the house of worship that mounts a truly theatrical production, it is quite possible to design a lighting control system that can be controlled for special events by professional sound and lighting stageboards, and then be returned to it’s simple one-touch functionality for the day to day basics.
Two Final Tips for Utter Simplicity
Engrave or label all your controls
A properly engraved control is a big welcome sign for the average untrained person who can just press the button engraved as “Prayer”, and know that they are doing the right thing. This visual cue is tremendously helpful in making lighting control simple and comfortable for people.
Provide a simple remote control.
Don’t accept remotes with lots of buttons. Find a simple controller with just 1 to 4 buttons. Then, with remote control in hand, worship leaders can control the lights themselves with perfect timing. No hand signals or awkward pauses.