Lighting systems for productions are involved and complex. We beg you; please don’t let this discourage you from entering the stage lighting realm if you are thinking about it. Simply educate yourself before you make the jump. After this article you will have the basics so that you know what to expect, and can ask the right questions when it is time to take the next step.
Often times we enter into a building project to design and install the theatrical lighting system. Early on, we found that churches became discouraged when the requested full-scale theatrical stage lighting system proposal would climb over the $100,000 mark (which didn’t even include the electrical side!). Jaws dropped, eyes popped, it became ugly! To a lighting company, theatrical lighting means Broadway systems.
We have learned over the years to be sure and ask just what is meant when a church uses the term ‘theatrical’ lighting. We have found each church interprets the term very differently. Some are thinking of lighting small drama sketches now and then, some only illustrated sermons, while others are actually talking full-scale theatrical production lighting.Therefore, we would like to clarify, in general, theatrical lighting (through a professional lighting company’s eyes).
We will use simple terms: big, costly, and large quantities of electricity. Once you are aware of these three main ingredients, you will know what your lighting company is thinking and won’t be gasping for air when the proposal comes back.
With that said, let’s take a look at theatrical lighting systems.
We will start with the basics of design. Before a theatrical lighting system design hits the drawing board, much preliminary work is done (or should be done!). Some of the dollars you spend on your lighting system is not just for product, but also for knowledge and design.
Your lighting company should be familiar with theatrical and other worship applications. For instance, a church may host several (more than two) full-scale theatrical productions a year. Yet in between these large productions are rehearsals for the next production and regular weekly services. Stage lighting can be effective for sermons as well and should be considered in the design.
Are you using projection? What about dimmable house lighting? Do you want to change the focus points each time a different application is being used or do you want to have a fixed focus point for each zone? Do you want to install moving lights so focusing is not an issue each and every time the system is fired up? Will you be using spotlights? What about special effect lighting? Is your electrical power going to offer a 3 phase 300 amp drop for starters? (Yes, theatrical lighting systems will involve plenty of conduit and wire.) And let’s not forget will you build catwalks? If not, is your seating removable to be able to gain access to the front portion of the lighting rig? And this ain’t all!