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Mixing Your Lighting Fixtures

Tips from a Pro

JourneyChurchAs LEDs become more and more prevalent in HoW lighting, it becomes increasingly important to understand how to mix conventional lighting fixtures with your LEDs.  Steven Hall, Lighting and Scenic Director at Journey Church, Norman, OK, shares his suggestions.

TFWM: Give us an overview of LEDs vs conventional lighting for HoW.

Steven: It’s pretty obvious that LEDs have been good for the lighting industry – you can get very bright fixtures capable of lots of colors relatively cheaply and easily.  LEDs are perfect for lighting scenic pieces and walls, providing area washes with lots of color, and are great because they save on maintenance.  You will never have to replace a lamp, and they’re a lot easier on power.  LEDs are also more flexible than conventional lights; because they offer more colors in one fixture.  With this you don’t need as many lights, which means less fixtures, less combined hanging weight, less rigging, etc. However, most LEDs are not quite ready for front lighting yet.  The few good LED front lights that are out are a bit too expensive for most churches.  Traditional Lekos are better and cheaper for front light; they just seem to provide better flesh tones, and are typically a much more even source.

TFWM: What’s the best way to work with LEDs and conventional lighting?

Steven: It’s important to understand right out of the gate that you will end up with a range of color temperatures when combining conventionals and LEDs together. I do my best to try to balance all the fixtures.  All my stage conventionals have color-correction, so I correct them with half CTB (about 4300 Ks) so that they match closer to my moving lights, and once I’ve got the base built with my movers and conventionals, I then work on the LEDs. While most quality LEDs may match within the brand from fixture to fixture, they will not match other manufacturers LED colors off the shelf. To manage that, we have color presets built into our console to make all the colors look as similar as possible.  I build the preset in my console to get the LEDs as close as I can get to the conventionals and moving lights. Our goal is to get everything to match as close as possible – while we’re not able to get a perfect match, we can get close enough.

TFWM: How do you use your LEDs?

Steven: I prefer to use LEDs primarily for backlight and occasionally for side light.  A lot of times, with good backlight, you can create amazing atmosphere.  Most of my designs are built around good backlight and rely on the great saturation that I can get with LEDs.  With LEDs, you don’t have to worry about having a ton of PAR Cans to get a lot of colors.  I can have a lot of low wattage LEDs in a similar space and have a lot more options to light our stage interestingly (without a million miles of heavy cable).  As with most churches, I use LEDs to light most of my scenic as well.  The right LEDs can make or break a scenic design.  A nice highlight with a narrow LED wash can create streaks of color which are amazing when included with a dimensional set. We also use some LED fixtures as scenic themselves.  Due to the low cost of LEDs, we can and do occasionally use an array of our fixtures as low back lights that are also a visual element.

TFWM: What is your fixture mix like at your church?

Steven: At Journey, all our front and house lights are conventional.  We use mostly moving head LEDs for our backlight on the stage.  We have quite a few narrow lensed wash lights that are LED as well. We use traditional ARC lamp moving heads for our gobos and texture; and round our rig off with some scrollers that provide a more traditional and pure backlight.  The vast majority of theatrical lighting in our church is LED.  All of our scenic lighting is a mix of different LEDS.  We made the decision to go LED based mostly on cost.  We were able to buy used moving head LED fixtures at about a fourth of the cost it would have cost us to buy used ARC-source fixtures.  I would suggest that it’s best to have mixed source lighting; LEDs will give you relatively cheap fixtures and lots of availability of color, adding conventionals gives you a nice natural light for some good contrast, and ARC moving lights allows you to add textures.  We have our 13 scrollers because the LED washes are sometimes a bit cold, the scrollers allow me to create a really warm feel on stage which can occasionally be very hard to achieve with LEDs.

TFWM: What’s the best piece of advice you can offer a church looking at expanding their lighting?

Steven: It’s going to be different for every church, but I would suggest that a church needs to look at flexibility, especially if they are looking at expanding what they do visually. It’s important for churches to have quality fixtures that are going to provide quality light from fixture to fixture.  LEDs have their place, especially in set design, but churches need to make sure they are getting something that is going to last.  It’s important to have a strong base that will color-mix consistently from LED to LED, I think with its also wise to look at LED Moving heads, which will expand your flexibility a whole lot. For traditional fixtures and front lighting in particular, I suggest ETC Source 4 Lekos, which in my opinion are pretty much the best you can get for front lighting.

JourneyChurch.tv Lighting Inventory

12- Mac 301s
18- Mac 101s
10- Mac 700 Profiles
4- VL2202 Spots
13- Wybron Scrollers
28- Colorblast 12 TRXs
14- Elation Opti Tri Pars
Assortment of ETC Source 4 Lekos and Pars
Assortment of Altman Shakespeare Lekos
1- Grand MA Full Size (series 1)
1- Grand MA NSP2