I need to start by saying that I’m just a simple, guitar slinging worship leader. The bulk of what I do in the church happens on a stage or a platform. Mood and ambiance are extremely important to me, so I’m always looking for new and innovative ways of creating what I call “full immersion” worship experiences where all the senses are engaged in glorying our God through the preaching of the Word and through sung prayer commonly known as worship. I love all the bangs and whistles of moving lights and massive color fades that accentuate the lyric of a song or capture the emotion of a moment. Having said that, I also work in a local church where we have an established lighting system that is fully dialed in and the thought of adding additional lighting at a price tag of thousands of dollars per light fixture is enough to drive church administrators to…. well… they’re church guys so they’re supposed to be nice to you even when you stress them out… but you know what I mean.
This is where the SeaChanger Color Engine by Ocean Optics comes in. This unit solves two major problems with one easy-to-install solution. Major problem # 1: Is it possible to take my existing lighting system and add some of the features that you see in more expensive lighting units, such as the ability to seamlessly move from one color scheme to the next? Major problem #2: How can I add this feature with a solution that is easy to maintain so that I’m not having to change out gel film every other week and control the color changes with DMX? Both problems are easily solved with the SeaChanger Color Engine.
When I first opened the box and unpacked the SeaChanger Color Engine, my first thought was, how easy is this to install? Short answer is, very easy. Designed to work specifically with Source Four Ellipsoidal lighting fixtures, the SeaChanger fits easily between the lamp fixture and the interchangeable lens tube. Just a couple of screws and you are set. Another detail to note is that the SeaChanger needs a 5-pin DMX XLR Connector versus a 3-pin DMX XLR Connector. If you have an ETC Lighting board it’s not an issue, but we use a Fat Frog Lighting Console with 3-pin DMX. It’s a slight hump but easily overcome with a 3-to-5 pin converter. This means that we can now take our existing lighting system and add the ability to precision control the lighting color without having to introduce additional lights — at about two-thirds the cost of most comparable intelligent lighting solutions. It still may be too pricey to add to every Source Four fixture in your array of lights, but volume discounts are available, making this SeaChanger a definite option for churches looking for affordable solutions.
Another attractive component to the SeaChanger Color Engine is its innovative method of creating color. It uses four patterned dichroic filters – cyan, yellow, magenta and a patented xG “Extreme Green” trichromic RGB filter. You might ask yourself, what is a dichroic filter? In layman’s terms, light passes through the dichroic filters and causes the light to separate into distinct wavelengths. These distinct wavelengths create color. As an aside, it was Isaac Newton who first discovered these distinct wavelengths, which he referred to as the color spectrum. He then divided the spectrum into seven distinct colors – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet, which abbreviated became known as ROY G. BIV or RGB for short. Just a little tekkie trivia.
The The “Extreme Green” or xG filter allows you to create deep blues, rich reds and vibrant greens when added to the standard CMY color mix. This means that your color options are as infinite as your imagination. If you can picture it in your mind’s eye you can create it easily and consistently. This gives you color reproduction that is far superior to dye-colored gels or other technologies. Even the color wheels themselves are manufactured quite impressively with Ocean Optics’ patented method of coating, making them both efficient and durable and thus eliminating the need for loud cooling fans that you find with DMX-controlled gel scrollers. This allows the SeaChanger to operate quietly when not changing disks. What about when it does change disks? We found that the noise is barely noticeable in a live setting – which is important if you are looking to add several units to your existing lighting system.
The only downside is that there is a slight learning curve to figuring out how to incorporate the “Extreme Green” color wheel into the color equation. We had a very narrow window of time to spend with the SeaChanger, so we weren’t able to fully experience the benefit of having the fourth color wheel as part of the equation. If you have any experience working with CMY systems, you can easily put together the color combination you’re working to achieve. However, it will take some trial and error to get the full benefit of the “Extreme Green” color wheel and there are currently no charts or “helpful recipes” for creating dynamic color combinations. Perhaps this is something that future online user forums can address as folks begin integrating the SeaChanger Color Engine into their lighting systems.
One other important thing to note is that because of the way the SeaChanger attaches to your Source Four fixture, you can still use patterns, irises, gobo changers or any other accessory that you normally use with your lighting fixture. I love the flexibility that the design of this product allows. I was also surprised to find that there wasn’t a significant loss of light as the light passed through the four color wheels in the SeaChanger. I would have expected some kind of light loss, but Ocean Optics unique approach to manufacturing their color wheels reduces light loss to a minimum. Additionally, the glass color wheels do not fade or change color – so the color you create for a specific look is achievable for years on end with no gel scrolls to burn out or replace. There is little or no maintenance. I don’t know about you, but I do not look forward to climbing up ladders or power lifts to change out color gels that lose their luster after a few performances. The SeaChanger Color Engine gives me the flexibility of dynamic color control within the framework of my existing lighting system. Now all I need is a PO.