Automated Lighting Enhances the Worship Experience
By George Masek
The ability to automatically change colors of the lighting or to focus it on
specific scenic elements or in certain areas during the presentation can greatly
enhance the production value of the service and trigger a variety of emotional
tones. Automated luminaires can also add the dynamics of movement to create an
exciting worship experience.
For an Easter celebration, dark colors or a reddish hue during the
crucifixion on Calvary set a somber tone as the congregation reflects on Jesus’
death on the cross. Strobe effects can be used to give the appearance of
lightning or a threatening storm. A fixture can be focused on the actor
portraying Jesus to give a halo effect. Movement from the fixtures may
accentuate action and motion onstage.
As the red slowly changes into a golden hue, the emotions of the audience
swing from mournful to rejoicing as the stage is suddenly bathed in bright light
and the celebration begins for the resurrection and promise of life everlasting.
Color changes can be made quickly with snap changes, or slowly by means of a
color cross-fade. Shadow effects can create the appearance of a cave or dark
entryway through which the resurrected Jesus may emerge.
In addition to the moving beams, rotating gobos can give the impression of
moving clouds, ripping water, twinkling stars and other effects. Or the gobos
can simply provide a variety of background textures. A gobo is a thin metal
plate or glass that is etched to produce a design, which can then be inserted
within the automated fixture and projected as an image. A single gobo can
produce a colorful image, such as a stained glass window. Custom gobos can be
created for specific images, such as trees or a cross.
Using the fixtures’ automated zoom, designers can emphasize particular
aspects of the production by manipulating the size and focus of the projected
images. Automated shutters provide similar emphasis by cropping objects and
providing high contrast between the illuminated objects, such as Jesus on the
cross and the background.
A popular Easter Sunday format for many churches is the illustrated sermon, a
service that combines reading passages and scripture along with congregation
members acting out passages and accompanying hymns from the choir. With an
automated ellipsoidal reflector spotlight, a single fixture can accommodate all
three segments of the presentation.
The fixture can operate as a spotlight while the pastor is reading the
scripture. It can then quickly change colors, diffuse to a soft-edge light and
pan to another area of the sanctuary to illuminate action on stage. It can
change colors again and bathe the choir in color as hymns are sung for an
emotional and uplifting worship experience.
Automated lighting also allows lighting designers or event coordinators to
make last-minute changes to the production if needed. If for some reason the
crucifixion scene needed to be moved six feet in either direction just before
the presentation begins, the lighting director can refocus the lights to new
positions in just minutes with the push of a few buttons. The same change would
not have been possible with a conventional lighting rig.
The ideal toolkit
One of the most popular recent introductions into the lighting industry is
the automated ellipsoidal reflector spotlight. For years, the basic 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 an
Because the automated lights are multifunctional, they have the ability to be
used in standard applications as well as in theatrical applications and
productions. In addition to the standard functions of conventional lights, the
fixtures’ flexibility also provide movement, fixed or rotating images and a
variety of beam sizes. And the movements can be subtle and tasteful so as not to
distract from the service.
“The biggest challenge I face is convincing them that we’re not going to
turn the church into a rock-and-roll show by using intelligent lighting,”
says Tony Hansen, an Orlando, Fla.-based freelance lighting designer who has
worked with numerous churches over the past two decades.
Overuse of the features might require some restraint on the part of the
church’s lighting director, particularly a novice who might be infatuated with
the amazing effects the lights can create. When developing a lighting program,
the lighting director should respect the traditions or practices that define the
church’s worship style.
“The main thing to remember with automated lighting is that it’s there
to enhance, not distract,” Hansen says. “You don’t have to use all the
features just because they’re available.”
On the other hand, you do not want the lights themselves to stand out, making
the auditorium look like a concert hall. If needed, request that the exterior
finish of the lights be painted a particular color so that they blend with the
Just as the flash and movement of the lights should not be a distraction,
neither should fixture noise. Generally, Easter productions heavily rely on the
spoken word, and in some instances complete silence, for effect. As such, the
congregation should not hear a constant buzzing from the lights’ cooling fans or
motors. The optimum light should be convection-cooled so that the cooling fans
are not activated until the units reach about 50 degrees. When running, the fan
should be virtually silent.
Give them something to remember everyday
In the past, cost has kept many churches from considering an automated
lighting system. In the past 18 months, as technology has improved and
manufacturing capabilities have grown more sophisticated, automated lighting
equipment has become more affordable. Many congregations are discovering that
automated lighting can enhance not only special productions but regular worship
services as well.
“I’m finding that more and more churches are looking at permanent
installations of automated lighting fixtures,” Hansen says. “They’re
discovering that the addition of intelligent lighting gives them the opportunity
to create many different environments and emotional settings without setting up
different scenery each time.
“Churches can have a different brand or a different look for their
traditional Sunday services, their contemporary Saturday services or their
Wednesday evening services.”
Regardless of whether it is a regular Sunday service or a special Easter
presentation, the religious experience should be emotionally rewarding. An
automated lighting system has the ability to enhance this emotional experience.
George Masek is the Technical Marketing Director for Vari-Lite. He has 20
years of experience in lighting live events and productions ranging from
concerts to theatrical performances.
A LUMINOUS ALTERNATIVE
The die-cast Star Par from
Altman Lighting is a rugged, lightweight alternative to conventional Par 64
luminaires. The highly polished specular reflector has been designed to operate
most efficiently with the new generation of 750-watt tungsten halogen lamps. The
fully rotational lens holder easily accepts a variety of lenses, and the lenses
are interchangeable without the use of tools. The removable, two-slot accessory
holder has a self-closing, self-locking retaining latch for safety. Its
appearance and ergonomically designed function controls add to the Star Par’s
EQUIPMENT LEASING MADE EASY–ONLINE
Theatrical Lighting Systems
(TLS), Inc., recently joined FX Financial, a leading provider of equipment
leasing for the entertainment industry, to tailor-fit churches’ special effects
lighting needs. Users may apply online, estimate a monthly payment or download
more information at www.fx-financial.com
or contact the TLS, Inc., sales department by phone at 256.533.7025 or online at
for more information.
A NEW, IMPROVED LINE OF LIGHTING CONSOLES
Each offering in the new TL
lighting console series from Lightronics features streamlined styling while
maintaining the same great features of earlier console designs. The new TL
series includes 12-, 16-, 24- and 32-channel models, all with user-programmed
scene and chase memories and optional DMX output. Each model is backed by
Lightronics’ two-year warranty and customer support.
MOVIN’ ON UP!
Full-service lighting, rigging
and staging supplier Entertainment Lighting Services recently moved to a newly
renovated 70,000-square-foot Sun Valley, Calif., location to better meet the
growing needs of ELS clients. Now the company can provide even more theatrical
fixtures, lighting hardware and accessories, dimming and control equipment,
special effects units and architectural lighting for stage, film, video,
exhibits, themed attractions, churches and more. Notable clients include
Coca-Cola, the Crystal Cathedral, Disney, Microsoft and Nintendo.
BRING IN THE NOISE, BRING IN THE FOG
The Magnum 950 fog effect
generator from Martin Professional houses a powerful 1500-watt system for high
fog output levels and reliability. Designed for use in large-scale events, the
Magnum 950 comes with remote control and 2.5-liter fluid container. It is fitted
with overheat protection for maintenance-free operation.