What Every Church Needs To Know About Lighting Systems Upgrades

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New lighting systems are more versatile and offer a wider array of lighting designs. They also require maintenance and increased skill in programming. So the important question to ask your church is: “Do we have the personnel to operate and maintain this technology?”

by David Martin Jacques

Are you ready to make the commitment to a state-of-the-art lighting system? The evolution in the high-tech lighting marketplace is to develop smaller, more efficient, more reliable lighting fixtures. But one thing most of these fixtures have in common is that they require maintenance. This is where the rubber hits the road when it comes to committing to high technology. The important question to ask your team and your senior leadership is: “Do we have the personnel to maintain and operate this technology?”

Some of these fixtures have thousands of moving parts, and repairing them can be challenging. Experts say you should also plan on purchasing at least one spare fixture for each six moving lights so that a light can be taken down and repaired while the spare takes its place. It is a huge commitment for someone to be properly trained in repairing moving lights. Therefore, the church must be ready to invest in the required training.

There is also the common belief that high technology saves time in the lighting process. State-of-the-art lighting systems give the lighting designer more options that can be accessed instantly. Therefore, the lighting process becomes more efficient. If you wish to change a color in a light, instead of getting out a ladder and changing the gel, all you have to do is turn a dial and the color will change. The same goes for focusing. Most parameters in a moving light can be changed from the lighting desk.

There is no doubt that adding moving lights to your church’s lighting system will offer you an increased amount of artistic flexibility. Although the design concepts are the same as when using conventional lighting equipment, with moving lights you need to consider how all the fixtures’ attributes change in time. For instance, when you fade a conventional lighting fixture, you are only considering the fade time of the lamp (intensity). When you fade a moving light, you can be fading the intensity in five seconds, the color may change in three seconds, the focus can soften in six seconds, and the shutters can delay one second, and then move into position in two seconds. This amount of variety in movement offers the lighting designer great opportunities for sophisticated cueing. So, in addition to a more sophisticated maintenance plan, the designer must expand his or her design process to take advantage of these possibilities and adequately use the inherent flexibility of moving lights.

Due to their increased power, long lamp life and reduced heat output, LED fixtures are becoming an increasingly viable solution — and not only for stage lighting, but for house lighting as well. Long lamp life not only saves money in replacement lamps, it also saves money in personnel costs, because the lamps do not need to be replaced for many years. Plus, LEDs consume much less energy that conventional tungsten halogen lamps, thus saving a considerable amount of electricity.

It is very tempting to introduce high technology into your worship experience. These technologies can help make your worship experience more exciting and engaging, and at the same time make your service more accessible to younger members of your church. But investing in this technology also means investing in training and maintenance. After learning the true cost of this investment, many churches successfully transition to these new systems, other churches decide to add technology in phases, still others decide to forgo the latest in high technology and continue to invest in improving upon their current lighting systems by updating their existing lighting fixtures and controllers. None of these are bad decisions. It really depends on your church’s situation, the commitment from senior leaders, the current technical and personnel infrastructure, and their goals for the future.

But for those who decide to take the leap into high tech, consulting with an independent lighting professional will help you make the right decisions. Remember, the independent consultant works for you, and not the manufacturers. They will assure that the equipment that you purchase is appropriate for your needs, and will help set up training for your designers, operators and maintenance staff.

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