In 2005, I was a technical director at a large church in Iowa, about to begin a significant remodel that included updating the church’s lighting systems.
At the time, LED-based lighting fixtures were very new, really focused on producing color, and nothing we could consider then for front lighting the worship space. We purchased 30 Elation Design 36 RGB LED fixtures to light our stage designs, and while many of them are still in use today, they never have, and never will, produce a good, consistent white that I would use for front light.
If you are interested in learning more about lighting for houses of worship, check out the following session, "How Lighting Can Help Tell The Story," slated for the WFX Conference & Expo this November in Orlando.
Fast forward 10 years, and we finally began to see a different ballgame in terms of the capabilities of LED lights. A few years ago, ETC and Chauvet Professional came out with fixtures that finally provided a white light that could rival a traditional par, ellipsoidal, or Fresnel fixture.
Now, just a few short years later in 2018, I need to think hard, to when it was the last time I specified a lighting upgrade featuring conventional fixtures for a church. Regardless of what approach you want to take in lighting your stage, there is an LED fixture that makes sense to you.
The ultimate utility fixture, PAR fixtures provide a medium wash, with medium control. For small churches, using six to eight warm white or variable white PAR style fixtures as front light and eight to 12 full color fixtures (RGB, RBAWA, or even new six- and seven-color engine fixtures) as top and set lighting, makes for a highly effective lighting rig that doesn’t have to break the bank.
We know color LED fixtures have been made for years, but companies like Chauvet DJ, American DJ, and Blizzard now have designed some fantastic warm white and variable white PAR fixtures that range in the $200-$400 per fixture range, depending on how much light output you need. Such fixtures are not just for small churches, but serve well for medium sized churches as well, as these same PAR style LED fixtures can still be cost effective top and set lighting for their main auditoriums.
For those who prefer to have tight control and take a more theatrical approach to their stage lighting, the highly popular ellipsoidal style fixture comes with a warm white or variable white LED engine from most of today’s top manufacturers.
What once served as the standard in conventional ellipsoidal fixtures for years, the ETC Source 4 is now rivaled by high end LED-based ellipsoidal fixtures, like the ETC Source Four LED. But it’s not just high-end manufacturers that are making great, LED-based ellipsoidal fixtures. Chauvet Professional and Elation make impressive LED ellipsoidal fixtures that are a bit more cost effective. And for those with a tighter budget, you can look at American DJ, Blizzard, Chauvet DJ, among others, for their versions of ellipsoidal LED fixtures.
Theatrical style LED-based lighting is here, and it looks great.
And if you don’t have DMX running your lighting fixture locations? No problem, as Chauvet Professional has an LED based ellipsoidal that will work off your current dimming system.
On the flip side of control is the Fresnel fixture, which excels at producing a warm, wide washing, even field of light, ideal for anything on camera. Not just for television studios, Fresnel fixtures have long been used in churches that have a broadcast presence, as it creates more even lighting that translates well on camera.
With cost-effective LED based Fresnel fixtures from each of the key manufacturers we’ve mentioned so far, I typically recommend LED Fresnel style fixtures for many churches who stream their services online.
Except for where you need that theatrical style light control, using LED based Fresnel fixtures as key and fill lighting provides exceptional lighting that can help even lower budget cameras produce solid results for broadcast online, to multi-site venues, or even TV. And while conventional Fresnel fixtures were generally 1,000- or 2,000-watt fixtures, comparable LED Fresnel fixtures run anywhere from 50 to 300 watts, so the power and heat savings by going with the LED Fresnel, are particularly significant in this style of fixture.
Just like with the ellipsoidal fixtures, Chauvet Professional has a version that will plug right into your existing dimming, which can add up to holding off on infrastructure upgrades if you don’t want to upgrade at the moment.
LED is Here, No Reason Not to Embrace It
From my standpoint, unless there is something specific you’re looking for in a conventional fixture (like the look of a bulb), LED is here, and there’s almost no reason not to embrace it.
Our standard staple fixtures like PAR, Ellipsoidal, and Fresnel fixtures, all have fantastic warm white, variable white, and variable color options available at price points that make sense for every size church.
Even moving fixtures have great LED based options available, and the reasons to stay with ARC lamp-based movers are dwindling down (though there are some yet, a story for a different article). But unlike in 2006, when we first put LED fixtures into our sanctuary in Iowa and avoided their use for critical white light, we now have LED-based fixtures to meet nearly all our lighting needs, and they’re fantastic.