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Church house lighting and stage wash needs


Eric Bowerman:
So, I don't post here, or any forum much, but I lurk a lot to learn. I haven't seen this subject come up so...

I'm a volunteer for sound at my church. This means I get to cover lighting duties as well most Sundays, and with a new pastor arriving I've been asked to come up with a new solution for house lights during worship. Current house lighting is fluorescent, so it needs to go away.

Requirements as far as light level would be adequate light during worship for moving around as people tend to walk in late, and bright enough for the elderly crowd to read a bible during the sermon. Easily dimmable and changeable is a must, as the current fluorescent lighting is, well, abysmal as far as control/color/video-friendly, and pretty much every other metric unless you want to play basketball.

The building was built in 2000. It is the typical "sanctuary/gymnasium" with a full size basketball court to give an idea of room size. The ceiling  height is about 22 feet. Room is painted white/beige with a white drop tile ceiling. The stage is on the long side of the room, and is about 28 feet deep and 45 feet wide.

Current control is from a NSI MC7532 board. We have two NSI dimmers controlling current stage lights, each are 8 channels @2400w per channel. We also have some cheap, old LED can lights to provide up-lighting, with all being set to the same channels. I am up for changing the control to a computer with a USB to DMX controller if that is what it takes, just say so and that can happen. Electric isn't a concern, we have licensed electricians in the congregation and can run proper circuits as needed.

So, what do I need? What do you recommend? Anything to stay away from? I don't have a budget number given to me, but from past experience I'll assume that $5-10k is doable without much of a fight. If you need more information, please ask. I can get pictures of the room, or anything else you need. Thanks in advance for the help!

Jeff Lelko:
Hi Eric, and welcome to PSW.  A few thoughts...

- Many name brand manufacturers make the LED house light pendents that are intended for this purpose.  Some are mixtures of white light, others are full-color.  You'll have to decide which is most appropriate for your use.

- Your console is definitely not ideal but still workable for basic control.  I don't think I'd spend any budget here right now, especially given that $10k in the professional lighting world isn't very much.  Honestly, all said and done you're probably looking closer to $50k for such a project, give or take.

- There are considerations regarding building code in terms of rigging and wiring (both power and DMX) - be sure you're well-versed in this so that you don't get your church into trouble down the road.

- Along the same lines, there are Fire Code considerations regarding "house lights" and how they must be controllable/accessible.  Your AHJ will have the final say in this.  I don't work in the installation field and can't offer any specifics - I just know this topic comes up frequently when making certain design considerations.

Hope that helps and gives you a few places to start!  As you can see there's a lot more that goes into an install than just picking lights out of a catalog and finding some money.  This is why generally speaking we recommend soliciting bids from installers and hiring a professional to do the job.  Not only will they help navigate any code concerns, they'll also guarantee the performance of your new equipment and make sure your money has been well spent.  Good luck!

Scott Hofmann:
Two recommendations from experience;
Altman Chalice 100w LED Pendant Downlight. They have the Chalice series in a variety of wattages and also recessed ceiling mount. 5-year warranty. Also a mains dimmable version if you have existing fixtures on dimmers and can't run DMX. 40 of the DMX version were installed in the local city auditorium five years ago to replace existing can lights and have worked flawlessly. Nice features are convection cooling and user-interchangeable lenses (same as StarPar series) also RDM capable. Figure $1100-1200 per fixture depending on quantity.

The Light Source HL series LED downlight pendants/Rl series recessed. Many of the same attributes as above except 10-year total fixture warranty and magnificent dimming.
Possible to remote the LED drivers from the fixture. Don't believe the lens is user-replaceable. Slightly more expensive (maybe $100-200). Very nice fixture.

Used the white light version of each and very happy with the technical support and results. You definitely get what you pay for.

These were the only models available when these projects were spec'd. Now all the usual suspects have some kind of LED downlight available as well as a couple of folks making retrofit lamp modules. I would never buy a houselight with fan cooling and I would always request a demo fixture and test it in the space.


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