What lighting console is best for worship lighting?

The best lighting console is the one you know how to use.

– Every Lighting Designer on earth.

Yes, that is a little too simplistic, but it is true. If you know every trick in the book on one lighting console, that is probably the lighting console you should be using. But I assume you want me to point you down the road and tell you what to buy. I would buy the Grand MA2, or maybe the 3 for one simple reason. It is the most widely used desks in the world. There are plenty of them available if something happens to yours and lots of programmers. Now that everyone knows what I would buy, let us talk about what your church should buy and why.

What to look for in a lighting console

I don’t expect your church will approve the $60,000-$70,000 you will need for a Grand MA 2 or 3, so let us talk real numbers. There are great options for lighting consoles under $2000 like the ECT Colorsource 20, but even greater options around $5,000-$10,000 range like the High-End HedgeHog 4. So what do you really need to know before you pick a lighting desk?

Do buy:
Newer Model Lighting Consoles
Popular Lighting Consoles
Consoles that are rented localy
Ones you know how to use
Expandable and Configurable

Don’t Buy:
Consoles just because they fit a budget
Consoles just because another church uses it
Consoles you don’t know how to run
Consoles you can’t find for rent locally

Ease of use

Everyone wants an easy to use lighting desk that is volunteer friendly. So let’s set up your volunteers up for a win and make sure we pick a desk that has a good training system or videos. For years the Jands Vista was touted as an easy desk for volunteers. I am not actually sure why, but I am guessing it was the graphical interface. But most desks had that at the time, so maybe it was something else. It is/was popular with lots of churches for reasons that I never really understood. It did have some great training videos online. Our church has one and I find it extremely lacking in features, but everyone else loves it so we have it for now.

If you can’t find online videos or training manuals for the desk then you need to make some. It does not really matter what desk you buy if you can break down the steps of how to use it into several short videos to share with your volunteers it will be easy to use. Of course, all lighting desks have similar features and all do the same thing. So rent a desk or two before you buy one and try them out for a month at a time. Make sure you know how to use something before you buy it. Even if your church does not have a full time lighting person, someone on staff needs to be the expert that can teach everyone else.

Does your lighting console need to control moving lights?

I know I know, everyone wants moving lights, but the reality is that they are too expensive for many churches to do well. Most churches would be better off buying a bunch of conventional lights that actually light things than painting the air with pretty beams. For this reason, you may not need to spend much on a lighting desk.

Lighting consoles like the ETC Color source, Leprecon LPC, or Pathway Cognito2 would make great desks for a conventional rig. They are very inexpensive and some of them like the color source family even have built-in FAQ’s and How To’s and online training. I can’t really imagine a simpler type of desk. While these desks can program moving lights, if you are going to use more than 4 or 6 moving lights I would be upgrading to a Hog, Vista, GrandMA, or ChamSys type desk.

Upgrading to moving lights and a moving light console will double if not triple your programming time. And also make it a lot harder for your volunteers. Remember that one moving light is 20-30 more parameters to control than a single conventional light. I typically spend 30-45 minutes on programming for a single song to program moving lights for our church.

Expandable and Upgradable

If you are going the direction of a full-blown moving light console for your worship look you are going to want to make sure it is expandable and upgradable. It is very likely that if you dump 20-30k into a lighting console you are going to need to use it for a few year before you get a new one. Because of this, we want to make sure the hardware is new enough technology that it will take software updates. There is not much worse than buying a new desk that is obsolete a year later.

Make sure you ask when the model you are buying was released. Buying a new desk built on a 5 year old design will limit the usable life time for the desk. Technology changes so fast that you want to look for desks that came out in the last 2 to 3 years. Those are old enough to have been tested but still young enough to still be supported.

Expandability is another big topic. If you think you are going to be adding a bunch of moving lights or media servers over the years it would be important to have desk that you can expand the perimeter count for. Buying 512 channels or 1 DMX universe may be fine now, but if you need more down the road you don’t want to have to buy a whole new system.

Still, need help picking out your lighting desk?

I know we covered a lot here if you are still unsure what kind of lighting desk is best for you to reach out and ask. Below is a form you can fill out to start the conversation. I am happy to lend advise about what I would do in your situation. I don’t represent any company or make any commission on these sales. Reach out and let’s chat.

Your Church's Name (required)

Top 4 LED Lekos for worship spaces

Thinking about upgrading your lighting package to a LED lekos? OR maybe you are starting from scratch and building from the ground up. Is power a concern? Do you already have some Lekos you want to add to? I will cover all that below, lets get started.

LED lekos come in two main categories. LED fixtures that can only produce white light and are colored by gel, and those that offer full color mixing. There are advantages to each, and hopefully I will touch on them just enough to help you make a call on which way to go.


ETC Source 4 LED

Source 4 LED series 2

Light quality is the driving force behind ETC’s LED product development. Countless hours have gone into creating tools worthy of the most professional applications, and the Source Four® LED Series 2 luminaire is the result of that dedication. With the brightest output and the boldest rendering of the colors you use most, the Source Four LED Series 2 introduces a whole new level of LED lighting that can be used anywhere.

If you already have ETC source 4’s in your inventory this would be the fixture for you. Without a dought replacing your current units with these would be the way to go over buying a different brand. These units use all the same lens tubes and accessories. ECT also sells several versions of the LED source 4. From the top of the line product simply called the Source 4 LED series 2, which is a color changing unit with a 7 led color array to the S4WARD which is a retrofit LED for all existing Source 4’s.

Elation COLOUR 5 Profile

COLOUR 5 Profile

According to Elation the COLOUR 5 Profile Ellipsoidal features a 180W RGBAM (Red, Green, Blue, Amber, Mint) LED engine, >94CRI, 4,100 total lumens, with 19°, 26°, 36°, and 50° interchangeable lens options (sold separately), (4) blade manual framing shutters, manual focus, supports B size metal HT transparency gobos, DMX controlled electronic strobe, dimming, and dimming curves, flicker free operation for TV and FILM, adjustable refresh frequency and gamma brightness, 5pin DMX and powerCON in/out connections, (4) button LCD control display panel, an integrated rigging yoke, quiet fan cooling, and a multi-voltage universal auto-switching power supply (100-240v).

Chauvet Ovation E-930VW

Ovation E-930VW

Ovation E-930VW is a high-performance, variable white ellipsoidal style fixture that utilizes our unique 6-color LED system. This fixture projects a bright, beautifully flat field of light in nearly any temperature of white with high CRI and CQS. Each Color Temperature setting can be further adjusted for +/- green to perfect the field of light. For times when a splash of color is needed, the fixture can also give you full control of each color of LED as well. Also the WFX new product of the year 2018

Sorry, no video available at the time of this writing. Chauvet if you send me one and I will do a review.

Strand SPX LED WW

Strand SPX LED WW

Its beam is crisp and precise, directing light only where it is intended: thanks to the SPX filter frame system there is zero light leakage, so no additional masking is required. With reduced fan noise, the SPX LED WW is also quieter in operation than comparable LED fixtures. Ideal for applications such as education, houses of worship and themed environments.

The SPX LED WW uses the same proven, high-precision, high-performance gate and lens sets as the renowned Selecon SPX Profile fixtures, with secure locking shutters, while other lens sets can be used with the universal lens tube adapter.

With the ability to be dimmed either via DMX or from a conventional forward phase dimmer, the SPX LED WW provides a smooth, stepless fade right down to zero, giving it the perfect dimming credentials for performance lighting.

Again no video, how will we ever see the product. Come on strand send us a demo.


Summary

If you made it this far it is probably because you don’t have many Lekos. If you do the choice is most likely already made for you. Buying any of these units with out the lenses is much less expensive. If you already have lenses from one one brand or another you are going to probably stick with it.

If you are really open to going a new directions there are a few things to think about. First LED units are a lot more expensive. A lot of what we do for churches is light the pastor. 99% of the time in white. Lights doing that job don’t need to be able to change colors. Those you want to be constant. You want to be able to lock them down both in regarding position and intensity, but also with color.

While is is great that some of these LED units can do any color that comes at a cost. First, over time LED’s do burn in and give up intensity over time. This could lead to your white not looking white very long. Also they change colors as they dim. Most manufactures have worked very hard to make LED’s look like incandescents when they dim. Which means adding in more red as the light dims.

There are uses for each and every one of these fixtures. If I was buying new LED fixtures I would be buying the majority of them with a fixed white and color the light with GEL if I needed to. A few places I can see the need for color changing Lekos, but I mostly use them for front light, so for me it would not be widely used. Also depending on the desk you are using it maybe easier to gel the fixture to get the correct color temperature than to use the onboard desk presets. No telling how accurate they are.

I hope this helps. Please leave your comments below. Tell me what you have in your church.

Three things to consider before you buy new lights

Buying new lights is a big deal for churches. Lights can get really expensive and if you don’t make good decisions now you will be paying for those bad decisions for years to come. Let us take a look at the top three things you should consider before buying new lights for your church. Here is what you should really be asking

  • What types of lights you really need?
  • What is the cost to maintain the lights?
  • How to buy lights we can grow with

What type of light do you need?

You may not need LED or intelligent lighting to get the job done. I can argue that conventional lighting is 90% of what a church needs to get there message across. Or at least that is where you should start.

If you don’t already have 40-60 conventional lights I would argue that you are not ready to jump into more automated rigs. I say this for a few reasons.

First, LED fixtures and automated lights are often 5-10 times more expensive than a par can or ellipsoidal. Any lights source that is repeatedly used as a front wash for a pastor or singer key light should just be a par or ellipsoidal. Only the constantly changing key light and effects lights should be automated.

Second, it is unlikely that you are going to buy enough LED’s or moving lights to really do anything interesting. 4 or 6 lights is not really interesting unless your stage is about 10 feet wide. Just think about the coolest lighting looks you have seen. Count the fixtures. I bet it is 20-30 maybe 50-60 in the scene.

Third, LED’s and automated lights introduce a huge conflict in color temperature that you need to handle for the camera. Which is a huge pain and unless you are buying really expensive LED units they don’t look great on people’s faces.

Forth, the cost of a lighting desk to handle automated lights vs conventional lights is 5-10 time more expensive. And 10 times more work to program these lights.

For the money, conventional lighting is going to take you further, last longer, and be much more stable. Conventional lights done well are by far the easiest thing to do in the long run. The only thing to worry about is changing lamps and gel repointing fixtures every once in a while. Which is not a big deal because you should be planing a way to maintain any light you purchase.

What is the cost to maintain the lights?

Maintenance, what is that? Yep, you are going to need to pay attention to your lights. No matter what you buy you need to be able to get to them to work on them. Changing the lamp, cleaning the lenses, or getting them repaired should be considered before purchase. Plan to work on the lights. If that means renting a lift or scaffolding, you need to budget that cost into the maintenance plan. Expect to touch each light once or twice a year.

Speaking of lamps, Automated lights are great, but the need new lamps as well. Those lamps can cost up to $250 each and only have an expected life of 2000 hours. That is a high price to pay compared to conventional lamps that are $16 each.

And what happens when the inexpensive LED pars burn out. Typically you will only lose one or two LED’s but you can’t fix that. So you just end up throwing them away. What is more expensive a $200 light you replace every 2 year or a $600 light that last 10. Sometimes buying more expensive fixtures is cheaper in the end.

Buy lights you can grow with

It is almost certain that the lights you are thinking about buying right now are not the only lights you are ever going to buy. So let’s take a moment and figure out how they will fit into a larger system.

Some times we look to buy the light we need right now and don’t think about how that light could be reused down the road. I am sure that your church will not throw the light away when the current design changes, so what makes a light able to be used in many roles.

First, we should consider weight and power. With newer LED fixtures coming on the market the weight has come way down. It is still something you have to consider when hanging the fixture overhead. Also, some of the fixtures like LED pixel tape need special power requirements which may be limiting. Larger moving lights require 208 or 220 volts of power. If you don’t already have these different voltages widely distributed you may want to stick with 120-volt fixtures.

Second, while wash lights are less expensive, all they do is a wash the can’t project gobos or do aerial effects. But on the other hand spot or profile fixtures can project gobos and when frosted out they make a great wash fixture. Personally, I would always spend the money to get a spot or profile fixture even if you use them as a wash from time to time. For a small upfront cost you basically get two fixtures.

Third, we should consider a fixtures zoom and output. When buying a fixture for a specific look you will probably make sure that the fixtures have enough output and the correct beam angle for that look. But what if you move it to a new location? Because of that you always want to buy fixtures with a zoom or easily changeable lenses. Otherwise, you will be stuck with a very limiting fixture. I connect output with the zoom because when you zoom out the fixture you give up output. So you want to always buy more output than you think you need. Dimming a fixture is possible, but doubling the output is not.

Lastly, but popular fixtures. Buying fixtures that everyone else has and that you can find locally for rent. If you have a fixture go down or want to rent more for a special event it pays to have a local vendor with the same type. It makes swapping out or adding to your show a lot simpler. Buying used fixtures is fine, you don’t want to buy a model that has been in the market for more than a few years. Especially in the automated department. If you are buying a new type of fixture to add to you inventory it would pay off to buy the latest and greatest even if it cost a little more. Those fixtures will be available for longer in the market place and have better tech support if anything goes wrong.