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Illuminating Worship: Lighting for Portable Churches, Part 1

Apr 14, 2011 12:00 PM, with Bennett Liles

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Part 1

Editor’s note: For your convenience, this transcription of the podcast includes timestamps. If you are listening to the podcast and reading its accompanying transcription, you can use the timestamps to jump to any part of the audio podcast by simply dragging the slider on the podcast to the time indicated in the transcription.

Churches have made a lot of progress on their sound, projection, and even streaming their services, but lighting is still a big challenge, especially for the portable church. Greg Persinger of church lighting firm Vivid Illumination is here to provide some tips for selecting lighting gear and using it the right way. That’s coming up next on the SVC podcast.
Greg thanks for being with me on the SVC podcast and we’re going to be talking about lighting for portable churches today, and just the sound of that suggests a challenge. A portable church can be just about anything you can come up with from something that barely looks like an assembly at all right up to very professional-looking setups and your company Vivid Illumination takes on this job and of course there’s certainly no ambiguity in that name. Does Vivid Illumination specialize in portable churches or do you light corporate events and other things?

Well Bennett first I want to say thanks a lot for having me on the podcast today. It’s an honor to be here with you. Vivid Illumination, we specialize in churches but not necessarily portable churches. We do all types of churches, we also do some live events and also corporate theater, educational theater—different things like that. We still do a lot of design and consulting in all different areas but portable churches are something that’s came to light. I have ten-year touring background as a lighting guy before moving over to the design and consulting side, and so whenever people talk about portable churches that’s near and dear to my heart with the touring background that I have. [Timestamp: 2:04]

Yeah, a touring background could really come in handy because it’s basically a touring church with the same production elements.
It really is.

In fact a lot of these churches I figured they just meet in the same place all the time but some of them have to move around quite a bit but lighting can obviously go a long way toward setting the right atmosphere regardless of the location. You’ve been doing this for a while, how long has Vivid Illumination been around as a company?
As a company, since 2000. I was a freelancer before that but in 2000 I made it official. [Timestamp: 2:37]

Well you’ve had some time to establish your own identity with that. I guess when you get called in for a church lighting job you probably see the same things going wrong most of the time. What’s the most common mistake you see being made by portable churches or I guess even permanent churches making when it comes to lighting?
That’s an easy one, not planning ahead…not creating a plan—just jumping into it and not knowing exactly what they’re going to do and trying to buy pieces of equipment and then after the fact make it all integrate or after the fact decide whether or not they have enough power or the right hang positions or whether the lighting fixtures were the correct fixtures to buy. I see people get really excited about their project and we want people to be excited about their project but we want them to have a little bit of…temper that excitement with some preplanning to make sure that they’re spending their money wisely and making the correct choices that are actually going to have a positive impact on their assembly instead of a negative impact. [Timestamp: 3:4]

Yeah I guess instead of carefully figuring up their power needs and power availability they probably do it in reverse order and just run out buy equipment.
Yeah and I say this a little tongue in cheek…I don’t want to ruffle the feathers of any of my audio or video friends but everybody can do audio and everybody can do video but lighting is a little bit of black magic voodoo. And what I mean in that is you might not do audio well but if you know that you have a five-piece band and three backup singers you know that it…you know you’re at least going to have at least ten or twelve microphones depending on whether you’re micing the drums and that sort of thing. And most church people they can add that up and they get that and then they know that they need that many channels at least on their snake and they know they need some speakers and they know they need a mixing console and all of that. And they can kind of figure out what they need. They might not pick good pieces of equipment but they can figure out the basics and same with a video projector, “OK, I’m going to do two screens,” it’s pretty obvious you need two projectors. You might not have big enough, bright enough projectors but at least you know you need two projectors. But when you walk into a space and you go, “Wow I have a 30ft.-wide stage that’s 18 feet deep,” it’s pretty hard for people to go, “Well I need ten fixtures of this type to light that,” or “I need eight fixtures,” or so on and so forth. So it’s a little bit harder…lighting is a little more of an unknown for most people. [Timestamp: 5:12]

Yeah in some ways it’s a lot more subjective than sound or video and you can shift the whole atmosphere with some relatively subtle effects. Now the portable churches, they go to some places where they may already have lights but maybe they’re not allowed to use them through liability concerns or whatever. Do you sometimes have to go in and set up lighting in addition to or say on top of what’s already there?
A lot of the portable churches that I’ve seen they either meet in a school cafeteria, a gymnatorium, my church here in Nashville—we actually have one portable church campus that meets in a high school theater but unfortunately that high school theater—it’s an old theater and it was never really well-outfitted to begin with and so the school actually borrows our lighting gear whenever they do a school play because the school really doesn’t have any resources. So even though we’re in a theater we had to put in a small lighting system to augment what the school owned because the school’s equipment was almost non-existent. So a lot of times the church when they’re coming in…it depends on what’s their existing and what they can negotiate with the building that they’re renting to use but a lot of times they end up taking everything in themselves. [Timestamp: 6:36]

Well of course when you do that it pays to be as organized as possible and know what you have and what it can do. What are the primary components to portable church lighting?
The primary components are power, it’s your lifeblood; your control, how are you going to control everything; your hang positions, what are you going to hang your fixtures from, and then your lighting fixtures themselves. Those are the four primary components of lighting. [Timestamp: 7:01]

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