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Illuminating Worship: Lighting for Portable Churches, Part 2

Apr 28, 2011 11:57 AM, with Bennett Liles

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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.

Of all of the production elements that churches, especially portable churches, have to deal with lighting has always been one of the most challenging. Greg Persinger of Vivid Illumination is back to wrap up his talk with some pointers on power for lighting and dealing heat with issues for safety. That’s coming up next on the SVC podcast.
Greg, thanks for being back with me for Part 2 of Lighting for Portable Churches and Vivid Illumination in Nashville, Tennessee is your outfit. So for portable churches last time we were talking about LED lighting and some of the more common mistakes that churches make when it comes to planning their lighting. Now what’s the most important consideration when it comes to power for lighting?

Wow that’s huge because…lighting guys, we’re power hungry so the more power the better typically but I think whenever you are looking for a location I think one of the things that you have to do is you have to give consideration to how much power is available and not only for lighting because typically you’re going to have band instruments, audio and video that you’re going to power as well and so you really need to have a pretty good understanding of what you would like your service to look like and a little bit of what that’s going to take, so that whenever you go in and you do that sight survey and you’re looking at different venues to rent that you can check out the power. Because it may be one of those things that you have to negotiate in your rental would be the ability to have an electrician come in and add additional power in the room that you’re going to use. [Timestamp: 2:09]

Yeah just have enough power is the first thing to check out, but you have to have some idea of how much lighting is going to be enough for what you want to do and of course audio happens at the same time and the two don’t always get along. How do you handle power problems between audio and lighting gear?
You’re trying to get me into trouble with my audio friends aren’t you? That’s a great question. Unfortunately there is the possibility that you do have a conflict. A lot of times with portable churches you’re not using the most high-quality dimming out there available because you’re not doing an install. You’re throwing it in a road case and bouncing it down the road and a lot of times its little truss mount dimmers and they tend to bleed a little bit of RF and that can get into the audio. It goes back again to that whole power question you try to get as much separate power as possible. I want to make sure that all the grounds are good on both the audio and the lighting gear and then I want to make sure that the audio equipment is wired correctly because a lot of times when you have these issues if really go back and start checking through all of the audio cabling you find that you’ve got a shield that’s broken or you find a bad direct box or guitar pick-ups, can be really bad about picking up that RF and sometimes the audio guys just have to work to solve that problem. On the lighting side we, like I said, we want to make sure that everything is grounded because the case ground will mitigate that RF to ground but we want to make sure that all the grounds are in place—nobody’s broken off the ground pins. That’s just a safety concern as well as a noise concern. [Timestamp: 4:03]

Yeah, the XLR’s get banged around and how often do all the mic cables get checked on most of these portable set ups. And it can make a difference on the guitar lines using transformers and going low impedance a balanced mic cables on those. On the dimmers if you’re just blasting light out there at full level it’s one thing, but as soon as you start dimming that’s usually when you hear trouble.
Right, whenever you start to dim that’s whenever you start getting the dimmer switch to put off more RF and that’s whenever you hear it. Another thing that I work really hard not to do and that’s to never run the lighting data and the audio snake…I know a lot of people do that because it’s easy but first of all there’s a ability to get that cross talk between the digital data signal of the lighting console and the analog audio running down the snake and then second of all the mic cable in the audio snake is not the correct type of cable to run data over you can have issues with your data so that’s one thing and then grounding them together that’s another thing—you want to try to keep your grounds separate between your audio system and your lighting system. [Timestamp: 5:21]

And it can be a big problem just trying to get in there a head of time and finding out where all the breakers are and which one controls what outlets.
You can tell people all the time, “You have to go in and work with the venue that you’re going into,” sometimes you want to make friends with the maintenance people because a lot of times they can tell you instantly, “Yeah that’s this, this, this, and this,” and they can tell you how many circuits you have in the room and exactly what breaker panel they’re in and all of that. Sometimes they can’t and in those situations you really need to take a tester, if nothing else just a little desk lamp. Plug the desk in and then turn breakers off until you find what breaker that’s on and then go around the room and check and see what other outlets are off and then turn that breaker back on and then verify that the outlets that were off came back on so you know, “OK well these outlets are all on the same breaker” and then be sure to mark them so know or draw a little map if they don’t want you to actually take a “P” touch and actually mark the outlet then at least draw a drawing of the room and mark which outlets are what on a map and go around the room and find it all. Because I’ve had people that have said, “Oh yeah they tell us that we have ten different circuits in this room,” only to find out that they only had three circuits in the room. [Timestamp: 6:46]

And I guess it’s a good idea to have all your gear set up and turn everything on and just let it cook for a while because obviously it’s a lot better to trip breakers in a pre-service test than after everybody’s in there and you’re doing it for real.
Absolutely, I tell people that are doing portable church, I tell them, “If you can do two weeks prior to a public opening.” So typically a church will have a core group of people that are going to open and start the church and I tell them, “What you need to do is set aside two weeks, the first two weeks that you’re moving into the building to come in and set everything up exactly like you’re having church and exactly like you would when you are inviting the public in but just have church together as a core group and run everything and run everything hard and test things and test your systems and make sure you can actually get it loaded in.” If you say, “OK we’re going to start at 6 o’clock or we’re going to have church at 8 o’clock, does that two hours really give me enough time to get it all loaded in? You may find that you really need three hours and so you have to come at 5 if you’re going to have church at 8—that sort of thing. Aside from the technical things you find that running the coffee pots…are you going to trip breakers running the coffee pots? Are the coffee pots on the same breakers that you’re trying to run the lighting off of. So if you have a couple of run through’s it gives you some practice and you can work out all of the bugs and all the issues before you invite the general public in because you really only get one chance to make a really good impression for people that are coming for the first time and so you want to make sure that you have all of your ducks in a row before you get there. I think…just in making a comment towards the touring industry, one thing that people don’t see is they’ll go to a concert and they’ll walk in and they’ll think, “Man that was awesome. What a great concert.” But they don’t realize that before that concert ever went out on tour there might have been two or three months of just building technical systems and technical rehearsals and then rehearsals with the band and artists before it ever leaves and goes out on the road. And a lot of times people think, “Well now I’ve got all the stuff together, we’ve got everything purchased, we’re ready let’s go for it.” And they don’t do their due diligence. They don’t spend the time working out the bugs figuring out how they’re going to pack things…all the little mundane stuff maybe but all the stuff that makes you successful. [Timestamp: 9:19]

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