To Wire or Not To Wire, That Is The Question

18 11 2013

The other day I was talking with one of our Systems Engineers and we came across a picture of a church vocal team on their stage. Many things struck me about this picture, like seeing 7 vocals crammed in maybe a 12′ wide by 5′ deep space (on a large stage) and seeing each singer with their own music stand, mic stand and personal monitor mixer. But the thing that stood out most was the fact that each singer, surrounded by all of this stuff, was using a wireless microphone instead of a wired microphone.

We all know wireless microphones provide a high level of convenience and flexibility, and they certainly can keep a stage looking clean. If your setup features the vocalists out towards the front of the stage and you want to keep wires at bay, I’m totally in favor of wireless mics. If your guitarists don’t need access to any pedals and need to be able to move around the stage, wireless connections totally make sense. Too often people think wireless mics and guitar systems will clean up the look of the stage. That’s true, if you don’t have a bunch of other wired gear in the same space. As most touring guys will tell you, if you don’t have to use wireless you shouldn’t. In this edition I want to look at some of the advantages that come with sticking to wired microphones over wireless

Wired Microphones Might Sound Better
With a wired microphone, what you put into it is what you get out of it. A high quality mic capsule well matched to voice or instrument is the best possible way to get quality sound. With wireless equipment, you are often limited in the selection of mic capsules, limiting your ability to try different mics to find the best match. Many wireless mics use companding to compress dynamic range into a small frequency allocation. While this processing is less noticeable on higher priced wireless systems, there can be a noticeable difference between vocals and instruments on a wireless setup versus a wired one.

Reliability
One well-known microphone manufacturer (of both wired and wireless microphones) had an engineer that used to start off his classes by holding up a microphone cable and saying something like, “The most expensive wireless mic in the world is ALMOST as good as using this.” Wireless technology is not perfect, and even a really great wireless has a higher rate of failure than its wired counterpart. In the world of production, where so much can go wrong, wireless introduces one more finicky area of possible failure. Wireless interference, intermodulation distortion and drop-outs happen for a variety of reasons and can kill a moment when you least expect it. As long as your cable is of decent quality, a wired microphone just won’t have these issues. If you want to go wireless, invest in a well designed antenna and RF distribution system to give your wireless mics the most reliable signal possible.

They Don’t Require Batteries
If you mix audio with wireless equipment for any length of time, you’ll run into the dreaded situation of someone’s batteries dying while on stage. Even for those particularly diligent about replacing batteries, it will happen at some point. Whether it simply has run its course or maybe it came with bad cells, batteries can and will die without notice where a good microphone cable typically won’t. And there is a significant ongoing cost to the batteries you use for wireless equipment. At the first church where I was on staff, we ran something like 10-12 wireless microphones for 3 services per week and had a battery budget in the neighborhood of $1,500 per year! Add a few more wireless microphones and some wireless in-ear monitors and the cost of your batteries per year can double. Do you know how much ongoing expense your wired microphone has? Maybe $25 if you need to get a new cable? It’s not even close. For those situations where you are using wireless, get a professional rechargeable battery and charging system designed for professional wireless microphones like those available from Ansmann.

More Economical
Last but not least, wired microphones simply cost less. Average wired microphones often amount to 1/3 the cost of their wireless counterparts if you compare apples to apples. I don’t know about you, but if I don’t need the mobility, I’d much rather buy two good microphones than one average wireless.

Wrap Up
Make no mistake, I like high quality wireless microphones and love them for many applications. That being said, I think too many churches today go to wireless first when a wired microphone would actually fill the need better. Wired microphones generally sound better, are more reliable, don’t require batteries (saving money and increasing reliability) and are significantly more cost-effective up front. I’ve said it many times before in this newsletter, and I’ll say it again: before you buy anything, really weigh out what features you need in order to be successful, then buy the equipment that will meet those needs. My recommendation is this: don’t buy wireless where wired will do just fine. Take those funds and add versatility and diversity to your wired mic selection. We have wired mics designed to bring out the best in female vocals, male vocals and a wide variety of instruments.

As published at www.ccisolutions.com under Worship Tools





Building Community With Your Team

11 11 2013

Last Worship Tools newsletter I took a chance and poked the bear a little bit. Many techs, and frankly many musicians tend to go at this thing alone. When we do both we and our work suffer for it. But talking about the issue of how we personally relate to others on our team can be uncomfortable for some, so I was prepared to get some emails of disagreement. Instead, every response I received not only agreed and supported the idea, but some asked me to go further into how to best approach building a community of tech servants.

Changing the Focus
I’ve found that as leaders, when we focus first on the task at hand, our teams often miss out on the concept of community. The task master model of leading people says one person is in charge of tasking people for a particular time and task, plugging holes as needed. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never enjoyed leading or being led with this type of model. I want to be a valued member of a team. I want to be equipped and empowered to do something that matters with people who matter. And as a leader, I am fulfilled and happy when helping people find community and purpose. THAT needs to become our focus: helping people find a community they can connect with and service that resonates with the gifting God has given them.

Fostering Community
One email I received from David Dyer out in Michagan said this: “It has been my experience after a lifetime in worship ministry that concluding each rehearsal/practice with a time of prayer and sharing (Bible study or just what’s been going on) allows everyone to have input and develops a true team spirit.” I couldn’t agree more! One of the changes I made years ago as a tech director that I believe had the biggest impact on fostering community was starting every Sunday with 30 minutes of breakfast, connection, a quick service walk-through and prayer. Additionally, we added another point of contact after services, asking everyone to meet for 5 minutes or less to debrief. We talked about the good and the bad from the day, encouraged everyone and prayed a blessing over the team before they left. People could no longer sneak in, serve and sneak out. They had to become a part of a committed team who connected with and prayed for each other.

Be Picky With Who You Recruit
Over the years I’ve had some really talented people come my way who I’ve encouraged to not serve on my tech teams. What?!? Turn down talented people? If they’re not people who want to fit into our community of technical artists, or only want to do things their way, absolutely! Some people are just meant to be solo artists and others are stuck in what they think they know and aren’t teachable or are unwilling to bend to the good of the whole team. Both types of people will quickly destroy team morale and eventually cause your core team to break apart. With any potential new recruit, I lay out the vision for community and serving one another before even talking about their craft, and if they can buy into those pieces, regardless of their skill level, I welcome them to the family.

3 Key Attributes
I want team members who are faithful, available and teachable. Being an artist in the church can be very demanding and requires us to be selfless and flexible, and I’ve found these three characteristics above all else will determine whether or not someone will be an effective artist on our teams. Of course, I want people who are extremely talented and experienced too, but a poor attitude will never supercede talent for me. And I’m not just talking about personality quirks, but like the Three Musketeers, do they buy into the idea of “All For One and One For All?” At the end of the day, people who are faithful to each other and the call of service God has on their life, are available to serve a reasonable amount and are teachable regardless of their experience, are people who will build an incredible team of artists who will go to the ends of the earth together to serve their God and their church.

Summary
Getting a bunch of selfless servants in a room is not enough to build a great tech team. In order to build great teams we must shift the focus to community over function, intentionally foster times of community building, say no to the wrong kinds of people and welcome those who can buy into the vision and mission of what your team is about. Essentially, as leaders it’s time we shift the primary focus of what we do to who we are. After all, it’s when we are connected, fulfilled and happy that we tend to do our best art.

Originally published at www.ccisolutions.com under Worship Tools





No I In Team

28 10 2013

Over the years I’ve noticed an interesting tendency among techs: most of us prefer to work alone. I have met so many techs that fit the “techie” stereotype of being quiet, awkward and hard to work with. And many tech leaders have a worse reputation for being controlling, uncooperative and trying too hard to get people to follow their leadership. This seems to be especially true in smaller churches, which means the tech team often ends up being one or two people serving every week, often on the edge (or way past the edge) of burnout.

We Need Each Other

Here’s a simple truth that we techs (and especially tech leaders) need to be reminded of often: We need each other. In the world of professional sports, no successful athlete goes it alone. Even in individual sports such as tennis, golf or swimming, no athlete competes without coaches and training partners. We need people to help us see what we don’t see in ourselves, and people who will nudge us towards better versions of who we can become. We need people who will stand with us as we fight the good fight. We need people who want to be in community with us, not simply do something similar nearby. The Bible says it like this: “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens another friend.” (Proverbs 27:17)

Two techs in the booth monitoring many computer screens during worhipThe “Tech Team” is a moniker I don’t really like, but nevertheless it clearly communicates the fact that those who serve with technology should in fact be a team. Too many of us go at it alone, because it’s either too uncomfortable to interact with others, or, as is more often the case, we’re unwilling to give up control. And it’s wrong. By not connecting with and involving other people, you’re holding back people God has called to the same ministry you have been called to. You’re also holding yourself back, because you’ll be stretched too thin and may be missing the work that God has truly called you to do.

I know these things to be true, because early on as a Technical Director I fell into many of these traps. I felt usually it was easier to do it myself than it was to empower someone else to do it. I often believed that in order to maintain a certain level of quality, I couldn’t let others do it. I was exhausted, overworked and often felt alone in my ministry. And much of it was my fault. Focusing on ourselves and our own work will get us nowhere fast. It is not and never will be about me or what I do, but about who we are together.

“What’s the difference between people who stick in church and those who don’t? Friendships and prayer.”
Pastor Mark Driscoll

It All Comes Down to Community

We need each other in order to grow and learn in our craft. We need each other to help shoulder the load and spur one another on when times are tough. We need each other in order to grow and learn about ourselves, our friends and family, and our God. We need to get the focus off of what we do and onto who we are and who we are collectively. I often teach classes about building great technical teams, and the quote by Pastor Mark Driscoll echoes my key point. General recruiting rarely works, and plugging people into tasks doesn’t create a committed team member. It all comes down to community.

A Challenge for You

If you’re tired of fighting the good fight alone, can I challenge you to take a good look at how you serve and begin intentionally making room for other people in your world? If you’re leading a tech team and having a hard time building and keeping team members, can I challenge you to change your focus to building strong communities of people who serve instead of trying to recruit to cover tasks? Can I challenge all of us to remember that it’s not about us, it’s about the One we serve and those He’s given us to serve with? After all, there is no “I” in team.





Ask The Right Questions

22 10 2013

Originally posted under Worship Tools at www.ccisolutions.com 

Seven years ago the folks at RT Creative Group started Echo Conference, a place to bring together people who are involved in the intersection of media, technology and the Church. These guys have done a phenomenal job growing a conference geared for church creative folks, and this month I had the honor to lead a few breakout sessions at Echo 2013. I met lots of people there and spent much of the conference connecting with people outside of the main sessions, answering as many questions as I could to help them maximize their effectiveness with technology. As the conference went on though, I was noticing a common thread among nearly every conversation: people kept asking the wrong questions.

“There are no right answers to wrong questions.”
Ursula K. Le Guin

The most common question I received after the lighting class I taught was, “I’ve got a tight budget, what LEDs do you like?” Each and every time my answer was the same: it depends on what you’re trying to do. A question I found posed on Twitter last week was similar: “What PAs do you like right now?” These questions both have something in common: there is no way to get a useful answer. The answers we get with questions like these aren’t helpful towards reaching a goal, but are simply popular opinion. If we want answers that are going to help us get somewhere, we have to ask questions that point to our target.

You must be able to target the goal of your miinistry
Painting A Target
A few years ago we began reviewing our initial design meetings with the churches we partnered with. Our team always strives to give churches what they want, yet we increasingly have churches who ask for things that won’t really help them hit their ministry targets. Often the focus is on certain pieces of gear or something seen in another church. Unfortunately, many churches don’t develop a vision for what they hope to accomplish first, resulting in purchasing tools that are wrong for the job. For this reason, we’ve reshaped our design process to begin with a time of vision casting; a time to dig into the vision, goals and culture of the church in order to target what the technology is to accomplish. Very intentionally, before we ever look into the what, as a collaborative team we dig into the why.

“We thought that we had the answers, it was the questions we had wrong.”
Bono

Reaching People
So often we get fixated on the cool things new gear does and forget to ask the right question: how does this help our ministry be more effective? This is one of the reasons that senior leaders often get frustrated with tech people. By nature, most techs are doers, so we think primarily about all of the cool things new gear can do. But as people committed to helping our churches grow, we need to remember we are in the business of reaching people above all else. Instead of focusing on what the tools do, we must focus first on the amazing things our people can do with the right tools.

Fall in Love with the Purpose
Something that Michael Buckingham said at the Echo Conference has really stuck with me: “Don’t fall in love with the idea, fall in love with the purpose.” We have seen many ministries over the years base their identity on what they do or what they have. When we do that we’re missing out on what God has for us. Our ministry is not about programs and the tools we use. Every time we step behind a console, computer or camera, our service should point towards reaching people for Christ and helping them grow. But often we fall in love with an idea or the cool features of gear and forget about the purpose it serves. If we’re to serve better, to help reach more people, our passion must be first in our purpose instead of our ideas.

Wrapping it Up
We need doers who are focused on purpose before function. As we dive further into our purpose and vision, our questions shift from “what is new and cool” to “what will help us accomplish __________?” Before asking for money for new gear, ask your senior leadership what things they’d like to see accomplished first. Get a clear understanding of the purpose God has for you and your ministry. Invest as much time into understanding why as you do how, and you’ll not only start naturally asking the right questions, but you’ll see more growth than you probably have ever imagined.





Techs: You Are A Worship Leader

9 09 2013

As originally posted as a Worship Tools Newsletter on www.ccisolutions.com.

As I fly home from the National Worship Leader Conference in Kansas City, I’m reflecting on many conversations had over 4 days with old friends and new. CCI Solutions was honored to be a sponsor for this conference, getting the opportunity to meet many of the people we serve and try to help them be more effective with technology. I LOVE spending time with those who are charged with leading our congregations in worship! So many of these people are incredible musicians, singers and song writers, but it was exciting to me to see how many attendees were technical artists trying to learn how to better lead people in worship from a console or computer.

One discussion with a few leaders really struck me this week, and it started with a simple question: “How do we get the men in black to realize they are not just behind the scenes, but are as much a worship leader as those of us on stage?” I’ve long believed that every tech in the booth plays a key part in helping a congregation engage in worship, but this is one of the first times I’ve had a Worship Pastor attempt to convince me that the tech teams lead worship as much as he does. Little did he know I already agreed with him, I was just gathering some intel for a Worship Tools newsletter.

Image of a sound and video tech booth at a large church

Pleading The Case

As I meet with churches, I often make the case that technical artists have just as much influence over the atmosphere of a worship service as anyone else in the church. Traditionally, musical worship leaders have been the main curator of the worship environment, but I think the day has come where the environment receives more impact from the techs than it does the music. I’m not saying one is more important than the other, but we’ve grown accustomed to calling the musicians and singers the worship leaders without including those who serve in the roles of tech. The artists who operate the sound, lighting and video control some of the biggest and most powerful elements in a worship service. We must begin to approach these roles as having the influence on our worship that they do. They also have the biggest potential for distraction; a critical reason to take their roles as worship leaders seriously.

The Catch

The argument that gets made by some of my Worship Pastor friends is these artists aren’t really worship leaders because THEY don’t treat their role that way. Those Pastors are absolutely right! Traditionally, these roles have not been given the respect and attention they deserve, and it often starts at the source: the artist. Many technical artists today still mistakenly believe their role is to push some buttons for a few hours and go home, letting whatever happens happen. We need this mentality to shift in our technical artists. We need our artists to approach what they do from the perspective of leading people into worship.

Simply being a Christian artist doesn’t make you a leader of worship. So how do you as a technical artist know if you are treating your role as a button pusher as opposed to leader of worship?

You are a leader of worship if:

  • You approach serving with love and adoration for God and hone your craft in order to help bring others to the feet of Jesus.
  • You care more about engaging an audience in worship with your mix than making it sound like a CD.
  • You are passionate about getting the right words up on time to make it easier for every one to be able to follow along as the congregation sings to the Lord.
  • You diligently work to create a visual environment that helps create moments of awe and wonder in our Creator.
  • One of your goals is to do your best to minimize any distractions from worship.

 Worship keyboard players on stage at a church during worship

It Starts With Me

As the role of technology in our worship services continues to have a bigger presence, we need technological artists who are willing to step up and become leaders of worship. The difference between being a role-filler and a worship leader is all about the heart. It starts with preparing your heart for worship, which prepares the way for others to join you. It continues by intentionally planning how you carry out your role, taking great care to choose methods that will invite your congregation to participate. It involves rehearsing your role in a way that will help more people engage with the Creator of the universe; and culminates when your worship, planning and preparation leads to the moment of a room full of people joining with you to love the Lord our God.

There is nothing wrong with being a button pusher. We certainly need people who want to fill a role behind the scenes and go unnoticed. But I promise you, the extra work as a technical artist is worth the planning and preparation time when, as you’re worshipping our God, hundreds of people sing out to Him around you and you realize that you’re helping those people connect to our Father. It’s an incredible feeling to help lead people to that place, and it’s yours to partake in. So as one of the men and women in black, you have a choice: help lead people to Jesus in worship or simply push buttons? Your congregation needs you to start looking at your role differently. It’s time to be a leader.





Lighting 101: Putting A Lighting Rig Together

6 09 2013

Originally posted as a Worship Tools Newsletter at www.ccisolutions.com

Over the past couple of months we’ve discussed a lot of aspects of Church stage lighting, including everything from power to stage lighting fixtures. For the final edition of our Lighting 101 series, we’re going to talk about creating a whole lighting system. We’ll also talk about some common elements of stage lighting systems we’re putting together for the average church building size we see, which is somewhere in the 400-500 seat range.

Stage Lighting Power

Regardless of what kind of stage lighting fixtures we use, we need power. It’s true that with conventional stage lighting fixtures you need dimmable power and with LED and intelligent stage lighting fixtures you need power distributed throughout your main auditorium at strategic locations. We often find that the most strategic thing we can do when locating power is to future proof the kind of power needed at any given outlet by making it convertible from dimmable to non-dimmable power. We most often do this by using ETC dimmer racks, for example, ETC D20 modules (20 amp dimmers), ETC CC20 modules (constant 20 amp power, not DMX controlled) or ETC R20 modules (20 amp relays, controlling on/off via DMX). You run the power once and have the flexibility of changing what type of power those outlets have at any point in the future by simply sliding in a new module.

Stage Lighting Positions

It will always be cheaper to put in more power and DMX access than you think you’ll need up front than it will be to add it later. This is one area in which it’s pretty important to be forward thinking and go for a little overkill on distribution. Because if you don’t do it now, you’ll have wished you did later. It’s nearly impossible to think of every use and scenario you’ll need lights for before getting into a building, so planning up front for some extra lighting positions and DMX access will save you a lot of headache, and possibly money down the road.

Example of church stage lighting fixtures mounted over the top of the stage

Fixtures – Front Lighting

Conventional ellipsoidal fixtures have long been my favorite fixture for front lighting. Ellipsoidal fixtures combine good, fairly even light across the beam with the control of a tight beam along with the ability to shutter off parts I don’t want. While sometimes I would prefer the softer beam a PAR fixture produces, in most auditoriums where projection, creative lighting and even set designs are used, I’m not willing to give up the beam control that ellipsoidal fixtures offer. The ability to shutter off any over lighting or spill proves to be extremely valuable in dynamic spaces. And to date, I typically use conventional ellipsoidal fixtures as LED versions are still very new and quite a bit more expensive than conventional ones. This gap is closing quickly, but for the time being, working with the average church (and their budget) has me leaning towards conventional ellipsoidal fixtures.

Example of church stage lighting fixtures mounted over the top of the stage

Fixtures – Top (or Back) Lighting

With top lighting, I’m much less concerned about tight beam control as these lights most often shoot down to the ground so inherently there is less over lighting and spill. Up until 5 years ago, a conventional PAR fixture was my go to light for this application. In recent years though I’ve changed over to LED PAR fixtures being my favorite for this application in most instances, the one exception may be the downstage area used for preaching. In those areas, I become a little more concerned about having a good, accurate color temperature when cameras are being used. For the rest of the stage, or when cameras are not involved, LED PAR fixtures offer a great deal of versatility and creativity and still carry out the task of defining a subject and making them stand out from the back drop. The bonus with an LED PAR fixture is that while I want white for speaking times, colored top lighting can be a fantastic tool for helping set the environment during worship. Using brighter colors as your top light during faster, more energetic songs still defines your subject while conveying an atmosphere of praise and deep blues and purples highlighting the people on stage can really create a rich, worshipful environment. LED fixtures in this instance are simple and very effective, as one fixture does it all, controlled simply by a lighting controller.

Pastor on a cool stage designed church platform.

Fixtures – Background or Set Lighting

This is hands down a great place to use LED stage lighting. Often specific color temperature is not as big of a deal, so a wide variety of LED fixtures can be used to light up your environment. The better the fixture, the better the color and white will look of course, but for background lighting most churches can afford to be a little less picky, especially since there are big budget implications depending on the fixtures you choose. Do conventional lights still have a part to play for background and set lighting? Sure, but if you’re using conventional lighting for this purpose it’s more often because you want the warm glow of the fixture itself facing the audience instead of simply having it light something. The light in turn becomes an element of the design.

 Jands Vista S1 Lighting Controller used in a church stage lighting system designed by CCI Solutions

Stage Lighting Controller

Even with the most basic of lighting systems, you need a controller. Most of us have seen the most basic controllers, a board filled with faders like the ETC Smartfade. While this works just fine when you only have conventional fixtures, adding LED and intelligent stage lighting fixtures tends to need something more flexible and robust. If your lighting system is smaller with 1-3 dozen conventional and LED fixtures with no likelihood of adding moving lights, the Jands Stage CL could be a great, cost effective upgrade to getting better, more flexible control over your stage lighting. If your have moving lights, or they may be in your future, you’ll want to look at more robust solutions from manufacturers like Jands, ETC, Martin, High End or others. Every console manufacturer has different strengths and weaknesses, the key is to finding a console that meets both your immediate needs and allows room for growth.

Wrapping It Up

We’ve covered a wide range of the basics of church stage lighting, and if you were a person who felt intimidated by lighting before this series, I very much hope that you feel more comfortable with what you have and what you can do. The goal of the Lighting 101 series has been to introduce you to the key parts and concepts of how lighting works and we, of course, have much more to discuss and will do so in future Worship Tools newsletters. But if you have questions on the topics covered so far or need help with a lighting project you’re working on, call or email our team and we’ll be happy to serve you! Have questions or ideas you’d like to see addressed in future Worship Tools newsletters? Shoot me an email at ddejong@ccisolutions.com and we’ll discuss it in a future edition.





Lighting 101: LED

16 07 2013

We’re well into our Worship Tools Lighting 101 series and it’s time to break out some of the more fun lighting fixtures available to us today: LED’s. As recently as a few years ago when people mentioned getting some LED’s, that usually meant getting either PAR or strip-style fixtures with red, green and blue diodes as the source of light instead of a conventional lamp. LED lighting has come far in the last 7 to 10 years and you can find LED versions of nearly any style of fixture now. We’re seeing new moving wash and spot fixtures use LED diodes in addition to the growing number of different styles of wash lights (PAR, Fresnel, cyc/strip lights). In the last 18 months, we’ve even finally started to see some LED ellipsoidal fixtures becoming available.

Why LED?
LED (Light Emitting Diode) technology has developed quickly over the last decade to become a very usable source of light in live performance. As this technology continues developing, newer, more sophisticated fixtures have been created to meet the needs of lighting designers. With more options then ever before at now very reasonable prices, LED fixtures are becoming common in most lighting systems.

Let’s look at some of the top reasons why you could benefit from LED fixtures:

Low Power Consumption
Because LEDs draw a comparatively small amount of power, LED’s are an efficient way to get a high quantity of light with limited power. While one 20 amp circuit of power maxes out at four 500-watt PAR cans, you can power 20-40 of most LED PAR cans on the same amount of power.

Color Effects
LED fixtures can create a wide range of colors using anywhere from three to seven colors mixing together to create whatever color or color temperature of white you desire. LED fixtures with more colors available to mix with often can create richer, more accurate color and white light, but even a simple red, green and blue-based fixture can provide more color light than a conventional fixture with a gel.

High Brightness For Colored Light
Conventional tungsten fixtures get color by putting a subtractive gel in front of the light. For example, R27 Medium Red from Rosco has a 4% transmission rate, meaning a red gel in front of a 1,000 watt lamp will spit out roughly 40 watts of light. LED’s give you light by adding intensity/light, therefore LED fixtures tend to produce much brighter color than conventional fixtures.

Longevity/Low Maintenance
LED fixtures tend to have tens of thousands of hours of use time versus 500-1,000 for most tungsten lamps. In other words, you’ll likely outgrow the fixture or have different needs before the fixture no longer produces light. Additionally, LED’s don’t burn out so they are more durable and have lower maintenance.

Low Heat
Although LED stage lights do produce some heat (I’d say more like warmth), LED fixtures don’t begin to approach the heat of a conventional tungsten fixture. Venues that light stage sets or people from the floor love this feature as they don’t have to be concerned about people touching the fixtures and burning themselves.

Small, Lightweight and Portable
LED fixtures tend to be small, so LED fixtures work great where space is tight or you want light without being able to see the fixture. Being small also means most LED fixtures are lightweight and highly portable, a huge feature for churches who have to set up and tear down often.

What Are Some Of The Drawbacks Of LED Fixtures?

LED Ellipsoidal Fixtures Are Still High Cost
Due to the way most LED’s are arrayed together to produce light, LED fixtures have a harder time creating a focusable beam like an ellipsoidal fixture can. Manufacturers are working hard to come up with solutions to this, however, and we’ve recently seen LED ellipsoidal offerings from ETC and Chauvet.

Color Rendering/Temperature
Some LED fixtures can produce millions of colors, unfortunately they can’t always produce the one you want. Due to the way colored LEDs are made, different LED fixtures have colors that they can’t quite replicate. The lack of a white light that looks great on human skin is often the number one complaint of LED fixtures, though we are seeing significant improvement as the technology develops. If there are specific colors or color temperatures that you HAVE to have, you’ll be best served to test out the LED fixture you’re thinking about before you invest in too many of them.

Conventional Fixtures Still Output More White Light Per Dollar
LED lighting fixtures are bright for color, but aren’t quite as bright as a comparable conventional white fixture for white. As mentioned above, some lighting manufacturers are making some great strides in producing a bright, controlled white light, but most still can’t compete with a 750 watt lamp in a Source 4 PAR or ellipsoidal.

Dimming Curve Issues
LEDs don’t use traditional powered dimming systems so LED lights don’t behave the same as traditional lighting equipment when it comes to dimming. Cheaper units can have poor (steppy) dimming curves and there is the real possibility of high frequency flicker with cameras when using cheaper fixtures. With many LED fixtures the light will snap to blackout unlike the cooling down of an incandescent filament. Although high-end LED fixtures can attempt to replicate it, LEDs also don’t naturally shift in color like a tungsten source does over it’s dimming range.

Quality Matters
With LED fixtures, it’s very true that you get what you pay for. Most of the time, the cheaper the LED fixture the more noticeable the flaws of LED are. My general preference is to purchase good to great quality LED fixtures from well-known, established manufacturers with a good track record of support. You’ll pay more for LED fixtures from manufacturers like ETC, Wybron and Martin, but can have confidence that they’ll be great and be well-supported. Elation/American DJ and Chauvet have also come a long way in the past 5-8 years, really stepping up their quality and support while still providing cost-effective lighting solutions.

The Big Question: What LED Fixtures Are Right For You?
Unfortunately, as with most questions, the answer is “it depends.” Most of the lighting systems we design these days include a mixture of conventional tungsten and LED fixtures for a variety of reasons. It really does depend on what kind of power and infrastructure you have available, what kind of light you need and what your budget is. Our team would love to help you figure out the right answer for you. If you’re simply looking to add some fixtures to your existing lighting rig, our retail sales experts are available to help you find the right solution to meet your additional needs. If you need to renovate your entire lighting system our Systems Consultants would love the opportunity to do some vision-casting with your team and design a new lighting system to that will meet your needs now and give you flexibility for future growth. Whatever your lighting needs, conventional, LED or otherwise, we’ve got you covered!