Posted in education on July 1, 2017 3:48 pm EDT

Enlightenment: 5 Critical Questions for AVL Designers & Architects

A no-nonsense design hit-list from a professional lighting designer -- with five crucial questions to consider to keep your next church lighting project on the mark.











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TAGS: design, led, lighting,


By David Martin Jacques

Lighting designers love their toys. No technology in the theatre moves as fast as lighting and video technology, and lighting designers are the happy recipients of all this innovation. New lighting fixtures and control offer us increased artistic possibilities. They are literally the tools that we create our art with.

"No technology in the theatre moves as fast as lighting and video technology, and lighting designers are the happy recipients of all this innovation."

—David Martin Jacques, Professional Lighting & Stage Designer

I am a professional lighting designer with more than 35 years of artistic lighting experience. I have also consulted on theatres and worship spaces for nearly as many years. This gives me a unique perspective on what lighting designers require in a lighting system. When I design a show I always strive to use the tools that will offer me the most artistic flexibility. Unfortunately, the reality is that in many cases, lighting designers are limited by the equipment that the theater or church currently owns. Therefore it is critical when designing lighting systems for churches that the lighting consultant specifies lighting equipment that offers the best balance of artistic and practical capabilities.

The current state of lighting technology offers lighting consultants a wide variety of options when specifying new lighting systems. Specifying lighting equipment for today’s progressive worship spaces is a complicated and intensive process. Every church and theater is different. They all have their own unique physical qualities, challenges, and programming needs, requiring creative solutions to their individual characteristics. As a designer I am trained to think out of the box for creative solutions that meet the needs of the worship space as well as contemporary lighting designers.


When I start a new consulting project, I always keep five crucial questions in mind:

1. What is the function of the lighting in this house of worship?

One of the first things I do when starting a project is to meet with the worship team of the church. This is a critical step, as I want to be sure that the lighting equipment and systems that I design not only fit the needs of lighting designers, but also serve the people using the space. I make sure to attend services to see how they are using their existing lighting. So many questions are answered during this initial design consultation phase of my services. Big questions and considerations include: How is the church utilizing video? Do they only use IMAG or will they also be broadcasting? Are there musical presentations during the services? What is the style of these musical presentations? Will there be events like pageants that need specialized theatrical lighting? Does the worship space also require improved house lighting that integrates with the stage lighting? Answering these questions will lead me to the extent of lighting design and the appropriate fixture and control specifications.

2. What technology is appropriate?

This usually leads me into deciding what level of technology the worship space requires. Everyone loves moving lights, but they are certainly not appropriate for every venue. Moving lights offer the designer a great deal of flexibility and can also serve as a flashy design element. [Yet since] moving lights usually require a significant amount of upkeep, churches should not consider them if they don’t have the appropriate staff to maintain them.


Any lighting system should include fixtures that can not only flood the stage with color, but also be able to cut the light off of selective objects (like video screens). Therefore, a good combination of ellipsoidal reflector spotlights and PAR flood fixtures should always be included.  continued >>