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New Trends

New illumination engines have created new applications that allow designers, architects and consultants to use moving lights in places not considered before, including lobby and vestibule areas, which have become more integral to church events as overflow and additional seating areas for services and performances. DTS’s Wright says moving fixtures can enhance the role lighting plays in house-of-worship design. “At the very least, they can arouse the curiosity of the observer; at the most, they can inspire the observer,” he says. “They can add beauty to the design and can even be provocative, making a statement [with] the design.”

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Richard Cadena, a noted lighting designer and educator, says moving lights have come a long way in a short time. Even as they’re been swept up in the LED revolution that has transformed lighting, their mechanics and control aspects have also greatly evolved. The latest trend, he says, is that they are also growing in channel count, some to the point where they will use half of one DMX “universe”—the DMX512 Digital Multiplex standard commonly used to control lighting and effects—or more. “That means that it’s getting challenging to use a purely DMX data distribution network, because a medium-sized to larger system can use dozens of universes of DMX, meaning there are cables strewn everywhere,” he explains. “The latest trend is that many new automated lights have an Ethernet connector and accept Ethernet-based protocols directly, which allows the distribution of literally thousands of virtual universes of DMX using a single Ethernet cable.”

That has implications for church design at the architectural and aesthetic levels because, like the other legs of the AVL triad, lighting is in the process of moving onto networks. Lighting directors at churches now need to have some knowledge of IT, and that will affect the design of churches. For instance, cabling and switches need to be provided for in layouts.

Control is also an area to watch for developments in. “There is a new version of Art-Net called Art-Net 4, which means that we should all be on the lookout for changes in protocols and new challenges in compatibility and configuration,” says Cadena. “Some lighting professionals are shifting to Art-Net and/or Streaming ACN (sACN), because they believe it’s more reliable and it’s easier to set up and use than other Ethernet-based protocols. sACN is designed to be plug-and-play while other Ethernet-based protocols require more configuration. Regardless, the distinct trend is more towards Ethernet networking, which has many advantages, but also brings its own set of challenges in setting up, testing, maintaining, and troubleshooting.”

Looking Ahead

The future for moving-fixture lighting looks, well … bright. As in 300 watts bright. Wright points out that LED output is now at a plateau around the 300-watt level, and LED fixture manufacturers like ElektraLite are launching their new generation of fixtures using the 300-watt LED. However, at those wattage levels, heat once again becomes an issue for lighting. Churches can always stay at lower wattage levels—LED has increased brightness levels overall. However, experience with audio and video systems decisions suggests that many larger churches will pursue the same bigger-is-better philosophy that has affected sound system and video/projection decisions. That’s an area where consultants and integrators can help church systems directors make better choices.

[Editor's note: This piece was originally posted Sept. 2017.]





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