Church Stage Lighting Basics

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This article is syndicated from our sister website Church Technology Superstore.

Understanding Church Stage Lighting

How Do You Light up a Church Stage?

To light up a church stage, you need several different types of equipment. Even small churches with low budgets have some type of professional lighting system because it is such an important part of any church service. As a general rule, there are three main types of lighting systems, and they are:

  • Beam lights. These give off a very tight beam of light and include moving head beams and pin spots.
  • Hard-edged lights. Called “spots,” these lights give you hard, crisp shadows and are very easy to control. They include the moving head spot, follow-spot, and ellipsoidal.
  • Soft-edged lights. These give you smooth fields of light but aren’t that easy to mask off of screens and curtains. Common soft-edged lights include par cans, strip lights, blinders, and scoops.

In addition to these, you’ll need lighting consoles, DMX splitters, and power cables, but an expert can help you get everything you need so that your stage looks great on Sunday morning.

What Are the Six Functions of Stage Lighting?

To decide which equipment to buy, it’s good to know a little bit about stage lighting in general. This includes the six main functions of stage lighting, which include:

  • To augment emotion and the “mood” of what’s going on onstage.
  • To bring out the quality of the 3D images of people, props, and so on.
  • To create time frames, for example, when you’re trying to recreate and highlight nighttime, daytime, and so on.
  • To keep the audience focused on the stage.
  • To make things more visible.
  • To paint a certain picture of what’s going on.

When you want the audience members to feel like a part of your presentation, the lighting has to be just right. They won’t know that the lighting is part of the reason they’re reacting to the presentation in the right way, but it will make you feel good that you’ve done your part to enable everyone in the audience to thoroughly enjoy everything that is happening on the stage.

Whether the mood onstage is serious, light-hearted, or even funny, the right lighting will help audience members understand and appreciate that mood a whole lot more.

What Is Stage Wash Lighting?

A “wash” lighting basically means that the entire stage will be lit up and viewable to everyone in the audience. Two types of lighting are used to get this effect: soft white lights and colored lighting gel that emits various colors of light. A “wash” and a “fill” are the same thing, and it is a more common occurrence than you might think. You’ve no doubt experienced it yourself at a concert or play, but you just didn’t know that it was happening!

Several things need to happen for this wash to work right. Since the whole stage needs to be illuminated, you have to make sure there are no dark or dim spots anywhere. How do you make sure this doesn’t happen? There are several things you can do, including:

  • Use multiple fixtures and keep them in fixed positions.
  • Space the lights themselves even distances apart.
  • Make sure they are all focused evenly.
  • Try to hang all of the lights on the same bar if possible.
  • Overlap the lights at the edges to stop any gaps from occurring.

Remember, a wash has to fill the entire stage, which means the lighting has to be just right or you’ll have dark spots, which creates a much less realistic view.

What Are the Lights on a Stage Called?

Learning the different parts of a stage is the smartest way to learn about the lights used on any stage. When people say “stage right” or “stage left,” that describes the direction that the singer or actor sees when he or she is looking toward the audience. “Up stage” means the rear of the stage, while “downstage” refers to the front of the stage.

Lighting can also be used to fill up various parts of the stage, and each of these scenarios has a different name. For instance, a “general wash” is when the entire stage is lit up. “Special” lighting refers to light that is shining on just one part of the stage, and of course, a “spot” light is one that is shining on just one person or object.

Even lighting colors have names. When people talk about “cold” colors, they’re referring to all of those colors that are bluish in nature. On the other hand, “warm” colors refer to colors such as red, amber, orange, and pink.

Light can also be used in different ways in between cues or scene changes. For example, when all of the lights fade out and the entire stage is dark, this is known as a “blackout.” A “cross-fade” means that when one set of lights turns off, another set will automatically turn on.

What Colors Are Used in Lighting to Create a Warm Look on Set?

We mentioned earlier that colors such as red, amber, orange, and pink are used to create a “warm” appearance on the stage, but it’s also important to know that mixing the colors is sometimes necessary to get the right color and hue. In general, the primary colors such as red and blue can be mixed together to create secondary colors such as yellow and cyan. In lighting, color-mixing is something that is done on a regular basis.

Let’s face it, you can’t always get the perfect color or shade to create a “warm” effect onstage, so the people who do this job have to learn to mix colors. One of the most common types of color-mixing is using an amber light, which is a combination of red and green, with a blue light to get a warm white light in the end. Put simply, if you use more blue than amber, you’ll get a nice cool look. On the other hand, if more amber than blue is used, the result would be a much warmer look, like the light you would use to symbolize early-morning hours.

If it sounds complex, it certainly is in some ways, but remember that these people are professionals and they know just what they’re doing, and when you’re learning about the lighting in your church, you can quickly become familiar with these techniques as well.

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