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Illuminating the Worship Experience

November 1, 2018 dbrickhouse Blog
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Church of the Highlands recently updated their main Birmingham, Alabama, facility with a complete lighting package by HARMAN Professional Solutions, comprised entirely of Martin fixtures.

Founded in 2001 by senior pastor Chris Hodges, Church of the Highlands is a non-denominational multi-site church with headquarters in Birmingham and 16 additional satellite campuses across Alabama. With an average combined weekly attendance of 60,000 members and reaching as many as 85,000 attendees for its annual Easter and Christmas services, Church of the Highlands boasts the largest congregation of any church in Alabama and the second largest in the United States. While each campus has a resident pastor and its own community worship experiences, the sermon portion of each service is delivered from the main campus in Birmingham and a live video feed is simulcast to the church’s satellite locations.

With technology playing an integral role in creating meaningful worship experiences for the church’s thousands of members across separate locations, church leaders wanted to ensure high production standards for the video simulcast. Because the picture quality of the video feed relies heavily on key lighting, Lighting Director Patrick Hentz made the decision to upgrade the church’s aging lighting system with a state-of-the-art lighting solution. Hentz selected an extensive range of Martin fixtures to ensure premium image quality for the video simulcast, in addition to providing immersive lighting for high-energy worship events.

“There were many reasons behind the upgrade, but the greatest benefits we gained from the new Martin fixtures are brightness, reliability and versatility,” said Hentz. “With 80 percent of our congregation watching the sermon via the video simulcast, it’s very important that we deliver excellent video quality, and that requires powerful and consistent lighting. Our general approach is to create an environment where people can worship free from distractions. The Martin fixtures give us a great deal of balance and control over accenting and highlighting the most important aspects of our weekly services without going over the top or blinding our guests.”

The church’s new lighting rig features an array of 12 MAC Encore Wash fixtures, which provides excellent key light across the entire stage, resulting in rich color and highly accurate white light on camera. The Encore Wash’s unparalleled 6000k daylight temperature is critical for overcoming challenges posed by the large LED video wall behind the church’s stage. The soft-edge moving head fixtures also enable Hentz and his staff to make quick adjustments when a guest speaker steps off the stage or when an event goes off script.

“A few years ago, we added a 60-feet-by-40-feet LED video wall and that introduced a significant challenge,” related Hentz. “The video panels have a native color temperature of 56k, and our previous rig just wasn’t bright enough to compete. The new Martin fixtures allowed us to increase our maximum levels from 65 foot-candles to 80 foot-candles, yielding a much greater depth of field and improved color accuracy. Another huge benefit is the flexibility to make lighting changes on the fly.”

In addition to the new MAC Encore Wash fixtures, Church of the Highlands’ new rig consists of Viper Profile, Quantum Wash and Quantum Profile fixtures for front wash and spot applications. MAC Aura and RUSH MH6CT fixtures enhance the general wash by adding textural backlight from upstage, and Hentz utilizes MAC 101 fixtures when an engaging crowd wash is desired. Because the lighting rig is in constant use and each fixture fulfills different roles, reliable performance and longevity were among the most important factors considered by Hentz when designing the new system.

Hentz said, “When we invest in equipment, we want it to work properly and look great. Before acquiring the Martin rig, we had to run our older fixtures at 100% brightness to achieve the desired output and that was causing a lot of maintenance issues—we were replacing at least five lamps a week!”

With leading brands including AKG, Harman Kardon, Infinity, JBL, Lexicon, Mark Levinson and Revel, HARMAN is admired by audiophiles, musicians and the entertainment venues where they perform around the world, www.harman.com.