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Using A/V/L Technology to Enhance the Message
By: Keith Kankovsky

I remember the burnished oak seat that my hind side rested somewhat comfortably on as a child. The words were promising, empowering, and filled with truths, but keeping my young mind tuned in to the pastor got tougher as this beautiful seat seemed to turn to stone. A slouch wouldn't ease it. A lean wouldn't either. And my pastor must have noticed others with the same plight. Do you recall the day cushions were added to the pews? The message became easier to hear, thanks to a comforting addition.

Traditions and values often place themselves into our way of life, which is a good thing. Sometimes a breath of fresh air, a cushion if you will, can help us keep sight of the message. The familiar antique upright piano eventually led to the new electric organ, and in a similar way, the familiar pin spot above the pulpit and choir has led us to the use of pattern projectors and moving lights during musical specials. When presented in a subtle fashion, these lighting tools enhance the message and often bring new faces into the sanctuary. And, after all, that's what it's all about, right?

High fidelity sound systems, atmospheric effects such as fog and haze, and beautiful colors projected by lighting projectors have become more common within the sanctuary during the last few years. The advantages of fully dimmable lighting and higher quality (not to mention indiscreet) stereo speakers have enhanced worship in all types of churches. Many of these improvements were closely held to stadium concert tours, music video, or perhaps large dance clubs in the country's biggest cities. Now these improvements are readily available to small and large churches alike. The mass production of quality lighting and sound fixtures has allowed many smaller venues, including churches, to borrow some technology for their own ministerial purposes.

Gel filters have been used quite extensively within the theater world for quite a few years. This low-cost color media can be easily installed into many existing lighting fixtures, as well as to the new state-of-the-art units available. Yellow, pink, and other lightly saturated colors of gel filters generally have a longer life than the darker reds and blues. Heat energy is often absorbed by the polyester and darker transmissions will fade over time. If a very rich palette of color is required, newer ellipsoidals that produce plenty of light with less heat energy may be purchased or rented from local lighting suppliers.

Seasonal music specials may run for several weeks, and dichroic glass filters may be used with virtually any lighting fixture without fear of burning or discoloring. Offered in many subtle or vibrant colors, the dichroic-coated glass is designed with long life in mind, using a specialized borosilicate glass that has inherent expansion qualities to keep it in one piece. The lighting of steeples, building cornerstones, and other outdoor architectural highlights are improved with the use of this incredible product.

An entire family of lighting fixtures can be programmed using a DMX lighting desk, so that color changes are attained smoothly and graciously. Dimming groups of lighting fixtures is simple and repeatable by most any helpful volunteer when the lighting program is saved in a cue list. Many distinctive looks can be saved within the lighting desk for use during Sunday morning worship, or as eye candy during youth group concerts. The variety of desks and their expense are as varied as the lighting fixtures they control.

Lighting patterns, commonly called gobos, have been used extensively throughout the theater world. These inexpensive metal stencils are made to fit any focusable lighting fixture. Patterns are available in a host of themes, including Easter, Christmas, wedding, and other enlightening imagery. Whether used as a centerpiece, or perhaps as a simple flowing design, the pattern can transform an unnoticed flat wall behind a choir into a forest glen, gothic church, or serene meadow.

When tastefully used, a low-lying fog can enhance the rolling away of the stone from Jesus' tomb, declaring to the world a risen savior. Haze can be incorporated with subtle color to depict an evening at Gethsemane, or a rolling fog at the gates of Hades. These types of atmospheric effects are non-toxic and are specifically made for use involving live performers. Most lighting rental companies offer several types of fog or haze machines for weekend rentals.

So, you may want to consider a few "cushions" for the congregation to enjoy. When offered as an enhancement to the message rather than a distraction, lighting effects can be used to open the doors of your church to others in need. After all, we could all use God's comforting word and a cushion to rest upon.

Keith Kankovsky is dealer manager and provides sales and technical support at Apollo Design Technology, www.apollodesign.net.

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