I spent many years confused and unaware of the proper way to use front lighting during worship. I didn’t know where to put the lighting fixtures, how bright they should be, or how many par cans I should use. I have since learned some techniques that I would love to share with you, in hopes of saving you time and frustration.
What is front lighting?
The par can, ellipsoidal or any other fixture you use to light up the faces of those on stage is known as ‘front lighting’. It is very common for those new to front lighting to overdo it, washing out faces and overpowering background and effect lighting. I have to admit, I did this for several years before I learned better.
What fixtures and bulbs do I need?
Larger churches with more elaborate budgets would use several ellipsoidal fixtures for front lighting, but for smaller, lower-budget churches, par cans are the way to go. With so many different par cans to choose from, let me give you some information to figure out what your church needs.
Extra Small Stage (max dimensions: 8ft depth, 9ft ceiling)
The Par46 is the best option for an extra small stage. A standard 200W medium flood bulb for this fixture would be more than sufficient. The width of your stage divided by 6 would give a good estimate for the number of par cans needed to get an even wash across the front of the stage.
Small Stage (max dimensions: 12ft depth, 15ft ceiling)
The Par56 is the best option for a small stage. A standard 300W medium flood bulb for this fixture would be more than sufficient. The width of your stage divided by 6 would give a good estimate for the number of par cans needed to get an even wash across the front of the stage.
Medium Stage (max dimensions: 20ft depth, 25ft ceiling)
The Par64 is the best option for a medium stage. A standard 500W medium flood bulb for this fixture would be more than sufficient. The width of your stage divided by 8 would give a good estimate for the number of par cans needed to get an even wash across the front of the stage.
Distance & Angles
This is a challenge to explain, especially without seeing your room in person, but there are some general guidelines I can share about where your lights should be placed.
My front lighting has never been more than 10 to 15 feet away from the front of the stage. This has worked in several different situations, but don’t be afraid to experiment with the distance in order to find the best placement for your specific needs.
There is a pretty small window of distance available for you to project at the right angle. The goal is to have your front lighting pointing down at a 45 degree angle, which keeps the lights from blinding those on the stage and does a pretty good job eliminating unwanted shadows.
As far as the x-axis goes, I have always kept front lighting straight forward. However, another option is to use two lights per section at a 45 degree angle lighting up each side of the face. This gives more depth but also involves more fixtures. One thing you may consider is using two fixtures for center stage using this method, and lighting up the rest of the stage with lights facing straight forward.
The Secret Behind Light Intensity
Running front lighting at full intensity (full-on) is usually not the best option for worship. Generally, the best thing to do is fade in your lights until the faces you are lighting have a natural glow. This eliminates washed-out faces and also insures that your background and effect lighting are not destroyed. Now, when your pastor is preaching, you will probably want to run your front lighting at full intensity (or close to it), but worship just doesn’t need that ‘wake up and listen’ type of feel.
Great resource from the Seeds blog: Live Event Front Lighting