Building The Ideal LED Touring Rig for The Cause
Launching out the day after The Call in Nashville, The Cause traveled in convoy with hundreds of young adults from Kansas to Arizona to California on a 35-day prayer and worship tour ending in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Leonard Jones, the praise and worship leader for Morning Star Ministries, set up a meeting with me to present LED technology to Chuck Mervin, leader of The Cause, which is located on the Morning Star property.
Being on the stage under the brutal heat of PAR cans day after day can be daunting and initially Leonard was attracted to the cooler stages LEDs can provide. However when Leonard called me, I felt that this was my opportunity to get the art of light into the hands of a young motivated ministry looking for new ways to effectively reach the world with the gospel.
After much consideration, we decided to go with Chauvet’s Colorado™ series. One of my good friends, Dwight Slamp, has become Chauvet’s sales manager for my region and has been extremely persistent in calling me to convince me that Chauvet's product lines are progressive in both technology and price, but I have always associated Chauvet with gimmick lighting and mobile DJ gear. Just to get him to shut up, I spent several hours looking through the Chauvet product line.
Immediately I was captured by the Colorado 3. The fixture has 54 1W LEDs, metal casing, and IP65; all for under a grand. I am a natural skeptic, so I ordered one to try it out. Wow, the Colorado delivers everything it promises—and it promises a lot! The Colorado 3’s size is large and we also needed a smaller more traditional looking fixture. Dwight maneuvered a rush order getting the newly released Colorado 1, boasting 36 1W LEDs and small metal casing. I now had all the tools I needed for a waterproof theatrical mobile-stage lighting rig.
There are five reasons preprogrammed LED rigs are great for new mobile lighting teams. First, LED rigs don’t require as many fixtures as traditional PAR rigs. Second, with minimal training and a stage plot in hand, most teams will be able to set up and focus without obvious mistakes. Third, the ability to create color sweeps and color changing stage effects will inspire and challenge young board operators. Fourth, in a programmed rig without moving lights no knowledge of programming is required. Lastly, the entire show can run on one 20 amp circuit.
The Causes LED rig with 24 Colorado LED fixtures can be operated on less than 15 amps of power. Waterproof jumpers and converters for DMX and power are included with each fixture. For setup we needed only two runs for DMX and power: two 50-feet power cables sent to backline and frontline, one 50-feet DMX linking the trusses, and one 50-feet to the snake. We operated from the sound both using a channel from the snake. Although the shielding in audio snake doesn’t meet DMX standards, I have had few problems for small systems.
For the design, I divided the stage into eight zones. Six band zones were evenly spaced three in front and three in back. Each zone was cross-washed with two Colorado 1s. The last two zones were absolute center of the stage and the absolute front of stage. I desired the wider beam spread of the Colorado 3s to cover these wandering zones. This front lighting scheme provided strong illumination washing the entire stage from the stationary drummers to the roaming worship leaders.
For my key lights, aka back line, I used only 8 Colorados. I placed the fixtures across the back truss spacing them 3 feet apart and horizontally focusing them towards the front of stage. They were vertically focused on the top of someone’s back standing 1/3 from the front of stage. The beam spread covers the normal locations for worship leaders and speakers. The symmetrical layout also looks marvelous running color sweeps and chases.
For our controller, we chose Martin's Light Jockey because it is easy to program, operate, and it is inexpensive. For late-night blind programming sessions, laptops are easy to pull out in a crowded car. The GUI interface, two universes, and free weekly updates online make Light Jockey a great value for only $1,150. Even though I had the very first Colorado 1 fixtures the profiles for both the Colorado 1 and 3 were already online. Martin also provides a 24-hour tech support line. For one reason or another, I have called Martin after midnight numerous times. No better choice for traveling worship teams that have to set up after long days of travel and delays.
Due to delays and typical opening day setbacks I didn’t get to meet with The Cause’s board operator. As I sat at my preprogrammed show, I already covered all the basics from subtle fades to bold snaps and strobes. My familiarity with my favorite controller Light Jockey makes blind programming possible. My preprogrammed systems usually contain creation pages, which are stacked transparent cues for programming aids. Each one of the twelve rows in the cue contains a type of function: all color, group 1 color, strobes, fluxes, specials, etc. The creation page enables the operator/programmer to create unique shows for every worship session by modifying the core elements of the cue on the fly. My experience on the road prompted me to include a second Light Jockey for emergencies.
To prep the show, I bought 6 aluminum cases and one Rubbermaid tub from Home Depot and labeled each case with a permanent marker: DMX converters male/female, male power adapter, female power adapters, DMX jumpers, lighting tools, Light Jockey, and DMX cabling, power cabling and jumpers. I also bought two Klein canvas bags for each Light Jockey with the list of equipment on the back of the bag. Last minute, we then ordered 4 road cases for the Colorados from New York Case Company which were delivered at their third stop. The final touch was to attach Velcro ties to every cable- 150+ cables.
At the end of the service, all the prep work and organization leads to a single moment impressing an image of inspiration for those watching. Dynamic lighting creates momentum that increases the believer’s ability to focus all their senses on their song. As the operator translates the sound into sight, each streak of light clarifies the message of the worship team. When I am completely in tune with the worship leader of my church conviction, energy, and life explode from stage. I get excited seeing young ministers take on my passion for light.
20 Chauvet Colorado 1
4 Chauvet Colorado 3
2 Martin Light Jockey
Jack Kelly is president of Eye Dialogue based in Charlotte, NC.