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Vista is a Lighting Vision for Grace Community Church

Grace Community Church Lighting TeamClick on the image above to see more photos.

Indiana based Grace Community Church has invested in a range of Vista lighting control solutions as part of a multi-million dollar expansion of its worship facilities. Models purchased include the full-size Vista T2, the portable Vista S1 and the playback-only Vista M1 consoles. This is to expand the church‘s capacity to three weekend worship auditoriums, to accommodate as many as 6,000 churchgoers on a typical weekend.

The Church relies on a team of over 100 volunteers to assist the paid production staff during services, which can run simultaneously in up to three auditoriums. Senior Director of Production, Daryl Cripe, therefore felt it was essential to invest in a lighting console that the inexperienced volunteers could easily understand.

He commented: “For our Church‘s philosophy, I had equal desire for functionality and ease of use in our choice of lighting console. Instead of being like a typical theater or concert, where a single person is responsible for all lighting, we are passionate about allowing volunteers, all of whom have no previous lighting experience, to be trained on and operate our theatrical lighting system. As such, yes, we need a lot of features and stability, yet we also need a console that is visual, easy to train on.”

Daryl and his production team utilized or tested various consoles, yet nothing they tried in their opinion compared to the Vista in terms of ease of use. He commented:

“From our volunteer‘s perspective, the Vista is VISUAL. They can look at a screen and see what they are doing. It feels very familiar to navigate, so they can use their existing computer knowledge. We can configure the Vista screen to look like our lighting layout in the room. The ease of creating groups, presets, cues etc. is all so simple. In addition, patching fixtures in Vista is incredibly simple. I recently showed the Technical Director at another Church our T2 console and when I showed him how to patch an automated fixture, his mouth dropped open!”

Whereas most traditional full-scale lighting desks rely on number-crunching to program shows, the Vista utilizes a graphic based interface. As a result, users can work visually and get on with designing better shows, rather than getting distracted by the actual programming process itself. It makes programming extremely fast and getting to grips with the console a relatively short learning curve.

The lighting console‘s ease of use would mean absolutely nothing if it wasn‘t up to the job of controlling the state-of-the-art lighting system in the Church‘s main auditorium; the centrepiece of their expansion program. Featuring a large 80ft by 40ft stage and seating in a 270° configuration, the Church uses high production values to emphasize the themes of its services via an eclectic mix of music, drama and video. The venue‘s extensive lighting rig includes over 850 LED, moving and conventional fixtures controlled using six universes of DMX and over 2,700 DMX channels.

Daryl was looking to bring his creative vision for the services to life using the rig‘s many cutting-edge LED fixtures; to literally paint the whole room with light. A full-size Linux-based Vista T2 console provides seamless automation of the auditorium‘s lighting rig and blackout window shutters. LED fixtures provide color changing wall uplighting either side of the stage area, while a mixture of moving lights, PARs, ParNels and conventional fixtures provide theatrical performance lighting for music and drama during the services.

In addition, smaller 1,100-seater and 400-seater auditoriums are controlled using the Vista S1 and M1 PC based consoles. The two control surfaces are designed to be used with either a Windows PC or native Mac laptop and DMX channel dongle package, providing portable and affordable Vista solutions.

The ability for volunteers to be able to switch easily between consoles in all three auditoriums was another key factor in Daryl‘s decision to choose the Vista. All models share exactly the same visual interface and controls, making a transition between models seamless.

Daryl commented: “Frankly, I cannot overstate how important this consistency is. Going back to the reality of utilizing volunteers, of DESIRING to use volunteers, the ability for those volunteers trained on the T2 to walk into a room with Vista PC and S1 / M1 and sit down and get to work creating… that is extremely valuable! In addition, if someone was trained on Vista PC, it‘s not difficult for them to then utilize the T2. Also, we have had volunteers take Vista PC home, to experiment with it on their own. Again, it‘s a great value to our philosophy and a great opportunity for our volunteers!”

Another labour-saving feature of the Vista, its innovative timeline editing function, is proving invaluable to helping the volunteers understand how to program a show. The timeline gives users the complete picture of their lighting events, making it easy to make sense of complex changes and put the finishing touches to their show.

The Vista‘s intuitive interface is proving popular with leading US houses of worship. When launched, the product was voted ‘Best Automated Lighting Controller’ and ‘Best Overall Lighting Product’ by an expert panel of judges at the 2006 WFX Show New Product Awards in Dallas, due to its suitability to the industry’s unique production environment.

Grace Community Church Senior Director of Production, Daryl Cripe, commented: “While a few ’big name consoles‘ often get most noticed in the touring world, the reality is that nothing I have seen compares to the combination of functionality and ease of use that the Vista series provides. We still need a robust console based on our lighting rig, but it is critical that it is easily trainable to volunteers. These consoles allow us to push our creativity and ultimately, our volunteers have the joy of combining creativity and support of our services. We want them to be spending their time having fun programming, not trying to figure out some complex function on the console itself. ANY church that desires to use theatrical lighting and wants to provide volunteers the opportunities to create should be examining this series of consoles. We love our Vistas.”

Feature photo – the Grace Community Church lighting team. Courtesy of ©Kris Rinas

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