Many churches have small, conventional lighting systems that are focused for a few positions around their stage. When it’s time to move them, you may call a AV company, or perhaps a volunteer moves the lights around.
This guide is here to educate and inform a beginner, perhaps a church volunteer who has been given the task of changing the lighting, or a worship pastor who needs to work with the lighting so that you can save time and money and get the results you desire out of your stage lighting system!
Lighting Focus 101
First, we must go over what tools you will need to focus. Ideally, you’ll have 2 people- so that one person can be at the console bringing intensities up and down, and the other can be upon the ladder, scaffolding or lift pointing the lights. If you have a remote focus unit with your console, then you can eliminate that 2nd person if needed- though they can help you move faster and program things into the console while you are working.
You will want to have the room all to yourselves for this focus time, so that you can turn off all the house lights to properly see where the stage lights are hitting.
You’ll also need a adjustable wrench, gloves and a small flashlight in case you quickly need to see in the dark. You may also need ladders, a lift or scaffolding to reach your lighting positions unless you have a catwalk.
Once you have your lift, ladder or scaffolding set up and your tools are in your pocket, it’s time to turn the house lights off either mostly or completely, and get ready to start focus!
The first light we’re going to focus is an ellipsoidal, or Source Four.
To begin, pull any gel color, gobos or accessories out of the light, then pull all of the framing shutters wide open. We want to start from scratch to get the best focus. If you’re just tweaking a focus that you already had, you don’t have to pull all the accessories out.
Have the operator turn the light on. Point the light in the direction you want it to go, placing the brightest part of the light, the hot spot, at the focal point the light is supposed to be focused on, such as the face of someone standing at the pulpit. If you are using older leko’s, this hot spot may be quite prominent, so pay attention! Also, if you have the time, doing a bench focus will greatly help you minimize of that hot spot!
Next, get the light sharp by slightly loosening the knob on bottom of the lens tube, and moving it in or out until the edge of the beam is sharp.
Now use the shutters to take the light off of anywhere you don’t want it – e.g.- stairs, walls, ceiling, light fixtures, seats and where you’ve got other lights focused. To finish, insert any color, gobos, or accessories you may have going in the light. Take the light to the desired sharpness, double check the sharpness and get ready to move on to the next fixture!
After finishing a light, have the operator turn off the fixture until you need it to compare with another light. This will keep the heat down and help you if you need to go back and touch up focus in a few minutes.
Source Four, On today’s hypothetical lighting truss, we have a par can up next. This may be either a standard Par 64, 56, 46, or 38, or may be an ETC Source Four Par or similar.
Either way, we will start by pulling any color out of the light and opening up any barn doors, just like with the ellipsoidal.
Next, have the operator turn the fixture on, and point it in the direction you would like it focused. After that, you may spin the lamp to get the beam going in the desired direction, which is done by touching the socket in an standard par with a gloved hand, or by spinning a ring just behind the gel color frame slot in an ETC Source Four Par.
After that, place the color in the unit and tweak anything that may need it. If you are focusing an LED par, it’s about the same process, but there is no lamp to spin or color to place into the fixture. I would suggest focusing LED pars in white, so that you can see everywhere the light is hitting clearly.
Cyc Light/Strip Light
Leviton CS3C3-50B Three Light Cyc Strip 3 Circuit with Six 3-Foot Cords Bare Wire Leads, Black Last on this hypothetical lighting truss, we have a cyc light and a strip light. Both are similar in that they are a basic wash light, perfect for lighting drape, set pieces or a large curtain called a cyclorama.
To focus either of these, begin by pulling all color out of the fixture, if applicable. Then, simply loosen the tilt knobs and point the light where it is needed. It may be helpful to have your operator call out instructions to you, as you may not be able to see accurately from so close.
If you are lighting a backdrop, this may take some effort to get all of the lights matching where you want them, but the process is simple. The more you do a backdrop focus, the more you learn how to see where light is spilling on the ceiling and are able to make a consistent focus by noting the spill.
Final Tips for Focusing
Remember, after you focus any light, make sure that it is tightened down and that after you have tightened it, it is still pointing exactly where you need it. Always be careful with conventional lighting to not burn yourself, and always wear a decent pair of gloves.
Always take your time when working at height, and be safe- don’t ever do something you’re not comfortable with! Use all of these tips to make your next focus, or even your first focus efficient and safe.
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