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Old October 5th, 2021, 12:14 PM   #1
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Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Newfoundland, Canada
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How much light for Church stage/alter?

Hi Everyone,

First of all, I have very little video lighting experience other than some very basic training for small stand up interviews and council meetings. Recently I have been given the role of video tech at my church for streaming our services online.

Question is:
How do I determine how much lighting is needed for live video in a church with lighting 20ft feet away from the minister and reader(s) on the stage/alter. Also, how do I determine how far a particular light travels so panels are not seen on camera.

We are currently relying on room lighting and natural light from windows. This is plenty for wide shots, but when zooming into faces (needing full camera zoom), gain needs to be at 15db (daytime) and 18-21db (nighttime) for an acceptable picture. We currently use a Sony HXR-MC88 for our main camera, which we are very happy with. The amount of gain used still offers an excellent picture, but 18-21db starts to add some mild, but noticeable noise. There have been no complaints of picture quality, but if a few hundred dollars can mean a noticeable drop in camera noise, I think it would be worth it.

As we are trying to keep the sanctuary free of as much technical distractions as possible, the closest we can mount lighting would be 20ft away, slightly above the stage/alter.

For example, would something like this offer ANY improvement, or would a much bigger, more expensive setup be necessary?

Any help would be appreciated.

Many Thanks
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Old October 5th, 2021, 02:21 PM   #2
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Join Date: Nov 2005
Location: Lowestoft - UK
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Re: How much light for Church stage/alter?

You need just a bit of school physics - but light levels are able to be measured - Lux, or Foot Candles, or a number of other brightness measurements. Years ago, cameras were dreadfully insensitive and studio lights had to be mega bright and huge. They still struggled against the sun. Nowadays light levels in studios are much lower in brightness. The key of course is that you need enough light to give you the option of using the range of iris settings on your cameras.In churches things are similar until you mention windows. Whatever light you have won't be as bright as the sunlight if it actually hits things the camera can see.

Lights always get measure by the brightness @ a distance. For example, lets say at 4m away from the light, your meter shows 100 Lux if you move to 8m away, it drops to 25 Lux - double the distance, quarter the brightness.7m in your church is a VERY long way for panels. Panels have very wide beam width - so they are not that bright, and add distance and you get not a lot at more than 3 or 4 metres.

The light level you need is quite variable, but to get the lens working at say f8 on my cameras needs 1500-2000 lux measured at the subject. If you work the lens wide open because of the amount of light you have is less - then depth of field means more work for the camera operators.

If you take a bright LED Fresnel, like an Arri - you can get at 7m 1229 Lux on spot beam - but if you set it to a wide setting the brightness drops to around 150 Lux.

If you swap this light for an Arri panel - then you get around 220 Lux at 7m.

I'd say that the minimum level on a subject should be more than 600 Lux - but that's something your cameras require, and I don't know what you use. My JVCs are not the best for low level illumination but I manage. It's worth mentioning that sunlight through a clear glass window can easily be 50,000 Lux.

I realise this probably doesn't help very much - but churches can be lit wide and bright - just bags of wash light everywhere, or lit more theatrically, depending on what you want it to look like. A cheap light meter can be useful just to get evenness.
Paul R Johnson is offline   Reply With Quote
Old October 6th, 2021, 09:45 AM   #3
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Location: Portland, Oregon
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Re: How much light for Church stage/alter?

Positioning new lights “a little above the altar” is concerning.

Priests/presenters will be looking out at a congregation they are used to seeing, and *will* complain: “Those new lights are in my eyes! Can you turn them down? Or off?”

In my experience it takes getting the lights 45-degrees above someone’s eyeline to avoid complaints.

It may be worth a little noise (shudder!)

Were it me I might borrow or rent and try some things out in a low-stress rehearsal atmosphere. If there is a local retail/rental lighting & sound co. they likely support the houses of worship market and may be renting and selling what you need. If not, perhaps a theatrical supply retail/rental. Last, a video/film lighting/grip co, but their expertise is usually not relevant to venue lighting like this… but they will have rentals to try.

I’d be a little concerned that economy 1x1 light panels like you linked to would not have the 20’ throw you need. Focusing light instruments (they have lenses) are *really* irritating if you can’t get them high enough.

Do give some consideration to matching color temperatures with whatever is the predominant light on people’s faces.
30 years of pro media production. Vegas user since 1.0. Webcaster since 1997. Freelancer since 2000. College instructor since 2001.
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