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Case Study: Northland Church, FL

Northland Church in Longwood, Florida, was struggling with a full rig of fixtures, which were “exceedingly past their life expectancy and cost prohibitive to maintain,” notes Austin McElwain, senior lighting technician for the church. “Also, when we were only streaming our services, we needed fixtures that would better translate to camera.”

Northland’s sanctuary seats approximately 3,000 and has an 80-foot wide stage with a large rear-projection screen displaying backdrops and song videos flanked by two IMAG projection screens. The church invested in 36 300W Ayrton Diablo profile luminaires from Orlando’s Zenith Lighting for its sanctuary stage. ACT Lighting, Inc. is the exclusive North American distributor of Ayrton fixtures.

The system has 36 moving heads, 20 of them directly over the stage on a fly system, six to ten alternating between the stage or elsewhere, and the rest on catwalks above the congregation for special effects lighting. “Even before we started looking in earnest for new lights we discussed our desire to switch to LED fixtures with Zenith,” says McElwain. Zenith Lighting project coordinator James Herington thought the Ayrton Diablos would be a good fit at Northland for their small size, light weight, and very bright and punchy look.

As soon as McElwain and his two fellow lighting designers saw the Ayrton fixtures they knew their decision was made. “The entire team looked at each other and said, ‘It’s them!’” he reports. “Our camera team was concerned about the switch to LEDs, so they came to see how the Ayrtons looked on camera, on skin tones, and they were blown away like we were.”

Northland has taken delivery of its first 18 fixtures with the rest arriving in increments by the end of 2021. Most will be positioned over the stage or on the stage floor with four mounted above the sanctuary to provide a house wash.

“The fixtures are very fast and intuitive, and all the colors are very true,” says McElwain. “Our audio team likes how quiet they are: The ambient sound level on stage has dropped by 6 or 7 decibels. And our volunteer camera operators tell us how much easier it is dial in white balance.”

“Easter Sunday was the first service we held with all of the Ayrtons in the rig, and we got so many comments from people about how good the color was on stage and how bright everything looked,” says McElwain.

“The timely install, especially with all the hiccups of COVID, couldn’t have been accomplished without ACT Lighting serving as a bridge between us and Ayrton,” notes Herington. “Our ACT rep, Doug Mekanik, did everything in his power to help, and everything went smoothly.”

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