Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas has completed the renovation of its worship center involving a stage remodel and lighting upgrade that marked the first major technology overhaul for the center since its opening. Unlimited Visibility Inc. (UVLD) handled the renovation’s production and lighting design, which included the installation of 32 Ayrton Huracan LT LED luminaires designed for long-range applications and 50 Ayrton Eurus multi-function luminaires. ACT Entertainment is the exclusive distributor of Ayrton lighting products in North America.
“Prestonwood was one of our first major Ayrton installations,” says UVLD Lighting Designer David Seitz, who teamed with UVLD Lead Designer Matt Webb on the project. “We had been looking at manufacturers with families of fixtures that we could use in venues big and small and which had similar looks across the fixture types. Ayrton filled the bill, and what especially stood out was the high quality of the fixtures’ color rendering. Prestonwood does a lot of broadcast work: The church streams worship services and the pastor has a weekly TV show. So they needed fixtures that would look great on camera with good color rendering and color matching unit to unit.”
Prestonwood’s Director of Media, Bryan Bailey, started his career in lighting but had never used Ayrton fixtures. “We brought out the usual players for demos, but nothing stood out in CRI readings and how the camera saw the lights. Our space is ginormous – a large room with a 7,000-person seating capacity with really far throws. We needed fixtures to cover the stage and choir loft and looked great on camera. As soon as the Ayrton fixtures were turned on we immediately realized we were dealing with a different level of products, and we were relieved! The Huracans checked every single box for us, which is incredibly rare, and the Eurus did essentially the same thing. They looked great on camera and great in the room. The fact that the fixtures run so quietly is a huge bonus for any venue, as well.”
The renovation called for replacing all of the existing conventional front lighting and adding new effects lighting as well as converting all the moving lights to LEDs. Longtime partner of Prestonwood, Paragon 360 of Springfield, Missouri, handled the systems integration and provided extensive additional system design to the entire project.
Ayrton Huracan LTs were installed as the main key lights for the choir and the 160-foot-wide stage. “The space is huge – the shortest throw is about 110 feet,” notes Seitz. “The Huracans gave us the high level lighting required with extremely long throws. They’re incredibly bright with excellent color rendering – they pack a real punch. The Huracans were very impressive in the demo and have performed equally well since.”
The Eurus fixtures met Prestonwood’s need for versatility. “We needed a multi-purpose fixture with great color mixing, framing shutters and animation,” says Seitz. “We use the Eurus as beams/spots over the stage, as side lighting and as audience fill systems.”
“This was my first project with Ayrton fixtures,” notes Paragon 360 President, Ryan Cowen. “Prestonwood was one of our first clients, and they hold very high standards. Based on the fixtures’ demos and their subsequent performance, Ayrton fixtures were the right choice for Prestonwood.”
The renovation featured a stunning new stage and scenic design and a complement of much higher resolution LED videowalls and all new media servers, with an 8K raster for all. Now, three curved ReveLux StoryGlass LED videowalls are on the stage floor, two are flown left and right and many individual tiles are intermingled with lights on trusses over the stage.
“The challenge of this large-scale renovation was making a very large space shift from a traditional-style worship environment to something with a more contemporary style,” points out Paragon 360’s Cowen. “More LED walls, a very well-designed lighting system, new textures and scenic create a very flexible aesthetic that is unique to Prestonwood. The space has a real depth and dimension, an interesting look for worshippers attending in person or watching broadcasts and streaming.”
Since the Ayrton fixtures arrived earlier than anticipated they were used for Prestonwood’s “The Gift of Christmas,” a holiday tradition for which Seitz is the long-time Lighting Designer. The multimedia production, which played multiple shows, featured a nearly thousand-member cast and choir, orchestra, flying angels and live nativity.
“We used about 80 Eurus as our main key light, renting extra units from Gemini LSV in Dallas, with the Prestonwood Huracans lighting the choir and specials in the sanctuary,” Seitz explains. “The biggest surprise was how well the Eurus did in this situation. They needed to deliver an almost 100-foot throw, and they stayed so bright that we actually had to turn them down – quite different from running our old arc sources at 100 percent and still running out of gas. Being able to use Eurus as keys in our largest production speaks to their versatility.”
Eurus’s smaller fixture size also “opened up more sight lines” for the packed audience, he notes. In addition, “they were able to keep up really well with automation tracking – the flying angels, for example – which had been an issue in the past. The Eurus were impressive on that count as well.”
The new Ayrton fixtures made a noticeable difference to the creatives and cast working on the show, he points out, with the Eurus keys giving everyone a real moment in the spotlight thanks to the fixtures’ increased horsepower. “After the show, people asked us what we had done differently with the lighting,” Prestonwood’s Bailey recalls. “The cues were not dramatically different from past years but the new fixtures were. Even for our regular Sunday worship services the brightness, crispness, punch and texture of the Ayrton fixtures are noticeable even to the untrained eye.”
“The Gift of Christmas” also deployed Prestonwood’s grandMA3 full-size lighting console plus two more grandMA3 full-size desks, a grandMA3 light, a grandMA3 compact XT and six NPUs, which were rented for the production.
As part of the renovation, UVLD specified two MDG Atmosphere haze generators. “I’ve used Atmosphere many times – it’s one of my favorite haze generators,” reports Seitz. “Its fine particles and CO2 consumption means the haze won’t build up on fixtures.” ACT Entertainment is also the exclusive distributor of both MA Lighting and MDG products in North America.
“I’m sure Prestonwood will be using the Huracans and Eurus and their large toolsets in many different ways throughout the year,” says Seitz. “Many special events are scheduled all year, including the Freedom Weekend, where the new fixtures showed they could deliver more versatility by adding additional effects and looks for the event.”
“Our Freedom Weekend student event is outside the norm of worship services, and we need to pull out all the stops with real rock show lighting,” Prestonwood’s Bailey explains. “The new fixtures really killed it this time! We rented almost nothing for the weekend, and I see us renting less and less additional equipment as we go forward. We’ll be able to handle everything we typically had to beef up for before.”
“As expected from ACT, they provided really excellent sales and technical support for us during the project, with Jerad Garza and Aaron Hubbard, especially, spearheading demos, working with us week to week and helping us understand delivery timelines,” says Seitz.
“We use a lot of ACT products in our projects, and our design team talks about ACT a lot,” adds Paragon 360’s Cowen. “We’re grateful for the partnership we have established with ACT and the excellent support we always get from them.”
“We’re extremely happy with the support that ACT has given us from demos to load in,” concludes Prestonwood’s Bailey. “It’s been a great project all the way around.”
At Prestonwood, Matthew Hughes is the Plano Campus Lighting Director and Rodney Bailey the Lighting Systems Technician. At Paragon 360 Shawn Lear was the Project Manger for the renovation with Mark Diekmann handling lighting.