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Designing an Effective Church Platform Lighting System.

Church Platform or Chancel Lighting is basically the same as Theatre Lighting. If you have experience in theatre lighting, it is easy to apply your knowledge to Church lighting. For the majority of people who don't have this experience, here are the basics you need to know when designing an effective lighting system.

Keep in mind that we are NOT talking about room or congregation lighting. We are only referring to Platform or Chancel lighting.

Goals for Basic Lighting

1) Provide even lighting from all congregation viewing angles for the people on the platform.

2) Reduce shadows to a minimum.

3) Reduce light shining on a projection screen to a minimum (if you have one).

4) Reduce light shining directly in people's eyes.

5) Possibly control areas of the platform (zones) independently.

The design guidelines below are separated into 4 parts. Each part represents an add-on to the previous part to provide you with successively better lighting. The farther you go with the design, the better your lighting will be. It is a cost / performance trade-off.

Please note that this entire page refers to Basic lighting only. Specials, such as colour, pattern spots, follow spots, etc. are discussed in our Special Lighting section.

Click here for information on Dimmers and Control Systems and for Light Fixture Selection.

Part 1 - The Bare Minimum

As a bare minimum, you need to light each area of the platform from at least two front angles. If you only use one angle, 'head on", you will get uneven lighting and bad shadows. By using two front angles, and a 45 degree vertical angle you will get reasonably even lighting with reduced shadows. For a low cost, entry level lighting system, this gives you the best results for your money.

For this concept, we install lighting bars in front of the platform, close to the ceiling. The bars are positioned forward of the platform so that the lights will hit the faces of the people at vertical angle of approximately 45 degrees.

Side View


The lights will be mounted on these bars so that each set of lights (right and left side) covers the entire platform. This lights everyone from two angles.

For a short throw like this, you can usually use good quality PAR575W or Fresnel fixtures. The total number of fixtures depends on the width and depth of your platform. The fixtures need to be chosen or configured to provide the correct coverage angles.

Part 2 - Add Overheads

Once you have the main "Front of House" lighting, usually the next phase is to add Overhead lights. They provide lighting for the people on the platform to see properly.

Overhead lights can be in the form of Border lights which can be configured to provide full colour if you wish, but for our basic application, we will use Par 575 lights or Fresnels. This choice gives us even lighting with the control we need to constrain the light to the areas we want it.

Install lighting bars above the center of the platform as high as possible, as shown below. Hang the light fixtures on the bars facing down to cover the entire platform area (in zones).

When combined with the Front of House lights in Part 1, you now have 3 angles of coverage.

Part 3 - Finishing the Job

Although you could stop at part 2, if you really want to do the job right, you should also add side bars on the walls to give you a total of 5 angles of coverage. These lights will further reduce shadows, particularly under the nose and chin.

Install two vertical light bars on the walls as shown below. You will need to mount light fixtures on each of these bars to cover the platform from the two side angles using a similar technique as in part 1.

Because you need better control of the angles, particularly vertical, you will probably need to use Elipsoidal fixtures instead of Pars or Fresnels.

The full complement of platform lighting is shown below. This gives 5 angles of coverage for all areas, providing the most even coverage with best shadow reduction.

Part 4 - Linghting the floor in front of the platform

In some cases, you might want to use the floor space in front of the platform.

To do this, add another set of ceiling mounted lights to cover this area at about a 45 degree vertical angle as described in part 1. They need to overlap the main FOH lights in order to provide a seamless transition.

The images below shows all 4 options working together from the top and side views.


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