The MET Church in Houston, TX has recently carried out a complete refit of its lighting setup, opting for a system comprised solely of ADJ’s LED-powered luminaires. Supplied by local AVL integrator FE Solutions, the new rig features 82 ADJ fixtures of various types, with a heavy focus on moving heads to provide the church’s tech team with maximum flexibility. Key light is provided by Focus Profile and Focus Wash 400 automated luminaires, while backlight, aerial effects and GOBO textures are covered by Focus Flex, Focus Beam LED, and Focus Spot 6Z fixtures.
Founded in 1965, the MET is a multi-generational and diverse non-denominational church which meets at a large purpose-built campus on the outskirts of Houston. The church hosts two Sunday morning services each week, featuring energetic and contemporary worship as well as bible teaching focused on life application, which are both live-streamed. A variety of special events are also hosted in the MET’s auditorium each year, which means that its technical systems need to be versatile and easily adaptable.
The MET’s lighting, audio, and video systems are the responsibility of Tech Director, Josue ‘Sway’ Gonzalez, who heads up a team of volunteer technicians. When he took on the role, Sway inherited a lighting rig comprised of conventional stage lights and lamp-based moving heads that hadn’t been updated in a decade. This meant that he found himself spending a lot of time replacing blown lamps, dealing with fixture malfunctions, and refocusing the stage wash for special events. It quickly became apparent that a refit was in order and, coming from an audio background, Sway reached out to a trusted friend, who also happens to be a lighting specialist, for advice.
Dustin Smart currently works as a designer for FE Solutions, an integrator offering audio, video, and lighting solutions for all kinds of venues from churches to conference centers, board rooms to coffee shops. However, in the past Dustin had worked as a Lighting Director at a mega church where Sway served as the Monitor Engineer. Having preserved their friendship since moving on to new chapters in their respective careers, Sway knew that Dustin was the perfect person to advise on the lighting upgrade that the MET church urgently required.
“Dustin is stupid talented when it comes to lighting, and I trust him completely, so I was very much led by him when it came to the new lighting system,” explains Sway. “I told him we’re a church, not Paul McCartney, but that we wanted our lighting to look good, be reliable, and be versatile. I also wanted all LED, to avoid all those lamp replacements, and moving heads for key light so that I wouldn’t have to keep going up to the catwalk to move fixtures around! He suggested ADJ, we demoed a few fixtures, and it all looked good, so we went with it. I knew that completely replacing our entire lighting rig would be a big undertaking, so I asked Dustin to come up with a three-phase plan, that would allow us to carry out the refit over three years. But when I took this to the church’s senior leadership, they told me, ‘look, we trust you, we believe in you, go ahead and do all three phases at once’. That wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for the incredible value offered by ADJ’s fixtures. And for my part, honestly, I trust Dustin so much that I hadn’t fully gone through his entire quote, so when they started the install, I was really impressed by the quantity of lights that were included for our budget. I would definitely say, for want of a better phrase, I was pleasantly surprised by the bang for our buck we received.”
A key fixture in the rig is the flagship model in ADJ’s popular Focus Series, the Focus Profile. Featuring a potent 400W LED engine, which generates an output of 20,000 Lumens, it features an exhaustive collection of beam-shaping tools, including four, independently controllable, rotating framing shutter blades, which can be used to precisely shape the light output. Eight of these fixtures are rigged to the auditorium’s circular lighting gantry in front of the stage, allowing them to be used for key light, as specials, and to project patterns on to the side walls of the space. “I was particularly impressed with its brightness, even when mixing saturated colors,” comments Dustin. “I’d previously used a different profile from another manufacturer (that I won’t name) and when you put blue in it just disappears. The Focus Profile is also super responsive, it’s not at all slow, despite all the features it offers. In fact, I’d say that everything about it is great!”
In addition, six Focus Wash 400 dedicated moving head Fresnel fixtures are also installed on the gantry to provide additional key light, while a pair of the units are positioned at either side of the stage to serve as side light. Powered by a 400W RGBACL (Red, Green, Blue, Amber, Cyan and Lime) color mixing LED engine positioned behind a 6” Fresnel lens, this versatile fixture offers a motorized zoom range of 10° – 41° and a CRI in excess of 90. “We wanted to accomplish a really smooth and even wash across the stage and the Focus Wash does that exceptionally well,” states Dustin. “Just six up front and two in the side wash the entire stage. It is super bright, the zoom range is impressive, the color mixing is great and, again, the price point is fantastic for a fixture of that caliber. It really checked all the boxes.”
A key value of the MET Church is creativity; therefore, another requirement of the new lighting system was versatility. Sway and his team change their stage set for each new teaching series, as well as for special events, so Dustin also supplied a variety of fixtures that can be deployed in various different positions on and above the stage. These included six additional Focus Wash 400 units as well as twelve Focus Spot 6Z moving heads. With a 300W LED engine, generating an output of 11,000 Lumens, paired with an extensive collection of beam-shaping tools, this automated spot fixture offers abundant creative potential. “It’s the main ‘fun’ fixture in the rig for aerial effects, backlighting, and things like that,” explains Dustin. “There is a ton of open space in the room and the spots are great for filling it with break-apart patterns. Again, I love the output, and it isn’t really diminished by any of the color options. I also like that it has two GOBO wheels, a nice zoom range, and once again, I go back to price: it’s a really powerful and well specified fixture for its price tag.”
FE Solutions also supplied the church with twelve of ADJ’s extremely compact Focus Flex LED zoom-wash fixtures. Each loaded with seven, individually controllable, 40-Watt 4-in-1 RGBW color mixing LEDs, they offer the creative flexibility of generating vibrant washes, punchy beams, and eye-catching pixel effects from one compact and quick automated luminaire. “I really like the Focus Flex,” enthuses Dustin. “Its zoom range is awesome, you can go from a very tight beam to a super wide wash, which makes for a really great, versatile fixture. Not to mention, on top of that, you can play with the pixels, and it has macros to make that super easy. It checks the versatility box again; they wanted a versatile rig, and that fixture is super versatile. It’s also a really fun fixture to have in the room that is really tiny. When we first took them out of their boxes, I think Josue may have had his doubts, but when we turned them on, he was blown away by their brightness.”
Completing the MET Church’s new line-up of moving heads, Dustin also specified twelve of ADJ’s Focus Beam LED dedicated beam fixtures. Featuring an extremely efficient 80-Watt LED light engine and an advanced optical system, it generates a razor-sharp 5-degree beam which remains uniform over a long projection distance. “I chose the Focus Beam LED for punch,” explains Dustin. “Previously the church had beams which used 5R lamps, so I wanted an LED beam that was as punchy – if not more – than what they had before. I asked Mike [Turner, ADJ’s Central US Sales Manager] about it and he assured me that the Focus Beam would fit the bill and he was not wrong. It is very punchy, looks great, and is a fun fixture to have in the rig that is also super lightweight, so very easy to move around and put anywhere they want them.”
The final lighting fixture FE Solutions provided was the Ultra Hex Bar 12 linear LED wash unit. Featuring an evenly spaced line of twelve 12-Watt six-in-1 RGBW color mixing LEDs, this compact and lightweight luminaire offers vibrant output and smooth color mixing. Each pair of LEDs can also be controlled independently, allowing for the creation of animated chase patterns. At the MET church they are used interchangeably as foot lights, uplighters, downlights, and eye candy fixtures. Completing the new lighting system, Dustin also specified a pair of ADJ’s 1400-Watt professional grade, water-based ‘faze’ machines. Located on either side of the stage, these robust units are built into touring grade flight cases and offer a huge output of lightshow enhancing fog, dispersed thinly and evenly via an inbuilt fan.
Together, the collection of fixtures that Dustin selected has provided Sway and his team with the creative freedom to perfectly complement all of the church’s services and productions. “Especially being new to lighting, and evolving in it, recently I’ve been trying to be subtle and intentional in how we enhance our worship services,” explains Sway. “As a spiritual person, I don’t want people to come to church and say ‘ooh, aah, lights’, I want to provide a space where people can truly connect with God. However, before the upgrade, I felt like I was always fighting with blown lamps, broken fixtures, and the limitations of an aging rig. Now we have the right tools to really enhance the worship that is taking place on stage, and in the auditorium, with lighting that is tasteful and appropriate to each moment. It’s definitely taken our Sunday experience to a different level.”