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Craig Rutherford Uses CHAUVET Professional To Update Looks On First Baptist Church Pensacola’s Stage

Posted on March 8, 2019


PENSACOLA, FL – Founded in 1847, First Baptist Church Pensacola stays young, vibrant and relevant by seeking new ways to engage worshippers. In addition to its Sunday services, the church offers a host of events, from women’s conferences and mid-week learning sessions, to sports activities for people of all ages. Last year, the AVL system in their contemporary worship space, Chipley Hall, was starting to become outdated, so the church’s leadership asked Greg Klimetz of Relevant AV Solutions to come up with an upgrade plan.

Klimetz did just that, handling all of the rigging and audio himself, but for the lighting part of the project he turned to his friend Craig Rutherford. No stranger to worship lighting, Rutherford has designed church systems around the US. (He’s also served as the lighting and set designer for the Dove Award-winning band Big Daddy Weave and country legend Alan Jackson.) To add depth and color to the church’s stage, he developed a design that featured 60 CHAUVET Professional fixtures, supplied by Relevant AV Solutions.

“The church’s lighting system didn’t reflect the diverse range of events that were being held in its sanctuary, nor did it have the color capacity to keep up with its vibrant services,” said Rutherford. “Bringing both color and movement to the stage were my primary goals. Also, the stage itself has a very nice look – it’s kind of oval shaped with a peaked roof and a curved backdrop. It really draws you in and is conducive to creating a sense of engagement. I wanted lighting that could accentuate the stage’s excellent features with warm rich colors and attractive patterns.”

Key to accenting the stage’s contours was Rutherford’s positioning of 18 COLORado 72 Batten Tour fixtures along the upstage edge and on the stage left and right curves. Used primarily as cyc lights, the COLORado units were pointed upward toward the wall, bathing it in color.

“The COLORados are providing a very immersive wash around the stage,” said Rutherford. “However, we also intended for them to be moved (around and be reconfigured as the church wishes. They add a great deal of versatility to the rig, making it easier to light the different events that are held at the church.”

Rutherford’s design called for moving fixtures to be positioned upstage so they could provide dramatic backlighting, aerials, textured looks and specials. “The movers contribute so much to the looks during services,” he said. “Also, because they are movers, they can be used in so many different ways, from traditional stage lighting to concert-style effects, so they add to the versatility.”

The most prevalent moving fixture on the backstage truss is the Rogue R1 Wash. Rutherford hung twelve of these units along the truss structure, from where they are used for aerials and backlighting, in addition to painting the stage with color. “The R1 Washes really pull the people on stage out of the background, when they’re used to light shoulders and heads,” he said. “Maybe it’s because their output is so good, but whatever the reason, they really make things pop.”

Joining the washes on the upstage truss are eight Rogue R2X Spot fixtures. The church draws on the gobo morphing capabilities of these 300W LED spot units to create textured looks that add depth to the stage.

Rutherford specified 14 Ovation E-910FC ellipsoidal fixtures for the downstage truss. These units serve as the primary key light on stage. Aside from creating a flat and even field of light, the Ovation fixtures add an important element of color. “I wanted an ellipsoidal with full color-mixing ability for special events and pageants,” he said. “The advantages of an LED source are well-known – power consumption and longevity, but the 910 also uses an RGBA-Lime color mixing system. This met my requirement that the church have a high-quality white LED key light that matched the other tungsten sources in the room, but also have excellent color mixing ability.”

Completing the downstage arrangement of fixtures are six COLORado 1-Quad Zoom VW fixtures. These units help fill in the far downstage edges to eliminate shadows.

Looking at the lighting at First Baptist Church Pensacola today, no one would imagine the compressed timeline that the design team worked under when creating it. “I did all of the Vectorworks and Renderworks stuff at my office in Minnesota, then flew to Florida, and entered most of the console programming over the course of two days. My good friend Greg Klimetz, together with Jake Rosa, Greg Klimetz Sr., Van Klimetz and Patrick Seager, who also worked on the install with us, really made everything go smoothly. This is a very dynamic, forward-looking church, and I think the way that we all moved quickly on this project reflected that spirit.”