When Trinity Fellowship Church of Amarillo, Texas, set out to design a new 4,000-seat sanctuary, it chose a stage in the round – a unique feature for a house of worship.
"We wanted to keep it more intimate. We didn't just want to expand like a proscenium stage where you have people several hundred yards away," said Russell Kollaja, Trinity's lighting designer.
As the focal point of the nearly $40 million dollar facility, the 46-foot stage needed to be exceptionally well-lit. During the music portion of a service, four lights needed to follow each of the two worship leaders standing on either side of the stage.
In an ordinary building, that might have meant eight followspots, but that wasn't practical for Trinity, said Paul Braile of Top Dog Spotlighting. In this circular room where audience members face each other, the followspots would have been visually distracting to worshippers, blocking views of the room's several video screens.
"You would need to install truss spots, and that would be downright ugly," Braile said. "Autopilot was absolutely the perfect call for this church."
With Autopilot, the two worship leaders remain perfectly lit as they move around the stage. And when the music's done, Autopilot tracks the pastor as he addresses his message to the 360-degree room.
With the area above the stage more open and visible to the audience, designers decided on something breathtaking: a twinkling fiber-optic starfield created by six Transition fiber-optic illuminators. With fiber-optic cable inserting through a draped dark cloth, it almost feels like looking up at a night sky, Russell Kollaja said.
"It's calming and soothing. You don't look up and see the air ducts, you don't see cables," he said.
The entire lighting rig includes about 200 moving lights, with about 20 of them connected to Autopilot, said Niel Galen of Lighting Design Group.
Galen's firm has worked with the church for several years, ever since the firm helped light the sanctuary for some television specials on marriage. The new rig can also be modified for TV use, Galen said.
"I think it turned out great. The people at Trinity are very happy; they have a killer system that has incredible flexibility for any number of different things they could do down the road," Galen said.
The church also utilizes Wybron's Nexera color-mixing luminaires in the children's area of the campus as well as its west sanctuary. The Nexera combines CMY dichroic color mixing with a powerful light fixture available in profile and wash models.