Perhaps no other technology is as poised to be used in more churches than LED. Seemingly the perfect balance of functionality, size, cost of operation and product lifespan, LED is almost perfect for the house of worship market.
LED Is Everywhere
Once reserved for those in the rarified atmosphere of near-unlimited budgets, LED technology has been embraced by all sides of the A/V/L industry. From audio consoles to video screens to lighting fixtures, LED is everywhere — and is making huge gains in terms of affordability and lifetime performance. It’s hard to look at any other singular technology, save for the microprocessor, that has made such a lasting impact on our industry and the applications and venues of end-users.
Similar to the secular venues, churches had been few and far between that were able to afford the high six-figure and seven-figure video LED video walls or even the high-brightness, long-throw LED production lighting fixtures. That’s changed — and continues to change rapidly — to bring both the availability and variety of LED technologies down in price for a much wider market adoption.
The case can now be made that the lifetime cost of LED lighting fixtures is lower than the cost of Tungsten-based fixtures, based on lamp changes and maintenance costs alone. Similarly, the options for LED video walls has also seen a dramatic shift, offering more churches to consider this over projection in certain venues — especially where natural light is a major consideration.
LED and LEED
The LEED certification process is white hot, with manufacturers and contractors alike looking to maximize their offerings to meet the green/energy efficient/sustainable definitions. The house of worship market, in particular, is impacted greatly in cities where LEED is becoming the norm as cities look to make venues less impactful on their environment and have a much smaller total power usage footprint. The cost benefits of LED fit perfectly into these scenarios due to the incredibly small amounts of power required and the zero-heat emissions.
Cost-benefit studies are being conducted by consultants, contractors and architects looking to make LED the new standard fixture — much less the production fixtures — for lighting venues. The bonus from an A/V/L side is the sudden ability to create nearly unlimited color mixing options for even architectural lighting is having a dramatic impact on the design and interior decorating of these new or updated church facilities.
LED — The Future of Lighting?
It is possible that LED fixtures will be the dominate light type for both architectural applications and production venues in the church market. And it might be happening within the very near future.
Of particular interest to churches is the fact that color mixing these lighting fixtures opens up an entirely new canvas — every surface. The latest LED lighting technology looks better the more you add color and high saturation levels — something that is very hard to do with a massive amount of Tungsten or arc-lamp lighting fixtures.
Today, LED lighting has a rightful place on the design drawings as architectural fixtures (indoor and outdoor), large space lighting, and mood/effect lighting on walls and ceilings. The technology isn’t quite perfected when it comes to long-distance front lighting, however, and doesn’t offer the color rendering of an old-fashioned Tungsten Leiko or Source Four — especially when seen through the lens of video cameras. Still, it’s a matter of time as we continue to see clever advancements in multiple “white” color temperature blending options to try to achieve the effect of Tungsten.
LED — The Future of Video?
From LED back-lit flat panels to full-blown LED video walls, this technology continues to push hard against physics and push open the door of opportunity for greater adoption in the video world. In some instances, LED video walls are actually more cost effective than extreme brightness projection. And, because larger church venues put the screen at sufficient distances to the closest viewer (and beyond), coupled with the incredible reduction of dot pitch/pixel pitch, LED may end up being the outright replacement of nearly all extreme brightness, large format projectors within the next five years.
As exciting as seven-color LED has been, it’s not inconceivable that even higher count LED solutions (likely incorporating multiple color temperatures of “white”) will come on the scene to bring life-like quality to match the increased resolution of 4K (and beyond) image capture devices.
Making the Sale — LED Today or LED Tomorrow?
Manufacturers need to do a much better job of helping provide sales and marketing teams understand the total cost of ownership to accurately predict the product lifetime savings associated with LED. Right now, it can be a hard sell to have a user spend more on LED when traditional, non-LED options exist at a lower price point. Frankly, this should be a selling point to be embraced, not an embarrassment to be avoided in pre-sales conversation.
LED isn’t the panacea of A/V/L technology, and there will be room for many other technologies to exist — and thrive — for years to come. However, the benefits of LED are worthy of serious consideration, significant training and education, and helpful cost-benefit tools to help end-users make great purchasing decisions.
The future is bright — LED bright — for the house of worship market.
What do you think? Is LED as far along as Anthony suggests? Comment below!