The Hope Unlimited Church India – very different genre house of worship in Hyderabad – had recently purchased four units of new grandMA3 lighting consoles to further enhance its kind of service programmes. While it might seem not a great deal to purchase lighting consoles as the practice is common for most houses of worship, this one is special. For, the way the initiative synced with the purpose of the Church’s campuses in Hyderabad, Secunderabad, and Kolkata.
The four grandMA3 lighting consoles – supplied by New Delhi based AV distribution major HiTech Audio Systems – included two grandMA3 compact XTs, one grandMA3 onPC command wing XT, and one grandMA3 onPC command wing.
Hope Unlimited Church Founder and Senior Pastor, the Rev. Scott Norling, has always been passionate of quality equipment. “It is his vision and passion to ensure that the church is globally relevant both now and for future generations,” explained technical and production director Sukesh Hickson.
Sukesh, who heads all the various Hope Unlimited technical teams around the country, stated: “grandMA3 is a perfect choice of console for all types of houses of worship, large and small, as it is so powerful and flexible and can meet all of our needs!” Sukesh has been working for Hope Unlimited since 2007 and the relationship with MA started back in 2009 when they purchased their first MA console, an MA Lightcommander.
This was followed by an MA onPC command wing, before upgrading to a grandMA2 light in Hyderabad’s Banjara Hills Campus venue. Sukesh and the team of lighting volunteers in Hyderabad also think it is important to keep abreast of the fast-paced world of production technology and lighting control. “For us, using a grandMA is now the only way to program and operate lighting,” stated Sukesh, saying that they like the quality guarantees of products that are genuinely ‘made in Germany’.
“MA Lighting products are extremely reliable, well designed and built,” he says, which in turn enables their lighting designers, programmers, and operators to get the most out of the lighting rigs they are working with for the different services and other activities.
He’s also impressed with the general level of training and support offered by MA, a big bonus to working with the brand as he co-ordinates in total around 70 volunteers across all sites who are running productions for the Sunday services, so the more educational opportunities there are for them, the better.
Most of the Hope Unlimited volunteers have been trained on the consoles in person, online and via MA Lighting’s extensive and impressive raft of E-learning platforms and communities. “The software’s one-application-all-platforms strategy makes it very straightforward for volunteers to learn and gain experience, whatever the size of the console they are using.”
The Hyderabad campus hosts around 1,600 people for services each weekend, with events also streamed for a large online audience. The grandMA3 compact XT is running in full grandMA3 mode and currently controlling approximately 72 fixtures, a mix of moving lights, conventional fixtures, plus LED tubes and blinders all running across 8 universes using 1,100 parameters.
The lights are deployed in eight different locations – on the overstage bars, on side trusses, at FOH and on the deck. In addition to the regular services, there is a lively mix of other events including movie audio launches, quiz shows and conferences, so it’s essential to be able to deliver a diverse range of lighting and technical solutions.
For special events, more fixtures are frequently added, another advantage of the MA system where the available parameters can be distributed over multiple universes without needing extra hardware just to expand that functionality.
Their grandMA3 onPC command wing XT and grandMA3 onPC command wing were already running in full grandMA3 mode and the switch with the grandMA3 compact XT came at the start of 2022. Volunteer Harsha Davuluri, a regular programmer and operator in Hyderabad, commented that Phasers have been the most interesting feature so far, “opening up a whole new world of possibilities for creating truly dynamic effects.”
For volunteers Santosh Samuel Meegada and Bunty Mallarapu it is the Selection grid along with the MAtricks options that are proving the best grandMA3 tools features so far, “especially in terms of new volunteers understanding the reasoning behind why things happen the way they do.” “While we still have the same underlying workflow for creating Phasers as we did with grandMA2 Effects, the new Phaser Editor Window together with its one-dimensional steps view mode offers a far better understanding as to what is happening with the values,” elucidated Harsha.
As technical director, one of the toughest questions Sukesh asks himself when upgrading a system is the duration of the transition from old to new – and it’s a question he applies rigorously to any system. He confirms that in the case of grandMA3, the duration of transition has been “virtually none!”
“The knowledge our volunteers had about creating presets, building sequences, running song-transition macros, etc., is exactly the same if not easier than before,” he says. And while it will take time for them to develop their own flavour of grandMA3 programming “the most important things like the underlying command syntax have been pretty much the same, so we don’t have to put our services at stake!” Sukesh further emphasises the importance of their volunteers and the vital contribution made by regular lighting team members who included Paul Abhishek, Benny Gundupalli, Rahul Thipparapu, Seshi Govatati, Vinitha Chitram, Peter Prudhiviraj (Pulli) and Kranthi Lingampally.
Working at a house of worship institution like Hope Unlimited Church means being prepared for some spontaneous and often unrehearsed worship moments, and now that the presets allow for timing information to be stored inside them, “it is very easy for us to use individually timed presets while busking!”
Sukesh and the team consider grandMA “a solid investment” because the equipment will not become obsolete; it always maintains a good market price with low depreciation and the software upgrades are free for the lifetime of the console.
Additionally, learning the grandMA3 platform opens a raft of other job opportunities for those volunteers who might even be interested in pursuing an industry career as well as boosting their confidence and experience as lighting designers and programmers.