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If you drive into Durban on the N3 you can’t miss the Durban Christian Center (DCC) Jesus Dome: the largest free standing aluminium dome structure in Africa. Step inside the dome and the vastness of the structure will leave you breathless. A massive space needs good lighting, audio, and video: integral aspects for creating the right affect in large houses of worship. Like other large houses of worship, the DCC relies heavily on lighting, audio, and video to add value to their message, and create a dynamic atmosphere.


Audio-visual is crucial for communicating a message that reaches into the hearts and minds of the congregation.

The challenge is to integrate the three disciplines of lighting, audio, and video. They all have their own distinct propriety protocols, and there’s been limited crossover in the ability to control them from one central point, resulting in larger shows requiring separate video, sound and lighting technicians. Attempts to accommodate one discipline can mean another is compromised. These are the sorts of challenges that were facing the DCC when they approached Nik Fairclough of Northwind. By installing a state of the Art Lighting console (the Martin Professional M1ts Desk) and the Green Hippo Chipmunk Media Server, this challenge was partly overcome. There was a seamless integration of the two controllers; right down to the actual thumbnails of the footage on the lighting console screen. A single cue recall can activate a complete lighting and video state. Furthermore the M1ts is fully Midi-equipped, so that in future, if they do need to trigger lighting and video cues, this can be done from a single midi-enabled track. True power indeed. Nik is friendly with DCC pastors John and Joy Torrance, and in late 2012 they decided that Nik and his company were the go-to guys to realise their lighting, audio and video aspirations. Nik had the audio aspect under control, but needed the help of a theatre and stage lighting specialist. Nik had previously worked with Electrosonic SA on a number of high-profile projects, and did not hesitate to get in touch with Bruce Schwartz again. After a site visit in Durban they received a clear brief from Pastors John and Joy: to design and supply a world-class lighting system that would allow maximum flexibility and have sufficient capacity to accommodate overseas guest artists, without having to rent additional gear.

It’s very easy to throw a whole lot of equipment at a job, but this almost always results in an inflexible system, which is confusing to in-house technicians, who are mostly members of the congregation, and are generally passionate volunteers.

Nik, wanting to move away from the traditional boxed stage, completely re-designed the stage to include an arched lighting truss, in the process unifying stage and audience. Over a good few cups of coffee in a Kloof café, Nik and Bruce refined the suspended arched truss system so that it would complement the building’s Dome structure and open up sightlines all the way up to the gallery. After consulting with Litec, the Italian trussing manufacturer, the design, which is unique in South Africa, was put to paper.

The next hurdle was to make sure that the construction would be safe. Electrosonic SA is uncompromising on safety: one of Electrosonic SA’s key values is to ensure that all safety standards and measures are not only complied with, but exceeded. The process of ensuring safe construction was a bit more complicated than anticipated. Electrosonic SA contracted the highly experienced, Durban-based rigger Kerry Wood to evaluate and report on the design. After studying the design and doing her calculations Kerry was not 100% happy. So, after much legwork, Bruce, Nik and Kerry tracked down the designer of the DCC Jesus Dome. Because it is made of Aluminum, normal rules for rigging did not apply. Mounting points could not be welded, steel slings could not simply be strapped over beams, and, the dynamic loading of the structure had to be meticulously taken into account. It was a joyous occasion when the structural professionals looked at the original drawings, perused the proposed construction design, and gave the thumbs-up.


After a lengthy procurement process the equipment finally arrived on site, and Kerry’s team of riggers, Omar, Alphas, Thabang (from Johannesburg), and Evan,(from Electrosonic SA’s Durban branch) took the design from page to stage.

Slowly, but surely, the arch took shape and was hoisted into position. Allowance was made for the PA system, which still had to be installed. After checking all angles and sightlines the truss was locked into position. In order to give the client flexibility and options, two on-stage trusses were also hung. These can be raised and lowered via electric chain hoists.

The design philosophy was to use LED based products wherever possible. This was achieved with the exception of the Martin MAC Viper Profiles. For critical white light applications the Martin MAC 401CT was used. This is a dedicated white light LED wash with a fantastic CRI and a worthy replacement of tungsten Fresnels, with the added benefit of a motorized zoom. Due to the sheer size of the stage and venue, there is no alternative in high-output profiles in the LED segment. Furthermore, the Viper Profile is virtually the industry standard in the touring market: so, as the DCC’s brief specified the use of tried and trusted equipment, it was a no-brainer. MAC Auras were used for colour wash and beam effects due to the wide range of zoom achievable on the Aura. Six Martin MAC 350 LED profiles were used onstage for gobo and beam work, along with some high-powered Versa-Light LED Cans.

Pastor Joy had witnessed some amazing beams on her travels and wanted the same effect in the DCC Jesus Dome: she was thrilled to take delivery of an array of Martin Rush MH3 Beams. These fixtures thrive in a large environment with a bit of haze, and have a serious wow factor. In order to provide more flexibility four truss ‘totems’ were supplied and populated with Martin MAC 101s.These little monsters never cease to amaze, and are configured to allow the gaps in the stage to be filled on a production-by-production basis. A Martin M1ts Desk was specified to control this amazing rig of automated fixtures; it was coupled to a complete new DMX512 network with full RDM capability (for vital feedback from the new fixtures). It has taken one year to progress from the planning phase and to get all the elements in place - the journey is almost complete. Phase 2 involves Electrosonic SA designing and implementing a rather ingenious system for the new 6mm LED screens that DCC sourced. A Green Hippo Chipmunk media server will feed the LED screens and provide a truly dynamic backdrop to DCC’s productions and future needs.


Nik commented: “A project of this size can go wrong in many ways. Putting together a strong team was my first task: a team with access to lots of empirical data, and lots of experience to draw from. It was also crucial to ensure that the mandate was clearly communicated. This resulted in a great outcome, with minimal snagging during the commissioning process.”

It has been a privilege to work on this DCC project, and apply our skills to the benefit of the client. It’s a privilege to be able to come up with solutions and watch them take shape. This project can be described as a challenge set, and a challenge met.

Kit list:

  • 6 x Martin MAC Viper Profile
  • 6 x Martin MAC 401 CT Wash Lights
  • 7 x Martin MAC Aura Wash
  • 24 x Martin Mac 101
  • 12 x Martin RUSH MH3 Beam lights
  • 6 x Martin MAC 350 Entour Profiles
  • 10 x Versalight HP RGB LED Can
  • 6 x Lodestar Model F Hoists
  • Martin M1ts Controller
  • Custom 32m Diameter Litec Truss Arc
  • Green Hippo Chipmunk Media Server

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