How to Use ONYX for Church Lighting

In these video tutorials, I dive into how to use ONYX for church lighting. I’ve worked with many students and some that use ONYX and I’ve seen a common pattern.

What I’ve seen from students is that it’s not so much the programming ONYX, although that can be a learning curve, but it’s being able to allow the volunteers to help deliver a consistent experience week after week.

The Methods

Since working with ONYX I’ve discovered 4 different methods that I use when programming church lighting. In these next 4 video tutorials, I will help walk you through each method as if starting from scratch to help you decide which method is best for you setup and team.

These 4 methods are generally what I use when helping program church lighting:

  • Whole Method
  • Songs Method
  • Colors Method
  • Punting Live Method (running things on the fly)

Whole Service Method

The whole service method is a very simple set up and great when you don’t need a complex setup. When using this method I usually just a simple visualizer and ONYX.

If you do need help patching in your lights and working with presets be sure to check out my series for Beginning with ONYX

The way this method works is setting up lights and a look for each section of the service such as Pre-Service, Opening Music, Announcements, Sermon, etc.

Recording Your Looks

Before getting started I would recommend sketching a layout of the service so you know the order of things. Then, get started by recording the looks of each section.

In most cases, you’ll have a Pre-Service, with that just set your lights and the look you want for your walk-ins. Once done just click “Record”.

If you are working with an M-Touch or a console will be able to see your pre-recorded cues on the bottom bank.

If you’re not working with that type of unit you will be able to see your pre-recorded cues in the playback buttons window. You will be able to copy the playback and paste it to the cue slot.

Playback Buttons

Depending on the layout of the service you can go through and set up each section to design the look you want for the stage. You will be able to set up as many elements as needed but I suggest keeping it to no more than 6.

This will allow your volunteers to simply click the pre-recorded cue depending on which part of the service is taking place. This makes it easy for you, training and helping the volunteer keep a consistent look on your stage.

Songs Method

The song method is simple but it does take more time on the front end to set up but in the long run, can save you time. This allows either you or one of your volunteers to arrange the cuelist in proper order.

Just setting up lights for a specific song will help even if you decide to change the stage. If you update the layout on your stage you can just adjust the lights and the cues will remain the same.

Setting Up the Cuelist

You can create a new cuelist or in this video, I just copied one of the cues I used in the whole service method video. Just select a cue, “Copy” it, and save it to a fader.

Go to “Groups Presets” on the sidebar and you want to create a blocking cue and the easy way to do this is using the “Load” command in ONYX.

You will start by selecting the lights you want to use and set up the parameters. Just set the initial look you want the song to open with. Once you set the opening look just click “Load” twice. What this does is load all of the information for everything into the show file so that no matter where you come from you will consistently have the same look.

Recording the Cues

After doing that just create a cuelist and name it appropriately. You should only need to the load trick once per song. Now, you want to set up the lights for the rest of the song.

Normally, I will break it down to the pre-chorus, chorus, verse, etc and design each cue to match the beat and feel of the music. As you are setting up the cues be sure to go to the cuelist values on the sidebar and name each cue (chorus, verse, and so on).

If you did copy a cue you may notice that the chase keeps going. To change this go to the “Group Preset”, select the cue, and turn it off.

Lastly, once I have the song’s cues set up I like to drag and drop it into the Playback Button window. The first page I will have this week’s songs set up in the order they are played. Then, for the second page, I use this to save the rest of the songs cue lists.

Colors Method

The colors method is very similar to the songs method except you won’t have to program anything new. This is a great method if you want to keep things fresh but you don’t always have the time to do so.

Creating Color Cues

First, I would suggest starting with setting up a pre-welcome cue and then a sermon cue so that you can use during the service. When it comes to the music you want to first build a startup cue the will be used for when the band is on stage.

Then, you want to start building out the color combination cues. To get started go to your Group and Presets window. Now, you want to select half of your lights (you can use your pars and spot fixtures) and you can name them something like Half Rig.

Before you start setting up your 2 color combinations you want to go to your Playback Buttons window and build a row of the colors you want to work with. I normally use: Red, Green, Blue, Yellow, Magenta, Cyan, Violet, Amber, and White.

If you would like more guidance on what colors you want to work with I highly suggest checking out this post: What Are the Rules to Using Color in Stage Lighting?

After you get these color cues set up you can decide or have the volunteer decide what colors to use during the music. During the rehearsal you can even have the person who handles the lyrics work with the lighting volunteer to make sure the colors match the music and lyrics.

Punting Your Lights Method

Lastly, we have the punting method which is basically running your lights live and on the fly. This method is for those that are familiar with the lighting console and understands how lighting works.

Creating Presets for Punting

What the punting method looks like is actually a combination of the other methods I have discussed in the video tutorials but especially with the colors method.

In the Playback Buttons window, you would want to have set up the different color cues and color combinations. Then, you would want to have your lights and gobos to have different movement cues set up.

Along the bottom when using an M-Touch I have the lights programmed so I have full control over the Intensity. Then on the side I have unique effects that look great on stage.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this article, and I hope it’s helped you to create better lighting at your church! Check out more resources and related articles below to dive deeper!

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