Small Venue Lighting 101-Think About Control

When it comes to working in a small venue or church, you often don’t have a space to place a large lighting console. So what’s a person to do in order to get the control that works for both shows/services and other events?

When it comes down to it, control is what separates a really amazing show from one that is just basic. In this post we will discuss how to use control to make your show absolutely fantastic no matter what size venue you’re working with!

Control is where you really see the difference between someone who can really do a lot with their lighting, who is able to match the mood with what they’re doing with their lighting, and someone who just does the basic to get by. You may feel that because you are a small venue, it may be too difficult to give attention to proper control. And there can definitely be some challenges but taking the time to rise above these challenges are what will make your show great!

Challenges Of Control In A Small Venue

So let’s talk challenges! One of the biggest challenges with a small venue setting such as a church or a restaurant and why control often gets neglected is simply because you don’t have the space to set up a table and put up consoles with controls. You may also find that you want to be working wirelessly so that you can walk around.

Solution Options

A lot of people in small venues want to run things wirelessly, which isn’t a bad thing. You can definitely run things from a tablet! But how do you get a good level of control while also making things easy to play back?

What really separates boring lighting with no change and dynamic, interesting lighting but not necessarily complicated come down to two things: choosing the right control solution and programming in a way that fits the way you want to mold your environment.

Programming Things Well

Whether you’re using a PC, tablet, or console the capabilities exist to use these methods as a wall panel so that you and other people who may potentially work in your venue can select between different looks. No matter who is there working the lights, you can go in and be able to fire up what you need to match the music.

When setting up this programming grid, having a number of color combinations in a series of cues make it easy to choose from and put on a beautiful show every time. There is a simple two pronged approach to take to this.

Make It Easily Accessible

If you’ve got day to day use in the venue by people who aren’t always you, you should have your set up made clearly and simply enough that they have the ability through your lighting control to turn on the basic looks for your stage lighting.

Custom Presets

A great option is to build a custom LED setup that you can turn on during the day have have it run an automated program as presets for others who may need to run the lights but lack your experience. Then, on the other hand, when you’re running them these presets will be set up for you as well so that you can have more control by using the foot pedal to toggle between presets or simply use your screen setup.


There are no rules when it comes to small venue control. Often if you have a place where you can put a small lighting control surface, it won’t be in a large area, and may not be in a place where you can see amazingly well. No matter where that control position is, the way that you program and the way that you have easy access to different configurations is what makes it easiest to get the show done well.

Keep It Simple

Sometimes when you are working a small venue you will be running the sound as well as the lighting. When that is required the best advice is to KEEP IT SIMPLE! When it comes down to it having a great show and having great control is partially about choosing a console or control method that fits your unique needs. The other important aspect lies fully in the way you set it up. Don’t over complicate things.

Use Automation

If you can automate things or trigger your lighting control from some other means, do it. Even if it is just parts of it, it can save you a lot of time to do so. This way you can rest assured that even when you’re not the person physically running the show everything will still happen smoothly as it should.

Choose The Right Console

The truth is, there are a lot of options to suit your individual needs when it comes to lighting and venue space. Think hard about control when you are shopping your options because there are a lot of different consoles with a lot of different setups and they all have pros and cons. Finding one that suits what you know you need is crucial. Take the time to evaluate those consoles deeply and do your research so that your future shows will run as easily and perfectly as possible! (Click here to learn how to choose your first (or next) lighting console or software!)

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