Lighting Systems for Schools

Lighting systems for schools come in all shapes and sizes. Depending on the requirements of the school and the training experience of the end user. It is no good for a school to have the most up to date west end system, if no one in the building knows how it works. In most instances lighting systems for schools will be used in a main hall/ performance space for school productions, concerts and presentation evenings.

A school will be looking to have a permanent system installed that they will only need to alter in a minor way for specific productions. Performing arts schools with actual theatre spaces will be looking more for an infrastructure to allow them to put on a wide variety of different productions.

Lighting Systems for Schools

With the recent advances in LED technology, it is the obvious choice for schools. It uses significantly less energy, has a less expensive upkeep cost and doesn’t provide the same health and safety complications. Also allowing a greater range of versatility than it’s generic predecessor.

There is now the widespread use of intelligent lighting. Lighting bars need to be able to handle the new infrastructure required to run a modern system. In the vast majority of cases, the easiest thing is to start from scratch and design the best kind of system for the school’s needs. Some schools wish to simply upgrade an existing system so that they can keep their existing stock in use. This is not a problem, as we can design a system that incorporates the old, but also brings the system up to date.

What is the main difference between generic and intelligent lighting?

Broadly speaking, generic lighting is a lamp that is plugged into a dimming pack controlled by a lighting desk. The lamp gets brighter or dimmer depending on the value sent by the lighting desk. Intelligent lighting on the whole, no longer requires a dimmer pack. Instead it requires hard (constant) power. Also requiring a data connection, most commonly DMX, but more recently RJ45 based control such as art net. It is referred to as intelligent lighting, because unlike a generic fixture that uses only one channel to operate it, an intelligent fixture uses multiple channels. Depending on the complexity of the fixture. The benefit is that, where as you used to need one light for facelight, one for a gobo wash and one for that tiny red special downstage. An intelligent light can do all of those and more, saving rigging time and focusing time.


Depending on the complexity of the system, the majority of the infrastructure will be built in to the lighting bars or truss. The lighting bar sockets will contain the relevant data and power for everything to be wired locally. This will then run back to a position of your choosing, but usually in the location of the dimmer racks. There will be various data and power points installed at useful locations, to allow for any possible use. These are then patchable from the rack location as required. Below is an example drawing of a bar for a hybrid system, 15 amp generic install with intelligent capability:

Lighting Systems for Schools

Depending on the size of the space, there will be vast differences in the amount of equipment and the specification. But below is an example school hall lighting install in a medium sized space. Note that the position of the system allows the hall to be used in multiple configurations and does not limit the system for use only on the proscenium arch stage.

Lighting Systems for Schools

Lighting Systems for Schools & Colleges

Control can be a sensitive issue in schools. In principle the lighting system needs to be simple so that all can use it. However in practicality the school will want to use the equipment to its full advantage and give students a chance to create an amazing lighting plot for the school musical.

The ETC element is ideal for school situations. ETC EOS is the industry standard lighting desk. The element runs the same software, but uses an entirely different interface. The element has the familiar easy to use faders that can simply be pushed up to achieve light output. But the element also has the full capability of its bigger brother, so for the more advanced programmer the possibilities are huge.

This desk also has the facility to use magic sheets. These are custom made screens, of buttons that allow presets to be recalled at the click of a button. Or if you have a touchscreen simply by pushing the button. For example using a magic sheet you could have various states such as day, night, red and blue etc. These can be changed and added to at any time to suit the current equipment and users.

Next Steps

If you would like to discuss incredible sound or lighting systems for schools or colleges, please contact Old Barn Audio. Either on +44(0) 1892 752246, by email or our contact form and someone will be in touch.