Covenant Communications Packs Cornerstone Church with HES Lighting

Covenant Communications completed a major renovation of High End Systems and ETC products in Cornerstone Church, a San Antonio based mega house of worship. Founded by entrepreneur Shawn Mullins, Covenant’s unique business model involves being a full-service design/build integration firm, including rigging and other disciplines, for the church market, specializing in the unique needs of each facility. For Cornerstone Church’s lighting, Covenant specified 24 SolaFrame 1000, 18 SolaSpot 3000, 36 SolaHyBeam 3000, a Hog 4-18 desk and HPU, plus an extensive ETC networking package. The project also encompassed extensive staging, audio, and video elements.

Covenant’s lead lighting designer Brett Butler shared some of the work that went into the job: "I was brought in to the project in April of 2021, and worked closely on the design with Cornerstone’s programmer, Troy Bishoppetty. We really wanted to go with top-of-the-line products, and started to implement the design on site in February; their goal was to have the rig up by Easter. We met that deadline but it was a tedious process - with hydraulic stage lifts, masonry and carpentry work, seats being installed, and dance floor decking going stage to ceiling up until almost a week before Easter. We also installed an L’Acoustic line array system and multiple LED walls, including one that retracts into the floor!”

Cornerstone Hog 4-18 console Cornerstone Church HES automated lighting

Butler says High End Systems Sola fixtures were hugely important to the project design. Other than audience house lighting, everything in the venue is ETC, including the lighting desk and networking. “We used a bunch of dual and single port nodes, and a quad or two. We wanted to keep it in the family when it came to networking and not have a secondary vendor. ETC’s customer service is some of the best I’ve encountered, especially when it come to the architectural side. They have systems mapped and ready to go and can walk me through things I’m unfamiliar with – it’s fantastic!”

Cornerstone Church uses more than 30 DMX universes to control all the various elements, with 19 universes alone used for automated lighting. The LED walls are run through a Hippo server but routed to Hog control. The desk also triggers all the presets for video. This led the team to pick the flagship Hog 4-18 desk for the project.

"We’re certainly pushing a lot of information and data. There’s not a light in the room we don’t control with the Hog!” says Butler. 

The lighting grid uses ten trusses that form a ring around the FOH area to fit the architecture of the building, while the stage is a bit of a thrust. Butler specified 18 of the 36 SolaHyBeam 3000 for these trusses. “With its framing capabilities, and obviously the bright intensity, we’re using 3K’s for the bulk of our front wash. The rest are hung over seven more truss lines that sit over stage, so they’re spread out across several of those to give us the effect lighting, backlighting, anything we can get to achieve those nice crisp beam effects behind the band, choir, or anything that’s on stage. It is a nice mixed package we can use for a large variety of options. The framing shutters help us light the proscenium arch and really help make the architecture of the room pop.”

Cornerstone HES Sola fixtures in lighting grid

Eighteen SolaSpot 3000 fixtures are placed on the same ten truss lines that make the curve over FOH. Utilized strictly as effect lighting, Butler calls them the bells and whistles of the rig. “Having 21 gobos plus multiple animation wheels; all the toys that come with that light are just fantastic!”

The majority of the 24 SolaFrame 1000 fixtures are used over the stage. Brett says, “The trim is around 20’ over stage, while out in the house it’s closer to 35’. The majority of the 1000s are being used on stage, due to the depths that occur. The stage behind the hydraulic LED pony wall; that’s where the choir area is, so it is staggered steps. Due to the stage being raked, we needed smaller framing fixtures to go over stage, and they gave us a lot of possibilities. There’s one line of 12 just for washing the choir and picking up the area behind the LED walls, and one truss in front of it with eight fixtures for more of the same choir wash, and four that we can use right above the pulpit as backlight, band specials, etc.”

With broadcasting Cornerstone’s services in mind, fixture color temperatures were another one of Butler’s considerations. “The balance of light and the even fields were something we had to keep in mind - you can’t do it any other way. You need a clean field and wash across the front of the deck.”

Once the setup and the base programming was accomplished - patching groups, base macros, etc., Troy Bishop handled the day-to-day programming. Also on hand was TJ Edwards, Covenant Communication’s San Antonio Branch Manager and boots on the ground at Cornerstone Church. 

TJ comments, “I had not worked with High End Systems gear before, but Brett felt like they were the right choice for this room - it’s been a big step up from what the church had! Their in-house LD Troy loves the rig as well. Cornerstone has more live production spaces coming with the next building phase, and we plan to install many more HES lights across their campus.”

A Hog 4-18 desk controls a Hippo that’s feeding the media server that in turn feeds all the screens. Color Kinetics architectural lighting is employed for alcove lighting to enhance the house lights, and the Sola fixtures are lighting up the stage perfectly. “Cornerstone didn’t have this kind of coverage before; now with everything being a moving fixture they’re in much better shape - and can customize where they need to light things much more efficiently," adds TJ. 

A total of 17 universes are used just for the theatrical lighting. “We use one universe per truss, and there’s a lot of channel counts on each of those! We also employ a few more for the Hippo and the architectural lighting. In total it’s 24 universes on the Hog and HPU.”


The facility also features extensive ETC networking solutions to send data throughout the facility. “The sACN protocol was the right choice for this network; we go sACN out of the HPU and through three network switches, using two ports each to talk to all our addresses.”

Using only one vendor made all the communications in the system better across the board according to TJ. “We installed the products, plugged them into the network, programmed everything to sACN and it all worked right out of the gate. That was the beauty of it - we didn’t have to spend days figuring out why our nodes weren’t working. I was so glad to see that all the products were ETC.”

House LD Troy Bishoppetty was instrumental in the Hog 4-18 and HPU specification. He says, “I requested the Hog 4-18 for a few different reasons. First, I already know the Hog. It is like the comfort food of consoles for me. Second, the cost savings as compared to other leading consoles allowed us to get more moving lights. I feel like the audience does not care what I program on and they can’t tell. But I feel like they can tell when there are more lights. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it! Finally, the HPU is a cost-effective way to get 64 universes of DMX in a compact package. That may seem like a lot, but we are already using around 33 universes and more when we bring in extra equipment.”

In closing, Troy says the Sola line of fixtures have been rock solid performers. “I have not had any problems with any of the lights, and we have a lot of them. The Sola Frames allow me to shutter cut the light off the video and still cover the choir well. The SolaHyBeam 3000 and SolaSpot 3000 are both super bright and give you many options with gobos, prisms, and animation. All the bells and whistles you want from a moving light! Being able to get accurate color temperatures was important as I am using some of them to create a front wash for TV. We are in a 3,500 seat venue and they have all been quiet enough for live and TV. The framing is easy to deal with and allows me to get the cuts I want without losing much light.”

Photography by TJ Edwards.

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Bruce Jordahl
Bruce joined the ETC family in 2017. A former magazine editor and journalist, Bruce also worked in marketing at High End Systems throughout the 1990’s, returning as a consultant in 2012. At ETC he covers marketing for the High End Systems product range, and pinch hits on projects for other company departments. Based in Austin, Bruce is a musician and budding record producer, and was nicknamed ‘the ETC musical director’ at Workshop 2018, a moniker he is now comfortable with. He has enjoyed a long side career performing at lighting industry events, loves to talk about his amazing grandchildren, and gets occasional points for sending banana nut bread to his co-workers.