Sprayed Designs for Hessian Banners

The Journey live event

We recently had a special little event in my lounge.

We’d been planning for a couple of years to do something that mixed music with video, and late 2015 we finally got proper plans together to do this as a live event. We invited about 40 people over (plus crew) and on 19th March recorded a three and a half hour event featuring stories and songs, together making an autobiographical lounge gig-ish thing. We’re calling it ‘The Journey’.

I’ll write another post about the whole thing once we’ve published a few of the songs for you, but this post is about the decor.

Problem Solving

Every design decision should solve a problem and I had two problems to solve: sound reflections and aesthetics.

As we were recording with speakers in the room we needed to minimise the sound reflecting off floors and walls back into microphones. We fixed the floor issue by putting rugs on the floor and closing the curtains helped a bit, but needed something extra.

sound-barriers

An early idea for sound barriers: rolls of foam stapled to mobile frames

Early on I’d planned to create some freestanding foam sound barriers, but in the end the hassle of making them all and the visual appeal of hessian changed my mind. I know hessian isn’t the softest, most absorbent material, but hopefully it made some difference stretched from floor to ceiling.

Aesthetically speaking, we had a few pictures up on the walls that we didn’t want to draw attention away from what was going on in the room, but taking them down left big blank walls. I’m a fan of well placed space in a scene, but this blankness would have looked odd in that context.

The room is split into three sections by pillars at the walls with beams along the ceiling, so I opted to fill in the outer two-thirds with wall hanging banners, stapled to frames. A simple, interesting but not too obtrusive design seemed appropriate.

The Design

I wanted a pattern with interesting variation that would be easy to apply. Inspired by the angular lines of this wallpaper (much like the Beijing National Stadium) I decided to go for a similar effect. Initially I wanted the lines on all the banners to line up but in the end this was more faff than it was worth.

Kit

20m of high quality hessian cut into eight 2.5m strips
Two rolls of 50mm masking tape
Two 400ml cans of satin wine red spray, to match the curtains
Lengths of lath, screws, tape, drill, saw, mugs of tea…

Method

One of the banners

After spraying up the first few banners I refined my method. I’d start with a few longer bold, angular lines of tape, then fill in with smaller lines, occasionally stopping them when they met the first pieces of tape at various places. I’d then spray the whole thing with heavier spray nearer the top of the banner (holding the can closer and using slightly slower motions), lessening the spray as I went further down the banner.

Then I’d peel off a few of the shorter lines of tape I added last and respray touches near the points they’d crossed over the tape that remained. This created depth as it added shadows around some of the lines, giving a bit of “pop”.

It was surprisingly easy.

The frame for holding the banners

One of the frames. Wasn’t as wobbly as it looks, that’s just funny pano stitching software.

As I needed to dismantle the whole thing after the event I didn’t want to screw the frame into the wall or damage the paintwork, so it took a bit of work making the frames wedge into the gaps well enough to hold themselves in place.

Sprayed hessian banners on the wall

The last job was to simply staple the banners to the frame.

Panorama view of the room during setup

The final look during setup, with the hanging banners lit by some bright diffused lamps

All in all I think the event was a hit. It just goes to show it’s quite easy to make attractive decor for filming at low cost.

You can expect to see videos of the songs and stories being released gradually over the coming months on our YouTube channel. If you’d like to see them as they’re released click here to subscribe to the channel.

‘I Believe’ – A Christian Collaboration Video

This video is the culmination of a vision I’ve had for a long time to bring together a group of Christian film-makers and make an inspirational piece about who God is.

It began last year in a video training session for some of the youth in my church and I showed them the excellent YHWH produced by Dan Stevers. I’ve long admired the work of Dan and recently he’s been collaborating with other artists to make videos that are very creative. This gave me an idea to do the same with our team.

The Poem

Around a year ago I heard a poem that really got my imagination going. It was based on something that was written in German by Lothar Zenetti, then translated and added to by a friend called Fred. This is the poem.

I believe in God, and I believe
That He is an artist, an inventor
His boundless ideas show Him to be original forever
Wonderful, varied and worthy of admiration.
The endless universe, the order of the stars
Are all inside his plan. He thinks up clouds
And the blushing of the dawn
He calls mountains into being
And will you look at this tree: every twig, every leaf
Is His invention and in the same way He forms
Lizards, warthogs and butterflies.
He is not made in the image in my head
Does not correspond to my concepts and definitions
The person I picture would never have made such a world full of wonders
Nor even more than a single type of person
Off the conveyor belt they would all march with a standard size head
And the same type of nose.
There would be no riotous hotchpotch of porters and poets, waiters and beauty queens,
Of estate agents, street musicians,
Of grandmas and rock fans and lollipop ladies.
There must be something of all that in Him.
I believe He is a shepherd, a lover, a Father and Mother
And He is a game of hopscotch too.
He is enchanter and beguiler, a massive Cheshire cat smiler
The big mystery is His name and He is entirely other
High above all that is and right at the outset
He is the breath and the beginning of everything
And His pulse is felt in all that is.
He creates our longing’s conclusion
He appears in the storm and the thunder
He lives in the cloud, in the word and the silence.
He scatters His hope among the stricken
In the hearts of lovers He is right there in the middle of the world
And glory be to His wonderful name.

I got Fred to email it to me, and then when I was thinking of what to base the Christian collaboration video on this came to mind, so I found the email and set to work.

The Audio

Recording William

Recording William reading the poem

The backing music and voice-over was vital to the video, as this was what the team would be working from. I enlisted the help of William, who has an incredible voice that I could listen to all day, and then found a suitable backing track on MusicBed to license.

Chris bringing the voiceover and soundtrack together

Chris bringing the voiceover and soundtrack together

Choosing Sections

I put the poem in a Google Doc and then split it into 10 sections, asking everyone to own one of the sections. Once people had decided I chopped up the audio into these 10 sections and sent them their specific track. They would each work on their own section and only be aware of the whole piece when it would be shown at one of our national Church meetings.

Bringing The Poem To Life

There weren’t any rules on what to film or create, just a few technical constraints to make sure things like frames per second and pixel sizes matched up.

Josh filming in the middle of a field at night-time

Josh filming in the middle of a field at night-time

Aidan using Cinema4D for the conveyor belt section

Aidan using Cinema4D for the conveyor belt section

John capturing some stunning scenes in Malaysia

John capturing some stunning scenes in Malaysia

David getting to grips with Maya animation software

David getting to grips with Maya animation software

Esme bringing to life her hand drawn characters

Esme working on her hand drawn characters

James (that's me) filming a family scene as dusk approaches

James (that’s me) filming a family scene as dusk approaches

Different Styles

Once everyone had sent me their sections it was noticeable how different they all were and how much hard work had gone into them with a mix of styles and ways to capture images. There was footage from DSLR cameras, camcorders, GoPros, computer generated graphics and hand drawn illustrations.

Esme put a lot of work into creating each character

Esme put a lot of work into creating each character

Filming William for the intro and end sequences using a digital camera

Filming William for the intro and end sequences using a digital camera

Editing and Sound Design

With having lots of different styles and content I put a lot of effort into making sure they all blended well together. It would have been easy to do a fade to black between every section but I wanted there to be continuity across the whole video, so there was various adjustments to the colouring, adding motion blur, wipes, and zooms between clips.

As much time went into the sound design as into the edit – especially with the animation scenes as the sound really brings it to life. And for the ending I did a late night timelapse of the stars on a very cold night, so I could overlay the video title in the edit.

A late night timelapse of the stars to end the video

The stars with a plane passing overhead

Conclusion

Introducing the Christian collaboration video team - Aidan, David, Esme, Charis, Naomi, John, George, Sam, Josh

Introducing the crew – Aidan, David, Esme, Charis, Naomi, John, George, Sam, Josh

This project has been a real success – it’s helped young people express their passion for God, and working in a team is always enjoyable. It feels like we’re on a journey together to explore creativity and our own interpretations of who God is and what He means to us.

Here’s to the next one.

Noon the wiser: using church stage design to reinforce a message

Ponds Forge

A colourful Church stage design at Ponds Forge in the centre of Sheffield.

Once a year in the Jesus Army we dedicate time in one of our national events to honour and remember martyrs throughout the years. This year we recognised the persecution many are facing in Syria and Iraq with the rise of ISIS.

A symbol on the side of a house in Iraq.

The Nasrani symbol sprayed on the side of a Christian’s house in Iraq.

The persecution of Christians in the middle east has often been in the news. The Arabic name “Nasrani,” one who believes in Jesus of Nazareth, has been used as a derogatory name for Christians. Islamic State jihadists had spray painted homes in towns populated for generations by Christians using the Arabic letter ن, which sounds like “noon,” and is the first letter of the word “Nasrani” in Arabic.

We wanted to feature this in the event and bring the stage design right into the congregation to include them in what was going on. So we designed the Church stage design concept to reveal the symbol beneath their feet in a way they weren’t expecting. The element of surprise was important as we didn’t want to give away that the walkway used in various items was part of something much bigger.

Set design by Josh

Josh designed the stage and lighting to incorporate the symbol. We used CAD to work out the positioning of symbol and the best place for the camera to go where the Noon could be seen clearly. He also included screens on the left and right for IMAG, and a large central screen for video content.

We constructed the path using blue carpet with thick UV gaffa tape put down to mark the perimeter. To any onlooker this would seem like a standard aisle edging.

Carpet all set

A side shot showing the specific carpet sections and the staging structure.

“The Journey” was the theme for the evening meeting where a story was told of Abraham’s journey of faith. We drew parallels from this story with our own path of faith throughout the years. The road played a big part in this storytelling with dramas and dancers making good use of the space, and taking the focus off the stage and into the congregation.

Narrated by Georgia as she walked along the path, with interactions along the way

Georgia narrating as she walks along the path, describing Abraham’s journey with interactions along the way.

Dance item

A dance item making use of the top of the Noon symbol on stage.

Creation ending

During the stars part of the story – Georgia is narrating on the right and lights and video projection add to the atmosphere.

Towards the end of the evening we came to the main Martyrs item where we brought everything together and revealed the symbol. We had positioned a camera right above the auditorium which could see the Noon symbol, and there was an audible gasp from the congregation when they saw what the road around them really was.

The Noon symbol in the stage design.

The lights were lowered, the UV came on, and as James described the atrocities in Syria and Iraq and what the Noon symbol meant the camera changed to this defining shot.

Martyrs item

James introducing the martyrs item, followed by a minutes silence to remember those who gave their lives

We managed to achieve what we set out to do and bring the stage design into the congregation with the element of surprise when the symbol was revealed. This had the effect of bringing the martyrs closer to people, as the symbol was all around them. The minute’s silence was impeccably observed and for many it was a time of reflection and gratitude.

Check out the full event on the Jesus Army Livestream page.