Sheffield re-visited – fun with staging, projection and lights

Ok! So it’s our annual Praise Day at Ponds Forge International Sports Centre next Saturday.

While we’re plotting and scheming up ideas for this year’s event,  we thought it was about time to finish off writing about last year’s event which was a bit of a breakthrough for us in terms of pushing creative and technical integration and boundaries.

What we did and how we did it:

Behind the scenes

Months before every national Jesus Army event a few of us get together around a table to thrash out ideas for the content of the event: theme, dramas, items, etc. This team is a mix of creative, technical and Mick, our Senior Pastor.

At this creative meeting Mick set out the key focus points for the event and the idea was born that these were like building blocks that make up our church. From this came the idea to build something physical during the event, with parts added throughout the whole event.

One of the initial ideas was to build a church of some form (complete with steeple!) out of boxes. In the end we fixed on a house as the church idea seemed a bit cheesy.

We decided fairly early on that we wanted to use projections on to these blocks to both emphasise the message and for effects. We were also keen to use these as the surface for the mosaic rather than just the standard IMAG screens which we use to project song words.

Aidan wanted to do something where we took photos of everyone coming to the event and use this to form a mosaic picture of some sort at the end of the event.

Working drawings

We went through many scribbles and a bin full of paper and got to a sticking point and just couldn’t seem to make it work.

It was getting a bit desperate as the event date was getting near with no decent solution forthcoming.

How do you build a structure safely that is high enough for people to see, doesn’t block the band and has easy and safe access to add the parts?

After a long head-scratching session with our artistic, rigging and safety heads on, we settled on using truss uprights as a framework and scaffold towers in front of these, either side of the band stage with a Youngman board spanning these.

For the building blocks we had a bunch of square and rectangle frames covered in white material that we have used for previous designs. In the end we only had to modify a few to create the triangles at the top of the house structure.

To access the scaffold towers we wanted to create some steps up that could also be used as building blocks. Impact Production Services have a great stock of Litedeck so we paid them a visit and played around with decks and handrails in their warehouse until we were happy with how it was going to fit together.

Careful Slim!

Cardboard sleeves fit over the steps

We decided to use a painted cardboard sleeve to put over these steps as the afternoon event progressed with the structure already in place, rather than try to build a large structure during the event.

During this time we were using WYSIWYG which is a CAD and lighting simulation program to put the designs into 3D space and check that they worked realistically.


Wysywig image

For example, one of the options was to use the cherry picker that we use for rigging to put the blocks in place but once putting this into CAD it became apparent that this would not work without blocking the rear projected image on the main video screens either side of the main central structure.

Once the structure design was finalised we added lights and were able to export a scaled PDF to be used as a mask for James to create the content.

For lighting we had been using the Martin Mac 101’s a lot and wanted to include these. Also we decided to hire some American DJ Vizibeam 5R’s for the first time which are a cheaper alternative to the ClayPaky Sharpy. These provide the incredibly powerful thin beam of light as seen in the photos.

The Vizi Beams in action

So we arrived…

…at Ponds Forge at 8am on Friday to begin the rig after a week of programming lights (using WYSIWYG and an Avolites Pearl Expert), prepping kit, loading trucks, picking up hire gear and producing rig plans, normally involving lots of late nights.
First job was to unload the trucks, then on to marking out the rigging points and stage positions so that Sam and Graham could start hanging the motors from the roof with the aid of a cherry picker.

Once the points were in place, power distro plugged in and trusses hung we started rigging the lights, wiring them and making sure that they work before raising the trusses.

The staging was then set up ready for the band and noise boys to set up their kit at 12 noon.

Our video team arrived in the afternoon to set up cameras, video mixer, projectors and screen for IMAG (image magnification) and song words.

Getting the lighting kit sorted took most of Friday and we came back in on Saturday morning with Sam Lants and Josh finalising programming while the bands did their sound checks.

While this was happening we added all the building block panels to the truss structure, sticking and stapling Velcro to the truss and panels. Once these panels were in position we could check the mask and that the content lined up. This was surprisingly accurate and we only had to do a small amount of adjustment using Resolume Avenue which has the ability to set up masks, do output warping and organise all the video and graphics content.

We then removed the panels, leaving just the truss structure.

Work in progress

Doors open

Aidan had organised a team of photographers to take pictures for the mosaic and they get to work snapping people as they arrived.

As the event started we were getting a bit worried as Katherine had not yet arrived with the cardboard sleeves for covering the Litedeck steps. These were in the back of the car as they had been painted on Friday and she was lost in Sheffield… Once she arrived, we had to add the text to these using some large labels printed on a vinyl printer. Oops!! We had forgotten to hand the boxes so one side had to be modified before it could be used.

Thankfully the first two sleeves were finished in time to get them on for the first item and Sam and Pete put these in place kitted out in hi-viz and hard hats (The idea was to represent being builders, it wasn’t some daft ‘elf and safety requirement!). The rest of the sleeves were added during the afternoon event.


Adding the panels

Throughout the evening event the “builders” added the panels to the truss structure as a backdrop to whatever was happening on stage. Once the panel was in place we projected the relevant graphic to that panel and utilised the panels for effects projections, changing the mask as they were added.

During the event Aidan had been compiling the photos into a mosaic and created a video zooming out from the faces to a mosaic of the face of Christ (or at least what some people think he looks like…), the message being that the church represents Christ on earth. Here’s a video illustrating the moment:

This was then projected on to the panels and I think it is fair to say this was the audience gasp moment as no one saw it coming.

From here-on we had a celebration time which was pretty lively, and then we started packing it all away!

Lights Used

6 x ADJ Vizibeam 5R
8 x Martin Mac 101’s
4 x Showtec Arcbar3
6 x Showtec Sunstrips
4 Cell Cycs and Par64’s for washing the stage and audience
2 x Clay Paky Stage Zooms
2 x Clay Paky Stage Scans

These were all controlled by an Avolites Pearl Expert and the generics powered from Art2000 T4 dimmer rack.

Video Equipment Used

2 x Christie LX605 projectors for IMAG (rebadged Sanyo XM150L)
2 x 12ft x 9ft Fastfold screens
Sony Z5 and PD150 cameras
1 x Sanyo XM150L projector for the panel projections.
Blackmagic ATEM 1ME Broadcast Panel and Production Switcher
Custom built computer with Resolume Avenue

Thanks to everyone who was involved in making this event work, from the creative content to laying carpet and clearing up afterwards.

If you would like to help us in future events… let us know by commenting below and we’ll be in touch! Pay is at the usual rate for volunteers!

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