Sheffield 2012 – Lighting & Rigging

Lighting at RaW12

Here we are. The last major event of 2012 completed.

Sam, our main “rigger”, wrote a few weeks ago about last years event, which had been a real success and a breakthrough in technical/creative innovation for us.

The challenge this year was to maintain the standard set by last year’s event. It’s probably fair to say that in some ways we did this & in others we fell short. This blog covers the lighting and rig design, which is more my specialty. Jimmy, our video man, talked about the visual FX side of things last week in this post here.


In the beginning was the Sketch, and the Sketch was with Tim, and the Sketch was Tim… Anyway, as always, the design idea began with a sketch from our main designer, which I then played around with a bit, transferred to Sketchup & later into our lighting design software – Capture Vision (which can be seen in action later on in this post).

One of my early sketch concepts, complete with anorexic Mick

Initial ideas included moving trusses, tipping circles & three sets of collapsing drapes. These, in the end, had to be sacrificed for the sake of budget & time. Furthermore, in order to free up space for the planned video content we abandoned the versions of the plan that involved things cluttering up the backdrop, like the bits in the sketch below.

Sketchup render of the near-final design


Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Pitifully Poor Performance…apparently. This event included a few things we’d never done before. Most of them were in the video department, but there was a two-part challenge for us to deal with. The first part of the challenge was to unroll a drape on cue for video to be projected onto, the second was orchestrating a kabuki drop (where magnetic releases drop the drape on cue). To do this we had to call on the expertise of one of our older engineers, who modified an old theatre curtain winch that would unwind and lower the curtain.

Testing the system before we arrive on site! What a novelty.

With this winch assembled and tested, we hired the Kabuki release system from Hawthorns Theatrical in Leicester (thanks to Caleb & Karen for picking it up) and then started the wait to see if it would work, or if we’d just end up looking rather foolish.

Winch & kabuki systems in place on the rig, complete with integrated line array

Test unwind of the winch, with commentary from Chris Hunt:

Whilst the guys in Northampton were working on the hardware for the show, I was in Sheffield frantically programming looks and chases for the show. A combination of caffeine, David Guetta & multiple lists (I’m a list freak when it comes to trying to get myself organised) meant that by the time we arrived at Ponds Forge I had almost everything we needed to run the show already programmed. This was my first real forray into using the Avolites Titan Mobile (the baby sister desk of the Avolites Expert that we use to run the live show) to pre-program a show. It can be seen in the picture below. There was a learning curve, but I really enjoyed making it work, although a large chunk of it did have to be re-done once on site due to some orientation issues.

Workstation…yes, I really do need all these screens.

Rigging & Showtime

I think the best thing to do at this point, as with all great Hollywood compositions, is to have a video montage of the key moments in the somewhat potted storyline. Unfortunately, due to copyright reasons we couldn’t use any Celine Dion tracks, but we do have Artemis & the Beta Band’s latest offering, so that will have to do.

Overall, as a rig, it was a simple & clean design with the video team providing the main eye candy. Some ideas worked and a few bits really didn’t, however they are all valuable lessons learned for next time:

Lighting at SPD12

Lighting at SPD12

Lighting at SPD12

Lighting at SPD12

Lighting at SPD12

Lighting at SPD12

I cannot big up our team enough. Every one a volunteer, most with a full-time job, all working flat-out to make sure that our offering that we bring is an excellent one. As Jimmy said, we do often get it wrong or overdo it, but I enjoy being part of a church where these aspects of practical outworked worship are encouraged and made use of. Times spent on these rigs are where some of the deepest friendships I have are made and maintained & without these guys and this focus I simply would have no reason to still be here.

Kit used

For lighting we have been using the Martin Mac 101’s a lot and definitely wanted to include these. Also we decided to hire some American DJ Vizibeam 5R’s, alongside their inspiration, the ClayPaky Sharpy. This was our first time to see them up against each other, which was of interest to us especially given that the price difference is considerable. However, probably the most unexpected discovery was that the most effective fixtures were the cheap Showtec ones; Sunstrips (the blinders that ran along the lower circle) & ArcBars (LED lights behind the band). They really helped to give depth and warmth to the whole rig & when they were turned off the rig looked 2D and a bit needy, despite the more powerful lights trying to do their thing.

The final kit list ran as follows:

  • 4x Clay PakySharpy
  • 4x ADJ Vizibeam 5R
  • 8x Martin Mac 101’s
  • 4x Showtec Arcbar3
  • 7x Showtec Sunstrips
  • 2x Clay Paky Stage Zooms
  • 2x Clay Paky Stage Scans
  • Many 4 Cell Cycs and Par64’s for washing the stage and audience

These were all pre-programmed using Avolites Titan Mobile, the show was run on a Avo Pearl Expert with the generics powered from Art2000 T4 dimmer rack.

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!

The RAW 2012 Youth Event – Behind the Scenes

RaW 2012 – Rise

RAW (Real and Wild) is a UK Christian youth event coordinated by the Jesus Fellowship Church. It is a Christian event for anyone aged 15 – 35 with a focus on the gospel of Christ. There are practical opportunities to live out a radical New Testament lifestyle in the communities of the host city.

RAW always presents a challenge to our technical teams. There are often wranglings over what the aims of the event are; should it be simple, who is it actually for etc. We also use RAW as an opportunity to push out and try new things, as the punters are more forgiving than the average punters we work with. Occasionally these new things work, although rarely on first time of asking. We are all quite accustomed to the sinking feeling as the lights fade, or unintentionally come on full in the middle of the preach, or an item falls flat on its face. It’s an excellent way to learn some humility I can assure you!


The design for this event went through three incarnations; the first never made it to paper as the venue for RAW was changed, so the whole specification changed. The second design was the rig that got away (see image below) – a monster of truss and beam-work lights. Normally at larger venues we are able to hang trusses from the ceiling of the venue, but here this wasn’t allowed, hence the big floor-standing structure. It’s fair to say I was quite nervous about it as it was one of the larger designs (and certainly the heaviest design) that I had created.

Second concept – the rig that never was

However this rig, like most of our rigs, was to rely heavily on the use of theatrical haze to emphasise the light’s beams. Having designed this, we were informed by the venue that they would not permit the use of smoke, thus rendering the design fairly useless… so it was back to the literal drawing board.

Often the concepts for these events begin with a sketch, normally on the back of a script or an old piece of paper. It’s said that most of us can’t think without a pen and paper, and this event was no different.

Sketch concept

The inspiration for the centrepiece actually came from Coventry’s cathedral next door, with its Norman arch and narrow windows. This concept was then created in various bits of 3D-modelling software, first in Trimble Sketchup to get the basic layout & then on into Capture Polar, which allowed us to pre-program many of the effects and looks.

Third and final concept in Trimble Sketchup.


The rig began on the Wednesday morning before RAW began. The first lorry was offloaded around 8am & by tea-break at 10am all three lorries and two vans had been emptied and the work began.

Vehicles offloaded & ready to rig.

To create the 8 upright legs on the backdrop we used H40 Prolyte Truss and wrapped them in a thin, white material. This would give the video guys a surface to project on to. Within the legs we had an LED par at the top & an old-school Par64 with a Morpheus ColourFader scroller at the bottom. This allowed us to create some lovely two-tone colours inside the legs when the other guys weren’t projecting on to it.

About 6pm on Wednesday.

Lights Used

* CYC 4-lites & Par64s for house lighting & stage wash
* 4no. Studio Duo StudioLED 600
* 6no. Morpheus Colour Faders
* 6no. Chauvet LED Par64 3W
* 6no. Showtec ArcBar3
* 9no. Showtec Pixel Track Pro
* 9no. Thomas Molefay 2-lite

The show was run on an Avolites Pearl Expert running Titan, with Avo T4 dimming. A notable figure on this show was that due to each Pixel Track requiring 160 channels, we actually filled all 4 universes of DMX on the Expert.

Thankfully we had some of the grey-gen (older guys) to help us with the scary bits.

The picture above shows Dave, one of our “non-youth” technicians lending his expertise. Here he is re-wiring the 125A 3ph socket that ran from the huge generator we had hired to provide power for the event (apparently joining lots of 13A sockets together wouldn’t do). This was hired from Impact Production Services along with some of the lighting and staging.

Not everyone appreciated the dubstep remix of “A Song of Worship”

Generally, despite the lack of theatrical haze, we found that the rig really worked for us and helped to provide an atmosphere within which people were able to lose some of their inhibitions and meet with God.


I don’t have much to do with the music, so this is an understated nod to the many hours of preparation that I know the noise boys will have put into creating some of the Ableton soundscapes for the event. From the vocals of several talented singers, AutoTune, the brains of Jonny “Single-Handed” & Nayf™, there were some very listenable tracks created. I’ve included what was for me one of the stand-out tracks from the show:


We projected on to the set using two Christie LX605 projectors, and media playback and masking using Resolume Arena 4 software. The masking of every surface was slightly complex as the screen shot of Resolume shows:

A screenshot from the settings in Resolume showing each surface with a specific area mapped on to it

A snapshot of the loop of the sun coming up past the RISE logo

Some more photos from the event:

Lighting at RaW12

Lighting at RaW2012

Lighting at RaW2012

Lighting at RaW2012

Writing this I’m reminded again of the days and weeks of preparation that goes into an event like this. Guys and girls, mostly voluntarily, working for our church to produce and manage events to a finished level that is respected in the professional AV world. Theirs are jobs that are only really noticed when something goes wrong & I think that’s probably the way it should be. After all, the show’s not actually about us.

De-rig timelapse (recorded on a GoPro HD Hero 2)