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 2012 Event – Visuals

Every year the Jesus Army gathers in Sheffield to hear God’s word and direction, and to enjoy spending time with friends from different towns and cities in the UK. This post is a behind the scenes look at how visuals were created and involved in the day.

The superbly lit choir on stage singing Majesty (they must have woke up the lighting boys…)

Visuals, and projected video in particular is becoming more of a feature in our church events – in part due to the team of people making interesting content, and also because it can reinforce what is being said or demonstrated. 2012 was our most ambitious design yet as it involved four projectors mapped out across four different surfaces, and included an item where people sent text messages which appeared on an unfurled drape.

Stage Design

The stage design including the unfurling front central drape

More details on the design and rigging side of Sheffield Praise Day 2012 are on a separate post by Josh. The basic feel was to have two rows of drape, and a central one that came down later in the meeting, all of which were to be projected on to.

The hall, rig and central IMAG screen (showing customary shot of back of speaker)

A view from the side showing the rigging and projector locations. Click for a larger image.

Having such a large expanse to project onto was great to work with, but also difficult to know aspect ratios and pixels sizes for the drapes. So we had to work with some rough calculations and plan in plenty of safe margin in case we had to resize anything. We had a couple of discussions with the events team to thrash out ideas and how projected video could add to what was happening. The main theme was “passing the baton” which had our D.N.A. in it.
In these discussion meetings I usually daydream think of what visuals could be made. Then after some more thought it’s a case of getting these ideas out of my head and into a format that Gideon (After Effects) and Aidan (Cinema 4D) can work with. It seems scribbling on scraps of paper is the best way to do it!
Technical Set-up
Having a complicated rig with four projectors meant a fair bit of planning to make sure it all worked. We had just bought a new PC that runs the software for visuals (Core i7 3930K, 16GB RAM, OCZ Vertex 4 SSD, nVidia GTX 680, Win7 64bit), and it was certainly put through its paces!

Diagram showing the connections in and out of the PC (VFX) to the projectors

We used four Christie LX605 projectors (6,000 lumens) – one for IMAG, two for the main display, and one for a special drape at the end.

The display settings in Windows 7

We use Resolume Arena 4 software for video playback, and the improvements made to it over the last few years have been brilliant. It enables us to route different parts of the whole composition to multiple screens, and does soft edging and warping for projection mapping.

The advanced screen setup in Resolume showing which slices go to which screen

The warping and soft edging in Resolume to map onto the drapes

The soft edging feature in Resolume made it easy for Tim (our projectionist guru) to blend two projectors together. In fact it only took a couple of minutes to do! That was the only perk – everything else took ages.

Welcome Screen

In the past we have done welcome titles for just the IMAG (live video) screen but as we had a large workspace to play with we went for ultra widescreen across it all. Created by Gideon in After Effects CS5 and includes views of Sheffield, a couple of Jesus Centres, and one of the first community houses the church bought.
Section Titles

The evening had the theme of D.N.A. running through it as an acronym. D standing for Divine Life, N standing for New Friendship, and A standing for Apostolic Dreams. Gideon created these so the top drape had the text, and the bottom one had an old projector film running across it with images or footage that related to the title.

The backdrop during Mick’s talk conveying the D.N.A. message

Animated Bible Scriptures
To show the importance of passing the baton (and our D.N.A.) to the next generation being founded on scripture an animation was created. Aidan used Cinema 4D to make the D.N.A. structure, baton, and parchment which the scripture is written on.

The passing the baton clip at the end was filmed in front of a green screen where I passed it to Aidan, and then colourised it so it looked similar to the one in the animation, as the baton we had borrowed was silver. Simple but effective.

The baton pass, and unlike Team GB we didn’t drop it. Thanks to my Mum for lending the baton she got for being a volunteer at the 2012 Olympics

Why not just have a simple screen with just the text from the Bible on it? Firstly we had to get the message across about D.N.A. – passing the baton to the next generation, and Biblical relevance in one scene. Secondly it’s good to stay modern – as the Bible started off on parchment, then was hand written, then duplicated on a printing press (to much disdain), and then made into an eBook. So having it animated and unfurl kept us up to date – as long as it’s designed so you’re not distracted from the actual text itself when it’s being read.

Each of the three sections took around 5 hours to render on over forty cores (a mix of Intel Core i5 and i7 processor PC’s), as the Cinema 4D export was 1980×396 pixels.

In Need Of A Saviour – Music, Drama, and Video
The geniuses that create music were hard at work and came up with a song that conveyed the fact that everyone is in need of a saviour. It was also a chance to fuse electronic music (using Ableton), live effects on drumming, and the usual band (bass and electric guitars, keys, vocals etc). Live music, combined with a stage drama and video produced this:

The song was recorded a few weeks beforehand so the drama guys and video team had something to work with. The audio below is the studio recording.

The direction for the stage item was to have snapshots of what was going on stage projected behind them. So I chose the good old Polaroid photographs theme and set to work. We did some filming in Leicester outside some shops late on a Sunday night the week before the event, and then edited it all together in Adobe Premiere.

Filming in Leicester in the worst light possible!

Editing all the Polaroid snaps in Premiere Pro CS5 (who needs After Effects anyway?…)

When it came to running the item on the day it was a bit hit and miss, as both the lighting crew and myself hadn’t seen the drama so we weren’t too sure on timings. And you can tell! Also having the IMAG screen as part of the main projection meant I had to ask the video mixer to display something to make it full screen, and resulted in a slight delay because of this. Still not a bad effort by all involved.

The Thespians (and the worlds largest frame) with the video backdrop

It’s whitten written in the stars

Picketing from stage was deemed a suitable way to end. Maybe they’re French.

The Real Live Lounge

It’s like the choir, but better looking. No comment on the vocal talent though…

The key to any church event is breaking the divide between what is happening on stage and the congregation, so you don’t have a 1,000 people in cinema mode but engaged fully. The idea came up to have lounge style worship scene on stage, with lots of people and a few simple instruments (guitars and djembes obviously – you can’t have worship without guitars). And this was the result:

Rather than have just a few bods on stage looking uncomfortable, we thought we’d put a funky backdrop behind them using lounge furniture. It doesn’t help the awkwardness but hey it’s something nice to look at. Aidan created it in Cinema 4D to fly into place as they all trooped nervously on stage.

I heard a lot of good feedback about this item. It seemed to do the trick of helping people engage with what was going on and to be able to worship God themselves.

Spoken Word – “Dreams”
One thing you don’t want in an event is a sensory overload – too much lights / video / music. And this item was a spoken word piece that allowed people to just focus on the speaker (Artemis) who did a brilliant job conveying the message.

Why have I included it in this post? Well there was actually meant to be some visuals on the drapes, and a dearly beloved friend of mine spent ages getting pictures to display on the drapes. In the hustle and bustle of the day I forgot didn’t have time and so they weren’t shown. And the item was much better as a result. Sometimes less makes for more.

Running The Race – In Honour of the Martyrs
The final section of the evening event was our annual honouring of the martyrs, which was introduced with this video followed by a minutes silence.

In the interests of my professional reputation: I did not use Times New Roman in that video.
After the minutes silence we brought the fourth projector into play as a drape unfurled to take up the front of stage. Having it at the front made it more engaging for the congregation (in theory).
The projector was placed a ground level right next to the technical area. I did wonder if it would get knocked at all by people walking past but thankfully the only dramas were those on stage.

A side mounted Christie LX605 projector with a Sony camcorder strapped to it to record the evening event. Plus an enthralled lighting and video team

The “running the race” section was split into three parts. The first was to honour and remember people that have died for their unwavering commitment to Jesus, the second was to honour and remember people that reached the end of their lives whilst staying faithful to Jesus, and the third section was to give people an opportunity to commit themselves to Jesus for the rest of their lives. The video below is of parts two and three:

Perhaps the best part of the whole day for me from a technical point of view is that the match sound came through when the candle was being lit. It’s amazing what a difference little touches like that can do to any video or item.
The worst part came when the drape was unravelled as it was meant to reveal the Bible scripture. But due to a problem with the layers in Resolume we just had a rolling baton coming down so it looked odd to say the least. Doh!
The candle was filmed on the Thursday evening, more of an afterthought really as a scrolling list of names on its own looked a bit bland.
The third part was people texting their names in which then appeared on the drape.
This was a complicated process! Each text had to be verified to make sure no stupid or rude names got through, and then the names had to scroll on a loop with more being added all the time. The diagram below was the process of someone sending a text through to it being displayed on the central drape:
A huge thank you to Nick Porter, who engineered the text-to-screen system including a MySQL database for the texts, an authorising mechanism in PERL, and a scrolling website to display the names in PERL, Javascript, HTML, and CSS. He used Gammu to get the texts off the Nokia 6310i mobile over bluetooth. The phone numbers were not stored, and the names were deleted after the item.

The other ideal use we made of an old Nokia phone

In total we received 475 text messages that were displayed, and a further 50 didn’t come through till after the meeting due to Orange network congestion. Apologies if you texted your name and it didn’t appear.
Some people felt that going from a minutes silence honouring the martyrs to texting their name onto a screen within ten minutes was a bit much, and others said it made for a lasting impression. And they are both right. Don’t try to please everyone but go with the inspirations you have, whilst making sure you listen to God so you don’t get in the way of His work. On the plus side constructive criticism is actually very helpful so thanks for those that were honest.

The Customary Celebration (where we dance like muppets)
Last but not least – a cacophony of video, lights, and cheesy music:

Final Thoughts
Overall the event ran pretty well – not too many running problems and errors considering how technically ambitious it was. Our team has learnt plenty about what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to large scale visuals – our church events recently seem like a constant boundary pushing exercise. There is the possibility of technical ambition making it over the top but one thing I’m passionate about is why should the world have the best lighting team, set designers, musicians, and video production? I believe we have genuine talent in these and want to see them continue to raise the bar. It’s good to be in a church that stays modern and relevant.

What it all comes back to. Jesus – our source, inspiration and saviour

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!