‘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.

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!

Design

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.

Rig

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.

Music

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:

Projection

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)