A Wall of Colour: Bringing A Church Stage Design To Life

A Wall of Colour
Once a year the Jesus Army holds a national event in the north of England called “Sheffield Praise Day”, which as the name suggests is held in Sheffield. We hire out a sports hall and this gives us some flexibility with the layout. A team gets together to design the stage and then implement it, and after seeing a CSDI post about video mapping onto boxes I thought it would be interesting to try it out.

The design
After scribbling some initial ideas onto paper I handed it over to the experts to improve – Tim, Sam, and Josh, and they worked on making the panels and designing the stage. The theme for this event was “Crossing the Line”, so Josh incorporated a walkway that enabled people to go through a door in the middle of the wall, and down to the stage.

The ideas come to life in Sketchup

The ideas come to life in Sketchup

Capture Polar software

Capture Polar software was used to pre-program the lighting

Panels for the video wall
Material: correx (a coroplast equivalent) – 8’x4′ (1200 x 2400mm) sheets cut down to 4 foot squares, 4mm thick, with a bevelled edge so the squares stand out.
2″x1″ (50 x 25mm) timber on vertical sides of each panel. Panels all held together by a metal hinge to join 4 of them together in each corner.
Attached to the main top truss by velcro straps – 10m drops 50mm wide velcro. Loops on panels stuck to strap, and screw put through strap into the wood.

The panels being made in the workshop

The panels being made in the workshop

The panels are scored along the bevel lines, and then folded back

The back of the panel – each one is scored 50mm in, and then folded back into the score so that the panel slightly protrudes

Setting up

Testing the panels at our local church

Testing the panels and fixings in our local church auditorium


The usual discussion about replacing most of the PA with moving lights


Lighting Fixtures

  • 6x ADJ ViziBeam 5R
  • 8x Martin Mac 101
  • 6x Showtec ArcBar3
  • 1x 8cell Molefay
  • 2x 4-bar ACL
  • 6x Showtec Sunstrips
  • 2x Robe 148LT & 6-Bar Par for stage wash
  • 4x StudioDuo LED600 & 6no. CYClite for audience wash

I’m part of a team that creates visuals for events, and this year as we had a big screen to project onto we made some videos to play before and during each meeting.

The event ident video playing while the congregation gathers

The event ident video playing while the congregation crosses the line

I was particularly keen to show something of the city of Sheffield, as some people travel hundreds of miles to sit in a hall for the day which doesn’t seem very fair. So the week before I went round the city with Viv, and made a short video which encapsulates a little of what Sheffield is like.

As the panels were square and we knew their layout it meant we could map our content accurately.

Editing knowing where each of the panels would be

Editing knowing where each of the panels would be

Voilà! It fits! Peoples happy faces mapped to each panel

Voilà! It fits! People’s happy faces mapped to each panel

We used two Barco FLM-HD20 projectors at the back of the hall behind the congregation. These are full HD 20,000 lumens beasts, and made a big difference to the brightness and clarity of video on the wall. Supplied by XL video.

The projectors double stacked for extra brightness on the panels

The projectors double stacked for extra brightness on the panels, due to the width they had to cover

Resolume Arena 4 was used to map the video accurately on each panel.

Crossing the Line
small 1

A family goes through the door holding one of the pieces that made up a long line for people to step over

A family goes through the door holding one of the pieces that made up a long line for people to step over

Perhaps the most powerful moment in the evening, as we remembered the martyrs

Perhaps the most powerful moment in the evening, as we remembered the martyrs

A short video of a couple of songs from the event and showing the church stage design:

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!