Easter—along with Christmas—is one of the most highly attended weekends of the year at most churches. As a result, we typically pull out all the stops to make those services (or a special service) great. From a production point of view, Easter can take us way outside of where we normally live. This can be exciting as we get to do new things we don’t do every week. On the other hand, it’s fraught with peril if we don’t plan well.
As with most high production events, making Easter/Good Friday successful starts with planning. The best time to start planning for Easter is January. Yes, I know we’re still recovering from Christmas, but the earlier we get a handle on what we’re doing, the better we will be prepared to execute with excellence.
Cover the Big Bases First
Start off getting a general scope of what the service entails. Once that is worked out, you need to get specific pretty quickly. I like to ask a lot of questions: What is the band configuration? How many vocalists? Do we have an orchestra, and what does that look like? If doing a drama, how many wireless mic’s will we need? How many pastors will be speaking? What other special sound effects might we have to do? Will we need tracks with a click fed back to the band? Do we need additional monitor mixes in unusual locations? Will the set pose any acoustical or set up challenges? Is there anything else we haven’t discussed?
In 2014, Easter is the third Sunday in April. That means you should have the answers to all or most of those questions by late February. Once you know what you’re doing, you can start planning your technical and staffing needs.
Book Rentals Early
For audio, start with an input list. That will quickly highlight any issues you have with mic inventory, input or mix count, and monitors. If you don’t have enough equipment, your choices are to borrow, rent or do without. When budgets are tight, sometimes you have to get creative. If you have the money to rent, remember to book your equipment early; Easter is a busy time for rental companies.
If you are doing a dramatic production that will have different lighting requirements from a normal service, consider working up a lighting plot. A lighting plot is a drawing of your stage area along with each light and its location. Depending on the production, you may need to rent additional dimmers, fixtures or moving lights. To light multiple locations at different times, it may be more cost-effective to rent a few moving lights, as they are easily re-focusable. This is especially true if you are short on dimmers and power. As with audio, the same early booking policy applies.
Don’t Forget The Staff
Most Good Friday/Easter productions also require additional technical staff, and it’s a good idea to work out rehearsal and production schedules early and get those dates on your teams’ calendars. Palm Sunday is a bad time to discover that most of your team is planning on being out of town for Easter.
You may also find you need additional positions that don’t normally exist. For example, whenever I do a large dramatic production with many channels of wireless (especially when packs are shared among actors), I assign a wireless mic wrangler. That person’s sole job is to make sure the right person has the right mic—switched on—at the right time. You may need stage hands to help move set or prop pieces, or additional team members to run environmental projection computers, extra lighting boards or whatever. Lining those people up earlier is better than later.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
As you can probably guess, the key to all of this is communication. It is imperative that you have many detailed conversations with your worship leader, pastor, creative director (or all of the above) to work out the specifics. Most of the time, those individuals will not be fully aware of the technical complexities created by their great and creative ideas. It is up to us as technical experts to figure out how to make things happen, and present realistic budgets.
We have to be the ones asking the questions and making sure we get the information we need; don’t count on others to think about the technical requirements. Keep in mind your leaders are not ignoring you; they just don’t think about production like we do. That’s why we’re here.
Finally, when putting new equipment in your room, make sure to allow adequate time for set up, familiarization and testing. If you are renting gear, bring it in several days in advance of the service to be sure it works the way you expect.
With a little (OK, a lot!) of planning, it is possible to create amazing and powerful Good Friday and Easter services that will have a tremendous impact for eternity and keep you and your team sane, energized and ready for the next big event.