Lighting Good Friday

Almost all year long, our lighting team does a great job lighting up the band and the speakers on our stage. Our goal is to make it easy to see everyone, and create an atmosphere of worship. But once a year, we change it up. On Good Friday, the goal is no longer to light everyone up on stage, but simply to create an environment. For Good Friday, we use no front lighting at all; everything is back, top and side, with lots of beam effects, haze and deep, saturated color. It’s all about the environment, not the people on stage. In fact, if you didn’t know who they were, you wouldn’t recognize them. 

What follows are some pictures from both rehearsal and the service itself. Before I go on, I have to give a lot of credit to our LD, Thomas Pendergrass. He designed most of the lighting looks for this service this year, and the entire plot. For you gear junkies, we used a compliment of ten Varilight VL-2500s (rented) on the ground and raised up on cases; eight High End Studio Color 575s on poles; six Martin 581s and a dozen ColorBlasts. We also used a bunch of Par64s on the same poles with the Studio Colors. 

The intensity of the light closely tracked the intensity of the service. We hung a white scrim upstage to use as both a projection surface and way to obscure the cross until we wanted it revealed. When it was time to reveal Christ on the cross, we lit it from behind the scrim using a couple of pin spots and red gelled Parnells. As an aside, if you’re unfamiliar with scrims, they’re pretty cool pieces of fabric. When lit from the front, they appear solid. However, if you drop the front light and light objects behind the scrim, it appears to disappear. We rent ours from a local rental house every year. 

We tried to set the tone of the service using color. Obviously there is a lot of red, representing the blood of Christ. But we also used a lot of blue and yellow to symbolize the hope we have in Christ. Remember, we know the end of the story. The service is a no spoken-word service, so we lead people through the entire hour with video, music and scripture. The lighting also leads people on the journey. More than any other time, we have the opportunity to lead people through an entire service with lighting. 

Though I’ve been through it many times, it wrecks me every time. I hope this proves inspiration to you. 

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Building the Hourglass

As I mentioned yesterday, our only real set element for Good Friday and Easter was the pair of hourglasses (we're actually not sure what to call them; that term was coined by one of our A2s and it stuck) we built from EMT and landscaping tape. They did look great however. We spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out the best way to build them, so I thought I’d let you in on that process.

First of all, the original design was borrowed from Chestnut Ridge Church in Morgantown, WV. Actually, if you look at what they did on ChurchStageDesignIdeas, theirs came out way better. But we were pressed for time and what we came up with worked OK for our purposes. 

The guys at Chestnut Ridge used aluminum square stock for the top and bottom rods; I ended up using 3/4” EMT (electrical conduit). I used EMT for 2 reasons; first, I know I can buy it cheap at Home Depot; and second, because I need a bunch of it anyway for a project in our student room. I tried to scale the original design to figure out how big it was, but at the end of the day, it needed to fit our stage. So we went with 15’ long top and bottom bars. 

After looking around for a while, I settled on 2” white taffeta marking tape from Graniger. We spaced ours with 4” between each piece. When we started building them, we would measure each one, but then it occurred to me that if we made marks every 6”, we could just lay it out that way much faster. 

To build them, we first assembled the 15’ lengths of EMT using a standard coupling. The EMT was hung from the truss using safety cables. Given that the total hanging weight was something on the order of 12 pounds (probably not even that), I wasn’t worried about safety. The safeties were about 3’ in from each end, so I knew they wouldn’t slip.

We raised the lift up to a comfortable height with two of us up top and two working on the floor. Up in the air, we had two rolls of the tape. After gaffing our ends to the pipe, we dropped them down to the guys on the floor, who crossed them end for end. We were careful to make sure the tape didn’t twist up on the way down. We worked from the ends toward the center. After they team on the floor cut and taped their ends down, they threw the rolls back up to us.

This became quite a competition between the two teams, as it turned out. Much fun and laughter ensued. 

I should point out that we laid the floor pipe out so that the center point was in the same place vertically, but it was turned about 30° to the top piece. This gave us a bit of twist to the design; something that you couldn’t really tell from the floor, but made it a little easier to light.

Speaking of lighting, we used six ColorBlasts to light each one; three on top and three on the floor. The taffeta tape took lighting really well, and it looked very even across the entire piece. Because it was only about 25% opaque at the top and bottom, we were also able to throw light through it when necessary. 

I think we spent less than $70 on the entire thing and it took us about 2 hours to build. A big shout out to Brandy Gibson at Chestnut Ridge for the inspiration. It was easy, cheap and looked great. What else could you want from a set design?

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Good Friday & Easter At Coast Hills

Spoiler alert; this will probably be a multi-part series that won’t get wrapped up until a few weeks after NAB. But I wanted to get started with it anyway since it’s all still fresh in my mind. A few people asked me about our equipment set up, what we rented, how we configured it and what the overall system looked like, so we’ll start there. Eventually, I’ll do some more in-depth reviews of specific gear, but for now, we’ll just concentrate on the overall system. 

Bringing Back Monitors

Well, technically, the monitor position. For the past 20 months, we’ve been doing most of our monitoring via the M-48s (for the band) and wedges mixed from FOH for the vocals. This year, our worship leader wanted to put all the vocals on IEMs. Since we were going to have eight BGVs for Good Friday (plus the eight M-48s); and a choir plus three BGVs and seven M-48s for Easter, I knew that we’d need help. Since my friend Kevin Sanchez was available, we booked him for monitors. However, we don’t have enough wireless IEMs or even a monitor desk anymore, so we needed some additional gear. 

The MADIRack in the picture is for output to the IEMs, and also took in a few auxes I sent from FOH.

We rented 10 channels of Sennheiser G2 and G3 (mostly G3) wireless for the vocal team, and used our in-stock Shure IEMs for the band (in conjunction with the M-48s—our normal set up). For the desk, we decided to bring in a DiGiCo SD10 for FOH, and moved our SD8 to monitors. Since DiGiCo does rack-sharing so well, we ran all the inputs through our normal DigiRack and simply digitally split it out to both consoles. The FOH SD10 was gain master, and the SD8 tracked it perfectly. We could have done it the other way, but I needed to keep the levels good for the M-48s (which splits off the SD10 at FOH). 

Once we got everything configured (making sure the SD10 was the Audio Master and the clock master), it all worked perfectly. I could make changes to preamp gain safe in the knowledge that the SD8 would track that gain and not mess with IEMs Kevin was mixing. The rest of our audio chain was pretty normal; save for the Waves SoundGrid server that was attached to the SD10. I hadn’t planned on using any Waves for the weekend, but since they were there, I did. But that warrants another post. And the results may surprise you…

Lighting it Up

We’ve rented a variety of fixtures over the years for Good Friday, and this year we changed it up again. My LD, Thomas Pendergrass, came up with a plan to use ten rented VariLight VL2500s along with our six Martin 518s and eight High End Studio Color 575s. Though we spent less this year than any year in recent memory, we actually had 24 moving lights on stage, which led to some pretty impressive looks. We also deployed our twelve ColorBlasts to light up our set pieces (dubbed the “hourglasses”). We put three at the top and bottom of each piece.

The hourglasses (for lack of a better term) were taken from something I saw on ChurchStageDesignIdeas. They were made up of nothing more than 3/4” EMT (electrical conduit) and 2” wide, white landscape marking tape. The marking tape is a 2 mil vinyl tape that we gaffed to the EMT. The EMT was hung from the truss with safety cables (secured at one end to a pipe with tie line so it wouldn’t move around), and weighted with sandbags on the floor. We just stretched the tape from top to bottom leaving about 4” of space between each piece. They took less than 2 hours to make and cost about $70. And we’ll use the EMT in our student room this summer when I re-run the video lines. 

Good Friday

Our Good Friday service is really amazing. It’s a “no spoken word” service; everything is conveyed through text, video and song. Over the last three years, I’ve been through the service over 20 times (between services, rehearsals and virtual soundcheck), and it wrecks me every time. During this service, we do no front lighting of the band; it’s all back and side light. In fact, the light is really more of an atmospheric element. We run a ton of haze and do a lot of beam effects, something the VL2500s do very well. 

One of our many Good Friday Lighting looks.

We also played around with what I called my ghetto sub array to really enhance the earthquake effect we do during this service. It worked out well enough that I ended up using it all weekend. 

Easter

Easter is basically the same band set up as Good Friday (only we loose percussion). This year, instead of a large vocal team, we had a 19 person choir plus our worship leader and three BGVs. I was pretty sure our DPA 4098s would work OK for the choir, but I have been itching to try the new 2011s since they were announced last year at NAB. Finally having an excuse, I called my friend Jarrod at DPA and asked if I could get a set. I hung them side-by-side with the 4098s so I could directly compare them. And that will be the subject of a separate post, but I can tell you that the choir sounded great. Even though there were only 19 people, we got them to 94 dBA SPL in the house before there was even a hint of feedback. 

As Easter is celebration, we light it up a lot more than Good Friday. It’s the exact same light plot; we just use things differently. For both services, Thomas did a great job conveying the right mood through lights.

There is a lot more to say about both services, and what went into it, but it will have to wait. Stay tuned, I’ve got lots of pictures!

What cool gear did you get to play with for Easter?

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