Man oh man it has been like 2 weeks since I have blogged. I have tweeted sparsely and updated my Facebook the same in this dry spell of social media. Suffice it to say that I just plain became busy and overwhelmed with everything I put on my plate that the Loch Ness Monster would have been easier to find than free time. My wife is a saint for putting up with me or the lack of me for about 2 weeks when it all happened at once. I’ve often joked that I not only burn the candle at both ends but quite frequently light the sucker from the middle as well. While in school (which I started 4 years later than the rest of my high school class) I double majored through the Honors program, at one point worked 3 part time jobs, and finally one full time job, drove an hour to and an hour from school and somehow managed to get married, move twice, and write my thesis while finding some time to sleep (if i had bought stock in Starbucks coffee and 5 hour energy drinks I would have made back all the money I spent on the stuff). So unfortunately this is not a new thing for me.
When I first began to plan our Easter Production I dreamed big and shot for the stars. I talked enough about the idea that I began to realize I better figure out a way to back up all the talk (I was completely in over my head). My idea was to present our wonderful choir and combine it with media. Two worlds that had not come together that much here at Grace Church. The last Easter Production we did – 2 years ago – was more of a full blown passion play. While it went over with great success I wanted to try something different this time. I wanted to leverage the power of media to creatively share the message of Easter. All the while bringing quality music and choir to the mix.
My whole idea was to feature our Choir center stage and have a screen or something immerse them as then worship. I rolled around the ideas of a large projection screen, environmental projection, lighting, and more. I have worked with Maxx Technologies out of Franklin TN, on other projects and have some friends who work closely with them so I asked them what they could manage within our budget to create a wonderful experience. What we settled on was a 14’x8′ Winvision LED Video wall and 14 LED par can lights to help create mood. Now I was surprised it worked in our budget to be honest – and as it turned out it was just coincidence that they had one for that weekend. We were officially the first customer to use it as they had a tour leaving the Monday after our production taking it. So I am not asking questions, I just know it worked out perfectly.
Now to some that may sound like a ton, to others it may sound like their normal Sunday service. Let me put it in perspective for us. We don’t have real lighting. We have 5 individual dimmers controlling our outdoor flood lights that light our stage. We have 2 dimmers on the other side of our sanctinasium that control our former gym lights that we converted to be able to dim them (basically removed the ballasts and used 500 watt incandescent bulbs). We have a somewhat large 4:3 screen but gets lost because of the size of wall behind it. It is actually about 10′ wide but there is 22′ of wall so it doesn’t look as immersive. So when this became reality and we had 20′ of that 22′ wall covered by LED screen and trussing it was visually stunning. The lights gave us something we never had before – control of our lights from a central location! Imagine the ability to blackout with one fader, to direct the congregations attention with light rather than just all on or all off (and not all turning off all at once).
We created songtracks for every song in the production. Each timed out with a click track so everything worked together. We filmed members of our staff telling the story of the crucifixion and resurrection from different points of view: the centurion, the thief, Pilot, and Mary Magdalene. These monologues were interwoven in-between appropriate songs and added a lot of power plus a plot and a story movement from beginning to end. But the most powerful moments came when we sang “You Humble Me” while we timed scenes from the Passion of the Christ behind the choir and band. To be completely honest – I was not a fan of that movie in general. I felt it lacked movement from beginning of the story to the end – movie wise it was an OK movie but story wise, well, its the greatest story ever told and it has great moments of emotion and depiction that go well beyond anything that has been done previous. Needless to say picking specific scenes and putting it to powerful music well just plain worked. It was powerful as was the whole night.
Anyway that is where I was for the past few weeks, working on the production, rehearsing Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, all the while working like a dog on the videos because my laptop hard drive crashed and I had to recreate a number of the media we used. But God saw me through and worked through everyone involved. And that was really our prayer, even though it would seem at first to be a “production” being all that technology that is new to us, we wanted to point towards Christ and leverage the power that lighting, video, and music can have to share the Greatest Story Ever Told.
I will post pictures and video as I get through all of it to share what God has been doing here at Grace Church. And I will catch up on sharing our past set lists as well… I promise.