LifeWay Christian Resources provides over 360 different weeks of student ministry camps each year from Florida to California. In preparation for those camps, LifeWay brought together the camp leaders for a weekend of empowerment and training. For the 2017 X. WKND, production designer Jake Brantley and lighting director Chris Kulow were asked to create an engaging worship environment to heighten the passion behind the ministry, and they did so using a complete lighting, LED video and audio system from live event provider Elite Multimedia.
“X. WKND is an event with LifeWay Students where you have all the staff members from each of our summer camp brands attending an educational worship conference,” began Brantley. “Each camp has its own unique style and identity so we were asked to create a brand neutral worship design that would speak to the staff members from all camps and make them feel at home in the worship environment.”
Held inside the Shocco Springs Christian Conference Center in Talladega, Alabama, the three-day event was headlined by Trip Lee with worship services lead by the Steven Cole Band. Driven to create one of their most dynamic production designs for the inaugural X. WKND, Brantley and Kulow had the advantage of being in their home venue.
Brantley continued, “We are very familiar with Shocco Springs as we do camps there all summer long. Since there are some rigging points in the room designed specifically for our needs, as well as I-beam supports for additional rigging, we knew we could really take the venue to its limit and create something special.”
“We wanted to make the room feel more intimate to bring the audience into the worship environment, so we started talking about using the rigging points to create a giant ‘X’ out in the house,” added Kulow. “With it only being about 20 feet to the bottom of the steel, we decided to embrace the trim height instead of viewing it as a challenge and from there the design really started to come together.”
With their signature design concept in place, Brantley and Kulow began speaking with Elite Multimedia about the production gear that could make their idea into a reality. When discussing how they could create the “X” in the production design, they were initially concerned about the budget, but that concern was quickly alleviated.
“In the original design meetings as the idea developed, we thought we could never afford to do it with LED video panels,” explained Brantley. “After speaking with Peter Streiff at Elite Multimedia not only did we find out that we could afford it, but he also confirmed our numbers that the ceiling rigging points could support it as well, so we created the ‘X’ using four 60-foot legs of FLEXLite Plus 8.9mm LED video panels hanging about 16-17 feet above the audience and it looked great.”
Continuing to develop the production design, Brantley and Kulow turned their attention to the stage design. Using a traditional 40-foot by 20-foot deck, the design needed to support both the worship environment for the music, and also the educational speakers relaying critical information in preparation for the camps.
“In creating the stage design, we first looked at the upstage LED video wall that would be essential for both the worship song lyrics, but also for the information being shared by the speakers throughout the event,” added Brantley. “We decided to go with a 3.9mm FLEXLite LED video wall for the center area because we needed the high-resolution video for lyrics and other graphic content. On either side of that, we then added two additional vertical legs of LED video to create an abstract ‘X’ onstage and complete the LED video design.”
Kulow continued, “When creating the lighting design, we knew there were rigging points that could hold about 1200 lbs so we hung a row of Elation Platinum FLX for front-of-house beams and aerial effects. Then we had a true downstage truss hanging off the first main I-beam that had both VL3500 Wash fixtures and a few more Platinum FLX as well. Additionally, we then hung ETC Source4 Lekos on the fount-of-house truss for our basic stage wash, and we had Clay Paky Sharpy’s on the floor for more aerials. Lastly, we had three vertical 20’ box truss towers on stage with a VL3500 Wash on top with LED battens and ground blinders as well.”
With the stage complete, Brantley and Kulow next considered adding a bit of lighting to the video as well. Wanting to take the design to yet another level, they decided to incorporate a bit of pixel mapping in to the LED video design.
Kulow explained, “To heighten the design even more, we decided to add Ayrton MagicPanels in between the LED video panels and then we did an ArtNet merge to pixel map them with the video. It was a great addition to the design because we were able to carry over the video content to the face of the fixture which created a dynamic visual effect with the LED video design.”
As they now turned their attention to the video content of the production design, Brantley called upon designer Nick Rivero of Meptik to help them put the finishing touches on the event. Having worked together on a number of different occasions, Kulow and Rivero would need to once again collaborate on a cohesive experience of lighting and video.
“We were excited to work with Nick as our content creator and he absolutely killed it,” admitted Brantley. “We would typically get the worship song list an hour before the services, so Chris and Nick would sit down together to pick color schemes and then communicate beautifully throughout the service to create a seamless production design. When the content creator and the lighting director know each other so well, you really have a sense of comfort, and they both did a great job of programming the majority of the worship services on the fly.”
Kulow added, “There were times when Nick would take over a song with video and then moments when he would back off and go to a color so that the lighting could take center stage. I actually enjoy running lights on the fly and my goal as a lighting director is to add to the worship atmosphere without being a distraction. With this rig there was a ton of horsepower for the energetic songs, but then we could also set the mood with a smooth color change or color wash.”
With all of the design elements now in place, the X. WKND was ready to get underway. In an environment of energy and excitement being felt by all those in attendance, Brantley was grateful that they had been given a bit of creative freedom and that they had a production provider who was ready to assist in that creativity.
“This was the first time in a while that we had a production budget that wasn’t predestined for something so we really had the opportunity to dream a little bit,” concluded Brantley. “It was great to be able to work so closely with Elite Multimedia to bounce ideas off them and see all the gear they had available to make the design a reality. They really did a great job of helping us make the budget work so that we could incorporate all the production elements we wanted in the design, and because of this our team was able to create the most exciting production design this event has ever seen.”
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