ST. LOUIS – E Pluribus Unum, no less than Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin chose these Latin words, “Out of Many One,” in 1776 for the official seal of their fledgling republic. The phrase, which is handed down today on US coins, also serves as an apt description for what Seth Jackson has accomplished for Premier Productions’ stellar 2019 Worship Tour, which is running across the USA this fall.
Earlier this year, Jackson was approached by Josh Chambless of Premier Productions to create a unifying design for a tour that would feature three of worship music’s most prominent groups: Casting Crowns, Elevation Worship and Hillsong Worship. Multiple Dove Award nominees all, and in two case Dove and Grammy winners, each band has its own distinct look on stage, created by its own talented production team.
Jackson’s mission was to come up with a design that would pull together each band’s unique stage persona, while still presenting a smoothly flowing and harmoniously balanced look on stage.
Working with his partner Nate Alves, Jackson met this “out of many one” challenge in flying colors (quite literally!), creating a sweeping panorama that embraces the visuals of each band, while also projecting a unified image that is unique to the tour. Included in the rig that he used to accomplish this feat are 21 CHAUVET Professional Maverick MK3 Spot lighting fixtures supplied by Bandit Lites.
“The MK3s are the workhorse of the rig,” said Jackson. “We are relying on them for illumination one minute, and graphics the next.”
Jackson is also using the high output MK3 Maverick Spot fixtures as follow spots. “It was terribly important to each artist to be able to see and respond to the crowd. Follow spots would be too blinding,” he said. “There was no way, short of just having everything turned on, that we could pull off this show without a legion of follow spots. The course we selected with the MK3s was much preferred.”
Compared to traditional follow spots, the Maverick fixtures also offered other benefits, according to Jackson. “The audience is a huge part of the experience on this tour, and MK3s help pull the picture throughout the room to reach everyone,” he said. “Textures, color and mood – they’re all brought from the stage to the room. The MK3s have the power and intensity to pull it off. I love arena shows like this, because there is something magical that happens when a big audience can see each other in the crowd and the experience becomes part of the whole.”
Jackson’s evenly balanced, integrated show looks virtually effortless in its execution, but in reality, it was the result of long hours of preparation, and a lot of hard leg work. All three bands were on tour when he began working on this project, and they remained so almost until the moment their first joint show opened. This meant logging countless frequent flyer miles and late night Skype sessions for Jackson, as he worked with the different design teams to pull the various looks that characterized each band into a well-rounded production.
“Fortunately for me, the design teams involved in this tour are incredibly talented,” said Jackson. “Jarrad Donovan and Steve Pippett from Hillsong were tremendously helpful in providing me with the information I needed to give them as many tools as possible that they could use to create that definitive ‘Hillsong’ look. Darren Hughes and Chris Lighthall from Casting Crowns built this elegant, very stylish show that is a perfect marriage for what Crowns is all about. Things were rounded out by Daniel Connell and Cory Edwards for Elevation Worship. They were the last added to the project, but they built a powerful show that doesn’t overwhelm or get in the way of what is happening onstage.”
Weaving different design elements from the bands together so they played off nicely against one another was key to Jackson’s production design. For example, he took the vertical LED video columns from Hillsong’s design, coordinated them with lighting fixture columns, and matched them with the shapes from Casting Crowns’ show. “I didn’t want the ubiquitous ‘giant TV’ back there,“ he said. “But the artists and the tour sponsors, Compassion International, all had specific content they wanted in addition to the IMAG. Breaking up the screens with the lighting towers put everything in balance and it allowed each act to use the screens in a way that reflected their style.”
Jackson credits All Access Staging, Go Live Productions, and Concept Pixels with key contributions to the production design’s success. He also praises the work of the tech crews for the different bands: Lead Programmer Bryan Landry and Lighting Director PJ Peters from Elevation Worship; Video Content Create Kyle Lollis, Lot 35 Productions for Casting Crowns; and Tour Lighting Operator Wesley Hahn for Hillsong Worship. The work of these tech crews is facilitated by Nate Alves, who coordinates how the LDs work with console integration and networking, ensuring a seamless flow between each act, the multi-act finale, and the tour sponsor presentations for Compassion International.
“We tried to give everyone as much of their own persona as possible, and still support the overall experience and the budget necessities,” said Jackson, who jokes that he and Alves “built a sandbox” for the different design teams to “play in.” It is in that “sand box,” that the hands of many talented people have created one beautiful show.
Photo Credit: Premier Productions, Dave Contreras
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