Showing all posts tagged #producing:

Shelter In Place Digital Church Service

Posted on June 16th, 2020

So, the phrase is unprecedented. Never been done before. Fluid. All the things we have been hearing in this season.

Some of you know that back in February, I started a new full time job as Creative Director for Woodside. I was basically there for 5 weeks and then my job description completely transformed. I went from responsible for arts and production at our main campus to being the producer of what we streamed for all 14 of our campuses!

I was still in that season of my new tenure where I was resisting the urge to start bringing change. My job was to observe everything and meet people. Leading things forward would come in due time and at the right pace.

That all immediately shifted with a conference call on a Thursday afternoon where we decided that we wouldn’t have guests. I declared that we could do a live-to-record of each of the parts (music, sermon, panel discussion, etc.) in time to edit it all into a good finished product that felt authentic and compelling. Then I got on the phone and we started prepping. 36 hours later, we were rehearsing. A totally fresh feel to our setting with recording on the front steps with a "b-stage" type of feel for the music, and transitions mapped out for the communication to feel great from stools down front with the regular broadcast cameras locations moved up close to translate better for an online audience to feel intimately connected even though they weren’t on-site. A couple hours later, we were recording. We captured each of the parts; and later that Saturday afternoon, we successfully wove the different segments into what was received as a blessing of a weekend service that was streamed on Sunday.

The following week, I changed it up and took us out to the lobby to take our experience from our "living room" to those of everyone at home.

One week later, we clamped down even further as a state. We were now fully Shelter In Place with the charge to not leave the home if not an "essential worker." We lived this out. We had set our senior pastor up with a camera/mic/lighting rig at his house. One of our other campus pastors had a couple cameras with him that he wisely put in his car. Several phone calls and Zoom/Teams meetings to plan our service. Some more phone calls, text threads, and FaceTime coaching calls as there was a lot of work to give example setups of the video and audio and coaching decent lighting and shot compositions. Being natural in front of the camera is a legit thing. The tricky part was getting our Music Director to create click and guide for the husband/wife to sing and play along with.

The creation of that was a key part of a little secret project I worked on in the background. I had our MD record himself playing piano and signing on the chorus of one of the songs. I talked with a number of the Worship Directors from various campuses and had them take that click/guide and record themselves playing their instrument and singing along with the choruses. I sold this to them to give a try of a prototype of an idea that I imagined… I surprised everyone by editing a virtual band that joined in from so many other living rooms as a way to continue the "our living rooms to yours" that we could have be a really special part of the season. It aired that Sunday with great reception to the moment.

That prototype sold the team and leadership that my idea was worth building on. We did! It was pretty fun. We soon were having nearly a dozen people in our music cast. A leader for each song would be the first to record themselves singing/playing along with the click/guide. That was sent back and reworked as a version that went out to the rest of the cast so that people could be in play and sing in perfect time and harmony to that lead for each song. We developed our process for hosting with the pre-service welcome-to-the-stream, mid-service transitions and announcements, closing action steps. We figured out how to record the sermon with being off camera with a Zoom to coach while the recording was going to the main camera. We began doing creative liturgical moments for the congregation to participate in interactive prayer, scripture readings, and creeds. We also used zoom to do some panel recordings with medical experts and such.

We built ourselves up to be four weeks out in the planning process. We were averaging probably 25 hours of content that we were editing through every weekend. Usually we had 8 to 15 musicians and vocalists including fall rhythm band, strings, and other specialty instruments. In addition to our Central host, each of our 14 campus pastors delivered their sermon.

The music was mixed by one team (a person receiving, labeling, and preQC of claps and such; another to mix songs each week; another to help master and help me hold a brand) while the video was edited by a team usually each person doing a couple songs per week. As mixes would be updated, we would see how that helped steer the video edits and vice versa.

Meanwhile, for communication we would start writing our talking points and scripts a few weeks out. We would be on zoom calls to record central sermon and host. The rest, we were available for coaching the setups and such. A team of three editors handled all the communication parts.

Our Technical Director lined up the parts according to PCO and then I would work final transitions for the Central export. He then would work the remaining 13 to match. All 14 were exported and uploaded and our IT and Social teams made sure that they were posted and hosted well. It was a joy to tune in and watch on Sunday mornings.

I’m really proud of the process documentation that we wrote for leading people to record themselves and have it translate to fit in a compelling manner for a full video production. It was really great to have able to share our "playbook" with mega churches and school districts from around the country. Humbling and encouraging to hear stories of how it was used.

A highlight of the season for was early on where Holy Week we pulled off Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday services. After that weekend, I sent the tally below to our team. It certainly has been an honor and thrill getting to lead in this season.

By my count, last week’s Good Friday and Easter services required:
  • 13 computers (with multiple crashes and reboots required as they were pushed past the max) for such tasks as creating music, collecting and filing assets, editing video, mixing audio, producing graphics, polishing transitions and signing off with QC before export.
  • 15 sermons / preachers
  • 6 hosts for communication, Scripture readings, Creeds, etc.
  • Also Communion.
  • As well as some special content for First Service and Families.
  • 9 songs as well as an organ prelude!
  • >100 artists’ content of audio and video were part of our "choir"

Here is that Easter service:
Other services can be found:
Some of my other favorites:

I’ll add some photos to help illustrate this post. For now, let me state that I am super grateful for the team I got to work with and for trust that was put in me to lead. I feel like I was uniquely brought here for this purpose.

What We Pulled Off Last Week

Posted on April 18th, 2020

I sent the tally below to our team. It certainly has been an honor and thrill getting to lead in this season.

By my count, last week’s Good Friday and Easter services required:
13 computers (with multiple crashes and reboots required as they were pushed past the max) for such tasks as creating music, collecting and filing assets, editing video, mixing audio, producing graphics, polishing transitions and signing off with QC before export.
15 sermons / preachers
6 hosts for communication, Scripture readings, Creeds, etc.
Also Communion.
As well as some special content for First Service and Families.
9 songs as well as an organ prelude!
>100 artists’ content of audio and video were part of our "choir"

Ward Planning Process

Posted on August 18th, 2019

As the Creative Director, I’m responsible for leading us in the tactical now, the strategic near, and the vision of what we’re steering toward.

Now - Every weekend we have another event! I’m responsible for everything that is presented in each of our 3 venues.
  • I directly lead the Worship Directors to lead the art and presentation in each of their venues.
  • I lead the Production Department to support and enhance the art and communication with excellence - not only for the live experience, but also the broadcast audience web streaming and listening to radio.
  • I am coaching the hosts and teachers in navigating transitions and delivering their content with authenticity, tone, and clarity.
  • We’re always iterating and we’ll make any audible to the plan necessary to better tell the story and inspire life.
Near - We have Production Meetings every Monday. We break the meeting into three parts:
  • 3-Weeks-Out - PCO (our online production order and scheduling tool) 60% - The production order is mapped out with at least placeholder elements ("Song 3" or "Focus") in place to estimate timing of the day. Casting roles band/vocal positions are slotted.
  • 2-Weeks-Out - 85% - Order is filled in with specific song names and intended feel of moment in Producer column. Casting of band/vocalists is scheduled.
  • Week-Of - 95% - Order is detailed with who is leading each moment and talking points are outlined. Arrangements for every song is uploaded with accurate detail of what will be rehearsed. (If a change is realized during rehearsal; that’s totally fine, but we communicate any alterations by noon on Thursday) Musician backline support requests are fully detailed with what they want from Ward and what they’re brining.
Far - In the winter and spring, we begin mapping out the following year.
  • We try to maintain a road-map that is over a year in advance. I have created a master document for every event (weekends and special event) that happens in our main venues.
  • By 12-weeks-out, I work with the lead teacher for each event to write a paragraph of vision for the narrative of the experience, the angle of the teaching, and the hope for response. I’m also working with our Executive Staff and key Directors to make sure that we know any necessary elements, promotions, or calendar notes that must be factored in to the planning.
  • I have lead us to be 12-weeks-out in that "treatment" that we can plan from. I lead our team in a meeting where we look at each sermon series and we brainstorm ideas we might plan. We fill up the whiteboard with ideas, sketches, stickie notes, and optimism.
  • I followup with our Worship Directors and Lead Teacher and we hone in on what we want to develop. Storyboarding, writing, "braintrusting", re-writing, producing, designing, ordering, shooting, editing, prototyping, etc.

Volunteer Celebration

Posted on May 29th, 2019

Event Producing
The request was to find a way to show appreciation to >900 volunteers. I was offered the support of the other directors on the staff and a budget of $10,000. At first glance that sounds like a lot of money, but I had to use that for catering for dinner and desert, decorations, entertainment, well as invitations, childcare, photography, table hosting, setup, strike, dishwashing; also what presenters and MCs would be responsible for what communication...

I took survey of all the stakeholders - directors and key leaders. I learned what worked well with similar events in the past. I assembled a team of key partners whom I could brainstorm with and develop concepts. We did research to figure out what our ideas might cost. We met again and leaned into what had good value and scrapped what didn’t. We surveyed and used statistics to determine how many we thought would actually show up; and how many might. We put it on the calendar and after figuring out a brand for the night we sent out invitations. We worked through details with the caterer and the band. We made certain sacrifices from our ideal hopes, but ended up with remarkably clever innovations to our plan. We created a signup sheet for directors to own delegated chores and presented the vision to the staff with the request for ownership… In addition to my team of co-leaders, our whole staff stepped up and helped make a really special evening. The video above shows a few of the highlights.Download PDFDownload PDF

Create something beautiful today

Posted on March 20th, 2017

Create something beautiful today. Whether a photograph, a spreadsheet, performance art, or leadership moment. Make sure to care...

Teach Us To Pray - DigitalJournal

Posted on June 21st, 2016

It was a great experience to partner as Producer for the Teach Us To Pray series that we’re starting. I’m very proud of this Journal that we created instead of our regular programs. I’m hopeful for the fruit from these next seven weeks

Lite Brite and Elf Houses

Posted on January 19th, 2016

There was a lot of prototyping and iteration as well as complexity in leadership of multiple departments to achieve the success in this Production Design.

The process was really fun to nerd out with research into classic toys and some surveying of people who grew up in that era. Along the way, we kept coming back to the movie Elf.

We began with an idea of what classic toys might bring nostalgia. The LiteBrite was a fun idea. I liked it for multiple reasons:
  • The chance to design with layers of texture in with the cups. The real magic for them came when we created a new template for all the video work flow to have to be inside a hexagon based grid rather than the typical square.
  • The build process of hot glue in sheets of PVC that were cut on a CNC machine was tedious, but proved to look great when the projection was focused correctly.
We design the Elf inspired Houses:
  • Minimal wooden frame
  • Cardboard and Paper
  • Visqueen and Lights

A problem became an opportunity when we figured out how to hide the set behind the main traveler and tell a prelude story based in Nepal and using chalk art to tell about partners all over the globe.Fun too, to coach blocking for a the broadcast into during the countdown. My friend snapped this photo of yours truly that he used to coach the crew in duplicating the shot composition.

a note to producers about the lighting cue sheet

Posted on August 30th, 2015

I've had multiple conversations with worship arts directors in the past few months where I've shared some of my thoughts on this subject. As a designer and live production artist, my personal preference loves to create "live," "Spirit led," and "in the moment." I usually do at least some amount of live busking when I operate; some shows more than others. For theatrical productions that repeat a linear story multiple shows I live in a single fully mapped timeline; a worship concert I am almost fully live. Regardless, I always have a road map sketched out (at least in napkin sketch format - see image below) if not fully built in Excel (see other image below) in some format or another. Even if I audible live, at least I'm making a change from something.

Anyway, the thoughts here were built from a copy/pasted note to one of the artistic producers I was consulting with recently. The thread had included his question of if a cue-to-cue would be something I'd recommend to their process. My answer to these questions are about finding best practices for being one in vision and trusting each other to bring the best thing we each can do to create a moving experience.

A cue-to-cue might prove to be beneficial to your process and your product. However, remember that without the context of the live music being played and the musicians on stage in their light, it’s very difficult for someone besides an experienced lighting designer to accurately know how to interpret what they see. I’ve experienced numerous cue-to-cues with producers where they make changes to what the LD designed and then later they ask for follow up changes during the dress rehearsal that end up very close to what was originally created. If doing a cue-to-cue, make sure you know what you're reviewing.

I suggest what is more beneficial is to spend the time making sure that you’re clear in the vision that you have for each moment of the service. Communicate that to the SM and LD. If they understand your vision, they’ll support/enhance the moment visually. Again, a cue-to-cue walk-through isn’t bad - the dialogue to check in and make sure you’re on the same page is really important. Simply heed my caution to not to make changes out of context. Make sense?

The greater importance is trusting each other to all be on the same page. Have you communicated vision for the story clearly? Does your LD have a plan for how to support and enhance? I suggest a meeting to talk through a cue sheet is the better use of everyone's energy. After knowing that you're on the same page, then you can each work on the tasks that you're best at.

Unless you see a specific vision for mapping out the details of an element, I don’t recommend going into detail of builds and changes in each song. Aside from the potential build (referenced with an ellipse) it simply shows the base cue guide for each moment. Feel in the room can and should lead to adjustment in each nuanced moment. Trust the LD to design beauty and magic that supports and enhances the experience.

At Kensington, we use Planning Center Online as our hub for every production we do. It’s great for scheduling teams and making sure that everyone is on the same page. I can give coaching in another post about how I suggest it might be a useful platform to incorporate into your process. Anyway, it’s a very useful tool for us in laying out the flow of elements in a service. As a PM, I love being able to think through what each discipline (Audio, Lighting, Multimedia, etc.) needs to be doing at each moment of the service.

In each cue the notes in the lighting column give the road map for what lights will be doing in the format of:
Subject - the communicators and artists on stage
Scenic - everything behind and around the people - soft goods, lights through haze, etc.
House - as simple as basic intensity, but often can include environmental lighting

As an LD, I map out the visual story pretty intentionally. Sometimes a show calls for a fully detailed cue sheet with specific intensities and focus patterns for each instrument along with fade times for each transition. A cue sheet can also be as simple as a napkin sketch. Having these notes shared with the Stage Manager is really important as they're the hub for helping everyone stay true to common vision. Again, I suggest using PCO (or another cloud based service) to make sure everyone can stay updated with any changes along the way...

Do these thoughts make sense? Do you have ideas grow in how you might evolve your process? Please let me know!

Thoughts to Remember When Creating a Space for Worship

Posted on September 30th, 2014

I rattled off a stream of thought in response to my friend asking me what things I think about when designing. He took that email and compiled it into this list; which his organization now uses this as part of their planing meetings. Perhaps it is a helpful guide for you to consider as well...

Thoughts to Remember When Creating a Space for Worship

  • The end goal of the services that happens in the space.
  • The vibe/feeling you want to help communicate.
  • Who is the target demographic?
  • Who in the audience will be reached regardless of the branding, environment, and artistry? These are not people to design for. Do not be influenced by them.
  • Who might only be opened up to the communication by the environment you present? This is who you must go after.
  • How might you use resources you already have available to support your vision?
  • What alternative ideas might convey such themes with increased beauty/power/depth?
  • What ideas might work well because of how clear the symbolism might be?
  • What of those ideas would be so cliché that it would actually turn off the artist in the audience?
  • What metaphors can you weave into the design to add depth of beauty (and meaning) ...even if only for you?
  • How long do you want to live in the look? A series? A season? A weekend? Indefinitely?
  • How will you light the set? How will you light the art and communication? Will the lighting on both feel unified?
  • Make sure to design scenic elements that will be enhanced with the lighting tools available. Also, design scenic with consideration of who is designing/operating lights. Try to play to their strengths.
  • It needs to look good in the room, to be certain. Are you broadcasting ever - stream, IMAG, record for later release?
  • Lighting for video requires thinking beyond what looks good to the naked eye; and lighting for both video and still having everything look good in the room requires some real finesse…
  • Think through positioning of each person who will be on stage. Where they stand/sit/dance should feel like it connects with the scenic elements and help visually connect the guests with the communication on stage. Break the 4th wall.
  • What scenic and/or lighting might be considered in the room? In the lobby? Before and after the event with advertising, social media, etc. How does the branding transcend the stage experience?
  • Think through everything that people might see. Certainly do not let anything be a distraction; also push into every opportunity to help enhance the story...

Both Emotion and Perfection

Posted on January 25th, 2014

Strive for emotion and perfection, but allow imperfection if the emotion is there. #excellence #storytelling #productiondesign #producing #maximize

Eric G Wolfe

Process Architect. Design Strategist. Leadership Coach.