In this edition of the SVC Podcast, SVC Contributing Editor Bennett Liles wraps up his talk with Brian Worster of The Church of the Highlands, a progressive church with high energy services and nearly a dozen locations spread across the state of Alabama. Brian discusses the management and training of church tech volunteer lighting crews along with coordinating all of their activities among the various satellite church locations. He also details the differences between lighting for a live audience and lighting for the camera on the church broadcasts.
Links of interest:
• The JEM Hazer Pro for producing a fine atmospheric haze
• Chroma-Q Color Force LED batten fixtures used by the church
• High End Systems Hog 4 lighting control console
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Editor’s note: For your convenience, this transcription of the podcast includes timestamps. If you are listening to the podcast and reading its accompanying transcription, you can use the timestamps to jump to any part of the audio podcast by simply dragging the slider on the podcast to the time indicated in the transcription.
From Sound & Video Contractor Magazine, this is the SVC Podcast with Brian Worster of The Church of the Highlands. Show notes for the podcast are available on the web site ofSound & Video Contractor Magazine at svconline.com.
The Church of the Highlands broadcasts its services to satellite church locations all over the state of Alabama. Some of those campuses require portable setups and Brian Worster brought in Martin lighting gear to make the job easier. He’s going to tell us how he coordinates and trains the volunteers who make it all work. That’s coming up next on the SVC Podcast.
Brian, thanks for getting back with us for part two on the SVC Podcast from Alabama’s Church of the Highlands with locations all over the state. Doing the lighting with Martin instruments and controls. Some of the locations are portable setups every Sunday. That can get into a fast six-handed game in keeping it all working so how do you train and manage all of the volunteers who make all of this work?
Yeah, well the same system that we use to teach people how to run our services is in place at our portable campuses to teach them how to set up and tear down each week so nobody ever goes in on their own and tries to figure it out. What we try to do is have someone come in and watch what we’re doing and then the next time we’ll come in and walk them through the process with us, and then the next week we’ll try to have them lead the process and them teaching us or another person on their volunteer team how to set things up, how to tear it down, how to take care of fixtures safely and not damage anything or cables or the different venues that we’re in. [Timestamp: 1:45]
And you went with the Martin gear to sort of make it uniform and a little easier for them to break in on it?
Yeah, absolutely. So we’ve got – 101 fixtures are our go-to fixture for our portable campuses and in some of our permanent campuses we’re starting to put in more and more Martin gear. The 101’s really have been working – they’re kin of a workhorse. They do a lot. They’re quick. They don’t use a lot of energy and they’re easy to maintain and keep clean. [Timestamp: 2:11]
I was going to say, the LED stuff has been a real revolution in lighting. Do you think it would even be possible to do what you do every week if you were still using the conventional non-LED lighting gear?
It’s definitely possible, but it sure would make it a whole lot harder. I think about when I first came on staff here at Highlands five years ago. We had a portable campus and it had six Lekos on crank-up trees in the back of the room and someone was climbing a ladder to focus those each week. And so it’s doable, but this sure makes it a lot faster and the product we’re getting uses a lot less energy and a lot less circuits from whatever venue we’re in. It makes it a lot quicker for the volunteer and it makes it more fun for them as well [Timestamp: 2:52]
And they run a lot cooler, too. You don’t have a lot of the heat problems to deal with.
Yeah. Our worship teams appreciate that.
So how long does it take on Sunday morning for the people at the portable locations to load in and get set up for a Sunday service? How early do they have to get started?
Every campus is a little different, but usually it’s about 6:00 a.m. load in and they’re up between 90 minutes and two hours. And then the band has 30 to 45 minutes for a sound check before we start with services. So everybody’s a little bit different in their times, but there’s about 90 minutes to two hours in there to set up. And then the load outs are between an hour and an hour and a half at the different campuses.[Timestamp: 3:32]
Well, the lighting has to be fun because you’ve got all the equipment to help you set the mood and control the whole atmosphere of the thing and that’s got to be one of the more creative parts of it other than the music itself.
That’s something that drew me to lighting is just the ability to change the mood and the emotion in a song. You can paint with light and you have a lot of control over what things feel like. It’s a cool tool. [Timestamp: 3:54]
So they have the broadcast capability at the main campus at Grant’s Mill. Do they show things from there other than the Sunday services?
Yeah. The main campus has a lot of different services throughout the week: morning prayer on Saturdays and then our conferences that take place throughout the year, those get broadcast to different campuses. Our main auditorium seats 2,400 people but the church has 32,000 people that attend so when we do a conference, we’ll do it at the same locations that we have Sunday service. [Timestamp: 4:26]
That’s got to be a lot of fun for the performers at the main campus knowing that the people at the satellite locations all over the state are watching them do their music.
Yeah, it’s fun.
What considerations do you have between lighting for the cameras that carry all of that out and the appearance for the local congregation right there in the room? Do the cameras see things quite a bit differently especially on the colors?
Yeah, they do. We color correct all of our front wash on the band and the speaking wash using Lee 201 so the colors that the camera sees are more accurate to what we’re seeing on stage. So the tradeoff for that is our senior pastor and our bands look a little blue when you’re in the auditorium, but on video they look totally normal. [Timestamp: 5:06]
Yeah, cameras have always seemed to especially see blue differently than the human eye. That’s just another aspect of trying to maintain the right level of uniformity in appearance between all of those different locations.
Yeah, and I mean one of the things that we try to teach our people in showing them how we run our services, that just because a moving light can move doesn’t mean it should. And just because a light can change colors doesn’t mean that it has to hit every color in the rainbow in the song. But in the same way, everything we do we want to make sure that we’re not creating a distraction for people attending our service. We’re not a rock concert. We’re not even trying to be. We’re just trying to create a nice mood for worship; create a moment within a song so that people can connect with God. I mean that is why we do what we do. So I teach our people if you’re ever in the moment and you’re doing effects or you’re programming something you have to wonder if this is a distraction. It probably is and let’s leave that out the next service. [Timestamp: 6:06]
Yeah, I guess it’s the same with lighting as it is in training the audio people in that they will tend to want to turn the EQ knobs all the way to the right just because they can do that. So it’s the same for lighting in tending to find an excuse to make the lights do everything they can do.
Yeah, and I have – I mean just have some personal rules. I don’t like having a light in a campus that can’t color mix. Not because I try to be like a snobby lighting guy, but just I don’t like seeing a moving light flip through a color wheel, personally. I don’t like seeing it flipped through gobos either. So if we have a profile fixture that we’re using a gobo on a Sunday, every song is going to use that same gobo. I mean it’s fun. It’s a challenge of how many different looks can you make with the same gobo in that week. [Timestamp: 6:48]
And there’s a certain amount of keeping things simple for an all-volunteer crew so that everything goes as planned. So you guys have made some improvements. Are there more technical upgrades in the works for Church of the Highlands? I guess it’s an ongoing process.
We’ve got phase two of our lighting upgrade at the main campus that will be starting in the next three to six months. The first phase brought in 14 Martin Viper Profiles. The second phase will be adding a couple more Vipers and then adding some Aura’s to the mix. We’re working on an upgrade for our Auburn campus which hosts a weekly college meeting and a once a month youth service in addition to the Sunday services, and we’ve got a couple of campuses that we’re working on. Our Tuscaloosa campus broke ground for a building last month and we’re launching a new campus near Auburn in a city called Opelika. So we’re busy working on that as well. [Timestamp: 7:41]
Okay. Well you’ve got the routine down and you have the Martin lighting gear to help with that and sort of keep all those different locations kind of jiving together.
Yeah. We’ve kind of come with a little bit of a package. When we know we’re going to be on a portable campus, this is going to be our gear list. We’re going to look at these types of fixtures for this and these kinds of screens and projectors and this for the truss. So we’ve got a baseline of what we’re going to do for a campus and then we make adjustments as necessary. It makes it easier to go into a process when you’ve got a baseline for budgeting to work from. [Timestamp: 8:16]
It’s got to be a great experience having everybody pull together as a team and pooling their talents on this thing getting creative with music and lights and being able to pull that off every week.
Yeah, it really is fun.
Thanks for telling us about it. Brian Worster with The Church of the Highlands keeping their look consistent with Martin lighting gear. Sounds like a blast and I know you’re all having a good time.
Yeah we are. Thanks so much for having me.
Thank you for being here with us for the SVC Podcast with Brian Worster of The Church of the Highlands. Show notes are available on the website of Sound & Video Contractor Magazine at svconline.com. Be with us again next time for the SVC Podcast.