In this edition of the SVC Podcast, SVC Contributing Editor Bennett Liles talks 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 talks about lighting for the activities and maintaining the right balance of uniformity between all of the satellite campuses. He also details the models of Martin lighting gear that have been introduced to the production.
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.
When you broadcast your Sunday service to a dozen or more satellite church campuses how far do you go with lighting to maintain a uniform look with the lighting at the receiving locations? Brian Worster is going to tell us how they do it at Alabama’s Church of the Highlands. That’s up next on the SVC Podcast.
Brian, it’s nice to have you with us on the SVC Podcast from the Church of the Highlands. You have a lot of locations for that church. It’s spread out all over the state of Alabama and you’re in charge of the lighting among other things. What kind of place is the Church of the Highlands? What sort of worship style do they have there?
Thanks for having me. It’s an honor to be here. Highlands is – we’re a nondenominational church and we’ve got 10 campuses spread out across Alabama, all the way up north to Huntsville and down south to Auburn and Montgomery. It’s pretty much a high-energy service. It’s about an hour and 10 minutes long, a live band at all the campuses and then a message from our senior pastor. [Timestamp: 1:23]
Live bands in that many different church locations; I would think that to some extent the people in the various locations sort of do their own thing?
Actually they don’t. All of our campuses do the same music every week. It’s a similar experience at every single one. [Timestamp: 1:37]
Wow, that would present something of a real task in communication just to keep everybody kind of on the same wavelength for content and style.
Yeah. Our worship teams do a great job staying together and keeping communication open.
I noticed on your web site in some of the locations it looks like you’ve got some pretty good digs there in most of those places but there are some local congregations that do temporary setups in high schools and what other kinds of venues do you do the portable setups in?
We’re in a little bit of everything. We’ve got a campus in Tuscaloosa that meets at the conference center on the University of Alabama campus. We’re in a high school gym at another campus. We’re in some high school auditoriums and then a full-on performing arts center down in Montgomery. We’re in a lot of different places but we try to keep the look of all the campuses similar, so portable campuses have a similar stage design and sets and screen layout and our permanent campuses have their own screen set up with a banner screen triple-wide and fixture packages. [Timestamp: 2:37]
And you have volunteers coming in and setting all of this up and striking all the gear out of there. I guess if every campus was completely a world unto itself with all different equipment it would make things a lot more difficult to coordinate but I’m sure the volunteers have a good time with it.
Yeah, it’s – I mean it really is a lot of fun.It is a good challenge every once in awhile, but we’ve got an incredible group of people. At all of our campuses, just doing lighting, we have 40 different people that are serving each weekend. Not all of them on the same weekend, but 40 different people on the team serving. We spend a lot of time when we’re launching a campus of training people how to run motors and safety and how to hang lights correctly and twist a powerCON connector so it stays connected. [Timestamp: 3:20]
And you’re always training people with it being volunteers, but part of the challenge has got to be to maintain a consistent look and atmosphere with services going on in so many different locations.
Yeah. And I mean we do have similar stage designs and similar set designs so that everything is consistent but my team, when we are setting up a campus, the color palette that everybody uses is identical. So all of the fixture packages at the campuses are the same, so the color consistency is the same from Auburn to Montgomery to Huntsville, so we set up those palettes. The campuses that have moving lights, all those positioned palettes are similar. We’ve given everybody the freedom to run effects and add intensity changes and a little bit of movement when necessary to a service, but we’ve programmed all of the effects so they’re given freedom but we’ve put the dotted lines in the lanes to kind of keep them in the area we want them to go. So it’s a high-energy service but it’s not the Trans-Siberian Orchestra by any means. [Timestamp: 4:22]
You’ve got live music and bands to coordinate and I can see how they can have a lot of fun with it but when you’re in charge of everything that’s a pretty hefty responsibility and the key has got to be communication.
Yeah, it’s huge. So every week the video files that play behind the lyrics in that service – myself and my team, we pick those out. We give the color information to the teams to use. Our consoles are set up the same way so someone can go to one campus and program and go to the next campus the next weekend and program there. It’s a similar series of steps to program for a service. But I’ve got an incredible team. I’ve got two other guys on staff with me plus all the people at our portable campuses serving. And I’ve got an amazing team. They knock it out of the park every week. I mean the challenge isn’t that bad – it’s fun. I get to go to the campuses throughout the weekend and check them out and I’m always blown away by how hard people are working and using their gifts and serving the church. It’s incredible. [Timestamp: 5:23]
The volunteers have got to be familiar with the gear to set it up right so why did you decide to go with Martin lighting equipment for the church?
When we switched over to Martin gear specifically for our portable campuses it was to meet – we needed a low-energy moving light to be able to front-light a band. And so I had Josh Holowicki from E2i Design and Daryl Sutton from Martin came out and they were originally showing us the Viper for our main campus, but they brought a couple of 101’s just to show me what was possible and what they were capable of. We put one on the catwalk and all of a sudden it became a reality that we could do moving light on a truss, like a 101 warm or a 101-CT and light a stage easily and safely so we don’t have volunteers up on ladders trying to aim lekos or anything. That day when they showed us it was an eye opener to what was possible and it took us from a very simple leko lit stage to a lot more possibility and a lot more energy. [Timestamp: 6:22]
For lighting people, that must give you a certain sense of power when you can change the whole mood and feel of the moment just by operating a few motion and color controls on the lighting system.
Yeah. We’ve got 12 lights that can hit 11 band members on stage and then quickly change focus and do a nice even wash like for a speaking wash. So they’re really diverse and it’s a smooth light. When you can add the lens filter in there to kind of spread the beam a little bit, it really turns into a nice wash fixture. [Timestamp: 6:54]
When it comes time for the Sunday service, is that sent out by video and sound from the Grant’s Mill location?
That’s correct. Yeah the Grant’s Mill location is our broadcast location and all of our campuses receive the message over the internet. So we stream it out to them and we have a DVR system so they can pause and the service can have their own moment and their campus pastor can give announcements and those kinds of things and then they join in with the main campus within a couple of minutes of us. [Timestamp: 7:24]
So how do they display that at the satellite locations?
The permanent campuses have large drop-down screens that will unroll and the portable campuses all have, instead of having three banner screens during worship, then have a drop-down like our permanent campuses, they just have one large fixed screen hanging off of an upstage truss. The fixed screen shows video content and is the message location. [Timestamp: 7:48]
And there must be something involved in carrying that same look across in the video for it to blend to a degree with the local scene where it’s being shown.
Yeah. Even though we have the similar stage designs at our permanent locations we’ve found that trying to make the permanent location match the look of our Grant’s Mill broadcast location is actually more distracting because you’re never going to get it just right and it’s kind of obvious that it’s not exactly the same color as the set you’re seeing on video. So we just actually put all of our LED’s hitting the set in the Congo real dark blue color about 10 to 20 percent. [Timestamp: 8:25]
And who controls the lighting in the various venues? You have volunteers doing that as well and they have to be trained to know the routine for the setup and operation.
Yeah they do. At every campus we have – we call them a lighting lead. They’re our go-to person for taking care of the team and making sure people are scheduled and being trained. So we have a process that our worship team came up with called Infuse and it basically just takes people who want to be musicians or camera operators or lyrics operators and lighting people and trains them how we do those different areas. So depending on the area, it could be a three to four week process or it could be several months’ process depending on the area. It’s like our worship teams it takes longer than someone running lights or lyrics. [Timestamp: 9:12]
And you have to keep all of those plates spinning in the right direction with all those far-flung church locations all over the state. I’m sure it’s fun even with the tricky nature of some of that and thanks for giving us a little taste of what it’s like. In part two we’ll get more into setting up and striking the gear in the portable locations. Brian Worster from the Church of the Highlands with locations all over Alabama. Thanks, Brian.
Thank you, sir.
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. In part two Brian goes into lighting for the house and for the camera. Next time on the SVC Podcast.