Circles … and more Circles

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Stage Design is an often overlooked, but important element to set tone and add to the worship experience. Philosophically at The Crossing, we have moved away from the “themed” stage sets and do more intense sets on a less frequent basis. In other words, we go big and then leave it in place for a longer period of time.

Normally this happens as we head towards big weekends like Easter. That is the case with our current set.

Our process has evolved and become much more complex in all the moving parts.

Basic Stage Set Process (From Concept To Execution)

  1. Idea and Concept Conversation (6-8 weeks prior)
  2. Conceptual Plan Plan Drawn (6 weeks prior)
  3. Tech Leads Contribute and Weigh In (lighting, video, audio, music) 
  4. Plan finalized.
  5. Material List Compiled and Ordered (4 weeks prior)
  6. Pre-work/fabrication (if needed 2-3 weeks prior)
  7. Stage Strike (1 week prior)
  8. On site Fabrication (1-2 weeks prior)
  9. Set Install (Monday- Tuesday week of)
  10. Lighting Install (Wed week of)
  11. Audio / Music Reset (Wed/Thurs week of)

We are currently in projection mode which means we love the ability to use our high lumens center projector to environmentally project on areas of our set. As well our feeling was it was time to go circles. Yes, circles. So that’s where the concept came from.

One Note: Two years ago we were “gifted” two oval wide format screens from a local trade show. We affectionately call it “The Womb” because when hung by motors and lowered to the stage deck it creates a surround video feel. Our decision was again to use this and to be able to motor up and down depending upon elements of the service.

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(This image shows the screen in the down position)

Here are the early concept drawings:

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Explanation:

  • The colors correspond to the surfaces that would be added to each ring. Screen Shot 2018-05-16 at 3.16.44 PM.png
  • The white circles were designed for projection to carry our center screen projection onto those outliers via Propresenter and masking. However, you will see in the finished pics that during the install we made the decision to move those rings underneath the screen when it was in the raised position.
  • What we called “Art Piece” are down stage left and right, are constructed with bases and sit on the stage deck.
  • Our lighting team designed a system that used cat5 to run control power from four central brains to each of the circle systems. This allowed separate control of each ring and simplified that cable runs tremendously. Yes, there were still tons of cables but were minimized.

Prefabrication:

  • A “fireman” / welder in our church took on the task of welding each set piece together. This was done over a number of days and then delivered to the church.

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Once they arrived on site, a large team of volunteers painstakingly began the process of adding both the specific surface as well as the led tape. This was a slow go as the steel did not receive the LED adhesive well. 3-4 days later…mission accomplished. This was completed the week prior to installation and all of the leds were tested while on the ground.

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And then the install began.

We were VERY pleased with the final result.

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KEY THOUGHTS:

  • The larger and more complex the set project, the more time and people you need to execute. Be prepared.
  • We struck our previous stage a week ahead of when we needed access. This gave us margin to finalize our fabrication and begin install immediately the week of without having to navigate the previous set. Small thing… but huge to us.
  • There are people within your church who WANT, NEED, and CAN contribute to projects like this. And most of them have skills that normally will not be used in a church. They may even feel like their gifts are not relevant. Guess what? They are. We used our welding dude and our electrician dude (to solve our LED challenge).
  • Even with foresight, a concept and pre-work, there will be shifts that need to happen on the fly. Be prepared to make those changes as they WILL happen no matter what in order for the set to be most effective.
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Crates For Days… Christmas Stage Design

Christmas comes the same time each year. This reality is both awesome and terrifying for those of us charged with forming a moment around the story of Christmas. Part of our strategy is centered around creating environments that reflect the season including our stage set design. This year our conversations creatively had all focused on the need for a warm, cozy look. And we struggled. The ideas we had, no one truly loved. But as the day for “idea execution” drew closer, we were resigned to what we had. Then this popped up in a feed I was looking at…

StageCrateInspiration.jpg…and an idea was born.

The crates would give us the feel we were looking for, but we needed them on a massive scale. We began with a design. After two gatherings of the minds, our stage designer went to work laying out our plans in autocad.  Here’s a few of the drawings. Keep in mind that we did not pay attention on the drawing to the gaps and reversals of crates. We decided to do that on the fly based on the eye test.

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Chasing of Crates: Then the chasing of crates began. Calls were made. In the end we ordered nearly 500 crates from Home Depot (Model) and had them delivered to our campus on the first day of stage construction. (We may have bought every crate available in the Las Vegas valley).  Be aware there may be some flawed crates when you buy in bulk.

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Walls of Crates: The crates were screwed together using 1″ black drywall screws.  We also used small 1″ x 8″ blocks to fill in the spaces where we left a crate out.  We also learned that if we wanted to create a gap, we merely removed the slats on the crate and created the desired hole. All of it was built in sections by teams on different parts of the stage simultaneously.

FullSizeRender 3.jpgLonger Than You Think: We had 12 people over the course of 8 hours assembling the various crate walls. In addition our rigging team was standing by to begin the tying off and the lifting of the center rear wall. The size of this piece meant we had to build it from the top down and using our motors, lift each section and then insert the next underneath. We repeated this four times to complete the back wall.

In addition, we wanted to create a lyric screen center.  We used a basic charcoal grey stretch muslin from Joann’s Fabric as our surface. It is dimmer than we would prefer, but the lyrics are used as an auxiliary and we did not want the bright white effect in that position.  By the end of day one, all the walls were in place and rigged for safety and stability. Kickers were added to the back walls with sandbags.

In addition, as the walls were going up, we had 2-3 volunteers who were randomly staining various fronts of the crates. This was done to add a bit of a color contrast when they were washed with color and add the desired depth.

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It’s All In The Lights: Day Two was spent placing and wiring over 70 Edison bulbs. We used Hemma Cords from IKEA and ordered 4 different type LED Edison bulbs from Amazon. It was important to us that the LED Edison lights were able to be dimmed and we ordered accordingly. It did become a bit of a cable jungle behind the walls, but we spent time cable tying and crimping the cables to the rear of the crates.

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Final Touches: Day 3 was a lighting day including positioning our LED pars and Colorblast. By the end of day 3 we were able to complete the stage, adding some twinkling trees (Amazon) to give it a Christmas vibe.

Here’s some truths:

  • This set is a bit more expensive than we would normally spend. However, it will be used for the month of December through our Christmas services and then continue to be used (minus the twinkling trees) through February. We were able to spread out budget for stage design out over both our Christmas budget and normal stage design.
  • The construction of set required “all hands on deck”.  We had a tremendous volunteer and staff team that were necessary to make it happen. It was not difficult to make the walls happen, but time consuming.
  • We flipped the crates and left crates out in order to create dimension. We did not feel a solid crate wall would have the same effect.
  • The addition of the Edison bulbs was huge win.
  • The staining of of select crate fronts was crucial to the overall look.

Bonus Material:

  • We added crate formations throughout our campus and lobby, some in the form of trees.
  • We are using the crates and adding screen lids (available at Home Depot) to create a mapping projection surface. Going to introduce this during our Christmas services.

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Here’s some finished pics. Enjoy.

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Stage and Set Design (Easter 2016, Part 3)

Scenic. For many churches it is unfortunately a bit of an afterthought. However, we have found that setting the tone for response can begin with great environmentals including the scenic design. We have moved to a 2-3 month rotation for our scenic which allows us to invest appropriately and keep it in place for a significant enough time.

For Easter we decided to go with an arched look and incorporate LED tape for the first time at The Crossing. Our initial meeting with our team centered around the construction of what we now call “arches” and “ribs” as well as the trickiness that LED tape presents. We are fortunate to have some talented people alongside us including a set carpenter who was tasked with the initial design layout and engineering. Here’s the sequence of events:

  1. Design and construction plans

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These are the initial drawings that were build to. On the budget we had , the challenge was to do a 50k+ set on a MUCH smaller budget. This would require leaning heavily into skilled volunteers.

Our supply list included the following:

Rose Brand (1) White Sharks Tooth Fabric
15’ 6” x 15’ (5 yards)

Curtis Steel
24- 1/8” x 4” x 20’ Plate Steel From Curtis Steel for Josh
1- 1/8” x 1.5” Plate Steel From Curtis Steel for Josh

Bolts– Need 100 count

Nuts– Need 100 count

2. Plywood backing: The design was sent to a local shop so the plywood could be cut to form. This would serve as the form base for the set. It needed to be cut exactly so the CNC Machine was used to hold the desired shape.

3. Welding and Formation: When we need welding, we turn to Josh, an awesome fireman who serves on our team. Equipped with a couple other key volunteers, they worked over the course of two days to assemble the rough set pieces.

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4. Paint: Each frame needed to be painted white in order to create the reflective surface we desired for the LED housing and to reflect the muslin stretch material that would be the final assembly piece. A quick hit with a Wagner power sprayer with a white primer did the trick.

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5. Set Deconstruction: Since we were on a tight timetable, our first task Monday of Easter week was to completely strike the stage and remove the existing set. It was a quick de-install since we were using a Mod Scene that was bolted together coroplast. This set would be re-tasked to another venue on our campus and part of the excess we were able to give to a new church plant in town that is in a portable situation.

IMG_1517.JPGIMG_1519.JPG6. LED Install: This was the tedious part. Beginning Tuesday am, volunteers began installing the LED tape to the interior of each arch. Two lengths were run on each angle with the tail and power supply positioned on the bottom. Based on others experience, we reenforced the tape with a second layer of transparent tape to make sure none of the LED strips slipped later in the process. We knew our access would be limited once the fabric was stretched over.

7. Fabric Stretch: With the help of a staple gun and air compressor, the fabric was slowly stretched over each piece. It was not difficult, but very slow because of the angle.

8. Rigging the Arches and Ribs: Two of our main scenic guys were responsible for the actual rigging of the pieces. This was done by stretching a piece of schedule 40 pipe across two of our electrical trusses to provide a rigging point. Note: it was at this point we realized that two of the “ribs” were prepped upside down. This created a crisis that was solved in the rigging process by adjusting the hang points and angle.

9. Scrim: We stretched a pre-ordered piece of grey scrim over the small arch in the center to create a front projection screen. We used scrim vs. a normal screen material as we were intentionally going for the more transparent look. By adjusting light and projection we could create some different effects both on Easter and beyond. Our plan on Easter including the projection of the tomb on this half oval shape people entered the room so this was an important element.

9. Lighting and Programming:  Our main LD then took over on Wednesday by getting the DMX of the LED’s into our lighting console and beginning the programming process. This would stretch into Friday evening in bits and pieces as we began rehearsing music, etc.

How did this all happen? Tons of dedicated people with crazy skills and and extreme commitment to the finished look. It was truly a coordinated effort that set our environmental tone for Easter and the next few months.

Final Look: So there you have it. Once we added risers and projection (along with some colorblast LED to wash the back current), we were extremely pleased with the look.  Here’s some pics of the final stage.

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Christmas 2015 Stage Set

This was one of our favorite Christmas sets to date.

Constructed over three days and involving numerous volunteers, the trees were made of 20 foot lengths of twine. Our strategy was to tie off each tree initially (100 strings per 6 ft. base/ 80 strings per 3 ft base) onto the large hook which we would later rig from our stage grid. This was a tedious process, but resulted in 6 ready to hang trees.

For our bases, we used pre-bent 1/2 rebar from a local steer company. Four 6 ft trees and two 3 ft trees would comprise our set.

After the rings were placed, a laser was used to hang each ring from the rigging. The next step was volunteer intensive and required patience. One individual on our man lift was responsible for isolating each string and 2-3 individuals on the ground would then tie the strings to the rebar. It was important to tie the strings on a rotating basis around the rebar to keep it in balance. We also weighted the rebar rings down with sand bags which allowed us to create some tension with the massive ring at the top of our trees. This was important to keep the taut look. Each string was tied approximately 2 inches apart with the excess being cut off as a final step.

This tying process took approximately 2 hours per tree.

Each tree was then lit with one colorblast LED on the inside and four colorblasts surrounding the outside to create the desired effect.

The back start lit drape was rented from a local stage shop here in Las Vegas.

Center Screen:
Constructed of 9 2×3 plywood panels wrapped in white muslin and then hog trough-ed together before being flow on our center truss. This truss was attached to our motors as we wanted the ability to raise and lower the screen.

Simple design. String trees are VERY cheap to construct, but time consuming.

 

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Inspired by String Trees at Church Stage Design

Stage Set: Splatter Backdrops

 

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We used this set twice in our former auditorium and remade it so we could use it again in the new auditorium. It is a great go to set. It is easy to make but also easy to hang and it is small enough it can be folded up and stored for a later use. We love the way they backdrops reflect the light and give a cool look.

The set is relatively easy to make. We got a couple rolls of Landscape Fabric at Home Depot and some white paint. You literally go outside (make sure you are in a spot where it isn’t a problem if paint goes everywhere) and just use brushes to throw paint all over the fabric. We made 12 backdrops that were about 20ft. and used 5 gallons of white paint and about 2 gallons of gray paint. However, we put a little too much paint on some of the backdrops.

Make sure to give the drops plenty of time to dry. We learned this the hard way when we brought them inside too soon and the paint had seeped through the holes on the fabric and we ended up scrubbing the stage for 2 hours! Another mistake we made was painting on rocks and the paint also seeped through and thousands of rocks had to be scraped off the back. Our recommendation is to use plastic underneath no matter where you paint to avoid this from happening.

We put poles in the top of the fabric and use an office stapler to make the backdrops hang like a curtain and have a really nice finished look — use lots of staples!

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