Published in Let’s Worship Magazine – Spring 2012

When I started in church media (back in the dark ages) there were very clear disciplines to be found. Audio guys could say with truth & conviction, ”that’s not my problem, I’m just the audio guy!” The stage people were strange theater-types who messed up the camera angles and put set-pieces and fly points in front of the speaker cluster. The lighting director’s first move was to tape over the circuit breaker to the house chandeliers and mess up all of the perfectly aimed and evenly balanced TV lights washing the stage. It was chaotic, stress-filled, and often faith-testing, but at least we all knew our role!

I’m not sure if it’s due to Global Warming, but there has been a major shift. All of the clearly defined roles that none of us liked (but at least understood) have become very, very fuzzy.

This past Easter, every set piece on stage had to be viewed from multiple angles to make sure projection screens were not blocked. Our lighting designer based his color palette and motion on the video backgrounds delivered to video projection on set pieces. The audio guys had 10 audio tracks (that the worship leader had built) that all locked to the video that was playing on screen. The video engineer yelled about there only being color light on the players while the video director had to explain that “it’s the new way to light now” between calling 2 cameras per take (one for side screens and another for center screen).

Do you see it? The lines have blurred. No longer are there independent and isolated silos of production. The ability to use video as a set piece, lighting as energy, and audio that locks to everything has created the need for people who think different. The age of a lighting designer that only thinks about lighting is over. The age of a lighting designer that uses video & projection to paint, shadows to highlight, and audio to show energy is here. They see pixel space rather than 16:9 aspects. They see a blank canvas rather than a large brick wall. They hear audio and see visual energy. They encounter an obstacle and stand on it to be able to reach higher.

This revolution is more than analog to digital, 4:3 to 16:9, SD to HD… it’s from constrained to unconstrained. Its a move from slavery to liberty… and the temptation to return to the old way of life that was familiar is often overwhelming.

Is your church ready? I know mine isn’t….but even more, I know I’m not.

So, what if we embrace this new, very fuzzy reality? How do you staff? How do you move forward?

1). Pray. Ask the Creator to give you creativity and wisdom and to open your mind to new ideas.

2). Determine what’s appropriate for YOUR church. Don’t do something just because everyone else is. Consider YOUR church’s personality. Ask if your team has the capacity to sustain this change.

3). Find an artist, not a technician. An artist will see the technology as a tool and will learn the technology. But a technician rarely can learn art (few exceptions). A technician can invest so much time into a particular technology that changing becomes painful. But an artist simply sees a new tool to help her be artistic.

4). Build for flexibility. Think canvases not sets. Your room has now become your canvas.

5). Try small changes first. Help your leaders begin to imagine the possibilites by making some small changes that are concrete and sustainable.