Recently I had the pleasure of being a part of the production team for The Salvation Army’s FREEDOM Youth event for 2014. This is an annual combined youth group that takes place over a weekend. The production standards are usually very high, and this year was no exception.

The event was held at Sydney Boys High in the Great Hall. This venue didn’t come with much, so it provided the perfect ’empty canvas’ for the event. At the core of the production design was a massive 10m x 4m screen covering the entire back of the stage. This provided a canvas of 1920px x 768px or a 5:2 aspect ratio. Lighting was fairly low key, so visually the focus was on the screen.

At the core of the event was two church services held on the Sunday. James Eden produced an array of amazing visuals to help create an atmosphere of worship and ensure everyone knew what lyrics to sing at what time.

These lyrics were all custom animated, using a few pre-existing loops and vectors we had access to. Of all the songs sung, Sinking Deep from Hillsong’s Young & Free was a standout. Here is a selection of the visuals from this song:

There were also a whole set of other songs that were custom animated, we well as the usual holding slides, etc. Here are some more samples:

Some of the tech involved:

  • Barco HDX 20,000 Lumens projector
  • Barco ScreenPRO II
  • ProPresenter 5
  • Adobe After Effects (lyric animation)
  • Apple Final Cut X (testimony editing)
  • Allen & Heath GLD
  • Several MacBook Pros to run content
  • GrandMA on PC
  • Various LED bars and Profiles
  • Meyer speakers and subs

Each section (or slide) of lyrics was exported with an Alpha channel from Adobe After Effects, and inserted into ProPresenter as foreground layers. Backgrounds were exported separately and put into ProPresenter’s background layer as usual. This meant the lyrics could be advanced or progressed manually by an operator (this happened to be me) and overlaid on a selection of background. Indeed, when reprises were done we could skip directly to the right section of lyrics.

There was no click track. There was no timecode. We controlled this all on the fly.

All of the animations were kept quick, as the lyrics needed to be progressed often and quickly. I’ll be honest with you – it was a stressful job to ‘run words’ for the weekend, but not much went wrong after I got some practice during the rehearsal (thankfully). As fellow church techs would know, getting words wrong is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. It’ would’ve been even worse on this huge screen, as it was literally the biggest thing in the room.

The biggest disadvantage with this method was that lyrics couldn’t be changed or added easily. We did a few changes during rehearsal and rendered those out, but what made it to screen was pretty much what was animated by James in the two weeks leading up to it.

We also ran a separate ProPresenter instance for “foldback” lyrics, which displayed a lot more words per slide. The Barco ScreenPRO was used to add in any extra content that wasn’t designed for our specific resolution. It also gave us a chance to blend different visuals for the Saturday evening Dance Party. Phil Gough produced a custom program to generate visuals on-the-fly for the Dance Party, and I mixed that in with some pre-made animations and textures. Phil also filmed a series of video testimonies that were designed to fit properly on the screen – there were no ‘close ups’.

The tech team included Jared Lattouf, James Eden, Phil Gough, Jon Griffin, Tom Cox, and myself. Most gear was rented from Scene Change. I would say that it was a very professionally produced event, and certainly one that will be hard to beat in the coming years.

Here are some photos to give you a better idea of the setup:

Freedom Youth 2014 - The Kamis Freedom Youth 2014 - The Kamis Freedom Youth 2014 - Worship Lyrics Freedom Youth 2014 - Slam Poetry Freedom Youth 2014 - Teaching Freedom Youth 2014 - Teaching Freedom Youth 2014 - Tech

Freedom Youth 2014 - Barco Projector Freedom Youth 2014 - Tech Area

Here is a time-lapse of the event:

And here is the promo video we produced:

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I'm Anthony Eden, and I'm a broadcast technician / software developer / technology solutions engineer. I've been working in broadcast media since 2008 (getting my start in Community Radio while still at school), and developing software and websites for just as long. Right now, I work in the broadcast industry and provide some freelance services through Media Realm.

Follow Anthony on Twitter: @anthony_eden