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Give People a Break

Give People a Break

As a tech person, I love what technology can do in creating memorable moments for people. When I think about some of the most memorable production moments I’ve experienced over the years, technology has been a driving factor in the effectiveness of the moment.

On the flip side of this, far too many times I’ve seen technology distract from a potential moment. A few years ago, I asked someone, “What did you think of our Christmas service?”. When the answer was, “The lighting was amazing,” I realized we missed the mark. What we hope for is that people say “The service was amazing!” or “This particular moment moved me.”

At the foundation, the technical arts exist to support a creative idea. At its most useful, the technical arts can help elevate an idea to something beyond what the original idea started as. However, in my own life, many times the production team can work in a vacuum where we imagine ways for production to elevate an idea, without really asking what the intent of the idea is.

At the foundation, the technical arts exist to support a creative idea.

Whether we like it or not, it is possible to over produce something with technology. We don’t always get the direction we need. Or sometimes it’s because we can be defensive about our art. Whatever the reason, here are some key values to follow when thinking about how much technology is required in any given moment.

Original Intent

What is the idea we are trying to support? What gear does it require? How does technology make this idea better? How can we make it less effective?

These are some of the questions we should be asking when trying to figure out how to bring technology to an idea. Without the answers to these questions, it is difficult to have the creative idea and the technology work together toward a common goal.

For many of us tech people, sitting through brainstorming meetings can feel like a waste of time. “Do you know how much work needs to get done?!” “I don’t have time to sit through this meeting!” “Everyone’s talking about feelings!” Unfortunately, for us to really be able to bring the best production has to offer to an idea, we need to be close to the ground floor of the original intent so it most successfully matches the idea.

Pacing

The best shows I’ve seen were able to master the emotional pacing and the flow of the event. There are ups and downs, highs and lows, loud moments and quiet moments. For many of us, in the push to get ready for a service, we can sometimes look past the “feel” of a moment because we’re just trying to get the lyrics right or finish programming the lights. Because so much of what the technical arts brings to the table is helping to create the environment, if we aren’t paying attention to the emotional flow of the service, we can tend to hit people over the head with the technology at our disposal.

Ask yourself if the acoustic set should still be at 100dB or if this moment should give people a chance to rest their ears.

Or you may have 20 rental spot movers – you want to get your money’s worth – but you don’t need to use them for every song.

Or just because the video switcher has an effects engine, it doesn’t mean you have to strobe in black and white all the time.

To help the pacing of a service, sometimes using less technology is what is needed. Without creating unique moments through the technical arts by not using everything all the time, it can all just be noise.

To help the pacing of a service, sometimes using less technology is what is needed.

I worked with a lighting director once who pretty much used all the lights, all the time. During Christmas rehearsals, we would spend most of our time together, subtracting lights from each look in an attempt to pace the lighting across the whole program.

Dial things down once in a while. Save some of your tricks for a special moment. There’s a reason you never start a fireworks display with the grand finale.

Matching the Moment

The longer we are involved in the creation process, the better chance we have of fully understanding what we are trying to accomplish at each moment in the service. The more you are able to live through the process, the more you’ll be able to own each element of a service. Once you understand the intent, you’ll be able to look past the “to do” list of getting the technical arts up to speed, and you’ll be able to be aware of what’s happening on the platform, matching it with the technology at your disposal.

A ballad that’s too loud. Too many lights in the audience during an intimate moment. Dutch angle camera moves during a worship element. These are all examples of overusing technology for the moment at hand. Just because we have the gear doesn’t mean we need to use it. Leveraging technology to enhance the moment that’s trying to be created is the goal.

While peeling back the layers of technology might seem really boring at times, I would argue that it is more often the right answer than piling on the layers.

How can we get involved in the process early enough to understand the original intent of an idea, so that we can help with the emotional pacing of a service and match the moments with the technology at our fingertips?

About The Author

Todd Elliott

Todd is a writer, speaker and all around great guy in the world of church production. Formerly the Technical Arts Director at Willow Creek Community Church, he now strives to leverage his experience for the benefit of technical artists in the local church through coaching, blogging, and the First In Last Out Conferences, a gathering for technical artists in the local church.

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