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When they came up with the idea for their Christmas atmosphere in the?worship center for their Christmas services, Whitney George had two words: big and beautiful. They didn?t want anything about the Grinch, Christmas wrapping, Michael Jackson Christmas?none of the stuff they?ve done in the past.

Since they were going more worshipful this year, they needed more of a worshipful?vibe?to the worship space. They got a lot of inspiration from Coldplay?s Ghost Stories. This led to them trying to figure out how to design something that could give them that sort of feel with their room and limitations.

Their lighting designer had played around with a lot of LED pixel technology at the time. That started the exploration. They wanted to figure out how they could create some 3D pixel space on their stage, while also making it big and beautiful and not techno-looking. So they created this big octopus-looking design mixing soft goods (strips of sheer fabric and muslin) with the LED. It looked gorgeous. But when you took that away, you could?just see 16? tubes with LED pixel tape running down the center of them. The mixture of the two mediums gave them the look they were wanting.

They fabricated that all in-house in the form of a gigantic, circular chandelier. Then when they put it together for their Christmas services, they softened the look with their soft goods. That also gave them a natural movement to the design because of air currents in the room. Then they added soft goods in the back of the stage that went from floor to ceiling, shining moving lights and gobos on the back of it.

After Christmas, they just took down the soft goods and left the LED chandelier up.

Of course, this amazing centerpiece didn?t exactly simplify Andrew Stone and his time?s work leading up to Christmas. The Christmas Eve services were on a Wednesday, and they still had their usual services the previous Sunday. But they also wanted to do the big reveal on Christmas Eve, not letting people see it the Sunday before.

Andrew?s personal goal is figuring out how to do these types of productions where the church and congregation still have a sense of surprise and “wow” when they walk in for the event. Most people don?t necessarily care about that, but there?s something cool about the whole atmosphere changing for a special event. It creates a lot of anticipation?something Cirque du Soleil does well. And they want to do that: create a place that makes you think there?s nowhere else you?d rather be. Thus, right after their services on Sunday, they started preparing the Christmas Eve look.

They already had a lot of the rigging, trusses, and infrastructure up that Sunday, since that was stuff people wouldn?t notice during the week. Even though it looked good, it was a nightmare of spider web lines up in the ceiling.

Then the tube chandelier had been fabricated elsewhere. So after the Sunday services, they brought it in and started to hang it. And of course, that had to be difficult too. The chandelier was extremely brittle, and it was created in such a way that you could easily break one part of it. They also had no plan-B. So if the thing broke apart or didn?t work, they were stuck with it.

Thus it was a bunch of tiptoeing around, preparing it to fly. Fortunately, they didn?t have any mishaps. They hung it up, added the soft goods, and accomplished what they set out to do.

They left it up for only one month, taking it down mid-January.

Here?s the take home for you and your church this Christmas season: Get creative with your atmosphere. You can still bring modern technologies into the mix and make them look classical. Not everything has to be techno-awesome, even though that’s the way?most of the modern technology makes things look.


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