Passion 2014 took place in Houston and Atlanta, with thousands of university students attending. Lighting designer Ed White and Bandit Lites worked together to provide the dazzling lighting for the incredible event.
ATLANTA, GEORGIA- More than 20,000 university students gathered at the Phillips Arena the weekend of January 17 for worship and teaching at The Passion 2014 Atlanta Conference. This was the first of two gatherings in North America with the other being held on February 14-15 at the Toyota Center in Houston, TX.
With the event being a combination of conference speakers including founders Louis and Shelley Giglio, John Piper and Francis Chan and musical performances by Hillsong United, Chris Tomlin and Matt Redman, lighting designer Ed White created a design that would be conducive for both worship and lectures.
“For the talks, it was necessary to have clear sight lines from every seat to every part of stage, as the speakers walk around and address the whole audience,” explained White. “But for the music I wanted a much more structural looking rig, with lots of interest down low around the band.”
To address this need, White used an octagon of 16 moving video screens, which added both a scenic element and interest to camera shots, but was also able to fly out for the talks. The octagon also allowed for 360 degree IMAG. Furthermore, 16 Robe Robin 600 LED Washes and 32 Robe Robin 100 Beams provided eye candy and the closest opportunity for backlight effects for a show in the round.
Martin Mac 2000 washes were placed on 6 trusses over the audience, trimmed way out at 100’ so as not to restrict sight lines from the top seats, while the main stage wash consisted of VL3500 Washes inside the screen octagon, providing top light to the central band riser, and back lighting the downstage, blasting through the transparent LED screens when in their low position. VL3000 Spots were placed on the octagon truss above the LED screens to be able to light outside the octagon, and to light up the structure and hit the opposite side of stage.
“Because the rig has no front or back, I placed all the fixtures deliberately to serve more than one purpose: one minute the advance trusses would be used to light the stage, then they would be lighting the crowd the next. This allowed for a lot of extra looks, and is why I kept to just one type of profile and one type of wash, in order to create much bigger looks.”
White handled front light in a couple of ways including four advance trusses holding 16 VL3500 Washes and 16 VL3000 Spots provided a front wash and specials, as well as being used out in the audience as mentioned previously. In addition to this, Bandit modified 4 Mac III profiles with handles, and after disengaging the pan and tilt motors, they were used with followspot operators, with all functions controlled from the console, allowing much tighter blackouts, color changes, and irising. Front light was controlled and called by Trey Meares on a separate MA2 console at FOH.
“With sight lines limiting possible lighting positions,” White said, “I wanted to put a lot of the main effect lighting in the center of the rig, using the transparency of the LED screens for layered effects. I came up with the idea of a central column of 24 VL3000 spots, which provided a great position for backlighting performers, as well as arena-filling effects and beam looks, blasting through the LED screens. While it is very easy to put several tons of fixtures in a 2x2m footprint in CAD, making this happen in real life presented a big challenge.”
Talking about the center column; which came close to 2 x tons of hardware for that single element alone; Bandit’s Dizzy Gosnell explained how we arrived at the solution. “Looking at Ed’s design for the center column of lights, we had to take into account the overall weight of the final assembly, truck-space, build time on-site, and finally the most important element: the final overall look of the finished column for the show. It was dead center of an in the round stage, and thus be the backdrop for every audience member, so keeping it clean and junk free was paramount. We could have used vertical truss, but that would have looked heavy, dark, and dense, weighed a lot, and would have been slow to assemble and fly each day. As this was hung dead center of the arena too, we had to be mindful of keeping weight down as this was scoreboard territory. Doodling around with different ideas, I decided that having 6 x welded octagons hung from precise 4’ wire ropes one below the other with structural eye-bolts and reinforced mounts to the octagon would tick all the boxes. We had them fabricated by James Thomas Engineering in Knoxville and were extremely pleased with the results.”
“I think the central column of lights was a great success - and certainly is something I haven’t come across before, but the biggest talking point seemed to be the custom ‘ripple drum’ fixtures that we built,” White said. “In essence they are a big rotating barrel with slots cut out of it, with a 5kw fresnel lamp inside. It’s a really simple idea that I borrowed from one of my favorite designers, Willie Williams, who helped out with some advice on building them. I positioned four on the stage and another four up on the projector towers in the seating. With so many LED fixtures and screens it was great to just use these on their own, for a more intimate atmosphere. They give out an extraordinary warm tungsten beamage that fills an arena and just looks amazing on camera.”
Additional equipment included GLP X4s fixtures used for effects, fans and movements in addition to low angle washes on stage, and the Solaris Flare LED strobe/wash fixture placed strategically all over the rig, advance trusses, center column and facing the stage.
Due to the main band literally writing the majority of their songs about a week before the event, White faced an issue of having to program overnight, as the band would record their rehearsals during the day.
“Nothing is set in stone until the day it happens,” White said, “From numbers of people on stage, song tempos, arrangements, set lists, etc. When you factor in 16 moving screens that come down to stage level amongst the band, and having to make custom video content for songs that don’t exist yet, you can imagine it is a crazy few weeks.”
The video was all mapped and run from a d3 server, triggered from both the lighting console, and along with some of the lighting, from LTC time code from the bands playback on stage. In that respect, the LD job covered both lighting, and all the video surfaces, camera inputs and effects, including four massive projection gauzes on DMX controlled rollers that would drop in around the room for certain moments.
“Because of all these factors, the programming was very modular, allowing for easy modification as things changed,” added White. “The load in schedule meant that I wasn’t able to see most of the cues on the rig at all before the event, relying only on the previous programming. With such a daunting set of circumstances, it is a real testament to both Bandit, Passion and the production management at Black and White Live that they were able to make everything run as smoothly as it did.”
“We began discussions for this project in August of last year,” said Mike Golden, Bandit’s vice-president, “and because of the attention to detail, innovation and preparation the end result was visually stunning. My hat’s off to all involved for the hours that were put in to make this event a success.”
“I have found Bandit great to work with,” concluded White. “Shawn Lear, Dizzy Gosnell and Billy Willingham were involved throughout the design process, and were a great help creatively as well as technically. Additional thanks to Ian Cattle, and the team at Black and White Live, Jonathan Sheehan at Passion Conferences, and my lighting assistant Trey Meares.”
About Bandit Lites, Inc.
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