After a few months off over summer during which CLANkidz took up a lot of my time (planning, getting there and doing it, running into problems like trying to do visuals in a non-blacked out venue, and all the other bits of tech which isn’t visual that drags me away from the main passion), it was good to get back to the regular Deeper services at church that generates most of the creative drive. When I say it was good to get back it was actually such a trauma that it has taken me two weeks to write much about it.
But it is worth noting this new thing… mixing visuals, off the cuff, during the sermon.
This was kind of sprung on me in that as we started the service (the set up had been a nightmare of software failures and resets) Jenny – one of the two-up speakers said something like “our powerpoint is only scripture quotes on black background, so if you want to mix behind it feel free..” I then didn’t get much time to think about it during the first part of the service and suddenly it was the talk.
A good rule of thumb for mixing visuals is “when in doubt do nothing” so I didn’t go panic but left everything as simple white text on black background that was being fed to me form the words operator. During the talk it became apparent what Jenny had meant because she was using these sorts of verses:
- “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean”
- “to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water”
- “I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you are heart of flesh”
so visual queues came to mind of water, rain, rivers, hands being cleansed, waterfalls, stone, rock, brick, soft fabrics, clouds, trees…
But that was when I ran into the next problem – zero preparation. While I knew in by video folders I had these sorts of images by the time the quote came on screen and I found it there was too much of a lag. So I had to go check what was coming up with the words operator and get ready for towards the end of the sermon and those verses weren’t as clear cut to me as the earlier ones. So option one of knowing what was going to go on screen didn’t help, back to basics – praying and listening to the talk and as ever it started to fall into place.
Jenny and Gordon were speaking about some tough subjects related to God renovating our hearts, about surrendering all. Two images came to mind straight away – one was of a person on a swing in an empty swing park, just sitting thinking; the other is a gradual fade between three pictures of a person’s hands bound by a rope and then being released. The images were both black and white so I fired them up to fill up the screen.
These were working well and I was able to overlay a sparkling heart shape which worked with what was being said, but then I felt that as these had been up too long it was time to move on and for some reason I started using a loop of a potter molding clay into a jar. I wasn’t sure why at the time and as Gordon closed the talk with a prayer, he glanced at the screen and worked that image into the prayer.
Later a friend came to tell me that during the last part of the talk she had her eyes closed and got the idea about how when throwing a pot (which she has some experience in) you have to have the clay centered on the wheel – she felt God might be telling her that the church needs to be centered. Then she opened her eyes and there was an image of a potter making a jug … we take that as confirmation.
So my point. Even often it is good to follow any thoughts or prompts that come to mind when VJing a service but for a sermon I think there needs to be some preparation. Also, in our weakness and uncertainty God can still use what we are doing.