cathedral art projection

I came across this on Create Digital Motion it is a video of ANTIVJ who do artistic projection mapping, light sculpture, outdoor projection, stuff.  This basically means “painting” architecture and objects with projected images. It isn’t something I’ve had time to look at but I’m intrigued and would like to investigate this more – not that I think I’ll be able to do this sort of thing:

This video is a live performance at Cathedral of Breda, NL with original music by Thomas Vaquié, played on organ by Gerard Maters with light design by Giacinto Caponio, Grote Kerk is a sublime modern, digital spectacle, a light and sound show all performed live using software from arKaos.

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The Spiritual Stuff

I had always planned to use this blog for a mix of “How to..” guides and some of the spiritual Christian aspects of using visual media in a worship context.  Of course the practical stuff is not only easier to write about than the spiritual side, but this week I have a good example which should illustrate how I find video mixing a spiritual experience.

So this month’s Deeper service at St Silas had a set up of three projectors all taking the same signal from a Mac Book Pro running ArKaos Grand VJ software – with the middle screen also having song words keyed over when needed.

We kept the set up fairly simple in that it was a straight forward 800×600 screen size.  Two of the eight available layers had a chroma key type mix, the others were just opacity mixes.

The first part of the service was more or less a scripted running order with mostly specific videos to appear on queue for the talk etc. but once it gets to the sung worship time the song words are provided by another operator and I have no script to follow for what visuals appear on screen, when to change them, how to pace it, etc.

I had a look through the song list a few times, praying and thinking about insperation but I don’t generally go into any great detail with any song – I don’t look through the words too much in advance just the general feel for direction.  During the set I will often have a look at what is coming up next and glance at the words at that point.  It’s also worth saying that I’m not particularly good with worship music, I can never remember how something goes until I’m singing it -but that’s just me.  Song list:

  • Blessed be the name
  • It’s our confession
  • You chose the cross
  • Holy God
  • God in my living
  • O taste and see
  • Who is like you
  • Let the weak say

So the way the set developed seemed to be working well.  I started off with mainly abstract & conputer generated graphics which fitted the tempo but not generally trying to say anything.  Then through “It’s our confession” I added in some stills of hands tied together being opened up, and gradually added more footage of a celtic cross, then flames, etc.  frequently coming back to the CG abstract stuff to weave that through as  a sort of theme.

For some reason (let’s call it God) during the second last song I noticed that I hadn’t used any water type images so I had a quick look at the name of the next song: “Let the week say..” (aka What the Lord has done in me” ) – it didn’t particularly bring anything to mind so I loaded up a set of watery videos ready for the last song.  During the song I moved from water splashing to sparkly light reflections on water and so on.  Then during the song it turned out these were the words (my emphasis)…

To the river I will wade
There my sins are washed away
From the heavens’ mercy streams
Of the Savior’s love for me

I will rise from waters deep
Into the saving arms of God
I will sing salvation songs
Jesus Christ has set me free

So, what I’m trying to say is – pray before hand, be prepared and pray during.  I now have a large and constantly growing ‘pallet’ of video footage to draw on and try to listen for insperation.  Sometimes I come away thinking or feeling as if I’ve done it all with my own effort, and sometimes I have no idea why I decided to use a certain type of image (like the water ones) and they fit exactly with what God is doing.

This leaves us wuth a fine line between preparing well (i.e. having the footage available and knowing it well) and not over preparing (i.e. scripting what image to use with each song) – so that God has space to do his own stuff through what you are doing.

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ArKaos Grand VJ Performance troubleshooting tip

[update:30June2009 – see also this info added to the ArKaos blog]

[I’m still learning lots about ArKaos GrandVJ software, so posting notes, tips, etc. for my own memory and that may be of use to others, however I’m no expert and am gathering this here from manuals, forums and hands on experience and expressing it in my own words – if I get anything wrong and you know better please let me know and I’ll update as appropriate.]

Keeping an eye on performance…

There are two figures in the bottom Status Bar of Grand VJ ‘Graph‘ and ‘TotalAS FAR AS I CAN TELL these work something like this:

Graph is the fps being sent by the GrandVJ engine to the Graphics card / graphics processor
Total is the fps being sent out by the Graphics card / graphics processor

The figures change in real time according to what you are doing in the layers, how many are active, what effects are in place, etc.  It is important to learn what these two numbers are when everything is OK, so that you know what ‘normal’ looks like.  Then when you see a problem on screen with a choppy or stuttering image you can use these figures to tell you if the problem is with the mac or somewhere down the line as follows:

  • If TOTAL is in the ‘normal’ range then the problem isn’t with the MAC
  • If TOTAL is low but GRAPH is ‘normal’, the most likely problem is computing the image to be output (1)
  • If TOTAL is low and GRAPH is low, the most likely problem is pulling video from the HDD and decompressing it (2)

(1) if the problems with the graphics card/processor computing the image can be resolved by reducing the complexity of the output, i.e. the number of visible layers, resolution of footage, effects being applied, etc.

(2) if the problem is pulling video from HDD and decompressing, there isn’t much you can do ‘on-the-fly’ but when you have time try the same setup with the same footage pulled from another location to confirm the problem is HDD access or decompressing.  If it is HDD find a better solution, if the problem is decompressing converting the footage to a better format/codex should help.

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Use of Mixed Media in a Labyrinth

As mentioned in previous ‘how to’ post, at St Silas we have set up this large Labyrinth for the past 4 or 5 years as a Good Friday ‘journey’ come ‘meditation’ and it has been well received.  People find it a useful way to take some time out before the holiday weekend to think about the impact and implications of Jesus death before we go on to celebrate the resurrection on Easter Sunday.

There are many ways to make a Labyrinth, but as I’ve not come across many groups that use all the elements we do I thought it worth laying out some of the choices we have made in making this happen.  I’m not trying to say this is the only or best way to do this sort of thing, just what we find works and I welcome comments.

Firstly the physical environment.  As described in the previous post we ceate ‘walls’ which are taller than head height.  The start of the walk uses black fabric and later this changes to white.  Around most corners is an installation or ‘station’, these vary from simply a sign to play a given mp3 track at this point to videos to watch, and physical props to interact with.

The ‘walls’ as well as the lighting, use of personal mp3 players, etc. are designed to give an environment where each person is isolated from distractions and can emerse themselves in the experience as much as possible.

Audio: MP3 tracks, as mentioned the use of headphones/ear buds helps to isolate the user of the labyrinth and help the immersiveness of the experience.  The tracks themselves have been created specially for the labyrinth by mixing music with readings and instructions.  The pace is carefully planned and the end of each track has been extended following feedback in the first couple of years so that people can remain at any station for longer than instructed and press ‘next’ when they are ready to continue.  Each year we have changed elements of the labyrinth and so each year some of these tracks have been remixed. We also make sure we have some printed transcripts of the audio for any visitors with hearing difficulties.

Also, worth mentioning that even though people have personal headphones on they will still hear ambient sound from outside the labyrinth.  As we offer tea & coffee at the end of the labyrinth and with team members chatting, handing out players, people coming in and out, etc. we simply can’t keep the place silent.  We have tried to address this by playing music as ‘audio camouflage’ and have found that classical music is best, especially nothing with a strong beat.

Installations, most of the ‘stations’ have something to watch, look at or interact with in a variety of ways.  Many of these involve simply watching a video loop most of which were specially made and designed to have no (or little) narrative.  This means that people could begin to view the video at any point in the video without necessarily loosing any of the impact.  One, however was effectively a slide show of stills mixed with words from a poem, which is a lot harder to loop and some people did report that this station didn’t work for them.

We also used two still images, a drawing of Jesus stripped naked and a photograph representing Jesus falling.

This year there were three stations that required some sort of interaction and it is hard to know how well these worked:

– the first has a large piece of wood that represents the cross piece of the cross of Christ and the audio track asks people to think about the cross being given to Jesus to carry and invites them to pick it up to feel the weight.  However, very few people tend to do this, I think because it is fairly early on in the labyrinth and people are still finding their way.

– the next example is new this year, where we had a very large cross built and the instruction was much more direct as people were to hammer a nail into the cross representing their individual part in Christ having to be put on the cross.

– lastly, is a bit more subtle.  After listening to the track and watching a video people walk through the screen on which the video is being projected.  By doing that they become part of the image and go through the cross in a physical as well as spiritual way.  I’m not sure how many people notice or get that bit, but it is deliberate.

Multi-Sensory, already mentioned is the use of sight, sound and touch, we also use flowers and strong smelling oils at different stations but as yet haven’t found a way to introduce taste (other than hot cross buns with your coffee at the end).

Accessibility, we have given some thought to this, insofar as we provide a printed alternative to the audio and while a great deal of the labyrinth is visual we think that nothing is missed if only the audio was available.  We could also open up an alternative route for wheelchair users if need be because one part of the labyrinth goes on and off our stage.

Why am I writing about all this:

The main reason for this blog is to demonstrate and discuss the use of visuals in worship, but the thing to learn from a labyrinth is that video could be used as a stand alone station – run a video on a plasma screen near the entrance or in a quiet corner for meditation, etc.

Video/visuals within worship doesn’t have to be choosing what image or video to put behind words.  As I’ve mentioned previously it could be visuals projected elsewhere on the building or during different parts of the service / meeting / event, not just singing or to transition between parts of the service.

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How To: Labyrinth Setup

The setup for this year’s Good Friday Labyrinth at St Silas started around 10am with some running around in vans to collect equipment.  Then from around 1pm to 7ish all this stuff in the video happened.

This is the fourth year we have done a labyrinth in this way.  Each year has had different elements, slightly changed layout, etc.  But the practice of building high fabric ‘walls’ to create an enclosed pathway for the labyrinth journey has remained the same.  So I thought I would put down some hints and lessons learned over these years.

We hire powerdrive stands (this year we used 7 but had a few more to spare) to create the corners of the fabric walls.  Some of these stands have a scaff-bar on top and use noticeboards and anything else we can find around the church to help give shape and structure.  The next bit of setup looks unusual.  We place the stands roughly where we think they will be going then attach them with cord to each other and the pillars of the church.  This cord doesn’t actually take much weight but keeps everything in tension against each other and stops the weight of the fabric from pulling everything together (which was a real hassle the first year before we figured out this masterstroke.

clampNext we start to attach the fabric.  In the past we have tried tape, safety pins, tying knots, lots of things to hang fabric to things.  Then we discovered the ease of using hand clamps.  As we actually hang fabric to divide up spaces fairly reqularly in St Silas we have tied rope around the ‘collar’ of each pillar perminently.  This loop of rope is fairly discreet and offers a quick and easy way to secure things to pillars.

Lastly a word about fabric.  Get flameproof or flameretardant fabric!  Don’t cut corners with safety and also it is reasonably straight forward to get online in various sizes.

That’s really all I wanted to cover in this post – the physical ‘how to’ ideas and suggestions.  The artistic content and make up of a Labyrinth I will try to talk about later.

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Multimedia Worship

I’ve come across this problem recently, that people talk about ‘Multimedia Worship’ but without defining what we are talking about we could have completely different things in mind.

  • So what is ‘Multimedia Worship’?
  • Does simply using Powerpoint(TM) make a service multimedia?
  • Do you use ‘art’ in a service, and if so what does THAT mean?
  • If you use photos, drawings, paint or torn paper on an OHP – is that multimedia?
  • Does multimedia just mean you’ve got to use more than one thing?

I don’t know and I’m certainly not going to define, but I would like to raise the question that you need to figure out in your head what you mean by it and make sure you agree with someone you are having a conversation with about this that you are on the same page or you could so easily be speaking a crossed-purposes.

But to focus on VIDEO – which is the main – but not only – thing that I am interested in and that this blog is about in the context of visuals and visualisation of worship.

Even when talking about the use of “video in worship” there is such a variety of things that this could mean….

‘point making’ Video could be used to make a point, introduce a topic, lead a meditation or prayer:

this example from a couple of years ago was used to set the scene of which Jesus we were speaking about i.e. the ‘Jesus of Revelations’, not the ‘little baby jesus’ or ‘the miricle maker jesus’, etc.

‘bible reading’ where the video replaces the Bible reading with a dramatized version of the text:

‘video art’ could be visual backgrounds for a specific section of a service (during a read meditation, behind the preacher, etc) or for specific songs – either with the song words or with the words overlayed live, or non-specifically during the worship or any other section of the service…

My point is, keep an open mind when talking about video in worship or multimedia services.  We don’t all have the same thing in mind and there are so many variables it is worth defining what you mean by those terms if and when they come up.

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Widescreen Experiment

This one is all down to Alan for having the idea, following it through and making it happen, but I’m going to document it and take all the credit 🙂

Basically what we wanted was to fill that space at the front of church with bigger images.  To have more screen real-estate to mess around with and because it is generally worship we are producing visuals for we always need to put song words somewhere and it is difficult to be more creative with this than simply overlaying.

So ArKaos GrandVJ software can address larger images and Maxtor Dual Head 2 Go can take this widescreen image and send it to two projectors which when merged create one large image.  The problem that remained then was what to project onto, which is what this post is about. 

The solution was to go low-tech and inexpensive, but until we rigged it up in this experiment we weren’t sure how it would work.  So first of all here is how it looked then I’ll explain how this screen is made.

This is how the space looked before we started, with a 10′ x 8′ fast fold screen (and a christmas tree that looks as if it is going to fall over, but it did actually last at this angle for another two weeks).

And here is the screen in place.  First thing to notice here is there is a little bit of a droop with as much tension as we could put onto this.  We decided that this way of rigging wouldn’t be used, even though it was quick and could all be done from floor level, when we use this for an event we will hang it from a wire which is in place so that those ‘ripples’ in the screen can be removed.

And here is a sample widescreen desktop image – can you see the join between two projector images?  Can you see the seems between 8 different shower curtains?

This image is taken from the same position as the first image to show just how much larger an image will be.  Also the grid area is a possible position for say song words on a fully motion background to show how different areas of the screen may be used.

This is just to show a full screen movie (but also that we didn’t bother reversing the projectors)

Alan messing with the setup behind the screen

Using ArKaos Grand VJ software to drive all this

… and here is the screen

So, what is that screen made of?  It is eight white ‘Saxan‘ shower curtains from Ikea carefully taped together edge to edge using clear packaging tape.

Yep, 8 shower curtains that cost under £3 each and some tape that costs £1 so total cost of this screen under £25.

Size, 7.2m  x  3.6m

How to make it: while it is simply a case of laying out the curtains edge to edge and taping so that there is no gap or overlap.  However, don’t underestimate how precisely this has to be done, and how time consuming this may be.

Rigging, as mentioned above, we are changing the rigging so I’m not going into details here but basically what is required is to keep the edges under enough tension in order to keep all the wrinkles out.

But, the main thing we learned from this test was that this screen is of excellent quality for back projection.  The image was crisp and clear, there was no sign of the seams visible and it was fairly easy to set everything up.

The only downside we can think of at the moment is how robust this screen will be.  How will those seams hold up?  Will there be wear and tear on the rigging points, tape, etc?  How long will it last?  Also, although the test images above were taken in daylight the church does get much brighter in summer months even during evening services when that large window behind the screen gives us lots of problems – will this screen hold up in those conditions.

Overall, certainly at £25 + time it is worth trying.  Not a solution for gigging or moving around to different venues but certainly worth trying out in this situation and I’ll add to this any notes over how it works.  The first outing will be at a Ceilidh in a couple of weeks.

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Case Study: St Silas Carol Service 2008

The Carol Service or Carols by Candlelight service at St Silas is always a big event and has had a variety of implications for visuals in past years.   I thought it would be worth making a short case-study from this year’s event as there is a good mixture of different techniques and effects in the use of video, VJing, art and lighting.

The carol service takes a traditional pattern of carols and readings with a message towards the end.  Some of the carols are performed by the choir, soloists and band and some include the congregation.  The readings were either presented on video or by two readers (from the church pulpit which isn’t normally used any more, so using church architecture for visual impact).  The talk/sermon/message bit is towards the end of the service, after the ‘main plot’ of the Christmas story has been presented and the song following it usually has a responsive element.

Starting with the physical set up of the building, we don’t normally have a choir and this one took up the entire width of our stage so the band were put off to one side.  As historically this service is often busy and some times people have to be turned away, so we squeeze in as many chairs as we can while trying to give people good sight lines.

Above the stage we hung a large triangular canopy, 8m wide and 9.7m to the peak. This canopy was custom made this year by Scenegineering for this service with the idea of using it for lighting and projector effects and to frame the stage in a different way.  We also hung two large pieces of fabric behind the stage on either side of the normal 10’ x 8’ fast fold screen, these sheets were swept back from top to bottom to give a similar effect as the canopy and meaning that we could uplight all this fabric with LED lighting to wash them with different colours.

lighting detail lighting detail

Other lighting was more functional, to light the choir from the front and back and to provide controllable ‘house-lights’.

Lighting equipment supplied by Great Big Resources:

  • 10 LED RGB lights
  • 4 Fresnel lights to back light the choir
  • 1 Fresnel for the readings from the pulpit
  • 2 Par-cans to light the roof spaces for effect
  • 6 Fresnels to light the full with of the choir and the rest of the stage (because you never know where the main speaker will speak from or move around).
  • 6 Dichroic flood lights (gradated between two colours) pointing at the roof for general ‘house lights’ before and after the service.

As well as lighting we had three projectors ‘painting’ the walls, rafters and canopy with visuals as well as the more usual /functional projector on the usual 10×8 fastfold screen in the center of the stage (and one last projector up in the organ loft for the choir to see their song words).


Here is most of the ‘tech area’ during the carol service (click on the image link for interactive view).  Roughly from left to right we have…

  • Fat Frog lighting desk (operated by Mark)
  • St Silas analogue lighting desk for main stage lights (also Mark’s domain)
  • Numark DVD01 dual DVD players with distro and monitors
  • Panasonic WJ-AVE55 video mixer with preview monitor
  • Two domestic DVD players are burried in there somewhere
  • Mac Powerbook Pro running arKaos grandVJ, this was driving the three projectors that covered the canopy, walls and roof space.
  • (not shown) St Silas PC running Easy Worship to provide song words and powerpoint slides (operated by the EWop Bunny)

(the right hand side of the above image is the PC and desk belonging to ‘sound-land’ so not relevant to this post)

Despite apperancies this is a fairly simple setup, there are two outputs – the ‘main screen’ on stage and the ‘rafter projectors’ (three projectors to cover the differnet areas of the church roof and canopy above choir).  The main screen is cotrolled by the Panasonic Video Mixer which can choose from DVD players, EasyWorship feed and the feed from GrandVJ on the Mac.  While the rafter projectors come only from GrandVJ.

Visuals created for and used at this event:
I’ve put together a sample of most of the actual videos and visuals used on the night (note that not all of the audio is from our Carol Service, but it should give you an idea of what was going on).  All these videos created and displayed by DeepRiver with specific credit to Alan who made the ‘John 1’ video.

The Final Result:

This is edited with my notes of what we used and how this looked during the service.

this video was a quick test of some of the settings we planned to use recorded during the last rehearsal.

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I finally managed to port across most of the relevant links from another site to the Resources page of this site.  I’ve still got some stuff to add in time, but that will do for now.  It is a very distracting task becuase you end up re-visiting sites you haven’t been to for a while, cleaning out dead links and finding new gems.

Links are the back bone of the web so if you have any suggestions for things to add let me know.

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Magic Whiteboard

Not very techy or ‘VJ’ but I have to make a note of this product somewhere:  Some time ago we did a service where we wanted to have people write on the pillars in the church.  To do this we had to wrap the pillars with clingfilm to ensure that the pen didn’t go through onto the paintwork and then wrap paper round.  It was time consuming, and just a lot of hassle although it did work.

At the planning meeting for this month’s Deeper we decided to do something similar (draw a vine on the pillar and have people write on it or stick notes to it).  By chance a couple of days later I caught a product on BBC’s Dragon’s Den which looked like it might be worth getting hold of.  

It is called Magic Whiteboard, and is a roll of statically charged plastic sheets (60cmx80cm – the size of a flip chart sheet).  The sheets stick to the wall due to the static, when I say stick the best way I can describe it is like when you start to hang wallpaper and can slide it around on the wall.  We tested it on a pillar for three weeks with no problem.  Next, as well as being able to write on this without the pen coming through in any way you can also stick paper onto the Magic Whiteboard material. 

The main thing I was unsure about from the web site and video demonstrations was how it would work onto the curved stone surface of a church pillar rather than a smooth plaster or wall-paper finish in an office setting.  We had no problem at all, we put up a test sheet in a corner of the church and left it for three weeks with the heating coming and going and there was no loss of ‘stick’.

A fantastic product worth trying out, the only negative I would say is that it seems a little expensive but we found it worth it and have started coming up with more ways of using this. 

Now, if only the sister product Magic Blackout came in sizes big enough for stained glass windows…


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