Video of Our Apollo Right Arm Test

Test of an Apollo Right Arm from Rick Russell on Vimeo.

I was in the process of testing this moving yoke fixture and I decided to shoot a video from the lift. This is hung on our house center truss with a 14 degree ETC Source 4 ellipsoidal. This was shot on my iPhone 4 from the bucket of a lift about 30 feet in the air.

I would say that overall I like the fixture, other then the speed. About half way though the video I have the fixture pan its limits and it takes about 5 seconds to move 200 degrees. We also found it a bit tricky to balance the fixture on the yoke. If you are in an installed setup you shouldn’t be moving the yoke too much and then this is not be a big issue. This fixture also includes a four pin connector that can be used for powering and controlling accessories such as a scroller or an iris.

The Christmas Season

Imagine 2008It is Christmas time again and I have been away from the blog for awhile. As a tech director for a church that does a Christmas program, the season means insanity from about November through the first few weeks in December. We have been working twelve plus hour days for about two months now getting ready for “Imagine Christmas – From the Beginning.”

This is my second Christmas program as a tech director. Last year’s program was pretty good once it happened, but leading up to it almost killed me. This year was a marked improvement in organization and execution. In the weeks before the program, I really dislike the Christmas Season, but all it takes is one performance and I’m in the mood and will be looking forward to the putting the program together again next year.

With each program we do, I get the opportunity to work with new people and do a program that is out of the normal Sunday service and I get to learn and improve my skills. Last year I learned much on the technical side of lighting and how to call cues and produce a more theatrical type program. This year I had the opportunity to learn as well, but in different kinds of ways. One thing that comes to mind is that practice really helps not only the performers, but the tech team as well. I knew that was the case, but it was really emphasized when the audio team really nailed the orchestra mix. The video team as well knew exactly where the action was and what camera to shoot it with. I also learned how hard it is for someone to come into a presentation like “Imagine” and light it well.

For the past two years we have hired out the lighting design; both groups did the best that they could and I do like seeing the different styles of lighting and how they can effect the look. I just don’t know if they fully understand the scope of dance, ariel and drama until the fixtures are hung. At that point it is (most of the time) too late to fix the issues.

For example the lighting plot had top light on the ariel actors. Top light is a very dramatic effect that I like. The problem was that the actor was performing about 20 feet in the air and that put them about 10 feet off the light. The shaft of light is just too small at that point and the aerialist would swing in and out of the light. Bottom lighting would be a better effect in this case.

The other struggle that I have is with the video lighting. Being that the lighting designer is not familiar with the camera and needs, the design doesn’t usually account for color temp changes of the lights used. In this program, the key lighting came from two main sources. Spotlights that were 1200 watt and a HMI based lamp that were about 4200k temp. The other was High End Studio Commands 1200 watts that were 5200k temp and didn’t mix well with the cameras that were balanced to the spots.

This year, as last year, proved to me that creatives are passionate about what they do and the most heated discussions are about differences this time of year. That will never change. My list is long for what I would like to change for next year’s performances, and I can’t wait to get started on the planing even if I still don’t have the worship center put completely back together.

Vista Training

Vista TrainingIn case people didn’t know I am a man. I state this fact only to tell you that I don’t read manuals.  In previous posts I mention that we upgraded our lighting console to Jands Vista consoles.  One of the reasons that I picked the Vista T2 was that the on site training was included.  Well, this week Steve Irwin came out and did some training for the volunteers and myself.

As stated before, we chose the Vista because it was easy to use and much more familiar to computer users. That being said, it is also a very powerful and expandable lighting platform.  While I was doing pretty well handling the programming needs of regular services, I was glad to get some expert training.

The best part of the training was seeing the volunteers finally get why I was so excited about the Vista.  Both JT and Greg each had their moments when they saw things that excited them.  At first I thought that I would get the training and then teach the volunteers. I t was much better to have JT and Greg learn from Steve because they asked questions that I would not have due to their different experiences programming.  JT for instance does more concert style programming for student events; where I do more cue to cue style programming.  With Steve’s vast experience in lighting and programming, he was able to show us how we could use the Vista in both scenarios.

Just this week, I have already applied things from training that are making me a faster and better programmer.  Steve was able to train on the console, but also extended the training by giving many general programming tips along the way.  At the beginning of this week, I was wishing that training was not going to take two days out of my crazy week but at the end of the week, I’m glad that it did.

From Avo to Vista

AvolitesThis Sunday I will say goodbye to the first lighting console that I ever programmed on.  We have not had too much trouble with the Avolites Pearl console other then floppy drives going out.  So why make the change?  We have just made a switch in the way that we program.  When I started working with the lights it was very manual and not much programming.  Over the time that we have gone to the other extreme.  Today we program cue to cue for all three services.  Avo has a theater stack mode, but it is not the most user friendly to work with and I started looking for something different.  I spent much time reviewing products and got as many recommendations as I could.  All roads seemed to lead to one place, Jands Vista products.

Vista T2There is lots to love about the Vista product line.  You can start with a PC or Mac based solution with just 128 DMX channels or have a large console with 8 or more DMX universes.  We decided that it was a full range solution that we could standardize on campus wide. It also gives us the ability to make changes from our workstations.  We had a way to program the Avo on the computer, but it is very slow process.  Vista is almost as fast to program on your computer as it is on the console.

Vista S1So we bit the bullet and purchased a Vista T2 for the worship center and a Vista S1 for both the new gym and the LYF center.  Now our lighting operators should be comfortable in all the rooms with lighting on campus.  All should be in on Monday and ready to go for next Sunday.  Just remember, is it Jands Vista and not Microsoft Windows Vista.  Friends don’t let friends use Windows let alone Windows Vista.



We had a great weekend with the new loaned and rented lights. Hereis what I learned:

1. Color fading light can have a great impact on worship.

2. I liked the operation and use of the Nexera lights, but wonder if they are bright enough for my uses. I think the next step I’d like to try out a SeaChanger.

3. Really liked using the color split LEDs. Again they were limited for what I was using them for. LEDs have lots of potential, but need a little more lumens for my liking. If we had netural colored walls they would be more effective.

We had lots of comments on the lighting and that means we need about 8 to 10 more color fading lights.

Checking out some new lights

NexeraThis afternoon I spent some time hanging lights we are trying out. I’m looking for some architectural lighting options as well as some added color changers. I’m somewhat new to lighting systems and design, and I have really enjoyed learning what I have so far. The one thing that I have learned the hard way is the value of color mixing fixtures. I spend much of my programming time building transition cues to compensate for lights that don’t color mix. The fixtures that I’m testing this weekend are the Wyborn Nexera and the Chroma-Q Color Split.Color Splt

So far I have basically got all of the fixtures patched and the Color Splits hung. I have only done some basic programming and have not fully tested the lights, but as of right now here are a few of my observations:

Wybron Nexera:

  • Bigger fixture than I thought
  • Fairly quiet
  • Uses a power supply and 4 pin scroller cable
  • Seems to mix colors well
  • Can’t seem to get a deep blue color as of yet

Chroma-Q Color Split:

  • PowerCon connectors and can be linked
  • 9 modes of operation, I’m using mode 8 which is dual mode with intensity and red, green, blue and amber.
  • Seem to have a very narrow beam. Would be very interested to see the option 20 and 30 degree accessories.

We will see how they work this weekend and I will post an update here.

Changes 4/27/08

Surprisingly this was the second hardest week I have had in this job and I really can’t tell you why. But God is good and services today were busy but encouraging. It is so easy in this job to get wrapped up in the technology and the issues and loose focus on what it is really about. I did a lot of work on technology this week, but none of that was very interesting or fulfilling. The trials of this week really help to bring focus to what I really enjoy: investing in people and being creative with in the limits that are in place.

We did make some technology changes this week:


  • Added a dual 18″ sub. Our 15″ drivers are still being re-coned. I was surprised on how hard this sub could kick. It was not enough for the big room, but it was better than nothing.
  • We upgraded from revision one Avioms to the newer version two systems. Wow what an improvement in sound quality.


  • Refocused all of the stage lighting for the minor stage reset that we did.
  • Finally got the lamp for the OS 600 light.

Changes 4/6/2008

Just a sample of one of the lighting looks for Sunday
This is a big Sunday for the tech ministry at Sugar Creek. We are going digital. The Digico is installed and this will be the first Sunday running it for the services.  All is tested and ready to go and John is charged with making sure all works correctly. Over the next few weeks we will train the volunteers on the job. I think that they will be back running the shows soon as they become comfortable.  We have had two rehearsal with the digital system and both were successful and the musician said they can hear a difference in the monitors.  We have not even installed the version 2 Avioms yet. More to come on that next week.

We have a new (at least new since I have been producing) CG operator for the Edge service…welcome Janet.  The Digico took up a lot of time this week, but I did get to add some curtian slashes behind the drums.  I’m really looking forward to hearing the difference in sound quality over the next few weeks as well as how the A1 take to the new system.

Changes 3/2/08

Here is the list for this week…


  • Moved the catwalk color scrollers to the down stage pipe adding a color wash to the stage extension.
  • Hung the seventh scroller in the down pipe focused on the stage extension center.
  • Moved the old back lighting back to the black curtains as architectural down light and gelled them blue.
  • Started programming the Avolite Pearl using Theatre Stack mode and cues.
  • Added new lighting in the drum shield.  Two par 38 did the trick and I hope will not add too much heat.


  • Thanks to the help of facilities we moved camera 2 to just right of center aisle. This will get us a much better back drop for video when Pastor is near center stage.

Tomorrow is light programming day.

Changes 2/24/2008

One of my goals as a technical producer is to make weekly improvements to my ministry. So I figured that I would keep a log of what is going on. These will be short posts of changes. Might be interesting to look back over the year and see how for we have come. Right now I have been really be focused on getting the lighting in a better place. Here are the improvements for this week.


  • Added pipes going from down stage to upstage just behind the front truss and going just past the first cloud
  • Hung six source fours on the new pipe as backlighting for the praise singers and pasto
  • Refocused all of the front of house lecos cross lighting for better coverage for pastor and praise team.


  • Brought in a video engineer to review the system and he did some quick tuning. All of the cameras are much better balanced.