set design

Christmas at Milestone Church - Stage Set 2017

We love Christmas time at Milestone Church. We started some initial planning in September and really started to meet as a team in October. For some churches that may be a little late, but for us that’s when naturally start to wrap our mind around it. When we initially meat up, we talk about any and everything under the sun. From songs, to specials, to message ideas, to stage design, and graphics. Eventually, over the course of a couple months it starts to naturally boil it self down to what we end up with. We always run out of time to do everything we want to do, but we do our best to hold on to those ideas for next year.

Full disclosure, we had a completely different stage design designed for us through our new good friend Daniel Connell (who I would highly recommend working with). We had even started down the path of renting and reserving gear. But as we got closer to our message series, we realized it just didn’t quite fit. Not because of the design Daniel had made, it was awesome! But because we had fully narrowed down our focus to the theme of this year’s Christmas. And the theme we landed on was Christmas Classics. For stage purposes, we had made the switch to a completely new design two weeks before we had to install. Wow.

So two weeks out we decided that we were going to go with around 12, really tall pencil trees on each side of the stage. But due to time constraints, height requirements, and stock constraints that close to December, we had to change that idea as well, which left us one week before install that we landed on our final idea. During the last service on Sunday before the week we needed to be installing, we drew up a quick sketch of a stage idea based upon large wooden/warm ornaments and strips of really thick garland on either side of the LED screen in the center. For our large ornaments we used a bit of inspiration from a previous design done by Daniel Connell and Church on the Move- so mad props to them.

This was our sketch on Sunday, and we started cranking first thing Monday:

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I was a little overwhelmed by the idea and the time constraint we had to pull it off, and truth be told I think we almost canceled the whole thing about 5 times that week. But Sunday night I went home and made up a small mockup of what we were going to build.

After the small mockup, we felt confident enough to push forward. So from Monday to Thursday from 9am to 11pm (and one 1am), we cranked away at making 112 custom designed triangles put together in 14 octahedrons to make our hanging ornaments. The simple explanation on how they were built was take a sheet of 1/8″ plywood, cut three equal triangles out of one sheet, and then jig the same design into 8 of those triangles. We then assembled the triangles correctly (after remembering how to do calculus), sealed the creases so light wouldn’t come through and did an initial test hang Wednesday afternoon to make sure we were on the right path. I won’t lie after three full days of work and no time to come up with something else, I was a nervous wreck during the first test hang. Fortunately, it looked great, we took some notes, tweaked some more, and pushed forward.

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After assembling them all together, we ended up with 14 ornaments.

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The picture above is for perspective. they are right around 7 ft tall. While we were building them we kept asking ourselves if we built them too big. But little stage design note, scale is everything. And usually you have to scale much bigger than you naturally think for it to look right from the seats in the Worship Center. With our initial Christmas tree idea, we would have needed to get our hands on some 16 ft tall trees to make the stage look proportionate next to a 21 ft tall LED screen. It’s all about scale.

We had some electrical cable and bare sockets left over from a previous set design, so we obtained some large 300w incandescent bulbs that would hang in the middle of the ornaments. We wired up each ornament with bulb inside before we loaded them on the lift. While in the air, we hooked each ornament up to it’s own dimmer pack channel for individual lighting control. We also aimed one color changing S4 light on the outside of each ornament to give it just a little bit of accent color to match whatever the look was on stage. This gave us a lot of versatility in our different looks.

After a day of flying and last minute touch ups, they were done! And we couldn’t believe it.

On top of the ornaments, we hung 21″ wide lit Garland in vertical strips evenly spaced. As well as added some custom flood lights behind the keys and drums on each side of the LED screen for warm backlight to help our roaming cameras look extra sharp. We’ll do a post on those later. Here’s some pictures of the finished product from some of our services.

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