Category Archives: Stage Design/Scenic

Your Church PA (Pt4)

In ‘Your Church PA’ we get a peek into some of the audio/production setups at local churches in South Africa. We get to ogle over some photos of gear, share ideas, and learn from the wisdom and experience of those techs who keep the systems running week-to-week! For more detail look here.

This week – Matthew Pierce and Lisa Bell from Glenwood Community Church share their setup with us.

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“We are currently using the Behringer DDX3216 Digital mixer. It is a 32 channel mixer. It has served us very well considering that Behringer hasnt had the best track record for mixers especially digital ones. We are able to run 8 monitor mixes and the effects board in the unit is sufficient for where we find ourselves currently as a church.”

The FOH stack is a 900W JBL AC25, and it’s powered by a USA Q10 power amp. They use Behringer HA8000 headphone amps as their in-ear monitor signal distribution system.


Your Church PA (Pt3)

In ‘Your Church PA’ we get a peek into some of the audio/production setups at local churches in South Africa. We get to ogle over some photos of gear, share ideas, and learn from the wisdom and experience of those techs who keep the systems running week-to-week! For more detail look here.

This week – Grant Leonard from Grace Family Church’s Riverside Campus shares their setup with us.

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“Grace Family Church Riverside has been operating for a year now and we have gotten great results from the PA we chose.

What we put in the auditorium were two EAW KF394’s that are flown from the ceiling and two EAW SB180 subs that are on the floor, one each, below the two individual hangs.

A Lab Gruppen FB+10000Q amplifier powers the four cabinets and for speaker processing we use an EAW UX3600 Processor that we had time aligned and tuned for the response of the room.

The PA in the room looks really small but we get a good sound and great coverage all the way to the back of the room. While the room is essentially a rectangular box, we have been very lucky in that there aren’t any horrible “hot-spots” or “dead-spots” and we have seemingly no trouble with standing waves. Miracles do happen!

Grace Family Church Riverside is a “multi-site” plant of Grace Family Church in Umhlanga and as a result it made some of the decisions, as to what gear to get, a little easier. Two of these things in particular are the sound desk and the “In-Ear-Monitoring” (IEM) system. In order to get a measure of similarity or unity across campuses we chose the Yamaha LS9 mixing console and Aviom personal mixers for IEM. This goes to serve our sound guys, tech volunteers and worship team volunteers, as moving from one campus to the next doesn’t carry the burden of learning a new desk or new IEM system.

We have an Aviom 16/o-Y1 card that’s plugged into the back of the LS9 which is connected via cat5e to the Aviom A-16D Pro distribution unit onstage, from there the signal is split out to the seven Aviom A16II Personal Mixers.

We discovered very early on that the room is incredibly live, so controlling the onstage sound, drums, guitar and bass amps was a huge priority.

The Aviom system took care of our onstage sound.

We then decided to build our own drum screen with a roof, as opposed to buying one, which was a huge cost saving exercise. Then much to the dismay of the people who play bass at Riverside, we swapped the bass amp for a BSS AR-133 active DI box and we moved the electric guitar amp to a separate room behind the stage.

Once we had gone through all these motions, the affect it had on the FOH mix was invaluable, the room seems a little less live and the congregation aren’t getting there ears mutilated by the obnoxious SPLs of drum kits and guitar amps.

Overall we are really satisfied with the results and the equipment we went for.”

Your Church PA (Pt2)

In ‘Your Church PA’ we get a peek into some of the audio/production setups at local churches in South Africa. We get to ogle over some photos of gear, share ideas, and learn from the wisdom and experience of those techs who keep the systems running week-to-week! For more detail look here.

This week – Dean Wilke from Olive Tree Church shares their setup with us.

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“Like most churches our system has evolved quite a lot over the years. This year saw a massive overhaul of our stage and drum booth.

At the moment we are running 4 QSC K12 speakers (2 downstairs and 2 for our balcony) and 2 K Subs mounted between the two K12s on each side. All of those are running through a DBX Driverack PX. We mix on a Presonus StudioLive 24.4.2 desk. Our stage and hall are too small for wedge monitors so we run an in-ear monitoring system. We recently upgraded for the Hearbacks to the Behringer Powerplay system. A Powerplay P16I rack by our desk and 7 Powerplay P16M mixing modules on stage running through CAT5 cables.

We moved and rebuilt our stage earlier this year and decided to use stage boxes at strategic points on the stage with XLR, Jack and CAT5 connections in them. We had these custom built and have proven to be one of best investments. Under the stage we are running Klotz microphone cable and Mogami instrument cable. The instrument cables are for electric guitars and go into an amp room to the side of our stage.

We also had a double-pane glass drum booth built after realising the Clearsonic one we had just wasn’t cutting it in our small hall. It has been amazing from a mixing point of view. It has given us way more control over the drums and has allowed us to get a much cleaner mix.

And that’s the gist of our setup. We’ve tried to keep it fairly simple while still aiming for great sound quality.”

Your Church PA (Pt1)

In ‘Your Church PA’ we get a peek into some of the audio/production setups at local churches in South Africa. We get to ogle over some photos of gear, share ideas, and learn from the wisdom and experience of those techs who keep the systems running week-to-week! For more detail look here.

This week – Alan from The Church of the Good Shepard (C.O.G.S) in the Durban North Area shares their setup with us.

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“Ours is a 10-year-old setup – It has nevertheless served us well.”
Mixing Console: Allen & Heath 24-4-2 analogue desk (GL2200)
Processing: Lexicon digital reverb, Sabine graphic equaliser.
Amplification: 2 Crown analogue power amps (one bridged to power the subwoofers) and DBX analogue crossover.
Speakers: Turbosound – flighted main speakers (centre-cluster) with subs on the floor.
Monitors: Old-school floor monitors (4 mixes)
Advantages: Moderate skill level required to operate and all settings are immediately visible. Natural ambient sound.
Disadvantages: Ageing desk developed an intermittent fault (turned our to be aged solder joints)
Biggest challenge: Stage is an acoustic amplifier (was good in the 70’s!) so stage sound has to be kept quite low

Your Church PA!

Yay! This is it! Starting tomorrow… ‘Your Church PA!’

I’ve always been excited about church-techs working together, and learning from each other. I’d like to think we are all part of the same body after all, and that essentially we are dealing with the same challenges every weekend! I also love tech. The gear, the complications, the stories, and mostly – the ingenuity of people getting the problem solved.


I have been feeling really strongly about trying to find a way to better connect local church-techs, as well hearing about their specific enviroments, and learning from they experiences… So I mailed a few church techs I have worked with over the years, and ‘Your Church PA’ was born.

I would love to hear about your church too – so please feel free to email me a few pictures of your church technical setup, with a short description of the setup, as well as some of your greatest successes, and your biggest headaches. (

Pallet Set

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Gosh I wish I could say this was my idea!

Yet another idea inspired by – the pallet set was a simple idea: Get pallets, break them down into planks, fix the planks horizontally to flats in a layered design and light! Each piece of wood is of course gnarly and gritty, stained and marred, some even have nails sticking out – so the look is very grungy and rough – but when well lit it also looks earthy and warm.

I won’t go into too much detail, other than to say breaking down 100-150 pallets was a lot of work! 3 days in, and I wondered if we had even made a dent!

With some help from some really high-capacity volunteers – my team made the impossible happen in time, and we pulled off 3 pallet set designs (one for each campus).

This has not only been one of the most engaging sets of the year so far at Grace, but it’s also been one of those rare and rewarding projects where the set design actually spun-off into service programming elements. During a recent service, we cut up pieces of the left-over pallets, and left a piece on each person’s chair. Each piece was flawed, unique, and rough-around-the-edges. Each piece represented the complexities and the ‘mess’ of our lives, and we all got an opportunity during the service to take our ‘mess’, and leave it at the cross.

The next week we made crosses from those same pieces of wood and displayed them in our concourse.

I’ve had dozens of calls from people who want to know how we did it, or if we will give it away after were done with it. I even had art students do a photo shoot of it! Thanks to those who donated/sourced pallets for the set, as well as the team who helped put it together you guys did a brilliant job!

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree

As we get stuck into a new year of technical challenges, I thought it would be worth pausing and posting a bit around Christmas, particularly around this years’ set.

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I originally had the idea for this set for Christmas 2010 – but in the end I needed a whole year to figure out the best way to design it. The real challenge as it seems is often the case – is the scale. A 2m high structure is a certain kind of challenge, but a 6m high structure behaves radically differently. I would say the build gets exponentially more complex as you scale up. Past a certain size – materials simply don’t behave as your brain thinks they should.

The trunk of the tree we made first – basically just riveted/shaped steel strips, and reinforced it with a trussing core on baseplates. We soon realized that because the tree would be too big/heavy to move on and off stage we would have to wait till the-week-of to build the tree in place.

For the branches we started with some old rusty mild steel rods that were given to us – and got Danny to weld them for us before painting them. The length and weight of the rods meant they ‘bowed’ more than we anticipated when installed with necessitated adapting the design a little.

We secured the rods in three height rows around the trunk, and then cable-tied over 300m of fairy lights to the branches.

We patched all the lights to dimmer channels. We had to ‘load’ every channel we used as the dimmer didn’t like dimming less than 100W LED loads. It made for a farm of heavily-gelled PAR56 cans backstage!

6 Things you Need to Set Design

I’ve been chatting to several groups recently who are interested in ‘upping their game’ in terms of the visual engagement of their stages.

I’m not going to go into any detail (in this post) around why this is an important thing to think about – suffice to say: if a person comes to your church once a year, and everything looks exactly the same as the last time they were there, they could reason that they haven’t missed anything…

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Over the past 4 years we have learned a lot about set design, (or scenic design as its also known) and made a ton of mistakes along the way. Here are six things, practical things you need to think about to get your department off to a great start.

1. Materials

Practically any material you can imagine can end up as part of a set, but we have found that 80% of the time we are using the same ‘basics’.   Fabric (Voile, Pongee and Cotton Lyra) Hung or stretched, gathered or draped. Great info on set fabrics here. Correx/Coroplast – Basically its plastic cardboard. This is the number-1 go-to set design material we are using at the moment. Dirt-cheap, lights well, and easy to bend/cut. I have yet to see the natural or transparent versions on South African shores – but plain white has done well for us so far. Pine (22×44 planks) – Building flats is one of the first things you’ll want to try. Use standard dimensions to keep them reusable.

2. Tools

Some basics make life a lot easier. Here are some tools I use practically every week.

Staple Gun, Rivet Gun, Glue Gun, Nylon Tieing Cord, Electric Jigsaw, Electric Drill, Spirit Level, Tape Measure

3. Lighting

Lighting is such a fundamental part of set-design that the most experienced stage-guys, speak of light and scenic as one-and-the-same. A great set can look rubbish without decent lighting – and you’d be amazed how great a simple set can look when using dramatic colours and angles. More on lighting in this post.

4. Time

Deadlines are deadlines, but I have found your stage design evolves the more time you give it. Typically, if I have to get a new set up for a Sunday, I aim to have the set built by the preceding Monday, and lit by Tuesday, that way I have 4 days to tweak it.

5. Sketchup

A free 3d modeling program from Google. Absolutely invaluable in the design process. Long before you pay for material, you can see what it’s going to look like, measure it up, check sight-lines – and sell the idea to your team!

6. Inspiration

The Internet is a goldmine of ‘how-tos’ but it’s also a great place to steal – I mean – ‘draw inspiration from others’ set ideas. Check out

Project Triangle

We just got back from a morning of church production/worship/creative arts workshops with our friends at Westville Baptist Church. Wes Hartley, and Christina Miller from Lakepointe Church in Dallas, Texas shared some of wisdom and experience with us. Among a whole lot of other great material, I was reminded of this little nugget, that I could see being liberating for not only tech people, but for all creative arts guys who are tasked with producing flawless results, with no budget, by tomorrow.

It will really help bridge the gap between ‘expectations’ and ‘reality’ when you are tasked with a creative/technical challenge.

It’s called the ‘project triangle’.

Pick any two. But you can only choose two.

I’ll leave it for you to fill in the blanks with regard to your video/worship/recording/design/item/etc… but in my experience these laws hold as true as gravity!

Tech Workshop Dates are out!

Monday 9th May 2011, 6.30PM, Auditorium, Grace Family Church (Umhlanga Campus)

Audio Workshop:

“Fundamentals Of Sound Reinforcement”: The Principles of Sound Reinforcement; The Human Ear; Your Sound System; Basic Mixing Techniques; Dynamics; Advanced Mixing Techniques; FAQ.

This workshop also includes access to the “Open House” on the Thursday night, when you can come through to the Umhlanga Campus to observe a rehearsal, and ask audio or other production-related questions.

Note: This workshop is free and open to all. If you are interested please let me know! I can only confirm this workshop only once we have sufficient numbers!

Thursday 12th May 2011, 6.30PM, Grace Family Church (Umhlanga Campus)

Lighting Workshop & “Open House”

“The Language of Light”: Lighting Fixtures & Lighting Control Explained. Design, Programming, & Operation Discussion. Energy vs. Focus.

This workshop will include access to the “Open House” on the Thursday night at the Umhlanga Campus, when we will run lighting during a rehearsal, to get practical experience on the console.

Please contact me to confirm your attendance, or for any other quires.

Kind Regards