This past summer I had the privilege of working with Lifeway Media to help create a visual multiscreen setup for the Southern Baptist Convention and the Pastors Conference for the 2015 gathering in Columbus, Ohio. I thought it would be fun to go behind the scenes at the Southern Baptist Convention 2015 and share a few insights on our process, our design and some of the innovative technology we used during the event. Hopefully this will help you in your designing of multiscreen setups and you may gain some insights from the Southern Baptist Convention’s setup or technology.
Process: The Southern Baptist Convention
Everything starts with a small idea. Usually from someone who doesn’t know exactly how to execute the idea, but sparked from something they recently saw, heard about or experienced themselves. This event was no different. The host church who planned a lot of the details around the 2015 Southern Baptist Convention wanted to do a large center screen with two skinny columns or pillars on both sides of this center screen. The goal was to create a backdrop that could keep the camera angles and setting fresh during a multi-day event with several speakers for an extended amount of time.
The problem we were faced with was needing something that was highly flexible as the Southern Baptist Convention included numerous smaller events and moments that are produced by a variety of people and organizations. We also needed something that could fit in a very modest budget. This was fun for me, because it’s always refreshing to work with technology that many in our audience works with every day.
The original idea was LED walls. However this was simply not in the budget. We even called friends asking for discounts, we ran the numbers multiple times with different setups and even considered a smaller video wall. It still wasn’t possible without having a major sponsor come in and support the cost or trade the wall (Neither of which was of interest for the convention planners).
Designing the 2015 Southern Baptist Convention
As you’ll see in this slideshow below, a few of the key documents that were created early on for the convention. The first few are renderings from the host church that included the proposed setup of the LED Wall. Once we were able to decide it wasn’t in the budget, our team at Orange Thread Live suggested using projection and multiscreen processors or software to drive a similar setup. We were actually able to create a larger display for a fraction of the cost using equipment we already had.
We took two 12 foot tall by 21 foot wide screens and one 18 foot tall by 32 foot tall center screen. Taking the smaller screens and turning them vertical, aligning them right next to the larger screen, we were able to create one 18’x54′ video surface. In order to make the screens all look the same size, we took the smaller screens and placed then 2′ under the stage deck height so that each of the screens seemed to be only 18′ tall.
This allowed for a canvas that could be versatile and substantial enough to cover much of the stage backdrop. Take a look at some of the planning documents and pictures:
We had another challenge ahead of us at the convention: this ultra-wide canvas wasn’t suitable for the four side 16’x9′ IMAG screens, a web stream viewed by thousands all across the United States and the archive records they would need for future use. We had three options.
A) Duplicate the center feed of the video wall so that only the middle 16:9 content would show up on web, side screens and archives. This would cause issues in that the editors of all the custom videos would have to keep their compositions inside this 16:9 safe zone (which is just over 50% of the overall width of the surface). That’s a lot of screen that can’t be used for text, lower thirds, important information in a shot or story. Thus, this option wasn’t going to be optimal.
B) The second option would be for us to create a second raster of the entire setup with black bars on the top and bottom of the videos (letter boxed) so that we could play them in the web, etc. However this may be okay for one or two videos, but when every video playback has bars on top and bottom it seems to be a mistake to people viewing them. Again not very optimal.
C) The third option was the one our team eventually went with. We asked each of our video editors to make two versions of every video that were perfectly the same but were composited for two different resolutions; one for the ultra-wide screen and one for the 16:9 side screens. We were then able to play both of them back at the same time and maximized our function and form.
Using a MacPro (much like the Orange Conference Write up) and ProVideoPlayer 2 from Renewed Vision, we were able to create a slew of targets and outputs for each screen and control this entire setup (including the synchronized playback between ultra wide and the 16:9) from a single machine. This gave us incredible power and the much needed flexibility to create a stunning environment. Here is a screenshot from that setup:
Second, we had another cool piece of equipment with us this week. The team at Orchestrate in Atlanta (Brad Sitton and Seth Bartlette) were brought in to help NAMB (North American Mission Board) and IMB (International Mission Board) create a stunning experience as they prayed for and celebrated those who are a part of the global and local mission projects of the Southern Baptist Convention. Part of this experience included a screen called the Puffer Fish. It’s essentially an inflated globe projection screen that allows for a full 360º image to be projected inside it’s globe. They actually used it to project a world on stage as they highlighted missionaries from the various countries around the world. Take a look at this quick behind the scenes video to show this innovative piece of equipment:
Overall, the result was fantastic and the setup created for a very flexible backdrop as the multiple events and organizations came in and out of the convention. It’s proof that multiscreen allows for great creative opportunity. Almost all of the media used at the event was also from TripleWide Media and allowed us to create powerful worship environments on a cost effective platform.