Transforming a Rock Concert into a Cathedral

I stumbled upon a few pictures from the Madonna MDNA tour that recently has been making it’s way across Europe. It’s crazy because it looks like she has taken LED panels to mimic the effect of projection mapping. The result: a semi-emmersive environment. There’s fire, cathedrals, space, clouds and stained glass.

There’s no question she is blurring the line between sacred visuals and secular message here and I’m not condoning her music, just highlighting some fantastic use of visuals.  They have done a phenomenal job of blurring reality and projection as you can tell in this video.

Once the cathedral builds, skip ahead to 4:00. You’re only missing monk chants.

Pretty fascinating. This is proof the quality of visuals impact the quality of the performance which leads to the quality of the overall experience.

They play with lighting in a unique way as the cathedral builds and use all of the resources at their disposal to engage people in an environment.

Screenworks, the video production company, used 160 10mm panels of Daktronics Indoor/Outdoor LED product. This large LED wall along with the 3x d3 Technologies media servers, 6x Barco HD 20,000 lumen projectors and two 50’x26′ winvision (LED) provided the canvas to a visually engage the audience.

Image copyright Stufish

copyright Stufish

The Lighting designer was interviewed by LiveDesign a few weeks ago and said the goal of the tour was to “create an exciting spectacle while maintaining precision, drama, and glamour.”

This isn’t a concert but more of a theatrical performance full of rich set designs made from video content and realistic atmospheres leveraging the abundant visual canvases from LED.

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During the performance, Madonna interacts with the visuals many times causing this “reality field” to be broken.

Photo courtesy of Moment Factory

copyright Stufish

In any environment, content and projection work together to create a context of the story you want to tell: the setting. As the content is able to take people somewhere, we are able to bring elements into an environment that we never could before. Elements like fire, rain, clouds, star and light. Not just static elements either.

Whether it’s theatre, a church service or a live concert production, visuals and video staging (such as this) allow us as designers to create a set that is no longer static, like we’re used to within the traditional confines of set design, but rather a realistic interactive environment that people can act with rather than in.

That’s what makes this show intriguing to me. Madonna isn’t just walking in front of some beautifully painted cyc… she has transported her entire audience into a real environment that she interacts with. This environment is able to connect us with emotion, color, energy, imagery and ultimately it connects us with the story she is trying to tell and sell.

How can we begin to tell a story with our media? Not just put up graphics that look cool, but seriously use media in a way that communicates a story and invites people to take a role in that story?

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Photo courtesy of Moment Factory

Photo courtesy of Moment Factory

Cool graphics may be a part of it, but it’s not everything. There takes intentionality.

“With Moment Factory, it’s never about ‘providing content;’ it’s about creating a piece, a story in itself, which is very close to my philosophy of art,” says show director Michel Laprise. “Projection is a medium that employs a great deal of technology, and one of the many qualities I much appreciate from Moment Factory is the way they make it feel and look so organic, very warm. Their team has a way of working that is similar to that of a painter or a visual artist.”

The concept is the same… art.

The canvas is what is new… projection and interactive media.


How are you using the media in your library to tell a visual story? 




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Luke McElroy

Author Luke McElroy

Luke McElroy is the founder of Orange Thread Media, the parent company to TripleWide Media, SALT Conferences and Orange Thread LIVE. He is the author of The Wide Guide: Blueprint for the Multiscreen Movement. Hailed as one of the “top innovators for worship” by Worship Leader Magazine in 2013, Luke’s leadership has helped create powerful worship environments for thousands of Church communities throughout the entire world. He currently lives in Nashville, TN and regularly writes about creativity, leadership and faith at 

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