Video walls can be incredible tools, for visually helping to tell the story in what you are trying to convey. Not only can you do it quite obviously using a solid video wall and playing videos on it, but video walls are comprised of tiles, which in most cases have almost endless configurations. This gives us as lighting and scenic designers, the ability to use video walls to creatively enhance our worship through different ways.
I’m going to talk about a few ways I love to use video walls as a lighting and scenic designer.
Solid Walls: The most standard and powerful method of utilizing a video wall is having a solid wall. Many churches, events, and venues use this method for displaying IMAG for what is happening on stage, or displaying video feeds of an event. There are also other ways that are becoming very popular, especially in the theatre world. Many modern day theatrical performances on Broadway are turning to LED video walls now as their display for backdrops and scenic elements as opposed to the cyc walls or canvas backdrops of the early days in theatre. This not only gives the production endless possibilities for backdrops and scenic looks, but also saves time in set changes, and gives added creative ability of creating animations and content that is interactive with the performers on stage.
After seeing this start to become more and more popular in the theatre world, we are Harvest Christian Fellowship, where I am the full-time Lighting and Scenic Designer, decided this would be a great opportunity for us to use video walls in a way that can serve multiple purposes.
At Harvest Christian Fellowship, we have two main campuses and our senior pastor Greg Laurie will speak on a Sunday morning from both campuses live. During the first two services, he will speak live from our Riverside campus and broadcast to our Orange County campus and the third service from our Orange County campus, while broadcasting to our Riverside campus.
During the first two Riverside services, the video wall on stage serves as a backdrop for our pastor on camera, and we get creative with different backdrops mixed with physical set pieces to make it interesting and create more depth on camera. When Pastor Greg then goes to our Orange County campus, that video wall in Riverside now serves as the primary video playback display for the congregation in the Riverside sanctuary. The process is then flipped with the video wall at Orange County doing the same, whenever he is speaking there live.
So you’ve seen two ways we can now utilize video walls in a solid configuration. As you can see, you quite obviously get a lot of possibilities for backdrops. That being said, we have the disadvantage in that the wall now serves those two purposes. It’s not easy to take that same wall and break it up and use it for different break up configurations, which are also possible with video walls, but we have found that this configuration works best for the way we do church.
Video walls can also be broken up, since they are comprised of multiple video tiles. You’re able to create some very cool looking scenery objects. One of the masters in the church world I think at doing this is Alex Fuller with Bethel Music (who has also written for Worship Tech Director). He has a knack for scenic design using video tiles and walls in ways that completely transform stages. I highly recommend looking him up for the articles he has written, include some really awesome creative ways video walls can be used outside of the standard solid configuration.
Now we have talked about the different ways you can use video walls, but now let’s talk about what are some things you should look for from a designer’s perspective. I know many people are going to recommend many different manufacturers, but I’m going to stray away from doing that, and just let you know about some options or things you may want to look for, if you’re wanting to get the most creative use out of your tiles/video wall.
The first thing should be your mm, which is the distance between each LED diode. At Harvest, we use a 3mm and a 5mm, which is the best we could get at the time for our budget, as we have the congregation fairly close to where the video walls are. The closer you are, if your mm is higher, the more likely you are to notice the pixels in the video wall display, creating something that isn’t very clear when you’re closer to it. There are benefits, though, from having higher mm or lower resolution walls (higher the mm distance between LEDs the lower the resolution ends up being as you have less pixels), as lower resolution walls can also come in blow through format, as they are referred to. This is when the panels are actually transparent, where the panels are no longer solid, but they are actually a cluster of strips. The cool thing about this is you’re able to place lighting fixtures behind the video wall, and when they are off they disappear, but when you turn them on all of a sudden, you get this really great transparent look to the tiles, that I think give a completely different feel to what’s happening.
A second thing to think about is how does the wall wire together. Each panel has to connect in a series, and this tends to differ depending on the manufacturer, so it is always a good idea to look at wiring diagrams, and talk with a representative from the video wall manufacturer that you’re looking into, to figure out which method works best for your needs.
Third, rigging the panels is going to be essential in getting you different creative looks, or going into a space that might be challenging rigging wise. Video tiles have so many different options, and yet again, it differs with each brand, so make sure you also look into how you want to use the tiles, and mention that to your manufacturer rep, so they can help you find the tiles that are going to best fit your rigging needs.
Finally, I always say customer support is what makes any good product an amazing product. At Harvest, we use Absen, and have amazing support through Matrix Visuals, which is certified by Absen, as they can come out and help us with any issues we may have. That’s something that’s invaluable as we can call up Matrix Visuals, and tell them that our wall is giving us issues, and sometimes on the same day, we will have a tech on site helping us out. Absen obviously isn’t the only manufacturer with great support, so it’s just something you must do some research on, checking those who own different brands of tiles, to hear what they say, but Absen isn’t a bad place at all to start looking, as they are very affordable, yet dependable brand of tile, that are in a number of churches.
I hope what I offered pertaining to video walls can better serve your creative vision and help not only give you endless possibilities in design, but provide you lower operating costs, because let's face it, projector lamps are not cheap, which makes video walls a great, affordable option.