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Easter Service Review (Canyon Ridge)

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While every Sunday is important, it’s safe to say that Easter is a church’s most anticipated service of the year. I was unable to be at my home church for Easter, but had the privilege of attending my sister’s church, where she serves on staff. Canyon Ridge Christian Church in Las Vegas, NV passed out peeps candy to its members weeks prior to have them invite their peeps to an Easter service. Seven services were arranged to accommodate an expected 12,000 people. The totals came in at 13,371 demonstrating good foresight and planning.

CRCC is a mega-church in Vegas, so production standards are high for everything from music to video to stage design, graphics, lighting and atmospheric effects. That said, nothing was done over the top. That type of performance is reserved for the Strip.

Outside the auditorium there were baptisms going on as well as BBQs and Easter egg hunts. Inside people were in place ready to worship and were interacting physically and audibly with a unique and fun pre-service video (Roman Video’s “Steve the Screen Easter Edition” http://www.worshiphousemedia.com/countdowns/37006/Steve-The-Screen-Easter-Edition).

A full stage of musicians, singers and choir set the tone early. Creativity in music selections was evident from the beginning when “The Wonderful Cross” went straight into the middle of Matt Maher’s “Christ is Risen (Come Awake).” This medley approach was repeated for two other resurrection themed songs: “Let is Rise” and “God’s Not Dead (Like a Lion).”

After some special announcements the band was striped to essential players for a special number. Big Daddy Weave’s song “Redeemed” was weaved together with a video featuring real redemption stories from several church members. This blending of pre-recorded and live action, in and out, was powerful. On the triple wide screen in the middle scrolled polaroid-like images of all those who were filmed for the video. At the end a few came out to say one more line about how God has redeemed them and then the band finished with “thank God redeemed.” This was perhaps the most effective element of the whole service and served to set up what was to come.

Kevin Odor delivered an impactful message on “Hope You Can Trust.” This is the first message of a series on trust. A funny moment occurred as we watched a short “Trust Fall Fail” video that was adapted with the series graphics on either end. At the end of the message, those who had accepted Christ were encouraged to text “today” to a number and those interested in a “Getting Started Class” could text “next” to another number.

CRCC practices open communion every Sunday. Kevin Odor transitioned into this time seamlessly. While the trays of bread and juice were being passed a beautiful instrument piano piece was played live as images and verses of Scripture were displayed on the screens. A singer quietly made his way on to the stage by the piano to perform “Be Still” by the popular Grammy nominated band The Fray. A cover song from main stream artists is not uncommon at CRCC.

At this point, one could sense the service coming to a close. However, before dismissing the dynamics would change again to send everyone out fired up for the Lord. While the offering was being collected the full band started playing. A spoken word piece over the band’s underscore tied together the service. The worship leader and choir on their cue began singing the chorus and bridge of Chris Tomlin’s “Our God is Greater.” It was not only those on stage who were animated. Electricity filled the air as we were dismissed.

I’m glad that I was able to attend this excellent Easter service at a great church. If you would like to check out this service or any others, check out the media page at www.canyonridge.org

canyonridge

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Noticing and Appreciating Excellence

November 24, 2011 3 comments

I recently had the privilege of hosting a Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit at our church in Brownsville. But there was something very different about this one, it was a Cumbre Global de Liderazgo, done entirely in Spanish. It’s the International model on US soil, which makes sense given that we’re in the Rio Grand Valley of Texas.

My charge and role was that of producer. The burden was on me to pull off an event that met Willow’s high standards of excellence  in a region that is typically (and I can say this because I live here) not always as keen on these characteristics.  Down here we start things late and go over our time limit. Flow is often interrupted by any number of things. Often there are technical difficulties and the response of the people is usually folks yelling “Gloria a Dios” (Glory to God) while someone scrambles to fix the problem.

I likened the whole thing to rolling a boulder up a hill. Willow’s 80 page pdfs fly in the face of conventional wisdom and practice. We had many obstacles to overcome. Fortunately I had some great help, and good people in the right seats on the bus. These volunteers caught the vision for something greater.

The local radio manager was brought into the planning committee and voiced some of the hurdles that we’d face. People down here don’t like spending money on conferences. They don’t like to plan ahead and pre-register. They don’t like the idea of a video-cast and feel it won’t be personal. We put all hands on deck and moved forward and broke through all of those seemingly impossible barriers. We had 230 leaders registered who interacted beautifully with the “video-cast” and live segments. The ice has been broken. This is a dream years in the making and is the right format to explode from here on out.

Those leaders who attended were so blown away by everything and especially the smoothness of all the programming. They noticed and appreciated the excellence with which things were done. Like I said– it really is a rarity and a unique trait down here. One of the coolest things was seeing people in there seats before the opening prelude video (we scheduled registration at 5pm and started at 6pm). There was a countdown in the registration area and in the auditorium. As I am seeing the countdown near it’s end and praying that everyone remembers the cues that we rehearsed and rehearsed I was surprised by something that I did not expect. At 5 seconds to start the audience started clapping! Right out of the gate excellence in the fact that we are starting when we said we would is making an impact.

Our technical team, assembled from various different churches, with limited experience in events of this caliber came together and became such a well-oiled machine. It made my job of producing a breeze. I did not expect to be so relaxed and at ease. I told them that, along with a quick word to not become complacent and be ready for anything. Every transition was fluid, no problems arose. The team worked so well together and the crowd was amazed. Willow’s training was to ensure that distractions were at a minimum and that people could receive the messages and programming elements that were planned. That’s what went down. It was amazing! Here’s one of my favorite pictures:

More pictures here- http://www.flickr.com/photos/brotherjohn/6349019562/sizes/z/in/set-72157628138147382/

It was also awesome to have two original pieces in the program- one potter video and a video made just for the Summit with local pastors in it. This was one of 4 cities in the US to have a Spanish Summit. The others were Chicago, LA, and NY! What an honor to have this unique event in our church. It made all of the hard work worth it.

My kids thought I was on a trip or something. I’d leave before they woke up and get home after they were asleep. They missed me and I them. On Thursday I got to the church at 7:30am and home at 12:30am only to go back at 2:30am and home at 3:30am and back at 8am or so. This was because the band I booked from Mexico arrived late due to some complications. They missed our dress rehearsal which made for a frantic Friday before our starting time. But it all worked out beautifully and come Saturday night, the band, myself and Andre Jennings who came down to train and help us, were celebrating a job well done at Cheddars.

While at Cheddars they asked us point blank, “Why all of the organization and practice and preparation? Shouldn’t there be room for the Spirit?” We gave our answers and they listened intently. We talked about the burden of time for people, respecting their busyness. A visitor may give church one shot and first impressions are vital. We talked about how our culture places a premium on excellence in their marketing of products, and we have the most important message of all and are far too content to package it in less than great ways.  Broadway will be flawless in their transitions because if they aren’t people won’t pay money to be entertained. I’m not talking about entertaining people in church, but rather transforming people and minds. How much more important? Sports teams practice and practice, two a days at times, to go out and compete. It’s a sport or a show. We have the gospel, but don’t want to practice or improve? We talked about how the Spirit can lead you in preparation, not just when things are live. It was a totally new and foreign concept to them! They said themselves that they had been to school and learned excellence and would be better for it. I guess we stretched them, and they did a terrific job in this new territory. Oh, and they gave me a great nickname– “Látigo Santo” (the holy whip).

I was glad to play a part in this difficult feat. It’s impact will be widespread. The emphasis placed on quality impressed so many that attended and they let us know. Quality vs. Perfectionism may be a future post, but is not really the point here. I don’t claim to be an expert in this area. I’m just a learner. In fact, I came out of this with many areas to tighten up in our own church.

How about you? How do you view excellence in the church?

Fall Festival Highlights

November 1, 2011 Leave a comment

Here’s the 2011 highlights reel of our Fall Festival. I thought this one turned out pretty good. The music is uptempo. The pace is fast. The edits are quick. I started the edit with some quick little timelapse (using a tripod of course and a Aputure timer remote, which for some reason has some major battery issues). Then most of the other footage was shot using my DIY PVC shouler rig (see my DIY category on the blog) and my new lens which has image stabilization. This is the one thing that I was most excited about on this edit. A prime lens is great for static shots  and depth of field stuff, focus pulls, etc., but add movement and you’re in trouble. This made a big difference I think. I thought it should be colorful, so I didn’t colorize the whole thing; I just did a pop levels adjustment on each clip. So here you go:

Father’s Day Media

I wanted to create a new illustration for this Father’s day that was cinematic on DSLR, but since the Joplin Tornado happened, I’m going to have to save it for next year. So here’s some older Father’s day media that I have available:

This countdown was popular last year: http://www.worshiphousemedia.com/countdowns/19235/Crazy-Things-Dads-Say-Countdown

This illustration is from several years ago (also available en español)

http://sermonspice.com/product/17072/time-a-fathers-gift

http://sermonspice.com/product/17077/ilustraci%C3%83%C2%B3n-tiempo-un-regalo-de-un-padre – Spanish Version

HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!

Freedom is Not Free

Memorial Day is right around the corner. This is a short video about sacrifice and freedom that parallels the raising of the flag on Mt. Suribachi of Iwo Jima, to the raising of the cross on Golgotha.

Download link: http://bit.ly/k1606D

Westboro = Church?

May 26, 2011 7 comments

Westboro “church” is apparently in Joplin to protest. That is mind boggling in and of itself, but goes to show the level of lunacy in this group. Where is this hatred coming from? And why?

Brandon, Mississippi gave them their match according to this article: http://www.ihatethemedia.com/a-simple-way-to-stop-westboro-baptist-church-funeral-protesters but I imagine Joplin will come up with some even better way to counter this horrible and deranged agenda.

If you’ve read my other recent posts you know that Joplin is my hometown. I now live 16 hours away, but my heart is broken over the devastation my family and friends are facing. My heart also breaks that a group that calls themselves “church” are driving from Topeka to kick Joplin when their down. Well, they are rising up, and no one, especially not anyone from Westboro can stop them.

I’ve heard many ideas that people have to deal with these loonies. I don’t know what they’re going to do. We’ll have to wait and see. (I’ll post in the comments section whenever the news comes of what happens.) The consensus I hear among those is my circle is to hit them with love, which is the complete opposite of what they spew.

Here’s their flier and accusation of Joplin, painting everyone with a broad brush of hatred and contempt: http://www.godhatesfags.com/fliers/20110523_MO-and-KS-Tornadoes-89-Plus-Dead.pdf

Really??? Wow. The Bible College is a whore house? This sarcastic and carefully written document makes me sick. It’s not true at all. That’s not the Joplin I know and love.

Right now Joplin is living up to the name CHURCH and I’m so proud of the way the church at large in Joplin and its surroundings are coming together for the community and making all the difference. Westboro taints the word “church” with all of its awful activities. The other crazy, Harold Camping, taught that the church of today is apostate and is not even saved. I beg to differ!

Last night at our church in Texas, we finished out Kyle Idleman’s series “H20”. In episode 10 Kyle (who last I knew is in Joplin right now helping with the relief effort) explained that the river is purest at its source. Because of this, we should go to the early church at its very beginning in Acts 2:37-47 to see how the church ought to be. “Good” and “strong” churches will do their very best to exhibit these 5 attributes from Acts 2:

1) No irrelevant teaching- but rather Bibl-based, Christ-centered, needs-meeting, transforming doctrine

2) No one left alone- apply the “one anothers” of scripture, accept one another, love one another unconditionally, to name a few.

3) No masks- don’t hide behind any false front or pretense. Be sincere and genuine.

4) No half-hearted worship- strong commitment 7 days a week.

5) No perfect people allowed- No one is better than anyone else, when the standard is perfection. You can’t say someone doesn’t deserve grace, because you don’t either. Nobody’s perfect, only forgiven and changed.

I look at this list, and I see Joplin loud and clear. The church in Joplin is doing all of this, now more than ever. Acts 2 reads,

44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

This is taking place right now in Joplin! All I see coming out of Westboro “church” is the complete opposite. I see people who are fake, irrelevant, half-hearted, mask-wearing, think their above everyone else, no love, all hate, hypocrites, and they give the church a bad name. What is wrong with this picture? So very much.

Here’s Kyle Idleman in front of a church building that was destroyed by this natural disaster in Joplin. It was not God’s judgment. The rain falls on the righteous and the unrighteous. My point is, tornadoes may destroy church buildings, but the true church can never be destroyed.

God loves Joplin. He even loves Westboro “church”. I’m praying for Joplin. I’ll be there to help rebuild in a few weeks. I’m praying for people to have wisdom in having to put up with the goons from Westboro on top of everything else. Kill ’em with kindness. Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you. Their claims are baseless and their actions can’t be any lower. Don’t stoop to their level. The true church will come out on top.

Color Blindness

(This is pasted from my April CVmag article found here:
http://www.christianvideomag.com/articles/articles.php?recordID=305)

I am color blind. I’m not talking about the racial color blindness, though that is the case as well. I do believe that our Creator God made one human race with lots of variety in the pigmentation of our skin. That’s really for another article and another magazine. Back to my point, I do suffer from Daltonism or color blindness. I found out in first grade after messing up a math worksheet. We were to color the balloons certain colors according to the sum in the math problem inside each balloon. The teacher’s aid yelled at me and called me sarcastic and I went home crying. I knew all of the right answers but kept saying, “They didn’t have the papers.” meaning the crayons didn’t have labels for me to read what color they were. So my dad quickly got out the ol’ encyclopedia and quizzed me on the color wheel. Then he went to the color blindness entry and confirmed his suspicion when I couldn’t see the hidden image in the test. It runs in my mom’s family, and women are the carriers, so I am officially color blind.

What’s this have to do with this magazine? Well, since you and I dabble in graphic arts and video and other creative outlets, we know how important color is. It is vital that colors be right. What is right? Depends on whether or not you’re colorblind. Maybe what’s right for you is not right for me, or maybe I’m not going to know anyway! What I’ve had to learn to do is either ask my wife (a good general rule for even non-colorblind men, perhaps) or color by numbers.

Paint or color by numbers is very doable with RGB numbers or even easier with Hexadecimal numbers. Just do a google search of hexadecimal numbers and you’ll get a 6 digit code for whatever color you need. Whether it’s a primary yellow or a forest green or even a magenta (I have no idea what that is). What’s even better is a tool in some programs to match any color on the screen. In Adobe software this is known as the eyedropper tool. You can click on any color and the info on that color gets locked in. You can copy the hex numbers and go to town. Also displayed will be the RGB numbers- three sets of numbers. “I used the eyedropper tool in The Bible in Rhyme’s mother’s day video from Proverbs 31- http://www.worshiphousemedia.com/mini-movies/23804/Proverbs-31– to match the text color to the mother’s shirt color in each scene.”

This comes into play, for instance if you want to add text over a video. Use the eyedropper to get colors for your text out of the image or take a screenshot into this site- http://www.degraeve.com/color-palette/ and it will give you a palette to work with taking it from out of the picture along with dull and vibrant versions and hexadecimal numbers!

There are some things, though, in which numbers won’t really help you. What if you shot with the wrong white balance setting? What if you want to correct color? What if you want to accomplish a certain look or feel to your footage. This article certainly won’t answer all of those questions, but it raises the issue. It is for you to go out and find the wealth of info out there on finding out how to achieve these goals. For me, I usually have to rely on my wife’s eyes to help me out. She will sometimes get tired of me calling her back in to look at the screen.

She helped me just recently on a little Mother’s Day countdown that I did- http://www.worshiphousemedia.com/countdowns/23520/Crazy-Things-Moms-Say. To have and maintain consistency I used the same project I had for “Crazy Things Dads Say” but obviously used different sayings and had a different ending and music. The only other thing that needed to be different was the color scheme. The “dads” video was sort of manly earth tones and this one need to be more girly and pink even. I was able to take my motion background and manipulate the hues until I had a result that worked well. For this, of course I needed to borrow my wife’s eyes to come and help me out. I scrubbed through until she said, “Stop…no, go back…there it is.”

I also asked for her help on a recent poptent.net spot that I created for Stauffers Animal Crackers. In the creative brief they emphasized that the color palette match the packaging of the product. They wanted an “organic” piece that didn’t feel like an ad using no logos or tag lines. I was pleased that another producer commented on the poptent upload and picked up on the fact that our clothing went well with the brand’s logo. Anyway, I color corrected it using a levels adjustment which I wrote about last month in “Gotta Level With You”. I rendered out a version I thought was pretty good, but then when she came home I requested her expertise and use of her non-colorblind eyes again. We went through and made minor adjustments a couple of times. We checked for overexposure and congruence from scene to scene. Some of the shots that were too yellow were corrected by “color balance” adding some blue mid tones and at times highlights. You can see the whole ad with split screen (half the straight out of camera flat image and half the color corrected display): http://vimeo.com/22127915.

I know there are many studies in color and color palettes and I will be studying some of this. I believe there are plenty of sites out there to help understand the psychology behind colors and which ones go well together. Suffice to say that colors do matter. Interestingly enough, in a “lighting” lecture at Lights Film School the instructor said it’s good to dabble with Black and White before attempting color, so that with your lighting you create and can recognize good contrasts in your shadows, mid tones, and highlights. That’s a challenge; but let’s takes it to heart. Lighting is one area that I really need to work on. The good thing about shooting with a flat setup in HDSLR is the ability to boost those levels and make the colors pop in post. However, it would be best to get all that looking good when shot. As my instructor said, “You can’t fix tonal range in post. You either have tonal range or you’re flat. You can darken your blacks and pop your highlights if they are there in camera, but you can’t invent them in post.” Get it right the first time! Those are good thoughts to consider.

Even though I’m color blind I can see colors. I appreciate colors. Colors can also evoke different emotions if we understand and use them correctly. Watch films and see how there’s a certain tint to different types of films or even scenes. Colors are truly a gift from a creative God. Let’s try to use amazing colors that He has given us and create images that are most interesting.

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