Visual worship case study – carols by candlelight

We first published this post last Christmas, but its helpful for a number of churches planning their festive services so here it is again.

The carol service at St Silas is always a big event and has had a variety of implications for visuals in past years. I thought it would be worth making a short case-study from last year’s event as there is a good mixture of different techniques and effects in the use of video, VJing, art and lighting.

The carol service takes a traditional pattern of carols and readings with a message towards the end. Some of the carols are performed by the choir, soloists and band and some include the congregation. The readings were either presented on video or by two readers (from the church pulpit which isn’t normally used any more, so using church architecture for visual impact). The talk/sermon/message bit is towards the end of the service, after the ‘main plot’ of the Christmas story has been presented and the song following it usually has a responsive element.

Starting with the physical set up of the building, we don’t normally have a choir and this one took up the entire width of our stage so the band were put off to one side. As historically this service is often busy and sometimes people have to be turned away, we try to squeeze in as many chairs as we can while trying to give people good sight lines.

Above the stage we hung a large triangular canopy, 8m wide and 9.7m to the peak. This canopy was custom made this year by for this service with the idea of using it for lighting and projector effects and to frame the stage in a different way. We also hung two large pieces of fabric behind the stage on either side of the normal 10’ x 8’ fast fold screen, these sheets were swept back from top to bottom to give a similar effect as the canopy and meaning that we could uplight all this fabric with LED lighting to wash them with different colours.

lighting detail lighting detail

Other lighting was more functional, to light the choir from the front and back and to provide controllable ‘house-lights’.

Lighting equipment:

  • 10 LED RGB lights
  • 4 Fresnel lights to back light the choir
  • 1 Fresnel for the readings from the pulpit
  • 2 Par-cans to light the roof spaces for effect
  • 6 Fresnels to light the full with of the choir and the rest of the stage (because you never know where the main speaker will speak from or move around).
  • 6 Dichroic flood lights (gradated between two colours) pointing at the roof for general ‘house lights’ before and after the service.

As well as lighting we had three projectors ‘painting’ the walls, rafters and canopy with visuals as well as the more usual/functional projector on the usual 10×8 fastfold screen in the center of the stage (and one last projector up in the organ loft for the choir to see their song words).


Here is most of the ‘tech area’ during the carol service (click on the image link for interactive view). Roughly from left to right we have…

  • Fat Frog lighting desk
  • St Silas analogue lighting desk for main stage lights
  • Numark DVD01 dual DVD players with distro and monitors
  • Panasonic WJ-AVE55 video mixer with preview monitor
  • Two domestic DVD players are burried in there somewhere
  • Mac Powerbook Pro running arKaos grandVJ, this was driving the three projectors that covered the canopy, walls and roof space.
  • (not shown) St Silas PC running Easy Worship to provide song words and powerpoint slides

(the right hand side of the above image is the PC and desk belonging to ‘sound-land’ so not relevant to this post)

Despite appearances this is a fairly simple setup, there are two outputs – the ‘main screen’ on stage and the ‘rafter projectors’ (three projectors to cover the different areas of the church roof and canopy above choir). The main screen is controlled by the Panasonic Video Mixer which can choose from DVD players, EasyWorship feed and the feed from GrandVJ on the Mac. While the rafter projectors come only from GrandVJ.

For more information see Christian Visualist blog or DeepRiver.

Post written by guest blogger Graham Lynch who says “Currently up to my eyes in this year’s event which as always has to be one step more complicated than the year before”.