It’s in the presentation

Nine Inch Nails isn’t the first band you think of when it comes to presenting worship, but this clip of them live at Lollapalooza is, I think, one of the most captivating but simple performances I have ever seen. (I wasn’t actually there…but you and I have YouTube…)

Notice how there aren’t lots of fancy lights, impressive and expensive stage sets…everyone (of course) is in black and most of the band rarely look at the audience. Yet the way the set starts with a solitary ghost light illuminating Trent Reznor as he sings…then as the track builds instrumentally, so does the band…literally person by person, instrument by instrument. Even by the climax in the middle, the staging and lighting is still sparse…with enormous white flats raised behind the musicians (again one by one) with the stark floor lights casting huge dramatic shadows. Simple but effective. Striking and memorable, but on a budget.

Set Dressing

We at EBC have been working on creating a new stage set for each of our series…we already have a pretty decent setup with a good number of static LED Par Cans and a small array of moving head lights, and our stage area is draped in black curtain which outlines the stage for us and also does an extremely good job of controlling the sound in the hall. But black material is as good at absorbing light as it is at absorbing sound… We have a services budget set aside for Sundays, which is usually spent on music, props, licenses and decor, but recently we’ve started setting aside a small portion for set dressing.IMG_1260

For the past year or so we’ve had up some white muslin which provides a bit of contrast and also a creative backdrop for the lights. For Easter we took it all down and just had a stark, wooden cross which was illuminated in outline by some LED fairy lights (it sounds slightly cheesy, like a Christmas/Easter juxtaposition but trust me, it was effective and tasteful. And then when Easter was complete we started experimenting with a material called Correx, which is like a plastic corrugated cardboard (the same material which estate agent boards are made from). This is large, cheap, flexible and pretty strong.

As you cIMG_1261an see from the pictures, a couple of sheets suspended make a great backdrop. We got several sheets of the 8′ by 4′ Correx in white from eBay (a pack of 10 was around £80 including delivery). The flats were created by cutting the sheets at random angles, and then rejoining them with centimeter gaps using bent paperclips from the church office… The cuts provide interest, but also the way they then hang slightly unevenly make for interesting shadows. All in all (I made two smaller flats for the stage right as well), the cost was around £15.

We’ve also used the Correx to make light tubes which are placed over our Par Cans, and picture frames for our “50 Shades of Grace” series. There have been some questions from the congregation…looking for meaning in the randomness of the set…but the overall feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, and there has been more intrigue as to how we created them!

It’s in the Presentation

So I encourage you to experiment with your sets, how you package the background, how you approach your presentation beyond song choice, sermon and printed media. Big and bold has impact, but doesn’t have to have a big budget! Check out more ideas here, and as always, go around with your eyes open for ideas…there is plenty of inspiration around if you look out for it. I’ve also been collating ideas on a Pinterest board as well.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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