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Welcome to Willow Production!

Willow Creek is a church committed to loving everyone always and extending the hope and grace of Jesus to our neighbors near and far. As a production department, our volunteers and staff support this mission through creating dynamic experiences and distraction-free environments to help our church family thrive.


We've received a lot of questions recently about how Willow does footlight. In this article, we'll break it down by venue, fixture, and learnings.Main Auditorium:For our main auditorium stage, we use a product from Ketra called the G2 linear, powered by the N3 controller. They are 1’ fixtures with 6 RGB LEDs in each fixture with a myriad of different lensing options. We currently have 40 of them installed that cover the center 40’ of our stage. They are set up so that we have control of each fixture individually. Though Ketra primarily serves architectural lighting functions, we've found that their system is live production friendly. The G2 fixtures take DMX input, have amazing color reproduction, and camera-friendly whites.I will be the first to admit that the Ketra G2 fixtures aren't the easiest lights to work with on the setup/replacement side. If a fixture goes down, it isn't a clean
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Willow Creek hosted the FILO conference recently and I had the opportunity to share some of our lighting learnings from the Global Leadership Summit 2017. What you are about to read is what I wrote to present from at FILO. This is by no means an article full of specifications, power draw, or DMX channels, but rather large-scale concepts and learnings we had along the way. Sabers I'm not going to go into a lot of detail with the Saber fixtures, but I wanted to touch on them really fast, and specifically why we went with them instead of something like LED tape. When thinking through a set for the Global Leadership Summit (GLS), we design for a broadcast audience. Only a very small percentage of our audience is experiencing the event live in our auditorium. As we began designing the cross-hatched set pieces for the scenic, we wanted to
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We've been dreaming for quite a while about how to bring our Lakeside Auditorium system into the world of HD. But with all things good, time, money, and creativity are required! In looking at our options compared with long-term budget forecasting, we came up with a great in-between solution. Our Main Auditorium is equipped with Hitachi SK-HD1200 SMPTE fiber cameras. That got us thinking - we've got the infrastructure in place already in Main - how can we use what we already have but use the HD cameras in Lakeside yet still have CCU control and ability to switch from the Ross Acuity switcher in the Main Auditorium. Our research brought us to a  "throw-down box" solution to convert SMPTE fiber into single-mode fiber. This magical box is known as a SHED (SMPTE Hybrid Elimination Device).  SHED extends the transmission distances of HD cameras limited by hybrid copper/fiber cable up to 10km using
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In October of 2017, we began major construction on our children’s spaces, which meant changing around some rooms to keep Promiseland operating. This meant transforming our main overflow venue from being a space for 800-1000 people to view service to being a secure space to hold 600 kids. That meant we needed to do some work on existing venues in order to accommodate all of the folks who enjoyed watching in overflow. So, we installed a few new TV’s and sent program audio to speakers that were already installed those spaces. One of those overflow spaces was Willow Cafe, South Barrington’s coffee shop. The decision was made swap the existing 40" TV for an 80" TV but not to upgrade the audio system and to instead use the existing gear. The challenge with this plan is it did not provide sufficient coverage. The speakers didn’t get loud enough without distorting
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The congregation at Willow is proudly multicultural and multilingual. To accommodate our diverse attendants, we provide four language interpretation channels (Polish, Korean, Spanish and Chinese) and one English hearing-assisted channel on a regular weekly basis in our Main Auditorium, as well as a portable interpretation station for our Casa Spanish speaking service in the Chapel. We have four isolated interpretation rooms below our Main Auditorium that have identical standardized equipment allowing our interpretation volunteers to be able to walk into any room and be familiar with the arrangement. Our standard audio equipment for interpretation consists of: Symetrix Prism 4x4 DSP Presonus HP60 Headphone Mixer Custom Patch/Button Panel for Mic Enable Middle Atlantic PD-915R-PL power strip BeyerDynamic DT290 Headset 1/4" Headphone XLR Microphone combo The XLR patch panels are routed to the mic in of the Prism 4x4. The button panel relays route to the Prism 4x4 logic inputs which are
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When Jordan Monson joined Willow Creek South Barrington’s staff as Lighting Engineer, our LED game grew significantly stronger. Jordan came from designing, building and programming light suits for the dance company iLuminate, and over 6 years experience working with various forms of LEDs and alternative lighting products. In this article, Jordan outlines his workflow, process, and some key learnings. The Idea The start of any good scenic LED process is the original idea. It could be based on an image from Google, a magazine article, or something no one has ever seen before. The important thing is to have a concept and know what you’d like it to be able to do. If you don’t know what your target is, you’re a lot less likely to reach your goal. In my role as Lighting Engineer, I am often in the initial ideation conversations with the scenic designer and the creative
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Our primary go-to microphone for all of our speakers, pastors, and actors is the d:fine™ Flex Omnidirectional Headset and Earset Microphone. These mics come in various colors and with connector options to match various brands of wireless transmitters or plug types.  We have chosen the DPA d:fine Flex because of its comfort level to the individual wearing the mic, the confidence that the mic position will stay intact by utilizing a headset band that uses both ears, and most importantly overall audio quality. In the past few years, we have switched to only ordering these terminated with a TA4F connector (we only use Shure wireless on our campus) instead of the microdot. We experienced a consistent issue with the microdot connector where it wouldn’t seat fully or would come loose and start crackling in the middle of a service. Going to a pre-terminated connector has decreased the failure rate in
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Prior to January 2018, we were sending automated broadcast audio from Front of House (FOH) for the live weekend streaming audio feed. From January 2018 to the present, we have hired a broadcast audio engineer who mixes for willowcreek.tv and our archive recordings. We still use automated broadcast audio for our overflow and in-house cable TV system. AUTOMATED BROADCAST: At FOH, we send separate stereo music and stereo speech mixes just for broadcast audio. We have a pair of microphones hanging off the catwalk in the auditorium which plug into one of the mic preamps of FOH Yamaha PM10 console, which the FOH engineer sets and leaves the Head Amp (HA or Gain). Three separate sends (3 stereo pairs) are sent to a BSS Soundweb London Blu-806 processor via Dante. Within the BSS processor, the speech buss is gained up to more closely match music levels. We then send out
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GrandMA1 Lighting Console

A part of my role here at Willow is designing and installing many large lighting rigs every year. With large-scale production like at Willow, lighting rigs can get very complicated very fast. In order to minimize unnecessary complications and maximize efficiency, I have developed a process to help prepare for and lead lighting load-ins for large events. In the months leading up to a large event, I work alongside Willow’s lighting designer, Dan Larson, as he designs the look and feel of the lighting rig in line with the creative requirements of the event. We start out with big scale dreams and as the specific needs and requirements are determined, we scale back to what is within our reach. Once we know what we need to be able to fulfill the creative requirements, we start reaching out to rental companies to source any additional equipment needed - this is where the
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mannequin, head, lighting, aim, stand-in,

Anyone who has been on the Willow stage will likely recognize the sight of mannequin heads on sticks scattered haphazardly across the stage. One of the questions I answer most frequently when giving tours at Willow is “What's with the creepy heads?” Before I answer that question let’s first talk about what the heads are. They are retired beauty school mannequin heads who have no more hair to offer and are now set on top of either a mic stand or a PVC pipe structure. We give them a loving home on the stage and put them to work standing in for singers and actors for lighting focus. These creepy heads are our steadfast lighting partners holding down a spike mark patiently waiting for their moment to shine. They don't need coffee breaks, they aren't afraid of the dark, and they rarely wander off. They allow our lighting designers to dial
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Willow's Production Systems Team's job is to maintain all of the audio, video, and lighting gear throughout the building. The scope of this is pretty massive. With all of the usage that our gear receives among various volunteers and personnel, stuff breaks. It's inevitable. The good news is that we've got a web-based helpdesk ticketing system that helps us keep track of reported issues across the campus. We are currently running Kayako Classic, which we have self-hosted at Willow Creek on a Virtual Machine running Ubuntu, Apache, MySQL, etc. Within the helpdesk system, we have created department categories for Audio/Comm, Lighting, Video, CAD, Equipment Requests, Media Requests, and a general department for everything else. As tickets are submitted to the system by our production personnel, either via email or a web form, they are assigned to individual systems personnel for tasking, message threads posted back and forth between the users updating the progress
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A few years ago we went through an awful experience where 7 of our mics were stolen from our Main Auditorium. Thankfully, the individual was caught and the mics were returned. Out of that painful experience, we set about figuring out how to track our mics just like we do any other piece of gear. We use an open source program called Tracmor for all of our assets and each piece of gear gets tagged using asset tags from SystemID Labels. These labels don't really stick on the roundness of a mic, and frankly, look rather ugly, especially for IMAG. So I brought up the question to our team, "is there a way we can etch in the asset tag number so that it is almost invisible but still readable?" One of my co-workers started investigating and came across a local company that does laser etching for things like glass, medals, and
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