Showing all posts tagged #productiondesign:


Easter 2016 Production Design - Victorian Mansion

Posted on April 30th, 2016

I know you’re asking about it. I hope to fill in the details of this post soon


Every[one] Production Design

Posted on March 10th, 2016


I know you’re asking about it. I hope to fill in the details of this post soon


Lite Brite and Elf Houses

Posted on January 19th, 2016


There was a lot of prototyping and iteration as well as complexity in leadership of multiple departments to achieve the success in this Production Design.

The process was really fun to nerd out with research into classic toys and some surveying of people who grew up in that era. Along the way, we kept coming back to the movie Elf.

We began with an idea of what classic toys might bring nostalgia. The LiteBrite was a fun idea. I liked it for multiple reasons:
  • The chance to design with layers of texture in with the cups. The real magic for them came when we created a new template for all the video work flow to have to be inside a hexagon based grid rather than the typical square.
  • The build process of hot glue in sheets of PVC that were cut on a CNC machine was tedious, but proved to look great when the projection was focused correctly.
We design the Elf inspired Houses:
  • Minimal wooden frame
  • Cardboard and Paper
  • Visqueen and Lights

A problem became an opportunity when we figured out how to hide the set behind the main traveler and tell a prelude story based in Nepal and using chalk art to tell about partners all over the globe.Fun too, to coach blocking for a the broadcast into during the countdown. My friend snapped this photo of yours truly that he used to coach the crew in duplicating the shot composition.


Dealership Production Design

Posted on October 29th, 2015

Last night we transformed one end of the dealership to celebrate momentum. Red, silver, and white branding is maintained for this main event stage and the rest of the dealership.

VIPs are enjoying catered small plates. The president and others just completed their speeches. Guests are about to experiment the main event.

Pre-show look. Lights are slowly strafing across the ceiling above the “stage" that we made. Truss warmers are twinkling white on the silver sticks of vertical truss and anticipation is in the air (or is that haze?)

I prepared myself in position at lighting control (my Jands Vista S1 - I and/or my console are available for hire/rent) back stage. I transitioned the lights as the intro video played and encouraged the talent to break a leg...
Actually, I took this shot well after the event just before we tore down - through the veil of the CrushedBlack fabric, you can see the car already on stage - in the moment I was too busy firing off a barrage of lighting effects; as well as cuing dancers, actors, and a driver for their moments of the production.
I’m really bummed not to have any photos to share of the live number we performed. Hopefully I can get some shots or video from one of the guests. I wish I had thought to set up a GoPro or few to record.

After the event, I hurried to offer photography to guests as they all wanted to pose with the cast. I managed even to get a #castandcrew shot taken of me (in the coveralls that was part of the branding) with the performers. These guys are great, by the way. If you’re looking for actors and/or dancers (and/or hamsters?) contact me and I can refer you to some great Metro Detroit talent.

One of my other responsibilities was to take photos of the president and leadership holding their awards at the corporate stage for earlier speeches at far end of the room. This is my view walking back toward the main stage. I share it to give context of the space. Even at the end of the night, the mood still feels good in the transformed dealership.
Interesting to contemplate that two hours later, everything is packed up and the morning crew will be able to bring cars back into the space for normal operations.

I think this image is hilarious; this pair of hamsters remained at the ready long after every guest had taken photos and the catering had been cleared.

It was a fun event. It always is when a producer tells me they want to drive a car on stage!

Strive for beauty with depth and layers

Posted on September 25th, 2015

Strive for beauty. Create with depth and layers.

Here’s a *slide from one of my Production Design Theory talks that I give. It was great spending time with FILO friends in Denver, Dallas, and Chicago this year as the conference met in each of those cities.

If you were part of those breakout trainings, please let me know what was helpful and what I should improve on. Also, please let me know if you have any followup questions that I might tailor an answer specifically for your unique context.

*It was cool getting to sub in the new photo from the Leadership Gathering

Leadership Gathering

Posted on September 7th, 2015

Produciton Design and Consulting

The inception for this two-day conference hosting 1000 VIPs event was put in motion less than three months before the event! Even with the crazy timeline (and perhaps because of it) it was an honor and a privilege to be asked to design and lead production for this event.
  • ideation of concept
  • refining concept to fit inside the constraint of $5K
  • iteration of prototype
  • approval of concept
  • partnership in developing story and production management
  • prepping cast and crew
  • Collaboration and intentional choice for continuity of brand in every part of stage, room, handout, and communication
  • Producing uniquely formatted videos and graphic assets
  • ordering of materials
  • leadership of construction/assembly
  • rush-order of mislabeled box of material and adaptability to rework setup plan
  • coordination of rehearsal
  • programming of lighting, video, and special effects cues
  • execution of audio including a last minute live voiceover intro by yours truly

Constraints drive creativity. Moving fast actually helps leverage pushing past doubt and leads to excitement about our concepts during ideation. Leadership, creativity, design - it’s all problem solving! The buzz and excitement about the project was useful in leveraging contribution from numerous collaborators. Delegation to key personalities was key in leadership of execution. It was beautiful to see many people leverage their talents and a number of young team members realize new passions as they learned new skills on the fly!

Feel free to read the full detailed version of this blog post if you’re curious for more of the story.


Leadership Gathering - Produciton Design and Consulting

Posted on September 7th, 2015



The inception for this two day conference hosting 1000 VIPs event was put in motion less than three months before the event! Therefore ideation of concept; iteration of prototype, approval of concept; partnership in developing story and production management prepping cast and crew; ordering of materials; leadership of assembly: continuity of brand in every part of stage, room, handout, and communication: coordination of rehearsal; programming of lighting, video, and special effects cues; execution of audio including a last minute live voiceover intro by yours truly. What an exciting project to be part of!

The budget for the scenic and lighting was <$5K so that alone presented constraint that drove creativity. The fact that our timeline was tight was fuel to move fast and actually helped leverage pushing past doubt and leading to excitement about our concepts during ideation. Key elements of this design were built on the request of a large screen that could carry the brand of the organization. The budget required us to create an unique workaround to simulate a properly blended projection mapping rig and "fake it" with some clever finesse and the reminder that guests won’t know the difference if we are strategic in how we craft our graphics and video assets.

The idea of a B-Stage presented multiple challenges that yielded the iteration of multiple special additions to the experience: LEDtape that outlined the stage (and provided uplight - or maybe it was the other way around). Communication banners (that added to the branding and communication - or provided depth in every video shot). Finally, which was better: the excitement of transitions with the additional entrances and focus shifting for the narration, the eye contact and authenticity of new ideas in a town hall segment of the communication, or the up close excitement of key performances that literally break the fourth wall!

The buzz and excitement about the project was useful in leveraging contribution from numerous collaborators. Delegation to key personalities was key in leadership of execution. It was beautiful to see many people leverage their talents and a number of young team members realize new passions as they learned new skills on the fly!

Here are some of my favorite moments.


Intermission between sessions the first night. I love tables and chairs for a conference.


This silhouette moment from the opening medley - I hope Michael Jackson would have been proud. Top image also from the opening medley - covering Hey Ya by Outkast.


From the opening medley - I believe this was Shake It Off.


A shot from house right showing a bit of the room. We really have transformed the old warehouse. I remember doing our walk-through when we first purchased this space. It used to have columns in the middle of the room. Oh, and dirt floor with vile things growing in the puddles...


I like this shot during worship that also shows some of the table decorations that I helped braintrust the design of. Please forgive the odd looking text on the screen due; to the fact that I snapped the photo exactly on the CG transition.


The Kensington founders and their wives on stage together. It’s a beautiful encouragement to see them still be close friends 25 years later.


I love how my friend Michael Duggan programs lights. It’s fun to see my plot come to life!


It was an honor to get to run audio for day two of the event. Here’s the view I had of the keynote speaker teaching from the B-stage in the middle of the room.


A panoramic shot of the room. I wish I had taken a reverse angle of the room in use. The best I can do is the following photo.


My view of the room from above the stage while working on projection. Collaboration and intentional choice was made even to each centerpiece on the tables.


This is day two of our set-up and we're somehow calm in spite of being way behind planned schedule. 24 hours prior all we had was the arch in place and the wrong size fabric. RoseBrand had sent us the wrong width due to a mis-labeling error in their sewing department. They overnighted us the correct size and we were able to work past midnight to get everything ready for doors to open the next morning for another event that was using the room. The team was great as we flexed through the setback and found other useful things to do with our time on day 1 and the first half of day 2. Thankfully we had kept a second day of setup on the schedule; if not, we would not have had a chance for the vision to have turned out as you see in these images.


Early sketch of what it would take to pull off the custom built screen that required no support beams so that the silhouette moment could happen. Leadership, creativity, design - it’s all problem solving!



a note to producers about the lighting cue sheet

Posted on August 30th, 2015


I've had multiple conversations with worship arts directors in the past few months where I've shared some of my thoughts on this subject. As a designer and live production artist, my personal preference loves to create "live," "Spirit led," and "in the moment." I usually do at least some amount of live busking when I operate; some shows more than others. For theatrical productions that repeat a linear story multiple shows I live in a single fully mapped timeline; a worship concert I am almost fully live. Regardless, I always have a road map sketched out (at least in napkin sketch format - see image below) if not fully built in Excel (see other image below) in some format or another. Even if I audible live, at least I'm making a change from something.

Anyway, the thoughts here were built from a copy/pasted note to one of the artistic producers I was consulting with recently. The thread had included his question of if a cue-to-cue would be something I'd recommend to their process. My answer to these questions are about finding best practices for being one in vision and trusting each other to bring the best thing we each can do to create a moving experience.

A cue-to-cue might prove to be beneficial to your process and your product. However, remember that without the context of the live music being played and the musicians on stage in their light, it’s very difficult for someone besides an experienced lighting designer to accurately know how to interpret what they see. I’ve experienced numerous cue-to-cues with producers where they make changes to what the LD designed and then later they ask for follow up changes during the dress rehearsal that end up very close to what was originally created. If doing a cue-to-cue, make sure you know what you're reviewing.

I suggest what is more beneficial is to spend the time making sure that you’re clear in the vision that you have for each moment of the service. Communicate that to the SM and LD. If they understand your vision, they’ll support/enhance the moment visually. Again, a cue-to-cue walk-through isn’t bad - the dialogue to check in and make sure you’re on the same page is really important. Simply heed my caution to not to make changes out of context. Make sense?

The greater importance is trusting each other to all be on the same page. Have you communicated vision for the story clearly? Does your LD have a plan for how to support and enhance? I suggest a meeting to talk through a cue sheet is the better use of everyone's energy. After knowing that you're on the same page, then you can each work on the tasks that you're best at.

Unless you see a specific vision for mapping out the details of an element, I don’t recommend going into detail of builds and changes in each song. Aside from the potential build (referenced with an ellipse) it simply shows the base cue guide for each moment. Feel in the room can and should lead to adjustment in each nuanced moment. Trust the LD to design beauty and magic that supports and enhances the experience.

At Kensington, we use Planning Center Online as our hub for every production we do. It’s great for scheduling teams and making sure that everyone is on the same page. I can give coaching in another post about how I suggest it might be a useful platform to incorporate into your process. Anyway, it’s a very useful tool for us in laying out the flow of elements in a service. As a PM, I love being able to think through what each discipline (Audio, Lighting, Multimedia, etc.) needs to be doing at each moment of the service.

In each cue the notes in the lighting column give the road map for what lights will be doing in the format of:
"SUBJECT LIGHT | SCENIC LIGHT | HOUSE LIGHT"
Subject - the communicators and artists on stage
Scenic - everything behind and around the people - soft goods, lights through haze, etc.
House - as simple as basic intensity, but often can include environmental lighting

As an LD, I map out the visual story pretty intentionally. Sometimes a show calls for a fully detailed cue sheet with specific intensities and focus patterns for each instrument along with fade times for each transition. A cue sheet can also be as simple as a napkin sketch. Having these notes shared with the Stage Manager is really important as they're the hub for helping everyone stay true to common vision. Again, I suggest using PCO (or another cloud based service) to make sure everyone can stay updated with any changes along the way...

Do these thoughts make sense? Do you have ideas grow in how you might evolve your process? Please let me know!


My Production Design Algorithm

Posted on May 17th, 2015

A stream of thought listing things I consider with every design:

  • Context of organization
  • Context of event
  • What are the “budget" parameters?
    • Cost for the event?
    • Budget for series? for year?
  • Who is on stage?
    • who’s the teacher
    • who’s the worship leader
    • play to their style
  • Topic of the day…series
  • Branding...
    • How do the visuals identify with the mission?
    • Achieve continuity with the rest of communication
  • What are my resources?
    • existing materials?
    • budget for new?
      • I suppose I ought to ask about rental budget; however I’m rarely a fan of such...
    • lighting inventory?
  • What is the rep plot?
    • How do we play to the strengths of the lighting system?
    • A good rep plot is arguably the most important asset to your venue.
    • Certainly right up there with a good PA.
    • The good news is that that it costs way less...
  • What are video requirements?
    • IMAG
    • broadcast
    • camera positions
  • What are audio’s needs? What will help them succeed?
  • who is the producer?
    • What are their visual preferences?
    • what “lens" is the story told?
  • Who is on lights? Maximize their strengths...
  • What is the timeline for setup? for strike?
    • Is it a stage turn situation? If so, what is the design that precedes and follows?
    • How do you design in the timeline of multiple turns?
      • Hang the rig points 2 weeks out
      • hang the truss 1.5 weeks out
      • hang the lights 1 week out and use as backlight for the Midweek stage
      • Finally, hang hard goods and refocus lights in the turn for the target event
      • then hang a screen and soft goods from the same truss in an upcoming design.
  • What are transportation and storage logistical considerations?
  • Who is the crew? What are their strengths and experiences?
    • Artists vs. engineers
  • Materials
    • What materials have been used recently?
    • What materials will the upcoming holiday be using?
    • Use something different than either of these.
  • Mood
    • Honestly more important than materials is the mood.
    • It’s possible to create multiple moods with the same materials.
      • That’s what we do in a series: I brand a series with a palette of materials, and then craft the set for each day to support the unique story of that specific event...
  • Inspiration
    • What is inspiring me recently?
      • Architecture
      • Nature
      • Window displays
      • Trade magazines
      • Cinema
      • Renaissance paintings
      • Industrial dumpster
      • Pinterest
    • What's an archived idea that I might finally have the chance to try?
      • Evernote
        • Anything that inspires me tends to end up in Evernote
        • I use tags such as “design ideas"
    • I hate copying (plagiarism) and go to great lengths to make sure my art is authenticity mine. However, I think being inspired by other designers is completely appropriate.
    • Who can you connect with to bounce ideas off of one another? #ctln
  • Passion
    • I want people to pull their phones out.
    • I take pride in my discipline - the pursuit of creating something beautiful.
    • A design certainly should look good
      • Visual interest, shapes, patterns, textures, Layers, Depth behind every camera angle, etc.
      • However I suggest there are transcendent considerations that can be woven into the scene - metaphor, symbols, numerology, etc. Hide "Easter eggs" - it's fun and it will inspire someone, I promise.
        • break the 4th wall - immerse them in the story
        • target people’s subconscious

Danny Cox Album Release Concert

Posted on April 25th, 2015

It was such a privilege to be part of this event! My friend Danny released his recent album “Fighting for the Beauty" last night. I was honored to be asked to be Production Designer for it.

I reprised some of my favorite ingredients for this show:
  • Persian Rugs (various sizes and colors from (5’x7.5' all the way to 12’x23')
  • Gothic Chandeliers (custom made for Easter’15)
  • Gothic Lanterns (custom made for Easter’15) on the floor and atop our Iron Candle Stands (custom made many years ago for a Good Friday)
  • ADJ Z7s (LED zoom mover - I love the value of these instruments) atop our custom moving light cages (ask me about these cages sometime)
  • Black Tergalet and Silver Batiste (Rosebrand)
  • Elation 300s (profile mover) and 60s (LED wash mover)
  • And a very generous demo (thank you Advanced Lighting & Sound) of some ADJ beams

Here’s a phone pic of a nice moment near the end of the set. Hopefully I’ll add a few more from my real camera soon.

Eric Wolfe

Visual Artist and Leader. Production Designer and Consultant. Developer of Ideas. Maximizer of Resources. Strategic Thinker. Creative Innovator. Husband. Father. Philosopher. Photographer. Backpacker. Athlete. Cook. Artisan. He shares thoughts here about all of the above. He would love to connect to partner in coaching and revealing beauty to enhance story and experience. Please do reach out!