Free Chapel’s Forward Conference Impresses With PIXERA

av stumpfl pixera free chapel

Free Chapel is a growing multicampus church, operating out of Gainesville, Georgia, USA, that combines a local approach with a global vision. The church’s highly successful and technically advanced Forward Conference has been constantly evolving over nearly two decades.

Snapback Productions from Atlanta was enlisted to support the technical realization of the 19th year of the acclaimed student conference earlier this summer. The annual event hosts more than ten thousand students from dozens of states at the Gas South Arena in Duluth, Georgia.

This year’s Forward Conference featured five artists and seven main stage speakers over a period of three days.

Each of the artists performed sets ranging between 30–45 minutes, with some of the artists performing more than one set in total.

Snapback’s Bryce Kongvold and Michael Ferris were tasked with supporting creative director, Austin Bell, and his team to programme the entire show and to ensure it would both feel cohesive and stay “on brand”. It was equally important that each of the highly motivated artists were given enough visual freedom to allow for their own unique moment as part of the overall conference.

AV Stumpfl PIXERA Free Chapel 2

AV Stumpfl’s PIXERA media server platform was a key component of the production. PIXERA was trusted and utilised for the creative video programming, content sequencing and IMAG effects across 20 individual screen surface destinations.

Snapback Productions provided the necessary video systems, created the technical design, and prepared the advance screens programming for the event. Content management, projection mapping and the on-site system integration, as well as the show execution itself, lay in the experienced hands of the Snapback team, for whom it was the third time they had joined the overall team behind Forward Conference.

Snapback Productions’ Bryce Kongvold outlines some of the creative challenges his team had to master in this context: “Our client asked for the ability to have full control over the venue ribbon board and to tie it in with the rest of the show’s creative programming. The venue initially informed us that it was impossible to patch in and take over. Three weeks before the show we found a way to do it, but the only option was a custom resolution NDI stream that was wider than a standard 4K frame.”

“PIXERA’s ability to output a custom NDI stream to take over the venue ribbon boards enabled us to say yes to a client ask that for the previous 18 years they’d never been able to have – without having to add more gear to the show!” explains Kongvold enthusiastically.

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Limited on-site time before the show, combined with a condensed show schedule from start to finish and the desire to keep everything within a certain budget, meant that the Snapback team had little margin for error in their realising the complex show setup. “The pre-viz was only five days long. With only one programmer we needed to accomplish the sets of five artists, including Free Chapel Music, who performed two additional sets.”

AV Stumpfl PIXERA Free Chapel 3

Kongvold appreciates PIXERA’s versatility and seamless show control integration, which became very useful during the conference: “The majority of the show was built on the timeline, but having the option to access the API through PIXERA control allowed us to quickly create solutions to niche asks relevant to the show. Another great feature was being able to either use the full grandMA profile, or custom assign DMX channels to layer properties in an easily accessible window. This proved crucial to how we were able to pull off the final product,” he explains.

LED displays, projectors and the signal processing setup were provided by Fuse Technical Group.

GrandMA consoles controlled the output brightness of the individual surfaces in PIXERA, with Bitfocus’s companion as the tool of choice for basic show cue recall.

A Barco E2 was used for the general screens control and as a main/backup failover device. In addition to this, the E2 was also employed to realise a cut+fill from PIXERA over IMAG, and to execute impressive full venue transition takeovers and multi-views.

NETGEAR AV-Line M4250 switches acted as the networking backbone for the highly anticipated show. Adderlink XDIP KVMs were employed at multiple stations for server control, content management and system management.

A Blackmagic 40×40 Videohub distributed all the FOH signals and D/A feeds going into the servers.

Transparent ROE Vanish 18 LED displays were installed for the upstage wall, with additional ROE CB5 displays being used for the IMAG screens. Both surfaces utilised Brompton SX40 processors and Brompton XD data distribution units.

The projection mapping of the stage elements was realised with four Barco UDX-4K40 projectors