Thursday, July 1, 2010

Tech Church

It’s hard to believe that there was a time, not too long ago, when messages were communicated to “the people” via radio and print only. Now we live in a time where even books are being replaced with a digital paperless option… Print isn’t yet dead, but his kids have definitely moved him into the retirement home. People used to tune in and hang out around the radio to “listen” to their favorite shows… if they liked westerns it was “Have Gun Will Travel”, or if detective mystery was your thing then “Philip Marlowe”.

Today, we have televisions being made with better resolution than the human eye. We have video game consoles that allow you to view things in 3D without wearing glasses, and control the system with body and hand movements, no controller needed. We carry around in our pockets mini-computers that can view HD video on our command. These mini-computers can locate you on the planet within inches, control all the other high-tech equipment in your house, allow you to speak face-to-face with anyone else, live, and connect you to everyone else in the world at wireless speeds faster than humanly imaginable only a few years ago.

In my lifetime, I’ve been privy to witness a pre-computer and post-computer educational system. I started learning DOS programming at age 9 from my mother on our “laptop” computer (which was actually about 40lbs. and had a black and green 6-inch monitor). I’ve witnessed the birth of the biggest technological leap the world has ever known, the internet. And now I work in a field that I get to be a part of utilizing and creating content for this new information-thirsty culture.

My job is to leverage the use of modern methods to accurately and effectively communicate the message of Jesus Christ to the masses. I think my official title is “Church Computer and Video Dude”. Really, I have three jobs, but two of them are pretty closely related… video creation, graphic design, and worship pastor (which really means band leader). Let me tell you a little about my day-to-day.

I work for a growing church called Great Lakes Church in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Before GLC, I had a similar job with EastLake Church in Bothell, Washington. Before that I was a “Web Development Assistant” for a small web conferencing company which is now extinct. And before that, I was a “Customer Service Representative” for DHL (the freight delivery company). I always loved design and constantly found myself tinkering around with different programs, but never did it “professionally” until I was at EastLake.

As you walk into Great Lakes Church, you begin to notice a certain style. But even before you set foot into our lobby, you most likely received one of the 75,000 mailers we send out two to three times a year. Then you decide to show up. First, you’ll navigate your way through our halls via the interior signage. Then as you enter our Adult Auditorium, you’ll be handed a program which tells you who we are and what to expect.

You’ll take your seat (in a movie theater since that’s where we currently meet) and thumb through the program, all the while, the huge 60 foot screen in front of you is creating an upbeat atmosphere with motion graphics and video footage. After a video countdown, the band plays three songs and you’re invited to follow along. After the band is done, you’re invited to take your seat again, and the room goes dark allowing for three more videos to be played (all before you even see the pastor). The first is what I call the “interlude”… it’s the background music and motion graphic that transitions you to situate and sit down without an awkward silence. Next is what I call the “roll-in”… our speaking schedule is designed around a topical series, and the roll-in is the intro for that topic… kind of like a sitcom theme intro. And last is what I call the “setup clip”. This is a short video clip from a movie or TV show that pertains to the weekends topic, and transitions our pastor in with humor. I'm responsible for your experience from your invitation all the way up to the pastor speaking (if he botches it, that's not my fault).

Our target is the 30 year old male who’s never been to church or hasn’t been in a really long time. Right now you’re probably thinking “shouldn’t your target be everyone?” Well, we do want everyone to know Jesus yes, but we know that stylistically we cannot reach/please EVERYONE. Even if you’re a church that has no target or says your target is everyone… the style of music you play, the way your leaders dress, the color of paint on your walls, the humor (or lack thereof) reaches a certain demographic of people and turns away other demographics… like it or not. There are all types of churches cuz there are all types of people. Our music is loud and rockin, our pastor wears jeans and t-shirts, we meet in a movie theater, and our humor is sarcastic and plentiful… we reach 30 year old men.

So, with that in mind, I create videos that emphasize that. I create graphics that appeal to the non-Christians. The non-Christian sees a dove, or a crown of thorns, or Jesus hanging bloody on a cross, and they are intimidated by the imagery and turned off… therefore, I NEVER use those “standard” religious images. Not out of disrespect, but instead to be relevant and sensitive and helpful to those people outside our Christian “club” (at least, that's how they see it). It is my job to make the message of Christ “Easy and Accessible” and to allow those people to come check out the claims of Christ as He accepts them... exactly as they are.

Another thing I need to be aware of is the community and its residents. I was born and raised in the Seattle area, so I’m used to white collar America. In a city where getting ahead means putting off having a family until your thirties so that you can climb the business ladder and get a bigger cubical at your next review, that’s what my path was. But out here it’s so different. People get married at 19 and 20, and then have their first, second, and third kids by the time they're 25. Our target works in a factory (of which I have no experience) or has a construction type job (also, no experience). My work needs to connect to those guys. I can’t be using Dilbert type humor when office humor doesn’t mean having an idiot boss and a wasteful meeting. Office humor is more like “I forgot to put the parking brake on the dozer and it rolled into our new frame and demolished half the work site”.

I like what I do… a lot. My week is spent in Adobe After Effects, Photoshop, and Dreamweaver. The things I used to do for fun, I now get paid for. My newest love is what’s called “open source” software. It’s free software that the designers give freedom to anyone and everyone to change how they see fit. One of my favorite new programs is Blender 3D. Similar programs are in the thousands of dollars range, but Blender is free. I use it to animate and create graphics in 3D space.

Man! I’ve got so much to talk about but I know I’ll bore then heck out of you if I continue and go into the details of my art. Or maybe it won’t bore you. Tell you what… if you’re interested in hearing more, leave me a comment and maybe I’ll expand in a part 2.


Joe said...

Leave more! :)

Brittany said...

I'm interested! Also, I really love all the intros to the series, but I think my favorite was "What to Do When.." :)

Mark V. said...

Love the embedded videos

Scott St. Jean said...

Wow, Tony you just keep getting better. Keep up the good work.