The Stage Look Design Process

Bargeheights helps churches with stage designs and lighting plots for worship spaces, either as part of a worship space renovation or new construction. We also work with guys who are looking to come up with a turnkey lighting and stage (“scenic”) design for a single teaching series. From my experience for several years as a Lighting Designer week to week for a thriving church, I can identify with the need to offload the heavy lifting of taking an idea and crafting it into a actionable plan. No amount of staff or resources changes the reality that us church guys will never have more than a 7 day lead time between our services, and often times, even less. I’ve found that having a real, actionable plan opens up the opportunity to do a fair amount of the work on the front end–in between weekly prep tasks. Things like building scenic elements, prepping cables, shifting around unused gear. Anything and everything helps to save time during the big crunch week.

Patrick at Crossroads was gracious to agree to let me share the details of he worked with Bargeheights to put together a turnkey stage look, using lighting and volunteer-built scenic elements. We hope that this glimpse into the Bargeheights design process helps all of our readers gain an understanding of how a design process works, and how Bargeheights can be a partner.

church set design inspiration

Patrick and I sat down to talk about what he’d like to see in the next look. Patrick showed me this image. He didn’t want the stage to look “exactly” like this, but he found that the picture had some qualities that he liked- the picture evoked a set of emotions that fit with the next teaching series. We also discussed some of the challenges of the current space– the challenge of repeatability of lighting programming with an all-volunteer crew, the need for the best-possible looking video shots during teaching (for multisite campus video delivery), and my notes that the room lacked some “warmth” given the current configuration of gear. Patrick also noted that he had some moving head gear, but didn’t know how to fit it in and wasn’t confident it could be programmed effectively.

This meeting, along with an inventory of the church’s existing lighting equipment defines what Clifton and I would call “Design Requirements”. With a specific list of design requirements in hand, I moved in to the “concept development”  phase. Yeah- fancy words for stuff, but our design process at Bargeheights has been refined to the point where it’s very repeatable and follows a prescribed order.We had to come up with some specific phrases to describe each phase. I blame Clifton.

In concept development, we tried out different ideas and explored themes that we wanted to see in the final design. I still prefer to do this on paper. It’s rapid, it’s quick, and the rough “gestures” of pen strokes fit the level of detail required. This phase isn’t about specific lighting gear, or even specific scenic elements. It’s more form, and texture.


Here’s a page from my sketches on this project. You can see me working out an idea about window frames built in sections, with some sort of reveal, or layers of depth. You can also see me begin to work through an arcing forming- maybe this is lighting gear, maybe scenic elements, maybe both. That medium isn’t important at this phase – but the form, or shape, or an arc is something I’m beginning to work out.


Next, we move on to working out these rough forms in scale. Clifton and I quickly built a model of the church’s stage based on the measurements I took from the site. From here, we can begin experimenting with scale, nudging, stretching and shrinking shapes until the proportions match up. Sometimes, at this phase, concepts and ideas fall apart. That’s ok. It’s all part of the process.


After polishing the dimensionally accurate sketches, I came back to Patrick with a couple of concepts. In reality, the concepts represent 4 or 5 ideas or methods to go about the theme. No one concept is exclusive. Patrick and I sat down, looked at the concepts and the elements suggested in both concepts. Patrick landed on the first concept, with the incorporation of a few of the elements from concept #2. With Patrick’s approval, Clifton and I kicked the tires, lit the fires, cued up a good playlist and began the tedious process of cranking out construction drawings for all the scenic and lighting elements, before moving on the working up the lighting plot.

Tune back to the blog and I’ll talk through how Bargeheights puts together scenic construction docs and lighting plots! And the best part of any blog post – Before and After pictures!




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