Feature: The Holy Ghost Festival of Life
Feature: The Holy Ghost Festival of Life
Hungry Earth Productions takes us behind the scenes of one of Europe’s largest gatherings of Christians for a night of fellowship, praise and prayers
The Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) is a Pentecostal megachurch and denomination founded in 1952 in Lagos, Nigeria by an illiterate man who had been called by God to set up the church. In 1981, a young mathematics graduate and pastor, Enoch Adeboye, became the general overseer and continues in that position today.
The church in Lagos now has an average weekly attendance of 500,000, with further RCCG parishes existing in almost 200 countries around the world.
‘Under Pastor Adeboye’s leadership, land was purchased on the expressway between Lagos and Ibadan, where a church was built,’ explains Jerry Curd, producer and director at Hungry Earth Productions. ‘This area has now extended to the size of a large town known as Redemption Camp and, on the first Friday of every month, thousands of people gather there all night long for prayer, worship and teaching, known as Holy Ghost Night.’
The Holy Ghost Festival of Life (FOL) in London came 15 years later in 1996. Jerry adds: ‘As the event grew and grew, so did the production values and, come 2001, Hungry Earth was brought on board. Having already worked with several large churches, undertaking multi-camera productions for satellite TV, we were contracted to film FOL when the crowd in attendance was much smaller.’
Hungry Earth’s evolution
Hungry Earth’s production capabilities have grown and evolved alongside FOL’s expansion. ‘At the beginning, we were filming in SD on Panasonic DVCPRO cameras and a JVC mixer, editing to Betacam masters for playout,’ Jerry recalls.
By 2011, the crowd capacity had grown to more than 40,000, and the event spec had changed to six cameras, shooting in HD 1080i. ‘At first, we hired in equipment to be able to meet this, as investing in HD was unfortunately beyond our budget. However, this was also around the time that Blackmagic was launching its first line of Atem mixers. Due to its pricing, we were able to make the leap and deliver in HD the following year.’
Combined with an assortment of Panasonic HD cameras, the team purchased an HD-SDI-based live production solution, which included an Atem 1 m/e switcher, broadcast panel and a series of Hyperdeck studio SSD recorders.
The next significant investment by Hungry Earth came in 2018 when another client had booked it for a conference and required all cameras to match with full racking. ‘With enough money in the pot, we took this opportunity to invest in four Ursa Broadcast chains along with the Atem Camera Control hardware. We also upgraded our original Atem to the new TV studio pro 4K mixer. This afforded us both acquisition and control in 1080p50, and the client was most impressed. It gave us the confidence to shoot the next FOL with the same workflow; however, we still needed an extra two cameras to meet the spec.’
Jerry explains that, at the time, the Ursa Mini Pro was available as a rental option at Hireacamera, and he was intrigued by the fact it was a hybrid camera with all the familiar on-board broadcast controls.
‘I had a hunch that we could hire a Mini Pro to replace our older ⅓-inch, small-format HD camera, and get a lower depth of field that would match the Ursa Broadcasts, and that theory certainly paid off. The match was perfect and, due to the identical controls and Blackmagic’s SDI protocol for camera control, we were able to rack all of the cameras.’
FOL as it is now
For this year’s event at London’s ExCeL convention centre, the team had another realisation when one of the crew obtained a Pocket Cinema Camera 4K to add to the mix as the sixth camera. ‘With only an HDMI output, rather than SDI, and no means of racking, we never even contemplated using this camera,’ explains Jerry. ‘But its weight and tiny size made us think it could be ideal on a stabiliser or handheld onstage. As we use a Cosmo 1200 wireless transmission system and Hollyland 1000 range extender on the roving stage camera, the thought occurred to us that we could take the HDMI output into that. We did a test and, even though the quality of the signal was great, it was a little desaturated and didn’t match the Ursa Broadcast.’
However, Nick Warren, the team’s colourist and DIT, came up with the perfect solution. ‘He designed a 3D LUT for each camera in DaVinci Resolve using Hue vs Hue and Hue vs Sat curves,’ says Jerry. ‘And it was a great success. Any disparities were gone. The colours from the Pocket 4K were rich and vibrant, particularly the blues and purples from the lighting onstage. It matched with the other cameras so much so that there was very little racking to do apart from aperture control, which of course can be performed by the P4K operator in-camera.’
In addition to the Pocket 4K, the camera positions inside London’s ExCel consisted of two Ursa Broadcasts rigged on Jimmy jibs, and two on tripods on a platform 20m from the stage. A hired Ursa Mini Pro G2 was also on a tripod, but directly in front of the stage.
The prayers, fellowship and praise lasted all through the night for more than 10 hours straight, and was live streamed to thousands of viewers across the world.
FOL’s in-house team handled the live broadcast, using an SDI audio-embedded feed from Hungry Earth Productions. ‘The SDI feed went into a Blackmagic web presenter,’ says Jerry. ‘This was connected via USB to the streaming laptop, which used licensed mimolive software to output directly to FOL’s website and official YouTube page.’ Dove TV based in Nigeria also shared the live feed.
Big screen coverage was supplied by SFL Group who handled all of the sound, AV and projection. ‘They took my 1080p50 feed on 3G-SDI, plus six computers that had hymn lyrics, VT playout, a clock timer for speakers and various other graphics,’ explains Jerry.
This all went into a Barco E2 at FOH, fed down 24-lane fibre to a Barco EX at the stage and then to Barco HDX20 projectors for displaying on the venue screens.
‘As you can imagine, FOL is an enormous operation,’ concludes Jerry. ‘Each year, it just gets bigger and better, and it’s amazing, as a production company, to be able to grow with it, investing in more and more kit, thanks to accessible yet high-quality hardware from manufacturers such as Blackmagic.’
This article first appeared in the November-December 2019 edition of Worship AVL. Subscribe at www.proavl-central.com/subscribe/worship.