So What is a Cue Rehearsal?

We’ve tried to stay transparent over the years with our commitment to our rehearsal process and getting an event to translate successfully in the room. On the live production side, much effort is spent developing and refining these elements in preparation for a live event. Here’s a glimpse into this process from the technical side.

A few years ago I started a meet-up scheduled late in the week but prior to our final rehearsals leading up to our first service of the weekend. This “Cue Rehearsal” was a time for me to meet with my Lighting Designer, Video Director, and Lighting Director (at the helm of the lighting console) and review the full set to proof the lighting design, work through all the specific camera shots we were planning, and clarify/sort through any issues related to our segment transitions.

As I represent the production side, I stay in tune as much as possible with the creative and music teams throughout the week or two leading up to each specific weekend. This allows me to effectively communicate the upcoming plans to my various crew chiefs so we are prepared on the live design side, staffed adequately, have props built according to plan, etc.

On Thursdays, we do a final creative walk-through of the current weekend to confirm that everyone is still on the same page with the plan, review the final graphics package, and discuss any last-minute adjustments. Finalizing all these details prior to the band rehearsal that occurs later that same day allows us to work with the full knowledge of exactly how the individual segments and transitions will need to feel and work in the actual service. Once we’ve rehearsed through all the segments, we record the band doing a full run-through as close as possible to how they’ll do it in the service.

SIDENOTE: Working to achieve a great rehearsal recording that’s representative of your room is ABSOLUTELY IMPERATIVE. Check out Andy’s Chrisman’s blog on the benefits of these recordings for his worship team here. Aside from the benefits for the audio engineer, music, and creative teams, this recording becomes the basis for all of our lighting and video pre-production as we continue to work towards the weekend.

With a decent recording in the can and all of our details confirmed with the creative and music teams, I will lay out a detailed plan in Basecamp that has notes for every element in the service. I’ll get as specific as necessary with the these notes—whatever is required to accurately convey the right vibe and details to my other production team members. These notes, as well as the uploaded rehearsal recording and applicable stage plots, allow our Lighting Designer to put his thoughts together on how things should be lit. It also familiarizes our Lighting Director with the set so he’s ready to do the programming, gives a great starting point for our Live Video Director to begin laying out the shoot, and lets everyone else on my team come into the weekend with a great starting grid of where we’re headed.

Our Lighting Designer will then add his notes to Basecamp so programming can begin. The beauty of this setup is that the designer can communicate his ideas from almost anywhere—this has allowed us to have an A-level designer that doesn’t necessarily have to be a full-time staffer. Once the lighting design notes are finalized, the Lighting Director will record and upload to Basecamp a simple video of the entire set. Click here to check out the lighting video from a previous weekend. This video is a great way to quickly scrub through the timeline to verify that the look and feel of the set is on the mark.

By the time we hit the Cue Rehearsal, everyone on my team has either been at the band rehearsal or listened to the recording, reviewed the lighting video, and has been able to conceptualize their part of the weekend according to my initial guidelines on Basecamp.

For the actual Cue Rehearsal, we’ll play the rehearsal recording, walk through all of the lighting cues in real time, and view all of our camera shots in the room. It may seem a bit odd as we do this without anyone on stage, but it has made an absolutely incredible difference in our preparation. Think of it this way: When the band hits the stage, we’ve already finished the lighting looks for the entire set and sculpted out all of the video shots and applicable camera moves. This allows us to be much more prepared when all of the production, musical, and creative elements are brought together in the room, affording us the opportunity to focus on the look and feel of the service as a whole, NOT working through all of the technical issues that would normally plague this us at this time.

One thing I should note is this entire process has come to serve our volunteers in a way we hadn’t foreseen. As we started playing this lighting video for the camera operators (almost always a fully-volunteer crew) prior to the band rehearsal, it has allowed them to see the big picture and have a better understanding of how their shots will play into the full event.

I’m aware this process may sound excessive to some, but for us, it has become a critical part of what we do. We constantly strive to create unforgettable experiences that people want to repeat and we aren’t comfortable compromising on what it takes to achieve it. Our production team exists to continually work towards accomplishing world-class events and these processes have become an anchor of our strategy.

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Andrew Stone
Production Manager
Andrew Stone is the Production Manager and Audio Director at Church on the Move in Tulsa, OK. His 27 years of touring experience have brought a unique, and sometimes unorthodox, perspective to his approach towards production in the church. He has been a key part of changing the culture behind COTM's live events and he loves sharing his knowledge with other churches. He's been married for 20 years, rarely wears anything but black, and genuinely loves to rock. You can find him on Twitter (@stone_rocks), Instagram (stone.rocks), and is a blog contributor on Seeds, COTM's free resource site.
@stone_rocks