Hillsong Church Phoenix Production Tour
When you think about Hillsong Church, with locations in 28 countries, it’s easy to jump to the complexities that go along with that sort of scale. However, Global Senior Pastors Brian and Bobbie Houston have managed to keep things simple:
“Our only and burning passion is to build the church and the kingdom of God on earth, and see the people of our day-to-day being freed to fulfill their purpose and calling. We believe in people – we believe in their potential and also in their incredible ability to influence the world with good.”
This vision has been heard loud and clear by Brandon Sampayon, Creative Technologies Oversight at Hillsong Phoenix. As we spent time with him at their Mesa location, it became evident that Hillsong isn’t a place where stewardship of vision and resources is taken lightly. “If we are not 100% sure that we are utilizing what’s been placed into our hands 100%, we have no right asking for more.”, Brandon said, as he pointed out, the ‘scrappy’ culture infused into the very fabric of Hillsong Phoenix and its 6 locations.
Our behind-the-scenes tour only further cemented Brandon’s statement.
Hillsong Phoenix services begin on a broad stage that has two small levels over one another. The lower level is referred to as the “thrust area,” where the majority of all “preaching and teaching” goes on. The audio system is run through a Midas Pro 2 console. Brandon explains that though they are currently channel-capped and capped on IO, “nothing sounds quite like a good old Midas.”
They utilize an older Hog 3 system for lighting, paired with “punch lights” hung up on a makeshift bar behind their projector. Brandon laughs as he explains that they also use a series of 8 Monoprice lights for moving lighting. With the secret out, he explains that they were truly the most efficient option as they only have a $200 price tag when in need of replacement, and he can get them shipped quickly out of California.
They’re an all Blackmagic house when it comes to cameras, including URSA Broadcast cameras, two 4.6k’s, and Blackmagic Micro cameras. Normally they utilize a standard 3-point setup when filming. And, continuing with the theme of stewardship, all of the Canon lenses were sourced off of eBay.
Stage Design: 00:03:02
All of Hillsong’s stage designs are meant to feel the same, regardless of which one you’re experiencing that day, and Hillsong’s Phoenix setup does not disappoint. That being said, Brandan quickly explained, “Whatever you think we paid for this set, I can guarantee you, it was cheaper than that.” Though the bright geometric shapes that scattered the stage looked sleek and professional, Brandon clarified that all elements were made by hand. With some bulk aluminum chassis, plexiglass, and cheap LED tape from SuperBrightLEDs.com, they created an atmosphere that venues dream of.
Video Control: 00:03:51
In Video Control, you find a two-stack layout in a room never designed for that purpose. However, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, they needed a room that would allow for the social distancing of volunteers. So, within the production-vibe-killing tan walls, you can find groups of office desks covered in switcher panels, shader controls, and a graphics rig. Along with our personal favorite, a dedicated position for cues logging into Resi so other locations can sync up with what’s happening at Mesa.
Multisite Streaming: 00:06:48
Hillsong Phoenix utilizes Resi’s Multisite Platform to deliver unprecedented reliability and quality streaming across its many locations. Brandon explains that choosing to work with Resi’s platform was founded purely in, “the Hillsong culture of it.” He continues, stating, “We wanted to have the flexibility to have a preach come from one location and then have a welcome or prayer come from another location.”
Control Room: 00:07:48
The brains of the Mesa location are housed in a temperature-controlled room and actually start with an analog SDI patch bay that flows into digital routers for redundancy. These same SDI lines carry the program feed to their “in-the-box” broadcast audio suite. This is where the final mix is perfected for online viewing before coming back to Resi’s PRISM Encoders for distribution to Resi’s Live Stream Platform and multisite locations across Arizona and Nevada.
Broadcast Audio: 00:09:27
In typical Hillsong Phoenix fashion, what the broadcast audio room may lack in grandeur, it makes up for in resourcefulness. A custom-built Windows PC runs audio through the DAW, Reaper, for processing prior to being embedded onto the SDI line heading back to the Control Room.
So, yes, it appears that being a location in the Hillsong family of churches isn’t as complex as it seems at face value. In fact, it feels almost too simple now: stewardship at every level. And that doesn’t mean an inferior experience either. Hillsong’s mantra of ‘Welcome Home’ means you’re going to experience the same level of intentionality, care, and love in Mesa as you would in Sydney. There are no excuses for missing that mark, as Brandon shares, “Maybe you just need more people. Maybe you need to spend more time with your volunteers in training. But I can guarantee you; money is not the answer. In fact, usually, money just kind of gets in the way.” It’s this kind of integrity that allows them to own who they are, a part of the global movement that is Hillsong Church.