Haze in Christian events: Part I

May 19, 2012 | In Church, Production

An example of a not-so good smoke machine

In my experience of running and working in production teams for various Christian organisations, that there seems to be a divide between those like to use haze and those who don’t. Often, people from both sides approach this topic with some preconceptions about why or why not to use haze in events of any scale. I hope that this post (and the one to follow) helps to dispel some myths that I think stand behind these preconceptions.

What is haze?

At an event recently (that I attended, not as a member of a production team) the church had a cheap smoke machine sitting behind the drummer, with someone sitting next to it pressing a button to fire a thick, white substance out of it. The substance dispersed rather quickly in to the building and didn’t really add too much to the overall event. Commonly, when I speak of haze or smoke, this is what people think of.

However, the above example is not a true representation of what good haze is. Haze is not an ugly, white, beam blasting out of a noisy (and usually cheap) machine. Instead, it’s often a thin, somewhat transparent, solution which fills a room, without dispersing into the environment almost as quickly as it entered it. While a smoke machine does have its place in some productions for a spontaneous effect, generally, I think that what people really need is a haze machine which, while often much more expensive, provides a more even coverage and can be controlled in finer detail.

Why use it?

In part two of this series, I’ll write about times I think it’s appropriate and inappropriate to use haze in Christian gatherings, but I think it’s important to outline some reasons for using it at all.

An example of a large space. Taken during bump out at NTE 2011.

Firstly, in a larger gathering, in a large space, I feel that haze allows for a gathering of people to feel better ‘connectedness’ with one another. This is applicable when singing corporately, when often a large space can feel empty, and I think is important in relation to Paul’s command to encourage one another in Hebrews 10. I personally find it very encouraging when singing to God, and doing it with a group of people. If the environment I’m in feels like a closer community (which can happen through many other ways too), I think the encouragement of engaging in this part of worship to God is greater. Haze can be used to fill the empty space and ‘pad out’ the room and add to this community feel. Additionally, these larger spaces usually aren’t designed explicitly with a christian gathering in mind and/or not as a traditional ‘church’ space. Buildings that come to mind when we talk about this are the ‘big shed’ at the Exhibition Park in Canberra that we use for the AFES National Training Event, the main auditorium at the Katoomba Christian Convention, and the larger space at The Tops Conference Centre.

Secondly, there are a couple of technical reasons to use haze, which come out of the point stated above. If you’re in any sort of larger gathering, it would be safe to assume that you’re going to have some form of lighting to do ‘front fill’ and perhaps some lighting for some ‘up and out’ effects, or any mixture of those two. Haze can be used to fill the empty space between music team members, and between the music team and the congregation. In some tech circles, we would name this creating ‘depth’ on the platform, and will also help a lighting operator and designer to highlight portions of the platform that require attention.

It is my hope that after considering the above points, that people may approach the use of haze, with a renewed view. I certainly, in my work as a lighting operator, don’t use haze to create a ‘rock concert’ environment. Some events are produced with a certain look, feeling or ‘vibe’ in mind, and haze can often be used to enhance this. There are many other things that can contribute to this too – but I feel that haze should be considered as one of these things and not simply dismissed.

As you’ll see in my next post, there are certainly times where haze is not called for – and motives need to be checked before any use of technology in production environments, but I do think that there are valid reasons for using it too! I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic in the comments section below.

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