KNOXVILLE, TN (July 17, 2018) – The immense size of the CHIC Mainstage productions have helped to make it one of the premier youth conferences in the country, and the person behind the technical wizardy is Greg Dolezal, a North Park graduate and entrepreneur. Live production software designed by his company has been used at every Olympics since 2012, Passion Conferences, and gatherings for corporate clients such Disney, Chick-fil-A, and Mercedes-Benz.
“We are doing things technically and production-wise that typically you will only see on large-scale corporate events that have significant budgets,” Dolezal says. “It’s a massive, massive event. One of the only things bigger is some sort of awards show.”
That also means there are an abundance of challenges and a lot of opportunity for things to go wrong. “That for sure is the hardest thing—the unknowns that come up at this scale,” Dolezal says.
“We only have a two or three-day load-in for a show that has never been done before,” he says. “Inevitably there are things that happen.”
What happened this year was a near disaster that kept Dolezal and others up all night. “All of our LED walls (the video screens behind the stage) are moving, and the night before CHIC was supposed to start, our automation team pressed a wrong button and crashed the whole thing into the ground,” he says. “It was all bent and couldn’t be used.”
The screens are made up of 1.5-foot by 1.5-foot tiles. “A large event might have screens with 300 tiles,” Dolezal says. “We had 900.”
“At 11 p.m. we’re calling around the country for LED tiles we needed to get here by noon the next day,” Dolezal says.
Most vendors don’t store that much inventory, so Dolezal had to purchase from three. “It was kind of miraculous just to find three vendors—and then having to scramble to find all that on twelve-hour notice. The Lord definitely provided on that one. This shouldn’t even be possible.”
Setting up production started on Thursday, three days before CHIC. There are 104 “motor points” used to hoist the heavy gear. Typically, a large conference has only 60. “We have 85,000 pounds of equipment hanging from that roof,” Dolezal explains.
On Friday and Saturday, the crews got all of the gear in place and tested it. They also loaded all of the computer programming and testing. On Sunday, all of the videos were loaded.
One of the challenges of providing the Mainstage productions, Dolezal says, is squeezing several years of ideas into five days. “The Covenant is gracious enough with us to allow us a lot of freedom and creativity.”
That creativity has included the stage and those screens, which emphasize how large the production is compared to most. Generally, conferences have a one-level stage with a singular set screen. The CHIC set has long ramps that come together to form a “C” above the stage and are lined with thousands of LED lights. Not only do the screens move vertically, but they also move horizontally.
“So they’re moving across two axis, which simply doesn’t come at meetings on this scale,” Dolezal says.
Dolezal says he loves doing the CHIC productions because it is a way of giving back and working with friends from his days at North Park, several of whom also are in charge of various aspects of the event.
“I went to CHIC in 1994, and it was a real trajectory change for me,” says Dozelal, who attended Church of the Good Shepherd, a Covenant congregation in Joliet, Illinois. “I get to give back for an event that really made the gospel come alive to me.”
“Functionally, it put North Park on the map for me,” he adds. He graduated from the university in 2001 with degrees in communication studies and business administration. It was there, while managing a weeklong event, that he met Christian speaker and pastor Louie Giglio and music artist Chris Tomlin.
Dolezal had planned on attending law school but instead, he moved to Atlanta, where he joined the staff of North Point Community Church and began doing video production for Giglio’s Passion Conferences. It also was when Tomlin asked Dolezal to be his tour manager, which he did for eleven years.
In the meantime, Dolezal and four friends founded Renewed Vision in 2005, which developed the software ProPresenter, ProVideoPlayer, and ProVideoSync. ProPresenter is used by thousands of churches and organizations around the world.
“Of the 100 largest churches in the United States, 99 use our software,” Dolezal says.
Still, he says, “Our core value is to make software that is affordable to smaller congregations. It also has to be easy enough to use so that you can train a volunteer in about ten minutes and at least get them on their way.”
ProPresenter was one of the early products in the church technology market. “Our vision was to impact the church,” he says. “More and more churches were shifting to embrace technology. You have to realize iPhones didn’t exist, and much of what is common now wasn’t available.”
That is a world the students at CHIC have never known. Nor, despite their obvious excitement, do they know just how extraordinary the conference is.
But that isn’t really what Dolezal is most interested in. As much as he loves coordinating the huge production, Dolezal’s wants students to experience the same life-changing trajectory that he did at CHIC.
That’s why he’ll stay up all night.