Saving Your Bacon with iCal

Any type of live production is fraught with peril. There are a ton of tasks that need to be accomplished in the right order, at the right time, for the service or production to run smoothly. Add in the pressures and complications of most church systems (often less that ideal) and working with non-professional volunteers (we love them, but it’s not what they do for a living), and it’s easy to forget a critical step and miss something. 

We’ve run into that at Coast a time or two. Even though we can multi-track the whole service (and we do), we still run a CD of the 9 AM service to have as an archive. Most of the time we remember to hit record, but it’s amazing how many times that CD burner is empty when we do. 

And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked out of the booth, down the stairs, through the lobby on my way to pre-service prayer only to realize I forgot to turn the lobby speakers amp on. So back up I go. 

Long-time readers will know I’m a fan of checklists, and we have checklists. But I think we’ve found a better way. I’ve written before about a few AppleScripts I’ve written to automate the recording of our services. Those little beauties are fired from iCal events and arm the proper tracks and start Reaper recording. No more missing the first half of the first song! 

It occurred to me the other day that we could use the same logic for reminding us of other things we need to do. For example, we have to do a little patching on the SD8 every week to make the holdbacks work (it’s really easy--I wrote a macro to do it--but it still has to be done). We usually remember it on Saturday when we’re setting up the board. But Sunday morning when we come in, it’s easy to just power it up and forget, despite the board tape reminder at the top of the console.

So, I wrote an iCal event to fire an alert on the screen of our recording Mac (which conveniently sits on top of the SD8) to remind me to patch the foldbacks. It goes off at 7:40 every Sunday morning. We have another event with a reminder that goes off at 8:45 to remind us to load a CD into the recorder. Still others remind us to start and stop the SPL logging (that’s 4 altogether; start & stop on Saturday and start & stop on Sunday). Since we’ve forgotten to upload the podcast after we edit it (mainly because we’re heading to the green room for food while it renders) we have an alert that reminds us to do that.

 

This is a list of the weekly reminders we have set up. As you can see, they're all recurring events.

And of course, we have events to remind us to turn the lobby speakers on (5:25 on Saturday, 8:25 on Sunday), check the wireless mics (5:30 Saturday, 8:30 Sunday) and even stop the Reaper recording (6:15 Sat., 10:15 and 12:15 Sunday). 

We set all these events up as recurring events with message alerts that go off 1 minute before the event time. To keep the schedule from going crazy with overlapping events, we keep the duration to 5 minutes for each event. We’ve gotten to the point where anytime we say, “Doh! I forgot to [fill in the blank],” we write an iCal event to remind us. To make sure it all works, we have iCal set to auto-launch on start up, so it’s always running in the background (set that up in System Preferences -> Accounts -> Login Items).

Now you could say, “Why not just remember all this stuff, or use a checklist?” Well, we could. But the reality is, our services are getting more complex all the time (from a technical perspective) and quite frankly, I’d rather use technology to remind me to do the boring stuff so I can focus more processing cycles on the fun stuff, like mixing or spending time with my volunteers. 

What items to you need iCal (or Outlook) to remind you to do on a weekend?

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