The new DLive consoles represent the first in the joint development process between Digico and A-H. These new live consoles have some great features as well as an incredible price point. To learn more, visit the A-H DLive website.
One of my favorite activities is getting to meet with younger TDs from time to time. When someone asks me if I would be willing to have lunch or coffee with them, I always try to say yes—though it may take a few weeks to get it scheduled. Sometimes during those meetings, I will get asked, “What things should I be doing to be a better TD?”
I think there are a lot of things we can do to be better, but one of the biggest is very simple: Be prepared.
Remember the Boy Scouts
I never made it to Scouts, but I was a Cub Scout and a Weebelo (which is a really terrible name for a group of boys if you ask me). But I did go on more than one campout and earned quite a few merit badges. The phrase we heard over and over again was, “Be Prepared.” It’s good advice, especially for technical artists.
Prepared for What?
The next obvious question is what should we be prepared for? Here’s a short list. The stage should be completely set and line-checked before the band arrives. If your band or worship leader is known for throwing extra inputs at you at the last minute, you should have some extra lines out ready to rock before the band arrives. It means having the wireless mic’s and IEM packs ready with batteries in place, checked and working, before the band arrives. The console should be set up and patched with all your routing set and ready before the band arrives. See a pattern here?
You should know what songs you’re doing this weekend, and the lyric files should be built and ready in ProPresenter (or whatever you’re using). Sermon notes should be ready before the service starts. The pastor’s wireless pack or mic should be tested and ready to go before he gets there and straps it on.
You should have extra batteries ready to go, close to the stage in case one goes down. A spare mic is never a bad idea, either. It should be powered up, patched, checked and ready to go before service starts. Any videos that will be played should be played all the way through before the service starts. All the cameras should be powered up, running and working properly before the service starts. Same with the lights. If you program your lighting in cue lists, run through the entire cue list prior to doors to make sure you don’t have any weird cues or transitions.
Basically, you should be as ready as humanly possible before everyone gets there. And that means one thing:
First In, Last Out
As part of the tech team, you are most likely to be the first one there. I usually arrive a solid 1-2 hours before the band shows up every weekend. We could do it in an hour, but I like the extra time to double-check things, fix any problems and just hang with the team. It also allows troubleshooting time in case something doesn't work as expected. Having that extra time saved us more than once; and the best part was no one else ever knew there was even a problem.
Finally, I think it behooves us as technical artists to know the songs every bit as well as the band. So much of what we do is tied to the music, and we have to know lyric cues, instrument solos, overall feel and vibe and how to mix it. It bugged me to no end when my engineers showed up clearly not having listened to the music. That didn’t happen more than once or twice.
So there you go. A quick way to get better. Be prepared. You’ll be amazed at how much better you’ll look to your team and to your boss.
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We're still on the road answering your questions! This week, we talk about how to practice as an FOH engineer, the difference between manned and unmanned cameras, which conferences to attend, using effects and debate the Roland M5000 vs. DiGiCo SD9 and S21.
Last week was the big InfoComm show. As I wandered the show floor, I kept having the same conversation with different guys I met up with. It went something like this:
Me: “Hey! How’s it going?”
Them: “Great! You?”
M: “Great! How’s the show? Seen anything exciting?”
T: “It’s a good show, some good stuff, nothing too thrilling.”
M: “Yeah, me too.”
I even took the conversation further and asked a few people why they thought it was we weren’t seeing anything too exciting. I wondered aloud if I was just getting old and cynical and nothing really excited me anymore, or if there really isn’t that much new and exciting coming out lately. My friend Mark Hanna summed it up well, “It’s a little bit of both, I think.”
In My Day…
I remember just a few years ago when Van and I started doing trade show videos, we would shoot 20-30 videos each show. And that was 3-4 shows a years. Imagine, there were at least two years when we shot a solid 75 new product videos! In the last five shows, I haven’t shot 20 videos total. Again, it’s hard to tell if there just isn’t much new or if I just don’t care as much anymore.
Part of it I’m sure is sitting through literally hundreds of dog and pony shows with manufacturers telling me how great, exciting and new their products are. Each new product promises better this and better that, and it will make my job easier than ever before. Problem is, I’m not sure it’s true.
Gear is Nice, but Give Me Skill
More and more, I am convinced—and I’ve written about this before—that it’s not about the gear. Thinking that some new console will finally make it easy for volunteers who have no prior mixing experience to mix like a pro is folly. To hope we’ve found a PA that is so good we don’t need to care about room acoustics is amusing. 4K video cameras and a switcher will not magically make your IMAG look as good as the Passion Conference.
The Last 10%
To some extent, I wonder if we’ve reached the last 10% of innovation in AVL systems. One of the guys I work with suggested that it seems we’re seeing more combining and re-packaging of technology. Take this thing, that other thing and some other thing over there and combine it into one and voila! It’s amazing! But really, we’ve had all that before, it’s just a re-packaging. And that’s fine, it’s just not groundbreaking.
To be sure, this happens in most mature product markets. Lately, as my love for coffee and espresso has become an obsession, I’ve been researching espresso machines. The machine I bought was released in the early 2000s. There have been no major advances in the art of espresso making in quite a while. Unless you count the little pod machines that don’t really make good espresso anyway. But when it comes to classic espresso—14 grams of finely ground coffee pressed to 30 pounds, extracted at 195 degrees between 8-10 bar for 25 seconds—there isn’t much new.
When I look at mixing consoles, video switchers and cameras, there’s not much “new.” There are refining of techniques, subtle enhancements and slightly better ways of doing things (and definitely lower costs), but few groundbreaking advances. Again, this is not a knock on our industry, it’s a sign it’s maturing.
Like I said, what we really need is a way to improve the skill set of our operators, not new equipment to operate. If we can figure out a way to package that and sell it for a lower price, we’re on to something.
What do you think? Are you gear fatigued? Or am I just old an cynical?