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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.