Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

Month: April 2008

Leader, Clone Thyself

Wednesday and Thursday marked my first ever Upper Room all-staff retreat. I have to tell you, it was a great time. As my colleague, Steve, noted, it was a perfect mix of side-splitting laughter and deep, thoughtful conversations. We spent a good deal of time hashing out what some of our ministry objectives would be for the next season of Upper Room. One that rose to the top of the list was to become a culture of leadership development. This is a topic I’ve been thinking a lot about lately.

One of my strengths is that of achiever. I have a very high work ethic, and am known for working long hours to get the job done. Try as I might though, I can’t get everything done. And as much as I like to think I know a lot, I don’t know it all. One thing I’m learning is that the key to being really successful in ministry is to work yourself out of a job. And that means training others to lead.

We’re working on creating positions at Upper Room called “Volunteer Staff.” They are positions will full job descriptions, expectations and reporting structures, just like staff. They’re volunteer because we can’t afford to pay them yet. I’ve been working at developing two volunteer staff positions, one for sound and one for lights. This last week was a perfect example of what happens when we multiply ourselves through this kind of a process.

Our lead sound engineer, Erik, and I have been talking about re-working the wiring at FOH. We wanted to use the Aviom card in the M7 as a digital snake to feed our IEMs. That would free up a bunch of Omni-outs for other uses, and eliminate a ton of Y-cords. Over the last few weeks I’ve been assembling the parts to make it all happen. I got the first breakout cable soldered up, and Erik did the other one.

We decided that Tuesday was the day to make the change. Here’s where it gets cool. I have a creative staff meeting on Tuesdays. While I was in that meeting, Erik was in the sanctuary, re-working FOH. After my meeting, I came out and helped. We tweaked some things while I was there and we got it mostly put back together. On Wednesday, while I was at staff retreat, Erik was going through everything, finishing up and testing.

This is a beautiful thing as I thought about it. It was hard in a way, because I really like doing installs, and making cables. Call me a geek, but it’s something I love. But how cool is it that I’m able to be off doing one thing, while at the same time, other things are getting done? It’s a multiplication of effort.

As we grow, it will be critical to have volunteer leaders in many areas of ministry. It’s funny, because when I first became a Christ-follower, I went to a small church, and this is just how we did it. Lately, it seems the trend in churches is to hire staff for everything. The downside is that it costs a lot, and it takes away opportunities for the body to serve one another. It’s amazing how much people will commit to if you raise the bar high enough.

I’m really excited to continue to work with my staff–they’re both great guys. My goal is to pour into them, so they can in turn, pour into the rest of the tech team. It not only shares the workload, but also the blessing of being part of something bigger than ourselves. This summer, my desire is to raise up video production teams, and graphic design teams. We have some incredibly talented people in our midst, and to not utilize that creativity is a shame. Plus, I get jazzed about working with people who are really good at what they do.

Think about how much more you could get done if there were two, three or six of you. Then go clone yourself–with volunteers!

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Strengths or Weakness?

A book everyone should read.

As a staff, we are currently working through Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath. Strengths Finder 2.0 is a book with a companion online assessment to help you figure out your strengths (as you might have guessed). Personally, I’m a big fan of assessments. Someone wiser than I once said the unexamined life is not worth living. That may be hyperbole, but there is some truth to it. The more we know about ourselves, the more effective we can become. And the more we know about those we work with, the more effective team we’ll be.

Back to Strengths Finder. It’s a fascinating concept really. The author points out that most people tend to spend time focusing on improving their weaknesses. We even celebrate “heros” who overcome a very average skill set and do something remarkable (he uses the movie Rudy as an example). As inspiring as those stories are, he points out that if strength is the product of talent times investment, we can gain a much higher rate of return if we focus on our strengths.

In the Rudy example, he suggests that Rudy may have had a 5 on a 1-5 investment scale, he probably only scores a 2 on a talent scale. Thus, his maximum strength is 10. However, if he put all that effort (5) into a natural talent, his maximum strength would have been 25, a 250% increase in return. And while it’s laudable that Rudy made a great play in a key game, in the end it doesn’t accomplish much.

I was further fascinated to read that only about 30% of people surveyed say that they have the opportunity to do what the do best at work every day. That floored me! That means that two-thirds of working people don’t get to do what they do best every day. This book/assessment comes along at an interesting time as I have been reflecting recently on just how blessed I feel to be able to be doing what I know for certain I was made to do. This is what I do better than anything else, and I get to do it every day and get paid for it! It actually scares me a little bit because I’m worried that someday someone will wake up and say, “Hey, he’d do this for free, what are we paying him for?”

I started thinking about the people I know who are not working out of areas of strength. I think this happens quite often in the church. Churches that have someone volunteering in a role, and finally grow to a point where they can pay someone to do the job, often hire the volunteer. Sometimes this is good, other times it’s disastrous. I see questions posted over at Church Sound Forum all the time that start with, “I’m really new to this position and I really don’t know what I’m doing…” and I think, “Wow, this person is not working from strength!”

How much more effective would the Church be if each staff member were truly gifted to do what they were doing? If everyone was working out of their strengths and if they had the opportunity to do what they do best every day! Not possible, you say? Why not?! In what other context does it matter this much? What other institution has this much on the line?

And I speak on this topic from personal experience. As long as I’ve been involved with media and technology (which is a long, long time), I’ve been really, really good at it. It just comes naturally, it’s not something I have to work hard at (though I do—I scored high on “Achiever” and “Learner”). But there was one aspect of the business that eluded me; sales—selling myself and what I could do for other people. When I started my own company, I teamed up with someone who was good at sales. We had a long run of steady, satisfied customers. But when my partner and I decided to part company, my work dried up. Knowing I struggled with sales, I took on the unthinkable—a job in sales. I figured if I had to do it to make a living, I could get good at it. After 2 years, one thing was perfectly clear: I was no good at sales. And it wasn’t for lack of trying, either. I quit and went back to doing what I do best.

Today, I feel like I can accomplish more in a morning than I could in a week of trying to sell. I’m less stressed and enjoy a much higher quality of life. All because I’m doing what God made me to do. So what about you? Are you working from an area of strength? Do you get to do what you do best every day? If not, why not? If nothing else, I recommend taking the Strengths Finder assessment and find out what your natural talents are. Then you can put yourself in a position to work from strength instead of weakness. Even if you do get to do what you do best every day, take the assessment anyway. Like the ad council says, “The more you know…”

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Networking: Not Just for Computers Anymore

I’m a big fan of networking. Networking computers, networking sound equipment, heck I’ve even got my TiVo networked to my Mac so it will play my iTunes library through my surround sound system. But that’s not the kind of networking I’m talking about. I mean getting out to meet people, key people who can help you and who you can help. Both Greg Atkinson and Anthony Coppadge have written posts about networking in the last few days. They are both worth reading, and both provide excellent thoughts on the subject.

Personally, I’ve found networking to be very useful. I only really started a few years ago, when I was living in a new city with few friends and no job. In a matter of months, I learned to network, met over 150 people and found a job that I would never have heard about if not for networking.

But what does it mean for us working in a church setting? I think networking is just as important. Given that I have just started at Upper Room, and the fact that I love it, I’m not about to start networking to find another job. On the other hand, we have some big purchases to make and being new in town, I don’t know who the good people to work with are. But there are TADs in other churches who do.

We occasionally have need of some additional equipment, and sometimes I don’t have direct experience with a particular brand or type of gear. But there are TADs in other churches who do. Already I’ve run into a few situations in dealing with people and I’m not quite sure the best way to respond. I’d be willing to be there’s a TAD somewhere around here who has had to deal with a similar issue that I could learn from.

And there may even be a TAD of a smaller church who is new to this type of ministry who is struggling to find their way. I might be able to be a resource and source of encouragement for him or her.

I believe in networking so strongly that I put it on my list of quarterly goals with my supervisor. My goal is to begin meeting with other TDs in the area, and ultimately build a group of people that meet once a month at each other’s churches for lunch and fellowship. We’ll be the Twin Cities TADs. Or something like that.

When I set my goals for the year, I knew Q1 would be crazy with all the physical plant stuff I was working on, and just getting up to speed in a new church. So I put networking starting in Q2. According to my calendar, it’s now Q2. I guess I’d better get started!

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A Few of My Favorite Things

I am truly amazed at how much media production we can accomplish on a computer now. I remember when QuickTime was introduced back around 1990, and thinking, “Well, that’s cool, but it’s not going to replace tape to tape editing any time soon.” Turns out “any time soon” was about 5 years, as that’s when I bought my first full-frame QuickTime based editing system. Back then, there were precious few tools to help us manage the coming onslaught of digital data. In fact, the early systems were not much more than digital A/B roll editors. But they were the future.

Today, it is possible to create video productions using just a laptop that would have required 2 rooms full of hardware a decade (well, maybe a decade and a half) ago. With the rapid proliferation of digital formats, files and media we have to deal with we have to find ways to make it all work together. While everyone knows about FinalCut Pro, Premier, After Effects and the other big players, today I’m going to highlight some of the unsung players in our industry. The little tools and widgets that make life easier in the digital media age. These are a few of my favorite little tools.

 

 

Switch

It happens all the time. You need a music bed for your project, so you surf over to FreePlay Music or another online site and find the perfect track. Once downloaded you find that it doesn’t play right away on your timeline because it’s compressed (either MP3 or AAC, or something else altogether).

Sure, you could open your audio editor, or have FCP render it out. Or, you could drag it onto the Switch icon. In under 20 seconds, you have a easy to work with AIFF or WAV file. No fuss, no muss. You can batch convert, and pick your file format settings. It does one thing—convert nearly any audio file to anything else—and it does it really well. And it’s free!

Handbrake

Let’s say you need to borrow a scene from a DVD for a sermon illustration (check out CVLI.org for info on how to do this legally). There’s no better tool to grab a section of a video than Handbrake. Pop in any DVD, select the chapter(s) you want to rip, pick your format settings and rip it. In no time, you have a very high quality MP4 video to work with. Best of all, ti’s free! But there’s one problem, FCP won’t import MP4 files. For that, you can fire up…

VisualHub

Sort of like Switch for video, VisualHub is a great tool for converting any video format to any other format. And it’s fast. You don’t have a lot of control over the video settings, but it makes quick work of tearing through the conversion process.

It will also work in batches and I’ve not found a format it won’t handle (though I’m sure there are some). It’s not free, but it is cheap. At under $25, it pays for itself in one session. I find myself using it a lot when we get user provided content; everything from MP4 camcorder video to Flash file.

Kuler

Kuler is one of the coolest things to come out of Adobe Labs. It’s a Dashboard widget, an Air Application and a web-based service. Kuler helps you figure out what colors go with what. I have a great eye for composition, but I’m not so great at picking color themes. Kuler makes it easy. You can pick a base color, and it will let you create a nearly endless variety of complementary colors in a 5 color set. New to the web service is a feature to load in a photo, sample a color and it will generate five complementary colors from that sample. Very cool.

There are thousands of themes to choose from, so if you’re trying to come up with some graphics and you have a desire to use colors from a 70’s kitchen or a beach house or a desert, search those phrases and see what someone else has already come up with. You can even save the color set, import directly into Illustrator and by swapping color sets, come up with variations on your design. You have to go get Kuler. Now.

The Unarchiver

99% of the time Stuffit will unzip your files perfectly. But what about the 1% of the time it doesn’t. It’s happened to me and it’s not fun. The answer is The Unarchiver. Another in the line of “do one thing and do it well” products, The Unarchiver unzips files. That’s it. It does it fast, and it does it right. It’s also free.

Cocktail

I’m not sure who comes up with these app names, but they’re clever (if not obscure). Cocktail is my favorite Mac OS maintenance tool. Computers are like cars in that they’ve gotten a lot more reliable over the years. To extend the analogy, Macs are like Hondas. Change the oil, rotate the tires once in a while and you’re good to go for a long time. They do need occasionally maintenance, however. Apple thoughtfully built  maintenance scripts into the OS, but they only run at 2 AM. If you’re a cheapskate like me and don’t leave your computer on 24/7, they don’t run. Enter Cocktail.

You can set it up to run basic maintenance tasks when you know the computer is on, or fire the scripts manually. It’s the equivalent of a regular tune up. And at $23, it’s a lot less than your mechanic will charge you to open the hood.

So there you go. A quick collection of tools to make your digital-media life easier. Have a favorite I didn’t mention? Dont’ keep it to yourself. Share it with the rest of us in a comment. Thanks for reading!

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Lexicon Alpha Review

I’ve been using computers for presentation in churches for a number of years now. Because the software we use (Media Shout in the past, ProPresenter currently) makes it easy to run video clips right off those computers and integrate it seamlessly into the presentation, that’s what we’ve done. The downside of this has always been audio. Most computers have an extremely low quality audio output jack, that comes out as an 1/8″ unbalanced jack. While this might be passable for headphones or computer speakers, it’s problematic when integrating into a church sound system.

Unless the computer is near the soundboard, running an unbalanced line any distance creates problems. And because the output is of inherently low quality, it’s already noisy. Sure, you could drop in a PCI audio card, but many of them also terminate in unbalanced RCA connectors. The answer is an external USB or FireWire interface. Enter the Lexicon Alpha. It’s a compact entry-level USB buss-powered audio interface with bona-fide balanced outputs. We recently installed one in our presentation booth, and the sound quality is noticeably better. But before we get to that, let’s take a look at the unit itself.

Input, Outputs and Controls

The Alpha is a model of simplicity. The front panel features a 1/4″ instrument jack (unbalanced, for guitars, keys, etc.), two gain knobs (for the aforementioned instrument jack and the rear XLR mic jack), a Stereo/Mono button, a useful Monitor Mix knob (more in a moment), a Output Level control and an 1/8″ stereo headphone jack. Two peak LEDs near their respective input controls alert you to overly hot signals.

Lexicon Alpha Front

photo courtesy of Lexicon

On the rear is a USB-B jack, two 1/4″ TRS line-in jacks, an XLR mic jack, two 1/4″ TRS line-out jacks and a set of RCA stereo outs.The TRS outs deliver a nominal +4 dBu. It’s a snap to hook up and no software is necessary to make it work. If you want to access some of the additional functionality of the box, Lexicon includes Cubase LE for multitrack recording and mixing. Since all I really wanted to do was get clean, balanced audio out of my computer, I skipped the software.

Lexicon Alpha Back

photo courtesy of Lexicon

Having TRS, RCA and 1/8″ outputs makes it very easy to send signal where it’s needed in the right form. In our setup, I use the TRS outs to go to FOH, and the 1/8″ headphone outs for the computer speakers in the booth. If I needed to, I could easily send the RCA outs to our DVD burner or other recording device.

In Use

Lexicon thoughtfully includes a 6′ USB cable, so you don’t need to go hunting for one. Since we’re currently in transition between PC based presentation for CPC and Mac based for Upper Room, the ability to quickly change over from one platform to another by moving the USB cable is a huge plus. When connected to a Mac, it simply becomes another I/O device that you can select in the Sound Control Panel. The first time you hook it up, you need to tell the OS to route sound through the Alpha; from then on whenever you hook it up, it makes the switch for you (which I really like since we’re using my MacBook Pro every week for ProPresenter).

Hooking up to a Windows-based machine is just as easy. The new hardware wizard proudly proclaims it has found new hardware and offers to install drivers. Since none are needed, dismiss the box and get back to work. Audio is routed to the Alpha automatically. This really is how Plug and Play is supposed to work.

Once audio is running through it, you turn the Monitor Mix control full-right and adjust your Output Level accordingly. That’s it! For clean, quiet audio running to FOH over balanced lines, it couldn’t be simpler. While I haven’t had time to do extensive testing, the quality improvement is pretty substantial. The noise floor has dropped by 10-15 dB, and the increased dynamic range has added a noticeable punch to our soundtracks. Frequency response is quoted as 20-20KHz +0, -.5 dB, which is pretty respectable. It handles 44.1 and 48 KHz sample rates at up to 24 bits.

One thing of note for Mac users is that you can completely mute your alert sound volume without affecting the sound sent to the Alpha. This is handy for those times when the computer channel on the board is open and you do something to cause an alert beep. Unfortunately, I found this after I accidently triggered such a beep during a service. My pain is your gain.

Bonus Features

Should you wish to use the Alpha for recording, it has a few nice features for that as well. The ability to connect line, mic and instrument sources is very handy. Obviously you might not be able to fit an entire band into it’s inputs, but that’s not the intended purpose. You could easily hook up a mic and a guitar however, and lay down some tracks. The Monitor Mix control gives you the ability to listen to the analog inputs directly (full-left) with no latency—very handy—or mix in the computer tracks as when doing overdubs. Since I didn’t test the recording capabilities (that’s not what I bought it for), I don’t know the latency, or sound quality. I suspect the AD conversion is just as clean as the DA conversion however, and would make a fine addition to a small recording setup.

The Alpha also comes with Lexicon’s famous Pantheon reverb VST plug-in, and acts as a hardware processor for said plug-in. This takes a load of your CPU when mixing. Lexicon is known for it’s high-quality reverb and this alone could be worth the price of admission depending on your needs.

Conclusion

At a street price of just about $100, the Alpha to me seems a no-brainer. It’s a great-sounding, simple way to get clean audio out of your computer and to FOH quietly over balanced +4 dBu lines. The fact that it’s buss powered also makes it easy to install and even move to a remote location should you have the need. For me, the recording features are a bonus that I’ll not likely use, but you never know. At the end of the day it does what I wanted it to do, and didn’t break the bank.

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Holy Week

I guess if I were a serious blogger, I would have had this written last Monday. I was seriously tired, however, so it’s taken a while to pull this together. Holy Week at CPC/Upper Room is a busy time. From the Monday after Palm Sunday to Easter, we held 12 services. Thankfully, I only had direct involvement in four of them. They were big ones, though!

Tenebrae Walk-in

The walk-in look for Tenebrae. The Ring of Fire was a challenge to rig safely.

 On Good Friday, Upper Room hosts a program called Tenebrae (which means “darkness”). People enter and exit in darkness and we use light very sparingly. It’s a bit ironic that for our “darkness” service we bring in 6 Martin Mac700s, but having the ability to move and focus light is critical. The service is very dramatic and includes video elements, community prayers, a choir, over a dozen anointers, cross carriers and candle snuffers. All told it takes over 100 people to pull the service off.

Tenebrae Stage

Choir and Anointers in position.

 In the past, keeping the elements moving in time has been a challenge, especially cuing the cross carriers, snuffers and the Christ candle carrier. To make things go smoother, we decided to try using in-ear monitors for those key roles. By putting IEMs on the key participants, and a wireless mic/e6 combo on our creative director, he was able to cue everyone at the right time. In this service timing isn’t everything, but it’s a big part of it. And this year, the timing was great.

During one of the more moving (and complex) elements, the cross carriers remove the cross from it’s on-stage stand and pass it out in the congregation. As it flowed over people’s heads, it was really moving to see individuals reaching out to connect symbolically with the death of Christ. The challenge in the past has been keeping track of it and cuing the cross carriers to reign it in and help it move from section to section. With the IEMs, they could be directed really well, and totally discreetly. It worked pretty sweet.

Tenebrae Annointing

Hundreds were anointed and blessed during the service.

 Overall, Tenebrae came together wonderfully. Our Upper Room Director, Kurt, told me that it was the most seamless Tenebrae we’ve ever had. Since it was my first one, I can’t compare to others, but I felt very good about it. My goal is always to create an atmosphere of worship, and not call attention to technology. I think we were able to do that, do it well, and allow people to come into a deeper understanding of what Good Friday is all about. Honestly, it was a lot of work, but it was also a huge privilege.

At the end of the night I thought of E.V. Hill’s great sermon, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s Coming!” True enough, two days later we were back again for a serious celebration. I’ve been to 18 Easter weekends since becoming a Christ-follower, and this one was totally unique. The theme of the night was “I AM the Door.” We had some very cool doors on stage, three of which key words on them. We lit the doors with a spotlight each so they popped off the stage.

Easter Doors

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three doors to represent three points of the spiritual journey

 Kurt’s message was right on and asked people to consider where they were in their relationship to Christ. At the end they were invited to walk through the door that most closely matched that relationship. Just exploring? Head through the “Say” door (“Who do you say I am?”) Committing to follow Christ? Walk through the “Believe” door (“Martha, just believe.”) Wanting to follow Christ more? “Love” (“Do you love me?”).

During the final worship set, hundreds of people walked through doors and worshiped their hearts out. It was amazing to see a huge crowd on stage dancing and singing at the top of their lungs. It was a serious party. And of course, the Mac700s from Tenebrae were there; this time swooping wildly over the crowd. It was very cool.

Easter Celebration

All those people on stage are having a big party! And the angels rejoice in heaven…

 All in all, the week was exhausting, but great. Best of all, I have some time off in the next few weeks to rest up and begin the next phase of our tech team development. As always, there’s more to come!

He is Risen! (You know the rest…)

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New ProPresenter Tricks

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: ProPresenter is the most actively developed software I’ve ever seen. The programming team at Renewed Vision just keeps cranking out the revisions, fixing bugs and adding new features almost weekly. As we’ve been using it pretty heavily now over the past few weeks, here are some of my favorite new features (and fixes).

Bail to Logo

This is a great feature. There is a button on the screen (which can also be activated by hitting F5) that will take you to any slide you previously set. I like to use it for our speakers. We will assign the “bail” slide to our series slide. Whenever the speaker drifts off script into a new illustration, or whenever it feels like the current slide has been on too long, but we don’t have anywhere else to go, we can hit F5 and painlessly get to our series slide. Getting back to the regularly scheduled program is as simple as clicking on the next slide or (cue next favorite feature)…

Keyboard Access to Slides

By simply typing the number of the slide and hitting enter, you can directly select any slide in a presentation. Let’s say you’re in a song, ending a chorus and the worship leader throws in a bridge. You could click back to it or just hit 8-enter (assuming 8 is your bridge) and you’re right there. It also works great for speaker slides. This weekend we had a collection of slides, but weren’t entirely sure when the speaker would need them. Rather than clicking, our presentation tech simply used the numeric keypad and enter. Very simple, very fast. Or you could (cue next favorite feature)…

Hot Key Assigns

You can also assign any letter key (a-z) to any slide. I started thinking about how easy this could be with some of the simpler worship songs we sometimes sing. A song with a verse, chorus, bridge and blank could be assigned to verse=”a”, chorus=”s”, bridge=”d”, blank=”f”. Why those keys? Because it’s the home row; you could fire the entire song, in any order with one hand without taking your eyes off the action. Even if you don’t know the order in advance, you could pay attention to the music leader and be right there with the right slide without looking. Very cool. And to make it easier, ProPresenter displays the hot key shortcut on the slide so you don’t have to remember it.

ProPresenter New Features

New “Hot Keys” (the white letters in lower left corners); Disabled Live Video button; and Direct Keyboard Access (the 13). Hit enter and you’re right there at slide 13. Cool!

Advance to Next in 0 Seconds

I’m really happy to see this feature added. Previously (as in version 3.3.1 and earlier), the shortest amount of time you could enter into a “Go to Next” box was 1 second. Now you can enter 0. This is especially useful for the end of a video cue, as you can now automatically advance it to black, or a series slide or whatever you want. I’m finding that we’re building our video cues with a black slide first, with a go to in 3 seconds, followed by the video with a go to in 0 seconds. With this setup, I can cue lights and presentation at the same time and the video will start playing just after the lights are out (using  a 3 second fade on the lights). It’s one cue for the presentation op, as they merely need to fire the first black. 3 Seconds later the video is fired and as soon as the video is over, it moves on to black (or our next graphic). Super-easy.

Disabled Slides

There are several songs in our library with sections we don’t always sing. Sometimes it is a rendition of a hymn that we will do stanzas 1,3 and 4, skipping 2 and 5. Previously, we would have had to either delete the unused stanzas (and type them in again later if needed) or move them to the end and make sure we don’t accidently cue them or create another version of the song in the library. Now we can leave them in the presentation and disable them. When disabled, they are grayed out and you can’t fire them. You can leave them inline where they normally belong, or move them to the end. Either way, they’re right there whenever you need to bring them back. This also works great for alternate endings, special bridges or other elements one worship leader may use and another doesn’t.

New Presentation from Clipboard

I’m not actually sure when this feature showed up, but I love it. Because we’re still building our library, it seems I’m entering a new song every week. In Media Shout, creating a new song meant multiple trips between applications and a bunch of copy-paste cycles. With ProPresenter, I can select the entire song, complete with “Verse,” “Chorus,” “Bridge,” and whatever other headings are there, copy it to the clipboard and select “File->New Presentation from Copied Text….” It’s smart enough to use the headings as slide labels, and I can tell it to drop into the library or add it to the playlist I’m building. Talk about time-saving. What once took a few minutes and a ton of keystrokes now takes a few seconds and about 3. Love it!

Disable Video In

One feature I just discovered is the ability to disable the “Video In” button. Right now, we don’t use live video at all in our setup, and it scared me that the Live Video button was right next to the Bail to Logo button. One errant mouse click and our presentation operators face would become the background (built-in iSight you know…). Thankfully, a checkbox in the preferences disables the button so a hasty click won’t embarrass anyone.

I’ve also noticed improvements with the sorting of dragged in groups of files. This has been an issue that has been hard to replicate. I posted it on the Renewed Vision forums a while back and they couldn’t duplicate the problem I had. I thought I was going crazy until someone else posted a similar problem. I’m not sure if they changed anything or if my computer is just acting nicer, but the last few group imports I’ve done have sorted correctly.

Things I’d Like to See Added

The ability to have an info loop running (a presentation of however many slides with Go to Next timers set, looping back to the first slide) and be able to edit or re-order another presentation in the playlist without affecting screen output. We could do this in Media Shout (though it was annoying because the script would jump to the new slide every time the timer advanced it), and it saved our bacon when we had to make last minute changes during walk-in. Call it a “Keep doing what you’re doing on the screen while I go do this in the background” mode. Rather like the “Blind” mode in a light board.

The ability to sort a presentation by some criteria (name, date, label, color, etc.). Not sure how often I’d use this, but it’d be nice to have the option.

The option of fading an audio cue out when going to the next slide. I realize the intent of the audio cue is to fire a click track or backing track for the band (or house) to hear and be able to follow along with the lyrics. But sometimes, we just want a sound effect with the slide, and need that sound effect to end when we move on. I know we can hit the fade audio cue button, but that’s 2 clicks…call me lazy.

Either the ability to set fade time increments (.1, .3, .5, whatever) in preferences, OR to have the up/down arrows increment by .1. Right now, they increment in .5 sec. steps, which for me is too coarse. I find myself switching between .3, .5 and .7 a lot, and it takes a mouse click, 3 keys and another mouse click to make that happen. While we’re at it, it would be great to be able to have different fade time settings for each presentation. Some songs demand a quick .3 sec fade, while others feel better at .7 or even 1. I would love to set this during rehearsal and have it follow along.

I’d also like the have the labels menu keep the order that I put them in. I’ve gone through 2 or 3 times now and added my standard collection of labels, in the order I want, and they keep getting re-sorted. Not sure if it’s a feature or a bug, but it bugs me. Being able to add new labels at the end and drag them up into the list, placing them in the middle of the list if I want (like re-ordering the playlist), would be nice, too.

Overall, I’m very happy with the choice to migrate to ProPresenter. I think it’s great software, and I love how active the community is. My favorite part is that I know as soon as Renewed Vision reads this, they’ll start working on some of the ideas and they’ll show up in a few weeks. Not because I’m that important, but because that’s how they are. They listen to their users and implement suggestions that make sense and benefit a large number of people (or sometimes just a few–they’re that good). Thanks again guys for making my life less stressful on Sundays!

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