Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

Month: January 2010 (Page 1 of 2)

Thriving in an Inter-Generational Setting

Today’s topic comes from a reader. At issue—how can a church with both a young, “hip” congregation peacefully co-exist with an older, more traditional one; at least from a technology standpoint. In this case, the “older” group is 35+, which I suppose makes me a senior citizen. But I digress. The younger group wants to upgrade and find new ways to use technology and the older one is resistant to change. Since they share the same equipment and space, they need to get along. But how?

There is a natural tendency in situations like these to create an “us” and “them” mentality. It may even seem advantageous to completely separate equipment and procedures. This however, is not a good use of the church’s resources, nor does it cultivate a spirit of mutual submission and learning that is really healthy when done well.

I walked into a similar situation when I joined the staff of Upper Room in 2007. Upper Room was the upstart youngster group in the midst of a very traditional, older congregation. Prior to my arrival, there had been a fair amount of trouble getting both groups to work together, which was leading to a lot of friction. A big part of my charge was to bring both communities together, while fostering the differences in worship styles that made both so effective. With that in mind, here is what I learned.

The first step in developing an effective inter-generational strategy involves a lot of communication. Both groups need to spend some time talking and figuring out what their needs are. Then they need to come together and figure out how to develop systems that accommodate both sets of needs. To guide this process, I would say the following to each group.

To the younger group: Just because you like change, it’s not always the right thing. Just because there is a new way of doing something, or new equipment to do it with doesn’t mean that’s the way to go. In fact, sometimes the opposite is true. Often, there is wisdom in doing something in a tried and true fashion. Staying on the bleeding edge is rarely cost-effective. You’d be surprised at how effective you can be with older equipment when you get creative.

To the older group: Just because you’ve been doing something a certain way for years doesn’t mean it’s the best way. In fact, often the opposite is true. One of the great things about technology is that it’s always changing. Often there is a better, easier and more cost-effective way of doing something that’s only been developed a few years ago.

Now, I know what I just said appears contradictory. That’s intentional. You see, it’s easy to simply look at things from our perspective. A wiser approach is to consider more than one angle. The younger crowd may find that when it gets down to it, they really want new stuff because it’s new stuff, not because there’s anything wrong with the old stuff. And the older crowd may find that there is better equipment out there that makes doing what they’ve always done easier.

Monday, I’ll dig a little deeper and lay out some concrete examples of what this looks like.

New from NAMM—Personal Monitors and Problem Solvers

Today we wrap up our coverage of NAMM (which is good since it was a week and a half ago…), and we’re going to start with a product I didn’t actually see. The problem was lines. As in lines of people. Wrapped all around the booth, 2 or 3 deep. I just didn’t feel like fighting my way in there, though I kind of wish I had. I’m speaking of the Shure booth, and of the upcoming PSM900 wireless personal monitoring system.

Shure PSM900

The new PSM900, coming in late March-ish…I’ll go on record as not being a big fan of either the PSM700 or PSM600. I think they’re both noisy, expensive and neither do stereo very well. The fact that the newest of those models was introduced in 1999 could be part of the problem. Shure essentially ceded the wireless IEM market to Sennheiser (who makes, in my opinion, a significantly better product). Into those waters jumps the PSM900. I learned about this product from my local Shure rep, who in addition to being a good guy, is a musician and tech guy at his own church. He tells me the 900 sounds just like a wired 600 system. How did Shure pull this off? According to the sales literature, it’s because they use Audio Reference Companding (just like in the very good sounding UHF-R series mics) and an Enhanced Digital Stereo Encoder.

The last part is what really got my attention. When we had Chris Phillips of Sennheiser on for our webinar on wireless mics, he explained that IEMs use FM encoding for their stereo. Basically, the stereo signal is modulated into a single channel, transmitted and de-modulated back into stereo. RF hits will mess with the decoding and the stereo sound suffers. That’s why you don’t get good stereo sound from most IEMs. Allegedly, Shure has solved this.

There are quite a few other features that make it look really attractive, especially in light of the issues I’m having right now trying to keep our worship pastor happy with his PSM600. I hope to get my hands on a demo in late March when it comes out, and I will tell you more. Update: I just heard from my Shure rep that the PSM900 will retail at $1650; street price should be around a grand, give or take. At that price point, it’s a much more attractive option.

Westone UM3x

I’m the naturally skeptical sort. I’ve also had several people tell me that triple-driver IEMs are a waste of money and marketing hype. On the other hand, I own a set of single-driver UM1s and love them. They sound quite good and are the most comfortable non-custom fit buds I’ve ever listened to. It was with that set of mixed feelings that I stopped by the Westone booth and tried out the new UM3x. To sum up, it’s a good thing I’m naturally a cheapskate, otherwise I would have plunked down the $379 right there and bought a set. They sounded that good.

My birthday is in March if anyone needs any ideas…The UM3x retains all the essential comfort characteristics of the UM1; which is to say they are super-comfortable. They demoed them with the cheap yellow disposable foams (from Shure, ironically) so we weren’t sharing ear wax. Even with those, the fit was great. With a set of Comply foams, it would be amazing. The first word out of my mouth when I turned them up was, “Wow!” I heard excellent bass extension that was clear and tight, smooth midrange and crystal clear highs without a hint of harshness. They were eminently listenable. The low end had an almost magical quality that I perceived as “feeling” the bass; much like standing in front of a sub when your clothes are rattling. I know I wasn’t “feeling” anything, but that’s how they translated. I think bass players and drummers would really like these.

Since we live on a strict budget, I can’t go out and buy them. However, I am seeking freelance income opportunities in order to pay for a set. Perhaps I need sign that reads, “Will Consult for UM3xs.” Just a thought…

Primacoustics Problem Sovers

These are a few things that were just cool. I don’t know much about them because we didn’t talk to anyone or get any lit. And none of this is on their website yet. Still, this is interesting stuff. Sorry for the crappy iPhone pics; I didn’t think to bring my SLR and the light was poor.

The Kickstand, based on Recoil StabilizerThis was a cool kick mic stand, obviously based on the popular and effective line of speaker stands known as Recoil Stabilizers. I’ve had some experience with those pads, and they are good at what they do (de-coupling the speakers from the surface they’re on and deadening up the box to tighten up transients). Presumably, this stand does the same thing. It remains to be seen how much tighter a kick mic might be, but I would give it a shot if I could…

Eliminate floor noise from your tripod stands.This is a clever idea; decouple your mic stands from the floor. I would think these would be especially effective if you have your musicians up on elevated platforms (like we often do). These may well clean up a lot of foot stomping noise if you have an active percussionist or guitar player.

Cymbal bleed in your tom mics? Try this…This may solve one problem and cause another, but it’s an interesting idea. Now that we have the Heil PR-28s, I don’t think I would use these, but if you are using 57s or similar mics on toms, these may be worth at shot (depending on cost, which I have no idea about…).

For the worship leader who has everything…Last but not least, here is a clever holder for your iPhone. Initially this looks like pure indulgence; however, imagine you’re at a small church and have to lead worship and run ProPresenter at the same time. With ProPresenter Remote and this holder, it might be a little easier. Or I suppose you could use it to Twitter during the songs. Your call.

So that’s it. No more NAMM coverage. At least not until I get some of these products in my hands; at which time it will become new product reviews.

January Webinar Coming Up

After our brief respite in December (OK, we were all pretty crazy-busy in December), we’re back for another webinar. Jason, Dave and I will be hosting our January webinar this Friday, Jan 29 at 10 PM EST, 7 PM PST. Our topic for this month is system design, and while the three of us have been through our share of system design and upgrades, we decided that we should invite a real expert.

Dave called on his good friend, Bob Nahrstadt, from Next Creative Media to join us this month. NCM is a firm that exists to assist churches in connecting with their audience in an impactful and relevant way through the use of modern technologies. Dave and Bob have worked together on a number of projects and if the short time I’ve spent with him is any indication, this is going to be a great discussion.

We’ll touch on developing a ministry philosophy; figuring out how to best support that philosophy with technology; asking the right questions; determining when to do a project in-house versus hiring someone and how to choose the right design firm.

The webinar will be on TokBox again, which means you’ll want to join early to make sure you get in. TokBox has made some improvements lately that we hope will make for a better experience. It will also be recorded and made available here on the blog as well as in iTunes. Remember to wear headphones and mute your mic when you join the session. Watch our Twitter feeds a few minutes before the start time for the link to join; I’ll post it here as well.

New From NAMM—DPA Microphones

I’ll say this upfront; I’m a big fan of DPA mics. We had a DPA 4088 headband mic when I was at Upper Room. I’ll admit being skeptical at first of the cost (about 2x an e6), but it sounded good. Then we had an issue with it the last weekend in our old space. I sent it to DPA, and though they couldn’t reproduce the issue, they replaced it for free. While it was in transit, we had to use an e6 on our pastor. When the DPA came back, it took about 3 words before I was convinced that yes, they do sound a lot better.

So when Bruce Meyers tells me he has a new mic coming out that I may be interested in, I listen. I listen hard. In fact, Gary and I listened for a good 30 minutes while Bruce schooled us on the concept of flat phase response microphones. It was a fascinating discussion and it’s already changed how I look at mics. But enough about that, let’s get to some new mics.

What are the two hardest things to mic in live sound? Show of hands; piano and choirs. Can I get an amen? After our discussion with Bruce, I now have a much greater understanding of why it’s so hard. Soon, we may have a good solution.

The silver end is basically a small, end-address shotgun mic.This mic has the potential to solve a lot of problems. First, it hangs on a nice thin cable which connects via a micro-connector at the black end. Let it hang overnight, and you can then flex it any direction you want and it will hold it’s shape without any kind of clip. Very slick. Second, as a microphone that has the same frequency response all around it’s polar pattern, it will make micing a choir significantly easier. The fact that it’s very small and discreet is an added bonus. It’s not quite ready for production, but I’m hoping to get my hands on a few to test in the next month or so. I want one for my baptismal and two for audience mics for the in-ear mix.

The next challenge we all face is piano. I honestly can’t stand micing pianos. It’s pretty rare to actually get good sound that doesn’t contain a ton of bleed from everything else on stage. Again, Bruce explained why that’s so hard. At some point, once I’ve fully digested that information, I’ll try to write about it. The good news is, DPA has a forthcoming piano mic kit that will likely make our lives a lot easier.

The soon-to-be-released SMK 4098 Stereo Microphone Kit promises to make micing piano (and host of other things) a lot easier. The kit contains two 4098 directional microphones and two mounting options. One mount is a small magnetic base that will affix the mics to the harp of a piano securely, but non-permenently. Because the response on- and off-axis is so similar, the sound is said to be amazing.

I hope to be in possession of a kit in a month or two to demo. Once I can do that, I’ll write up more about it, and hopefully include some sample recordings.

DPA is also working on a single ear version of their famed 4088 and 4066 headset mics. Turns out some people (including my pastor) just don’t like dual ear designs. Again, once it’s closer to ready I hope to have a sample to demo. Having just spent a month with a DaCappo DA12, I’m anxious to hear the new DPA. We’ll be buying one of them…

New From NAMM—Digital Consoles Pt. 2

Last time, we touched on the Phonic Summit and Presonus StudioLive. Both are small-format consoles suited for small installations, recording or portable systems (which is one of my interest at the moment). But I’m also looking at a FOH console. I’m leaning heavily towards to Digidesign Profile; which I had hoped to play with at NAMM. No luck however, as Digi didn’t bring any consoles to the show. Bummer. In the effort to keep an open mind, I wanted to check out the offerings from Soundcraft and Allen & Heath. I’ve heard a few good things about both, and was interested in checking them out. First up, A&H.

Allen & Heath iLive T-Series

The iLive T-Series has been specifically marketed towards church installs.The iLive T-Series is the “more affordable and accessible” part of the iLive line. It’s a control surface/mix rack design that distributes audio and control. The system is highly flexible and comes a wide variety of configurations. There are two mix racks to choose from that differ only in I/O count (32×16 and 48×24). Both have significant DSP capabilities on par with comparable digital systems, including dynamics on every channel, 8 FX engines and 32 mix busses. There are also two control surfaces, the 80 and 112. The 80 has 12 input and 8 output faders; the 112 adds an additional 8 input faders, as well as  dedicated rotary encoders for the gate and compressor not included on the 80.

One thing that is appealing to the iLive system is the Mini Multi Out card. It provides 25 channels of ADAT output, two 8 channels iDR/HearBus outputs and a 16 channel Aviom output. All at once. All fully patchable. Other companies should follow A&H’s lead on this front. It only takes a few chips to make that happen, and it’s nice to finally see it all combined on a single card. Props for that one.

When it comes to the control surface, I was less impressed. The channels strips do have color-coded scribble strips with cool, curved meters and status indicators, which are nice. And there are dedicated rotary encoders for EQ and head amp, also nice (the 112 also has encoders for dynamics). However on the 80 control surface, once we got into the dynamics section, the only way we could figure out how to adjust parameters was drag little dots around the touch-screen surface. That was a lot less than precise. Maybe there was a way to get the compressor to the rotary encoders, but three of us standing there couldn’t figure it out.

When it comes to digital consoles, I’m willing to put up with a learning curve; however, there are a few things I feel like I should be able to walk up and do quickly, with no instruction. Head-amp, EQ, dynamics and phantom power as well as basic routing fall into that category. If a console makes me hunt too long to figure that out, there is an issue with the ergonomics.

Overall, the T-Series is an interesting concept. There is a lot of power in a fairly affordable package. However, I think if I were leaning toward A&H, I would look at the full-fledged iLive consoles simply because of the work surface. The T just leaves a few too many things off the panel. But that’s just me.

Soundcraft Vi4

The most notable feature of the Vi4 is the screen.I’ve been curious about the Vi series since it came out. I’ve always like Soundcraft desks (except for their older power supplies), and I was intrigued by the encoders right on the screen. Soundcraft took the route of Digico and Midas with the Vi series; that is, each bank of 8 faders has a monitor associated with it. Moreover, the rotary encoders stick right out of the screen (the top half of which is touch sensitive).

The Vi line has several offerings; we looked at the 4 which has 24 input and 8 output faders. The first thing you notice about the Vi4 is the screens. They look great. At a glance, you can quickly see input settings, EQ, various output mix levels and access to parameters with rotary encoders.

If you want to edit, say the EQ, push the EQ graph on the touch screen and it pops up on the monitor. Tweak away. It’s very intuitive and fast. One area the Soundcraft really excels is in color-coding. The slots the faders travel in glows to indicate what mode each fader is in. The screens change color to correspond to the function being accessed. Even the scribble strips change color.

There is a lot of functionality provided by dedicated buttons. There is extensive copy/paste abilities, though not all of it is implemented in software yet. In fact, that was the one real drawback; it seems as if the hardware is done, but the software is still growing up. I’ve heard anecdotally of a few instances of a Vi crashing, and there were a few times when the rep said, “That’s coming soon…”

Still, it’s an incredibly powerful system with a lot of well thought-out features. This is a desk you could walk up to and start mixing quickly. And as you spend time with it, you would learn the real power of the system. For example, we merely touched on the snapshot function; but it looked very comparable to my current standard of snapshots, the Venue. So I think Soundcraft is on to something here.

Next up, we’ll get to the DPA mics. I promise!

New From NAMM—Digital Consoles

I know I said we’d hit DPA mics next, but I left the sales sheet in my office this weekend. And in the quest for accuracy, I need that info. We’ll take a detour and get back on track soon.

So we’re clear, some of these consoles are not new. This is just the first time I’ve gotten to get my hands on them for any significant amount of time. One is brand new, the others have been out for a while. Remember too, that these are initial impressions based on no more than 10-20 minutes of hands-on time, and really are evaluations of the work surfaces only. There was no real way to tell how the desks actually sound (in fact, only Soundcraft and A&H had any audio even coursing through them—go figure). We’ll go in ascending order of price (give or take).

Phonic Summit Mixer

Look familiar, O1V users?Phonic is not new to audio products. Many of you may already own a PAA2 or PAA3 portable analyzer. They also make a bunch of other stuff; signal processors, amplifiers and mixers. Most are targeted toward DJ applications. They are about to dive into the world of small-format digital mixers with the Summit. According to Larry Lai, Phonic Product Manager, “The Summit is feature heavy, and easy to use.” Based on the few minutes I got to play with it, he’s not far off. The Summit has 16 input channels, 8 Auxes and 8 Groups plus L&R. It features built-in dynamics on every channel (your choice of comp, gate, limiter or expander) and 2 effects processors. USB and FireWire connectivity is also included, though I’m not sure how much. It features a color-touch screen and a pretty decent menu architecture.

I looked at it because I’m keeping my eye open for a small format digital mixer for a portable system. After trucking two racks of gear up to Winter Camp this year, I’d love to have something with the power of an O1V in a small rack with speaker processing and wireless. The Phonic looks a lot like the O1V, and has many of the same conventions; buttons that switch the faders from inputs to aux sends, for example. Without knowing how it sounds, I can’t recommend it yet. What I can say is that it is feature-rich. On the other hand, the software is still a bit slow. Controls inputs were followed by a second of delay before the screen actually changed. Overall, it seemed pretty intuitive, and I was able to get around it pretty quickly. The jury is still out, but it may be a solid option. Learn more at Phonic’s website.

Presonus StudioLive

StudioLive 16:4:2. Not sure whose finger that is.I’ve been seeing this in trade rags for months now and have been intrigued. Again, thinking of my desire for a decent small-format mixer, this seems like it’s got the goods. It features 16 inputs, 6 auxes, 4 subgroups and L&R (there is also a new 24:6:4:2 version). They also include 22 comps (inputs + auxes), limiters, high pass filters; 2 effects engines; 2 graphic EQs; and 2 master stereo limiters. So far, so good. They also add a 22×18 FireWire interface. It has save/recall and copy/paste functions. And 4 band EQ on each channel.

When I walked up to the desk, it took a few minutes to get my bearings. They use the 16 rotary encoders over the channel inputs for the comp, gate, and EQ. It takes some time to get used to the layout. I think once I spent some time on it, it would be quick to get around. What I didn’t like was the lack of visual feedback for settings of EQ, comp, gate, etc. Like the O1V, you can control the StudioLive from a Mac or PC using the freely downloadable software. With the software, you get a lot more visual confirmation of what you’re doing.

Like all small desks, they have limited real-estate to pack in a lot of features. My initial reaction was, “I don’t like it.” However, it does pack a lot of punch for the price. And while my reference desk in this space (the O1v) also has a tricky to master interface, I eventually came to like it. So it ma be worth a shot. Check it out at Presonus.com.

This is getting long, so next time, I’ll recap the Soundcraft Vi4 and the A&H iLive T-series.

Finally—A 700 MHz Decision; The End Is Near

Late last week, the FCC finally issued an order regarding the migration out of the 700 MHZ spectrum. All ad hoc use (wireless mics, DMX, data, etc.) must cease no later than June 12, 2010. From Shure.com

The order applies to all wireless system users regardless of whether the user holds an FCC license. The order also requires microphone users to cease operations in specified 700 MHz frequencies within 60 days upon receipt of a notice from a wireless carrier or public safety entity authorized to use the spectrum, or, alternatively, within 60 days of the release of an FCC Public Notice specifying that certain 700 MHz frequencies are no longer available for wireless system use in a particular market.

No word yet on what fines may be levied if you’re caught operating equipment in that band. However, if a telemarketer calls you after you tell them to remove you from their list, it’s a $10,000 fine. Per call. The FCC doesn’t normally mess around with that stuff.

So what does that mean for churches with 700 MHz wireless mics? You have to replace them. It’s no longer a grey area. For pastors and executive pastors who have been telling their tech guys not to worry about it, it’s time to take action. The last thing we need as the Church is to start reading about local churches getting fined because they didn’t want to replace their illegal equipment.

It’s not all bad news, however. Shure has extended the rebate period through June 30, 2010. Folks, the time to act is now. Don’t be the first church in your area to receive a cease and desist order. It’s never going to be less expensive to replace the equipment.

No word yet on whether Sennheiser will be running an extended rebate program for the final push to vacate 700 MHz. I have a call into my contact there to find out; I’ll update this as soon as I know something for sure.

UPDATE: 1/19/10, 2:15 PST. Sennheiser extends their rebate program to run through June 30, 2010. More details can be found on their website, sennheiserusa.com or on this rebate form. Thanks to Chris Phillips for the last minute intel.

New Stuff From NAMM—Countryman

Last week at the NAMM show, there was not a bevy of new equipment. There were a few things of note, however. Today, we’ll touch on a few new products from Countryman. The first is a new earset microphone called the e2.

Countryman e2

It’s wee-little!The mic is made from material similar to the e6i. That is, it’s much more flexible than a standard e6. The e2 doesn’t have the thicker silicone band around the ear, which was a good decision in my opinion. The boom is very short, and when worn is fairly discreet. Through the use of EQ applied to the signal in the connector, they claim to achieve a frequency response just about indistinguishable from an e6. The e2 is a uni-directional element (as opposed to the more common e6 omni). This leads to a little better gain before feedback and rich, full bass response.

They also came up with a new micro connector that attaches the mic to the cable. It’s similar to the one on the e6, but doesn’t take quite as much effort to break apart. I always feel like I’m going to break the mic when disconnecting the cable on the e6. This was much easier and just felt better. If you’re a fan of the e6, this mic may well appeal to you, especially since it’s much more discreet than it’s larger-boomed brethren.

Countryman Type-10 DI

In the legendary tradition of the Type-85 comes the Type-10.The good people at the Countryman booth also showed me a new DI, the Type-10. Their challenge with the Type-10 was to create a DI with the lowest total THD and flattest frequency and phase response of any DI on the market. According to their sales literature, it appears they may have succeeded. It’s flat from 10-50K +/- 1 dB, THD is .005% across the board and phase deviation is under 2 degrees. Not too shabby. They also added a cool power test feature (shown above) so you can check the battery and phantom power status before walking all the way back to FOH. How does it sound? Well for that we’ll have to wait to get our hands on one. Cost-wise, it’s going to run about $50 more than a Type-85, which might well be worth it for certain applications. 

Next time, we’ll check out some of DPA’s new offerings.

My First NAMM—A Pictorial Journey

Now that I live on the left coast, in the land of fruits and nuts, and so very close LA, I find myself with opportunities I didn’t have before. For example, paying more for everything. Or going swimming, outside, in January. And going to the NAMM show. For at least 10 years, people have been asking me, “Hey, are you going to NAMM this year?” And for 10 years I’ve said, “Nah, can’t afford to go, and it’s not deductible for me.” But now that it’s literally 25 minutes from my house, I figured, what the heck. Let’s rock the NAMM show this year. So here we are.

Not Open To The Public. I feel so exclusive!Someone asked me on Twitter yesterday how I got in, since it’s only supposed to be open to dealers. I wish I could say, I got people. I wish I could say it’s because I’m a world-famous blogger who gets actual invites to shows like this. In fact, it was really easy to get in, especially for church techies. Show up at the first ever night of worship, get a NAMM badge. Really, I’m not that special.

I did get to see some cool stuff, however. I spent a good 25 minutes talking to Bruce Meyers, President of DPA. He schooled me on flat phase response microphones. They have some very cool stuff coming out, which I’ll tell you about in another post. We also spent some time with Countryman and learned about a few of their new products; again, more to come. Today’s post will be a collection of interesting things and people. Let’s get started.

They really are beautiful boards.For starters, Toft Audio Designs mixing consoles. I’ve seen the ads, and looked at the pictures, and they really are as beautiful in person. Anodized, machined aluminum knobs, wood edges, clean graphics; just gorgeous. Not really suitable for live sound, but they are fun to play with.

Remember, this is for professionals…On the other end of the floor, we found this. If the Toft is too rich for your blood, you may want to consider this one. Pretty much a Peavy/Mackie/Behringer knockoff. I know digital is all the rage right now, but how many of your digital boards say “Professional Mixer” right on them? Probably not too many. So the next time some schmuck with a cup of coffee comes hanging over your booth asking, “Do you really know what all those knobs do?,” you can point to this and say, “Yup, I sure do. I’m a professional!”

Finally, a rack-mounted power conditioner for iPhone users.Professional seems to be the new marketing buzzword. Over at Furman, we checked out their new Pro series rack-mounted power conditioners. These are actually pretty impressive. Gone are the night-light bulbs, finally replaced with dimmable LEDs. In typical Furman fashion, there is a model with a blank front, a step up to a bar graph voltmeter, and a model with a digital readout. All models feature better filtering, and non-sacrificial surge protection. The big news is you can also get the two models with volt metering with front panel USB charging ports. That is worth the upgrade! Speaking of upgrades, they told me if you have some old semi-working units lying around, they’ll give you 40% off new ones. Check it out.

Me and my new friend Neil. Don’t stop believin’Of course, NAMM is all about celebrity endorsements. Some guy named Jason Mraz generated a line that wrapped twice around the quite substantial Shure booth. That same situation was repeated with Sara Bareilles. But I’m an old guy, so I was more excited to meet Neil Shoen, guitar player for Journey. I grew up listening to his music. So that was cool.

The guy makes great mics. What more can I say.It was also fun to meet and talk with Bob Heil about microphones. Sadly, our talk was cut short when Neil showed up, but I enjoyed hearing his passion for making high quality microphones in the USA. If you’re not familiar with them, read my posts on our new drum mic kit, here and here.

I was talking with someone from our staff who has been to NAMM a number of times and she said it was kind of a freak show. You have presidents of big companies in three-piece suits making multi-million dollar deals walking side by side with crazy looking rock-n-roll types. Sure enough, there was an amazing cross-section of people. Some were blending in, some stood out and some well, some stood out more than others who stood out.

I really have nothing to say about this. Other than that is her real hair.So there you go. A quick tour of NAMM without the sore feet and knees, ringing ears (next time, I’ll skip the drum hall) and hazy feeling from rubbing shoulders with a few thousand people. More to come with a few very cool new products.

A Few Thoughts On System Design

I’ve done a lot of system design in my career. In college, I was tasked with coming up with some pretty elaborate systems for pulling together large multi-image festivals. Afterward, I designed temporary systems for very elaborate corporate sales meetings. When I started my company, I did all my own edit suite design and install, and built more than one flypack. In fact, I really enjoy doing system design. There’s a certain sense of satisfaction that comes from figuring out the most elegant way to solve a problem and seeing it through to fruition. When I think back on how I’ve approached each design, a few things stand out.

Ask a Lot of Questions

The first step in the design process is not design at all. Rather, we need to ask a lot of questions. What are we trying to accomplish? Who will be running the system? What is the budget and time frame? What are our current assets? Any physical constraints? Often these questions beget more questions. For example, in designing a live video system the first question may be, “What are we trying to accomplish?” The answer might initially be, “IMAG and maybe internet streaming.” At that point, we need to know a lot about the room, light levels, projectors, current (if any) infrastructure, desired level of quality and the like.

The answers to those questions start to shape how you approach the design. In the above example, if the room is 100 feet deep, you had better allocate a big chunk of the budget to lensing. If there is not much existing light, HD is going to be an issue unless you upgrade the lighting grid. There are a lot of factors that come into play, and design is all about compromise. The trick is to not compromise on the important items.

Think a Few Steps Ahead

Too often systems are designed to simply handle the task at hand. Lighting systems are a great example. Let’s say you currently have 48 lighting fixtures. You may think putting in 48 channels of dimming is sufficient. However, the day will likely come that you will need additional fixtures. If you planned well, you can plug them right in (because your dimming channels can handle more than one fixture) or you can slide some more dimmer trays in the rack. If you didn’t plan well, you have a mess on your hands. Fixing it will involve bringing in electricians, adding racks, running new lines, and significant cost. If you really didn’t plan well, you may have to replace everything.

Always look down the road 3-5 years (more and more, I’m trying to look 5-7). Think about what you may want to do in the future, and the best way to accommodate that. Sometimes, designing in a few extra pulls of wire, a couple extra conduits and buying a slightly larger controller than you think you’ll need will save you thousands of dollars and a lot of headaches in the future.

Don’t Be Afraid To Blow Up The Plan

I’m actually notorious for this. After we spent 3 weeks getting our new lighting plan in place, I blew the whole thing up. I started thinking about losing dimmers altogether and going all LED. I re-configured everything. Then I started getting pricing. It was all over budget. So I blew it up again. This time, when we came back to the original plan, some of what we learned in the re-design altered the original. We now have a really good plan in place that is more cost-effective than it was originally, yet gives us more capability and more future expansion.

You see, it’s easy to design what you know. In our case, we brought in an outside designer to help. He’s good, and he’s used to doing things a certain way. When we blew it up and said, “What if we did it this way?” it changed the approach. That led to, “Well if you do that, you could also do this, this and this. And come to think of it, that’s better.”

I could go on for quite a while longer on this topic, as it’s one that’s close to my heart. Mainly because I see so much bad design out there. Later on this month, Dave Stagl, Jason Cole and I will be hosting another webinar on this very topic. We’re excited to have special guest, Bob Nahrstadt of Clark ProMedia joining as well. This is good because when I say I’ve done a lot of design, it needs to be put in perspective; Bob’s probably forgotten more designs than I’ve done. It should be an interesting talk.

Join us on TokBox for the webinar. We’re moving it to Friday night in hopes of accommodating more people who have Thursday night rehearsals. Save this date: January 29th at 10 PM EST, 7 PM PST. Watch our Twitter feeds and this blog for a link. And we’ll post the audio here and on iTunes if you can’t make it.

« Older posts

© 2021 ChurchTechArts

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑