Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

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?

This post is brought to you by CCI Solutions. With a reputation for excellence, technical expertise and competitive pricing, CCI Solutions has served churches across the US in their media, equipment, design and installation needs for over 35 years.

13 Comments

  1. fohdave@goingto11.com

    What are your foldbacks for?

  2. fohdave@goingto11.com

    What are your foldbacks for?

  3. mike@churchtecharts.org

    We use them to send local inputs (talkback, iTunes, video, etc.) down to the M-48s. They're basically Auxes that are routed to the MADI 2 stream.

  4. mike@churchtecharts.org

    We use them to send local inputs (talkback, iTunes, video, etc.) down to the M-48s. They're basically Auxes that are routed to the MADI 2 stream.

  5. Paul Ochsner

    Wow, very clever Mike.

  6. pbuescher@crossroads.net

    We always forgot to start the countdown timer in propresenter, which is frustrating to the speaker when they need to know if they are going long. We dedicated a mac mini to launch a quicktime movie via iCal at the start of service times. It counts down from 60 in white and back up in red after hitting zero. This works flawlessly and has been great for us. The monitor is located on the balcony rail for easy viewing by the speaker. The only issue is when we delay services due to traffic, which only happens twice a year and requires a manual start.

  7. pbuescher@crossroads.net

    We always forgot to start the countdown timer in propresenter, which is frustrating to the speaker when they need to know if they are going long. We dedicated a mac mini to launch a quicktime movie via iCal at the start of service times. It counts down from 60 in white and back up in red after hitting zero. This works flawlessly and has been great for us. The monitor is located on the balcony rail for easy viewing by the speaker. The only issue is when we delay services due to traffic, which only happens twice a year and requires a manual start.

  8. busyscott@gmail.com

    We use the exact same set up to record – except we have it record new audio right into Quicktime (super cheap alternative to using Logic or Pro Tools, and in my opinion a bit more user friendly). I made a bit of an addendum to this process though (since we are a mobile church that meets in a Gym). After about the 3rd or 4th time forgetting to get the sermon off the iMac that stayed in a storage container at the school I decided to edit the script to save it into a "Reliance Church Sermons" dropbox folder which automatically syncs. As soon as I get back to the office the files are already there waiting for me!

  9. busyscott@gmail.com

    We use the exact same set up to record – except we have it record new audio right into Quicktime (super cheap alternative to using Logic or Pro Tools, and in my opinion a bit more user friendly). I made a bit of an addendum to this process though (since we are a mobile church that meets in a Gym). After about the 3rd or 4th time forgetting to get the sermon off the iMac that stayed in a storage container at the school I decided to edit the script to save it into a "Reliance Church Sermons" dropbox folder which automatically syncs. As soon as I get back to the office the files are already there waiting for me!

  10. spangler.bryan@gmail.com

    Any chance you could post the applescript you use to start the recording in Reaper? It would save me a decent amount of time sifting through all the script commands for Reaper.

  11. spangler.bryan@gmail.com

    Any chance you could post the applescript you use to start the recording in Reaper? It would save me a decent amount of time sifting through all the script commands for Reaper.

  12. mike@churchtecharts.org

    Bryan,
    Yup, already wrote an entire post on it.
    http://www.churchtecharts.org/home/2011/4/1/automating-reaper-with-ical-and-applescript.html

    mike

  13. mike@churchtecharts.org

    Bryan,
    Yup, already wrote an entire post on it.
    http://www.churchtecharts.org/home/2011/4/1/automating-reaper-with-ical-and-applescript.html

    mike

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