Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

The Box of Freedom

At first, it might seem like being in a box is antithetical to the concept of freedom. But in fact, we find our box quite freeing. Let me elaborate. 

We came up with the “Box of Freedom” concept about a year and a half ago. We were running into some issues with our lighting team; well, that may be too strong. What we were finding was that some of the guys did things one way and others did it another way. Some of the ways were fine, others were not as well received by senior leadership. And if you remember from my recent post, What’s Important?, consistency tops the list of things that are important at Coast Hills.

So we needed a way to create some parameters for our lighting guys without completely shutting down their creativity. And thus was created, the Box of Freedom. The idea behind the Box of Freedom is to essentially create a “sandbox” big enough to play in, but with boundaries that are acceptable to our leadership team. 

In our box, we set standards for house light levels during different parts of the service, guidelines for a few things not ever to do (shine lights in the eyes of the congregation, for example), and other general parameters. Other than that, the guys are free to do pretty much whatever they want. 

When creating the Box of Freedom, we involved my boss—the Pastor of Weekends, our service producers, me and my ATD and two of our more experienced lighting volunteers. We wanted to be sure to include the team in the process so that they could not only speak into it, but also hear the reasoning behind some of the parameters. We took detailed notes and afterwards, I condensed it down to a double-sided single page of guidelines. After getting final approval from all at the meeting that this is what we agreed to, this was printed, laminated and left at lighting.

In practice, this has worked quite well. What we didn’t want to be doing was constantly running up to lighting telling the guys they were doing something “wrong” (and I put wrong in quotes, because it’s not necessarily wrong, just not appropriate for our venue). We all felt like that would eventually demoralize the team, and not bring out their best. By creating a set of parameters that everyone works within, and giving freedom to be creative inside those parameters, everyone wins. 

We get much less negative feedback from leadership after a weekend, and the guys have more fun doing lights because, like many areas of art, restrictions actually increase creativity. Our services are more consistent, though each one bears the fingerprints of the L1 for that weekend.

The Box of Freedom concept can also be applied to other disciplines as well. It is fairly easy to come up with a Box of Freedom for audio—maximum SPL, average SPL for music, average SPL for speaking, overall mixing style, etc.. Inside that box, each engineer can approach the weekend in their own way, but the week-to-week consistency is reasonably high. And—hopefully—there are fewer complaints from management and the congregation about things being out of bounds. 

In many ways, the Box of Freedom is like a style guide. Style guides provide organizations a way to keep their message and branding consistent. In the technical arts, we need to do the same thing. 

Do you have a Box of Freedom at your church? How is it working out?

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.

4 Comments

  1. mitch.aldridge@mscwired.org

    I implemented a style guide (Box of Freedom is a much more clever title though.) for our FOH engineers last year. It has been FANTASTIC. I have seen (or rather heard) such an increase in the consistency between our different engineers. That style guide was also accompanied by some training, and retraining for some veterans, but it has all seemed to elevate the overall quality of the weekend audio production.
    We haven't yet had the need for doing that with our lighting due to the fact that we only have 1 programmer and the rest are simply launchers.

  2. mitch.aldridge@mscwired.org

    I implemented a style guide (Box of Freedom is a much more clever title though.) for our FOH engineers last year. It has been FANTASTIC. I have seen (or rather heard) such an increase in the consistency between our different engineers. That style guide was also accompanied by some training, and retraining for some veterans, but it has all seemed to elevate the overall quality of the weekend audio production.
    We haven't yet had the need for doing that with our lighting due to the fact that we only have 1 programmer and the rest are simply launchers.

  3. worship@westportchurch.org

    I'm the Worship Arts Pastor at my church and we're suffering from lack of consistency in our FOH mix. I have three primary volunteers who mix—all great people and technically savvy— but their mixing techniques are all over the place. I'm trying to come up with a foundational, common set of principles that they can all START from (the Sandbox walls), but am having a hard time getting my guys to understand exactly what I'm looking for (we do "modern" style worship with full band).

    Does anyone have any resources that might help me set some of these basic mixing principles in modern worship?

    Thanks in advance for your insights!

  4. worship@westportchurch.org

    I'm the Worship Arts Pastor at my church and we're suffering from lack of consistency in our FOH mix. I have three primary volunteers who mix—all great people and technically savvy— but their mixing techniques are all over the place. I'm trying to come up with a foundational, common set of principles that they can all START from (the Sandbox walls), but am having a hard time getting my guys to understand exactly what I'm looking for (we do "modern" style worship with full band).

    Does anyone have any resources that might help me set some of these basic mixing principles in modern worship?

    Thanks in advance for your insights!

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