Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

Month: September 2012 (Page 1 of 2)

Extreme Church Makeover: Tech Edition Update

It’s been a few months since I wrote about our plans to help Grace Chapel of the Coast with our Extreme Church Makeover project. Originally I had hoped to be able to get this project done over the summer. Then along came a giant renovation at my church that not only required me to manage the AVL install, but the entire project as well. So that took pretty much every waking moment from July 30-September 9. So much for the summer.

But perhaps it’s OK because while we had an initially high outpouring of support for the project, once it actually came time to get equipment line up, it was…{cue the crickets SFX}.

Which is kind of a bummer, but I guess it’s not surprising. While we’ve had a bunch of manufacturers tell us they are interesting in helping, they are having a tough time seeing the business case for it. I’ve had a few individuals offer up a couple of pieces of gear, but it’s not nearly enough to do the project. 

So at this point, I’m not sure what to do. Certainly, we’ve been praying about it, asking God to provide for what is a really worthy project. I still believe God is calling us to do this, and right now we’re simply facing some opposition. Your prayer support would certainly be helpful.

If you want to go back and look at the equipment list and see if there is anything you can contribute, please let me know. I’d really love to bless this church with a rockin’ system, but I can’t do it alone. 

Second, if you have contacts at manufacturers you would be willing to talk with, also let me know. I don’t want to do a shotgun blast approach with this, because that may do more harm than good. However, if we can coordinate efforts, and encourage some companies to get on board, that would be great. 

We’ll be getting together soon with the SoCal CTL to talk strategy on this project, and we’ll just see what happens. I wrote a post a while ago asking what are you doing that if God doesn’t show up, it will utterly fail. This is one of those times for me. While it’s uncomfortable, and I don’t really like being in this position (I’m a planner, after all…), this is where God has me right now. 

That’s it for now. Hopefully we will have more to update you on soon!

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Personal Growth

I’ve been getting a few questions lately about how to grow as a technical leader. Most center around which conferences to attend, or college programs to take. As you might expect, I have a few thoughts on this. 

First of all, I take personal and professional development very seriously. I am convinced that part of the reason I am where I am today is because I never stop learning. I read voraciously and talk to as many smart people as will tolerate me. I also attend 3-5 conferences/trade shows per year, sit in on online webinars, and listen to podcasts. 

You might be thinking, “Wow, it must be nice to work for a church that lets you do all that.” And while I do work for a good church, you should also know that up until recently, any conference or show I went to was vacation time, and I have and continue to pay for all of it myself. 

Here’s the thing; most churches (and most companies for that matter), don’t really care that much about their employees personal and professional growth. Well, they may care, but they don’t prioritize it over other things—which means they won’t spend any money on it. This is especially true for support positions like the TD and other technical staff. If you are a pastor and want to go back to school to get a masters or doctorate, there’s a good chance you’d get help. But a tech wanting to go to SMARRT training? Good luck.

This is not a pity party, it’s just the way it is. We can complain about it, or we can do something about it. I’ve chosen to do something about it. 

Take control of your own growth.

I’ve chosen to make my professional development a priority, regardless of how much or how little my church supports me. That’s why I spend the money to go to the shows and conferences. The way I’ve chosen to pay for it is by trading ad space on our videos for travel expenses. That’s one way to do it. I know other guys who will go and shoot for another organization, or speak on a panel, or what have you. There are plenty of ways to get creative there. 

The means is not as important is the fact that you get out and do it. If you feel you need additional training, find a way to make it happen. Read, listen to podcasts, talk to people, find a mentor, take a class, register for a seminar. Do what you have to do to keep growing. Most organizations (churches are no exception) don’t properly value motivated, engaged and growing employees. The result is that you can get stuck in rut in any job, and suddenly wake up and realize you’ve spent 10 years at a place doing the same thing and you’re sick of it.

Or, you can continue to grow, and watch opportunities appear before your eyes. Even if I wasn’t working for a church, I would be doing the same thing I’m doing now. Never stop growing, and don’t make excuses as to why you can’t.

Your church will not feel responsible for you.

This is not exclusive to churches; most companies don’t feel responsible for you either. You were hired to do a job; you’re expected to do it well and on time. That’s it. Again, this is not a “woe is me” diatribe; it’s the way it is. It is a rare organization—church or not—that takes an active role in investing in it’s people. Those are the companies, churches and organizations we ultimately want to work for (or run), and the only way to get there is to continue to grow and develop.

Yes, this will cost you money. It will cost you time. You may even have to change jobs once in a while. But don’t short-change yourself because your travel and conference budget gets cut every year (mine has been cut three years running, even though I continue to request money for it). 

How have you chosen to continue to grow and develop as a technical artist?

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Lessons Learned: Personal

As I wrap up my vacation and this series on our renovation, I thought I would share some lessons I learned personally. Whereas I feel like I did pretty well on the construction and AVL design/build side of things, I’m not sure I scored as highly on the personal side. While the project is by all measures a success, it came at a pretty high personal cost for me. In retrospect, it was probably too high, and should I ever take on a project like this again, I will do some things differently. Here are some things I learned (and this is as much about myself as about managing a project).

Find ways to take time off

I failed at this. Because of the way the project fell on our church calendar, I ended up not working only 4 days between July 11 and Sept. 9th. Four days off (and that was really it—I worked the other 56 days). I knew going into this project that it was going to be a hard slog, and it was. I knew I needed to be on site a lot to keep the contractors working, and I did. What hurt was having to also be around for the weekends because it was summer (so we were short on volunteers) and because we also had some of the largest, most complicated weekends of the year during August. 

In retrospect, I should have found a way to take more time off. Even if it was coming in on Saturdays to get things running, then staying home on Sunday. The first few weeks weren’t too bad, as I was able to be home by 5 or 6. But by the end, when I was working 10, 12, 14 or more hours a day, it was tough. I ended the project spent, physically and emotionally.

Thankfully, I knew it was going to happen, so I planned 16 days off immediately after the project. And because I know that I would have not taken the time if I was home, I actually booked a flight to Seattle to force myself to leave. I did this the first week of the project to hold myself accountable. That was a big win, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Delegate

Delegation is tough for me because I’m a perfectionist and have very specific ideas of how to do things. I really want things done the way I want them done. When you delegate that doesn’t always happen. However, if you do it well, you get a whole lot more done. I think I scored about a 50% on this project. Near the end, we had quite a few of our tech team volunteers on site and I was able to hand off a bunch of stuff like cable pulling, labeling and all that to them. My ATD, Jon, soldered everything. My daughter actually did a lot of the painting of the tech booths. 

There were still a few things I held too tightly, and that was one reason I worked too hard and too long on this project. However, I did pretty much hand off most of the regular TD tasks to Jon, which he handled ably. If you’re going to tackle a big project, plan in advance what you can hand off to others, and then do it. 

Let Go

Part of delegation is letting go of some things. Not everything got done exactly the way I wanted it done. It’s all fine, just different from how I would have done it. That’s OK! Some of the lights are hung in different spots than I would have done; and some cables didn’t get bundled the way I was thinking of doing it. But so what? The end result is just fine, and the truth is no one would know the difference. 

Letting go can be problematic for us high-capacity TDs because we think we can do everything, and do it really well. But the reality is, if we’re going to survive at this, we need to learn to let things go. I don’t mean we have to lower our standards, but we have to be willing to accept different ways of getting to the same place. I’m learning this almost weekly as we turn over more and more production to the volunteers on the weekend. No one is as picky about details as I am, so the reality is, most of those details don’t matter. Let them go.

Only Do What Only You Can Do

I received this advice a number of years ago. I was talking with my boss and worship leader about how to manage my schedule. She advised me to only do the things that only I can do. Give everything else away. I tried to do this with varying degrees of success. I turned over all the soldering (even though I’m pretty good and fast at it) so I could spend more time on carpentry. Of everyone on our team, I’m probably the most skilled carpenter, so I tried to tackle most of those tasks. As much as I could, I gave other technical installation details to Jon and the volunteers because they were completely callable of doing them.

If you are the only tech person on your staff, focus on doing those tasks that only you can do. If someone else can do (or can be trained to do) something, hand it off. No, it may not be done as well as you would do it, but it will get done. And over time, proficiency develops. 

There were so many other little lessons learned throughout this project, and you’ll probably see things popping up from time to time. But these are the big ones. What have you learned from completing a big project?

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.

Lessons Learned: AVL

Last time we talked about some of the lessons I learned in the construction process. This time around, we’ll consider the AVL install. 

Think Things Through

Another way to phrase this is, “Have a Plan.” I was able spend a good month and a half on the design for these rooms—and these were simple rooms. I spent many hours pre-visualizing the systems, researching, talking with my integrator, and playing around in Sketchup. And when I say have a plan, to me that goes beyond knowing the major components. For me, I want to know exactly how all those components fit together, what connections they use and how much wire it will take (and what type). The more you have figured out before  the walls start coming down (or going up, depending on what you’re doing), the better shape you’ll be in for the install. 

This is not to say you won’t miss things. I feel like I hit this one at about 90% or so. The second to last day of the project, we discovered I made on critical error in ordering connectors. I forgot that when using PowerCons, you always match the plate and cable end (Power Out to Power Out; not Power Out to Power In). Of course, we can’t get those out here on the West Coast for some reason, so I had to come up with an alternate plan for the opening weekend. It wasn’t the end of the world—though I did beat myself up more than I should have—and we made it through. Otherwise, all the time I spent sitting in my office working out the details paid off.

Order Early

This is another one I feel we did pretty good on. I placed all the AVL equipment orders within the first week of the build, knowing we didn’t need it for a good 3-4 weeks. As we learned last time, companies are not stocking like they used to. I bought out Markertek’s complete inventory of XLRM connectors at one point when I ordered 80 of them. We didn’t think our GB2 would arrive in time; I was told it would not be here until this week. Thankfully it showed up in the last few days of the build.

Unless you live very close to a major AVL supply house, get your orders in early. It’s amazing how much stuff you’ll go through (we ordered a 1 1/4 miles of Gepco 61801, for example), and you can’t be waiting for connectors to show up because you forgot. 

Have a Staging Area

This goes along with Order Early. As all the gear and parts start coming in, make sure you have a place to keep it all. We set aside part of a room full of cabinets to receive all our stuff. When we needed something, we knew where to get it. This system worked well for us until we actually got to installing. Because we were working in 3 rooms on 2 floors, some stuff got misplaced. I know we spent (or perhaps wasted) a good couple of hours looking for stuff that was right in front of us. 

Next time I do one of these projects, I’ll come up with something similar to a gang box used by electrical contractors to house all our stuff once we’re on site. 

Always Order More

I’m usually good at this, but I did miss the mark on this for a few items. I was trying to be really careful on the budget so I ordered exactly what we needed when it came to connectors and plates. As we got into the project, a few things changed, and we needed more stuff. Unfortunately most of what I needed I was getting from the East Coast, so we paid more than we should have in overnight shipping. 

Looking back, it would have been cheaper to just order a few extra plates, rings and connectors. The truth is, when it comes to things like XLRs, video connectors, cable and heat shrink, you’re going to use them eventually, and it’s always good to have stock, so don’t worry about ordering 15-20% more than you think you need.

Hire an Installer

I’m a good installer, and we have several people on our team who can do install. However, I didn’t want the liability, nor did I have the time to install our speakers and wall-mounted TVs. I don’t really like hanging things over people’s heads—especially PA’s—because it’s not really my forté. Yes, I could do it, but the truth is, our installer, Todd, did it better and faster than I could have. 

This was a simple install, so we had him do the PA’s and the TVs. We pulled the cable, terminated it all and built the racks. We actually built most of the racks in our loading dock a few weeks before we needed them (because our gear had come in earlier than we needed), and they were ready to roll over when we were. 

Given that Todd spent 27 hours there doing that work, I think I can extrapolate that it would have taken me a solid 40+ hours to do what he did. And since I finished my stuff at 11:30 PM on the Friday before opening weekend, I’m not sure we would have made it without him. 

Don’t be afraid to bring in help for stuff like that. Because we did a lot of the simple work ourselves, we saved a ton of money. By hiring out the harder stuff, we got it done. 

That’s what I learned when it came to the AVL install. What lessons have you learned when doing installs?

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Lessons Learned: Construction

With most of the recent renovation project behind me, I have been taking some time to reflect on lessons learned. I always try to do this after a large project, be it a production, installation or something this big. It’s really up to each of us to debrief after a project so we can see what we can do better next time; and there will always be a next time!

With that in mind, I’m going to look at three angles of lessons learned. First, as it pertains to the construction process itself. We’ve talked on the podcast that if you’re the TD, chances are you are going to be really involved with any type of construction (at least you should be).  Hopefully, the lessons I learned will help you. The upcoming posts are going to focus on things I learned with regards to the AVL installation as well as some personal things that I hope to improve on next time around.

So here we go; lessons I’ve learned as it relates to the construction process itself.

Set realistic timelines

Most people are terrible at this and church leaders are no different. I’ve been involved with four significant building projects at three churches in the last 25 years, and in only one case was the timeline realistic. This happens for a variety of reasons. First, unless you’ve been actually involved in the construction trade, you don’t really have any idea how long it takes to do things. I heard quite a few times in the weeks leading up to our renovation, “All we’re doing is knocking down a few walls and moving a door or two. Shouldn’t take more than a week or so.” Ha! 

We had a crew of of 3-5 guys painting for two weeks! There was an electrical contracting company on site with 2-3 guys, every day, 8 hours a day for 5 weeks. HVAC took a week and a half, spread out over 6 weeks. The AVL install took a week and a half.

So while it was true that the demo took a few days, and by the end of the first week, we had most of the new walls framed, there was a whole lot more work to do in the next 5 weeks to wrap this up. 

The point is, don’t let people who have no idea what they’re talking about set the timelines. And if you don’t know how long things should take, make sure you talk to contractors ahead of time and get an idea. Know that they will probably pad the time (and then be late getting it done), but at least you’ll have an idea. If you have a General Contractor on board, he should be able to help quite a bit. 

Church leaders like to set timelines based on the ministry calendar; and that can be valid. We all want to have the new wing opened up by the start of the fall kickoff. However, don’t wait until Aug. 1 to start a complete renovation. Yes, we did it, but I don’t recommend it. You’ll also save money by slowing it down a little bit.

Also, know that no one stocks building supplies any more. You would think 2×4 box fluorescent lights would be easy to get. Not so—it’s 4-6 weeks. 3-0 Fire doors? 4-6 weeks. Simple can downlights? 4-6 weeks. Almost everything we needed beyond studs and drywall was several weeks out.

Line Contractors up in advance

This was a big one we learned. We sadly waited until the week we started the project to start calling on many of the subs. HVAC was the biggest hassle, mainly because we started the project on the first really hot week of the year. Suddenly every HVAC company in SoCal was swamped. Had we contracted with one earlier and put the project on their schedule, the first few weeks of the project would have been much less stressful for me. 

Good contractors are busy. There seems to be line of thinking that assumes people are just sitting by the phone waiting for you to call them and give them work. And when you call they should be so honored that you call them that they drop everything and run over. It doesn’t work that way. Get on their calendar a month or two before you actually start, and share the plans for the project with them (I know…crazy right?). 

Pre-Date Deadlines

Contractors are funny. Most of them are hard-working, honest people who really want to do a good job. But, they tend to overbook some times, and your project timelines will start to slip. To counteract that, bring the deadlines up by a week or two. In other words if you need the project finished on the 20th, tell everyone the last day to work is the 15th. This is not lying; it’s good project management. The work will expand to fill the time available, and you will find plenty of things to do those last 5 days. 

Plus it’s always nice to know you have a cushion of time as you see the project timelines stretching out a bit. For example, I planned on building stages and tech booths during week three, then installing all the AVL in week four. However, we couldn’t start building anything until the very end of week three (for a variety of reasons), but because we had a week cushion, it wasn’t a disaster. 

Just don’t get ridiculous with this; especially if you work with the same contractors regularly. If you set the deadlines 3-4 weeks in advance, knowing that everyone will slip, they will eventually slip right past the real deadlines. 

It Always Takes Longer and Costs More

This is one iron-clad rule of construction. This is why it’s so important to plan carefully in advance, come up with realistic timelines, budgets and have good contractors. This is especially true when doing a renovation. There will always be things that you can’t foresee until you open up the walls. Electrical and plumbing you didn’t know was there will need to be re-routed. Things will have to be fixed and that “non load-bearing wall” actually is. 

Don’t despair over this, plan for it. Leave yourself some contingency budget and time to handle those things. Prepare leadership for it, and don’t freak out when the contractor tells you that will be another $2,000 to fix it. Sometimes you have to get creative, change things or re-work some plans to make it all fit, but know this is coming. 

This rule is of course why we pre-date our deadlines and budget at list, not discounted pricing. 

There are plenty of other lessons to learn in a project like this, but this is what stood out to me the most. Oh, and here’s a bonus one. If you pick paint colors that use an ultra deep base, plan on doing lots of coats (like 6-8) to get good coverage. Talk to your paint suppler in advance for advice. Don’t’ ask me how I know this…

What have you learned from your construction projects?

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Upcoming Church Media Seminar

Here’s a quick announcement that might be of interest, espeically to those in SoCal.

On Oct. 2, I’m going to be part of a Church Media Seminar put together by the folks at TVMagic. Here’s the official burb:

Master Facility Planning & System Design Considerations:  Video Networking, File Formats for Distribution/Playout and 2nd Screen Distribution

TV Magic, Inc. and Church Tech Arts have partnered to bring you a FREE one-day Church Media Seminar that will provide you with an in-depth understanding of standards, technologies and methodologies that enable you to create, acquire and distribute your message across IP Networks and out to 2nd Screen Technologies.  If you are looking for a comprehensive seminar to help guide the development of your worship technology system or an update on the newest technologies in the marketplace, this seminar is for you! For more information and to register click here.

The seminar is going to be held at the Marriot in Fullerton, CA from 8 AM-5 PM. There are some really smart people scheduled to be there, so if you have questions or are looking to develop a video distribution system to connect campuses or venues on your campus, this could be a pretty valuable day. Plus, it’s free and you get lunch.

You do have to register so they know how many are coming, but that’s easy. Click on the above link and get yourself signed up. And make sure to say hi while you’re there. I don’t think the crowd will be huge, so there will be plenty of time for Q&A. 

New Equipment: Video

Last week, we looked at the new lighting and audio equipment that we installed in our new kids and students rooms. This time around, we’ll consider the video gear. Actually, the video needs were pretty simple. They needed a Mac for ProPresenter, and it was requested we install AppleTVs so they could screen share and stream audio and video content. I plan to put a DVD player in at least two of the rooms as well, just so they can play back DVDs easily if needed (I know, no one uses DVDs anymore; except kids ministry…)

So here’s what we went with:

Video Switcher: Kramer VP728
Presentation: iMac 21.5”, AppleTV
Screens: LG 47LD452B LED LCD

I had originally spec’d Extron IN1508’s for this install, but when the request came through for AppleTVs, I had to rethink things a little bit. The only video output on an AppleTV is HDMI and the 1508 doesn’t do HDMI in. I had to look around a little bit for a switcher/scaler that had one or two HDMI inputs and component output. 

Now some of you might wonder why I want component output. Call me old school, call me out of touch, but I’ve just had way more good results with good old analog component video than I have with HDMI or DVI, especially when the cable lengths exceed about 15 feet. It’s a lot easier to pull component cable through conduit than HDMI as well. 

Yes, it’s a bit of a pain to terminate the mini-RGB cable that I used, but once we got the stripper calibrated, the crimp on RCAs I used (CRCA-13’s from ADC) went on fairly quickly and were 100% reliable. We have two displays per room, which meant we needed a DA. Kramer makes a simple 1×2 YPbPr DA (the VM-2C) that is pretty inexpensive, and we mounted that up in the ceiling near our branch point for the cable. 

I could have used HDMI over Category cable, or SDI, but both methods add several hundred dollars per TV to the budget in converters, and I just didn’t have the funds. Some people think you can’t do high definition over analog component, but that’s not accurate; we’re doing 1080i right now, and could do 1080p if we wanted to. The displays look great; there is no degradation at all in the signal. Our longest runs are well over 100’ from FOH to display, which would be really tough to do with HDMI. 

The VP728 is a basic 9 input switcher/scaler that will take a variety of VGA, UXGA, HDMI and component signals in, scale them to whatever output format we decide, then spit them out via HDMI or YPbPr (incidentally, YUV is the standard def component video, YPbPr is high def component video). It has a pretty deep menu structure that allows you to do pretty much whatever you want with the signal.

We had two issues when we first configured the switcher. First, the TVs won’t read any component signal coming in in RGB colorspace, and that’s the default output of the switch. Of course, you can change it, but you need to see the menu to do so. We ended up hooking up a computer monitor to it so we could set it up properly. 

The other issue was with the AppleTV. My friend Isaiah told me that he tried to use an AppleTV into a VP728 and HDCP kept blacking out the image when going out the component outputs. There is a menu setting to turn HDCP off on the two HDMI inputs, however; and once we turned it off, it’s working fine. I haven’t tried to stream a movie from the iTunes store yet, but right now, it’s working great. 

I had ordered four HDMI to VGA converters from Monoprice, but I think we’re going to return them as we don’t need them. Speaking of the AppleTV, we also learned that you can put a password on the AirPlay feature so we don’t have random Jr. High students jacking the AirPlay feed.

The screens were a suggestion from my dealer, David McClain at CCI Solutions. I had been looking at some NEC commercial units, but he suggested these. These were pretty affordable and come from LG’s commercial line, so they have network control ports as well as RS232. I’m not sure if we’ll end up using those or not, mainly because they have a great feature that shuts them off automatically after 5 minutes of no signal. So if someone forgets to turn the displays off after shutting down the rack, we won’t have TVs on for a week. And that’s why we went with commercial displays, and didn’t buy them at Costco.

We also used Chief TV mounts for all the rooms. I’ve been a huge fan of Chief products since my multi-image days, and they just make solid stuff. 

The computers are new Apple iMacs; 21.5”, 2.5 GHz, 4 Gigs of RAM, 500 Gig HDs. I’ve found these to be more than adequate for ProPresenter, Keynote or PowerPoint. We use MiniDisplayPort to HDMI adapters from Monoprice to convert to HDMI into the switcher. I had hoped to be able to send audio over the HDMI, but so far, we’ve not made that work. It works from my MacBook Air, but none of the iMacs seem to want to cooperate. I’ll be spending some time troubleshooting that when I get back.

That’s it for video. It’s a pretty simple set up, but highly effective. We’ll also be dropping a VGA cable on the desk so if anyone shows up with a laptop, they can plug in easily. We also may end up putting in an optical digital to RCA converter (also from Monoprice) in with the AppleTVs so we can stream audio for walk in while running a ProPresenter loop. But we’ll cross that bridge in a few weeks.

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New Equipment: Audio

Last time we talked about our new lighting system in our kids and students wing. Today, we’ll look at the audio gear. Of all the equipment, audio varies the most, but it’s all still generally very similar. Here is the list of gear:

Mixers: Soundcraft FX16ii, GB2-24
Wireless Mics: Sennheiser G3 100 series
Speakers: Yamaha DXR10, DXS15 Sub
Processing: DBX DriveRack PX, Symetrix Jupiter 8

Many people asked why I didn’t go digital for these new rooms and the reasons are very simple. First, cost. I paid less for all three mixers than I would have for a single digital mixer, and the budget was really tight. Second, these rooms are operated by people with very limited technical skill. I needed something that would be very easy and intuitive to use, and these mixers fit the bill perfectly. Plus, I’ve always been very happy with the sound of smaller Soundcraft consoles, and the FX16ii’s even have effects built in. The smaller consoles went into the smaller rooms; the GB2 landed in Student Life. We have plans to put a GB4 into our other student room, so there will be a lot of consistency, console-wise.

The consoles were chosen for their channel and aux count, based on the needs of the rooms. Each console represents a huge upgrade over what was in the rooms before, and the ministry leaders are thrilled with the choices. We have 12 mic inputs on the stage for the smaller rooms (the remaining channels are taken up with CD, Video and wireless mics), and 24 in the larger room. The small rooms have 2 monitor mixes available, while the larger room as 4. Again, this was all determined by the programming needs of each ministry—it wasn’t arbitrary. 

 

For wireless mics, we stuck with what we already had been using, Sennheiser G3, 100 series. They’re not my favorite wireless mics, and we’re a Shure house in the main room. But I really don’t like anything Shure makes below the ULX-D line, and that was way too expensive for this project. The G3 stuff has been really reliable, and it’s affordable enough. We have one handheld and one body pack system in each room, and since they get used for announcements and teaching, I wasn’t too concerned about absolute sonic quality. Of course, we went with Ansmann rechargeable batteries and chargers for them.

I heard the Yamaha DXR10s at the WATS seminar a few months ago and was really impressed. The K-3 and 4th-5th grade rooms get two DXR10s, and we add a DXS15 sub for the Student Life room. We didn’t spend a lot of time setting them up yet, but the speakers sound pretty decent right out of the box. The sub packs a pretty good punch for it’s size, and we were blown away that we got two DXR10s and the sub cranking away at 102 dB SPLA and it was only drawing 3.2 amps of power. 

We used Gepco’s new RunOne cable to send power and audio from FOH to the ceiling. Because the power draw is so low, we can switch the PA on and off from the Furman, and we have two audio channels available (main and sub for the big room, and audio and DMX in the smaller rooms). We mounted quad power boxes in the ceiling so we can power the speakers and LED lights from that single power source. It’s quite elegant.

For processing, I took two roads. First, in the smaller rooms, I went with the DBX DriveRack PX. We’re using that primarily for system EQ and feedback suppression. It does more (crossover, delay and more), but we don’t need any of that. I could have gone with 1/3 octave EQs, but they get adjusted too easily. Once I get things dialed in really well, I’ll lock the panel out and it will be set for a while. I’m always amazed at how close to really good the auto EQ wizard gets with those boxes.

For the larger room, I had a sneaking suspicion that it would end up being one of our more used rooms. As such, I wanted an EZ button system installed. Again, I went with the Symetrix Jupiter 8, and an ARC-2e remote and ARC-SWK mode switch. We’ll dual-wire the wireless mics, video and an iPod cable into the Jupiter so a very unskilled operator can run a few mics or play a video with ease. Eventually, we’ll have the Jupiter on the network so we can remotely control it as well. Of course, it does all the usual speaker management things we’ll need it to do, and it’s quite easy to set up. 

I also bought a stock of Shure SM58s and 57s to keep over there, as well as grip of new mic cables, mic stands and music stands. I figured I would start them off with good stuff and see how long it lasts. Again, the SM58 is not my favorite vocal mic, but they sound OK and are virtually indestructible, not to mention cheap. 

Though we’ve only had a short while to evaluate the sound, so far, I think everyone is very happy. I want to tweak the PA’s when I get back from vacation, and we’ll probably experiment with the DSP built into the DXR10s that we’re using for monitors as well. But if the smiles on all our worship teams faces were any indication, I think we did OK by them. Next up, video.

Today’s post is brought to you by Ultimate Ears. Housed within a custom shell designed to fit your ears, high quality multiple armature speaker systems provide an unparalleled sound environment, as well as 26 dB of passive noise cancellation.

New Equipment: Lighting

Now that the dust has settled (literally and figuratively) on our renovation project, I thought I would take some time to detail the equipment we chose for the new systems. I’ve written before that I intentionally made the rooms as similar as possible (even matching some equipment from our other multi-user room) to make it easy to train on and so people can move from room to room. It also makes troubleshooting easier.

In this post, we’ll tackle lighting (Friday’s post will detail audio, next week we’ll get to video). When choosing lighting for these rooms, I had a few criteria in mind. First, we don’t do heavy lighting effects, and so we don’t have great lighting needs. What we were going for is even front white light across the stage, and some color accent light for backlight or wall light. Second, budget was tight, so I had be very conservative. Here’s the list:

Light Board: ETC SmartFade 12/48

Lights: ADJ FlatPar Tri-7x, OptiPars

Dimming: NSI D4DMX-MD3

I had initially looked at some Elation LED fixtures, but Duke suggested I take a look at the ADJ Tri-7x fixture. I ended up going with it for two reasons; first it has a 40° beam angle, which would work well for the short throws we had, and second it was very affordable (it lists for $199). It’s a tri-LED fixture, so you don’t get that weird 3-color look like you do from so many of them. The dimming curve is reasonable, and the colors are very acceptable for what we’re doing. Sure, it can’t keep up with a ColorBlast, but then again, I can buy 6 of these fixtures for every ColorBlast, so it’s a win.

We had a bunch of OptiPars in stock already, so we hung those from 1 1/2” galvanized pipe (painted black) in the house to light the front of the stage. We lamped them down to 375 HPLs so they wouldn’t need to be run at 50% to keep the light level acceptable. The OptiPar is basically a poor ripoff of an ETC Parnell, and it’s not a particularly good ripoff, but they work OK. Given the fact that we would focus them and forget them, they will suffice. And since they were already in stock and not being used, it was easy on the budget. 

We already had one SmartFade in our other student/community room, so it seemed natural to add to the stock. I personally like these boards a lot. they are dead simple to use, yet have a ton of functionality. You can also connect them to a computer via USB and run software that will give you full control of the system, including patching and all set up. Save the show to the hard drive, and if someone really hoses the console, it’s a simple matter to restore it. And if you have LogMeIn on that computer, well, you get the idea. 

The two smaller rooms only got two to four OptiPars, so our dimming needs were modest. I looked for a better dimming solution, but couldn’t find one. I considered doing centralized dimming, but the layout of the building didn’t make that easy. And when we added up all the cabling, installation and dimming costs, it didn’t make economic sense. When you figure the NSI dimmer is well under two bills, it’s hard to say no. We have several in our other rooms, and they work fine for 4-5 years. At that point, it’s easy to replace them. Next year, I’ll probably order one or two to have on hand, just in case. 

The light count varies in each room. The smallest stage—in our 4th-5th grade room—gets just two OptiPars and 4 Tri-7X’s. In that room, the LEDs splash color on the walls. In the K-3 room, we have four OptiPars spread out to cover the 16’ wide stage, and three LEDs upstage aimed as backlights. The largest room—Student Life—got six OptiPars, again spread to cover the 36’ wide stage, and five LEDs, again aimed as backlight. In all the rooms, we channeled the LEDs in an even-odd fashion so we can create multiple color looks easily

We programmed a memory channel in the SmartFade so it’s easy to pull up all the front lights, then created three more to pull up all the Red, Green and Blue lights. Eventually, we’ll program in a bunch of pre-set looks that can be manually selected or programmed into a stack. 

The Tri7x fixtures offer looping DMX and power, however, the power out is a female IEC connection. Thankfully, Monoprice sells power extension cables in varying lengths that work just great for that purpose. Since the fixtures draw almost no power, we powered them from the same power outlet we used for the PA (which is powered from the Furman’s at FOH, via Gepco’s RunOne cable). We’ll get into that later. 

The lighting system is simple, effective and affordable. I could have chosen a cheaper console, but I really like the SmartFades, and they’ve proven to be ultra-reliable. When it’s all added up, we did lighting in three rooms for under $6,000. And everyone is amazed at the results. So I think we did OK. Next up, audio.

Today’s post is brought to you by Heil Sound. Established in 1966, Heil Sound Ltd. has developed many professional audio innovations over the years, and is currently a world leader in the design and manufacture of large diaphragm dynamic, professional grade microphones for live sound, broadcast and recording.

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