Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

Category: For Fun (Page 1 of 4)

The End of the Moving Sidewalk

Photo courtesy of  Nick Fisher

Photo courtesy of Nick Fisher

I love moving sidewalks. Whenever I’m trucking through an airport trying to get from A13 to B47 as quickly as possible, I always take the moving sidewalk when available. I love the feel of the wind at my face and that sense of superior speed and time management I feel when I blow past others walking on the non-moving walkway. I walk quickly normally, and I always walk on the moving sidewalk (stand right when I’m coming, OK?), so I can really make some tracks. 

But like all good things, the moving sidewalk eventually ends. Dismounting the moving sidewalk requires skill and balance, lest you face plant into the now stationary terra firma. Christmas week (or the few weeks leading up to Christmas, depending on your church) is a lot like walking quickly on a moving sidewalk; especially for church techs. We move pretty quickly all the time, but come Christmastime (and Easter, for that matter), we really get up a head of steam.

Then, just like the end of the moving sidewalk, it all comes to a halt. Today is the Monday after Christmas, and I suspect most of you feel a bit like I did—face planted into the no-longer-moving ground. As an experienced church tech, I’ve lived through this before; and I’d like to share some survival tips for you. 

First, however, I want to give you permission to feel tired, used up and generally spent. I also want you to feel free to not do anything productive for a few days. I know that goes against your very nature; you’ve been running so hard over the last few weeks that doing nothing—yes nothing—feels entirely wrong today. It’s OK. Sit down, relax, and don’t try to do anything. It’s harder than it sounds, but completely necessary.

To help with this, I want to give you a list of things I enjoy doing—or not doing—the week after a big push at church. You don’t have to do (or not do) all of these things, but consider this a starter list to give you some ideas. Here goes: 

The Top Ten Things To Do (or Not Do) During Christmas Break

Sit on the couch and watch TV.

This is one of my favorites. I love to binge-watch an entire season or seasons of a show on Netflix.

Lounge around and listen to music.

Cue up some of your favorite tracks, sit back, relax and take it all in. So peaceful.

Take a nap.

Sure, it’s only 9:30. AM. But take a nap anyway.

Go see a movie.

We always get movie tickets for Christmas. It’s nice to go every once in a while.

Take your wife out to dinner.

You don’t want to cook, and she could use the break. And you probably haven’t seen each other in two weeks anyway. It doesn’t have to be fancy…

Go to the beach.

OK, if you’re in the midwest, this can be tough. But there’s something about the action of the waves that’s very calming.

Take a nap.

It doesn’t matter that you just woke up from your 9:30 nap. Take another.

Have lunch with friends.

There is something restorative about sharing a meal with friends. 

Go shooting.

Almost every year between Christmas and New Year’s I head to the range with the pistols. It’s both exhilarating and relaxing. 

Take a nap.

Hey, we’re tired. Get some rest.

Consider this post official permission to not do much of anything productive this week. Rest up, get recharged and you’ll be in better shape to thrive in the New Year. 

What do you do to relax this week?

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Merry Christmas

Photo courtesy of  Five Furlongs

Photo courtesy of Five Furlongs

Well, here we are on Christmas Day. If you’re reading this, you made it. You pulled off the 2, 5 or 25 Christmas Eve services. Hopefully all was calm and all was bright. This year, I was able to simply attend a Christmas Eve service with my family for the second time in about 12 years. It felt really good, and it was a wonderful service. 

Today, I don’t have a lot of profound things to say, other than Merry Christmas. It has been a year full of crazy change for me and my family and I truly appreciate all of you sticking with us through it. I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting so many of you at conferences, trade shows and other gatherings this year. I appreciate your emails, tweets and post comments. My prayer for you this day is that you get to relax, spend time with loved ones and enjoy a wonderful Christmas. 

Thank you for all you do for the Kingdom. Most people have no idea what goes on in that little booth back there or backstage, but I do. I know all too well how hard you work, how many hours you put in to make it look like everyone just showed up to a magical evening. 

So kick back, relax and throw another Yule log on the fire. You deserve it. Merry Christmas!


Turkey, bacon and smoke. What's not to love?

Turkey, bacon and smoke. What’s not to love?

It’s Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. And as I reflect on the past year, I am again realizing that I have a lot to be thankful for. Yesterday, I was baking with my oldest daughter in preparation for today and I said, “It’s pretty amazing what’s happened in the last year, huh?” We’ve had so many changes in the last few months our stress-for-change score is pretty much off the charts. But as we settle in to our sixth month in our new home, in a new city, I think we’re beginning to realize the upsides of all that change.

A year ago, we had some pretty big stress in our family that almost caused us to cancel Thanksgiving. None of us felt like celebrating, and we almost gave up on it. But we decided that being thankful was a choice, and while things looked bleak, we chose to celebrate God’s goodness despite our situation.

A year later, most of those issues have been resolved, and we are set to enjoy a great day today. It’s nothing short of amazing what God has done in the last 12 months. Even as recently as six months ago, I couldn’t see where we’d be today, and yet, here we are. This is in no small part to the prayers of so many of my friends. You know who you are, and if I haven’t said it lately, I’m very thankful for all of you!

Every time I show someone around our new home, I’m reminded of how thankful I am for it. After being crammed into a perfectly adequate but really small town home in SoCal, it’s so, so nice to have some room to spread out and host guests. The fact that it costs us 1/2 as much per month as the other house is an added bonus. 

I’m thankful to have joined the staff of CCI Solutions just months before my old company imploded. I get to work with some insanely talented people who love the Church and love what they do. It’s great to be working along side my friends. 

I’m also grateful for those of you who read this website and listen to our podcasts. I hear from many of you, and really enjoy meeting you at trade shows. I’m thankful for what you are doing to further the Kingdom. I’m also thankful I get to play a small role in encouraging and equipping you to do your job. We live in fascinating times. 

Finally, I’m thankful to live in a city where smoking my Thanksgiving turkey is not only tolerated, it’s encouraged. Speaking of which, I need to get back to tending the smoker. Which is really just my way of coming up with an excuse to stand out there and enjoy the smell of hickory and oak turning my ordinary bird into something extraordinary. Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!


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Backstage at the CMA Award Show

Image courtesy of  Disney | ABC Television Group  (this was last year)

Image courtesy of Disney | ABC Television Group (this was last year)

Every once in a while something totally unexpected and totally cool pops up. As I write this, it’s the Sunday before the 2015 CMA Awards show. Yesterday as I was eating my Cowboy Eggs and Bacon breakfast, I read an email from long-time CTW listener. He said he was in town doing coms for the CMA’s and wondered if I would be interested in a backstage tour. It didn’t take long to say, “Yes!” 

I just got back, and thought it would be fun to share some of it with you. I didn’t take any pictures because I didn’t want to be “that guy,” but I’ll try to describe some of the very fascinating things I saw. Much of this is pretty typical for an awards show like this; in fact, many of the same trucks and crew to all the major award shows. Still, it’s cool to see, and I came away with a few very important thoughts that relate to church production.

Two of Everything

Most people know the CMA’s have two stages in the venue that alternate performances. Because of this, there are two of almost everything. But it’s not always split for Stage A and Stage B. There are two separate monitor worlds, one for each stage. And there are two consoles at FOH, but one is for all the band mixing, while the other is for everything else. There are two broadcast audio trucks, but one is “live” and one is “preset.” There are also two video trucks but there is so much going on in both it’s hard to tell you what is what. 

I’m not sure this is 100% true, but it also looked that most of the key production positions also had a primary and secondary tech working them. I know from experience that having a dedicated A2 on a big weekend can be a huge stress reliever, and I regret not learning that lesson earlier in my career.

By the Numbers

Everyone wants to know how many channels of this or that there are, so I’ll see how I can do with recall. I believe the FOH guy told me they are running about 242 inputs at FOH. All the live desks are DiGiCo SD5s and SD7s, while the broadcast consoles are Calrec. The show has 16 cameras, including 5 jibs and a SteadiCam. There were some 250 channels of wireless between mic’s, IEMs and coms. Each stage has 10 wireless IEMs, 4 wired IEMs, and there were 16 wedge mixes, though I don’t think that was per stage. Coms is an interesting blend of digital point-to-point and analog party line depending on application. I think there were some 90+ com packs.

Lessons Learned

Whenever I get the chance to do something like this, I always try to see what I can learn that will improve my productions. Here are some of the takeaways. 

Give yourself enough time. The show is Wednesday night, and they’ve been there for almost a week already. I believe one of the reasons for the low stress I sensed is because they all had enough time to do their jobs well. It helps that the same companies do this show every year, and it’s pretty dialed. But they also know how much time it takes and allow for it. Too often, we try to cram 3 weeks worth of work into 1 and kill ourselves. My best Christmas productions where the ones where I started way in advance. 

Have enough help. The number of people back stage was staggering. Everyone had a job, and typically it was just one job. I didn’t see anyone trying to program lights while simultaneously fixing audio problems or setting up drum risers. We often complain about the lack of help in church productions, but I wonder if it’s because we don’t ask enough people to help. Or perhaps if we’re trying to do productions we can’t reasonably do because we don’t have the help. 

Don’t be a jerk. As Keith took me around, he introduced me to many of the high level production folks. Every single one of them stood and talked with us for a few minutes, even though they had no reason to do so. I’ve been guilty of this at times, people will bring family members by during a production and I’ll say hi and rush off to do something “important.” Perhaps because I didn’t have enough help or enough time. Hmmm… But everyone I met was super-cool and gracious. 

Those production guys are real people. I have frankly been quite embarrassed during some award shows some years as I watch the social media stream just rip the production—and thus, the production crew—to shreds. Now, I’ll agree that there are certain shows where the audio or camera work or whatever is less than stellar. But before you hit Tweet on that scathing critique, think about how it would feel if every member of your congregation tweeted about your last mistake.

I got to meet and talk to the guy who does the final 5.1 broadcast mix. He basically gets stems and puts them all together, while he has about 20 people talking on the coms the entire time. When I told him that I felt the CMA Awards had the best broadcast mix of any award show, he was genuinely grateful for the praise. He told me that they usually don’t hear positive comments like that from viewers, so it meant a lot. Think about that before you tweet next time, OK?

Overall, it was a great couple of hours. I want to thank Keith for inviting me and everyone I talked with for just being cool. I’ll be out of town on Wednesday, but you can bet I’ll have my DVR set so I can watch the whole show when I get home.


Fall Conference Update

After a week of budget posts, I figured we could lighten it up a little today. Duke suggested we give you a quick recap of where we’ll be this fall. There are a bunch of shows and conferences that you might well run into us if you’re attending, so this is your chance to plan.

Lead Lab—Sept. 21, Tulsa, OK

I’ve been able to get to two Lead Labs so far, and the response has always been great. Some of the top TD’s from churches all over the country come out to share their knowledge and insight. Duke and I will both be at that one, so if you’re around, make sure you say hi. I’m flying home the next day, but Duke will be heading to the Lead Lab in Denver the next day (Sept. 22), so for all you Mountain Time Zone folks, you can say hi to the Duke. 

SALT—Oct. 21-23, Nashville TN

SALT has been one of my favorite conferences the last two years and this year will be even better. I have the privilege of heading up the audio track (that’s right, an audio track at a visual conference!), and we have some great things planned. Duke, Van and I will be there, as will our pals, Brad Duryea and Andrew Stone. There’s no better time to visit Nashville than the fall, and there is no other conference that encourages such community and restoration. You really want to come to this one. 

WFX—Nov. 17-21, Nashville, TN

Though it’s at a weird time this year (the week before Thanksgiving?), we’ll all be at WFX. I’ll be hanging out in the CCI booth along with Duke and most likely Van, so be sure to stop by. It’s also likely that we’ll do a podcast while we’re there, so make sure you follow Twitter to see when and where we’ll be doing that. 

Bonus Supplement—Where’s Duke?

CMS Northwest—November 13-14, Seattle, WA

I’ll be commissioning a system in Omaha that week, but Duke will be hanging out with the Christian Musicians up in Seattle. Make sure you swing by and say hi. 

LDI—Nov. 23-25, Las Vegas, NV

LEDI, as we like to call it is the annual celebration of all things lighting. As our resident trade show hound, Duke will represent there as well. I’ll be sleeping off all the extrovert time from SALT, but you can say hi to him.

So there you go. Now you know where to find us this fall. As we always say, if you see us at a conference or show, please come say hi. We love to meet readers and listeners (unless I’m on an hour of sleep and already drove 4 hours, then I might be a bit out of it…). Happy conferencing!

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Leaving Los Angeles

That's the last view I had of my former state of residence.

That’s the last view I had of my former state of residence.

Well, technically, Southern California. I never actually lived in LA, though many people thought we were close enough. As you probably know by now, we have loaded up the truck and moved away from Beverly and all the way to Nashville, TN. This is an exciting new adventure for us and while I don’t often share too many personal stories and posts, I thought I would let you into our decision making process for this one. 

For Everything a Season

About 3 1/2 years ago, I started getting an inkling that my season at Coast Hills would be wrapping up around the spring of 2014. I didn’t know how I knew that, or what the next thing would look like. I just knew that at some point around that timeframe, I would again be in transition. 

As we processed that, I started sensing a call to go to Nashville. Again, it’s hard to describe how I knew that’s where I was supposed to be, or why, but I felt pretty strongly about it. Of course, I had no job lined up, and no real idea what I would be doing. As my wife and I talked about it, we began to make tentative plans to move to Nashville in the summer of 2014. This was late 2013, but we really sensed this was what we were supposed to do. At that time, our oldest would be in here senior year of college and our youngest would be starting college. So it seemed logical.

Logic Doesn’t Always Prevail

It all seemed like a good plan, but then a few things happened. We had a bit if a family crisis that caused us to re-think our timing. The more we looked at it, the more it seemed like we should delay by a year. I prayed a lot about it, and remember telling God that if He wanted me to stay at Coast for another year, I would happily do that. 

Then the offer to go work for Flexstage came about. Turns out, my season at Coast Hills wrapped up pretty much when I thought it would. God still called that one spot on. We decided to stay in SoCal for another year. This was to help my youngest daughter through some things and allowed my oldest to stay with us for her senior year. 

It all worked quite well. I spent a great year at Flexstage, and it wasn’t until late winter that we started talking about me joining the staff at CCI Solutions. My daughter finished college, and my younger one struck out on her own adventure. But the times they are a changing.

Change Quotient Off The Charts!

In the last two months, I’ve changed jobs, my daughter graduated college and turned 22, my wife finished up her job, we bought a house, moved my oldest out to her new place and moved my wife and I across the country to Nashville. When it comes to the life change score, I think we’re pretty high up there right now!

Thankfully, it’s all good change. We’re very excited to be here in Nashville, and to be in our own house. God provided us an amazing house which will be just perfect for us. We already have a great group of friends here in town, and we’re excited to see what He will do with us here. I’m settling into my new role at CCI and am loving the support and team setting. We will miss our girls, who for now anyway, have elected to stay in California. But, with all the traveling I’m doing, I should have enough miles to fly them out this way every so often. 

Father Knows Best

As Van and I were driving the Palatial Jetta out of California last week, and I took one last glance at my former home in the mirror, I thought about all the things that happened in those six years. So much was good, some was hard and it all worked to shape me into a better person. God provided so many stretching and growing experiences it’s hard to even summarize them. I met and became great friends with so many people, I grew personally and professionally, and my girls grew into women. 

Sometimes, we go through seasons in life and find ourselves really glad when one ends. In this case, I am excited about what is to come, and I look back on the last season with a grateful heart. Like I said, it wasn’t all good, but it all worked together to set me up for what is to come. Sounds vaguely like a Scripture verse I memorized years ago…

So there you go. That’s a glimpse into my life right now. If you’ve noticed that I’ve been a little less regular with the posts and the podcasts, now you know why. But we’re getting things back under control and our regularly scheduled programming should resume soon. And, Van & I recorded five episodes of CTW: Ask Me Anything on the road last week, so look for that this month. 

Thanks for reading, and I look forward to continuing this journey together.


Feek = Foodie + Geek

This is the last post of the year, and I thought I’d make it a fun one. The word Feek is one that my friend Colin and I made up a few years ago. We were talking about how we were both foodies, and how many other tech guys we knew were also foodies. It struck us that many geeks were foodies; hence, feeks. 

This came up a few weeks ago when I was having dinner with a fellow tech guy. As expected, he is also a foodie (as is his wife) and we got talking about what is it about tech guys (and gals) and food. There seems to be a distinct correlation between the technical arts and the love of food. It manifests itself in many ways, but I think there are some common themes. 

We Love the Science

Technology is a lot about science. We deal with electronics, acoustics, light, particle and wave theory, fluid dynamics and more. So much of what we do is based on science. Even if some of us are less enamored with the pure technical side of it, there is some desire to know more and better understand it. 

Food is very similar. There is a distinct science behind cooking, something Alton Brown taught us well. There is a good reason we sear a roast before roasting (to take full advantage of the Maillard reaction). You can get a better golden crust on your turkey if you start it at 500°, then drop to 350° for the rest of the cooking. We know we have to pull steaks off the grill 5° before our target doneness because carryover will take them the rest of the way. If scrambled eggs look done in the pan, they will be overdone on the plate. So much science! But…

We Love the Art

As much as being a great technical artist is based on knowing the science of what we do, there is also a heavy art component. Knowing what the pre-delay function on your reverb does is one thing; knowing how much to use for each song is another. You may know you need 40 foot-candles of front light to get great video; but sometimes no front light and only side light will suit the mood of the song far better. Getting the gain structure right is important, but so is knowing when to pull back the high hat (OK, that’s almost all the time…).

Great cooking is as much about art as it is science. While we know principles that make certain foods go together, it takes a true artist to break those rules and make something great; like putting peanut butter and jelly on a burger (try it sometime, it rocks!). Only an artist would pickle strawberry slices and put them on top of a pork belly sandwich with baby greens and garlic aioli. For us, it’s not enough to simply get the steak to the right temperature. We want the entire meal to be amazing; and that takes an artist. 

We Love the Complexity

What we do is incredibly complex. Think for a moment about how many decisions you make each weekend, and what the nature of those decisions are. Chances are, you are all over the place. One minute you’re choosing a microphone, the next deciding on the backlight color. The choice of reverb affects how you mix the song, which is based on the orchestration and the skill of the band. So much goes into a great technical performance.

Food is much the same. We don’t like one-dimensional wines (or coffee, or chocolate). Flavors need to be layered skillfully to truly satisfy us. I’ve had BBQ sauce so complex I could A) drink it out of the bottle and B) compare with some of the best wine I’ve ever had. And when we cook ourselves, the challenge of creating a complex dish and getting everything done at the right time thrills us. Yes, we’re Feeks. 

I know guys who structure their time on the road based around great restaurants. OK, I’m one of them. I always plan to land in Dallas at lunch or dinner time so I can go to Hard Eight. I’ve stood in a hotel lobby with six other techs, all with our phones out scouring Yelp and Urban Spoon looking for the best restaurant nearby. We share recommendations on great foodie hangouts. And if you’re ever on the road with a Feek, you can be assured of eating very, very well. 

So here’s to you, fellow Feeks. Don’t forget to share your favorite spots with the rest of us.

Thanks for reading ChurchTechArts this past year. I look forward to an exciting and fun-filled 2015!


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