One of my favorite movies is Saving Private Ryan. It’s an epic tale of overcoming the odds and accomplishing a totally outrageous and impossible goal. In a lot of ways, it’s a great metaphor for what we do as church techs; except no one is shooting at us. But that’s another post.
During the first half of the movie, a running plot thread is to figure out where the Captain is from. The new guy, Upham, starts asking everyone in the squad for intel on the Captain. After striking out with everyone, Upham gets to Caparzo, who offers this classic movie line:
“You got to pay attention to detail. I know exactly where he’s from and I know exactly what he did ‘cause I pay attention to detail.”
Of course, Caparzo was full of it, but I love the sentiment. He watched, he observed and he drew conclusions. And that’s our theme for today; details.
I have worked with hundreds of techs over the years, both in the commercial and church worlds. Some were really dreadful (oddly, most of those were in the commercial world), most have been pretty good, and a few were (and are) great. The other day I got to thinking about what separates a good tech from a great one. And I thought of Caparzo—it’s all about paying attention to details.
A good FOH engineer will put up a solid, musical mix; he’ll hit cues pretty close to spot on; batteries in wireless mics won’t die; and no one will be fully aware of his presence. A great engineer however, makes sure every single cue is seamless; will never leave a mic on as it’s being put back on a stand; adds that little extra “pixie dust” to the mix to make it sparkle; and makes sure the walk out song fits the mood at the end of the service.
All minor details to be sure. But it is the details that separate good from great.
A great lighting designer will not only choose appropriate colors and moves for a given song, but he’ll also ensure that no fixtures are creating unwanted glare in the audience that would cause distractions. A great presentation tech not only gets the words up a little early each time, but also hears the turn in the music indicating the band is looping back to the bridge (even though they didn’t practice it that way) and gets the words on the screen early anyway. The great video director not only picks the right shot for the moment, but also makes sure it’s perfectly in focus before taking it to air.
In short, they pay attention to detail. And all those small things make a big difference.
Now, I don’t expect every tech I work with to be great. Being great as a tech takes an incredible amount of work, discipline and dedication, and the fact is, not everyone wants desires to be a great tech. I get that, and am fine with it. I don’t expect my volunteers to spend hours pouring over every last detail; I simply expect them to do their best and turn in a good, solid job.
But if you’re a full-time church tech and you really want to stand out, pay attention to detail. If you want to never really worry about having a job, notice and correct things before anyone else even notices them. Plan for every contingency so that no matter what happens on stage, you can handle it with ease. Stay completely focused on what is going on, thinking two to three steps ahead so you’re never caught off-guard.
Do this long enough, and it become second nature. You won’t have to work to notice details, you just will. And suddenly you’ll find you are a great tech, ‘cause you pay attention to detail.