Yes, yes, I know. It’s only August. The kids are still on vacation, you’re still at the pool or the beach, and it’s hot as blazes out. It’s hard to think about Christmas. However, As I write this, Christmas is but 5 months away. And in those 5 months, most of you will have some kind of fall launch, whatever activities the fall brings, Thanksgiving, and then, Christmas. It will go fast. Now is the time to at least start thinking about it, if not planning for it.
Mixing a Christmas production may be the biggest event a church sound engineer ever does. In almost every church, Christmas or Christmas Eve is one of the biggest productions of the year. Even for churches that don’t do “big production,” Christmas tends to be bigger than usual.
Hopefully, you have a good routine for normal weekend services—that’s a good start. Christmas will take you out of that routine and into a whole different world. It can be a lot of fun, and, since it’s likely the highest attended service of the year, they have the most impact on your community. It can also make even the most dedicated tech staffer or volunteer want to quit their job. But we want to avoid that, so here are some tips on making Christmas a great service and a great experience for the tech team.
It All Begins With Planning
Ideally, you have already begun planning the service, and you have a really good idea what to expect from the band, drama, orchestra and whatever other special things will pop up. Musicians and pastors don’t always know what is important for the tech team to know, so you have to ask a lot of questions. Here is a starting list for you:
What is the band configuration? How many vocalists? Do we have an orchestra, and what does that look like? If doing a drama, how many wireless mic’s will we need? How many pastors will be speaking? What other special sound effects might we have to do? Will we need tracks with a click fed back to the band? Do we need additional monitor mixes in unusual locations? Will the set pose any acoustical or set up challenges? Is there anything else we haven’t discussed?
It’s amazing what you find out when you start asking questions. Armed with the answers, you can begin building your next line of defense: The input sheet.
Your Roadmap to Success
I insist on an input sheet for every event we do, including regular weekends. The input sheet simply lists every input and output on your console along with what is connected to it. Different snakes should be indicated as well. List the type of microphone, DI or input along with who will be using it. You will learn a lot about your production during this exercise.
You might discover that you are 6 wireless mic’s short for the drama. That is a challenge, but you can rent wireless mic’s. Unless of course you waited until the first day of rehearsal to figure this out. You may also learn you need more vocal mic’s, or perhaps you are short on aux sends for monitor mixes. Special instruments may require special mic’s that you don’t have. Now is the time to figure that out, or begin negotiations with the music director on how to solve any issues.
There is much more to this process, and we’ll keep unpacking it all week. Stay tuned!