Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

Month: September 2008 (Page 2 of 2)

When Technology Works…And When It Doesn’t

I’m taking a day off from talking about our discussion of The Matrix because I want to recount to you a harrowing tale of large files, downloads and a crazy, video-laden service that almost wasn’t.

This summer, Upper Room sent 11 teams across the country and across the globe for missional experiences. For four of those teams, we had a community member go along with a video camera to capture the story of the trip. The idea was that each videographer would return from the trip and create a video of that trip. Those videos would be shown on our Missions Sunday–four trip videos and a fifth overview of all the trips. This past Sunday was that night. It all sounded like a good plan. But, as so often happens, the best laid plans are, well, imperfect.

Because our community draws from all over the place, it’s not always easy to have people just drop stuff off at the church. So all last week, I was using iChat to transfer preview copies of the videos. iChat works great, but when you’re dealing with video files ranging in size between 200 MB and 1 Gig, it does take time.

After all the suggested changes had been made it was time to get the final videos. Saturday afternoon, the first file came in–200 MB from an editor in California. The overview video was done. Later that night I fired up a 1 Gig transfer from one team member. Shortly thereafter, I launched another 450 MB transfer. I knew I had bandwidth to spare and the limiting factor would be the other two’s upload speeds. 

At Midnight, I went to bed, safe in the knowledge that I had 1 video on my computer, another almost done and the third more than half transferred, and the other two would be arriving on CD at church on Sunday. When I got up at 9:30 (we meet at night, remember), I checked the file transfer. The 1 Gig finished up fine. The 450 (the slower of the two links) failed. Earlier in the week, when we transferred this file, it took over 8 hours. It was now 9:30 AM, and our first service starts at 5 PM. Being quick with math, I knew this could be a problem. 

I looked over the log and discovered that for some reason the transfer rate of the failed file was much faster this time than last, so there was hope that we could get it here in time. There were a few problems, however. I normally get to church about noon. There was no way I could fire up a transfer at 9:30 and expect it to be done before I had to leave. I couldn’t be late as we had a major setup to pull off. And I couldn’t start the transfer at home, the sleep my laptop and pick up where we left off when I got to work. And I had just gotten up, so I couldn’t even run in early and get it started. What to do?

I chose to lean into technology. I shot off a text to the new CPC tech director (who I knew would be near our tech booth) and asked him to fire up the iMac in the booth (CPC still uses the PC). I sent a text to the videographer (who was now back at college) and told her we needed to re-start the transfer. I used a web-service called LogMeIn to remote into my iMac and set up my AIM account in iChat (I had configured the iMac for remote control with LogMeIn before I went on vacation earlier this summer). I logged off AIM on my laptop and logged in on the iMac (via remote control). Once I woke up the videographer (she’s a college student after all…), we re-started the transfer. Now I was free to finish getting ready and head in at my normal time. I kept apprised of the progress in real-time using LogMeIn.

I also Google-chatted with my creative director to keep him posted of what was happening. Thankfully, the connection was even faster and by 2:20, we had the file on the iMac. The other 2 videos came in on CD, and we loaded all 5 into ProPresenter. Rehearsal went smoothly, and we worked out a few cuing bugs. We had a total of 5 projectors in the sanctuary. We built a 32’x8′ wall on stage and projected the same graphic background 3 times across that. We ran the videos on our two main screens. With my newly remodeled  tech booth, I was able to address the stage projectors and the main projectors independently. 


click to enlarge

In the end, it looked great and everything ran very smoothly. While I was busy running around like crazy getting the wall and 3 projectors set up (with full RGBHV signals to each of them), my team dove in and did their jobs well. We hit all our marks and even finished up rehearsal early. The message of the trips was powerful, and it will be exciting to see what God does in our midst over the coming year. Next Sunday we’ll be talking about the future of Upper Room, and what we thing God has in store for us. It will be really exciting, and I can’t wait to share it with all of you.

Tomorrow we’ll return to our regularly scheduled series on the Matrix. Thanks for reading.

Using the Matrix

Continuing our series on the Matrix, today we’ll talk about some uses for them. A matrix mix can be used for quite a number of things. Rather than try to give a definitive list, I’m going to put forth some suggestions, and some examples of how I’ve seen them used in various church sound settings. I’ll leave it to your imagination to come up with other ideas. But don’t forget to share them with the group!

Recording Feeds

This is probably one of the more common uses for a matrix mix. Of course, their usefulness is predicated on proper usage of groups. If you assign everything to the L&R mix, and then send that to a matrix for recording, you have a glorified level control. If on the other hand, you split your band into say, Drums, Guitars, Keys, Vocals, Lead Vocals, Speaking Mics and Computer/Video, you can actually create a separate mix that will sound good on a recording. Not as good as a full channel split, but better than the house mix. 

There are two ways to approach this. The easy way is to assign the L&R mix to the matrix you wish to record from. Then use individual groups to feed into that matrix to boost the lower level signals. This is sort of a “mix-plus.” Start with the house mix, and add more of what you need. This is what we were doing at Crosswinds when I started mixing there. It’s not elegant, but it works.

A better way is to leave the house mix (the main L&R) out of it, and build a new mix straight from the groups. This way, you’ll get a cleaner mix, and you’ll have more control over it. It does require that you check in on it once in a while, and it’s one more thing to manage. But if you have the bandwidth, you’ll get better recordings.

Lobby/Cry Room/Overflow Feeds

Another common usage for a matrix mix. What’s wrong with just sending a house mix? Excellent question. Unless your band is playing/singing in a sealed box, or in another room, they are contributing some energy to the house. In our current setting, the drums are hardly in the PA at all. They make enough sound all on their own. So if we sent a house mix to an overflow room, they would get almost no drums and the mix would sound dead and lifeless. Using a matrix would allow us to dial up the drums to a level where they actually sound good. 

If you have ceiling speakers in the lobby, you may find they don’t put out a lot of low end. In fact, they probably sound pretty bad when you try to put a lot of low end into them. By setting up your groups with this in mind, then building a matrix mix that dials the bass and kick back a bit, you’ll get cleaner sound in the lobby. And you won’t be replacing blown speakers as often.

Speaker Zones

When I was engineering at the church I referred to yesterday, we used the matrix to feed various zones of speakers in the house. To be sure, not every situation warrants this, nor is it always a good idea, but sometimes it’s handy. In that setting, we had a Turbosound speaker system that was zoned into 3 zones horizontally and 2 vertically. The zones across the rooms were handled by the processor, but we used the matrix to control the balance between the main clusters and the down fills. 

We probably could have done it using the L&R faders, sending the Left mix to the mains and the Right mix to the down fills, but that would have meant the L&R faders wouldn’t have been at the same level, and that just looks and feels wrong. Using a couple of matrix mixes that were fed by the L&R mix, we accomplished the goal.

Press Feeds

This probably doesn’t get used often in churches, but once in a while it comes in handy. Just before I was hired at Upper Room, there was a funeral held that received quite a bit of media coverage due to the situation. Often, news photographers will want to get decent audio for the story and you can give that to them via a matrix mix. I’m assuming that the proper channels have been consulted for permission. 

For happier events, such as a large Easter or Christmas production, local media may want to get some footage. On-camera audio is going to sound terrible, but a matrix mix will present everyone’s hard work in the best light (er, uh sound).

Certainly there are other uses for a matrix mix, but all that I can think of are derivations of those listed above. Hopefully, this gives you an idea of what you could use all those extra knobs for. And if you have a creative use of a matrix mix, please share it with us. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last 20 years of doing sound in churches it’s that there’s always something new to learn. In our next installment, we’ll touch on how the matrix differs in some of the newer digital boards.

There’s a Problem in the Matrix

With apologies to Neo…

I remember it like it was yesterday. It was one of the more momentous days of my life, in fact. Two milestones, occurring on the same day. I graduated from an MI (Music & Instrument Store) board–a Mackie SR-24–and I was getting paid to mix at church. The new board was a beauty. To this day it’s one of my favorites; the Yamaha PM3500-56. It was a beast of a board, one I’m glad I never had to move. It was the kind of board where congregants would linger on the way in, peer over the edge of the sound booth and say, snickering, “That’s a lot of knobs. Do you know what they all do?” My reply was always the same, “Well, yeah…” with just the right amount of “what do I look like, an idiot?” facial expression. And in fact, I did. But it wasn’t always thus. 

My first day on the job was interesting. Not only was I getting used to being paid to be a sound guy, I was learning a new board. The great thing about sound boards is that once you learn one, you more or less know them all. The more part is easy. It’s the less part that can be tricky. All boards have gain (or trim or head amp) controls, aux sends, pan and faders. Many boards have groups and matrixes. Some have VCAs. I was familiar with groups, and I quickly grasped VCAs, but the matrix had me confused for a while. As the outgoing sound guy was explaining the setup to me, I remember when he got to the matrix. In that setup, we used matrix 1 to feed the main speakers, and matrix 2 to feed the downfills. OK, I’ve got that, but my question was, “How does the sound get there?” He looked at me as if I was from Mars and said, “These knobs!” That really didn’t help.

So I did what any self-respecting sound guy would do. I went home, downloaded the manual and studied the schematics until I figured it out. What’s that? You don’t enjoy reading schematics? Well, that’s OK, because today we’re going to clear up the mystery that seems to surround The Matrix

First, know that there is a difference in the way a matrix behaves on an analog desk versus a digital desk. We’ll deal with analog today, and digital tomorrow (or the next day…). But before we get to understanding how a matrix works, we need to learn more about the thing that drives our sound boards, the bus. 

Much like urban transportation, a bus in sound parlance is a place where we can stick audio signals and send them someplace. If you are in downtown Minneapolis, and want to get to say, Fort Snelling, you could take the 52 bus. (I’m making this up, I’ve never actually taken the bus in Minneapolis). But you know how it works; wait at the bus stop at the right time, get on the bus when it arrives and get off at your destination. 

On a soundboard, a bus is very similar. Once the sound comes in to a channel, we send it out on a bus. That bus could be a group, it could be an aux send, it could be the main L&R bus (or all three). Sometimes, putting a signal on a bus means turning up a rotary fader (aka a “pot”) as is the case for an aux send. Sometimes it means pushing a switch as is the case for a group.

Once we put that signal on a bus, it heads off to it’s destination. That could means an output jack on the back of the board. More often, we have the signal do the equivalent of a mass-transit transfer. For example, we’ll often send all of our drum mics to a group 1 bus, but instead of sending that mixed signal (of the drums) out the dedicated group 1 output on the back of the board, we’ll send it instead to the L&R bus where it gets mixed in with everything else. 

We do this so we can easily raise and lower the level of the entire drum kit with one fader, while still keeping the relative mix of each drum mic in tact. So all the drum signals get on the group bus, then are transferred to the main bus for output. Just picture passengers coming from all over the city and ending up at the same place and you’ll get the idea.

Now that we have that clear (it is clear, right?), it’s time to answer the question, “So how does the sound get to the matrix?” Let’s take a look at the matrix sections of a few popular analog boards, and we’ll see what they have in common.

This is the matrix section of a Soundcraft MH2. This desk has what is known as an 11×4 matrix. That is, there are 11 inputs and 4 outputs. Let’s keep looking.

This is an Allen & Heath ML4000 (which is a pretty sweet board if you ever get the chance to mix on one). This goes the Soundcraft 1 better and is a 12×4 matrix (it adds an additional “aux” input that you can mix into your matrices. click the picture to enlarge

Here is an A&H GL4800. I’m ending with this one because it is the most unconventional, yet makes the most sense. click on the picture to enlarge

I chose each of these boards for a specific purpose. The Soundcraft gives us a great clue about what goes to the matrix by thoughtfully labeling the controls G1, G2, etc., as well as L, C & R. Any takers as to what that might stand for? You in the back…That’s right! Groups! As I’m sure you all know, the MH2 is an 8 group, LCR board. Do the math and you come up with 11 mix busses (8 groups + L, C & R = 11). Look at the caption under the photo and you’ll see that the MH2 has an 11×4 matrix. Lightbulbs are going on all across the country now.

The A&H ML4000 follows the same convention, only they add the additional input for good measure. Both the MH2 and the ML4000 follow the industry standard convention of lining the matrix up like, well, a matrix. All the controls are kept together, and they are read top to bottom, left to right. Columns represent the individual matrix buses, while rows represent the groups (or the L, C & R buses). Turn up the G1 knob of matrix 1 and whatever is happening in group 1 gets sent to matrix 1. It’s just like an aux send, only for groups instead of channels.

Conceptually, the GL4800 illustrates this the best. The GL4800 is an 8 group, LCR board as well, but rather than cluster all the matrix knobs off in their own little world, they stacked the 4 matrix sends right above the group and master faders (just like aux sends on a channel). And this is how they work. 

The matrix gives you 4 (or on larger boards 8 or even 12) more places (outputs) to send a mix of your groups. It’s like having 4 more discreet “main” outputs–only you can also send the actual main outputs to the matrixes. Each matrix mix can be different, which means you can create mix-minus feeds, lobby feeds with lower drum levels so you don’t blow up ceiling speakers, record feeds with better balance and all kinds of things.

In fact, I changed my mind. Tomorrow we’ll talk in more detail about how you can use matrix sends on an analog board. Then we’ll get to how matrixes work on digital boards, and if I’m looking for one more post for the week, what you can do with them on digital boards. This is great–a week’s worth of material on one topic! Stay tuned…

It’s All Just Gear

I was struck by something recently. And just so you know, this will not be a techie post. I spend a lot of time writing very technical stuff here, but working in a church, our job is as much about people as about technology. Maybe more. Anyway, back to what struck me.

In our staff meetings, we often do a spiritual practice to remind us why we’re meeting in the first place. Last week, we looked at a list of the sayings of Jesus. It was not all-inclusive, but a good collection of things He said that might impact our lives. We were challenged to pick one and memorize it. One stood out to me right away. This week I was clearing off my desk, and I found the list. The verse I chose I had committed to memory years ago (so I guess I was technically cheating at the exercise), and once again I was struck with the power of the phrase.

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

Go back and read that again and let it sink in. I found this so striking because I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few weeks re-wiring our tech booth and making plans for an upcoming IT migration. I was struck by how easy it is to get completely wrapped up in technology, and forget that unless we remain connected to Christ, we are doing nothing.

Sure, we may be wiring gear together, but that’s all we’re doing. We might be making graphics, editing videos, mixing sound, and firing off ProPresenter cues, but unless we are doing in the context of a relationship to Christ, we are doing nothing. That’s right, nothing.

I find myself devoting hours of thought to how I’m going to distribute video in our sanctuary and the rest of the building. Or perhaps how I’m going to set up our new XServe. Or maybe how I’m going to structure a new training series for our volunteers. But I struggle to “find time” to spend reading the Bible or simply praying. I’m staying very busy, but am I doing nothing?

I suffer from insomnia, which I’m learning is common among people with my temperament. It’s really easy for me to lie in bed for hours working out solutions to complex technical problems. But it’s a lot harder to spend a few minutes before I turn out the light reading the words of Jesus. Even when I try to spend some of my “can’t fall asleep” time praying, my mind wanders off to solve the current dilemma. 

But over the last 2 weeks, those words keep coming back to haunt me.

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

What am I really accomplishing? Am I bearing much fruit? Am I really remaining in Christ? More and more, it seems to me if I miss this, I’ve missed the whole point. Unless I remain in Him, it’s all just gear wired together. It’s all just stuff… procedures… plans… nothing.

So what does it mean to “remain in Him?” I’m not entirely sure I know the answer, but I think it starts with being still long enough to listen for His voice. Not the audible one we all would love to hear, but the still, small voice that gives us our next direction. I think it means spending some time in prayer for our teams, our church and our co-laborers. I think it means hanging out in the Bible, letting the words wash over us. I think it means subordinating our agenda to His.

Let’s face it, brothers and sisters; we’re techies. We’re not likely to become famous, or be loved and adored by the congregations who aren’t even sure what we do. We’re behind the scenes, and most of us like it that way. But when I look back, at the end of my life, I want to see fruit. My fruit will look different than that of the pastor or the evangelist or the conference speaker. But I want to see fruit nonetheless. What I don’t want to see is nothing more than a collection of really well wired gear. That would be a tragedy. That would be nothing.

Using Compressor

After my previous post, I’ve had a lot of questions about Compressor. It seems a lot of people have never delved into this great little program, so I thought I’d write a quick tutorial. Compressor’s job is simple. It compresses whatever video project you give it into another format. For example, if you need to output your video to the web, you could compress it down to a web-friendly size and format. I use Compressor a lot for setting my videos up to play well in ProPresenter. Before PP, I used it to create AVIs for Media Shout. It’s a powerful program that’s easy to use. Let’s dive in.

I will assume you’ve edited your project in Final Cut Pro (since Compressor is only available as part of the FCP Studio package). Success with Compressor starts in FCP. Once your project is complete, choose Render Both from the Sequence->Render All menu. It’s important that all of the checks are checked except Full. This ensures that all your video is in a properly rendered format. You need to do this even if your project is playing out fine in FCP using RT Extreme. Avoid this step at your own peril.

Now, set your In and Out points at the beginning and end of your program. I like to have a 1 second black Color clip at the front and a 2 second black Color clip at the end. Whatever is between the In and Out points will be rendered in Compressor. If you don’t do this, you’ll get the entire timeline, which you may or may not want.

Next, choose File->Export->Using Compressor… This will create a reference movie of your project and import it into a new untitled batch list in Compressor. It may take a minute, but should launch Compressor, with your file in the list. You should see something like this.

click to enlarge

Note that if you don’t see all the windows shown here, you can add them by changing your view settings from the Windows menu. There are a number of pre-set layouts, and you can also make your own, just like in FCP.

First, notice that your Sequence has been added to the Batch list. I didn’t name my sequence, so it’s listed as Sequence 1- Liar, Liar. “Liar, Liar” is the project name. If you’re better about naming things than I am, that will help if you batch a lot of jobs at once. Right now, if you hit Submit, nothing happens because you have not told Compressor how you want to format the final output. Look down to the Settings Pane. You’ll see Apple as pre-populated a large number of formats to accommodate various workflows.

I have my own Custom preset that I use for formating movies for ProPresenter. You can download it here if you like. (Here’s one for my Media Shout AVI format if you want). To utilize that Setting file, unzip it and drag the resultant .settings file onto the Custom folder int he Settings pane of Compressor. If you just drag it into the pane, it doesn’t work. So our first step in Compressor will be to drag the setting we want to use and drop it on the sequence in the batch list.

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You’ll see that our preset has been added as a line to our sequence. Note that it is possible to drag multiple settings to a sequence. For example, if I needed to make a ProPresenter QuickTime, a DVD and a FLV for the web, I could drag them all onto that sequence file. It will render out multiple versions of the file without further input from me. Very handy.

Also notice that the setting we applied has 3 columns to it. First is the Settings name, in this case ProPresenter. The second column is the destination, currently, “source.” I only use source when I’m dragging movies into Compressor directly and not exporting from FCP. Rendering to source will put the movie into an obscure, hard to find folder on your Mac, so we’ll change it. Finally the third column is the file name. We’ll get back to that in a moment.

A second tab on the Settings Pane is labeled Destinations. Just like it sounds, Destinations gives you the ability to create and save places to have Compressor save your file. You can create new Destinations by clicking on the + sign in that pane and editing the parameters in the Inspector pane. In this case, we’ll use Completed Projects. Simply drag your Destination to the Setting you applied to your file. Because we can have multiple settings, we can have multiple destinations. Set your batch up accordingly.

click to enlarge

Now that we have our Settings and Destination set up the way we want, the final step is to name the file. Don’t adjust the name earlier, as the settings may not stick as you apply settings and destinations. Simply double click on the file name and name it as you want it to turn out. For this example, we’ll use Liar, Liar Final.mov.

click to enlarge

Finally hit “Submit.” Compressor goes to work. If you  want to see the progress of your project, twirl down the triangle on the topmost entry in the History Pane, and you’ll see the progress bar. If you are doing multiple settings, the progress bar is calculated on the total job, not a single preset.

click to enlarge

When it’s done, you can set back and enjoy your new movie. I’ve found Compressor to be quite good at creating compact files with excellent image quality. Once you get used to it more, you can begin to create your own settings, which you can preview in the Preview Window. Experiment to get the best balance of quality and file size.

I hope that helps. Perhaps another time, I’ll delve more into creating presets and other goodies.

Extreme Tech Booth Makeover: Church Edition

When I joined Upper Room, our tech booth was in need of, how to say, a little rennovation. There was a lot equipment packed into a small space. Some of it was hooked up, some not. Wires were coming in from all over the church; some labeled, some not. And there was some equipment that could best be described as “temporary.”

This is what I walked into when I started. (click on any of the photos to enlarge)

 

 

This is the view looking in from the doorway. Welcome to Minnesota!

 

The video control desk. I’m not even kidding, this is what it looked like.

 

I have nothing to say about this.

 

How about that lightboard. Yup–it says Behringer. And yes, those are cinder blocks.

 

The reason for the cramped table space was this huge rack, with hardly anything in it. Part of the original deisgn-build.

 Clearly I had some work to do. What you don’t see is some really bad wiring (BNC ends not crimped, but put on with heat shrink; DMX cable running next to fixtures with melted insulation; a DMX network with no splitter or DA; a single audio feed from FOH that had 9-count ’em 9- Y-cords in it; etc.). For the first month, my main task every Sunday was just trying to make things work. I don’t like having to function in such a situation, so I decided to start tearing things apart, and making it better. I wanted to be like Ty and just blow it up. But they wouldn’t let me. So a rennovation was in order.

As the first step, we pulled all of the DMX cables and ran new ones. We had been having issues with lights turning on and off randomly, or not responding at all. Rather than mess with it, we ran new. I also installed a DMX DA to properly split the DMX signal to the 4 dimmer racks and color scroller. Contrary to popular wisdom, you’re not supposed to split a DMX signal without a splitter. Causes all kinds of relections and other bad stuff.

Next, we tackled the audio feed. I pulled all the Y-cords and used a proper DA (which, oddly enough was lying on the floor in a pile of cables…go figure). I also cleaned up the video table with a proper rack, and replaced the monitor. We moved the rack to a better part of the room, and added another table. In the process, we dumped the el-cheapo DJ style Behringer light board for an ETC Express 3 (which, also oddly enough, was sitting in a closet, unused–I wish I had good explanations for this…) Just doing this was a huge improvement.

 

You feel better already, don’t you?

 

It’s starting to look like a real tech booth now.

 

The video desk still has a big clump of wires on the floor, but at least you can put your feet under the desk now and not worry about turning the cameras off (that was a real issue before. I wish I was joking).

 

The extra table gives everyone room to spread out, and easily accommodates the new light board. I can now stand between the presentation tech and the light tech and see what’s going on in the room. There’s now an iMac on the left side as well, but I forgot to take a picture of that.

I call this phase, part 1. Clearly it’s an improvement, but I knew there was more work to do. It got us through the last half of the ministry year, however, and everyone just felt better coming in to do their thing. It’s amazing the difference the physical space has on how one performs their job. In the old space, which was clearly in chaos and not thought highly enough by anyone at the church to clean up and improve, the volunteers felt unappreciated and didn’t take their jobs too seriously. It was fun watching the looks on their faces when they came in the first time after phase 1. Not surprisingly, everyone’s game improved.

As I said, there was still work to do. Though Cat-5 cable was pulled all over the church, and video over Cat-5 baluns purchased, the system to route the video was a bit convoluted. This made for some challenging times at Easter and a later large funeral. Though we had a tie line between the stage and the booth, using it to send video (or SGA signals) down there was difficult. And we could not easily address the projectors and any other video destination separately.

Audio was also an ongoing challenge. Though I’ve taken to mixing our own mix remotely using Studio Manager (read about it here…), controlling the volume was a challenge. And I found we were sending too hot a signal to the DVD burner, which meant most of our recordings were distorted. While I had sorted out the big problems during phase 1, what we needed was a plan. A holistic plan to accomplish what we needed to, and make it easy. Here’s what I came up with. You can click to enlarge, or view a PDF of the file here.

This plan gives us a lot of options. We can send video to anywhere, in full RGBHV resolution, without effecting any other destination. I can address our sanctuary projectors independently, and can send sanctuary cameras, or computer, or DVD, to the multi-purpose room, fireside room or fellowship hall for overflow–all with the push of a button. Audio can now be controlled properly, and the booth volume no longer effects the record volume. Best of all, I’ve posted this diagram in the booth, so anyone can take a minute and figure out how to get video and audio where they need it.

I also went through and labeled all the cables. I’m a big proponent of labeled cable. It takes no time to do, and saves so much time down the road. One of the interesting things about this plan is that it required very little new gear. Most of the equipment on the diagram was already there, it just wasn’t utilized. Or it was in another room not being used. I did buy a new scan converter, a scaler, a BNC patcbay (so I can turn around our tie line to the stage and use it as an input or output), and I’ll be picking up a DBX 266 compressor to manage levels on the booth feed. Otherwise, my predesessors bought everything else.

After two really long days, this is how the booth turned out.

 

Finally, it looks like it should. It’s almost Zen-like now, wouldn’t you agree?

 

Oh, I forgot, I also bought the Alesis M1 powered speakers. And the hardware to wall-hang them. I’m very happy with those. There’s still a lot of wire running down the wall…I may wiremold that some time in the future.

What was once an unruly mess is now a comfortable workspace. I even left some desk space open to put my laptop on Sundays. There’s an 8 port network switch tucked back there, so I can go wired.

This rack used to be half-empty, and what was there was not all that effective. I’ve moved all of our RGBHV routing, switching and distribution here. This keeps the runs short, and makes it easy to wire. The Cat-5 video also leaves from this rack now. Future updates will include moving the Clear-Com base station up here (from FOH), and additional Cat-5 video baluns, as well as the aforementioned BNC patchbay.

So there you have it. Already, people who have seen it feel really good about it. It’s much easier to work in, and it just feels better. There’s so much to be said for having a workspace that feels productive. And when you raise the bar in your physical plant, the people who work in it will step up as well.

We still have some gear that could be upgraded. Our camera package is essentially a security camera system. Our video mixer, the MX-20, is getting a bit long in the tooth. And some real broadcast monitors would be nice. But given what we actaully do with video right now (which is not much more than archive), the current gear is fine. And I want a new PA first.

Personally, I feel really good about it. Many were thrilled with Phase 1, but I knew it was only 1/2 complete. Now that it’s done, I’m ready to go on to our next project. I’ll be telling you about that in the coming weeks. For now, I’ll just say that this was good practice.

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