Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

Month: April 2009 (Page 2 of 2)

What are you learning today?

That question has been rattling around my head the last few days. It came up when I was talking with my office mate and worship pastor, Jon. He was getting ready to apply to grad school. He said he felt the need to keep growing. Good need, I say. Last night, I thought about it again.

I have been having trouble getting my firewall’s firmware updated. I finally filled out a trouble ticket and learned the only way to do it was to access the device from an ssh connection, logged in as root. If you don’t know what any of that means, fear not. I only vaguely understood it myself. However, a few hours (and some Googling later), I was logged into my firewall via ssh as root and executing a firmware update. Oh, and I did it from home via a VPN connection. I felt like Robert Redford in Sneakers.

Like it or not, we live in a time when stuff changes pretty fast. In our little corner of the universe, things change often and fast. Wanting to sit back, take a break and rest in what we know is a natural desire. It’s also one we can’t afford to have.

I’ve tried to live by the motto, “Learn something new every day.” I really believe that if we’re not moving forward, we’re being left behind. It sounds corny, but it’s true. Interestingly enough, the older we get, the more important it becomes. My 12-year old daughter is my best ProPresenter/Keynote operator. She’s the best not because she’s my daughter, but because she already, at the ripe old age of 12, has more hands-on experience running presentation software, and computers. She gets it, and it comes totally naturally to her. But that’s because she’s been actively using computers since she was 2.

Those of us in technology fields are constantly faced with new things. Personally, I find that thrilling. Think about all the cool stuff we get to learn and know. The corollary to this principle is that I’ve decided it’s not bad to forget stuff. For example, I’m OK with not remembering exactly how to time 3 analog video decks, a switcher and a DVE. I was once very good at it, but I haven’t had to do it in 10 years, and probably won’t ever again. And that’s all good. “Deleting” those files leaves room for new stuff (OK, I know that’s not how the brain works, but I’m a geek, go with the metaphor, alright?).

So I come back to my original question; what did you learn today? Here’s what I learned this week: Sunday I finally solved a puzzling word clock issue that was messing up my Avioms (it was the Presonous Digimax 95 at fault). Monday, I learned that older Nortel phone systems have very peculiar punch down patterns for CO lines (2 lines, skip 2, 2 lines, skip 2–I mean, seriously?). Yesterday was the aforementioned ssh login deal. Today, I learned quite a bit about manipulating 3-D layers and cameras in After Effects. It’s been a good week!

How about you? What are you learning? Leave a comment and share your newfound knowledge with the rest of us so we can keep learning too!

Drum Condo Update

Since many people have been asking, I finally did get around to snapping some more pictures, including the inside. I also took some SPL readings to confirm what I suspected. First, hard data. I walked inside the condo and had Joe play at his normal volume. We got readings around 116-118 dB SPL, C-weighted, fast. Then I went outside and stood about 6 feet from the condo. I didn’t have anything in the PA, and got readings around 88-90. So it looks like we did hit goal! Moreover, the readings don’t really do the attenuation justice. I had a quick conversation with our worship pastor after the readings, and we both talked at a normal level (which would be around 70-ish) and didn’t strain to hear. So my guess is that we’re getting a lot more attenuation at higher frequencies, which is really where we need it. The low stuff is really hard to block, and that’s probably still getting through. However, it doesn’t affect the balance in the room, so I think we did good.

Since I was on FOH duty this past weekend, I got to mix in the room for the first time. All I can say is, Wow!. It’s such a treat to mix on a system that actually responds to the changes I make–I’d forgotten what that was like. Our previous venue was quite awful; honestly I grew used to how bad it was. The new place is a breath of fresh air. I had full control of the drums in the mix and was even able to get some different sounds out of the snare for different songs by playing with the balance of top and bottom mics. Even little changes made a difference, which is exactly what you want. The room is still muddy at the low end, and we’ll switch back to aux-fed subs before too long, but I’m very happy with the results of the condo.

With that out of the way, let’s look at some pictures!

A few inside. As you can see, we ran out of linen fabric. Need to get that done... A few inside. As you can see, we ran out of linen fabric. Need to get that done…
All finished! All finished!Obviously, we’re missing a few drum parts in the top picture. One of our drummers leaves the main kit there and the guys bring the snare and brass back and forth. In the foreground you’ll see our proprietary “drummer heat reduction unit.” This week Joe reported that he was quite comfortable in there.

Finally you get a picture of the outside all done. If you look closely (click to enlarge), it looks just like the walls. And even the piece that connects the two top halves looks like it’s meant to be there.

So that’s it. Last post on the drum condo, promise. Unless I get hit with a bunch more questions. Then all bets are off!

The Drum Condo–Does it Work?

Well, now that the site is back up and moving at something close to normal speed, we’ll get back to the drum condo series. First, in answer to the above question, the short answer is yes! To some extent, that’s the best I’ve got, as I’ve not yet had time to get any actual readings on how much attenuation we’re really getting. So what I’m about it say is anecdotal.

Any discussion of the effectiveness of anything has to start with what it was intended to do. With that in mind, we’ll once again return to our design goals and tackle one at a time.

Attenuate drum volume significantly (meaning >20 dB SPL; >30 would be even better).

Goal met? Yes! I can’t tell you for a fact we’re hitting our 20-30 dB SPL reduction, but I can tell you I’ve stood right outside the condo and had a conversation at normal levels, without straining, while the drummer was playing full out for level check. We could hear the drums, but they sounded like they were in the next room. Given that a live kit is easily going to be in the 90+ dB SPL range, and a conversation is around 70, I’d say we’re easily getting 20 dB.

More importantly, the drums in no way overpower the rest of the band, the vocals or the congregation singing. We need to mix them into the band, which means we have pretty much full control over the levels. We no longer have to try to mix over the drums, and the folks in the front row aren’t getting killed by the cymbals or the snare. It does mean our mix and room EQ needs to be on, however.

Modular construction so it could be taken apart easily and moved out of the room.

Thankfully, we haven’t had to test this out too many times. My boss and I were able to take it apart and move it pretty easily (and put it back an hour later), however. With the exception of one wall, it’s pretty easy to move around. A couple of guys who are more buff than we are could easily move it down the hall to the storage room. And if we did have to move it every week, I’d build skates for it to make it easier. So again, goal met.

Visually appealing–it should look built-in (we were hoping we might not have to move it if we made it pretty enough)

Within a half hour of us taking it down, the host church’s pastor came in and said it looks better there than a stack of chairs so, let’s just leave it up. Goal met! And we’ve had several people comment on how built-in it looks (see the comments section of the previous post). Goal met again!

Big enough to hold our standard 2 tom, 3 cymbal kit

Cost less than $1,500.

Easily built with stuff we could by at Home Depot.

Yes, yes and yes. I haven’t seen the final tally of the cost yet, but I think we’re somewhere around $1,200. It could be done for a few hundred less if you didn’t side it with 1×4’s. Those are surprisingly expensive. And you need a lot of them. We could have also used cheaper foam, but I figured if we were going to spend $250 on foam (for the cheap stuff), we may as well spend $350 and get the good stuff. I think it was worth it. In fact, that was the only thing we didn’t get at Home Depot (Sweetwater).

When it comes to the size, I originally thought it would be way too big, but once the kit gets in there, and we put all the mics around, and add the fan, and the music stand (with the Aviom mixer) and the metronome stand, it’s pretty full. The good news is that at the end of the night, we can move a few things around and store all our music & mic stands and other assorted audio gear in there out of harm’s way. It’s a win-win.

I guess the best criteria is how the drummers (and the rest of the band) feel about it. On this count, I think everyone’s happy. Both drummers have commented on how good it sounds in there (and in their ears), and the rest of the band is happy. I am convinced the condo is one of the biggest reasons the room sounds so good.

So there you go. I’m very happy with it, as is the rest of the congregation. I might change a few things the next time around, but that’s another post.

Speed Bump on the Blog

Here at churchtecharts.org, we’ve been having a little trouble getting the pages loading properly. For some reason, all the sites in my hosting account are running extremely slow. So far, 5 calls to tech support have yet to resolve the issue, though the sites are starting to come back to a more normal pace.
Sorry for the delays in posting, but most of my free time over the last 24 hours has been troubleshooting. If things don’t clear up in another day or so, I’ll be moving the site to a new host.
Thanks for your patience, and I promise I’ll get some more photos of the drum condo up soon.
–mike

The Drum Condo in Pictures

Yesterday we left off at the construction stage. I thought I would share some pictures and show you how we finished up. First, let me remind you of our design goals.

Project Design Goals

  • Attenuate drum volume significantly (meaning >20 dB SPL; >30 would be even better).
  • Modular construction so it could be taken apart easily and moved out of the room.
  • Visually appealing–it should look built-in (we were hoping we might not have to move it if we made it pretty enough).
  • Big enough to hold our standard 2 tom, 3 cymbal kit
  • Cost less than $1,500.
  • Easily built with stuff we could by at Home Depot.

With the walls all put together, we felt pretty good both about how it looked and how we could take it apart and move it around. The next challenge was the roof. Our worship pastor, Jon, had the idea of building a frame within a frame, that when put on the walls, would hold everything together. Essentially what we did was put it all together, and take the inside dimensions, subtract a half-inch and build frames from 1×4. We then took 2 pieces of 3/8″ plywood, and cut them to overhang the outside walls by 1 inch. I then attached the outside frame (again, 1×4) to the plywood at the edges. I placed that on the condo, marked the inside locations of the walls, then attached the inside frame to the plywood. Perhaps a picture would help. Click on any of the pics to enlarge.

The roof from the inside. The roof from the inside.
The roof is in the background...it might give a better idea of what I'm talking about. The roof is in the background…it might give a better idea of what I’m talking about.It was about this time I realized I made a slight calculations error. The outside dimension of the condo, once we got it all sided, ended up at 98 1/2″. We intended to build the roof in 2 parts; however, if you divide 98 1/2 by 2, you get 49 1/4″, which is, unfortunately, 1 1/4″ more than a sheet of plywood is wide. Since the other dimension is just over 72″, we needed to run the plywood in such a way that we ended up with an inch and a half gap down the middle. This is why I don’t like to design on the fly at Home Depot…

Faced with this dilemma, I came up with a simple solution. I took a length of 1×6, and fashioned it into a shallow U shape. I put foam gasket on the inside of the U, and when placed upside down over the seam, completely covers the seam, air seals it, and looks good. Problem solved!

Oops, there's the gap. Oops, there’s the gap.
Almost finished, it looks like it belongs there. Almost finished, it looks like it belongs there.
The finished condo, complete with band. The finished condo, complete with band.To finish things off, I ordered up 48 square feet of Auralex 3″ foam Wedgies. We placed those inside the frame on the roof, and covered the inside of the hollow core door. We also lined the inside walls with fiberglass, then covered that with some really nice linen fabric.

Getting back to our goals, I feel like we hit every one pretty well. I’ve actually had people ask me if the condo was there previously. Some can’t believe we built it because it matches so well. The ultimate test was when the pastor of the host church decided that it would look better than a stack of chairs sitting there, and authorized us to keep it in place all the time. Score one for attention to detail!

Tomorrow, I’ll finish up with a quick post on how it actually works/sounds.

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