Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

Month: October 2009 (Page 2 of 2)

The Importance of Camaraderie

Can we acknowledge the elephant in the room? Being a Tech Director is hard. A lot is expected of us; knowing all things about all manner of technology, pastoring our volunteers, supporting that woman in children’s ministry who can’t figure out how the DVD player works, the list goes on. To make things more challenging, in most churches, there is only one of us. And even if you’re a TD and have a few people working under you, you can’t complain about stuff to them–it’s bad protocol. No, you need someone who gets what you do, and can encourage you when you are having a rough day.

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I have been really excited these last few months because I am seeing a movement amongst the church technical community to build, well, community like never before. For example, the Church Tech Directors Round Table (CTDRT), spearheaded by Bill Swaringim and Kelly Gubser has been virtually getting together on TokBox once a month for the past few months. And while the technology makes the conversation challenging at times, what it does do is foster off-line conversations. By following each other on Twitter and Facebook and using that “so 90’s” technology, the phone, we’re developing friendships that are very encouraging.

For example, last week I Tweeted about wanting to go all LED for our house lights. Dennis Choy of NorthCoast Church saw that and contacted me saying they are doing the same thing. That led to a phone conversation and ultimately to me borrowing a fixture that he had been demo’ing. It’s a perfect fit, and Dennis and I have had a few great conversations about it. Earlier this week Jared Wells had a question about ProPresenter and called me. I think I was able to help him with that, and now Jared and I know each other a little better.

To say that these conversations are an encouragement is a huge understatement. I am really stoked to have people that I can call when I need some insight into a problem. And I’m blessed when someone calls me for advice. Guys (and gals), We Are Not Alone! I’ve said before that I’ve given up on trying to know everything. There’s too much to know. But I now have access to the “hive mind” as Leo Laporte likes to call it, in the CTDRT. Have a question? Ask the group. The insight gained is phenomenal. And will all of our budgets getting cut, now is not the time to reinvent the wheel.

Another great thing that is happening more is local area TD meetups. We just had one last week. Eight SoCal area TD’s got together at the Irvine Spectrum for lunch. I blocked out an hour and a half for lunch. After three and half hours, I was finally heading back to the office. It was a great time. I met people I had only talked to on the phone previously, or just followed on Twitter. We shared stories, insights and a lot of laughs. We plan on doing it again and tying in tours of each other’s churches as we go. We’ll also be including others as we get to know who else is out there.

Again, it’s a great resource. I learned where I can get some box truss cheap, and I think a few people want to come see a smattering of LED lights when I get a few more to test in a week or two. How cool is that?

If you haven’t already joined the CTDRT, I encourage you to. Send me an e-mail at mike [at] churchtecharts.org and I’ll get you started. If you don’t know any other TDs in your area, get to know them. Go out to lunch. Round up some others. Do it regularly. I know techs tend to be introverts and often prefer quiet to group gatherings, but I’m telling you, this is important. Too many of us are burning out and hopping from one church to another trying to find the perfect place. We need to stop that. Get to know some other TDs and be encouraged. And let me know how I can help!

Helping Vocalists Master Their Mix Pt. 2

A few days ago, I suggested that vocalists really need to hear 3, perhaps 4 things in their monitors. Those things are Tempo, Pitch, Themselves and (optionally) Harmony. If we as sound engineers put more than that in their mix, we are generally doing them a disservice. I say generally because professional singers (or people who are really well and do this all the time) like to have a full mix. They have learned to hear themselves and really need a backing track to sing to. Volunteers who sing once or twice a month however, are better served with a kindler, simpler mix.

The question before us today is this; How do we convince them that this is in fact, all they need? Well, that’s easy. We turn the knobs, we make the mix. (I’m kidding…). Seriously, here are a few suggestions.

Talk to Them

Sounds crazy, I know. However, too often sound engineers will stand behind the board at front of house (or monitor world) and try to convince someone on stage they need this or that. I suggest this is a poor way to go. Get out from behind the board, walk up to the stage and have a conversation. Don’t take the tack, “I’m the sound guy, I know best,” or “I read this on some really smart guy’s blog,” (let me know which one it was, by the way…). Rather, come at it as a suggestion. Note that you’ve noticed that they often are struggling with the monitors. Offer an option to try something new that you think might help. Ask them to try it for a few weeks to see how it feels. Give them some rationale for your technique, then work really hard to make it work for them. Seriously folks, if our bands know we’re working really hard to serve them well, it won’t even matter if it sounds better or not. They will come around.

Show Them

I once had a really hard time convincing vocalists to hold their mics closer to their mouths than their navel. I tried all kinds of things: Explaining the inverse square law (met with blank stares); turning down their feed in the monitors to make them sing louder (didn’t work); motioning with an imaginary microphone (resulted in very confused looks). Finally, during a break, I picked up the talkback mic and demonstrated it. Near…far. Near…far. I talked close to the mic, and far from the mic. They instantly heard the difference and they all held the mic properly after that.

Same concept here. After you’ve talked with them, set up a mix the way you think it should be. Then have them try it. Point out to them how much easier it is to hear the pitch, tempo and their own voice with a simpler mix. Often, it takes just one song for the lights to go on in their heads.

Get Worship Leader Buy In

Sometimes, you really need the worship leader to have your back. Again, a lot of this comes from relationship. If you have a good relationship with your worship leader, you can talk with him or her and come up with a plan. If they get the concept, if you have to you can push it through. When we changed from wireless IEMs to Avioms at Upper Room, I spent a lot of time talking that change through with our worship leader. He agreed with the switch, and when I asked how he thought the band would react, he said, “They’ll use whatever we give them. It’s not up to them.” He didn’t say that with arrogance, but with the understanding that the band is not in charge. As the worship leader, it’s incumbent on him to make the good calls; not in a vacuum, but ultimately, it’s his call.

So give that a try. And remember, if they continue to resist, you are the one who turns the knobs…

It’s Time For Another Webinar

Fresh off the heels of our last highly attended webinar (OK, it was last April and about 20 people joined in…), Dave Stagl, Jason Cole and I have decided it’s high time we did another one. Why? Mainly because we have a lot of fun doing them (and because a few people said they enjoyed it and learned something). In fact, we held a meeting of the minds last week and came up with a schedule to host one webinar a month (save December) from now until May 2010. How about that?!

Our first, regularly scheduled webinar will be held on Thursday night, October 15th at 10 PM EDT, 7 PM PDT. The topic will be “Our Favorite Things: Vocals.” We will focus on our favorite vocal mics, compressor settings, techniques and tricks to make vocals sound as good as they can. Just like we did before, we’ll ramble on for a bit, then take questions from the studio audience. We’ll also record it and publish the audio after we’re all done.

And just to whet your whistle, in November, we’ll be re-visitng the wireless mic issue; talking about the DTV transition, plans for migrating out of the 700 MHz band and various manufacturer rebates. The date for that one will be announced soon.

In the meantime, mark your calendars for Oct. 15 at 10 PM EDT. We’ll see you then!

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