Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

Month: January 2010 (Page 2 of 2)

Automating Sermon Recording

It’s happened to me far too many times. The band finishes up, the pastor gets up to preach, and in the middle of the transition, I forget to hit “Play” on the CD recorder to actually start recording. Or I’ll hit “Play & Record” thinking it’s going start recording, forgetting that you have to hit “Play” again. Or I’ll just plain forget. Perhaps I’m getting old, but I blame it on having to do a bunch of things at once. At any rate, I’ve been searching for a way to automate the recording process so I don’t have to remember to do it. That’s one thing computers are great at doing; repetitive stuff on a schedule.

I recalled a blog post Daniel Murphy wrote over at www.worshiptechie.com a few months back. He was looking to do the same thing with video recording of the services. He hit on something that I had previously not known; that is, you can set up an event in iCal and set an alarm. Well that I knew, it was the fact that the alarm can be an AppleScript. And when the alarm is an AppleScript, you can make the computer do just about anything. He wanted it to create a new QuickTime capture. I wanted it to launch and start a recording in Audacity. Here’s how I/we did it.

Step One: Script

AppleScript is a pretty rich coding language. You can get your Mac to do all kinds of tricks if you can figure out the right commands. The script for this one is pretty simple:

tell application “Audacity”

activate

tell application “System Events” to keystroke “R”

end tell

There is one “gotcha” in this script. In order for the keystroke to work, you must have “Enable access for assistive devices” turned on in the Universal Access pane of the System Preferences. The script is really simple. The first line identifies the application you want to use, in this case Audacity. Activate launches it or brings it forward. Sending a Keystroke “R” starts recording. The last line tells AppleScript it’s done. That’s it. Easy. Save the script in a easy to remember place and you’re on your way. I also created a stop script. It’s the same as start only the keystroke is “space.”

If you want to use another application, just look for the keyboard shortcuts for starting and stopping a recording and make the appropriate substitutions. If there are none, you can probably create them in the Keyboard Shortcuts pane of the Keyboard preferences in System Preferences.

Step Two: Schedule

The next step is to set up an event in iCal to start the recording. Here is an example:

I gave it some generous time on the front and back end of the message time slotNormally, our pastor starts teaching around 9:30-9:35. Sometimes it’s earlier. So I fire the recording off at 9:19. It’s easy to trim the recording in post. Same for the end. Normally, he’s done around 10, but I don’t stop it until 10:20, just in case. It doesn’t cost anything to run it longer, we just trim it up when we’re done. We can also stop it manually if we notice that he’s finished. The script won’t hurt anything if it goes off after we’ve stopped it.

Since we also have an 11:00 service on Sunday and a 5:00 on Saturday, I can set up iCal events the same way. And, by checking repeat weekly, I’m done for a long time.

And that’s it! A few quick steps and we make sure the sermon is recorded each week. Thanks to Daniel for the original idea.

Being in Two (or More) Places at Once

The other day, I had to do a funeral. Now, I generally don’t like funerals; first because they’re typically emotionally hard, and second because they’re technically challenging. Typically, funerals are planned by people who have no idea how technology works and they are always last-minute. Last week’s funeral was all of that, and more.

Because it was on a Friday, at 10:30, all of our volunteers were unavailable. Friday is also our department’s day off, so I was here by myself. Which meant I had to run FOH, monitors, lights and video. No problem! On Tuesday, there was going to be a singer playing acoustic guitar. Easy. By Friday, we had three monitor mixes, acoustic, electric, 2 vocals and they wanted a piano. And there was a special song that needed lyrics, and a video (which arrived on DVD 45 min before service start–ugh!).

The architect who designed our building decided the best way to reach FOH was to go out of the auditorium, across the lobby, up 2 flights of stairs, back across the 2nd floor lobby, into the balcony and down to the tech booth. This tech booth is a good 35 feet wide; video, presentation, lighting and FOH. And someone before me decided that monitor world should be 10 feet in the air on a platform on stage left. Doing all this solo would be a challenge.

So I took advantage of technology to shrink the space. First off, we have a HP laptop that swivels into a tablet set up to run Studio Manager. With this tablet, I can manage  both the M7 at monitors and the DSP 5 for FOH (the fact that I can’t manage the PM5D at FOH is a sore spot with me, and the topic of another post–thankfully most of our FOH work is done in the DSP 5). With the tablet, I could stand up on stage with the musicians and dial in their monitors, then run out into the house and set gain and a rough mix. When it came to the actual service, I shut down the tablet and used our Mac Mini running bootcamp at FOH to run the M7. Thankfully, all that amounted to was turning on and off the monitor mixes.

This is pretty close to how I have the tablet set up to run the M7.To make our booth a little smaller, I used one of my favorite Mac features–screen sharing–and a little ProPresenter magic. ProPresenter has a great feature that lets you load an audio track, and pre-program a series of slide changes to it. Basically, once you time it out, you hit play and the slides change by themselves. This worked perfectly for displaying lyrics to a special song (played from ProPresenter, not live). Special music was now one click.

However, the presentation computer is still 15 feet away from FOH, on the other side of the lighting board. To shrink that distance, I screen shared from my MacBook Pro to the MacPro. I set my laptop just to the left of the PM5D. That way, when I needed to fire a ProPresenter cue, I needed to walk a few steps, and I could stay close to the 5D. Since I have complete control of the MacPro, it’s like sitting there, only not.

Technically, the service went well. I had my hands full, but I was able to pull it all off with only one minor glitch (I hate playing stuff on DVD!). If I had a little more time, I would have ripped the DVD to a file and it would have run perfectly.

So the next time you find yourself juggling cats like this, think about using some technology to make multi-tasking easier. Better yet, think about it ahead of time so it is easy when you actually have to do it.

Going to NAMM?

One thing that is kinda cool about living in rough proximity to LA is the preponderance of trade shows that are within driving distance. For years it seems, people have been asking me, “Are you going to NAMM?” I’ve always answered, “No,” because it’s on the other side of the country. Well, now I’m also on the other side of the country and this year, I’m going to NAMM!

I’ve heard this is a pretty big show and that there are a lot of toys there. And that’s OK with me! We’re getting very close to choosing a personal monitor system and contemplating a FOH board swap. So I’ll be spending time in the Digidesign booth. And perhaps a few others.

I’m also kind of stoked to stop by the Heil booth. I’ve written a few times about our Heil mics and how much I really like the new drum mic kit that we bought. I heard from my friend Greg McVeigh that there will be a few top-notch drummers at the show, all hanging out in the Heil booth. If I had more patience and time, I would learn to play the drums. I’m an accomplished air drummer and the drum line is always the first thing I learn when I hear a new song.

Thus, it will be cool to possibly meet some of the great drummers of our time. Greg tells me that the following people will be there at some point during the week.

We have Drew Hester, Phil Ehart from Kansas, Aaron Harris from a metal band called Isis, Russ Mckinnon who played with Tower of Power and is now with Barry Manilow, Wally Ingram with Sheryl Crow and others. Frampton is going to be there and also Neal Schoen from Journey.

So that’s pretty cool. If you’ll be at the show, stop by the Heil booth. I’ll be dropping in a few times on Friday to hopefully meet one of my drumming heros. And perhaps we can organize a Tweetup while we’re there–let me know if you’re going and we can give it a shot.

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