Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

Month: March 2011 (Page 2 of 2)

Exciting Things Coming

This week, I’m taking a break from my CTA Classroom series, mainly because it’s been a crazy-busy week. We’ve had a lot going on at Coast Hills, and there is a lot going on behind the scenes at CTA. So, I thought I’d give you a quick run-down of what’s coming in the next month or so.

Rechargeable Battery Test
One of my most popular series of posts was last year’s rechargeable battery test. As far as I can tell, I did one of the more comprehensive, real-world tests of how rechargeable batteries hold up in wireless mics. Now that we’ve been using the cells for a year, I thought I would do a follow up post to see how they’re holding up. The results may  surprise you…or not.

Battery Test Graph
The results are similar to last year; with a twist…

Environmental Projection Recap

Yesterday, we were privileged to host Camron Ware and his roving band of projectors as he talked to us about and demonstrated Environmental projection. He had some great thoughts, and the images are stunning.

Environmental Projection Even in a room that’s not optimal for EP, it still looks cool.QSC K-Series/EV LiveX Shootout
After Camron left for the airport, we moved over to our community room to fire up some powered speakers. We spent about 4 hours listening to and playing with K12s, KW12s, LiveX 15s, LiveX 12s and all the subs. The results went pretty well, and we thought we had a winner (though it was by a nose) until we threw up one more set (that I wasn’t planning on testing). Then the entire game changed…

EV LiveX Speakers The new LiveX are finally shipping.

QSC K Series How will the 2-year old K Series hold up?Symetrix Jupiter DSP
The other thing we tested yesterday was the Jupiter 8×8 processor. On paper, and in the offline editor, it looked like a great processing option for our student/community room. After spending the afternoon with it, will we move forward with an installation?

Symetrix Jupiter 8 Could this be an ideal installed DSP?
APB/Dynasonics ProDesk 4
While we were playing around with speakers, a truck pulled up to our dock and dropped off something I’ve been wanting to play with for a while; a ProDesk 4. As we re-capped in our Digital vs. Analog series of webinars (Part 1 and Part 2), digital is not right for everyone. And if you’re going to go analog, go with good analog. I’ve heard nothing but positive things about the ProDesk (and the entire APB line for that matter) and am eager to get my hands on one. And now it’s in the loading dock. How fortuitous!

ABP/Dynasonics ProDesk 4 Analog: It’s not dead yet!
New Shure Mics
Since my QSC rep is also my Shure rep, he brought down a series of new Beta mics to for me to play with. I have a Beta 91A, two varieties of Beta 98, but the one I’m most interested in is the Beta 181. It’s an all-new mic with interchangeable heads and is supposed to be wonderful on guitar cabs and as overheads on drums. We’ll be testing them over the next few weeks.

Shure Beta 181 It’s pretty, no?NAB CoverageI’ve been wanting to do this for some time, and this year it’s coming together. Thanks to the generous support of DPA Microphones, Van and I will be doing a whole series (24, we hope!) of short videos from NAB. We plan to highlight new products, interview manufacturers and bring the NAB experience to your desktop. We’re totally stoked to be able to do this, and a bit frightened that it’s only a few weeks away. If you are going and need a pass, click here. Keep an eye out for our coverage starting the week of April 11.

NAB Show Register Here
DPA Microphones Support our Sponsor, DPA!So that’s about it. You can see why I’m pretty excited. Lots of good stuff is happening, and we’ll have lots of great content to bring you over the next few months. Thanks for reading!

Interesting Finds for the Week: March 10, 2010

YouTube – Ruben’s Tube
Fire, physics and audio. What’s not to like?

2011 Oscar Projections
The fun you can have with big budgets and creative minds.

BBC News – Audio slideshow: Human Planet
For anyone who’s even remotely involved in the creating of images, this is a great watch.

AirFader – LS9 Control Software
A good looking alternative to StageMixx for Yamaha consoles. Only it runs on Windows tablet PCs instead of iOS. Bummer.

Apple iPad 2 is here and tablet rivals need to hit the drawing board – Chicago Sun-Times
“The Xoom tablet is trim, light, and very pretty … but when you place it next to the iPad 2, it looks as though it was designed and built by angry Soviet prison labor instead of by Motorola.” Say no more.

Gabe George on 7 Steps to Great Volunteers | churchrelevance.com
I hate breaking things down to X steps, but these are good ideas.

How to Build & Lead a Creative Arts Team | churchrelevance.comLeading creative teams is hard. Here is some insight from three guys who do it really well.

Leaping Brain Labs
Interesting alternative to DVD distribution. Not sure of it’s implications for church market yet, but I like the concept.

The Emperor’s New Stereo « Bob McCarthy’s Blog
Bob McCarthy explains why stereo doesn’t work in large venues.

What We Can Learn from Justin Bieber
Guy Kawasaki has some interesting thoughts here.

Willie George on the 4 Absolutes of Leadership | churchrelevance.com
Again, I don’t like lists, and again, there is a lot of good stuff in here.

Lessons From An Old Guy Part 2

Last time, I shared the first two “Lessons from an old guy;” Banish Pride and Stay Open Minded. Today, we’ll finish up with these next two. If you missed Monday’s post, go back and read it–this will make a lot more sense.

Never Stop Learning
You’re starting to see a pattern here, aren’t you? If you’re planning on being involved with technology, you had best be committed to a lifetime of learning. Technology changes pretty fast, and if you don’t keep up with it, you will be left behind. I remember being out of work a few years ago, and doing a lot of networking to find my next position (which should be another post in itself now that I think about it…). I ended up talking with a number of guys who were AS400 programmers in an age when companies had already retired (or were retiring) most of their AS400s. They wanted .NET programmers (of course, no one wants .NET programmers anymore; see how fast this changes!). I had coffee after coffee with these guys who lamented the fact that no one wanted their mad AS400 skills. I said, “Why not just learn .NET?” They all shook their heads and said they were too old. Some of them are still out of work…

When I started doing live sound 25 years ago, I didn’t need to know anything about the RF spectrum, networking, digital signal processing, digital mixers, line arrays, or cardioid subs. Those are just a few things off the top of my head in audio. I’ve learned a lot about all of those things, and I have a lot more to learn. For me, that’s what makes this fun.

I have a few friends from high school that are still doing essentially the same thing now as when we graduated college. When I ask them what’s new at work, they shrug and say, “Ah, not much.” When they ask me, I excitedly go on for 30 minutes before I realize I’ve monopolized the conversation. Would you rather be the bored guy or the one who can’t stop talking about all the fun he’s having at work?

Takeaway: As a young guy or gal in this field, make a commitment now to never stop learning.

Get A Sense Of Humor
This one breaks the mold a little, but it’s nonetheless important. Folks, we work in what can be a highly charged and intense field. It’s important to be able to relax and lighten up a little bit. Several times in the last few months I’ve tweeted something that I thought was pretty obviously funny, tongue in cheek or ironic only to have people immediately @reply shouting “No way! You’re wrong! That’s not right!” And every time I’ve had to say, “People, relax; it’s a joke…” Don’t ever take yourself too seriously; life is way too short for that.

I try to make it my mission to lighten the mood whenever things get intense in our meetings at church. Apparently it’s working because my Exec Pastor stopped me in the hall the other day to tell me he thought something I said in a recent meeting was the funniest thing he’d heard in a while. I think it was a comment about how hard it was to build community in tech teams because by and large, techs don’t even like people that much.

See that? Right there? It’s a joke. Lighten up… If you got defensive for a second, you need to get a sense of humor. Seriously.

What we do is a lot of fun, but if you can’t laugh at yourself, your craft and the funny quirks that we all have, then you’re not going enjoy this work. Make it fun. Sure, what we do is important, and yes we have a high calling. But don’t ever forget that it’s God who is in control and He lets us play around down here for a while. I sometimes imagine God in heaven saying, “Guys, come on, that was funny!”

And if you see something on Twitter that seems off at first, before you hit “Reply” to sound the alarm, consider the source (does this person have a long history of spouting heresy), consider the context (or at least imagine it) then think, “Could this be a joke? Is it actually funny?” Then laugh. It’s OK.

Takeaway: Don’t ever take yourself too seriously, and don’t be afraid to laugh once in a while. It’s good for you.

These are a few of the things I’ve learned over the years. It’s important to note that most of the lessons were learned the hard way as I had no one in my life teaching me. I’ve since learned there are two ways to learn life lessons; make a lot of mistakes and eventually figure it out or learn from someone else. You can take a guess at which is easier.

Finally, I would encourage all of you, young or old, to find someone who can mentor you. We all need someone to speak into our lives, to help us see blind spots and to provide encouragement when we think we’re not getting very far. Finding a good mentor can be tough, but it’s worth the effort. You will find you can be far more effective in life and ministry when you’re meeting regularly with someone who has permission to speak into your life.

This post is brought to you by Horizon Battery, suppliers of  award-winning Ansmann rechargeable systems that are used worldwide by Cirque du Soleil and over 25,000 schools, churches, theaters, broadcast companies, & businesses. Learn more about their pro-grade batteries and chargers by visiting their web site. Tested and recommended by leading wireless mic manufacturers and tech directors.

Going to NAB? Need a Pass?

iDang! I just realized that NAB is only 30-some days away! This year, Van and I are hoping to provide you with some great coverage of the show; possibly including video coverage! We’re still working out details, but if all goes well, we will be able to bring you video interviews and previews of the products that have the most potential for churches. Or at least the products that we think are cool. Keep an eye peeled for that coverage, starting April 12.

NAB registration

If you’re planning on heading off to NAB, don’t pay for a pass. Because we’re such a high-profile blog, Church Tech Arts is please to offer you a free, exhibits-only pass; just click on the logo to register. Actually, it’s not that hard to get passes, and NAB is offering this code to a lot of bloggers, but it makes me feel good thinking we’re important. The code will also get you $100 off any educational track pass as well; there are a couple of day passes that would only end up at $175 after the discount, so it’s not too bad.

Van and I hope to be there for a few days, so if you’re attending, let us know. We’d love to meet up and talk for a few minutes (between video segment shooting, of course!).

Happy Birthday Church Tech Arts

Mini birthday cakephoto © 2009 Till Westermayer | more info (via: Wylio)

I can’t believe it’s been four years. In fact, I almost missed it. I put an event on my calendar for yesterday to remind me, and I blew right past.

Anyway, it was four years ago yesterday that the first article on what was then churchtech.wordpress.com posted. At the time, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I started CTA to have a place to put some of what I was learning working at a church out in the open so perhaps other people could learn as well. I never expected it to grow like this.

Now, 613 posts and 260,000 views later an entire community has grown up around this little site. It’s been so fun to get to know so many people because of this site. I have some very dear friends in my life because they found my blog. How cool is that? I also enjoy the questions and comments I receive from regular readers and truly appreciate the support and encouragement you’ve given over the years.

I look forward to seeing where this goes over the next four years, though I’ll say now I don’t really know what that looks like. But for me, that’s part of the fun. I try to use the abilities God has given me to bring glory to Him and I let Him work out the rest.

Thanks to you, dear reader, for being part of the journey!

Lessons From An Old Guy

For some reason, I’ve been getting a lot of letters from young guys lately. The exact topics vary, but the general theme seems to be looking for advice as they join this wonderful, wacky world of church tech. God has also brought a bunch of younger guys into my direct sphere of influence, so there seems to be a common theme here. Between that and the recent revelation that I’ve now spent more years doing live production professionally, than most of these guys have been alive (25 years, to be exact), it seemed good to share a few things that I’ve learned in that time.

Banish Pride
When you’re young you think you know everything. How many teenagers have you heard say, “My parents just don’t get this!” Perhaps you’ve said it yourself. For reasons unknown, with a little bit of knowledge comes a lot of pride. I know a lot of guys in their mid to late 20’s who, having worked in live production for a few years think they have it really dialed in. Typically, they are good at what they do, but they have a huge blind spot; they don’t yet know what they don’t know.

I know about this attitude because I was one of those people. I was really arrogant and cocky when I was in my 20’s. I was actually pretty good at what I did, and I let everyone know it. Thankfully I had a few people in my life who were willing to call me out when I was being a jerk and God put a lot of opportunities to fail in my path. Nothing roots out pride like catastrophic failure. Or you could just start working at being more humble.

Now, it’s true there are a lot of old guys in this business who are arrogant bastards as well. The only thing I can say about them is that after 20-30 years of doing this, they may have earned the right to be arrogant. But they’re still no fun to work with.

Takeaway: Strive to be humble and easy to work with. You’ll go a lot farther, a lot faster.

Stay Open Minded
This is almost a corollary to the first point. Never be afraid to learn something from someone who knows less than you do. I work with guys who weren’t even born when I graduated high school, and I’ve learned a ton from them. Having a fresh perspective on an issue is one of the fastest ways to come up with a solution. As a church TD or production professional, you’re not being paid to know all the answers (though that’s a common misconception). In fact, you’re being paid to come up with the best solutions. The best solutions come from teamwork, collaboration and not being afraid to try something new.

I’m fascinated with the story of the development of the personal computer. In the movie Pirates of Silicon Valley, the Apple team visits the Xerox research center in Palo Alto (PARC). After the Apple engineers got the full tour of the GUI the PARC guys had developed, the Xerox engineers went to the head of PARC and asked why he was giving away all the secrets they had developed. He told them that the GUI was essentially a novelty and that no one would ever want a computer in their home. Steve Jobs and the other Apple guys saw the future and made history while the PARC chief missed it completely because it didn’t fit his current paradigm.

Much of what we do every weekend in church was once considered heresy, from having guitars (or any instruments for that matter) on stage to hanging long arrays of speakers up in the air. Everything we do was at one time, believed to be a crazy (or even wrong) idea. It’s important to maintain an open mind.

Takeaway: Don’t get caught in the trap of, “We’ve never done it that way before; it can’t possibly work.” Keep an open mind and give it a try.

Since this is getting long, I’m going to finish it up next time. Check back in on Wednesday for two other lessons from an old guy.

CTA Classroom: Are You Suffering from ET?

Transitions list in FCP

Some time ago, I was trying to watch a show on the DIY network the other day about sustainable building practices. Those close to me know that I’m really into building. It’s been a hobby out of control for a long time, really, so I was very interested in the content of the program. However, I had to stop watching because I became so annoyed with the editor’s attempt to use every single transition his editing package came with (and perhaps a few third party ones…). Even my wife was irritated by it, which says a lot. Some of the transitions were really cool and had they been used sparingly, would have been great. The problem was, the transitions got in the way of the message. After 10 minute of yelling, “STOP!” I had to turn it off.

Back in the old days of editing (the real old days of cutting film with a razor and taping it together), cuts were pretty much all an editor had to work with. Even dissolves took a lot of work. This was fine however, because editors developed a language of editing in which cuts ruled and dissolves marked the transition from one scene to another (or a change of time).

Today, now that editing has become very easy and hundreds of transitions are just a mouse click away, many editors find themselves afflicted with ET—Excessive Transitionitis. Thankfully, there is a cure: I call it C&DO—Cuts and Dissolves Only (which is not to be confused with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in alphabetical order…).

Of course, ET is not a problem afflicting second-tier cable programs alone. A few weeks ago I rolled a video during a memorial service. In addition to EKB (Excessive Ken Burns), the editor was also overcome with ET. In fact, I could pretty much figure out the order the transitions appeared in the effects window of iMovie. Mainly because that was the order they appeared on screen. What should have been a moving, memory filled few minutes became an effect-laden eyesore.

Try this experiment: The next time you are telling a story, edit it together using cuts only. Then watch it and ask yourself if a whole bunch of wacky transitions will really further the message. I often say that ET is merely a compensation mechanism—compensation for lack of good content. The truth is, if the story isn’t compelling, piling on 3-D rotating cubes and cross-zooms will not make it more so.

When I used to produce industrial or commercial videos for clients, we would have to use some flash and trash, because the content really wasn’t that exciting. However, in the church setting, we have a story to tell—a powerful story. When telling powerful stories, all we really need is cuts and dissolves. Seriously. Don’t believe me? Watch any movie that tells a powerful story (The Passion of the Christ, Saving Private Ryan, Crash). You won’t find a flip zoom or venetian blind transition in any of them. Why not? Because the story and the visuals conveyed the message, powerfully. The editors spent their time cutting well, not tweaking the reflection settings on a page turn.

So give it a shot. Try C&DO for a project or two. Spend more time developing content, getting the lighting right, shooting interesting B-roll (to cover up jump cuts) and having the on-camera talent do it just one more time. I can almost promise your videos will be more effective.

Today’s post is brought to you buy Heil Sound. Established in 1966, Heil Sound Ltd. has developed many professional audio innovations over the years, and is currently a world leader in the design and manufacture of large diaphragm dynamic, professional grade microphones for live sound, broadcast, & recording.

Interesting Finds for the Week: Mar. 3, 2011

What you need to know about Thunderbolt | Computers | MacUser | Macworld
I was skeptical about the need for Thunderbolt, but now I’m excited. This could be really useful for us in the audio/video fields.

The Table Project’s Jason Wenell | Church Marketing Sucks
You’ve heard about The Table. Now hear from the developer.

Receivd – Real-Time File Sharing
If you ever need to share large sets of files with someone (and who doesn’t?), this could be really useful.

Love Wins and Truth Prevails, But Speed Kills ‘em Both | Don’t Eat The Fruit
Good advice to remember before you hit the “Send” button.

Free iPad app offers software training | Business | iOS Central | Macworld
One more training resource.

Canister lets you add water (or bodily fluids) to recharge batteries
Going beyond rechargeable batteries into fuel cells. This is interesting tech coming down the pike. Now if we can adapt this to wireless mic batteries…

The Hit By A Bus List

London busphoto © 2008 E01 | more info (via: Wylio)

A few weeks ago, one of our younger readers (Brance Armstrong, 17 from Odessa TX) asked me about a “hit by a bus list” (HBABL for short). We talked about it on this week’s episode of Church Tech Weekly, but I thought it might be good to post a few things as well. First, it might be helpful to define what at “hit by a bus list” even is. The definition may vary from church to church, but basically it seeks to answer the question, what happens if you’re hit by a bus on the way to work one Sunday morning? Can others pick up and pull a service together (while they mourn your unfortunate loss, of course)? A saying that I often use with my team is, “Just so I’m not the only person that knows this…” and I’ll fill in the blank with some bit of information that others should know.

Think of it this way, if for some reason you couldn’t be there on Sunday, what information do others need to know to do your job? That information goes on the HBABL. It might be key info like the login to the presentation computer, or password to the audio console. It may be the location of the pastor’s mic or a detail on how he likes it set out. Depending on the size and scope of your ministry, this list could be one page, or take a 3-ring binder. You may want to break it down into chunks by position (eg. video, audio, presentation, etc.). Regardless of how you do it, you need to find a way to get information out of your head and on to paper (or in the cloud if you prefer; as long as others have access to it!).

Before we get into a practical example, let me tackle the philosophical side of this. Some tech guys hoard information. They keep it all to themselves and believe it makes them more valuable. I argue that is a bad strategy. First of all, do you really want to be the only person who can turn on the PA? Second of all, good churches need people who build into others and develop teams. TDs (or technical leaders) should be trying to share as much knowledge with others as possible. Getting off soapbox…

I’ve been calling 2011 “the year of the volunteer” at Coast. I really want to start bringing in more tech volunteers and building our team. We’ve done a lot with systems over the last 18 months, and we’re ready. This means we need to document everything. Documentation makes it easier for the volunteers who serve once a month be successful. Sure they can call me over and ask questions, but when they can look at a checklist and figure it out themselves, they feel better about what they do.

So here’s an example (and it’s only one example) of what I mean. We recently started capturing our service straight into FinalCut Pro for easier processing of the video podcast. To help facilitate that, I created the following guide for our video directors. I walks them throughout he process, step by step, complete with screen grabs, so they can do the job. I beta tested it on my least technical volunteer; with no training I handed it to her and said, see if you can do this. She nailed it! So I knew we had a winner.

FinalCut Pro Recording Process Click to download a PDF version

We’re working to create documents like this across all disciplines. Another example is our Presentation checklist—it’s a different type of document, but outlines what the presentation tech needs to do on a typical weekend.

Presentation Checklist Click to download a PDF version

A HBABL can take many forms; what’s important is that it works for your situation. It all starts with you sitting down and considering what you do every week (in detail) and committing it to paper. Then edit out the unnecessary information, distilling it down to the most critical. That’s your list. I’m keeping this short so you have time to go work on your lists today…

This post is brought to you by Horizon Battery, suppliers of  award-winning Ansmann rechargeable systems that are used worldwide by Cirque du Soleil and over 25,000 schools, churches, theaters, broadcast companies, & businesses. Learn more about their pro-grade batteries and chargers by visiting their web site. Tested and recommended by leading wireless mic manufacturers and tech directors.

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