Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

Month: April 2011 (Page 2 of 5)

CTW NAB Coverage: DiGiCo SD11

If the SD10 is the big brother to the SD8 (and little brother to the SD7), then the SD11 is the little brother to the SD8. Got that? Yeah, they kinda hosed themselves with the whole numbering scheme, but what’s in a name, right?

The SD11 is a terrific addition to the SD line, using the exact same processing, software and interface as it’s larger brothers. Boasting 32 channels with 16 mic pres on the surface, 12 busses (each of which can be mono or stereo), and an 8×8 matrix, it packs a lot of power into a small footprint. Pricing with a D-Rack should be under $20k. 

CTW NAB Coverage: DiGiCo SD11 from Mike Sessler on Vimeo.

 

CTW NAB Coverage: Roland R-1000

Roland also announced the new R-1000 48 channel hard disk recorder. It interfaces perfectly with any of their V-Mixers, and with anything else with MADI using the S-MADI Bridge. They figured out a pretty great way to do virtual soundcheck with it as well. It’s a bit on the pricey side at around $5K (list), but given the high level of integration and ease of use, it may well be worth it as part of a V-Mixing system.

CTW NAB Coverage: Roland R-1000 from Mike Sessler on Vimeo.

Shielding the Sax

Since last week was pretty crazy—and to be honest, I’m pretty thrashed—this is going to be a short, practical post. For our Good Friday/Easter stage set up, we really change things up from our normal set up. Instead of the band being clustered in the middle of the stage, we open them way up, and spread them out on varied height platforms all across the stage. We do this because a key point of our Good Friday service centers around a very powerful dance during Lead Me To The Cross. It’s a good look, but it does create some problems. 

We normally don’t have both woodwinds and percussion together on a normal weekend, but we do for Good Friday. Logistics dictate that perc be right next to winds. In this past, we’ve gotten away with it, but this year our winds player has changed up his micing, and with the addition of three toms at percussion, we had some issues. When the percussionist laid into the toms, it actually started clipping the input on the winds player’s rig; and he was supposed to be playing sax at that point! This problem was aggravated by the fact that the percussion platform is a foot higher than the winds platform, putting the toms right at mic level.

This problem came up during rehearsal the night before the service, so we couldn’t re-configure. So we had to improvise. We have a giant, 6’ high drum shield that we don’t use that often (though we were using it around the Leslie cabinet), as well as some other, shorter shields. We pulled two sections of the 6’ shield and found that they fit perfectly in place between the two platforms. However, since we didn’t have enough room to Z-fold it, it wouldn’t stay up. We tried one of our stage stands, but we didn’t have room for that either. 

As seen from the Sax platformAs seen from the Perc platform

Someone hit on the idea of pulling a few panels off the short stands and using them as “wings.” Since the shields are made by the same manufacturer, the hinges are compatible. As you can see from the picture, we used two short sections to fold onto the perc platform, which added enough stability to hold it in place. Some quick testing showed it seemed to work pretty well, so we went with it. 

I spoke to our winds player between rehearsal and the first service and asked him if it was better. His answer surprised me; he said, “It’s not better, it completely solved it!” So I guess that was a win.

We did find that it effected the toms a little bit, since we were not close-mic’ing them. We wanted those to sound a little more distant, so I had an X-Y mic set up about a foot over the toms. The shield created a bit of phasing and slightly effected the tone, but it was a trade off worth making. If we had more time, I may have added some absorption to try to tame that, but we were under the gun. Like many things in live sound, it was a compromise, but I think the end result was better than had we done nothing.

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CTA Classroom: The Lighting Arc

If you know anything about storytelling, you know that stories have an arc. They start off with introductions, the characters and tension builds, conflict grows, we have a climax and finally a resolution. The shape of the arc can be different for each story, but the basic tenants remain. Songs typically follow an arc. We start with a musical introduction, a verse, a chorus, build to a bridge, sometimes a breakdown, then a big chorus finish followed by a resolution. 

When lighting for worship, our lighting should follow the arc of the song. Today, I’d like to look at a great example of a lighting arc that follows a song arc very well. The song is Rhythms of Grace from the latest Hillsong United CD, Aftermath. It’s a great song, with a nice arc. The lighting design was done by one of my two top-notch lighting volunteers, Daniel Cullen. It should be noted that Daniel is a senior in high school. He and our other lighting guy, Thomas Pendergrass (a junior in high school) do a great job every week.

Rather than try to explain what we’re talking about, I’m just going to tell the story through pictures. Let’s take a look at the opening.

The Opening

The song opens with percussion and drums. Everyone else is backlit with either the on-floor SourceFours, or with our Martin 518s in the truss. We also have about ten ColorBlast 12s on the floor to uplight the band in color. After a 16-bar intro, we bring in some front light (and when I say “we” I mean Daniel did…)

The First Verse

As you can see, we have a limited amount of front light coming in to illuminate the worship leader and singers. The feel of the song is still pretty mellow, so the lighting is following suit. Nothing is moving, and we’re just setting the mood. As we build to the first chorus, we add some color.

The First ChorusAt this point, we’ve brought up some more front light, and bring in some colored backlight. We have about 20 Parnells in the truss with color scrollers on, along with another dozen or so Parnells with either red or blue gels on the. This gives us a rich color palate to choose from, and you’ll see more of that shortly. The second verse holds at this look; when we get to the second chorus, the song gets bigger, so the lights follow suit.

The Second VerseThe white fabric that was previously only washed in a deep blue is now brighter and a cool blue-green color. He’s also brought up our blue back light, which adds more color and light upstage. The song is clearly building here, and the lighting is following along. Right after the second chorus, the song breaks down into a piano bridge. We put some scripture up on the screen and gave everyone a moment to breathe and reflect. The lighting sets the mood.

The BridgeAs you can see, the color drops out, and the band vamps for a good 20-30 seconds. This is not a time for animation, color chases or anything else. We are creating a space for people to reflect on what the’ve been singing and consider the implications for their life. The third chorus is a big one, so we light it up when we get there.

The Third ChorusAs the biggest point in the song, it’s also the brightest. Everyone is lit up, there is a ton of color and the sound is huge. This picture doesn’t really do the actual look justice, but you get the idea we were going for. After two trips through the chorus, the song breaks down rapidly, and the light follows.

The CloseThis is the coda; the song winds down and comes to a close. This lighting forms the backdrop for a pastor to come up and pray. 

If you haven’t heard the song, I recommend you go give it a listen. As you do, consider how you could create this type of an arc with your lighting rig. Obviously, we all have different lighting kits with varying tools in the toolbox. But hopefully, this gives you an idea or two on how to use what you have to support the message of the song. Again, big props to Daniel who did this pretty much on his own with very minimal input from me or Isaiah.

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CTW NAB Coverage: Sony

This year, the Sony booth was larger than the first church I attended after college. To say there was a lot to see would be an understatement. However, we found a few things that might be of interest to the church tech. A few new HD cameras and a slick little video mixer that has some real potential for smaller productions.

CTW NAB Coverage: Sony from Mike Sessler on Vimeo.

The Big Recruiting Announcement

I hate recruiting. I’m really not good at it, and I’ve always found it difficult. But, as TDs, it’s something we need to be doing. Somehow, we need to be finding ways to expose people to our ministry and offer them a chance to get involved. Like most TDs, I’ve tried bulletin announcements, personal recommendations, walk-in slides and ads on the church website. Most efforts don’t go so well. I have been convicted this year however, that we need to put serious effort into building our volunteer tech teams. I remembered something Daniel Murphy said some time ago. When he found himself in need of volunteers, he prayed and asked God to provide some. So I did. And we came up with a creative way to let people know about our tech serving opportunities.

In our weekend planning meeting, we considered having me come up on stage during announcements and having my boss Todd, who is the Pastor of Weekends & Communication interview me. But the more we talked about it, the more it sounded pretty pedestrian. Someone, and I don’t recall who, suggested that I show up on the big screen, all Hal 2000 like. Perhaps I could take over the service and do the announcement from there. We all loved the idea and set to figuring out how to make it work.

I make my debut on the big screen! The crowd was a bit light after Daylight Savings Time…

We chose to run this on a weekend when Todd was announcing and I was mixing FOH. We placed one of our Sony Z1s on the left NS-10 monitor at FOH. A little tweaking put the lens pretty much at my eye level. We found that the LED lamps on the SD8, when turned up, provided nice illumination for my face. We took the S-Video signal out of the Z1 and ran it into the Blackmagic Intensity Pro card we have in our ProPresenter Mac Pro (that’s a lot of “Pros” now that I type it out). We created a slide with a live video input on it and loaded it into the announcements presentation. 

Todd and I worked out a loose script (and when I say “loose” I mean it was really a very rough outline of what I thought might happen). After greeting, Todd went up to start announcements as usual. Except, his mic was not on. I let him hang there for a minute, until he started waving his arms around. I brought his mic up and he started into a goofy story about his self-proclaimed “mustache March.” After about 20 seconds, I brought his mic down and started the Jeopardy theme. A few bars in, my presentation coordinator, Monica, brought me up on the screen. With his mic still off, I said, “What are you doing, Todd?” We then got into a little banter (after I turned his mic back on, making a big show about how we’re always the ones really in control), that led us down the path of me explaining what we do, and how we had a few openings it the tech team.

And here’s how we did it.

The congregation loved it. There was a ton of laughter throughout the announcement and I think it put us on the map, so to speak. Technically, it wasn’t that hard to pull off. The biggest challenge for me was dealing with the 90 msec of delay from the PA to my ear. To solve that, I put in my UE7s just before starting and soloed it up so all I heard was Todd and me directly with no delay. I had already pre-built my snapshots so I knew my levels were good. My biggest challenge was looking into the lens, and not all over the room. I got better at that as the weekend wore on.

So how did it work? In a word, terrific. We picked up 3 prospective new sound volunteers and 3 new presentation techs. Since those were the only two areas we were shooting for, I feel like it was a huge success. Since then, we’ve had a few other people contact me with an interest as well. Given that we ran a bulletin ad for 4 weeks prior to the video announcement and received 0 responses, I’d say it worked pretty well. 

The goal was to present the tech team in a positive light, with a good dose of humor. I think we succeeded in that. I hate the, “We need volunteers otherwise the lights won’t be on” approach. I wanted to say, “We have the best job in the church, and we’d like to share that fun with a few of you.” Now, will everyone who expressed interest stick around? Probably not. But we still have a great boost to our teams, and that alone will generate more interest and momentum.

So how about you? What creative means have you used to get the word out about the great opportunities in the tech ministry?

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