Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

Month: May 2011 (Page 2 of 2)


I was talking with a TD friend of mine recently, and the topic turned to repeatability. It struck me that one of the most important things we can do as TDs is create processes that are repeatable. This doesn’t mean that every service or event we do is going to be exactly the same, but the process by which we get there should be pretty consistent. I’ve been struck by the fact that working with volunteers requires repeatable processes.

People that don’t do live production every day really want to know, “How do I do this?” I suggest there are several ways to achieve this goal, and depending on the process in question, you may use one or more of these ways.

Build Repeatable Processes

If you “wing it” every weekend, it’s going to be tough to get consistently good results. Almost every church I’ve come in to was making up the input patch every week, depending on how they felt. Anytime someone new would join the team, it would take them forever to figure out where stuff was routed because, A) everyone did it differently and B) sometimes it didn’t work.

Isaiah and I have spent a ton of time refining our processes so they are as clean, efficient and repeatable as possible. We plug things into the same inputs every single weekend. For example, the acoustic is always in channel 18. If we don’t have an acoustic, the input is blank. For our new guys, they don’t have to guess where to plug something in; it’s on the input list, the stage box is labeled, and it’s really plug and play. Their learning curve is shortened tremendously.


One of the greatest tools for repeatability is documentation. Quite simply, taking the time to write out what you’re doing. For example, we’ve put together (and when I say “we” I mean Isaiah) a pretty comprehensive document that details how to use the A/V system in our student/community room. It’s broken down into sections that answer the question, “How do I?” If we have a ministry group in there and they need to use a wireless mic, they can turn to the section on wireless mics, read and follow along with the pictures and produce acceptable sound. This happens because we store the mics in the same place, have a battery procedure written up and leave everything patched the same way every time.

We are also working up checklists for various tech positions. I’ve done one for setting up the video capture in FinalCut Pro. Monica has put one together for presentation. The idea is to put something in the hands of the volunteer who’s running that position that they can follow and be successful.


I’m not sure if that’s a word or not, but I like it. We try to baseline as much as possible. We have a baseline show in our SD8 that we start from every week. We’ve gone so far as to set up the input gain close to where it should be all the way to building rough monitor mixes for the vocal wedges. This has two benefits; one, sound check goes really fast, and two, new people can get up to speed really quickly. We also have baseline shows in our lighting console, I have templates set up in Compressor for video, and we build Keynote Masters for sermon notes.

Baselining gives us a consistent platform to work from, which our church leadership appreciates. While this might not work in the hyper-creative church that wants each weekend to be an adventure, our church values consistency. It should be consistently good, and we have plenty of room to be creative; we just want to get in the ballpark with our templates so we have more time to refine things and make them great. I want my volunteers to be successful, so we do a lot of the harder, back-end work for them, They are then free to focus on the more creative stuff and stay present during the services.

It’s important to remember that most of our volunteers don’t do this stuff for a living. If you present them with a blank slate every time, they’re far less likely to be successful. Certainly we all have some high-capacity team members, but they are the exception. What I’ve learned to do with them is have them help me build the baselines. That keeps them engaged and makes them feel valued for their extra knowledge.

What do you do to make sure your team is successful every weekend?

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Environmental Projection

I was about to start this article off with the phrase, “A few weeks ago…” but then I realized it was actually a few months ago now. Anyway, a few months ago, we had the privilege of hosting Camron Ware at Coast Hills as he did a hands-on demonstration of Environmental Projection (EP). Camron is a great guy; very knowledgeable and very humble. He will say he didn’t invent EP, but he certainly has been a driving force in helping churches all over the world get up and running with EP systems and media. 

When I was approached about hosting this event, I was a little concerned that our room would not be conducive to EP as the front of our auditorium is a mishmash of curtains, walls, screens, angles and the stage. It didn’t take long to find I was wrong. The first thing Camron did was to set up three projectors. Two were supplied by a local vendor (a pair of Chrisite 5Ks). The other one arrive with Camron in a suitcase. No kidding. He walked in with a rolling suitcase in tow, and pulled out a projector the size of two pizza boxes. Made by Hitachi, it spits out 4000 lumens and costs about $2,000. I believe this is the one: Hitachi CP-X4021N LCD Video Projector

After connecting all three projectors to his MacBook Pro using a TripleHead2Go from Matrox, he threw up this very cool grid in Photoshop. He created this to help him create the mask he uses in ProPresenter to mask out the areas he doesn’t want to project on. He spent about 10 minutes creating the mask, though he conceded that in a real installation or bigger show, he might spend quite a bit more time getting it dialed in perfectly. 

The images used for the backgrounds can be almost anything. Camron talked a lot about how cathedrals of old had all sorts of beautiful details and architectural features. Today, we build beige boxes. EP can be used to put some visual interest back into the worship space. To wit…

That one has a very modern, grafitti feel. But you could just as easily go ancient.

Note in this case, he’s projecting over our IMAG screens. In the previous example, he masked them out. This was done using different masks in the Mask layer of ProPresenter 4. It should also be noted that these images are not edge-blended in any way. He’s found that typically the building has enough breakup in the design that the slight overlap of images from the projectors doesn’t matter that much. By tweaking the mask, he made it look seamless, even though it wasn’t. Here’s another.

Camron had a lot of tips for us that day, and I won’t try to recap them all. A few items of note however: Someone asked about projecting on the side walls. He said he’s found that to be distracting. It’s hard to tell from the photos, but standing in the room, the area of projection just about fills your field of veiw. The side walls are in the periphery. If we were projecting on them, especially with moving backgrounds, it’s easy to draw people’s eyes away from the front, which is distracting. It’s better to carry the color down the side walls with LED washes.

Speaking of motion, you want to keep things moving slowly. Something moving an inch on your screen will move ten feet or more when projected, so be careful with that. Experiment first with static images, then once you get the hang of that, start on motion. Try motion backgrounds out before Sunday.

And when you find yourself projecting on horizontal surfaces, like the area over the front of our stage, make sure to mask it out, as it looks very strange otherwise. The following picture serves as a negative example.

In this case, he removed the mask and as you can see, it looks really weird with the buildings zig-zagging up the front. 

There is a lot more to say about EP, but clearly I’m no expert. I suggest you check out Camron’s website, Visual Worshiper, to get the full scoop. When it comes to EP in the church, he’s the man. One other takeaway; it doesn’t need to be crazy-expensive to do EP. For example, three of those Hitachi projectors would set you back about $6,000. A TripleHead2Go is about $300. Of course, you’d also need a computer and software, but you may have that already. When you compare that to the cost of a few moving head lights, it’s really pretty affordable. It’s also important to note that you don’t need 16K lumen projectors to make this work, either. The center of the image is being projected from almost 95′ away from a 4,000 lumen projector. The two sides are 50′ away from 5,000 lumen projectors (the fact that they don’t look different says a lot about how projectors are rated…). 4,000 Lumens is certainly enough for most situations, especially when you can control the ambient light. We’re also running house lights near full, just so you know.

So there you go, a few tips on EP. But really, go to Camron’s site to get the real deal. Or better yet, if you’re serious about getting started with EP, have him come in and help you out. It’s totally worth it!

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TV stoffen met plumeau / Dusting the television with a feather-brushphoto © 2010 Nationaal Archief | more info (via: Wylio)


So, it’s May 2nd. Where did the first four months of 2011 go already? I’ve been meaning to write a quick update on several topics for a while now, but we’ve been moving at a pretty quick pace and I just haven’t gotten around to it yet. A conversation we had the other night has inspired me to let you know what’s going on over here. So here goes. First topic; the Webinars.

Where For Art Thou Webinar?

Many of you have had positive things to say about the webinars I’ve done with Dave Stagl and Jason Cole. Honestly, even if you didn’t like them, we’d still have done them because they are a ton of fun for the three of us. You’ve probably noticed we haven’t done one in a while. There are a few reasons for that. First, we’ve run out of topics that we think work well in that format. The other ideas we’ve bounced around all seem to benefit from some level of demonstration, or hands-on ability. Which brings us to the second challenge; technology. The last few have been really tough to pull together from a behind the scenes tech standpoint. Doing these on the cheap is tough, especially when the three of us are scattered across the country. 

Rest assured, however, that we are working on some ideas. We don’t yet know exactly how it will play out, or what the format will be, but the three of us remain committed to helping other techs grow, learn and improve their craft. For the time being, we’re taking a break to figure out what those will look like. In the meantime, if you have topics you’d like us to discuss, leave a comment and we’ll take a look. It could be something we discuss on Church Tech Weekly, or develop in another forum. Either way, you haven’t seen the last of the three of us together…

What’s With The Ads?

You’ve probably noticed the ads on the right side of the page. Hopefully, you don’t think I’m selling out. I established this blog four years ago to be a resource for other church techs, and intend that to continue. The reasons for the ads are simple; I work at a church, I live in one of the most expensive areas of the country and I have two teenage daughters, one of whom goes to college in the fall. As I surveyed my financial landscape late last year, I realized I need to earn some additional income. I determined I could take a job at Starbucks or something, but that would take away time that I have to generate content for this site. And writing about what I love to do is really a joy for me, so I tried to find a way to monetize that. Somewhat surprisingly, it worked.

You shouldn’t have noticed any change in the content of the site since the ads appeared, and I don’t expect there to be one. My sponsors have no say in the editorial content of the posts, or the podcasts. You’ll also notice that those who are sponsoring me are companies that I’ve been promoting for years anyway. I personally chose each sponsor, and I’ve turned down a few who wanted to advertise. The way I see it is simple; if someone advertises on my site, I am endorsing them as a product or service worthy of your consideration. Unless I would make that recommendation to a friend, that company won’t be advertising on the site. It’s that simple.

So no matter who you see on that right sidebar, or anywhere else on the page, rest assured if they’re an advertiser of mine, I endorse the product. That doesn’t mean it’s always going to be the right choice for you, but it’s at least a product or service you can feel good about trying.

What’s Up With Broken Links?

Around mid-March, I started working on migrating the site from WordPress to SquareSpace. I found I was spending far too much time working on the backend of the site and not enough time writing. After a few weeks of testing, I determined SquareSpace would mostly fix that. Right around the beginning of April, I made the switch. You should have noticed a few things: First, the site should be loading a lot faster now. Second, some of the links to old posts are broken. That’s because the taxonomy of post names is totally different between SquareSpace and WordPress. If I were more adept at MySQL, I could have probably fixed it, but I’m not.

I will be going back through all the old posts at some point and re-linking everything that’s broken. In the meantime, if you find a broken link, please let me know in the Report Bugs tab and I’ll get it fixed. 

In case you’re wondering, SquareSpace has been great. It’s much faster for me to get a post up now, which is what I wanted. It is more expensive, and I couldn’t justify it without a revenue model. But it is really nice. I also continue to recommend BlueHost as a great hosting company if you want to do a regular site, or host a WordPress blog. 

So there you go—that’s what’s happening at Church Tech Arts. We have a lot of great ideas in the pipeline and will continue to bring the best content we can. If you have a topic you’d like me to tackle, please leave a comment! Thanks for reading.

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