Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

Month: June 2011 (Page 2 of 3)

More from InfoComm: DPA & Roland

More pics from our man in the field, Duke Dejong. 

We’ve been hearing about it for quite some time and it’s nearly here; the single ear headset mic from DPA. It’s an upgraded 4066 that’s 10 dB less sensitive for a reduction in wind noise. Duke reports it fits really snuggly around the ear, and that a second ear extension is coming (though that point, why not just use a 4066?). The cable and the boom mic are replaceable, and it’s expected to be available in September for around $500. Also, looking at the picture, it appears the element is smaller than the 4066, which will help those doing IMAG or TV.

A bunch of guys getting a tour of Roland’s new offerings from Jeremy Engel. From left to right in picture, Jeremy Engle, Brad Rowe, Jonathan Davis, Tim Frederick, Jamie Ortiz, Brian Turnbull, Nathan Kolosziej.

Ever needed to do a portable PA where power wasn’t easily accessible? Like I have to do next month for VBS when I need a PA in the middle of our parking lot? How about battery powered mixers and speakers (that come with a wireless mic!)? These could solve a lot of problems for people…

More to come!

More from InfoComm

And we have some more reports coming in from the trade show floor. First up, a new projector from Sanyo.

 

Here is what I know about this projector: Model PLC-HF15000L. I’m guessing it’s 15K lumens. It will do 2K and it’s Quad Drive (4 LCDs, RGB+Y). Sweet.

This is some kind of rear projection film from 3M. Don’t know much more about it than that, other than the fact that Duke said it looked pretty life-like. A possible solution for video venues maybe?

Hey look! iPad based kiosks! A secure and stylish way to use an iPad as an interactive information device. Very slick. Prices are said to be about $299 for the wall or table top models, $499 for the stand up version. At that price, I’m pretty sure the iPad is not included.

Duke’s first look at Byron, version 2 of the Jands Vista software. Two news items of note: First, a Mac version is said to be underway (Woot!). Second, they’re talking about adding a direct-to-the-console VNC so instead of having to remote into a computer attached to the console, you can go straight into the console itself. iPad control anyone?

That’s all for now, more to come later in the day as the pics come in. Thanks again to Duke Dejong for being our man in the field. And don’t forget, we’ll have Duke and several others on Church Tech Weekly this Sunday for comprehensive CTW coverage of InfoComm11.


Images from InfoComm11

Our man on location, Duke Dejong has offered to provide photo coverage of InfoComm11 this year since I’m not able to be there. Here are the first three he sent me; we’ll try to get more posted throughout the week as we have opportunity.

 

The day started off with a breakfast at the Avid booth, and a lesson from Robert Scovill on how he sets up his Avid systems. If I could have teleported in for just one hour of InfoComm, this would have been it. Oh well, there’s always next year.

Jenn Liang-Chaboud from Shure gives Jonathan Davis and Tim Frederick the skinny on the Shure Axient System.

Jonathan and Tim get hands on with the PSM1000 beltpack receiver. Having had the opportunity to play around with those a little bit, I can tell you they’re very, very nice.

That’s it for now. As Duke sends pics, we’ll see about getting them up. See, it’s almost like being there, save the crowds, the noise and the immense humidity…

And remember, we’ll have full coverage of InfoComm11 this weekend on Church Tech Weekly.

3 Steps to Building a Process

whiteboard on 29/4photo © 2008 Denise Chan | more info (via: Wylio)

 

Confession time; I hate X Steps to Anything books, articles or sermons. Mainly because the topics addressed by those books, articles and sermons are far to complex to be broken down to single-digit steps and accomplished—at least with any measure of success. But here I am with a 3 Steps to Building a Process Post. What can I say? I’m an artist…

Anyway, I’ve been writing about, talking about and developing processes for a good number of years now. And the other day I was explaining to one of our new audio volunteers how we come up with all these processes. Turns out the process for creating a process is actually quite simple. So without further delay, here’s roughly how I do it.

Step 1: Make It Work

Truly, the first step in process design is just to get the thing to work. The thing can be anything from a method you use to set up the stage, to a series of procedures to accomplish a task to a strategy for lighting or mixing. You have to start by making it work. For the purposes of illustration, I’m going to use the process of cabling our stage, because that’s what prompted this post.

We started of running individual cables all over the place, because we needed to make it work. After a while we started paying attention to what and how many cables we were running where. That leads to the second step.

Step 2: Customization

Once you get the basics down, and you know how you want accomplish the task, it’s time to customize it. For our sermon recording process, I wrote some AppleScripts to automate the recording, and we created a series of templates and folders to make it go quicker. For our stage cabling, we started building custom snakes and cables. Instead of running 2-4 cables to the stage left platform every week, we now have a 4 channel sub-snake dropped over there. Rather than run a data cable and a stereo line level cable from the M-48s every week, we zip tied them together. 

We re-labeled our snake box to match what gets plugged in where, and we built a custom rack for our S-4000D Distro and wireless IEMs. We also built custom cables to get to and from those boxes. After you have the custom stuff in place for a while, you start to notice things you can tweak just a little bit.

Step 3: Refinement

To me, this is the most fun. The first two steps are often pretty obvious things that make life easier. Step 3 is where you get to be clever. Sometimes it’s simple things like color-coding and labeling both ends of all the NL-4 monitor cables. Or you start creating calendar events that pop up reminders on the recording computer to remind you to start the CD-R at the 9:00. Sometimes you bend conduit and make completely custom cables like an Amphenal 6-pin Leslie connector to NL-8. And back. Through the wall to the iso room. 

This is the point where you step back and look at the process and think, it would be even better if we just did…

We’ve been spending a lot of time in step 3 of late, and it’s been crazy fun.

What processes have you been developing, and where are you in the, well, process?

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.

The TD As A Rabbi

Rabbiphoto © 2009 Center for Jewish History, NYC | more info (via: Wylio)

I was thinking about the life of Jesus the other day. Isaiah and I have been going through Rob Bell’s book, Velvet Elvis, with our lighting guys Thomas and Daniel over the last few months. We meet about every two weeks at Starbucks, talk, share life and discuss a chapter in the book. Reading through one of the chapters, it occurred to me that this is sort of what Jesus did.

Back in the day, Rabbis would start training kids around age 5-6. The students would begin learning the Torah and as they grew, would learn more and more of it, while also be heavily influenced by the Rabbi. As the students grew into their teen years, the Rabbis would select the best and brightest and bring them under their Yoke. As the students became disciples, they would not only learn the Torah backwards and forwards (most would have it memorized completely by the time they were 10-12!), they would start to become like the Rabbi.

Jesus followed this pattern, and called a group of 12 students to follow him. Because of all the art that (incorrectly) depicts the disciples as 40-year old white guys with long beards, we assume they were fully grown men. But the reality is that the disciples were most likely in their teens. He spent a ton of time with them, with the idea that they would learn to become more like him. It’s easy to knock on the disciples and their frequent and well documented failures, but they were trying. And Jesus was forever patient with them, continually nudging them closer and closer to the goal. Just a few years later, they started the church and changed the world. So I’d say He did OK with those boys.

Now here’s what got me thinking; if we’re supposed to becoming more and more like Jesus in our Christian life, it stands to reason that we should start doing more and more of the things Jesus did. A key part of His life was building into those 12 boys, and really pouring into 3 in particular. So, if that was the program of Jesus, what should we as Christ-followers also do? It seems to me we should be doing the same thing. 

This is both an exciting and terrifying proposition. To wit; if we are spending time with our tech team, and they are becoming more and more like us, does that mean they are becoming more and more like Christ? Maybe we should back up a step—are you spending time with your tech team in an intentional way, with the goal being to help them become more like you? Of course, the ultimate goal is to become more like Jesus, which is the charge of all of us. But the way that typically gets worked out is by modeling our lives on someone who is further along in that journey than we are.

Now, I want to be clear on this; I’m not comparing myself to Jesus, as if I have this all figured out and am now the paradigm to emulate. However, I have been endeavoring to follow Christ for almost 25 years and I think God has shown himself to me a few times and that is something I’d like to pass on. And that’s all we’re talking about here, passing on what God has taught us to the next generation. 

It’s been my experience that spiritual growth happens most effectively in relationship. So who are you in relationship with? And when I ask that, I’m asking both up and down the chain. In other words, who is building into you, and who are you building into? Just imagine what the church would be like if we each were building into someone 10 years younger than us, and we had someone 10 years older pouring into us?

Our job as TDs is as much about this process as it is anything technical. We can pull off technically flawless weekend services month after month, but if our team isn’t becoming more like us (which is to say, more like Jesus as we become more like Him), than I think we’re missing the point. So back to my original question, who are you building into?

Today’s post is brought to you by the Roland R-1000. The R-1000 is a multi-channel recorder/player ideal for the V-Mixing System or any MADI equipped console or environment. Ideal for virtual sound checks, multi-channel recording, and playback.

CTA Classroom: Signal Level

The topic for today’s post came out of a very real conversation I had with my new audio volunteers last night. We got to talking about various signal levels that we deal with in the world of audio, and it became very clear that they had not yet been exposed to any of this nomenclature. I figured it’s entirely possible that some of you are unclear on what all these terms may mean as well.

So this will be an introductory course on basic signal level. To keep it simple, I’m not going to go into all the background math that gets us here, or define every term; I’m going to stick with the practical implications of signal level. With those two caveats, simple and practical, let’s begin.

Level and Resistance

I’m going to use two terms today that need defining, level and resistance. For the purposes of this discussion, level refers to voltage. Voltage is analogous to water pressure. More pressure, more flow. Voltage is a measurement of the amount of force behind the signal traveling down the wires. The voltage we’re dealing with is pretty small, so to make it easier for us sound guys to deal with, we don’t talk about it in terms of volts at all. Rather, we use the decibel, or dB. A dB is a unitless scale used to compare like values; in this case voltage. We have a reference value, in this case 1 Volt = 0 dBV (the V signifies Voltage), and we reference everything else to that voltage. Thus, -60 dBV corresponds to 1 millivolt. Someday I’ll go into the math on how we get there, for now, take my word for it. I encourage you to do some research on your own to learn more about voltage. For our purposes today, that’s enough.

The other term we need to know is resistance, which we measure in Ohms. Resistance (often expressed as impedance in our world—and yes I know that impedance is actually DC resistance plus capacitance; I’m trying to keep this simple, OK?) is exactly what it sounds like, the resistance, or impediment to signal flow. Going back to our water analogy, think of impedance as the size of the pipe you’re pushing water through. Obviously it’s a lot harder to push a large volume of water through a straw than it is a 4” diameter pipe. In audio land, we have two basic values of impedance, low (roughly 250-600 Ohms) and high (roughly 1,000-10,000 Ohms). At this time, don’t worry too much about the exact values, just get the concepts. Impedance matching is a whole ‘nother post.

Right, so we have that down? Signal level (dBV) and Impedance (low & high). With that as our backdrop, let’s consider the three most common types of signals we face in audio; mic level, line level and speaker level.

Mic Level

Think of a mic level signal as a low level, low impedance signal. Mic level is nominally around -60 dBV, so we’re looking at 1 mV (mV=millivolt, or 1/1000 of a volt, or .001 V), give or take. The impedance is also low, in the area of 250-600 Ohms. Now, even though the voltage is low, we can send mic level signals a reasonably long distance because the impedance is fairly low. When sent over a good balanced cable, mic levels will travel hundreds of feet and arrive pretty much intact. We see mic level coming from mics (obviously) as well as DIs (direct injection) boxes. A DI turns unbalanced, high impedance signals into a balanced, low impedance mic level signal so it can be sent a longer distance. I’ll deal with balanced/unbalanced signals in another post; for now think of them this way—balanced = 3 wires = better for longer runs, unbalanced = 2 wires = good only for short (2-15’) runs. Again, I’m simplifying to get concepts across. 

Line Level

Most professional audio gear using line level signals runs at +4 dBV, which corresponds to a little over 1.5 V. Whereas mic level signals are almost always balanced, line level can be either balanced or unbalanced. Line level is typically high impedance, on the order of 1,000 Ohms (1KOhm) or so, but because the signal level is so much higher than mic level, we can send it long distances (at least if it’s balanced).

I want to pause here for a moment to consider some practical implications. Let’s say you plug a line level signal into an input that’s designed for mic level. What would happen? Going back to our numbers, you have an input that’s looking for 1 mV and you shove 1V into it. That’s about 1,000 times as much signal as it’s expecting (see why we use dB instead of volts? We can say 64 dB instead of 1,000 Volts). You don’t have to be an electrical engineer to guess that the result will not be pleasant. While the input it not likely to be destroyed, the audio signal will be. Gross distortion will be the audible result.

On the other hand, if we plug a mic level signal into an input that is expecting a line level signal, what might happen? Again, we’re feeding a signal that’s roughly 1,000 times lower than expected; so the result will be low signal level and high noise. Starting to make sense?

Speaker Level

The third common type of signal we deal with in audio is speaker level. Speaker level is very high level (+22-33 or more dBV and can range from 11-89 volts) and very low impedance (4-16 Ohms typically). With that kind of signal level on hand, it’s pretty clear why we don’t want to plug a speaker level signal into a mic level input. That might actually blow something up. And it’s also why we can’t drive a speaker with the output of a microphone, at least not directly.

Now we could talk about the intricacies of these signaling levels for the next two weeks, but I’m trying to keep the post length manageable. I’ll delve into some more of this stuff in the coming months. In the meantime, do some research on your own. You’ll be amazed at how much more of audio makes sense when you have a firm grasp of these concepts.

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 and recording.

Cool Opportunities at InfoComm & IPV6 Day

Today we have some news items to report. First up, for those of you going to InfoComm next week, I would like to bring your attention to a few very cool opportunities to get up close and personal with great gear and great people. And there’s some free food involved as well.

 

CCI Solutions has partnered with several key companies to put together exclusive church tours of the booths, giving you access to the reps, demos and breakfast. On Wednesday, Avid is hosting a breakfast with Robert Scovill, which is pretty much worth the price of admission right there. Robert will go over his favorite features of the Venue system and give you some tips on using it more effectively. Having watched several of his webinars, I can tell you that this will be a valuable time, even for non-Venue users. Later in the day, there will be an exclusive tour and demo at the Shure booth, and another one at the Harmon/JBL/Soundcraft booth.

On Thursday, Roland will be providing breakfast and showing off their latest products. Later that day, you can check out the Midas and Extron booths, again with the exclusive church tours. What I like about these events is that you get to talk with the reps about the equipment that will work well in the church, which is not always the same as what works in other venues. 

Reservations are required for the breakfast events, and recommended for the other booth tours. Here’s a PDF that will give you full information and a link for registration. If you’re heading to InfoComm anyway, this may be a great way to maximize your time there.

Now, you may or may not have noticed that today is IPV6 day. What is IPV6 day? It’s sort of a trial run, or beta test, of the new Internet Protocol Version 6 numbering system that will be adopted sometime within the next year or so. More than 225 of the world’s larger internet companies are going to switch on IPV6 for a day and see how it goes.

As a techie, you probably know that all current IP addresses are based on a XXX.XXX.XXX.XXX numbering system. Basically, it’s 32 bits, and thus supports 4,294,967,296 addresses. Yes, that’s 4 Billion and change, but believe it or not, we’re running out. Some experts say there is only a few month supply left of IP addresses, and then we’re done; hence IPV6 (others argue we’ve already run out and are now recycling; whatever, we need to change it up). Rather than just going to 64 bit addressing, IPV6 takes a Go Big or Go Home approach and goes all the way to 128 bits. Because of the way this math works, this doesn’t give us just 4 times as many addresses, oh no. IPV6 paves the way for approximately 340 Undecillion addresses. Never heard of Undecillion? Think of it this way.

You have Millions, Billions, Trillions and Quintillions, right? Undecillion is the sixth one after Trillions. It’s a number so big, we have to use 1036 to describe it. Essentially, IPV6 is an unlimited pool of addresses; indeed, IPV6 provides 5 x 1028 addresses for each of the 6.8 Billion people living on the planet right now.

What does this mean to you? Probably not that much, at least not yet. Once IPV6 rolls out, however, some network equipment may need upgrading. Almost all our computers are ready for IPV6, so they will require just a little re-configuration. Network switches should be OK, as they typically just pass along whatever data is sent them. Other items like cable & DSL modems however may require firmware updates or replacements. For example, a DOCSIS 2.0 cable modem will not support IPV6; but a DOCSIS 3.0 will. Depending on how your church connects to the internet, you may have to make some changes. 

I will not claim to be an expert, or even well read on this subject, so I suggest you do some research if you are responsible for IT at your church. I for one, am glad I’m not, so I’ll only be looking at it from the perspective of an end user. But it’s kind of a fun think to talk about anyway, being geeks and all.

Is anyone an expert on IPV6 who would like to shed more light on this topic? Leave a comment below. And don’t forget to register for the InfoComm sessions if you’re going!

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.

Everything’s shiny, Cap’n. Not to fret.

 

The crew of the Serenity. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox.

Ah Firefly, how we miss you…

I thought of that quote last week when our Paradigm system completely crapped out. We had been noticing some minor issues, things not quite acting right, so we did some investigation. It seems the IP address changed somehow, so we re-booted. When it came up again, it failed to load the Arch Config File and we were out of business. About a half-dozen phone calls later, it was determined that the Paradigm controller was hosed and needed to go back to ETC for service. Only one problem; it was 5 PM on Friday afternoon. West Coast time. Super. 

Thankfully, the Net3 system was still working fine, and we have control of the lights from the Hog. We can still pull off the weekend, it’s just a little less convenient without Paradigm. ETC will be shipping us a replacement brain this week and we should be back up and running in no time. At least in theory. And I’ll be working on my days off making sure that actually happens. Living the dream as a TD…

But I digress. The reason for this post is to ask the question, “What do you do when you have a catastrophic system failure?” It’s a bit of a rhetorical question as it all depends on what system has failed. But I want to ask the question because most of the time, we expect our systems to just work. And most of the time they do. But when they don’t we should have a plan. In fact, we should have a plan before they don’t work. 

One plan would be to have backup equipment in place. For example, we always have an extra wireless handheld on hand for every service, just in case we lose the pastor’s mic. Plans like that are easy. But how about a main system processor, or a Paradigm brain? Chances are, it’s not practical (or budget-friendly) to have backups of those on hand). And how would you decide what to have on hand anyway? 

But it’s a good exercise to think about what you would do in the event of a major system failure. Let’s say your mixing desk doesn’t power up next weekend. What do you do? It’s Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning, so you can’t get a rental in. There will still be a few hundred (or thousand) people showing up for church in a few hours, what’s your plan? Or let’s say your main projector won’t light up. Do you have another one you can throw up there to get through a service in a pinch? 

Now, I’m not going to even attempt to detail contingency plans here; there are far too many possibilities to even consider. But I will say that the most important thing in an emergency like that is to not panic. Chances are, everyone around you will go into meltdown mode, and it’s important that you remain calm and solutions-focused. Of course, having spent some time actually considering options ahead of time will make it easier for you to develop with a solution quickly and calmly. 

Really, this post is just an attempt to get you thinking. I don’t have a whole more to say at this point, and I really have to get back to solving my lighting issue. Do you have a catastrophic system failure story you’d like to share? Leave a comment…

This post is brought to you by CCI Solutions. With a reputation for excellence, technical expertise and competitive pricing, CCI Solutions has served churches across the US in their media, equipment, design and installation needs for over 35 years.

CTA Classroom: Phantom of the Power

Today we’re going to continue our series on the electrical side of sound. Last time, we tackled ground loops; their cause and a few solutions. This time around, it’s phantom power. Phantom power is one of those often misunderstood aspects of sound. It’s one of those things that’s really not that complicated once you get it, but up to that point it’s a bit of a mystery. So today we take the mystery out of phantom power.

Why Use It?
The first question we need to ask is why use phantom power at all? Strictly speaking, we don’t need to, as the only reason we need phantom power is to power condenser microphones. Take all the condensers off stage and you can shut off phantom power forever. But most of us like to use the occasional condenser mic or active DI, so phantom power is necessary. Some condenser mics and active DIs will run on a battery, but if you don’t have to power something from a battery, you shouldn’t (you know it’s going to die at the most inopportune time). It should be noted that it is only condenser mics and active DIs that require phantom power; for all other sources, it’s best to turn it off if you have the option to do so on a channel by channel basis.

Phantom power moving from the console to the mic, audio goes the other way. In basic concept, anyway.

What is it?
Phantom power is a DC voltage—typically 48 volts— that is applied to both signaling lines of a balanced connector. In practical terms, 48 volts are applied to both pin 2 and pin 3 of an XLR. As both pins are getting the same voltage, in the same polarity, it’s cancelled out at the input transformer. Audio signals are generated based on the differences between the “high” or “hot” (pin 2) and the “low” or “cold (pin 3) signals; thus if the same voltage (48) is appearing on them at the same time, it is effectively 0 volts. That is to say, there is no delta or difference between them, so to the input amplifier in the mixer, there is no signal. Since phantom power is direct current, it can coexist on the audio lines with no problem. A condenser mic is free to pull power from either pin 2 or pin 3, and the current returns to ground over the shield. 

Caveats
Generally speaking, it is safe to use phantom power with dynamic microphones. However, if you have the option to turn it off when it’s unneeded, you should. The reason is safety. If there is ever a fault in the mic line that would short pin 1 (ground) to either pin 2 or pin 3, 48 volts of DC current would flow through the voice coil of the mic and it could be destroyed. This doesn’t happen often, but why take the chance. If you can turn it off, do.

The original spec for phantom power called for delivering only 2 milliamps of current. Today, some mics require much more (the Shure KSM series for example, really wants 5-6 mA, while really high end mics want 10 mA). Most modern sound consoles will deliver this current, but be aware of the needs of your mic. If you have a real high end condenser that just doesn’t sound as good as it should, check the phantom power current spec of your desk. Of course, plugging a high end Schoepps Colett into a cheap Crate mixer is sort of like giving Michael Schumacher a Yugo to drive. But I digress…

Other Uses
As noted, phantom power can be used to power active DIs, such as a Countryman Type 85 or Type 10, or a Radial J48. While the Countrymans will run on a 9v battery, giving them a steady supply of 48 volts will help you sleep better at night. Another cool use of phantom power is the Rat Sniffer. The Sniffer uses the 48 volts to diagnose mic cables, and indeed entire signal flows. If you’re walking into a venue with a bunch of unlabeled snakes, you can plug the sniffer into an input on the snake, then switch phantom power on, one channel at a time. When the lights light up, that’s your line. The Sniffer is also very handy at diagnosing cross patches, too. If you have an open pin, a polarity issue or other wiring malady, the Sniffer will let you know. Pretty nifty!

So there’s a little about phantom power. As you can see, it’s really not that mysterious. In fact, it’s pretty straight forward.

Today’s post is brought to you by DPA Microphones. DPA’s range of microphones have earned their reputation  for exceptional clarity,  high resolution, above all, pure, uncolored accurate sound. Whether recording or sound reinforcement, theatrical or broadcast, DPA’s miking solutions have become the choice of professionals with uncompromising demands for sonic excellence.

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