Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

Month: September 2011 (Page 2 of 2)

To Upgrade Or Not?

A few months ago, Outreach Magazine asked me to come up with a few questions they could pose in a short article called, Should We Go For It?. Being the over-achiever that I am, I wrote 850 words. When the article came out, they published about 60 of them. Since I thought this was actually a pretty good article, I’m publishing it here, with the lesson learned (when someone asks for a few questions, write a few questions). The good news is that you—the reader of this blog—get the whole article…

Whenever making new technology purchases or technology upgrades, it’s important to think through the reasoning behind them as well as the actual purchase/upgrade process. Here are five things to think about when evaluating technology.

Does the technology further or enhance our mission as a church?

In other words, what do you feel you can’t do now (or aren’t doing well) that is critical to your churches specific mission? Of course, this presupposes you are really clear on the mission of your church, but that’s another article. Too many churches want a piece of technology because the church down the street does or the church that hosted the last conference has it. But that’s not enough of a reason. Every church is unique and it’s incumbent upon the leadership to make sure any technology system will enhance and advance the mission. If it doesn’t, the dollars are better spent elsewhere.

Do we have, or can we recruit and train, the people necessary to run this system? 

New technology rarely requires fewer people. Depending on the system in question, the learning curve can be quite steep and will require a significant investment on the part of the volunteers to learn how to run the equipment well. Finding, training and retaining technical volunteers is one of the hardest jobs in the church; it’s not at all like training ushers. If you are currently having a hard time finding people to run the equipment you currently have, think long and hard before adding more positions to the weekend tech team.

Can we really afford this?

There are three ways most Audio/Video/Lighting systems are designed and installed; the right way, the ridiculously over-engineered way and the church way. The ridiculously over-engineered way is typically an obvious waste of money. Those systems are designed by people who don’t understand the church, what we do and what we need. Those systems are crazy-expensive and typically can’t be run by volunteers. They are super-cool, however. 

The church way is to take the lowest bid one can find, then cut some stuff out to make it cheaper. This typically results in an inadequate system that won’t really do what is needed, will frustrate the volunteers and leadership alike and will be replaced in 3-4 years at a total cost that ends up at least 2-3 times the cost of doing it the right way in the first place.

Doing it the right way will cost more than the church way, at least initially. However, a properly designed system will perform better, be easier to use and will last far, far longer than the budget bid, value engineered system. Trust me on this; I’ve spend my career tearing out and re-doing systems built the church way. It’s never cheaper.

The point is, make sure you have realistic goals in mind, then be prepared to pay what it takes for a well-designed and installed system. Don’t skimp, but don’t go overboard as well.

Has my contractor/installer/system integrator worked with a large number of churches in the past?

This relates to the last question; it’s important to work with a company that understands the church setting. What we do every weekend is vastly different from a TV station, a theater or a high school. Don’t make the mistake of hiring a company only to find out yours is their first church. It’s not the same, and it will cost you.

Also, unless you have highly qualified technical people on staff, don’t even think about doing a major system design/install by yourself. I’ve ripped out many such systems put in by well-meaning but very ill-informed and unskilled volunteers. What works in your living room won’t work every weekend in a church production setting. Yes, you can buy a video camera at BestBuy for $300. No, it won’t work to do IMAG in your church. Don’t waste your money; hire someone who knows what they’re doing.

Do you have a realistic timetable?

I hear from churches all the time who want to install a brand new lighting system, or new cameras, or a new PA—and it’s three weeks before Easter. This is a recipe for disaster. Major system upgrades should take a month or more to design and spec out. Installation could take several weeks depending on the scope of work. And this is assuming you really know what you want and need. Add time if you’re figuring it out as you go. 

A good integrator will work with you, ask lots of questions and present several options for you to consider. That takes time. Getting the equipment shipped in (sometimes it has to be built first), running wire, even modifying steel structure in the case of a large PA takes time. Let the integrator set the timeline and give them the time they need to do it right. Trying to rush a major system wastes money, you’ll miss things that should have been caught and you will not likely end up with the best system for you.

What is your process for thinking through and evaluating upgrade options?

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Review: Symetrix Jupiter 8

Last time we looked at installing the “EZ” button. The heart of that project is the subject of today’s review; the Symetrix Jupiter 8. The Jupiter line is comprised of three units, the 4, 8 and 12. The Jupiter 4 is a 4×4 model, the 8 an 8×8 while the 12 is a 12×4. 

There are no controls on the front, and from an install perspective, I like that.

What is clever about the Jupiter line is how they are configured. Symetrix calls the configurations “Apps,” after the smart phone model. “Apps,” are really pre-built configurations. To be fair, there are a bunch of apps, and more are being added all the time in response to customer demand. So while it’s not a true “drag and drop” DSP (for that check out the Solus line, it’s pretty amazing), there is plenty of power in the system, and chances are you can find a configuration “App” that will meet your needs.

For our room, I wanted to be able to do a stereo PA with subs, plus two mono delay speakers and a record out. On the input side, I needed stereo L&R from the mixer, two mono mic inputs from the wireless mics, a stereo video input and a stereo iPod cable. After a little looking, I settled on the Sound Reinforcement #5 App. I should have looked a little farther because Sound Reinforcement #7 would have actually been a slightly better choice, but the minor improvements don’t make it worth it to re-do the whole set up.

The EQ is full featured, though I would have preferred a finer window. -48 dB is a bit excessive.

I’m not sure if it wasn’t available in version 1 of the software, or if I just missed it, but it’s possible to easily drag and drop module settings from one to another. For example, the way the speaker management is set up, you can’t gang the L&R output EQ. But you can get the left set up the way you want and quickly control-drag it to the right EQ. 

You can create custom presets that can change things down to a single output channel EQ Q setting. but they missed simple things like a “select all” button. Instead, if you want to capture a speaker management setting, you have to click roughly 50 checkboxes, twice if you want both channels. That’s a lot of ticking checkboxes. UPDATE: Turns out you can shift-click checkboxes, so it only takes a few clicks to select the entire range. So that’s better. END UPDATE

It’s powerful, but would a “Select All” and “Select None” button been that hard to add?

Another interface gaff is the inability to move through fields with the tab key. You can double click on any parameter number and directly enter the value, but if you want to use the keyboard to knock out a bunch of values, you’ll have to keep one hand on the mouse. This is a pretty common omission, which puzzles me every time I see it (the Roland S-MADI Bridge software has the same shortcoming).

Once you get over that, the processor is actually pretty good. It sounds reasonably good, certainly on par with other processors in this price range. The amount of DSP in the package is quite impressive and I had no trouble getting the system sounding good, and setting up system limiting and building my EZ preset system. 

Keep in mind, this is just the DSP configuration of the App I chose. There are many others.

The system is quite easy to use. The control layout makes sense in general, though it did take some experimenting to make sure we understood exactly how the matrix router worked (ProTip for Symetrix: Labels are helpful). 

The output DSP is quite full-featured. Apps are available with 2-, 3- and 4-way crossovers.

Attempting to delve into every single capability of the Jupiter 8 would take far too long. Instead, I’ll hit a few highlights. First, the 8×8 architecture is significant at this price point. Most systems in the $1000-ish range are 2×8 or 4×8. Having those extra 4 inputs enabled me to build a very useful EZ mode for my room. 

Second, the ARC control network is very clever and useful. The two control panels I installed are connected via ARC using Cat5 cable. With the right control panels, you can even send audio over the Cat5, which could be very useful if you need a way to distribute audio throughout your campus, or provide a mic or line plug in on stage somewhere. Symetrix also included four logic outputs that are very handy for switching external things on and off; for example, at some point, I will eliminate the wall-mounted light switches in our community room that turn the amps on and off; we already switch the delay amp on and off based on the preset that’s active.

I would have preferred an IEC power connector, but oh well.

Third, the unit has an Ethernet jack on it and is network accessible. Now, to you and me, it’s 2011, and we’ve been using Ethernet to connect computers and stuff for, oh…what, 15 years now. But the pro audio world is just discovering this magical interface (if I see one more RS-232 only controlled product released in this decade, I’m going to go ballistic). One of the big selling points for me was the ability to drop the Jupiter on my network and control it from anywhere. For the TD that likes to stay home on his day off but still needs to field troubleshooting calls, this is a big deal. 

Adding and editing external controls is drop-dead simple. No funky code language, just selection options from menus.

Finally, version 2 of the software introduces the new ARC-Web control. ARC-Web allows you to create a mobile or web version of any of the wall controls that is accessible from anywhere on the net. Yes, you’re reading that right; you can switch presets and adjust volumes from your iPhone. Or Android. Or iPad. The system is smart enough to detect what browser you’re using and present the menu in the appropriate format. Not that long ago, doing something like this required a Crestron or AMX system and a lot of programming. Now it’s a few clicks away. 

As I mentioned in Monday’s post, the Jupiter includes a calendar that can fire off event changes to recall various operating presets. I have my system set up to switch back and forth between four modes all week long, all without any user intervention. And the wall-mounted menu makes it easy to override those choices if the user prefers. 

Overall, I give the Jupiter a solid B+. If anyone from Symetrix reads this, give me a call and with a few simple software tweaks, we can get it into the A+ grade really quickly. 

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The Easy Button

Last week I was able to finally deploy the new EZ Mode (our term) for our student/community room PA. The room is our most-used room every week, supporting everything from Jr. & Sr. High to men’s and women’s ministry to MOPS. There is something happening in that room every day of the week. The system is relatively simple, but I’ve received more than one call at home on a Tuesday night from someone trying to make a mic work, or get sound out of the iMac. I began looking for a solution and found it in the Symetrix Jupiter 8 processor and a set of associated wall controls, the ARC2 and the ARC-SWK. I’ll write up a review of the Jupiter in a separate post. For this one, I’ll focus on how I used the wall controls to create an EZ Mode.

It All Starts With Planning

My first step in the process was to sketch out what I wanted to accomplish. Based on the way the room is used, we really needed two major modes of operation, with two subsets each. Big picture, it looks like this:

  • Mix Mode, Delays On
  • Mix Mode, Delays Off
  • EZ Mode, Delays On
  • EZ Mode, Delays Off

The room is a classic “two rooms in one with an air wall” layout; meaning sometimes we need the whole room, other times, just half. The main PA (hung over the stage) is the EV LiveX 15s and subs I’ve written about before. We also hung some EAW JF-80s (because we had them lying around) as delay speakers to fill in the back half of the room on the other side of the air wall.

Student ministries runs a full band for their events, so they need to be able to mix a full compliment of inputs on the Yamaha MG32 we have in there. Most of the other ministries/events however, require one or two mics, audio for video (either DVD or the iMac) and an iPod input. 

Since the Jupiter 8 has 8 inputs and 8 outputs, and the inputs can be either mic or line, I set about making up a plan. The input side looks like this:

  • 1&2 Stereo In from the MG32
  • 3&4 Wireless Mics 1&2 (also double patched into the MG32)
  • 5&6 Audio from Video (will eventually be the audio output of an Extron IN1508, for now, it’s a double-patched ProAV2)
  • 7&8 A dedicated “EZ” iPod cable. 

Outputs 1-4 feed the main speakers (L&R plus L&R Subs), while Output 5 feeds the delays. Output 6 feeds nothing, Output 7 feeds a CD recorder, while Output 8 is used to control the logic output that turns on and off the delay speaker’s amp. More on that later.

Basic Programming

The first thing we did was to get a baseline layout in all the DSP. Inputs and Outputs were labeled, patched routed and gained. We set up our crossovers for the main speakers and dialed in system EQ. We set up the delays and got their EQ where we wanted it. That formed the basis of our programming. 

The next step was to build presets that turn inputs and outputs on and off. Preset 1 is Mix, Delay Off, so we muted inputs 3-8, the delay output and turned off the delay amp. Preset 2 (Mix, Delay On) was created by un-muting the delay output and turning the amp on. 

Preset 3 is EZ, Delays Off. To create this preset, inputs 1&2 are muted, meaning the output of the MG32 is completely ignored by the Jupiter. We unmute inputs 3-8, which enable the two mics, video and the iPod cable. As with Preset 1, the delays are off. Preset 4 is like Preset 3, only with the delays on.

Once that was all set up, tested and found to be working, we hooked up the two controllers.

Controlling

Each menu in the ARC2 can control volumes, a mute button or change presets.

The ARC2 is a menu driven controller. It’s extremely powerful and enables you to control quite a few parameters inside the Jupiter. I could have done everything I needed with this box, but figured the addition of an ARC-SWK would make the system easier to use. In my set up, the ARC2 does one thing—enable users to switch between the four operating modes. 

Anything that the user sees can be edited easily.

This is accomplished in the Jupiter software; simply add a controller, create a menu, and load the presets. You can edit the labels to make it easy to navigate. Once it’s all assigned, you can simulate the controller to visually ensure it’s all working the way it’s supposed to. 

You can quickly and easily create menus to control just about every volume and mute parameter in the Jupiter. Not to mention switch presets.

The next step is to add in the ARC-SWK controller. The SWK is a 4-button, single encoder remote with an A and B side. This means you can control up to 8 parameters very easily. Ours is set up thusly:

Button 1A: Wireless Mic 1

Button 2A: Wireless Mic 2

Button 3A: Stereo Audio for Video

Button 4A: Stereo Audio for EZ iPod Cable

The ARC-SWK in software simulation mode.

The software makes it easy to control inputs and outputs as mono or stereo channels. At the moment, I don’t have any need to control anything else, though I have the capability to control four more parameters if need be. 

When controlling volume, you can specify minimum and maximum values—initial values are stored in the preset. It’s all very easy to do, and took less than 5 minutes to assign everything. 

The ARC series of remotes connect daisy-chain style to the Jupiter over Cat5. You can also send audio through certain wall panels, either in or out, depending on the model. 

Final Programming

What sold me on the Jupiter is the calendar feature. Once all the presets are built, you can create events (single or repeating) that will automatically switch modes. So in our case, on Tuesday morning, the system goes into EZ, Delays On at 8:45 AM for the Women’s Bible Study. At 3:00 PM on Wednesday, it switches to Mix, Delay Off for Jr. High. On Thursday at 8:30, it switches back to EZ, Delay On for MOPS.

Eventually, I will add the Jupiter to the network so I can access it from anywhere and create custom events (like next Friday when the Boy Scouts use the room). 

After all that, I dove into the logic outputs. The Jupiter has 4 dual-mode logic outputs. Each logic output can deliver 5 VDC for connecting an LED indicator, or act as a simple contact closure (alternately, you can just use the +5VDC to close an externally powered relay). The logic outputs are assigned to parameters anywhere in the system. In our case, to make programming easy, I assigned the control to Output 7, which we weren’t using anyway. When Out 7 is muted, the delay amp turns on (using a Furman Relay). When it’s unmuted, the amp turns off. The two mute states get saved into presets, and just like that, the amp turns on and off as if by magic.

The Cost

Doing something like this used to require a Crestron or AMX system, and programming could easily run into the thousands of dollars, not to mention the additional costs every time you wanted to make a change or the equipment cost. In this case, the whole system ran a little over $1,500, including controllers. It took me about an hour to set up all the programming (and another few hours to tune the system). 

It’s easy enough to use that any TD will be able to get the system doing whatever they want in no time. I was able to train our entire staff on the EZ mode of operation in about 10 minutes, and the documentation takes just two pages (and half of each page is a large picture of each controller). 

Best of all, I won’t have to take any more calls like this one…

Caller: Mike, the mics aren’t working.

Me: OK, so go to the fader labeled RF-A. Make sure the button above that fader is turned On and lit up.

Caller: [Long pause, obviously frustrated] I…I…don’t even know what a fader is.

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Distractions

'Information Overload' photo (c) 2007, David Joyce - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Of late, I’ve been thinking through ways to eliminate some of the many distractions in my life. As some of you may know, my right hand man, Isaiah, has just left for a bigger and better position at another church. For various reasons I won’t go into here (at least not now), I’m not able to replace him for the time being. That means I need to find ways to effectively do two jobs, which means my efficiency needs to go up. Way up.

Now, I could just knuckle down and work more hours, but we all know that’s not sustainable over the long term. While I could 60-80 hours a week for a month or two, after that time I’ll be ready to throw in the towel. 

Instead, I’m looking for ways to focus more energy on getting things done, and wasting less energy on distractions—those things that keep me from getting things done.

As I’ve been pondering this, I’ve been reading The Next Story: Live and Faith After the Digital Explosion by Tim Challies. In one chapter, he talks about research being done by Edward Hallowell, a psychiatrist and researcher at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Hallowell is a noted expert on ADHD, a syndrome you’re likely familiar with. He has also coined another three-letter-acronym; ADT, Attention Deficit Trait. ADT is a byproduct of the digital age. Basically, ADT is a manifestation of our desire to surround ourselves with more and more information.

Those suffering from ADT will find themselves to be distracted, irritable, impulsive, restless and underachieving. Their reservoir of new ideas runs dry. They are working longer, but getting less done. People with ADT no longer have time, or even the desire, to build relationships. 

As I read this description, I realized it describes a lot of people I know; and to some extent, me. I’ll go out to lunch with a friend, and spend part of that time checking my e-mail or twitter stream. I’ll impulsively check my mail client on my laptop while working on a proposal, just to see if any new information has come in. 

The other night, as I was getting ready to go bed, and saw a badge with a 3 on it hovering over the mail icon on my iPhone. I just had to check it, and found an e-mail that was mildly upsetting, upsetting enough that I lay awake for 3 hours thinking about it instead of going to sleep.

Reading further into the chapter, I learned that this constant state of information overload that we find ourselves in is quite harmful over the long term. We are actually training our brains to be incapable of thinking on any given subject for more than a few minutes at a time. We bounce from thought to thought long before we’ve actually figured something out. As a result we are working longer hours, becoming increasingly busy and decreasingly productive.

Undoing this is going to take some time, but I’ve decided to start taking some steps now to reverse the process, and hopefully make me more productive. And as a positive byproduct, I hope to be less irritable, distracted and frustrated.

The first step, which I actually did a long time ago, was to turn off all the incoming mail sounds on my phone and laptop. That constant string of “bings” kept calling me to leave whatever I was doing to see what just came in. The next step for me is to turn off push mail on my iPhone and iPad and turn off the unread mail count badge in Mail. The new mail badge is like a beacon, calling me away from whatever I’m doing to see who needs my attention NOW.

As an aside, I’ve come to realize that most e-mail is junk. Seriously. I was out of the office for a week , and I didn’t check my e-mail at all. When I got back, I had 147 unread e-mails. A grand total of 4 of them required action from me. The rest were quickly scanned and deleted. Not one of them was worth breaking my attention from any task at hand.

I’m also setting up as many filters as I can in Gmail and Mail to eliminate much of my incoming e-mail. Nearly every sales pitch and unnecessary e-mail gets sent to the trash before I ever see it. I’ve turned off notifications in Twitter (and even took the radical step of turning off all notifications on my iPhone). 

The final step, which I will probably implement this week is to not keep Mail running all day long. My hope is that by keeping the application closed, I will be far less tempted to just “pop over” to see what’s come in, which breaks my concentration and takes me out of what I’m doing. 

The bottom line, at least for me, is that I need to be able to dig into my task list, get stuff done and not be distracted by the constant stream of noise floating by. My hope is that over the long term, I will filter out that noise and get back to the point where I can concentrate on things for extended periods of time, get them solved or done and still have energy to spend quality time with the people I love. If all goes well, not only will I be able to survive this season, I’ll be more productive, and happier.

What’s your story? How do you deal with the constant bombardment of distractions in your life?

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Analog Training in a Digital World

Last week, I wrote about the concern I have with new sound techs learning how to mix on a digital console. Don’t get me wrong, I love my SD8, I’m not a Luddite, and am all for the digital revolution. However, learning to mix on a digital desk is sort of like learning to drive a “manual” transmission car equipped with what Jeremy Clarkson calls a “flappy paddle gearbox.” Yes, you’re changing gears, but you have no idea how to properly manipulate the brake-clutch-gas relationship.

A digital console, especially one like the SD8 or a Venue has so much power with so much going on that teaching the basics on them is really tough. I’ve been racking my brain trying to come up with a way to teach my audio team the basics of gain structure and properly putting together a basic mix on an analog console. We have a small portable system here at Coast, but for a long time I couldn’t come up with a way to get sound into it. Until last week.

We multi-track our services in Reaper, and I’ve even recorded a few sound checks to have those on hand for training. But how to get those 20-30 tracks into a 16 channel analog desk? With no budget? Here’s how: We have an 8-channel analog output card in our DigiRack, and I figured 8 channels at a time was a good starting point. 

So, I built a show in the SD8 that had 8 mono groups patched to analog outputs 1-8 in the rack. By choosing what went to those groups (and I can snapshot group membership!), I was able to quickly switch back and forth between one set up with our 8 drum mics and another with 4 drum channels, bass, guitar, bass and vocals. And if I wanted to put the entire band on the little mixer, I could do so by simply assigning various channels to the groups.

The other key was remote control. Since our virtual soundcheck Mac is in the tech booth and I needed to run this whole operation from the stage, I set my MacBook Pro on a keyboard stand and used Remote Desktop to control the VS Mac. I put markers in the Reaper timeline that corresponded to various points in the sound check process (kick, snare, hat, etc.). Reaper makes it easy to use markers; simply hit a number key to jump to that marker. 

I also used the iPad to remote into the SD8 and control my snapshots. By switching from one snapshot to the next, I could quickly give my students different configurations of instruments to mix. In one case we had all 8 drum mics on the mixer, in another, they got to work with a mini-band. The next time we do this, I’ll create more variations so they can experiment a bit more. 

In practice, it worked brilliantly. After spending some time talking the theory of gain structure and the basics of what mixers do, we moved to the console. Being a little MixWizzard, it wasn’t all that intimidating. I showed them how to set gains using PFL and discussed the various options for how to set up your gain/fader relationship. Then they stepped up and gave it a go. I stood behind the mixer with my Mac, controlling the pace of the “soundcheck.” Generally, they were able to get the gain dialed in by the time I had moved on to the next one, but if they didn’t, I just hit a number key to jump back. 

Once we got to working with the “mini band” configuration, it was really cool to see their faces when the mix fell into place. Suddenly, what had seemed intimidating now made sense. Since we also set up a monitor, they were able to see the effects of gain changes on the monitor mix, which will hopefully keep them from making that mistake down the road. 

I’ve been teaching mixing basics for a long time, and this was by far the most successful outing for a group of first-timers. I will definitely be using this technique again. And if you don’t have access to an SD8 outfitted with virtual soundcheck, don’t fret. I’ve written a post on some options for building a VS rig that won’t break the bank. 

What has been your experience using Virtual Soundcheck for training?

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My Trip to Taylor Guitars

Photo GalleryLast Friday, I took advantage of a day off to take my daughter, who’s an avid and aspiring guitar player, to Talylor Guitars in San Diego. They offer a daily tour, and I thought it would be fun for the two of us to spend some time together, and see a cool factory that would be fun for her and interesting to me.

Along the way, we stopped at Buffalo Brothers Guitar Shop in Carlsbad and met up with my friend, mentor and great guitar player, Roy Cochran. He lives around the corner so to say they know him there is an understatement. He was able to give both Robyn and I a real education of various guitars and their sounds. Like mics, there is no one “best” guitar. It all comes down to finding the one that suits you and your playing style the best. However, that $8,000 Collings he played sounded pretty darn nice, no matter what the playing style!

After a quick stop at In-n-Out for lunch, we headed down to Taylor. We arrived early, whcih gave Robyn a chance to play some guitars. They have several dozen out for anyone to pick up and play, which was really fun for her. Finally, we set off. 

I’ve not been to any other guitar makers factories, so I can’t compare Taylor to anyone, but I will say they run a tight ship. The place was immaculately clean and they use a lot of cutting edge technology in the making of their instruments. Rather than remain a slave to the “way we’ve always done it,” they constantly evaluate and improve their processes. 

I found many parallels to what we do as TDs at Taylor, the constant re-evaluation thing being one of them. As TDs, we can’t afford to get stuck in a rut, doing things the same old way just because we always have. Taylor has come up with some pretty inventing ways of doing things because they thought differently. I think we can take that as a good lesson. 

Well, it’s hard to describe what we saw on the tour. Thankfully, our tour guide gave us three rules when we started off. First, take as many pictures as we want (I did). Second, don’t take many pictures of him (I didn’t). Third, don’t touch the wood (I didn’t). So, with that in mind, take a look at these pictures; you’ll almost feel like you were there (minus the sawdust in your eyes).

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Volunteer Job Descriptions

The other night on Church Tech Weekly, we were talking about assimilating new volunteers into the tech team. One of the ways we start that process is with job descriptions. As we talked about those, it prompted some people to inquire about getting copies of our files. So here you go. 

I’ve created a position description for each volunteer tech position I have right now. The reason for this is twofold. First, it helps the prospective volunteer understand the commitment we are asking him or her to make. Second, it shows that we’re serious enough about what we do in the tech department to create job descriptions. I’ve found that people generally rise to the level of expectation. I like to start high, and I think this is one way to do it.

Feel free to use these as guides, but I encourage you to take some time and really think through what your volunteer positions entail. What do they do every week (more importantly, what to you expect them to do), and what are the time commitments. 

I use these pages when I meet with a prospective volunteer for the first time. It gives us a good launching off point, and allows me to tell them about what we do. Having the expectations in writing makes it easy for a volunteer to say, “Yes, I can do that,” or “No, I don’t think this is for me.” Personally, I’d rather know as early as possible that someone is out; it’s much easier than spending a lot of time in training and getting to know them only to have them bail (though that still happens). 

Documentation is a good thing, and if you currently have nothing in writing for your tech team, job descriptions are a good place to start. From there, you can start working on training processes, check lists and operational guides. 

Do you currently have job descriptions for your tech team? If so, how do you use them?

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