Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

Month: March 2012 (Page 2 of 2)

Should You Design Your Next System?

Long-time readers of this blog know that I’m all about developing a well thought out game plan before starting any system upgrade. Perhaps it comes from my background in carpentry and construction–one would never (OK, at least one should never) undertake a new building or renovation project on without a well-developed plan. When trying to coordinate all the various trades–framers, plumbers, electricians, drywallers, finish carpenters–it’s imperative that all know what the outcome should look like when everyone is done with their piece of the job. Without a plan, the job gets botched; pieces don’t fit together, there are HVAC ducts where there should be lights and outlets where the trim should be. We’ve all seen it. And we’ve all seen it in the church with our technical systems.

It starts off innocently enough. Say we need to add some TVs to the lobby. Often the timeline and budget are tight so we run coax and feed it from an RF modulator which is looped out of the DVD recorder (I’ve seen this in more churches than I can count, by the way…). Then we need some TVs elsewhere. That leads to an RF distribution amp. It all works well enough except between services when the video guy finalizes the DVD, and everyone on campus sees the process.

A few years later, there is a new tech guy and he starts running a whole new standard. A few years later, it happens again. By the time we’re through, we have multiple standards–RF, DVI, HDMI, Twisted Pair, Composite Video, S-Video, HD, SD–running all over the building and no way to make everything talk to each other.

The same thing happens with audio and lighting. How many churches have DMX and MultiPlex in different (or even the same) rooms? How often have you seen multiple rooms in a facility each with a completely different compliment of equipment? Multiple wireless mic manufacturers, scalers, switches, mixers and lighting boards–we’ve all seen it. And there’s really no one to blame. It’s all done with the best intentions–save the church money, meet the needs, get it up and running quickly–all noble goals. Except it’s a mess. And eventually, it needs to be fixed.

Eventually, someone needs to develop a plan to bring all the systems under one umbrella. One thing that’s hard to acknowledge is that the best person for that job might not be the Tech Director. I know some great Tech Directors who are phenomenal audio guys. Their knowledge of building a mix, mic selection and the use of effects dwarf mine. And quite often, they don’t know that much about video or lighting systems. Sure, they can turn on the cameras & lights, run the board and make things work. But design an entire system? Probably not. They’re audio guys, and they like it that way. And I think that’s OK. At least until they start being asked to design an entire system.

As churches, we spend a lot of money on the wrong equipment. Often several times. Usually it’s because finding someone who can develop a solid long-term plan is rather difficult. More difficult, in fact, that just making something work. Sadly, I don’t have a fool-proof method for finding the right person to design a system. What I can tell you is that the more eyes that are on the plan the better.

I consider myself pretty good at system design. I understand signal flow and have a knack for developing efficient systems. And I love to learn, so I’ll spend hours researching. Still, I almost always run my plans by a number of other people who know as much or more (and sometimes less) than I do. Why? Because I always get good feedback and suggestions on how to do things better. When considering vendors, I’ll ask around to see if people I trust have had good experiences with XYZ company. And if not, who did they have a good experience with. I’ll bring in multiple vendors, manufacturers reps and consultants if need be to get the best system.

Does all that take longer? Yes it does, without question. But in the end, it’s the only way to ensure I’m spending my churches money in the most cost effective way possible. Note too, that the plans we ultimately come up with are probably not the cheapest up front. However, they will provide the most value in the end. And as for the time factor, I’d rather live with something that’s not working right for a few months than spend money 2 or 3 times fixing the problem. When I tear it out and fix it, it’s going to be right.

Understand too, that I say all of this not to ruffle feathers or make people feel bad. My motivation is to help the Church be as effective as possible while being wise stewards of the funds God has entrusted us with. Since I’m doing a lot of system design right now, over the next few months I’ll be letting you in on our process. Hopefully it will be helpful to some.

I’ll end with the words my college professor, Clint, was fond of admonishing us with, “Think it through.”

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.

Building Relationships: It’s Up To You

If you listen to the podcast (ChurchTechWeekly), you should be seeing a theme here. I’ve been thinking a lot about the relationships between the tech staff and worship leader/band over the last few weeks. This past weekend, I had the immense privilege of speaking to a class of up and coming worship leaders from the worship program at Vanguard University (where my daughter also attends; Go Lions!). It was a unique opportunity to spend 3 hours with the group talking about the people side of technology in worship.

It’s easy to forget, but the church is in the people business. And because we work in the church (either as staff or volunteer), we too are in the people business. And as we are in the people business, we have to treat people well. Unfortunately, that concept is lost sometimes between the tech and music departments. 

I spent a good deal of our time together telling the students how important it is for them to build healthy relationships with their tech teams. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know I talk about that all that time. Relationships are key. 

But that night, I was thinking about the events of the day and realized that as tech folk, we too bear a responsibility to build relationships with the musicians. It’s easy for us introverted, socially-awkward techs to sit in the booth with our arms folded saying, “They can come to me, man.” However, that doesn’t solve the problem, does it? 

I know some musicians can come across as self-centered and very ambivalent toward the tech team. And if that’s you as a musician, stop it. But if you’re a tech with some of those guys or gals on stage, let’s consider why they might feel that way. 

More than one musician has been burned by a tech who either wasn’t very good at their job or just didn’t care. Are you taking the time to get better at what you do? Do you put forth 100% every weekend to make the experience great for all involved, or do you show up with an attitude and put in enough effort to just get by? Do you hide in the tech booth and communicate with the band only via yelling? Perhaps not the best way to build relationships…

Sometimes the reality is, we as tech people are to blame for the bad rep we get. Then it becomes incumbent upon us to fix it. Somebody has to be the one to take the first step; and as uncomfortable as it might be, you need to do it. 

You also need to back it up by doing a great job every weekend. And yes, I know all the reasons why you can’t do a great job. You might think that because I work at a big church with a reasonable budget that I’ve got it easy; but it wasn’t always thus. I’ve been in the small churches as the only serious tech volunteerwith no budget, no authority but all the responsibility of making it work. 

I’ve spent many late nights at church during the week soldering up new cables and snakes to make set up run smoother, which gave me more time to talk to the band. I’ve made the phone calls and sent the emails asking for information so I can put together an input sheet and service order to help things run more smoothly. And it took me two and half years to get approval to replace a camera that should have been taken out to the desert and shot 10 years ago.

Yes, it’s work. A lot of work. 

But it’s also worth it. On Saturday, we invited the students to the stage for our prayer time. After I introduced them and told the band why they were hanging around, I was blown away but the amazing words of affirmation that were spoken by my team about me. It was in that moment that I realized that doing the hard work to build relationships really is worth it. 

What is your relationship with your worship leader like? What are you going to do to make it better?

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.

Church Tech Weekly Episode 88: Dave’s Not Here

This week, the team talks about that all-important issue; relationships. How to build a better relationship with your worship leader, an what WL’s can do to help the tech staff.


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.

Happy Birthday ChurchTechArts

It’s hard to believe that I started this blog 5 years ago, but it’s true. The first post was published on March 6, 2007; this post will be post 867. When I started this little endeavor, it was really an attempt to bolster my resume. Then it became fun, and after a while it took on a life of it’s own. Clearly God had something in store that I never saw—which is probably a good thing as I don’t know if I would have started it if I had known what was coming. 

That first month, we had a whopping 37 page views. For the month. Clearly we didn’t set any records as we launched. But traffic started to grow and before long it was doing pretty well. In fact, today, there we will probably record 37 page views in the time it takes me to write this post. For the month of February, we broke the 10,000 unique visitor mark for the first time; not only did we break it, we blew past it with a total of 11,506 uniques. Honestly, that blows my mind, especially considering I’ve never done any advertising or promoting of the site outside of Twitter, Facebook and Google+. 

According to the Google, we have visitors from all over the world; from Finland to France, Austria to Australia, the UK to the Ukraine, South Africa to South Korea. I have been contacted by many of our international readers, and I have to say it is humbling and encouraging to hear what God is doing in your ministries all over the world. 

As I said, this is such a work of God. I had no idea when I started ChurchTechArts.org that it would take off like this, or that we would start a weekly podcast, or start covering trade shows with full sponsorship. I have met so many amazing friends through this process as well. In fact, the people I consider my closest friends right now have all been direct introductions through this blog. 

At the beginning of 2006, I was trying to figure out what God was going to do with my life; it had been a pretty crazy journey up to that point. By 2007, it was clear what He was doing, and it has been an honor to be able to share that journey with you. 

I know some of you have been reading since the early days and I am so very thankful you’ve stuck with me for the past 5 years. According to the stats, we’ve seen quite a few people join the conversation in the last year, which is also exciting. 

For those who have written in to thank me for writing, to ask a question or two, and those whom I’ve met at various trade shows and conferences, thank you for the constant encouragement. I truly owe a debt to all of you, my readers. Without you, so many of the doors that have opened for me would not been opened. 

I also need to thank my sponsors. You have all been incredibly generous and supportive over the last year. And the good news for you readers is that because I promised to the sponsors I’d write 3 posts a week, you’ve got at least 10 more months of content to look forward to. I encourage you to support the sponsors as well. Each was personally chosen (I say no to most, “Hey, we’d like to advertise on your site” requests) because I believe in the companies and products represented. 

OK, that’s enough of that. It’s been a great journey the last 5 years, and I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to go on it with you. If you’re a new reader, I encourage you to check out the archive to see what you missed. I’m told there’s some good stuff there. Next week, we’ll return to our regularly scheduled programming.

When did you start reading CTA?

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