Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

Month: June 2012 (Page 2 of 3)

CTW InfoComm 2012 Coverage: A&H GLD 80 Mixer

The new GLD 80 is an affordable, mid-sized digital console that builds on the technology of the iLive series, but instead places the processing in the surface. The system is available with new stage racks that also integrate directly with the Aviom personal mixers. Though compact, the system has a fair amount of power, as well as an accessible interface that should be easy to use by most anyone.

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.

CTW InfoComm 2012 Coverage: Shure ULX-D Dual and Quad Receivers

Introduced at NAMM 2012, the ULX-D became a quick favorite of ours based on the great flexibility and outstanding sound. Shure has now re-packaged the receivers in both dual and quad configurations allowing for significantly denser channel counts in a given rack space. They’ve also included some additional cool features like Danté and RF cascade. They also came up with a new high-density mode which packs even more channels in a given RF band. It’s impressive stuff.

CTW InfoComm 2012 Coverage: Midas Pro1

Midas has been steadily shrinking their Pro series mixers over the last year or so, and they’ve now released the Pro1. While the footprint is diminutive, it’s a powerful package mixing 48 channels (from 100 inputs) and sending them to 24 output busses. Like the rest of the Pro line, it’s fully equipped with significant FX and EQ processing and that famous Midas sound.

CTW InfoComm 2012: Line6 StageSource Speakers

Like the new StageScape mixer, the StageSource speakers incorporate a lot of DSP in a way that is very user-friendly and accessible. The line consists of two versions of powered full-range boxes (one with a built-in mixer and one without) and a powered sub. The full-range boxes can also serve as monitors and incorporate two kickstands for two angles and even include an accelerometer to switch them into monitor mode when you put them on their side. Though we haven’t yet heard them, these look very interesting.

CTW InfoComm 2012 Coverage: Line6 StageSource Speakers from Mike Sessler on Vimeo.

Learn more at Line6.com

CTW InfoComm 2012: Line6 StageScape Mixer

The new StageScape M20d audio mixer from Line6 is the first really new paradigm for audio mixing that doesn’t try to carry over the older analog concept. It’s a truly innovative product that has tremendous power. Using a unique GUI interface, Line6 has re-imagined what audio mixing could look like. Though it is incredibly easy and intuitive for non-engineers to use, there is a lot going on under the hood. Don’t be fooled by the seeming lack of controls on the surface; there is a lot going on here. 

CTW InfoComm 2012 Coverage: Line6 StageScape M20d Mixer from Mike Sessler on Vimeo.

Learn more at Line6.com

Today’s post is brought to you by 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.


Position Descriptions

People are funny. When you ask them to do a task, most actually expect to be told what is expected of them. When we ask people to volunteer for the tech team, sometimes we forget this simple little fact. It’s easy to ask someone to volunteer to run camera every few weeks, but what does that actually mean for them? Or if someone wants to become an FOH engineer, how does that work? While you could explain it to each person each time, I find it’s more efficient to have a set of position descriptions. 

Based on the volume of e-mail and tweets I get asking for copies of my position descriptions, I suspect that many are making this harder than it is. We have to keep things in perspective; writing a position description for a camera op is not the same as writing a job description for an associate TD. So don’t make it the same. I take a more minimalist approach, and perhaps an obvious one; I write down what I expect the typical camera op to do. Crazy, right?

I try to keep my position descriptions to one page or less, because for most jobs on the tech team, that’s all it requires. I include the basics of what the person will be doing (operate camera, follow director’s…directions, maintain attention), and when they will be doing it (arrive at 8:00 AM, leave at 12:15). We also include some qualifications, and a standard “physical demands” section to keep HR happy. 

I’ve found this is pretty effective in establishing the expectations of the job, which makes it easy to keep people accountable. It also has the added benefit of helping leadership understand what we do in the booth every week. Recruiting and training (not to mention retaining) tech volunteers is not the same as doing the same for greeters, and it’s helpful for everyone to know exactly what we need.

In the interest of community, I’m posting a zip file with all my current tech volunteer position descriptions here for you to look at. I did a little design work in Pages to make it look good, as well as consistent. Some of these need to be updated as I look over them now, but that’s the beauty of a document like this; you can always update it as the needs change. Just be sure everyone knows about the changes and what is expected of them.

As a bonus, I’m also throwing in my audio training flow. It’s a lot more advanced than what I’ve done at other churches, but we have a much more complex system and significantly higher expectations than I’ve had at other places as well. The good news is that it is working; I have two “students” who have been in the program for about 9 months and they are now beginning to mix, and they’re doing a great job. 

I hope these documents will prove to be a springboard for you as you further develop your tech arts ministry.

Download the documents.

Today’s post is brought to you by Elite Core Audio. Elite Core Audio features a premium USA built 16 channel personal monitor mixing system built for the rigors of the road. For Personal Mixing Systems, Snakes, and Cases, visit Elite Core Audio.

Bose PowerMatch Amplifiers

Last time, we talked about the new Bose RoomMatch speakers and I concluded they were pretty solid options. What ended up being the sleeper announcement is the new amplifiers, the PowerMatch PM8500 and PM8500N. As you can guess, the N designation indicates network connectivity. 

The PM8500 is a 8 channel Class-D amplifier that can be bridged in multiple configurations. Essentially, you have 4,000 watts available, and you get to decide how to divvy it up. You can run two 2,000 W channels, four 1,000 W channels, or eight 500 W channels. You can also do other interesting things like set it up for four 500 W channels and two 1,000 W channels. I don’t recall all the options (I know it was not a “whatever you like” thing), but there were lots of ways to utilize all the power.

When paired with the RoomMatch system, you can power four boxes from a single amp (and the boxes are bi-amped) and run said amp off a single 20 A circuit. That’s pretty efficient. And, just for fun, you can configure channels to drive a 70V or 100V low-impedance speaker system. 

That would be pretty impressive on it’s own, but they also included quite a bit of DSP. According to a quick read of the manual, you have a 5-band PEQ, the Array EQ, Band Pass filters, Speaker PEQ, Limiting and Delay on each channel. And I was told that you can turn it all on and not run out of DSP. That’s something I really appreciate. 

For simpler rooms, this is likely all the DSP you’ll need; and when combined with the ControlSpace Designer software, it’s easy to access all that power. All of this fits into two rack spaces and has a price of around $3,000. The amp has been selling like hotcakes according to our Bose rep; even for systems not using the RoomMatch speakers. 

How did it sound? Well, when driving the RoomMatch system, it was pretty solid. They did a rapid-fire bass test to show off how well the power supply holds up to repeated low-end hits (eight notes on the kick) and the hits just kept on coming. We heard no drop in volume even after 5-7 seconds. They call it PowerBank, and it’s a “regenerative 4-quadrant power supply with fast-tracking PFC that supports high efficiency while improving the peak burst power for superior transient response and current reserve for bass impact.” 

Basically, it can stand up to lots of low end. And it sure seemed to. There’s a lot to like here in a small package, whether you’re looking at the RoomMatch speakers or not. For $3,000, it’s a real deal.

And now a word about Bose. I know some are very opposed to any and all things Bose. I understand this sentiment; as I said yesterday, their earlier systems were less than optimal. But times change, and I really believe Bose has put a lot of energy and effort into producing a really solid product here. Having been in this business for over 20 years, I’ve learned that change happens. Some brands that used to make really good stuff now make crap and others that once were not considered viable options are now very worthwhile.

If you limit yourself to companies that have only always made nothing but high quality products, you may well miss out on a lot of great stuff. Heck, even Apple once made the LC575. But that doesn’t stop us from rushing out to buy the new MacBook Pro does it? Personally, I prefer giving new products a chance before I condemn them. My advice is to give them a listen and see if it’s a product worth investing in. 

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Bose RoomMatch Speakers

Last year, Bose introduced a new system that they label Progressive Directivity Arrays, or RoomMatch. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Bose=suck. “No highs, no lows, must be Bose.” And while it may be be true that a lot of less than optimal Bose systems have been installed in churches, I was really curious to hear the RoomMatch system—if for no other reason than my friend Duke said it sounded good enough to put into his home church. And Duke’s a big Meyer guy, so there had to be something to this.

A few weeks ago, I finally got to hear it. Bose put together a demo day not far from here and we were able to hear the system in a church setting. Now, to be fair, we only heard CD music through it, not a live band. So I’m reserving full judgement until I hear it with a live band. Still, I’ve listened to a lot of speakers and have to say that the RoomMatch system sounded good. Really good.

It is not a small system, either. The boxes are all “full-sized” if there is such a thing in line array type speakers (dual 15” drivers and 8 mid & high drivers). One of the unusual features of the system is that there are 15 models of boxes to choose from with horizontal coverage ranging from 55° to 120° and vertical coverage from 5° to 20°. They developed their own wave guide in-house that creates those patterns physically, no DSP trickery involved. In fact, we heard a system with virtually no DSP engaged; just a few minor EQ filters. 

There were two parts to the demo. The first was a sampling of various musical styles while we sat and listened. In the second part, we heard another sampling of music and got up and walked around the room. A few things became apparent right away. 

First, there is some significant low-end coming from these boxes. In the beginning, they left the sub boxes off completely, and we were all impressed by how much low-end there was—and it was clean. The four-box array we heard didn’t really have the mule kick to the chest that some like, but there was plenty of bass to make it sound rich and full. The main boxes extend to 70 Hz, so in some settings, subs will be unnecessary.

UPDATE: My friend Duke reminded me that the main boxes extend to 55 Hz, not 70, so in many settings, subs will not be necessary. This explains the solid low-end, even without the sub boxes. END UPDATE.

Second, the mid-range was very smooth. This is where most speakers either make it or break it for me. I can’t stand harshness in the 1-3 KHz range, but I also want clarity. These boxes were not harsh, but the vocals sounded smooth and clean. I may have tweaked the EQ a little bit, but overall, I was happy. The high end also had a nice sparkle without being too much.

We also noticed that the pattern control was excellent. Two things are significant here: First, when you walk out of the pattern, you are out of the pattern. It is really a 1 or 2 chair transition. Second, while the high end drops off considerably out of the pattern, there is not a significant tonal shift to the sound. Out of the pattern is not great, but it doesn’t sound like different speakers, either. So if you have to cheat a little bit on coverage, the last seat of a section is not the penalty box. This tells me they have their phase alignment dialed in.

When we got to the subs, no one was really super-impressed with them. The output was OK, but they didn’t have the thump of other boxes. I’m told new ones are in the pipeline. I personally found them a little (OK, a lot) loose and lacking in definition. That could have been partially because they were sitting on the deck of a plywood stage in a cardioid pattern, or that they just don’t sound that great. They are made to be flown with the array, so perhaps that is their best use.

Finally, we got to some interesting news; the price. Each box lists for about $3,000 each. That may sound like a lot if you’re pricing out EV LiveX speakers, but in a large-format array, it’s roughly half the price of other options from the major competitors. Do offerings from L’Acoustics, Meyer and D&B sound better, yes, they do. Do they sound 2x as better? Hmmm, that’s a tough one.

Put another way, we did some quick napkin math and figured out that a system for our room would cost somewhere in the $60K range, which sounds like a lot of money, until you compare it to the quote we have for closer to $120K for a D&B rig. Would the D&B rig sound better? Arguably so (and I say arguably because I’m not entirely sure how many people in our congregation would be able to tell). But, here’s the real test: I’m not going to get $120K to replace the PA in our room any time soon, and probably never. It’s just not in the cards for my church—as much as I would like it and as much as I can demonstrate the need. However, could I get $60K? Maybe. That seems within the realm of possibility. 

If you remember my 90% Principle post from a while back, this is what I’m talking about. 

So, RoomMatch, the bottom line—I think it’s worth considering. As I said, I was impressed with the sound, and it’s very cost-effective. There is a lot of technology going on here, and I haven’t even scratched the surface of the design benefits of having all those models available. Nor have we talked about the amps. Maybe we’ll do that next time.

Today’s post is brought to you by Elite Core Audio. Elite Core Audio features a premium USA built 16 channel personal monitor mixing system built for the rigors of the road. For Personal Mixing Systems, Snakes, and Cases, visit Elite Core Audio.

The Sabbath (again)

I suck at Sabbath. I’m really good at a lot of things, but taking a Sabbath is not one of them. I don’t know if you can relate. I used to say that I’m a recovering workaholic. Now I’m not so sure of the recovering part. I am coming to believe that I simply work too hard and too much. And even though I am generally in favor of change, changing one’s behavior is hard.

When I was 12, I opened up a neighborhood bike repair shop in my basement. While the rest of the kids were at the pool or running through the woods, I was wrenching on bikes. That winter, I took two jobs shoveling snow; one for a multi-family house and the other at my church. By high school, I was not only in school, but also working 24-32 hours at the grocery store and heavily involved with the fire department. In college, I took a 21-22 credit hour load, worked 40 hours a week as a department assistant, another 20 at the grocery store, and four 6-hour shifts a month at another fire department. 

Today, I’m a full-time tech director, a regular contributor to two trade magazines, I write three posts a week on this site, host a weekly podcast, and in my spare time, organize all of the local CTL meet ups in SoCal and cover six trade shows a year. This is not bragging; this is just what I do. The good news is, after thirty years of running at this pace, I’m beginning to ask why. 

A few weeks ago at Gurus, Nancy Beech talked about the need for a Sabbath. I admit, at first I was thinking, “Yadda, yadda, yadda, another talk on taking a Sabbath. Sounds good, but I’m busy.” It’s easy for me (and perhaps you) to dismiss the idea of a Sabbath because I am (we are) high-capacity people who enjoy working a lot and being busy. But as Nancy talked, she kept hitting me upside the head with comments that became increasingly hart to ignore. 

For example:

We need to stop trying to be God. There is a humility required to stop and rest. Will I trust God enough to obey His command to stop and rest?

Or this one:

This is a gift God has given us…we need to receive it. It should not be the one commandment we brag about breaking.

Finally, this might be the simplest, easiest way to understand what a Sabbath means for us:

The idea is to stop doing the necessary and create some space in your life.

It was concepts like that that really caused me to stop and re-think my daily routine. Nancy reminded us that as TDs, we are process guys and we should be able to come up with a process that enables us to take some time to rest and recharge. Finally; someone who gets me tells me how to think about the Sabbath! 

So freshly motivated, I started thinking about my weekly process. And I discovered that if I moved a few things around, I could actually create a roughly 24-hour block where I wouldn’t have to do anything. Except take my daughter to school for a few more weeks. Otherwise, during that time, I really didn’t have to do anything. And that’s how we need to think of the Sabbath. A time where we don’t have to do something. We could do it, but we choose not to.

I know it seems scary to not do things for a 24-hour period. You just saw my schedule; you know I’m right there with you. But this past week, I finally cracked and had to take some time off. I was completely finished, and I knew it. So I decided to take a Sabbath. It started as a morning, grew into the afternoon, then evening, then into another whole day. And you know what? By the end of the second day, I actually started to feel almost human again! I found myself in a conversation with my daughter and I wasn’t stressing about how much time it was taking up (this is a sad commentary on my life, by the way). 

What did I not do during that period of time? I didn’t write anything; I didn’t edit or post the podcast (sorry, episode 100 is a lost cause now); I didn’t check Twitter or Facebook; I didn’t check my e-mail; I didn’t return phone calls or texts (sorry if you were trying to reach me). What did I do? I watched some TV, a few movies, took a nap, listened to music, cooked some amazing food and read. Your idea of a Sabbath may be different. 

Though I’ve written about this before, I want to again encourage you to consider rearranging your schedule in such a way that you can take 24 hours off to just be. Rob Bell said that in Velvet Elvis; we need a day to just be and not do. Nancy Beech said we need to pass through the day, not pass it by. God said we need to honor the Sabbath and keep it holy. 

Maybe it’s time I (we?) really get on that…

Today’s post is brought to you by 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.

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