Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

Month: July 2012 (Page 2 of 2)

Do a Good Job

A few weeks ago I was on a panel at a conference, and we were taking questions from the audience. We had quite a few good questions, but this one has stuck with me (and this is a paraphrase of what I remember…the exact question isn’t as important as the thought behind it).

“How do you re-build trust with leadership after it’s been broken? Right now, the audio team is missing cues every week, mics aren’t on, and the mix doesn’t sound that good. How do get leadership to support the tech team?”

Dave Hatmaker from Yamaha answered quickly and succinctly, “Do a good job!” 

I could probably end the post there, but I won’t because it sounds a bit harsh. However, it’s more like speaking the truth in love. 

I went so far as to say, “If you are running audio and can’t get the pastor’s fader up when it’s supposed to be, you should probably find a new place to serve. That’s as easy as it gets.” Again, it sounds harsh, but it’s true. Week after week, if the pastor’s mic isn’t on when he starts talking, how much trust does he have when you come asking for money?

If you want to earn the respect of your leadership, do a good job. It’s really that simple.

One of the traps we can fall into as techs (both volunteer and paid), is thinking that if we just had better, newer, shinier, different or digital gear, well, then…then we could do a good job. We blame the cameras, the mixers, the speakers, the room, the lights, the lighting board, even the volunteers and tell our leaders if they would just give us more money, then we could do a good job.

But it doesn’t work that way. After you do a good job, then you get more money to buy better equipment. After you wring all the performance you can get out of your system, hitting every cue along the way, making it do more than it was ever designed for, then you get to talk about asking for more. 

I’ve talked about this before, but it bears repeating; it’s not about the equipment, it’s how you use it. And before you jump to the conclusion that because I’m at a big church in Southern California and have all kinds of great equipment so I don’t really know what it’s like, you need to remember a few things. 

First, I’ve been at many a small church where the console of choice was a Mackie SR32, and the worship leader’s mic was a PG58 (yes a PG, not even an SM!). Even at my current church, we limped along with a camera that Sony stopped carrying parts for in 1998! My newest moving light is 10 years old, and 80% of my audience seating area is off-axis of the PA (long story…it was there when I arrived). When I arrived, we had 72 channels of dimming—and 42 of them worked, sometimes. I’ve worked really, really hard to do a good job in spite of all that. And I’ve received a lot of funding to upgrade stuff as a result.

I’ll give you a quick example using our video team. For years (even before I arrived), tech asked for a new switcher, and it was turned down every year. We desperately needed a new camera, but again, it kept getting cut from the budget. And to be honest, the video team was discouraged, and not doing great work. 

About a year ago, we decided to stop blaming things on the equipment. I told our teams, “Yes, camera 2 sucks. Yes, the switcher sucks. Yes, the composite video image we’re feeding the projectors sucks. But let’s pretend it doesn’t and really step it up. Let’s act like we have better equipment than we do. Then let’s see what happens.” 

A year later, we have a new camera and as soon as we pull in some new cable, we’ll be installing a new switcher. Now, I had to get creative with the budget to make that happen, but no one fought me on it because we were doing a good job with what we had. When we finish the upgrade in a few weeks, people will be blown away with the improvement in picture quality. But it was the performance of the team in spite of the equipment that made it possible.

And to be clear, I’m not talking about the occasional mistake. We all make them. I missed a cue last week. I was bummed, but I’m human. Still, everyone on my team works really hard to keep the mistake count to the low single digits per quarter. 

I’ll say it again, it’s not about the gear. It’s about doing a great job with—or even in spite of—the gear you have. 

How have you stepped up your game, overcome equipment limitations and built trust with your leadership?

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.

Heil Pro Set 3 Heaphones

If you’ve read this blog or listened to any of our podcasts for any length of time, you’ve heard me talk about Heil Sound. Bob Heil is passionate about good audio, and has turned that passion into some really great microphones. A few weeks ago, they introduced a set of headphones as well, the Pro Set 3.


They are powered by a set of 40 mm drivers with Rare Earth Neodymium magnets. Closed back in design, they offer pretty good outside noise reduction, though they are by no means isolating. They are super-light weight and very comfortable. When I first put them on and started playing some reference tracks, the first thing, and I mean the first thing I noticed was how low they go. The specs list a frequency response of 10 Hz-22 KHz, and for the first time, I actually believe the lower number. These guys put out some serious low end.

With an input impedance of 32 Ohms and sensitivity of 102 dB SPL, they also get loud. The headband is well-padded and decked out in a cool diamond pattern. The ear cushions are soft and swivel easily to a comfortable position. They also fold up for easy transport. Finally, Heil includes not one, not two but three cords with each set of cans; 1.8 M flexible straight cable. 1.8 M straight cord with mating iPhone/iPod compatible 3.5mm plug and a 3 M coil cord. 

You may have seen me tweet that I think coiled cords on headphones are a terrible idea, so I applaud Heil for including a couple of straight cords in the package. Sadly, the set I received only has the 3 M coiled cord; I may have to see if I can score the other two at some point… Anyway, all three are twist lock designs so they stay put.

The Heil has a really nice breathable fabric on the inside of the headband.

Appearance-wise, the Pro Set 3 look very stylish. Almost retro in appearance, they remind me of older designs used in the ‘70s radio stations or by ham radio operators. While they are so light, you hardly notice you’re wearing them, they seem well built. While many headphone designs are very functional, these look cool.

And then there is the sound. Since I had some other headphones on hand, I decided to do some comparisons. As it was my day off and I didn’t think about bringing home my Aphex AP-4 headphone amp, I was listening out of the headphone connection of my MacBook Air. Not the best, but it was the same for all three. 

M-Audio Q40 = 10.35 Oz.; Heil Pro Set 3 = 7 Oz.; Shure SRH440 = 11.2 Oz.

On hand for comparison were the M-Audio Q40, and a set of Shure SRH440s. As I flipped through the three headphones, a few things became immediately clear. For comfort, the order was clear as day; the Heils are by far the most comfortable, the 440s are OK, and the Q40s were terrible (they felt like they were clamping my head in a vice). 

To compare the sound is both difficult and easy. They all have fairly different sounds, and I suspect none of them would really qualify as “reference quality.” The Pro Set 3 has more low end by several orders of magnitude. When I put the 440s on, it almost seemed like someone had high-passed the track at 150 Hz. OK, maybe not a high pass, but it sure seemed like a low shelf turned down 9 dB. 

On the other hand, the 440s had significantly more high end detail, up in the 3-5 KHz range. It’s not that those frequencies aren’t there in the Pro Set 3, but they are dialed back. On the other hand, the vocal range was clear across all three sets, and while the Heil’s had less sparkle, the vocal articulation was excellent 

In many ways, I suspect that the Pro Set 3’s are the most listenable, while the SRH440s are perhaps more accurate. Now that I have a bunch of headphones on hand, maybe I’ll do a pink noise/measurement mic thing like Dave Rat did some time ago as he searched for the perfect headphones. 

I’m not sure the Pro Set 3 is perfect, but it is amazingly comfortable and sounds good. And if you want to hear all the low end you’ve been missing all these years, it’s the clear choice (at least among this crowd). Although I honestly don’t know that I’ve ever heard low end like I have in these cans. 

Finally, there is the price. They list for $109, so they are not at all expensive. I’m still going to hang on to my SRH440s to be sure, but I suspect the Pro Set 3s will get a lot more use.

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.

Happy Fourth of July!

Today we celebrate the founding of our nation. While I’m a bit concerned about many current events—political, social and religious—the fact remains that we are one of the few nations on earth people are still clamoring to get into. So while we may have our struggles and issues, I’d rather live hear than anywhere else. 

To celebrate the Fourth, our worship team put together a pretty rockin’ mix of America the Beautiful. The arrangement was done by one of our resident piano players, Scott Wilkie. Since they totally rocked it, I am posting the video here for your enjoyment.  

For some reason, the Vimeo file muxed the audio down to mono, which doesn’t sound nearly as good as my quick and dirty “live mix down” that I did after services. Basically, I ran the tracks back through the SD8, rebalnced the drums and made a few tweaks, and mixed it “live” to another computer for recording. It’s not perfect, but it sounds pretty good. So because I’m a bit of an audio snob, I’m including the audio file here as well. I’ll fix the audio on the video at some point next week, but it won’t make nearly as much sense to post it then.

UPDATE 7-5-12: For some reason, the video has been switched back to private by the CHCC webmaster. For now it’s off-line, and since I’m on vacation this week, I don’t know what’s going on. Until I figure it out, enjoy the audio below! END UPDATE

But here’s the audio file (click to stream it):

America the Beautiful as played by Coast Hills Community Church

Take time to not only enjoy a day off, but also to reflect on what has made our nation great. By God’s grace, we can perhaps see a return her former glory.

Happy Fourth of July!

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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