Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

Month: August 2012 (Page 2 of 2)

New Tech Booths


For our kids and students wing renovation, I’m building three new tech booths. Having worked in a few dozen tech booths in the past, I’ve been collecting a list of things I like and don’t like about those other ones. I’ve seen a few major issues with tech booths in students rooms; namely, when built out of studs and drywall, the drywall always gets torn up, and the walls tend to get a bit loose. I’ve also seen more than one countertop start to sag because they’re using standard kitchen countertops that are designed to be supported along their entire length. Also, most of the time, the top ledge becomes a perfect resting place for all manner of detritus—including drinks—that eventually get spilled into the console. Finally, the cable situation tends to become a mess pretty quickly. 

We’re going to try to remedy those issues with our booths. First, while they will be built out of standard lumber, I’m skinning them in 1/2” AC plywood instead of drywall. This will both increase the ruggedness of the surface, and lend considerable strength to the structure. It will also make it easier to attach things inside the booth. For countertops, we’re going to Sweden. Well, sort of. Ikea sells a 1 1/8” thick solid beech countertop for $60 for a 8’ length. It can be stained, painted or just sealed (which is what we’ll do). We’ll support it with heavy-duty shelf supports lag-bolted to the studs. We also hold the counter off the back wall by 1 1/2” giving us a continuous run to bring cables up and down.


Part of the design that will be tricky to build but will pay huge dividends over time is the sloped top. I call if the “beverage resistant cap.” The tops of all the walls will be sloped outward at 22.5° to keep anyone from putting anything on them. Figuring out the compound miters is tricky but worth it. 

To keep cable management clean, we’ll be using slotted wire duct that we bought from CableOrganizer.com. This duct will run from the wall (where our conduits open to an access panel) to the back wall of the booth for easy access to the gear. By keeping all the cable in the duct, we eliminate those awkward, “I just unplugged a cable with my foot” moments all too common in small tech booths. 

The floor of the booth will be raised; it’s a simple frame of 2×8’s with 3/4” plywood glued and screwed down. The glue part is important—how many booths have you been in where the floor squeaks every time you move? Too many is the answer. For a few dollars in construction adhesive, we will eliminate that. We’re also putting a half-door in each booth. I’m taking some construction details from deck building and anchoring my uprights for the door jamb all the way down to the bottom edge of my joists to be sure that doesn’t move. The door won’t provide any real security, but will keep curious younger kids out of there. 

Finally, to make construction as simple as possible, I’ve sized everything consistently. We will be able to batch-cut all the parts, distribute them to the rooms and screw everything together very quickly. The designs are such that there is only one piece that will be difficult to fabricate (the 1×6 top cap), so it can all be done quickly and with not highly skilled labor. I also spent a lot of time developing a complete set of working drawings for each booth to make it easy to build.


This image shows a lof of dimensions; I actually hide some of them for various angles to make it easier to read.

In a few weeks, you’ll be seeing pictures of the real thing, and we’ll talk about some of our cable building techniques. 

UPDATE: Since I’ve had several requests for them, here is a Sketchup file of one of these booths. You’ll have to play with it to get full dimensions, but you’ll figure it out. END UPDATE

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Staying Consistent

As we are in the middle of a big renovation project, I thought I would share some of the decisions we made a few weeks ago that will hopefully make things easier down the road. We’re building out a new K-3 space, a 4th-5th grade space, and a new Jr. High room. We’ll also be making a few tweaks to our student/community room, which will become geared more toward Sr. High. 

One of the values that I held in high regard was consistency of equipment. I’ve seen a lot of churches and other venues that have a mishmash of all different equipment for the same tasks. Different lighting boards, presentation switchers, mixers, speakers, etc. can make training and maintenance a real hassle. 

For our project, I was very intentional in choosing equipment. We have already settled on a lighting board in our Sr. High room, so I ordered 3 more of them for the new spaces. We’ve decided that analog audio mixers will be a better fit for our ministries in those rooms, and I chose a series of consoles from the same manufacture (three different models from two lines) that have very similar control layouts. The biggest differences are in number of inputs and outputs, as well as adding groups in the bigger rooms. However, they all look pretty much the same, except for size. 

I thought I had settled on a presentation switcher a year ago, but this this time around, we’ve had some requests from the youth ministry department to add Apple TVs for easy screen sharing and playing games and video from iPhones and iPads. The switcher I originally chose could work, but it’s not as easy. So we decided to swap out the one we bought a year ago for a new model that will be consistent throughout the whole building. Thankfully, my infrastructure won’t change (actually, that’s intentional as well). 

We’re going to be using the same kind of lighting fixtures in all rooms, as well as the same wireless mics. Ordering was really easy once we landed on things, it was basically, “Send me 3 of this, 3 of that, and 3 of that other thing.”

My reasons for this are many. First, it’s easier to train. I want to make it easy for people to move from one room to another without having to be retrained. We use a lot of volunteers and many of them don’t have a ton of experience. So we need to make it as simple for them as possible. Second, it will make it easier to build the racks and troubleshoot. Once we figure out how to put stuff together, it will go together quickly. And if something goes wrong, it will be easier to maintain a smaller list of gear. And if a body pack goes down in one room, it will be easy to pull one from another room (because they’re all in the same band.). 

Sometimes, putting a system like this together ends up costing a little big more initially, but I’ve found it pays off big time later during the equipment’s life. You’ll notice I’m not listing my equipment choices here; that’s because it doesn’t matter. I’ve chosen stuff that will work for our ministry; it may or may not work for you. At some point, I will list out what we did but for now, this is about strategy, not specifics. 

Next time around, I’ll talk about my tech booth designs. 

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Extreme Church Makeover: Tech Needs

I wrote about this project a few weeks ago, and the response has been amazing. Many, many people have been asking for a list of needed equipment and here we are. As you will see, we have some big needs, and a lot of small needs. 

Honestly, when I look at the list, I have no idea how it’s all going to come together. When I was working on the needs for this build, I kept thinking, “This is too much; there’s no way we’re going to come up with all of this.” But then God reminded me that He is the one who owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and if He wants this church to have a whole new AVL system, that’s what they’ll get. 

So while it freaks me out a little bit, this is what we need. I think it’s going to be amazing so see how gear comes in for this project. For example, we need a new audio console, something along the lines of an M7 or M480. That’s a big deal. But maybe there’s a rental house out there that has one and needs to upgrade, and maybe a manufacturer can help them with a deal. Everyone wins. 

This list has already gone out to the SoCal CTL group, a group of people who have already agreed to help out with the build, and who will no doubt provide some of the gear. If anyone has anything that can meet the needs of this project, I want to hear from you. I’ve set up a special e-mail just for this project; ecm@churchtecharts.org

I have already been amazed at how God is providing. It’s looking like we have a line on a PA, and a good start on lighting. It’s going to be cool to see how the rest comes together. Again, contact me at ecm@churchtecharts.org if you can help out!

Equipment Needs


  • Main PA system capable of providing 110 dB SPLA for a 400 seat room (approx. 75’ wide x 65’ deep)
    • Speakers
    • Amps (if not powered speakers)
    • Processing
  • 4-6 Floor Monitors
  • 4-6 Personal Monitor Mixers
    • Mixers
    • Input module
    • Distro
    • Cables
  • FOH Console; Digital greatly preferred, 40-48 channels, Min. 8 Auxes
    • If we go analog on the console, we’ll need a few FX units and compressors

Note: The church has four Community 15” subs that we can re-use. It would be great to get a set of new amps for them, however.  


  • Kick drum mic (RE320, D112, D6 or similar)
  • Tom mics (four)
  • Overhead mics (two)
  • Two channels of wireless (1 bodypack, 2 HH)
  • 2-3 Vocal mics (maybe some Heil PR35s)
  • Other misc. instrument mics as available

Misc. Audio:

  • DIs (four)
  • Mic & 1/4” cables
  • Straight Mic Stands 
  • Boom Mic Stands
  • Short stage sub-snakes (4-8 channels, 20-ish feet long)
  • Stage power cords w/ quad boxes or similar


  • 10-12 Ellipsoidal spots with 19° lenses
  • 10-12 LED spots and washes for color
  • 12-18 channels of dimming
  • Lighting control board
  • New house lights (to replace the existing 8’ florescent tubes)

Note: Church has 9 ETC Source4 PARs that we will re-use as area and/or backlight


  • Main projector; 5,000-6,000 lumens, throw will be in the 20’-40’ range, screen size will be 20’-24’ wide, 16:9 format greatly preferred
  • Ceiling mount for said projector
  • Presentation switcher
  • VGA, DVI or HDMI over Cat5 baluns (for run from booth to projector; exact needs will depend on projector)
  • Mac Mini or iMac for ProPresenter
  • ProPresenter license
  • Confidence monitor

Misc. Pieces Parts

  • SuperStrut for hanging PA, Projector, Lighting
  • Speaker cable
  • 500’ of Cat5e
  • 1 1/2” pipe and fittings for lighting bars
  • Rack for amps

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Big Project Survival Kit

If you’ve been following me on Twitter, you might be be aware that I’ve been made the project manager of the renovation we’re doing to our kids and students wing. It’s a big project on a tight deadline and budget. We’re combining rooms to make three large group meeting spaces (will full AVL) and dividing some other rooms to create smaller meeting spaces. We’ve got a demo crew, framers, drywall guys, HVAC, electrical, sprinkler, alarm, carpet, paint, door and of course, AVL contractors. 

We’re doing some of the work ourselves, though most of it is hired. As PM, I’m responsible for making sure all the trades are following the plan, coordinating with each other, and staying on time. And, we’re doing some of the largest weekend serves of the year this month for good measure (and I’m either moving or buying the house we’ve been renting just for a little extra excitement!). 

To survive this month, I am relying on a set of tools to keep me sane and make sure nothing falls through the cracks. Here is my toolkit to keep this all happening. 


Probably my biggest asset in this toolkit. I use Evernote for keeping track of ideas, lists of questions for the GC, subs or our leaders, making lists of stuff to order and tracking items we’re considering for the build. It’s great because it syncs between my MacBook Pro in my office, my MacBook Air, iPhone and iPad. When I’m laying in bed at night unable to sleep (which happens a lot lately) and get a great idea, I grab my phone and jot it into Evernote, confident it will be captured for later recall. I can snip entire HTML pages, add photos or other attachments to keep all my ideas in one spot. Best of all, it’s free.


I love spreadsheets, and Numbers is my favorite tool for making them. I have about four spreadsheets going right now for this project. One manages the budget, others track equipment lists, still another manages my timeline and I even set one up to calculate carpet cost options. Numbers makes it incredibly simple to develop formulas that will give you meaningful data. I love being able to run options and compare plans, and it makes it a lot easier to sell leadership on a course of action when I can show them the financial impact clearly. It even does cool charts. You can get it in the app store for about $20. Totally worth it. 

Google Sketchup

It’s not necessarily an easy program to learn, but spend some time to get comfortable with it, and you can accomplish a lot. I have modeled all three rooms we’re renovating, all to exact scale, so I can help our team visualize stage and tech booth locations, and even develop working drawings for both items. Today I used it to calculate the proper compound bevel angle for the cap to the tech booths. I spent almost an hour trying to do the math, then gave up and did it in Sketchup in about 15 minutes. Now when I build the booth, I’ll have accurate measurements. And if you’re looking for accurate models of common objects (like an iMac for example), you can find them in the model warehouse. That’s a huge timesaver. And again, it’s free!


I’ve tried a bunch of task managers, and this one is my favorite. There are others out there that are good, but I like this one. My favorite features are the ability to collaborate (I can add tasks to my ATD’s to do list), and synchronization. I have Toodledo on my iPhone, iPad and access it via browser on both Macs. It will do repeating tasks, sort by priority, you can create folders and set reminders. It’s free if you want to use it by yourself, and if you want to collaborate, it’s only $15/year per user. Totally worth it. 

Of course, I also rely heavily on e-mail (using Apple Mail) and the internet (Safari) and iCal to keep track of what day it is. But these four programs really help me keep things on track. I use all of them all the time, big project or not. But when the big projects hit, it’s good to be well versed in how this stuff works.

What are you project management survival tools?

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