Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

Month: March 2013 (Page 2 of 2)

Church Tech Weekly Episode 138: Live From Scenic Tulsa


This week, we’re at the Seeds Conference at Church on the Move in scenic Tulsa, OK. We couldn’t visit COTM without hanging out with Andrew, so we all pilled into his office and talked about, what else, audio!


I promised I would post a link to the ’90s worship music retrospective as soon as it was available. So here it is!. It’s part of the entire Night 2 video, so skip forward to about 9 minutes if you want to see just the funny part. Though Craig Groeschel was pretty good, too.

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.

Seeds 2013 Impressions

Today we’re back from Seeds 2013. In case you’ve been living under a rock the last few years, Seeds is a church conference put on by Church on the Move in scenic Tulsa, OK. It’s hard to classify what type of conference it is; they have breakouts for many of the ministry areas in church, and the main sessions are geared toward anyone who works in a church, with perhaps a bent on senior leaders. But that doesn’t really do it justice.


I found the conference both inspiring and challenging—which is an accomplishment for a jaded conference-goer like myself. At the end of the week, Van, Jason and I all agreed it was easily the best conference we’ve ever attended. And it may sound like we’re just blowing smoke because COTM was so generous and hospitable to us; but that’s not it. Seeds really is a great conference.

From the moment we drove onto the grounds and were greeted with the cheers of volunteers (who stood out in the cold Oklahoma wind all day) to the hospitality suite, to the crew, to the volunteers helping direct people in the hallways, everyone made us feel welcome and special. From what I understand, this is normal (and a big reason for the tremendous growth they’ve experienced).

I had high expectations for the production, and I was not disappointed. Their production manager, Andrew Stone, has become a good friend over the last year or so, and I had been looking forward to hearing his mixes. I’ve seen enough stills to know the lighting (by Daniel Connell) was going to be top-notch. And it was.

We got in a little early for the first session and saw the final bits of rehearsal. I was impressed that the band spent a good 10 minutes running the transition from one song to the next. Some might think this was a waste of time, but I’m telling you, the attention to detail like that is one of the keys to the powerful, seamless and completely non-distracting services they put together. More church bands should spend more time on transitions. 

We got to hang out at audio world for the last session, and I will say, it’s cool standing behind two 56 channel Midas Heritage 3000s. The sound was pretty great, and while it was big and loud, the way they have the system tuned it’s completely listenable. So many churches just go for loud; they go for big, powerful and smooth. There was a distinct lack of high-end harshness that characterizes so many big Ver-Tec rigs. 

It would be impossible to sum up the conference in a single post; so I’m not going to try. Instead, I’ll be going through my notes the next few days and condensing a few of the themes that came up over and over. I’m still processing some of the concepts that were challenging to me, and I came home with some things I know I need to work on. 

Seeds was also incredibly inspiring, but not for the reasons you might expect. Of course it was great to see a church use production technology to create an amazing atmosphere of worship, and everything from sound to lights to video to the band worked together to create that. They do a great job to be sure, but so do other churches. 

What was truly inspiring was hearing the story a church that was sort of stuck in the past and transformed itself into a movement doing an incredible job of reaching the next generation. With courage and conviction, they completely transformed their culture, and reached an entire community for Christ. That is what makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up when I think about it. 

Stay tuned over the next few posts and we’ll unpack some of the concepts that I found challenging and inspiring. And a big thanks to the folks at COTM—especially Andrew—who made us feel so at home. If you’re looking for a conference to go to next year, Seeds should be on your list. It’s scheduled for March 5-7, 2014; I’d block out the time on the calendar now.

Today’s post is brought to you by Horizon Battery, distributor of Ansmann rechargeable batteries and battery chargers. Used worldwide by Cirque du Soleil and over 25,000 schools, churches, theaters, and broadcast companies. We offer a free rechargeable evaluation for any church desiring to switch to money-saving,  planet-saving rechargeables. Tested and recommended by leading wireless mic manufacturers and tech directors. 

Today’s post is also 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.

CTA Review: Rat Sound Tools DMX Tester

I know what you’re thinking. What is a sound company doing making a tester for lampies? If I had to guess, some lighting guy saw the audio guy testing a snake with a Rat Sniffer/Sender and said, “Hey, can we get a 5-pin version of that?”

Kidding aside, the answer is—or will be very shortly—yes. I wrote about the whole Sniffer/Sender line back in July of last year. What started out as a simple 3-pin XLR tester has expanded into 1/4”, NL4 and now 5-pin XLR. My friends at Rat asked if I would be interested in taking a look at the DMX version, and since I’ve had to troubleshoot a DMX run or three, I said, “Sure!” 

Physically, it looks very similar to the venerable 3-pin version. The system consists of two parts, the “sniffer” which has three red/green lights on it, and the “sender” which is basically a phantom power supply. You can test a cable or snake (or entire end-to-end system) using both units, or, hit phantom power on the console and just use the sniffer.

The DMX version works just like the audio version. Plug the sender into the male end of the chain, the sniffer into the female end and look at the lights. Three greens means all is well. Any combination of red and green means there’s a problem and you consult the chart to figure out what it is. 

Personally, I love the concept of this. I’ve spent several hours over the past few years up in the truss trying to track down DMX runs. Once you get a bunch of cables up there, it can be hard to know which end is connected to what. With the sniffer sender, it’s easy to tell.

And here’s another hidden benefit: Since the lighting industry refuses to standardize on three pins or five, you can actually use the 5-pin and 3-pin sniffer senders together. 

The other day, I was making some 3- to 5-pin adapters in the shop and wanted to test them. I pulled out the 3-pin sender and the 5-pin sniffer. The sniffer read two green lights, which I assumed meant it wasn’t picking up anything on pins 4&5. But when I tested the next one and got all three green lights, I double checked my first adapter. Sure enough, I swapped two pins. After a quick solder fix, I re-tested and got 3 greens. 

The unit I have is a prototype, so I don’t have information on pricing and availability. I would expect it to come in around $55-70 or so, and it will likely be available before summer. For me, it’s a no-brainer to have all the testers. In fact, I want to make up a kit to house all of my sniffer/senders in one neat package. Since we church techs need to be multi-disciplined, this is a great addition to our toolbox. You can see the complete lineup of Rat Sound Tools at their website. 

In the interest of full disclosure, my friends at Rat Sound gave me this prototype unit. Even if they hadn’t, I would buy one. They’re that cool. 

Today’s post is brought to you by Ultimate Ears. Housed within a custom shell designed to fit your ears, high quality multiple armature speaker systems provide an unparalleled sound environment, as well as 26 dB of passive noise cancellation.

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.

CTA Review: DPA 4099 Update—The Sax Files

You may have read my previous review of the 4099 and our use of it on cello and percussion. Since I was  a little slow in sending the demo mic’s back to DPA (sorry about that…), I had the chance to try it out with our sax player. We’re pretty blessed to have a great sax (and quite a few other woodwinds) player in our group of regular musicians and he’s very discerning. I thought it would be quite instructive to get his take on the 4099.

Our top-notch sax player, Keith Feltch really likes the DPA.

He was more than happy to try it out one weekend, and much less happy when I tried to take it back. He called me a “drug dealer” and accused me of simply teasing him with this great mic. It was all in fun, of course, and he ended up buying the mic. I suppose I could stop the review there; what else do you need to know—but where’s the fun in that?

I wasn’t mixing the first time he tried the mic, but I was the first weekend he had his copy. I think I tweeted, “Wow!” The thing just sounds fantastic. Now, there’s something you need to know about Keith. He has a rig that would make some guitar players jealous. He brings six spaces of mic pre’s, processors, mixers and effects. He has a pedal board. And he regularly switches between mic’s during the service.

His regular set up has been an AKG C414 on a boom stand, and recently he added an AMT sax mic. Those all sounded pretty good, but the 4099 is in a bit of a different category. 

As you’ll hear in the sample, the bleed from the drums and other instruments is pretty minimal, and the sax sounds fantastic. You’ll also notice the reverb on the tracks; that’s how we get them at FOH. He likes to send me his “finished” sound, and because he’s a great musician, I’m OK with that. 

The thing I love about the 4099 series, is the clever mounting system they’ve come up with. From cellos to saxophones they have a mount for that mic. Each mount holds the mic firmly in place while protecting the instrument. Because the mic stays firmly in place with the instrument, you don’t have the gain variations you get with a mic on a stand. This not only helps deliver more consistent sound, but better signal to noise.

If you work with acoustic instruments, you really owe it to yourself to check out the 4099 series. I’ve said before I have yet to encounter an instrument that they don’t sound great on, and when you can turn a cello mic into a sax mix by simply changing the mount, that’s a big win.

Below is an audio file from the weekend. You’ll hear some reverb on the sax, but our sax player has a rig that would make guitar players jealous. What I recorded is exactly what he sends me; he really works the sound and does it well. I left a bit of heads and tails on it as well so you can get an idea of how much (or, more correctly, little) drum bleed there is.

Today’s post is brought to you by Horizon Battery, distributor of Ansmann rechargeable batteries and battery chargers. Used worldwide by Cirque du Soleil and over 25,000 schools, churches, theaters, and broadcast companies. We offer a free rechargeable evaluation for any church desiring to switch to money-saving,  planet-saving rechargeables. Tested and recommended by leading wireless mic manufacturers and tech directors. 

Church Tech Weekly Episode 137: Use the Right Tool


This week we’re all about lighting and atmosphere. From making sure your lighting and environmental projection are working together to choosing the right kind of fixture (tungsten, LED, discharge), we cover the gamut.


Today’s post is brought to you by Bose Professional. Sound solutions from Bose Professional Systems Division provide places of worship with full, natural music and clear, intelligible speech. The custom designed systems blend easily into your designs. Hear the reviews of the new RoomMatch speakers and PowerMatch amplifiers.

Getting Ready for Easter

Somewhere out there you may or may not have noticed that Easter is coming early this year. Easter is the one weekend that can strike fear into the heart of the most seasoned technical director. It’s the one weekend a year when everyone wants to “pull out all the stops.” Get the biggest band up on stage, more vocals, maybe a drama, and—oh why not—add a choir! This year, the trip from Christmas to Easter is a mere 3 months, and being that it’s the beginning of March, you have 25 days to get ready. 

Command Central. On the left, SD8 offline software; center is the SD5 and on the right, Planning Center Online.

Command Central. On the left, SD8 offline software; center is the SD5 and on the right, Planning Center Online.

For us at Coast Hills, Easter means not only 5 services on the weekend, but 2 Good Friday services as well. And, as I’ll be in Tulsa for the Seeds Conference this week, I only have a few weeks to prepare for 7 services in 3 days (and they’re not easy services, either). To survive, I started planning already. Last month, in fact. I learned the value of planning last year at Christmas. I shared some of those thoughts then, but after reading my friend Dave’s post on getting ready for Drive, I was inspired to jot down a few thoughts on how I’m prepping for Easter this year.

Plan Early

I started building my input list the second week in February. As soon as all the players and vocalists were identified, I figured out where they would go. I actually started earlier than that; at NAMM I arranged for a FOH console to be brought in so we can use our SD8 at monitors. While we normally run M-48s for the band, we will actually have 9 musicians plus 8 vocalists. To keep everything manageable, we’ll mix the ears for vocals from the SD8, and FOH will handle the M-48s plus the house mix (look for my review of the SD5 following Easter).

I booked my lights and scenery rental two weeks ago. The stage plot was also done mid-February, and I’ve already ordered all the materials we need for the set build. I even made arrangements to move a little budget money around so I could by another wireless IEM and an antenna combiner so we’d have enough for that week. A little planning goes a long way.

Pre-Build Anything You Can

Good Friday is a huge event for us. As soon as my input list was finished, I started building show files. Since I have two consoles, I have two show files to build. To make that easier, I brought up an old Mac Mini we’re not using and loaded the SD8 software on it so I can easily move back and forth between the SD8 and the SD5. And, since I can look at last year’s show file, I can also begin to pre-build my snapshots for each segment. The service is pretty close to what we did last year, so most of it is a known quantity. 

I tried this at Christmas, and while it doesn’t work for me on a weekend, I really liked having starting snapshots for each song for a big event. I’m not trying to build a mix, but I do want to get the right channels on (or off) and have my effects starting points pre-built. That makes rehearsal less stressful and I’m already more than half way there when I start virtual soundcheck.

For Christmas, we called up last year’s tracks and pre-built starting monitor mixes for the vocals. We’ll do the same thing for Good Friday. By giving the vocalists something to work with right out of the gate (and a really good starting point at that), they don’t get too picky and burn a lot of time during soundcheck. In fact, for Christmas, we had eight vocalists fully sound checked and mixed in about 20 minutes. 

We’ll also pre-program all our M-48s for both Easter and Good Friday. A week or two before, we’ll get them all out, and go through both services and build the whole thing. Starting mixes and patches will be stored in normally unused memories so we can simply recall them during that very busy week. I’ll even pre-coordinate the additional wireless IEMs in advance, so all we need to do is look up the frequencies and program away.

We’re also going to pre-build our set pieces this year. We know what we’re going to do, and the week prior to Easter week, we’ll build the helixes then store them in the loading dock. That should save us about 4-6 hours during build week. 

The Benefits

As Dave mentioned in his post, crazy things can happen during a conference or a big event. The more prepared you are, the easier it is to handle the crazy. Another benefit for me, is to work through various layouts and options stress-free in the comfort of my office. I’ve changed the layout of the SD5 five or six times now, as I come up with new ways of doing things. I’ve already built a bunch of macros to speed my workflow, and even fully outfitted the SD8’s show file with some time-saving shortcuts. It’s easy to do that when you can sit back for a few minutes and ask, “What if?” It’s a lot harder when you have 17 people on stage waiting for you to figure out what’s next.

Looking back, I probably should have written this post on February 5, not March 5. But look at it this way, you still have a few weeks to get a jump on the biggest weekend of the year. If you can possibly do anything now to get ready, do it! With proper pre-planning and pre-building, you can not only survive Holy Week, but thrive.

Today’s post is brought to you by DiGiCo. DiGiCo audio mixing consoles deliver solutions that provide extreme flexibility, are easy to use and have an expandable infrastructure, while still providing the best possible audio quality. Visit their website to learn more.

CTA Review: Logitech UE 900 IEMs

I often get asked to recommend decent-sounding universal fit IEMs. And while I love my custom molded UE7s, I’ve not been a huge fan of the UE universal fits. Thus, I typically recommended somethings else (Westone UM 1s or 2s). And it’s not for lack of trying the UE universals; I think we have 4 different models in our drawer of earbuds. So it was with a mix of excitement and skepticism that I gave the new UE 900s a shot.

Get a set of UE 900s and you'll be stylin! 

Get a set of UE 900s and you’ll be stylin! 

The first thing I noted right off is the packaging—it’s almost Apple-like. The outer box is held shut with magnets (very cool), and the inner box for storing the headphones is very slick. It has a nice heft to it, is piano black and one corner is beveled (it is a little on the small side, however). Not that this effects the sound in anyway, but being a premium product, it’s nice to see premium packaging. In the box, you get two cords; one with a volume control and mic for use with a phone, and another plain cord. You also get five different sets silicone tips and three sizes of foam tips. If you can’t find a set that fits your ears, you must have either very big or very small ears.

The cord is high quality and the connection to the buds themselves is a clever swivel which makes it easy to get fit over your ear. And yes, these are proper over-the-ear wraps—finally! That’s been one of my biggest criticisms the UE universals—the cords just don’t fit well. The 900s change all of that. 

As I was anxious to get listening, I picked a set of medium-small silicon sleeves and put them on. Right away, I was impressed with the fit. I’ve been known to fall asleep wearing my Westone UM1s, and my UE7s are also super-comfortable. Even with the silicon sleeves (which I still have on…) it took about 3 minutes for me to forget I was wearing them. For that first listening session, I went upstairs to the palatial studio, put on some Suzanne Vega and laid down. It was wonderful. While at NAMM, I told the big cheese at UE that after a few minutes, I forgot I was wearing ear buds and there was just music in my head. 

So how do they compare to other buds? Well, the first test I did was to match them up with my UE7s. Now, it’s important to keep in mind that the UE7s list for $850, while the 900s are $400. But listening to the same material back to back, it’s pretty close. The UE7s have a little more HF rolloff (past about 4K) than the 900s do, which is beneficial for a live monitor. The LF extension is also better on the 7s. The midrange is different, but comparable. That sounds odd, but I’m not sure how else to describe it. The UE7s sound perhaps a little more open, but the 900s sound in no way bad. It’s not that the 900s aren’t clear through the mids, the UE7s are just more clear.

Assembled by people with  really  small hands...

Assembled by people with really small hands…

When compared to the Westone UM1s, well there is just no comparison. The UM1s roll off much higher at the low end of the spectrum, the mids are over-emphasized and the highs just don’t sparkle as much. Perhaps this is not a fair comparison because the UM1 is a single driver IEM that sells for just over $100. The UE900 is a quad-driver (dual low, single mid, single high) item that retails for almost 4 times the UM1. A fairer comparison would be with a UM2 or UM3. Westone, if you’re reading and want to send a pair; I’m game. 

The quad-armature design really makes a difference, by the way. I think that’s why they sound so much better than the UM1s. The UM1s sound compressed, and it’s easy to tell a single driver is trying to do all the work. The 900 divides the workload, and it lends a lot more clarity and space to the sound. It even sounds like stereo separation is wider.

I’ve been listening to a lot of my favorite music over the last few months with these, and I’ve heard things I’ve never heard before, which is always fun. I really like the way these are voiced, and they now serve as my preferred music listening IEMs. I keep the UE7s for live work, a task they excel at in my environment. 

Are they worth it? I would say yes. Sometimes, you can spend 4x as much but not get 4x the quality. In this case, the difference between a $100 IEM (and a quite decent one at that) is dramatic. My UM1s haven’t even been out of the case since I got these. If you want a great sounding universal fit IEM, these are a no-brainer. I would say they would even serve well as a set of in-ear monitors on the stage if you have someone who can’t quite afford customs, but wants to up the quality level. The UE 900s get a dual thumbs up from the CTA Labs! Side note, when Van listened to them at NAMM, his comment was, “Wow! These are awesome!” So there you go.

3-2-13 UPDATE: I forgot to disclose that UE gave me this pair of 900s. Hopefully by now you know that I write what I think regardless of whether the item was given to me or not. But it’s only right that you know and the FTC requires it. Sorry for leaving it out the first time. END UPDATE

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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