Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

Month: September 2013 (Page 2 of 2)

Summer Reading List Pt. 2

Last time, I stared with my summer reading list. It ended up being a lot longer than I thought it would, so I broke it up. I told you once I got my Kindle I started reading more, and I guess it’s true. Only two of these are dead tree versions; the rest are all e-books. Get reading!

I’m about 1/2 through this book and already it’s been challenging me. This book is written for almost anyone in a position of leadership, and it’s a very easy read. Told in the form of an allegory, it’s an easy read, but is packed with wisdom. The basic concept is that we can do the right things for the wrong reasons, and we have to be really careful to see people as people, not objects that stand in the way of or help accomplish our objectives. Yeah, this will shake you up a bit.

You’ve probably seen the movie (and if not, you should). The book is a lot like that only with a lot more detail. It’s a pretty dense read, and at times I felt like giving up. But there are some really great leadership lessons in there, and at times, I found myself in tears as Hal Moore described the sacrifice those solders gave for each other. At the end of the book I thought, “I want to lead like Hal, and I hope my team will be half as committed as his.”

This was just a fun read. He details the beginnings of the computer revolution starting with the first computers installed at MIT and the first real hackers. Having read this book, I have a lot greater appreciation for what happens every time I pull out my iPhone.

I think I read this in about two evenings; so yes, it’s short, but it’s also an incredibly engaging and funny read. I knew a little bit of Steve Martin’s story, but in this book, he unpacks how he got his start in show business, and tells some pretty hilarious stories along the way. It’s definitely a fun read.


By James Rollins

Buy on Amazon

Sigma is one of those super-secret government organizations that no one knows about. Made up of super-smart operatives who are trained in everything from biology, medicine, history, physics, chemistry, engineering and of course, combat, they are a pretty formidable crew. The stories are rich with character development, and have plots with more twists and turns than a bin of mic cables put away by the student ministry. I highly recommend you start at the beginning with Sandstorm and work your way through. It’s not necessary, but I started in the middle, and decided to go back to the beginning and start again. Be forewarned; if you start one of these books at 10 PM, it might be a while before you get to bed.

For your convenience, here is the order of the books:


Map of Bones

Black Order

Judas Strain

Last Oracle

Doomsday Key

Skeleton Key (Short)

Devil Colony


Eye of God

There you go. That’s pretty much what I read this summer. I could have included a few others that I also read this spring, but then this would be three posts. What did you read this summer? And how has it made a difference in your ministry or life?

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Summer Reading List

You’ve heard it said, “Leaders are readers.” I didn’t really believe that until about 6-7 years ago. I’ve always loved writing, and I didn’t mind reading, but I was usually reading in small, bite-sized chunks from magazines. After my first Willow Arts Conference in 2007, I really started reading. And since I bought a Kindle last year, I’ve been burning through books like crazy.

Since some of these books have been really good and quite helpful, I thought it might be fun to share with you what I’ve read this summer. You’ll note a wide variety of topics in this list; some are non-fiction, some are fiction. For a the last few years, I’ve only been reading non-fiction, leadership and growth type books. Those are great, but I’ve re-discovered the joy of reading a great fiction story just for fun. So, in no particular order, here’s what I read this summer:

I’ve mentioned this book in a previous post, and it was very encouraging for me to read. I was just talking about this book the other day with some friends, and started thinking of how we tend to compare ourselves as TDs to our colleagues in the church. When Kid’s ministry wants to value their volunteers, they throw a party. Makes sense, and works great. But if we try to do that, most of our folks won’t come because they don’t like big events. So we need to be more intentional about spending time with them in smaller groups where both they and we feel more comfortable. And know that this is OK. This is a great read for the introvert and extrovert alike. The better we understand each other, the better we can work together.

I can’t tell you how many times I found myself saying, “Yes! Yes! Yes!” while reading this book. There are so many nuggets of wisdom in this book—no that’s not right—the entire book is gold. Here’s one of my several hundred (yes, hundreds) highlights:

But imagine what would happen if we actually organized and programmed in concert with the way God works?

If you don’t define what excellence looks like for your staff and volunteers, they will define it for themselves.

To seek and to save the lost, you must first capture their attention.

I could go on. But you should just buy the book and read it. The concepts in the book have re-shaped the way I think of doing church. It’s that good.

This book chronicles how Grainger Community Church went from a small struggling church to one of the most creative, fastest growing and innovative churches in the country. Then they started to loose their way and went through a pretty tough period of trying to figure out who they were. Through that struggle, they regained their vision and began to move forward with renewed passion and purpose. You can read this book on a flight from LA to Dallas, but it will take a lot longer than that to unpack all the concepts within.

While I’m not crazy about the title, it’s a great book. Basically, the book is about how to live an un-offended life. It’s really appropriate for us technical leaders, because we have a tendency to be offended a lot. Often the only time we hear anything about our work is when something goes wrong. If we let this stuff fester, it grows into a root of bitterness, and that can destroy our ministry, our families and our lives. This book has been amazingly helpful for me already, and I haven’t even worked all the way through yet. 

OK, so I didn’t think I read this many books this summer. This post is starting to get a bit long, so I’m going to break it up into two. Just add the books above to your Amazon wish list, then finish the order on Friday…

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Church Tech Weekly Episode 163: Duff’s—Better Than The Anchor Bar


How do you expand your seating capacity when there is no more room? The Chapel in Buffalo has a great idea, and we learn all about it today. We also learn why relationships are so important, and find out what’s in the news! 


Today’s post is brought to you by Sennheiser.
For more than 60 years, the name Sennheiser has been synonymous with top-quality products and tailor-made complete solutions for every aspect of the recording, transmission and reproduction of sound.

Exploring the SALT Conference

I consider myself very fortunate to be able to attend a wide variety of conferences and trade shows. The connections made, the information gathered and the fun we have is priceless to me. While I thought I was pretty much done with conferences for the year, it looks like we have the chance to try out a brand-new one this fall. 

It’s called SALT and is designated “The Visual Worship Conference.” I’ve been getting to know the organizers over the past few years and months and I’m really impressed with these guys. As this is a new conference I thought it would be good to let you know a little more about it. I sat down with Luke McElroy (OK, did this via e-mail, but I’d like to think we had a conversation…) to get some background on the conference and why it would be worth your time. Here goes:

There are a ton of conferences out there. I think we could attend a conference every week if we wanted to. What makes SALT unique?

That is so true! [Laughs] One of the reasons we sat on this idea for over a year before we announced anything was to make sure this wasn’t “another” conference and that God was actually calling a community to gather. SALT is the visual worship conference. It’s about the look and feel of a Sunday morning or weekday worship service. As you are well aware, there are conferences that focus on pastoral leadership, on worship, musical technique and the ability to lead a worship team and there are tech conferences that tend to have a natural bend toward audio and the “gear” that’s used in church. Yet here aren’t really any conferences that are fully dedicated to the conversation of the visual experience that takes place on Sunday Morning. 

MIT (yes the university) did a study that opened my eyes to how much we need a conference like this… They revealed in their study that we remember 10% of what we read, 30% of what we hear and 80% of what we watch or see!  IF this is even remotely true then why is our entire Sunday morning experience focused on what we read and say?!? How many churches are beginning to ask how we are visually telling the story of God to our communities? If visuals are the “stickiest” form of communication, then wouldn’t we want to pour a lot of attention into creating visual experiences that cause people to remember the word of God? That’s exactly why SALT exists… to encourage, equip and inspire a generation to use art, media, creativity and visuals to help spread the word of Truth and create atmospheres that impact people’s lives. 

Who is the SALT conference for?

Honestly, everyone. I remember sitting in a marketing class when I was at college and the professor said… “Marketing isn’t a role in the company anymore… it needs to be the mindset of every key leader in any organization” and that’s exactly what I would say about visuals and the look & feel of a Sunday morning. Powerful visual worship isn’t just for the technical or creative people to execute, it has to be a team endeavor. So SALT is designed for these key areas.. Technicians, creatives, worship leaders, volunteers and senior pastors. 

Honestly, it’s a great place to bring your entire team and begin having a dialogue about how visuals play into the story we’re all telling on a Sunday morning. Discussing the role of color, texture, lighting and video isn’t for one guy behind the light board or running lyrics—it’s a group effort. Because it’s a “new” topic, the whole team needs to be present. 

My church isn’t into environmental projection; will there be anything for me to learn at SALT?

ABSOLUTELY! [Laughs] There are actually only 2 classes that have anything to do with environmental projection! Environmental projection is just one tool of visual worship. We’re going to talk about cost effective stage design, lighting, color theory, telling story through film, do-it-yourself creative projects, leading creatives, and many many more topics. 

We’ve recently posted the list of workshops we’re going to be covering, so make sure to check that out! You’ll be amazed at how much there is to talk about at SALT. 

Besides learning more about the visual aspects of worship, what else can we expect?

Where do I begin? Our goal is to inspire! We hope you’ll get a chance to engage in great worship, be inspired to go create new things… regardless if you’re an “artist” or not. We’re all creative. I think you’ll have a chance to meet other like-minded people around the nation and begin to explore new ideas and new ways of doing things. There’s a rumor going around that we’ll learn how to make a hovercraft out of a leaf blower… trust me, you don’t want to miss the inaugural year!

So there you go! A brief explanation of SALT 2013! If you can possibly make it, I encourage you to attend. Van & I will be there and we would love to meet you and talk. The conference is in Nashville, October 21-23. You can lear more and register at the SALTNashville.com website. See you there! 

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Back It Up: Presentation

Over the last few days, we’ve been talking backup. Wednesday we looked at our audio backup process, and earlier this year, I detailed our lighting backup system. Today, we’ll tackle another critical discipline, though it’s perhaps the easiest to backup: Presentation. 

Unless you’re still using overhead projectors for song words and sermon graphics, presentation is very easy to back up. That is because pretty much all the files are software-based, and software is easy to back up. Since I’m a belt and suspenders type of guy, I employ a two stage backup process.

Local, Automatic Backup

As we use ProPresenter running on a MacPro, the easiest way to make sure it’s backed up is to use Time Machine. We have a 250 GB SSD as our main boot drive in the machine, and another 1 TB spinning drive as a backup. Since I really don’t want Time Machine kicking in during the service, I use a cool little program called Time Machine Editor to have it backup Saturday night and Sunday afternoon after the service should be over. This ensures that we have a live backup after Saturday night in case something goes wrong on Sunday morning. 

The beauty of Time Machine is that it’s pretty automatic and doesn’t require any intervention. It also backs up everything, which is good. The downside is that it backs up everything so if we have to restore in a hurry, we could be in trouble. That’s where the cloud comes in.

Dropbox To The Rescue

By now you know I’m a fan of Dropbox. As we discussed in our opening post, part of backing up is trying to figure out what we have to back up and how to recover. If the MacPro goes out on Sunday morning, I’m not going to worry about trying to get it back up and running right then. Instead, I’m going to grab my laptop and run from that. 

But how to get ProPresenter up and running quickly on my MacBook Pro? That’s where my post-service backup system comes into play. I marry Dropbox to a Carbon Copy Cloner script that runs at 6:30 PM Saturday and 12:30 PM Sunday (after services wrap up). Basically the script copies the playlists, presentations and templates folders to a Dropbox folder on the Mac Pro. The files are extremely small, so they are pushed up to the cloud almost immediately. 

Because my laptop normally sits in my office running 24/7, the corresponding folder in my Dropbox is also updated. A quick drag and drop is all it takes to get the files needed for the service into ProPresenter on my MBP and we’re good to go. 

This is exactly what we did this past weekend. We had to meet off-site due to the sprinkler disaster, so I copied the current files from Dropbox into my ProPresenter folders on my MacBook Pro and carried it to the gym. 

Of course, we didn’t have a stage display, but we easily got through the service. If we really needed the stage display, I would borrow the USP display adapter I have at video.  

You can do the same thing with other presentation software, you just need to know where the files are stored, and which ones you need to backup for easy access. If you’re using Windows, you’ll need to poke around a little and come up with some software solutions.

What About The Projector?

That’s the one thing we really don’t have backed up. This is partially because we have a 16K Christie projector, and those are expensive. And bright. If we loose that one weekend, we’re actually in trouble. We do have two 6500 lumen projectors that we use for IMAG, and we could use one of those in a pinch. We also keep a spare bulb around at all times, just in case. 

As I said, presentation is actually pretty easy as it’s all software. One thing I’m probably going to add to this process in the near future is a full, bootable backup of the startup disk. I need to pick up another external drive and I’ll use CCC to copy the boot disk so in case the SSD goes bad, we can boot from the external and get up and running faster. 

So that’s it for presentation. Hopefully this series has inspired you to get your systems backed up. Because it’s not a matter of if equipment will fail, but when.

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Back It Up: Audio


Last week, I told you about our sprinkler issue. And I remembered that I wanted to write a series about backing up, preparing for the inevitable failure of something. While we don’t like to think about it, we will experience equipment failures at some point. Or a natural (or manmade) disaster will strike. When (not if) that happens, we need a plan for getting back up and running as soon as possible. So how do we do that? It starts with an honest assessment of what is likely to fail, and what we can reasonably back up.

Back Up Everything You Can

In 2013, it’s dead-simple to backup computers and hard drives. There is really no excuse for not doing that. Digital audio consoles are computers. They all have an OS, programs and files. They all run on drives, usually SSDs. And drives will crash. So we need to make sure we have a backup of as much as we can. 

At FOH, we have three Macs; a MacBook Pro for virtual soundcheck; a Mac Mini for LAMA, walk-in music, Workbench and the M-48 control software; and another Mac Mini that is BootCamped to Win7 that runs the SD8 remote software. I have full images of all three computers; so if they ever die, it’s a 20 minute process to rebuild the new computer. If the drive crashes on a weekend, I can just boot off my backup, get through the weekend and deal with it Monday. To manage these backups, I have a 1 TB drive with three partitions on it. The Macs are backed up with Carbon Copy Cloner, and I use a program called WinClone to create compressed images of the BootCamp partition. I don’t run those backups all the time, but about every month or two I’ll update them. 

Beyond the complete hard drive backup, files can also become corrupted or accidentally deleted. For that reason, it’s also good to have a running backup, and preferably one that is also off-site. We use Dropbox for all our files. Every weekend, we back up the weekend’s SD8 show file to the remote PC, and as that is in a Dropbox folder, it’s backed up as well. In my post on backing up lighting, I wrote about the little .Bat file we use to facilitate that. 

We also make heavy use of baseline show files. Every time the baseline changes, it gets sync’d to the main Dropbox folder, along with a second Dropbox folder, just in case. All of our input sheets, Wireless Workbench files, M-48 software settings and even track presets for Reaper are saved in Dropbox. Since all the computers are on line, as soon as a file gets saved on one, it’s saved on the others. It’s also really handy for looking at those files from my laptop or iPad.

Hardware, Too

No everything is software backups, however. What happens when a piece of hardware fails or gets stolen? Over the last few years, I’ve built a great little portable sound system—16 channel mixer, 4 channels of comps, an SPX990, two channels of wireless, two mains and subs— and we can easily cover a 500-600 seat room with that rig. It’s what we used last weekend when we had to meet in a gym. Sure, we grabbed a few things from our main room (and I brought in my X32), but otherwise, that was it. 

Now, it’s probably not cost-effective—or even wise stewardship—to buy two FOH consoles (unless they’re X32s, then why not?) But it’s not a bad idea to have an extra amp or two lying around, and perhaps a plan for what to do if your system processor goes out. One reason we run the SD8 software on a computer right next to the SD8 is just in case the surface of the SD8 goes down. Now it’s only done that once in 3+ years, but it was nice to be able to finish the service on the remote. We also use it for iPad control, but that’s another post. 

And of course, it’s imperative to have extra cables for your headset mic’s—and probably an extra headset mic, extra DIs, vocal mic’s and almost anything else on your stage. You may not have exact replacements for everything, but you should have enough that losing a mic won’t kill you. 

Several years ago at another church, we lost our FOH console on Friday night. It was a long night trying to get it back up and running. Turns out the power supply was dead, and it wasn’t coming back up without a trip to the service center. That Saturday, we played musical boards. I pulled a console out of the student room, and put in it’s place a board from our portable system. We ran with slightly truncated capabilities, but all the services went on, and I doubt anyone knew any different. We could do that because we had a plan.

My friend Duke said it well in an article he wrote for Sunday Mag on this topic: “After disaster strikes is not the time to come up with a plan, it’s the time to execute one.” Start planning for the day when things fail. Now is the time to think it through and figure out what you’ll do. Because you  will look like a hero when you get it back so quickly. 

Next time, we’ll talk about our plan for backing up presentation. In the meantime, check out the article I did this spring on our backup process for lighting.

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 Labor Day Special


Well, it’s special in that we took the day off. We decided to actually enjoy Labor day and not record an episode this week. However, there are plenty of old episodes to listen to, so check out the show page, pick one and enjoy.  

See you next week! 

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Labor Day Reflections

Labor Day.jpg

Today is Labor Day. When I think of people who work hard, make a great contribution and are often not properly recognized, I think of technical leaders; and especially those of you who volunteer your services at your local church. We often think of Labor Day as a great retail sales day, or a wonderful excuse to cook some ribs (not that we need an excuse…). 

But Labor Day is a time to rest, and reflect on the work that we do as laborers. Originally, the day was meant to celebrate the kind of guys who work in factories, who cut down trees or build skyscrapers. Today, it is for pretty much anyone who works. I think it’s good and fitting that we have a national holiday to recognize laborers. But I also think we should use this chance to contemplate the original Labor Day—the Sabbath. 

I’ve written about the Sabbath before (twice in fact, here and here), but I couldn’t help think about it today. Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). It’s interesting to me that God, the Creator of the Universe and all that is in it, set aside a day for us to rest. He did this because He knew that we would have a tendency to keep working and tire out. And not just tire out, but burn out. 

Most technical leaders I know are wired much like me. We have high work ethics and a high sense of responsibility. When we feel there is a task that needs to be done, we get it done. Forget days off, if we need to work harder to meet a deadline (self-imposed or not), we’ll do it. 

But is that what we’re really made for? One thing I have to continually remind myself is that me working harder does not increase my standing with God. And the reason is not because God is continually weighing my work and seeing how I measure up. It’s because He can’t possibly love me more than He already does.

The same is true for you. God loves you as his child regardless of how hard you do or do not work.

So today, take some time and rest in His love. Remember that it’s OK to take a day off and just be. In fact, He kind of tells us to do that once a week—forget once a year. It is important to remember that our worth is not in how much we get done, but in how much Jesus paid for us on the cross. 

Enjoy the day off! Rest, reflect and soak in His love for you.

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