Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

Month: January 2014 (Page 1 of 2)

The Soundbooth: Working In Your Strengths

“I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about working in my strengths. Like many of you, I have many strengths that pertain to the tech world. For me, the two at the top are 1) being a good troubleshooter, and 2) being a people person/ people encourager. Both of these have served me well over my career in tech and life in general. I’m also a dreamer, creator, and builder. And, even though I can be sarcastic and dark, deep down I am actually an optimist, a “glass half full” kind of guy.


CTW NAMM 2014 Coverage: MyMix Install & Rack Versions

We’ve talked about and reviewed the MyMix system in the past. This year, they are releasing a cool install version of the mixer, as well as a rack mount unit. The install would be very cool in a lobby, cry room or conference room. The rack mount is perfect for racking up along with wireless IEM transmitters. More cool stuff from MyMix.

Learn more at MyMixaudio.com

Today’s post is brought to you by Pacific Coast Entertainment. Pacific Coast Entertainment is the premier event production company servicing Southern California and the western states. PCE offers a complete line of Lighting, Audio, Video, and Staging equipment for rentals, sales and installs. Where old fashion customer service meets high tech solutions. PCE, your one stop tech resource.

CTW NAMM 2014 Coverage: Midas M32

Just two years after releasing what has become the wildly popular Behringer X32, Midas now announces their own version. It’s a little more upscale, and a little more expensive. But I predict this will be a hit. We take a look at the new M32 from Midas.

Learn more at the Midas M32 Site.


Planning for Easter


Easter—along with Christmas—is one of the most highly attended weekends of the year at most churches. As a result, we typically pull out all the stops to make those services (or a special service) great. From a production point of view, Easter can take us way outside of where we normally live. This can be exciting as we get to do new things we don’t do every week. On the other hand, it’s fraught with peril if we don’t plan well.

As with most high production events, making Easter/Good Friday successful starts with planning. The best time to start planning for Easter is January. Yes, I know we’re still recovering from Christmas, but the earlier we get a handle on what we’re doing, the better we will be prepared to execute with excellence. 

Cover the Big Bases First

Start off getting a general scope of what the service entails. Once that is worked out, you need to get specific pretty quickly. I like to ask a lot of questions: What is the band configuration? How many vocalists? Do we have an orchestra, and what does that look like? If doing a drama, how many wireless mic’s will we need? How many pastors will be speaking? What other special sound effects might we have to do? Will we need tracks with a click fed back to the band? Do we need additional monitor mixes in unusual locations? Will the set pose any acoustical or set up challenges? Is there anything else we haven’t discussed?

In 2014, Easter is the third Sunday in April. That means you should have the answers to all or most of those questions by late February. Once you know what you’re doing, you can start planning your technical and staffing needs. 

Book Rentals Early

For audio, start with an input list. That will quickly highlight any issues you have with mic inventory, input or mix count, and monitors. If you don’t have enough equipment, your choices are to borrow, rent or do without. When budgets are tight, sometimes you have to get creative. If you have the money to rent, remember to book your equipment early; Easter is a busy time for rental companies. 

If you are doing a dramatic production that will have different lighting requirements from a normal service, consider working up a lighting plot. A lighting plot is a drawing of your stage area along with each light and its location. Depending on the production, you may need to rent additional dimmers, fixtures or moving lights. To light multiple locations at different times, it may be more cost-effective to rent a few moving lights, as they are easily re-focusable. This is especially true if you are short on dimmers and power. As with audio, the same early booking policy applies.

Don’t Forget The Staff

Most Good Friday/Easter productions also require additional technical staff, and it’s a good idea to work out rehearsal and production schedules early and get those dates on your teams’ calendars. Palm Sunday is a bad time to discover that most of your team is planning on being out of town for Easter.

You may also find you need additional positions that don’t normally exist. For example, whenever I do a large dramatic production with many channels of wireless (especially when packs are shared among actors), I assign a wireless mic wrangler. That person’s sole job is to make sure the right person has the right mic—switched on—at the right time. You may need stage hands to help move set or prop pieces, or additional team members to run environmental projection computers, extra lighting boards or whatever. Lining those people up earlier is better than later.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

As you can probably guess, the key to all of this is communication. It is imperative that you have many detailed conversations with your worship leader, pastor, creative director (or all of the above) to work out the specifics. Most of the time, those individuals will not be fully aware of the technical complexities created by their great and creative ideas. It is up to us as technical experts to figure out how to make things happen, and present realistic budgets. 

We have to be the ones asking the questions and making sure we get the information we need; don’t count on others to think about the technical requirements. Keep in mind your leaders are not ignoring you; they just don’t think about production like we do. That’s why we’re here.

Finally, when putting new equipment in your room, make sure to allow adequate time for set up, familiarization and testing. If you are renting gear, bring it in several days in advance of the service to be sure it works the way you expect. 

With a little (OK, a lot!) of planning, it is possible to create amazing and powerful Good Friday and Easter services that will have a tremendous impact for eternity and keep you and your team sane, energized and ready for the next big event.

On Working Less


Last week, my friend Andrew Stone wrote a great article over at Church Tech Leaders. Titled Balancing the Boundary, he discussed his journey of reigning in the need/desire of working too much. It’s a well written article and you should go read it. I agree completely with what he said. Go read it. It’s cool, we’ll wait.

My Name is Mike and I’m a Workaholic

The purpose of this article is not to rehash what Andrew said, but to add my thoughts to the topic. He and I have been on parallel journeys in a sense (we even worked some of the same gigs in the late ‘90s; we just didn’t know each other back then), and I too have struggled with working too much. 

I would like to blame my propensity for working to much on the church. But that would be unfair. The truth is, I’ve been working hard since high school. By the time I was in college, I was taking a full load, working 35-40 hours a week for my department (though they only required 15), spending 20 hours a week at the grocery store and a few nights a month at an ambulance squad. I didn’t sleep much those years. 

The Pattern Continues

After college, there was a brief period of maybe a year when I actually had weekends. But then I started doing youth ministry at my church and again I was working, in one form or another, seven days a week. After I got married and we bought a house, I was working all week and remodeling on the weekends. And serving at church. Then I started a business. And I worked harder. 

As I look back on my life, I see a consistent pattern of wanting to be productive all the time. I’ve been digging into the reasons for this, and some of what I’ve found tends to be common among technical artists. 

We Get The Job Done. No. Matter. What.

Most TDs I know are guys who get it done. We take great ownership of any project that is assigned to us and figure out how to make it happen, regardless of the personal cost. Sometimes this is a good thing. But a lot of the time, it can become a real problem. 

We can find ourselves in a place where all we do is work. And when we’re not at work, we’re thinking about work. And if we get bored, we work from home. We never stop. Having done this for a good 20+ years, I’ve noticed something.

I’m kinda tired.

Not tired like, “Oh, I only got 6 hours of sleep last night” tired. I mean tired. Tired like given the choice between going to see one of my favorite bands and taking a nap, I’d choose the nap. Going to a conference or just chilling at home? I’ll stay home. That kind of tired.

This is My Fault, so I Need to Fix it

As Andrew stated, no one at my church (current or previous) asked me to work as much as I did. Bringing work home from my own company was my own choice. Choosing to work on my days off was up to me. So I can fix this. And, truth be told, I am fixing it.

But it feels sort of weird. For the last year or so, I’ve been working hard (which seems ironic to say it that way) at making sure I take at least 24 hours in a row to just sort of chill out. I heard Nancy Beech talk at Gurus a few years back saying we need a Sabbath, and while it doesn’t need to be a traditional day, it should be 24 hours. So my Sabbath tends to run from about 2 PM Sunday until 2 PM Monday. During that time, I really try to not be very productive. Still, it’s weird.

The other day, I spent most of Monday morning in my PJs, reading and playing video games. I normally don’t play video games, but I’ve found it’s rather fun once in a while. It’s amazing how refreshing it is to not have to produce something, just for a while.

By taking time out just to be, my batteries are recharged and I can get back to work with renewed energy and focus. 

I Give You Permission

Sometimes, we feel we need permission to take a day off. So, here you go. I give you permission. Take your day off. Do something completely non tech related. Go for a hike. Watch a movie. Read a book. Lay on the couch and play Real Racing 3 on you iPad (wait, am I projecting?). Do what you want to do. And enjoy it. It will feel weird at first. But go with it. Learn to embrace the goodness of not having to produce something. 

Relax and enjoy. If you’re younger than I am, and there is a fair chance you are, you won’t get to the point where you’re really tired because you will have built rest into the rhythm of your life. Start now. You’ll be a lot better off for it when you reach “old guy” status like me.


Church Tech Weekly Episode 181: Eh, It’s Live to Me


This week we talk about visual silence, multi screen environments, visual worship and a host of other topics related to immersive worship environments. Plus, some great new products in the news!


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.

Getting An iPad On The Big Screen

Yup, that's the Apple TV main menu live in ProPresenter.

Yup, that’s the Apple TV main menu live in ProPresenter.

Perhaps this has happened to you: You get a request from the pastor to show his iPad screen on the big screen during a service. Perhaps he wants to draw something, show some pictures or maybe even run his own slides. No matter, your challenge is to get the iPad on the screen. And probably the video for the web as well. But how? We have a few options. 

Wire It

Perhaps the easiest option is an Apple AV adapter. They are made in both 30-pin and Lightning versions. If I were doing this, I would probably go with a Lightning to HDMI, then covert HDMI to SDI and run it back to the booth. Once it’s in SDI, we can get it into ProPresenter or the video switcher without too much trouble. Of course, you’ll need an HDMI to SDI converter, and the iPad will be cabled. That may not be convenient or cool enough. So we may have to go wireless. 

Apple TV To The Rescue

Well, maybe. AirPlay Display is a very cool idea. You can mirror the iPad screen or use the Apple TV as a second display for Keynote. That’s all well and good, but how do you get the Apple TV into your system? It might seem easy as it’s an HDMI connector. However, thanks to the good people at the MPAA, we have to deal with HDCP. This wonderful anti-piracy copy protection scheme not only prevents you from stealing a copy of Fast and Furious 17, but from plugging the Apple TV into a switcher. Maybe. It kind of depends on all the equipment. That’s what’s so infuriating about HDCP. You never really know if it will work until you try it. And it may stop you from getting a signal even if you’re not doing anything remotely illegal. But, we can fix it.

Convert to DVI First

I’m not sure why, but if HDMI is converted to DVI (or VGA) HDCP doesn’t seem to throw a fit. This is what we ended up doing this past weekend. We have a Motu HDX-SDI interface on our Mac Pro which runs ProPresenter. We actually don’t use the HDX-SDI for video normally, it was just the cheapest 8-channel AES output device I could find. It also has the benefit of being able to ingest video.

After a little web research, I saw someone had success converting the HDMI output of the Apple TV to DVI, then running it through a Blackmagic DVI Extender, which turns it into SDI. I have a DVI Extender on my ProPresenter machine, so I pulled it off, and tried it. Sure enough, it worked great! 

The only problem is I use the DVI Extender for my main screen, so it’s not available for anything else. It was too late in the week to order another one, so I started rummaging around in our bin of old gear. I found a DVI to component video scan converter from Extron. As the HDX-SDI has analog component video in, I hooked it up. Bingo! There was a little bit of scan conversion noise, but it got filtered out by the time it hit the screen. So I left that hooked up for the weekend. If this becomes a regular thing, then I’ll probably buy a new DVI to SDI interface for ProPresenter (most likely a Matrox Convert DVI Plus) and use the DVI Extender for the Apple TV. 

In Practice

So once the video is coming in to the Mac, what do we do with it? You may not have noticed that ProPresenter has a live video option. Create a blank slide and go into the Editor. At the top, click on the Live Video icon and it drops a box on the slide. Size it to full screen and select your input. When that side goes to air, so does the video. It’s quite elegant. And since we have ProPresenter going to the video mixer, anything on the iPad will show up on the web video as well. It’s quite elegant. 

Another Lower Budget Option

What if you don’t have a video interface on your ProPresenter computer, plus the DVI to video converter? Well, you could do what I was first going to do: connect the Apple TV directly to the projector and switch inputs. This has  the advantage of being fairly simple and cheap. However, it doesn’t give you the ability to preview the shot before taking it live (something that scared me into coming up with the above solution), and it doesn’t get recorded. But it would work. In a pinch.


We put our Apple TV on our non-public Sound network and gave it an AirPlay Display password. You don’t want some kid in the congregation jacking your Apple TV during the service. This also helps ensure the bandwidth will be there for the interface. You may also have to play around with display resolution settings for a bit to get it all working. 

So there you go. A relatively simply way of getting the pastor’s iPad on the big screen. Now hopefully, no one tells Apple about this—I’d hate for them to figure out a way to lock this down. What we’re doing is not illegal, so there’s no reason to. But that might not stop the MPAA…

Gear Techs

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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