Our resident audio guru, Brad Duryea is back and we’re talking compression. How do we not only control the dynamic range of an audio signal, but what effect does a compressor have on the tonality of said signal.
Some time back, my good friend Van was at my house recording ChurchTechWeekly. It’s fun when we get to do that in person because we usually get to talking afterwards. As often happens, we talked about a wide variety of subjects. One thing that we talked about was people who work for us. We both agreed that a lot of people tend to get threatened when their subordinate starts to surpass them in knowledge or “success.”
Van and I both feel that if we’re doing our jobs right, the people who work for us should surpass us. It’s a simple principle of multiplication; if we pour into them everything that we know, that gets multiplied by what they know and what they learn while working for us. Hopefully they’ll go on to bigger and better things, and we can take a small amount of pride knowing that we helped them on their journey.
I know a lot of people in our business who want to closely guard their “secrets.” They somehow feel that makes them indispensable or at least more valuable. That may work out for a short while, but here’s something you need to know; this is not a good long-term plan. The next generation of techs will surpass us in knowledge whether we help them or not. I’ve had young guys working for me who are crazy-smart. The way I see it, I can either be part of their success story or get left behind anyway.
But hear this fellow old guy; while the young guys may be native technology users, they may not always not know why. They may not know how to interact with a difficult worship leader or senior pastor. They may struggle with troubleshooting because they haven’t had as many things go wrong yet. That’s where we come in. We can help them develop those skills. And if we’re really smart, we’ll be learning from them as well.
If you’re an old guy in this business, find someone younger than you to pour into. Don’t be afraid they’ll steal all your secrets and replace you. Sure they’ll surpass you, but look at it this way—when they land that big gig on a big show, they’ll get you backstage passes (at least that’s what I’m hoping for…).
And if you’re a young guy, find an old guy to work with. Ask questions, pay attention and learn from them. And share your knowledge with them, too. We’re not in competition with each other; we are all working together to advance the Kingdom here.
One more story: Many years ago, I was leading the youth group of a small church in Ohio. One of the junior high guys and I became fast friends because he was a tech geek who loved Macs. We ended up spending a lot of time together talking about technology, theology and life. I was there for most of his high school life. We stayed in touch when he went to college, after his graduation and after he started working for a national radio program. A few years ago, he got married to a wonderful woman. I was able to attend the wedding and the impromptu “bachelor” party that happened the night before.
It was weird being there as everyone in the room was 20 years younger than me. All the guys shared something about Zach and what his friendship had meant to them. When it was my turn, I shared some things (I don’t even remember what now), and after I spoke, he stopped and told me what a huge influence I had been in his life. He told me that a big reason he was who he was because of all the time we spent together. And he said he was so honored that I would drive all the way to Nashville just for his wedding.
I’m not going to lie, it wrecked me. It also challenged me. It made me ask if I’m making a regular habit of pouring into others. Now I don’t share this to tell you how great I am, because the truth is I don’t this nearly enough. But if you’ve never had someone tell you that you’ve been a huge, positive influence in their life, you’re missing out. My young friend has already achieved more in his career than I had at that age, and I expect him to keep climbing. As for me, I’m just glad to have been part of his journey.
And that’s my definition of success. What’s yours?
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Well, we’ve taken a few weeks off from our series on renovations. In case you missed them or forgot where we left off, we started off talking about when the AVL guys should be brought into a project, how to develop some system objectives and how to get started on a ballpark budget. Today, we finally get to the fun stuff; choosing key technologies.
This is the point of the process that we start to pick out the big picture items of the project. Sometimes the church tech team has a good idea of what they want for these key components, other times, the integrator will make suggestions based on their experience and knowledge of the church. Either way, it’s time to start looking at gear.
Know What You Need To Accomplish
You read the post about defining system objectives, right? So you know what the system is supposed to do. I’ll use audio consoles for examples for this post because A) they illustrate the points well and B) I’m an audio guy at heart and I like audio consoles. But the same principles apply to lighting consoles, video switchers, projectors and video walls, cameras, etc. The questions vary, but the concept is the same.
We go back to defining our objectives. Start by asking these questions:
- How many inputs?
- How many outputs?
- How many mix buses?
- Do we do monitors from FOH, a monitor desk or personal mixers? Or a combination?
- Do we need remote (iPad) mixing capability?
- Do we want digital snakes? If so, which protocol? Or does protocol matter (sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t)?
- What kinds of processing do we need?
- Who will be operating it? Can we train our engineers to run it?
- Is the system scalable? Does that matter?
Once we have an idea of what we want the system to do, we can start narrowing our choices. But first, I want to hone in one question.
Who Will Be Operating The Equipment?
This is a question that is often overlooked. Case in point: You probably know I’m a huge DiGiCo fan. I’ve mixed on an SD8 for four years, and I’ve used every other console they make. I’d rather mix on a DiGiCo than anything else. However, for a project we’re doing at Flexstage, I recommended a Yamaha QL over a DiGiCo SD9. And while my friends at DiGiCo might be bummed, the QL is the right choice for this church.
The SD9 is overkill and more complicated than their volunteers need it to be. The QL will give them capability they need with an easier to use interface. Personally, I’d take the SD9 any day (sorry, Yamaha…). But for this team, the QL is the better choice.
Don’t make the mistake of buying equipment that your team can’t use. I’ve seen a church wipe out their entire team because they bought a mixer none of them understand how to mix on. And without a full-time TD to take the time to learn it, the church was stuck. Think this through carefully.
Evaluate Your Options
The best way to decide between different choices is to try them out. Ideally, you can narrow the choice down to two or three then rent them for a weekend to see how they go. If that isn’t an option, go to a trade show and get your hands on them. Failing that, try to find a church in town that has the equipment you’re considering and go try it out. Most tech guys I know love to talk about gear, and will happily show you their system and tell you what they like and don’t like about it.
Don’t expect your dealer or the manufacturer to give you free demos of your equipment, especially if it’s a smaller piece of gear. They may help you out with it to close the sale, but don’t expect it. Just don’t skip this step. Mixers, lighting consoles, video switchers, video walls, projectors, cameras; these are all expensive pieces of gear. Make sure you know what you’re getting before you spend your church’s money.
Pick the Building Blocks
After you do your homework and research, you should be able to pick out the big building blocks of the system. With those in place (on paper anyway), you can be sure they all work together. This is the time to make sure the personal mixing system you want to use will interface with your console of choice. Most cameras work with most video mixers, but be sure.
Often, different pieces need to work with each other. For example, you might want to get your center screen graphics into the video switcher. There are many ways to do that, but it’s good to know how easy or hard (ie. expensive) it will be.
It might be good at this phase to simply pick out what types of equipment you’re going to use. For example, a digital audio mixer, a standalone, professional-grade lighting console, computer-based center screen graphics, a video system for streaming/recording only and a video wall. Or it may be an analog audio console, a conventional lighting board, no video and a projector for song words. Exact equipment choices can come later.
Sometimes your choices will be motivated by preference. Just be careful to be sure your preference doesn’t put the church in a tough spot when you leave (and you will leave—someday). These can be hard decisions sometimes, so take the time to think them through. Consider every angle and talk to other users of the equipment.
Once you settle on the key technologies, it’s time to start designing the system. And that’s what we’ll get into in our next installment.
Today’s 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.
“I worked hard to learn what I know. How much of it should I give away for free?”
That’s a question that comes up from time to time, and a reader asked this recently. It usually comes from those who work professionally in production outside the church, or have done so. The professionals either contract to a church or volunteer. Either way, they struggle with how much information, skills or other “secret knowledge” they should give away to other non-professional volunteers at the churches they serve.
My answer to this question is simple, though it may not be easy. How much do you give away?
All of it.
The Most Successful People are Givers
I have had the privilege to meet many successful live production professionals in my career, and my friends have met many more. In almost every case, these professionals—many of whom are at the top of their game—will gladly share just about anything they know.
While I don’t know this for sure, I suspect the reason for this is that someone gave them a lot of help once upon a time. And when someone takes the time to give you a leg up, you want to do the same for others. Successful people realize that one of the best ways to get ahead is to help others. If you are a professional who volunteers or contracts to a church on the weekends, you lose nothing by helping them all you can.
Successful People Are Not Afraid
If you are good at what you do, you are typically not afraid of helping someone get better. This is because simply sharing knowledge with someone else doesn’t make them you. I could impart all the knowledge I’ve gained about mixing over the last 25 years to a volunteer at my church. But they still wouldn’t mix the way I do. Hopefully they would be better than they were before, but nothing replaces experience.
I will share show files, mic’ing techniques, EQ tricks and FX processes. Heck, I write about most of those things here. Yet even with all that sharing, I’ve never gone hungry, and my standing in our industry has only grown as I’ve given away all I know. I don’t worry about volunteers getting better than me; I hope they do. The need for great technical artists is so vast that it would take many lifetimes for us to all work ourselves out of a job.
As a professional, it is the way you put that knowledge to use that makes you good. Simply knowing how to do something is different from being able to do it well. Your value doesn’t go down when you share knowledge; it goes up.
What I Don’t Mean
I want to be clear that I’m not talking about churches that need to hire professionals for a project. Consultants, designers, integrators, system tuners and the like need to make a living and should be paid for what they do. Churches should not expect those services to be given away for free. Smart churches do well to hire competent professionals to do things they don’t have the expertise to do in-house.
I’m talking about the individual who serves at his church on the weekends in a technical role. That role can be paid or volunteer. The Kingdom is so much bigger than you can imagine and you will win more friends and influence more people if you help others along the way.
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How do you know when it’s time to leave your job? Is God moving you into a new season or is He trying to teach you something? The grass isn’t greener on the other side; it’s greener when you’re doing what you should be doing.
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As I mentioned in my last post, my time at Coast Hills has come to an end. It has been an eventful five years, and as I look back on it, I am very grateful. When I arrived, the technical systems were a mess and the volunteer tech team was discouraged and very small. By the end of June, nearly all our AVL systems will be new throughout the building and we have a solid tech team. I feel good about what I was able to accomplish and am ready to turn it over to new leadership.
What will I be doing now? Well, it’s a funny story. In January, when my wife and I were talking about the next season in life, she asked me if I wanted to work for a church again. I wasn’t sure and said, “What I’d really like to do is work for a top-flight architecture firm as the in-house AVL guy. That way, I could be there to advocate for the tech systems from the beginning of the project all the way through to the end. So many churches get that part wrong, and I really want to help fix it.”
Fast forward a few months. I was on vacation in March and I received a call from someone I’ve met a few times and know through friends. His company, Flexstage, was bought by Visioneering a while back and he was looking for a project manager/designer type guy. He went on to essentially describe the job I had described to my wife.
I thought that was interesting but told him that my wife and I were planning on moving back East sometime in the next few years. He said that was alright, that I could do this job anywhere there was a major airport. And besides, they had opened offices up in Denver, Austin, Charlotte, and Nashville. The last one caught my attention because Nashville is on the short list of places we’re thinking of moving.
Long story short, after much prayer, discussion, and advice from friends later, I decided to take the job. One of the key factors is that the guys at Visioneering really want me to maintain this website, the podcast and our trade show/conference coverage. We both view the job and this website as mutual ways we can help churches.
My desire for many years has been to help churches improve their AVL systems, and encourage and train the technical artists that run them. This new position will afford me the opportunity to do that on a larger scale than ever.
In the near term, we’re staying in SoCal, getting up to speed with the Visioneering/Flexstage process. We’ll be able to get our girls through school and settled into their next phase of life. I will still be able to finish up the remodel at Coast Hills, and volunteer at FOH. That last one will be fun as I haven’t been a volunteer sound guy in nearly a decade. I’m kind of looking forward to that.
What’s been really cool is that I already have tons of ideas for new things on ChurchTechArts. I think you’ll enjoy the broadened perspective and projects we’re working on. And if you’re a church that needs some help, feel free to reach out. I’m excited that my job is now to help the Church even more than ever. Stay tuned!
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I don’t know if you experience this in your life, but it seems God works in seasons for me. For much of my adult life, I have experienced alternating five- and four-year seasons. That pattern broke in 2006 when I joined the staff of a church in Western NY as the part-time TD. This month marks my eight year (and third church) in that role. These last eight years have been amazing, hard, fulfilling, challenging and stretching. I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. But as He does, God is stirring.
I’ve felt for a good two years that my season at Coast Hills would come to an end sometime around the spring of this year. I can’t explain how I knew that, other than it roughly coincides with my youngest graduating high school. My wife felt the stirring, too, and we had begun to discuss what it would look like next. We talked about leaving CA, moving back east. But we didn’t know what we would be doing.
This winter, a few things cropped up in our family that caused us to think that plans were being put on hold. We’re all fine, we’re still a family and all is cool, but some things were causing us to re-think our plans to leave CA. So, we surrendered our plans to the Lord. And then it happened.
As you read this (assuming you read it on the day I posted it, May 2), I am cleaning out my office at Coast Hills. About eight weeks ago, a tremendous opportunity that could only be from God simply dropped into my lap. Literally weeks after I told the Lord I was more than willing to stay here for another year—or more, if necessary—He presented me with something I’ve been dreaming about for a few years.
Coast Hills has been great through the transition and I can happily say I’m leaving on the best of terms. My time here has been fantastic. There have been frustrations; there are in any job. But overall, I have learned much and accomplished much. By the time we finish the remodel this July (and I get to be part of that), I will have changed out every AVL system in the building. Coast Hills will have a brand-new, completely re-fitted system to move into their next season.
There are great things on the horizon and to say I’m excited about this next chapter would be an understatement. Rest assured ChurchTechArts and ChurchTechWeekly will continue as always and I think we’ll be able to have even more influence.
What is it that I’ll be doing? Tune in on Monday—the first day of my new adventure—to find out!