Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

Month: January 2015 (Page 2 of 2)

Upgrading Production Machines

Not what you want to see on Sunday morning...

Not what you want to see on Sunday morning…

We got to talking about this topic on one of the recent CTW episodes, and I thought it would be a good post. When I was on staff as a TD, I had a pretty strict policy regarding our production machines. Now that I’m working as an integrator, I dread the days following a major Mac OS update. That’s because I know I will soon be getting calls that start with, “We just upgraded all our iMacs to latest, greatest OS X… and fill in the blank software doesn’t work right anymore…” At that point, all I can say is, “Yeah, I usually don’t upgrade right away. Or ever, really. But you have a full image backup from before the upgrade, right?” Silence…

So in the interest of preventing said calls and emails, let me give you a few pointers on how to manage production machines. These are lessons I learned—many of the them the hard way—over 25+ years of managing production computers. It’s important to note that production machines are different from office computers. If an office computer goes down, you may not be able to get to your email for a little bit (except through your phone), but otherwise, nothing bad really happens. 

If a production machine goes down on Sunday morning, bad, bad things happen. If you upgrade on Friday and break something, the next 36 hours will be stressful. You really don’t want to be beta testing new software on the weekend. Here’s my guide to keeping your sanity with your computers. 

Don’t Upgrade Unless You Have To

Most of the time, you don’t have to upgrade your production machines. When I was at Coast Hills, most of my machines were running the latest version of 10.6 until early 2014 when we upgraded to 10.7. Why? Because it worked. If everything works on the OS you have, don’t upgrade it. I really like computers that start up and go to work every time without any fanfare. Avoiding unnecessary updates helps this.

My triggers for updating the OS are twofold: First, if some production software updates and introduces new features that I really need, and it requires a newer version of the OS, then I’ll update. Second, if the OS update introduces new features I really need, I’ll update to that version after the next version comes out. I like to stay about 1 version back at least. 

Don’t Upgrade Right Away

Computer code has become so complex it’s almost impossible to catch all the bugs and problems in a program before release, let alone an operating system. Apple is pretty good, but there is no way they can know how a new OS will affect every user. And many churches are still using older hardware and peripherals like audio or video interfaces, and a new OS can break the drivers for a while or forever. This is perhaps my #1 rule of OS updates: DON’T UPGRADE RIGHT AWAY. Let others beta test it first. 

I stay behind by at least one version because that allows time to get drivers and software updated and working solidly. Remember, we prefer reliable performance to fancy new features. 

Turn Off Auto Updates

One of my biggest pet peeves for production machines is auto updates. Windows used to be the worst at this, but now Apple has joined the fun in the last two versions. Unless you configure it properly, both OS’s will happily install new software or system updates all on their own and that can easily break things. Until I figured out how to turn it off, we kept having Windows kick up a message saying it would reboot the machine in 10 minutes to install updates every Sunday morning! Google it to learn how to turn that off. 

This does mean you should stay on top of a manual update routine, especially for security updates. But do that on Monday or Tuesday, then test everything thoroughly during the week to make sure it works. If you leave your computers on all the time, you really need to be careful of this. The last thing you want is to come in on Sunday only to find your software updated and no longer works right.

Verify All Software Will Work—Including Drivers

I just upgraded my studio Mac Mini to Mavericks, mainly because I installed a second screen and wanted to take advantage of the updated Spaces functionality. I waited so long because I wanted to be sure all my audio interface software would be good. I use this machine every week for CTW, and it has to work.

If you use an external peripheral that relies on driver software, be sure it’s approved for the OS you want to use before upgrading. I’ve heard from several people that they decided to upgrade their OS and now some critical external piece doesn’t work anymore. Remember, unless you have to upgrade, don’t. 

Those are a few suggestions for the upgrade process. If you take anything from this, it’s don’t upgrade. At least not unless you absolutely have to. Next time, I’ll give you some suggestions for creating a safety net for your computers. In the meantime, my friend Joel Smith has written a great guide on keeping ProPresenter machines working reliably. You should go read it. 20 Steps To Maximizing ProPresenter For Mac


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Why Your Online Video Has To Be Good

Image courtesy of  Steve Bowbrick

Image courtesy of Steve Bowbrick

Last time, we touched on the issue of live streaming or not. I am hearing more and more churches that want to live stream their services and I always ask why? I’m not going to rehash that here; go back and read the last post. Today, I want to focus on those that have made the decision to have an online video presence. And I want to tell you why it has to be good. 

The Competition is Fierce

North Point, Life Church, Church on the Move, Willow Creek, Saddleback and dozens more giga-churches stream their services every weekend. And they do a great job. So if someone wants to go online and watch a well-produced online church service, it’s not hard to find one. Now, you don’t necessarily have to go to that extreme; but you had best not simply throw a consumer grade camera up at the back of the room and post the resulting video online. Not only will no one watch it, there could be more harm than just a low view count. 

Who Watches Anyway?

There are several classes of people who watch church services online. The first class is your own congregation; they couldn’t make it that weekend for whatever reason, and wanted to see what the sermon was about. They are probably the most tolerant of poor video quality. But even then, if the shots are grainy, out of focus, or poorly cut together, or if the audio is poor, they won’t last long. It’s a lot harder for most people to just get up and leave a service in the middle if it’s not meeting their expectations; but closing a window online is easy. You have to do a good job to keep people engaged. 

Another class is the church shopper. We’re finding that more and more people check out a church’s website before visiting the first time. And this may seem like a great reason to post videos of your service. And it is. But only if those videos are good. If the video quality—technically or artistically—is subpar, you have probably lost the chance make a personal impression. Poor video tells people you don’t care enough about church to do this well. It tells them that your church is not worthy of their time. For this group, no video is better than bad video. With no video, they have to attend your church at least once to see if they like it. That gives you at least one shot at making it a great experience for them. 

Don’t Do What You Can’t Do Well

A lot of churches will justify poor online video by saying, “We’re just getting started, we don’t have to have it all dialed in at the beginning.” I would suggest another approach. Start small, but start well. A smaller church probably can’t afford to jump right into a 5 camera shoot with a jib and a full broadcast mix. That’s OK. But start off with a single, high-quality, manned camera and just do the sermon. Get that nailed. Make sure your lighting is great, the image quality is excellent and the audio is top-notch. This isn’t that hard, though it’s also not necessarily cheap. 

Later on, you can add additional cameras and a switcher for more visual interest. You can even start adding graphics. Only after that’s fully dialed in should you attempt the music set as that is easily the hardest. Your lighting will need to change, and you’ve got to figure out audio. It’s not impossible, but it is difficult to do well. If you’re a volunteer-run church, plan on spending some money to have professionals come in and help you get that set up. That doesn’t guarantee every weekend will sound amazing, but it’s a good first step. 

It’s a classic walk before you run situation. Start small, but start well. Don’t make the mistake of putting poor video online and thinking that just because it’s there people will watch it. Pastors (hopefully) don’t phone in their sermons because it’s not that big a deal (it is). We shouldn’t be doing a poor job on video simply because it’s online. If anything, being online should mean it’s more important because anyone can see it. Put your best foot forward and do a great job in everything you do. Hey, that sounds scriptural!

  Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. Colossians 3:23-24

Today’s post is brought to you by Elite Core Audio. Elite Core Audio features a premium USA built 16 channel personal monitor mixing system built for the rigors of the road. For Personal Mixing Systems, Snakes, and Cases, visit Elite Core Audio.

To Stream Or Not To Stream

Original image by  Quinn Dombrowski , modified by me.

Original image by Quinn Dombrowski, modified by me.

I’m always fascinated on how I end up having the same conversation with multiple people over the course of a few weeks. Topics rotate, but when one hits, I end up talking about it a lot. In the last two weeks, I’ve had at least four conversations about live streaming church services. I’ll start by saying I’m not categorically opposed to live streaming church services. I can understand why many of the big churches that live stream do just that. What I struggle with is smaller churches, especially those with volunteer tech teams wanting to stream. I always ask the same questions when churches talk to me about streaming. I offer them here for your consideration. 

First Ask, “Why?”

I shouldn’t be, but I am often surprised that many churches have not even asked why they want to stream. Many heard it’s possible, or saw a big church at a conference doing it, or simply have big church envy. But let’s really break it down for a minute and back up a step. What is the purpose of the church service? It seems to me—as a non theologian who never went to seminary—that the church gathers corporately once or more a week to worship together (usually defined as singing, which may or may not be worship; but that’s another post), teaching, the administering of the sacraments and fellowship. At least two of those is hard to accomplish sitting in front of your computer, and one is a marginal experience. Only the teaching portion really translates well. 

So my question is, if we can’t deliver a good experience for 75% of why the church comes together to do, why are we doing this again? For a large church that has the infrastructure, it’s not that much of an incremental cost to stream. But the small church run by volunteers has a harder mountain to climb. Plus, people like to attend small churches (and I’m defining “small” as below about 1,000 on a weekend) because they feel more connected to others there. And watching on the computer makes it hard to be connected. 

Often, people push back and say, “Well, we want to stream for parents who have sick kids or people on vacation.” I’ll tackle the vacation question first. I would be willing to bet that approximately 2% of churchgoers watch a live streamed service of their church while on vacation. And that may be generous. So that’s not really an issue. Now, I understand parents of sick kids might benefit from being able to watch the service at home. But…

Is Live Really Necessary?

I’ve had sick kids at home. And when they’re little, you’re up and down all the time. It’s hard to watch a TV show on a DVR when your kid is sick, let alone a live stream of your church service. Again, I suspect very few people actually do this. In fact, it is likely that it would be far more beneficial to said parents to be able to watch it on YouTube or Vimeo later in the day. They can pause, rewind and skip forward as it suits them. They could even do this later in the evening after the kids finally conk out. If the service was only live, chances are they missed it. 

Live is hard; you need a solid internet connection, a good video feed and a great audio mix to make the experience one worth watching. It’s a lot easier to deliver a good experience after the fact. By recording the service, it’s possible to sweeten the audio, maybe add some graphics and upload it in a format that is easy to view. 

Also, it’s important to ask if video is necessary. A lot of pastors want to video podcast their messages. I’m not sure I understand why. When I listen to sermon podcasts—and the key word is listen—I listen to them on my phone in the car or at the gym. I have never actually watched a sermon, except when doing research on lighting, number of cameras and set design. And even then, I watch 4-5 minutes. Sometimes, audio is a much better option. And that’s easy to do well. 

Does Live Streaming Advance Your Mission or Is It Just Cool?

I always encourage technical artists to tie their ministry back to the mission of their church. In this case, I challenge church leaders to determine of live streaming really advances their mission or it’s just cool. A lot of churches do it, but that doesn’t mean you have to. Does a live stream really help you reach your community? Do you have a way to engage with those watching at home? Do you have a marketing plan to let the world know you’re streaming? How do you follow up and make sure your audience is connected, serving and giving? Can’t answer those questions? Back to the drawing board. 

Again, I’m not against streaming; I’m against doing things we haven’t thought through just because we can. And when I say, “we can” I mean the tech team has to somehow figure it out, often without appropriate resources, training and support. And we haven’t even touched on the quality aspect. But that’s another post (that you can read next time).

Does your church stream? Does it align with your mission or is it an add-on? Let us know in the comments.


CTA Review: Swisson XTM-120A DMX Measurement Tool

I love finding clever tools that solve problems. A few months back, I found myself trying to troubleshoot a DMX system with no tools. We were installing some new equipment and there were some…problems. All I had with me was a crappy little lighting board that wouldn’t turn the lights on to save our lives. When I got home that night, I started looking for a good DMX testing tool and came across a great one; the Swisson XTM-120. As soon as I saw the description, I thought, “That’s exactly what I need!” It was ordered immediately. That was about 6 months ago, and it’s more than paid for itself in that time. I figured it was time to tell you about this great little tool. 

Four possible states of cable testing; good, crossed, shorted, and open. 

Four possible states of cable testing; good, crossed, shorted, and open. 

It’s a Cable Tester

One of the big things I needed it for was testing the DMX cables. Now, I already have a Rat Sniffer/Sender set for both 3- and 5-pin cables, and while those are really handy, it can be tricky to decode the 3 lights without the chart. And for some reason, I didn’t have the set in my bag that fateful day. The XTM-120 will test the cable from both ends, and it gives you a nice graphical readout to tell you if each pin connection is correct, open or shorted. They thoughtfully include a nice belt pouch with 3- to 5- pin adapters for both genders so you can test all combinations of 3- and 5-pin cables. This little guy has been on my belt more than once when I’m up in a lift troubleshooting lighting rigs. 

While this is built like a tank in a heavy aluminum enclosure with a easy to read LCD screen, if all it did was test cables, it would be hard to justify the price. However, it does more; a lot more.

It’s a DMX Sender

This is probably the thing I used it for the most now that I have it. Connect the XTM-120 to your DMX cable to the stage and in a few button presses, you can send a DMX level to any or all of the 512 channels in a universe. This is incredibly helpful for testing, troubleshooting or verifying fixture patching. It’s also possibly the most convenient RFU (remote focus unit) I’ve ever used. As it fits in the palm of your hand, it’s very easy to take up in the rig, and turn on any or all the lights you’re working on for a quick focus. It would only better if it were wireless (though I suppose you could connect it to a wireless DMX transmitter…hmmm…note to self…).

At the bottom, we see fixture number, type and channel function. 

At the bottom, we see fixture number, type and channel function. 

I’ve used it to verify patching of fixtures, but it can be a bit of a pain to keep track of channel assignments for intelligent fixtures. Thankfully, the bobbins at Swisson thought of that. By connecting the XTM-120 to your Mac or PC, you can download fixture profiles into the unit, then “patch” them to the right addresses. Then, as you scroll through the channels, you’ll see an indication at the bottom of the display which fixture you’re looking at, along with the control (tilt, pan, zoom, color, etc.). They already have profiles for about 240 fixtures, but you can easily download your own. I’m in the process now of creating and loading profiles for fixtures we commonly use.

The software is not beautiful, but it gets the job done. It's not hard at all to create your own fixture profiles. 

The software is not beautiful, but it gets the job done. It’s not hard at all to create your own fixture profiles. 

It can also easily select groups of addresses in 3s or 4s. In other words, you can grab every third channel (for all the reds), third plus 1 (greens) or third plus 2 (blue). Same for every fourth chanel. That makes it easy to quickly check your 3 and 4 channel LEDs. So that’s pretty cool, but wait! There’s more!

Multiple ways to view what's going on in your universe.

Multiple ways to view what’s going on in your universe.

It’s a DMX Receiver (and More!)

Ever tried to figure out if your fixtures aren’t working right or if it’s the console? You can plug the XTM-120 into the DMX chain and quickly view all the current values of each channel in the universe. Moreover, you can see these values on a channel-by-channel basis, in a table or as a graph. It can also trace a channel, giving you a graph of the channel’s value as it changes over time. You can also evaluate the system’s timing, which is useful for troubleshooting systems that are misbehaving, but you aren’t really sure why. 

It’s a Playback Device

When in Receive mode, it can record all the values in the universe, then store it to a scene. You can then easily play that scene back, or sequence it with other scenes using the sequence mode. In this way, it could function as an emergency backup or even a simple show playback. I’m not sure I would use it for anything elaborate, but it would be a quick way to test a new rig. You could, for example, program a few scenes from the board back at the office, then once the fixtures are in the air, run them through some simple test scenes via the XTM-120 to make sure it’s all patched and working properly. You can also edit the scenes, so if something needs to change on the fly, it’s possible. This is not a lighting console, but it’s cool that you can run simple things with it. 

A spring steel belt clip holds it securely when you're climbing around in the truss.

A spring steel belt clip holds it securely when you’re climbing around in the truss.

It’s Well Made

As I said, it’s built like a tank, and mine has already survived a few drops to the floor. I like the belt pouch and use it often. It runs on a single 9V battery, and apparently uses very little current as I’m still on the original battery six months later. You can set the auto-off time to conserve the battery. A micro-USB port will supply power if you need to run it longer, and enables the software connection (now available for both Windows and Mac OS).

The buttons are membrane style, which are probably my least favorite type of button ever, but these aren’t too bad. They are raised up enough that you can find them by feel. The layout is logical and it’s easy to start using quickly. I’ve handed it to a few guys and in every case, they are getting around in just a minute. The display is backlit, and easy to read. 

It’s Not Cheap

If there is a downside to this little gem, it’s the price. You can find them on the internet for about $425, which as I said earlier, is a lot for a cable tester. But since it does so much more, I think it’s worth it. Being able to walk into an unfamiliar venue and immediately start testing fixtures is a huge plus for me. And being able to focus easily in the lift without shouting back to the lighting desk is another huge plus. In 6 months, it’s proven it’s worth and I’m sure we’re just getting started. 

You can learn more at Swisson’s website.

Today’s post is brought to you by Elite Core Audio. Elite Core Audio features a premium USA built 16 channel personal monitor mixing system built for the rigors of the road. For Personal Mixing Systems, Snakes, and Cases, visit Elite Core Audio.

5 Ways to Improve Your Sound in 2015, Pt. 2

Image courtesy of  Michael Stephens

Image courtesy of Michael Stephens

This is part two of a series on improving your sound in the new year. Last time, we talked about testing and repairing bad speaker components, and tuning the system up. Those two things may (and probably should) require the services of a professional. Today, we’ll look at a few things that you can easily do yourself that will pay big dividends. 

Upgrade Mic Package

Microphones are mechanical, and like all things mechanical, they can wear out. They are also dropped and abused in other ways over time. If you are using really old, beat up mic’s every week, changing them out is a cost-effective way to improve sound. Sometimes, it’s a matter of matching a mic to the source; a better fit for a vocal is a great example. Other times, you may be using a mic on a source because you had it, not because it was the best choice. Finding the right kick drum mic for your drum kit, PA, room and sound can make a big difference. 

Outfitting your stage with all-new mic’s might be cost prohibitive to do in a single year, but perhaps you can start down the road. Pick up a few new vocal mic’s that will help your singers sound better. Then move on to drum mic’s, and finally other instruments. Get recommendations from people you trust and try them first if possible. 

Optimize System Gain Structure

Gain structure is one of those things that we don’t talk about enough in audio. I’ve seen all manner of sins in this area; consoles that are way overdriven with amps turned way down, and others with the amps all the way up and the faders all running at -40. Optimizing your gain structure is critical to getting the best sound possible from your system. 

Start with the source, and make sure your input channels are running at good levels with your faders around unity. Then move onto your mix busses (either groups or main L&R bus). The main output should be running somewhere close to where the green lights start to turn yellow (the exact, optimum point will vary from console to console, so this may take some experimentation). You will hear it if your console is running too high or too low; it will either be noisy or distorted. Avoid both.

Next, move on to the system processor (or EQ) and the amps. You want healthy levels coming into and leaving the processor, then adjust the amps to achieve the level in the house that you want. If you have to turn the amps way, way down, you may want to drop the level coming out of the processor a little bit and leave the amps up.

Again, if you’re not quite sure how to do all of this, there is no shame in bringing in someone who is. This is another area where big improvements can be made by making some small changes. 


We typically expect that the worship leader, vocalists and musicians are practicing their parts throughout the week. But when does the sound guy or gal get to practice? Practice is the only real way to get better, so how do we do that? Unless you have a band that really enjoys playing for hours on end, the best answer is virtual soundcheck. 

There are many systems available now that make it fairly easy to record each input on the board and play it back in place as if the band were still there. With a virtual soundcheck system, you can mix a song over and over, trying out new things, adjusting EQ, compression, FX and other techniques until you get it just right. And the only person you need in the room is you.

Or, try this one. How about recording the rehearsal, then coming in the next day with the worship leader and work on the mixes? Find out what he wants to hear, and work toward getting there. Sometimes, it will be clear that the problem is not a mix issue, but an arrangement one; in that case, everyone wins when the band gets better. Virtual sound check might be the most expensive item on this list, but it’s still less than a new PA and will often have greater benefits. 

I’ve written several posts on Virtual Soundcheck if you need some help on how to get started.

Virtual Soundcheck on the Cheap

Virtual Soundcheck

As I said, this is not an exhaustive list, nor did I try to go into great detail on each topic. Do some research and find out how to implement these steps and you will have better sound at the end of the year than you do now. And you may even have budget left over!


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5 Ways to Improve Your Sound in 2015, Pt. 1

Photo courtesy of  Luke Jones  (and a shout out to my friend Van!)

Photo courtesy of Luke Jones (and a shout out to my friend Van!)

It’s a new year, and now that we’re all rested up from Christmas, it’s time to start looking at how we can improve our systems—specifically audio—this year. Certainly big-ticket items like new PA’s, new consoles or new bands (just kidding) are nice, but sometimes we have to make incremental improvements. Oddly enough, sometimes these small improvements add up to a big improvement that sometimes negate the need for a big spend. 

Below is a non-exhaustive list of five things you can do this year—without breaking the bank—that will improve your sound.

Test And Repair Bad Speaker Components

I once inherited a sound system that had two subs. One driver was completely blown, the other was torn. The main boxes had three bad HF drivers. As you might expect, the sound in that room was not good. While it did take the better part of a day to diagnose the faulty drivers, and then another half day to replace them, once that was done, we actually had full-range sound again. 

Testing your speakers is relatively easy. If you have a bi- or tri-amped system, isolate each speaker either by unplugging the amps or the speakers so that just one cabinet is running at a time. Then play some pink noise through the system. Get right up to the box and listen. If you have access to an oscillator that can be swept from 60 Hz to 15 KHz, that’s even better. Just be careful with the levels; start low and work up to a comfortable level. If you find one box that produces next to nothing above 3K, you probably have a blown HF driver. 

If you are uncomfortable doing this or are unsure, contact a local dealer. This is a fairly simple process for them, and will likely lead to either a thumbs up or a list of new components to replace (and by components, I mean drivers, not an entirely new PA). Replacing the HF drivers in a system can have a great impact on the sound, and it’s not that expensive.

A test like this can have other benefits. I once was hired to mix in a room with a fairly complex PA layout. After struggling to get a good sound for a few months, I came in to test the drivers. I discovered the processor was wired incorrectly, sending the wrong signals to the wrong drivers. A quick re-patch made it sound like a new PA. 

Get Your System Tuned

Once your speakers are all producing full-range sound again, it’s a good time to have the system tuned. A lot of people refer to this as EQ’ing the room, but it’s really not. We don’t EQ a room, we EQ a PA to work well in the room. If you feel competent with using a measurement system, you can do this yourself. If not, hiring someone who is shouldn’t be a huge expense. 

Often, people who don’t really know what they are doing will try to “improve” on the sound of a PA by adjusting the system’s EQ. I’ve seen smiley faces, fish and other strange patterns on graphic EQs of systems I’ve worked on. None sounded good. Having someone come in to take measurements, set delays and EQ will often make a less than ideal PA sound decent again. 

Once the PA is properly aligned and tuned, lock the processor or EQ either in software or by using vented security covers on the rack. Just remember to write down the passwords and put them somewhere safe—and where at least one other person knows where they are.

Sometimes, a simple tuning can extend the life of an old PA by a few more years. Often, the PA was tuned years ago for one style of worship and the church has moved on. A re-tune can help optimize the system for the current sound you’re going after. It may not be a complete solution, and a new PA may still need to be in the long-term plans, but quite often spending a few hundred to a few thousand dollars on the tuning of the system will give you more time to save for the new one that is needed.

Ok, so that’s #’s 1 & 2. On Wednesday, we’ll be back with the other 3 ways you can improve your audio in the new year.

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Feek = Foodie + Geek

This is the last post of the year, and I thought I’d make it a fun one. The word Feek is one that my friend Colin and I made up a few years ago. We were talking about how we were both foodies, and how many other tech guys we knew were also foodies. It struck us that many geeks were foodies; hence, feeks. 

This came up a few weeks ago when I was having dinner with a fellow tech guy. As expected, he is also a foodie (as is his wife) and we got talking about what is it about tech guys (and gals) and food. There seems to be a distinct correlation between the technical arts and the love of food. It manifests itself in many ways, but I think there are some common themes. 

We Love the Science

Technology is a lot about science. We deal with electronics, acoustics, light, particle and wave theory, fluid dynamics and more. So much of what we do is based on science. Even if some of us are less enamored with the pure technical side of it, there is some desire to know more and better understand it. 

Food is very similar. There is a distinct science behind cooking, something Alton Brown taught us well. There is a good reason we sear a roast before roasting (to take full advantage of the Maillard reaction). You can get a better golden crust on your turkey if you start it at 500°, then drop to 350° for the rest of the cooking. We know we have to pull steaks off the grill 5° before our target doneness because carryover will take them the rest of the way. If scrambled eggs look done in the pan, they will be overdone on the plate. So much science! But…

We Love the Art

As much as being a great technical artist is based on knowing the science of what we do, there is also a heavy art component. Knowing what the pre-delay function on your reverb does is one thing; knowing how much to use for each song is another. You may know you need 40 foot-candles of front light to get great video; but sometimes no front light and only side light will suit the mood of the song far better. Getting the gain structure right is important, but so is knowing when to pull back the high hat (OK, that’s almost all the time…).

Great cooking is as much about art as it is science. While we know principles that make certain foods go together, it takes a true artist to break those rules and make something great; like putting peanut butter and jelly on a burger (try it sometime, it rocks!). Only an artist would pickle strawberry slices and put them on top of a pork belly sandwich with baby greens and garlic aioli. For us, it’s not enough to simply get the steak to the right temperature. We want the entire meal to be amazing; and that takes an artist. 

We Love the Complexity

What we do is incredibly complex. Think for a moment about how many decisions you make each weekend, and what the nature of those decisions are. Chances are, you are all over the place. One minute you’re choosing a microphone, the next deciding on the backlight color. The choice of reverb affects how you mix the song, which is based on the orchestration and the skill of the band. So much goes into a great technical performance.

Food is much the same. We don’t like one-dimensional wines (or coffee, or chocolate). Flavors need to be layered skillfully to truly satisfy us. I’ve had BBQ sauce so complex I could A) drink it out of the bottle and B) compare with some of the best wine I’ve ever had. And when we cook ourselves, the challenge of creating a complex dish and getting everything done at the right time thrills us. Yes, we’re Feeks. 

I know guys who structure their time on the road based around great restaurants. OK, I’m one of them. I always plan to land in Dallas at lunch or dinner time so I can go to Hard Eight. I’ve stood in a hotel lobby with six other techs, all with our phones out scouring Yelp and Urban Spoon looking for the best restaurant nearby. We share recommendations on great foodie hangouts. And if you’re ever on the road with a Feek, you can be assured of eating very, very well. 

So here’s to you, fellow Feeks. Don’t forget to share your favorite spots with the rest of us.

Thanks for reading ChurchTechArts this past year. I look forward to an exciting and fun-filled 2015!


Today’s post is brought to you by Pivitec.Pivitec redefines the Personal Monitor Mixing System by offering components that are Flexible, Precise and Expandable. Ideal for any application from Touring and Live Production to fixed installation in theaters and Houses of Worship.

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