Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

Category: FV-L (Page 2 of 19)

Gear Snobs

JesusPresleyArtCologne2008 from Flickr via Wylio
© 2008 Martin Terber, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Audio guys can be snobs when it comes to gear. But the reality is, we can’t always have our favorites. Sometimes, it’s a simple budget issue. For Coast Hills, we didn’t have the budget for Meyer, d&b or L’Acoustics. If I had held out for those brands because they have more cachet, we would not have a new PA at all. The money is just not there. But the church can afford RoomMatch. And having heard it, and after some considerable evaluation, I’m convinced we haven’t sacrificed that much. 

Is RoomMatch as good as a L’Acoustics Kara rig? Maybe not. Will the average person notice a big difference between those two? Probably not. Will the average person notice the upgrade from what we had to RoomMatch? Absolutely. I’ll take that outcome over no change at all.

Be Open

Lighting guys can be snobs, too. Some will say, “If it’s not Varilite, it’s not in my rig.” Or Martin. Or High End. Whatever. In the past, we’ve rented about 6 VL2500s for Easter. Those are great fixtures, to be sure. But this year, we rented 18 Elation Platinum Spot 5R Pros. Are they as good of a fixture as the VL2500? Not really. The panning isn’t as smooth, the color mixing isn’t as nice and we had one go flaky on us. However, we made a bigger visual impact with 18 of them than we ever did with the 6 VLs for the same money.

And you know what? If I were buying moving head fixtures for Coast Hills, I would probably go with Elation. No, they’re not as rugged as a Varilite. But, we can afford more of them, and they would be fine for what we’d need them for. 

Use What Fits

When I say “fits” I mean both budget and application. If you’re at a big church with big budgets and can afford the best gear, go for it. But if you’re at a smaller church with small budgets, don’t feel bad about going with brands with lower cool factor. Sometimes, the smaller companies innovate really well and come up with great solutions at great price points. Don’t discount them because they are not what the big church or big tour is using. 

I’ve talked with guys who are at smaller churches with all volunteer tech teams who are convinced they need a Digico at FOH and a Grand MA at lighting. Those are great pieces of kit, but they do have a steep learning curve, as well as big price tags. In a smaller setting with lower production demands, there are better options. Never feel bad about choosing the best option for your church; even if it’s not what all the cool kids are using. 

Get Good Advice

In my new role, I find myself helping churches decide what to buy. While I have my preferences on what I like, I have to set those aside and make sure I’m recommending what is best for them. I recently steered a church toward a Yamaha QL away from a Digico SD9. Personally, I would prefer the SD9 any day. But in this setting the QL makes much more sense. Not only is it considerably less money—and they were already at the top of their budget—it’s much more friendly to non-professional operators with zero digital console experience (and 20 years of analog experience). 

When purchasing equipment, make sure whoever is recommending what they are recommending knows your situation and how it will be used. Make sure they aren’t just giving you their stock solution. It would be a lot easier for me to have a “small church package” of gear that I can price and sell. But it would not likely be the best fit for everyone. So we stay custom for each church. 

I’ve always been a contrarian, so this concept is not foreign to me. But I write this to encourage those of you who are nervous about not doing what everyone else is doing. They used to say, “Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM.” That may have been true, but a lot of companies missed out on better options because someone took the safe route. 

Don’t be a gear snob. Get what works for your church. Everyone will be better off for it.

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.

Keep An Open Mind

Despite the grammatical challenge, Apple's campaign is a great concept for a company and for life. 

Despite the grammatical challenge, Apple’s campaign is a great concept for a company and for life. 

From what I can gather, one of the traits of most successful people is the ability to try new things. Ability may be the wrong word—we all have the ability to try new things. Perhaps the word I’m looking for is desire. I love to try new things. I’m always on the lookout for some new technology, process, idea, whatever. Along the way, I’ve made some fantastic discoveries. 

Sadly, I have also had many conversations that go somewhat like this.

Other Person: So, what kind of PA are you putting in your room?

Me: Bose RoomMatch. We’re pretty excited about it.

OP: Oh, I would never mix on one of those. Terrible.

Me: Really? Have you ever mixed on it?

OP: No.

Me: Have you ever heard it?

OP: No.

Me: Have you even looked into the technology behind it?

OP: No. Bose=bad. That’s all I know.

Usually, all I can say at that point is, “Huh.” Now, we all have our biases. We all have things we know that we generally like. Given the choice, I’d probably choose a Heil mic over another most of the time. But if someone shows up with a new mic I’ve not used before, I’ll give it a shot. In fact, that’s how I discovered Heil. I had never heard of them five years ago, but someone showed up with a box full, and we gave them a try.

Try New Things

Alton Brown used to say, “Play with your food!” I tend to agree. Try new things. You never know what’s going to happen. Just because you’ve been doing something the same way for the last 10 years doesn’t mean it’s the best way. Talk to someone else and see if you can learn something from them.

I’m convinced that one of the reasons our stage is so efficient is because I’ve stolen ideas from a lot of smart people over the last 10 years. Every time I visit a church or talk with another TD, I try to pick out something that I can learn from them. It’s amazing how much you will know if you just talk with other people. 

Take Ideas From Unexpected Sources

I read all kinds of blogs and magazines and books. Some of them are directly related to my field, many are not. But I try to learn from all of them. I’ve picked up on some brilliant ways to automate my tech booth by reading computer articles. I’ve learned to be a better leader by reading articles on successful entrepreneurs. 

Even though Coast Hills is considered a big church, I’ve even learned many things from my fellow TDs at smaller churches. Don’t ever think you’ve learned all you will learn, or that whoever you’re talking to right now doesn’t have something to teach you. Some of the process we have in place at Coast were developed by someone who wasn’t even born when I started doing production. 

Don’t Pre-Judge

We all know prejudice is bad. However, we practice prejudice all the time. As I mentioned at the start of this article, some audio guys I know have a huge prejudice against Bose. That might be well-earned; their earlier stuff was not great. However, don’t let that blind you to new innovations. A few years ago, we all “knew” digital audio was inferior to analog audio. Today, most of us would not give up our digital consoles. But I have talked with some old guys who are convinced digital is bad; not because they’ve ever used it, know anything about it or heard it, but because analog is what they know.

If someone says, “Hey, have you ever tried this?” Don’t shut it down because it doesn’t fit your pre-conceived notion of what it should or should not be. Weigh the merits and try it. You might find a great new technique or product. 

It’s easy to fall into a rhythm of how we do things. But rhythms can become ruts. And ruts are just graves with the ends kicked out. Stay out of the graves; try new things!


Today’s post is brought to you by myMix. myMix is an intuitive, easy-to-use personal monitor mixing and multi-track recording system that puts each user in control of their own mix! myMix features two line-level balanced 1/4″ TRS outputs and one 1/8″ (3.5mm) headphone output, the ability to store up to 20 named profiles on each station, 4-band fully parametric stereo output EQ recording of up to 18 tracks plus stereo on an SD card. Learn more at myMixaudio.com

Church Tech Weekly Episode 199: Rapport and Raparte

Continuing our theme of leadership, this week we talk with Greg Atkinson about his new book, Strange Leadership. We learn how to delegate, what role the Holy Spirit plays and how to be innovative. 


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.

Field Guid to AVL Renovations: Commissioning

Well, this turned out to take longer to get through than I expected. But here we are, at the final post and the final stage of the project. After figuring out the system objectives, developing an initial budget, landing on key technologies, working out the design, installing the gear, it’s finally time to fire it up and see if it all works. 

This is probably my favorite part of the job, to be honest. I love seeing the gear light up and enjoying the fruits of our labor. And in most projects, there is a lot of labor…

It might be too late to bring this up, but I feel it is important to raise the question, why do churches like to launch a new campus—with all the new technology, processes and people—on big weekends like Christmas and Easter? I certainly get the concept. Those are the biggest weekends of the year, and great ways to build momentum. 

However, it’s pretty rare to spend months on a project, weeks of install and perhaps a week to get everything talking and not have any issues. Even if the installers did their job perfectly and all the gear works, chances are, your tech crews will still be getting used to the new system. Your band may need some time on a new personal monitor mixer. Even your kids ministry may benefit from a weekend or two to get up to speed on a new check-in process.

A Modest Proposal

Instead of making the first weekend in the new or newly remodeled space one of the biggest of the year, why not plan on having the project done a few weeks early so you can work the bugs out? This is a good idea for many reasons. For starters, you’ll likely have a lot of guests on that big weekend. You want their first experience with the church to be a good one. Give your teams the chance to make it a great experience. 

You may also find that the initial tuning of the PA wasn’t quite right once the band and congregation got in the room. Having a week or two to really dial that in will make it better for all. A soft launch gives all your teams time to adapt to the new environment, which will enable them to be more friendly and helpful on the big weekend. 

Get Some Help

As with design and installation, having some help for commissioning the system is a great idea. Your integrator will likely want to turn the key for the first time to make sure all is well and you’re happy. On complex installs, you may also get manufacturer support. 

Commissioning is a great time to learn all you can about the new gear. As a tech, you should be there as much as possible while they get things set up. Ask questions, look over their shoulders and pay attention. After they leave, you’ll be responsible for running and maintaining the system, so you’d better know it reasonably well. 

It might also be a good idea to work into the contract to have the integrator send someone back down a few weeks or a month after opening weekend to tweak, adjust and train. Sometimes you’ll have questions after a weekend or two that you didn’t have at first. Having someone come back a few weeks later will ensure that you are really up to speed on everything. And if the PA needs to be tweaked a bit, that’s a great time to do it.

Ultimately, your integrator and manufacturers want you to be happy with the install. If you have issues, make sure to bring them up and give them a chance to fix them before going nuclear on social media. Good integrators will be very reasonable to deal with and make sure your experience is a good one. 

The End?

This may be the end of this series, but the story goes on. It’s rare that a church buys AVL equipment only one time, or never remodels their building. I strongly suggest doing a de-brief after the project is done to see what you can learn to do better next time. There will be a next time, and you owe it to yourself and future staff to get better each time. A remodel project is not a small undertaking, there will be bumps along the way. But when you approach it with the right attitude and open communication, it can be a great experience. Hopefully this guide has been helpful.

If you want to see all the posts in this series, click here. They’re in reverse order due to the way Squarespace sorts posts, but at least they’re all in one list. Enjoy, and happy remodeling.


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.

Memorial Day

Image courtesy of  DVIDSHUB

Image courtesy of DVIDSHUB

Today is Memorial Day. While some confuse it with National BBQ Day, it’s supposed to be a day when we reflect on the sacrifice of those who died in battle defending our nation. I was curious about the origin of the day, and came up with this:

Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans — the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) — established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30. It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.

While the first observances of the day are disputed, in 1966 Congress declared Waterloo, NY the birthplace of Decoration Day. Stores were closed and residents flew flags at half-mast. The whole town honored and commemorated those who had served in the Civil War. You can read more of the history of the day at the Veterans Affairs site

According to Wikipedia, over 1.3 million US service men and women have died in conflicts since 1775. Another 1.5 million have been wounded. Today is the day we pay tribute to that large body of individuals. 

As church technical artists, some of our days can be stressful. Some of them are frustrating. We occasionally have a bad day at the office. Today is a good day to keep in perspective that a bad day at the office for us pales in comparison to what our troops face. 

To those who have lost loved ones on the battlefield, today we mourn with you. To those who have or are currently serving, we salute you. Your service frees us to do what we do. Thank you for your service.


Field Guide to Renovations: Installation

We’re back at it again with our guide to renovations. Today it’s time to talk about the installation process. And since I’m getting into a pattern of saying controversial things in this series, we’ll kick this post off with another one. 

You Should Probably Not Install The System Yourself

Sound familiar? It should. Again, a lot of churches try to “save money” by doing the installation by themselves. Now, it’s possible to save money by doing some of the install, and I’m for that. But things that fly over people’s heads need to be installed by professionals. Period. 

I’ve been doing this a long time and know how to install a lot of things. But when it comes to rigging, I hire a certified rigger every time. I simply don’t want the responsibility of hanging hundreds to thousands of pounds over peoples heads. That is something that needs to be done right the first time. 

There Are Some Things You Can Install

Putting gear in racks, hanging lights, pulling cable; those are all things that you and your team can do. In fact, it’s good sometimes when you do it because you know better how everything fits together. It’s best when done under the supervision of the company that designed it—especially the cable pulls, you want to get those right. Doing things like that can save you some money, but there is a downside.

The Service Has To Go On

The weekends keep coming, week after week after week. Even during an install. So depending on how much prep time you need during the week, installing a system can become really disruptive. You may be in a situation where the installation will take place over several weeks and the service has to happen in the middle. That can be tricky to pull off, and it’s where a good install company comes in handy. 

They can help set the schedule and throw more people at it to make sure things get done and the system is useable come service time. If you try to do it yourself and hit a snag, and you can’t pull off a service, who takes the fall? Again, having a third party to throw under the bus can be a good thing. The install company can take some of the heat and help set realistic expectations. 

I’ve seen installs completely burn out an entire tech team. I’ve been part of some of those, come to think of it! It seems like fun at first, but by the end of the third or sixth week when you’ve been working 12-14 hour days to get it done, it’s a lot less fun. Some guys don’t come back after that. 

This is an Expensive System, Treat it Well

After you spend tens or hundreds of thousands (or more) of dollars on your system, it only makes sense to have it installed professionally. That will ensure everything is done properly and works the way it should. It also sets you up to succeed going forward. 

I know the labor number on the contact can look big, but in the long run, it’s money well spent. Keep your staff healthy, make sure everything is done safely and to industry standards, and that it all works at the end. After the project is done, you have a team that is energized, excited and ready to rock the new system. Isn’t that what you really want? 


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.

Field Guide to Renovations: System Design


This is our fifth installment in our series on renovations. Last time, we talked about selecting key technologies. If you missed the previous posts, go back to that one and you can get the list. Today we’re talking about design. Now, I’m going to start off by saying something that may be controversial and may offend some people. But I really believe this is the best advice. 

You probably shouldn’t design the system yourself. 

There are some churches that are blessed with someone on staff who can design systems. But that’s a different skill set than operating those systems. Most churches have operators and team leaders. I’ve seen quite a few systems that were “designed” by people who really didn’t have that skill set. Most of those systems need to come out. You and your church will be much better off if you bring in a professional for the design. And this is for several reasons. 

First, you will get a good design. A good design will have the components you need and omit ones you don’t. Everything will work together, will be easy to use and will meet the system objectives. Second, you will have someone to throw under the bus if things go wrong. If you as a volunteer or staff TD design the system yourself and anything goes wrong, it will be your fault. When a third party is involved, you can blame them. That might save your job. This is assuming you hire a good design firm to do the design and not the guys at the local music store. 

You Can’t Afford To Not Pay For Design

I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but it’s true. I have been in dozens of churches and talk to people in hundreds who decided to “save money” and figure it out on their own. Almost universally, the church leadership is unhappy with the results, the tech team is frustrated and the congregation is missing out. 

There is a misconception that design is super-expensive and only the big churches can afford it. The reality is, a well-designed system will likely cost less in the long run than a poorly designed system. That’s because the church won’t be doing it 2-3 times. Moreover, the experience from day one will be better. When you bring in people who know what they are doing, they can work within your budget. Unless your budget is completely unrealistic, in which case go back and read the budget post. 

A good designer will help you make hard decisions and keep the project on track. Most churches can’t get everything they want in a system, at least at first. A designer will help you prioritize so you get the right equipment first, with a path to add later. 

Everything Else is Designed

Your HVAC system is designed; your electrical system is designed; your plumbing system is designed; heck, even the parking lot is designed. Why would you not want to design the AVL system? The sound system is at least as critical as the bathrooms when it comes to hearing the message from the pastor. Why would a pastor leave that task in the hands of a volunteer with no design experience? This is not to disparage volunteers, but again, I want to point out that operating is a lot different from designing. Pastors, don’t set your team up to fail. Get this done right. 

You Still Have a Voice

Good designers listen to their clients. As a TD or volunteer tech, you should have some say into how the system goes together and how it works. When you define your system objectives and identify key technologies, you get to speak into the process. When the design comes back, if you have ideas, be sure to voice them. Sometimes designers choose equipment based on preference or which manufacturers they work with. If you have a particular piece of gear in mind for a task, bring it up. Unless there is a good reason not to go with it, the change is easy in the design phase.

If you have specific ideas of how you’d like a system to lay out, or where to locate snakes, mixers, cameras and the like, by all means speak up. The designer needs as much information as possible. You are the one who works in your church and you know better than the designer does what the needs are. Make sure to let them know your thoughts. With good information, a good designer will give you a great system. And, more than likely, it will come in on budget. When that happens, everyone wins!


Today’s post is brought to you by myMix. myMix is an intuitive, easy-to-use personal monitor mixing and multi-track recording system that puts each user in control of their own mix! myMix features two line-level balanced 1/4″ TRS outputs and one 1/8″ (3.5mm) headphone output, the ability to store up to 20 named profiles on each station, 4-band fully parametric stereo output EQ recording of up to 18 tracks plus stereo on an SD card. Learn more at myMixaudio.com

Redefining Success

My tech team for Good Friday, most of whom are 1/2 my age. What a great privilege!

My tech team for Good Friday, most of whom are 1/2 my age. What a great privilege!

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?


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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