Use any tool for the job.

Last week I had the opportunity to do audio recording for a short film. Recording field audio is a tough job and yesterday we were not having fun. We were shooting a scene where a man is leaving a conference room, going down stairs and out the building while talking to his wife on a cell phone. Well the location that was picked was very nice other then the incredibility loud AC system. Oh yea, it whistled and we didn’t have control to shut it off.

Due to the nature of the shots, a shotgun mic was out of the question so we used a lapel (Tram…Check them out, sounds great!). The actor was wearing a suit and We couldn’t find a hidden place where the mic didn’t rub on something. I continued to record with it, but Brandon came up with a great idea. Use the voice recorder on an iPhone to record the audio. The mic on the iPhone is not to bad and it would be in a great place to capture the audio. Just had to show the actor how to start and stop the recorder. I have not reviewed the audio we captured with the iPhone, but I figure we should use any tool you have to get the best audio you can.

The Christmas Season

Imagine 2008It is Christmas time again and I have been away from the blog for awhile. As a tech director for a church that does a Christmas program, the season means insanity from about November through the first few weeks in December. We have been working twelve plus hour days for about two months now getting ready for “Imagine Christmas – From the Beginning.”

This is my second Christmas program as a tech director. Last year’s program was pretty good once it happened, but leading up to it almost killed me. This year was a marked improvement in organization and execution. In the weeks before the program, I really dislike the Christmas Season, but all it takes is one performance and I’m in the mood and will be looking forward to the putting the program together again next year.

With each program we do, I get the opportunity to work with new people and do a program that is out of the normal Sunday service and I get to learn and improve my skills. Last year I learned much on the technical side of lighting and how to call cues and produce a more theatrical type program. This year I had the opportunity to learn as well, but in different kinds of ways. One thing that comes to mind is that practice really helps not only the performers, but the tech team as well. I knew that was the case, but it was really emphasized when the audio team really nailed the orchestra mix. The video team as well knew exactly where the action was and what camera to shoot it with. I also learned how hard it is for someone to come into a presentation like “Imagine” and light it well.

For the past two years we have hired out the lighting design; both groups did the best that they could and I do like seeing the different styles of lighting and how they can effect the look. I just don’t know if they fully understand the scope of dance, ariel and drama until the fixtures are hung. At that point it is (most of the time) too late to fix the issues.

For example the lighting plot had top light on the ariel actors. Top light is a very dramatic effect that I like. The problem was that the actor was performing about 20 feet in the air and that put them about 10 feet off the light. The shaft of light is just too small at that point and the aerialist would swing in and out of the light. Bottom lighting would be a better effect in this case.

The other struggle that I have is with the video lighting. Being that the lighting designer is not familiar with the camera and needs, the design doesn’t usually account for color temp changes of the lights used. In this program, the key lighting came from two main sources. Spotlights that were 1200 watt and a HMI based lamp that were about 4200k temp. The other was High End Studio Commands 1200 watts that were 5200k temp and didn’t mix well with the cameras that were balanced to the spots.

This year, as last year, proved to me that creatives are passionate about what they do and the most heated discussions are about differences this time of year. That will never change. My list is long for what I would like to change for next year’s performances, and I can’t wait to get started on the planing even if I still don’t have the worship center put completely back together.

Yamaha Digital Consoles

M7CL-32 in GYM1

M7CL-32 in GYM1

At Sugar Creek Baptist Church we just opened a new Family Center. In this new building we have about four rooms with media support and the two larger rooms have Yamaha digital consoles. I was very excited about have features such as offline editing, on board effects, and networking. I have been very surprised at how much I like the the M7CL-32. In our worship center we have a Digico CS-D5 which has been great. I was very pleased at how easy it was for me to pick up the M7CL and how some of the features were similar to the Digico. Now I have only mixed on the LS9-32 once, but as of yet I’m not a big fan of the console. I seem to have to keep my head in the board too much while mixing. The touch screen really helps with the quick changes.

I have one large disappointment with both of the consoles. This last Thursday, I finally got some network wire pulled to both of the consoles and tried to place them on the network. All was going well until I went to adjust the subnet mask. Come to find out, the firmware only supports class C subnets ( So let me tell you what that means. With that mask you can only have 254 devices attached to the network. Well that is fine for many groups that might be using the console, but for use in larger churches or conference facilities it is just too small. The part that I really don’t get is the interface is built to change the subnet options, it is just disabled. Very frustrating. So now I’m going to have to build a dedicated network to access these consoles. Yamaha please fix this issue!!!!

Line Arrays


Tonight I’m at a choir concert at Lamar Consolidated High School
Auditorium. Much to my suprise when I looked up, they have a line
arrary system. Two lines with seven cabinets hanging under a single
sub setup in a stereo configuration. Just seems like this is the only
speaker configuration that people what these days. I guess that I
will find out in a few if this was installed because of its function
or to be trendy.

UPDATE:  The choir concert was acoustic, didn’t even used the sound system so I guess I won’t know about the line array.

Speaker Repairs and Audio System Tune Up

Speaker RepairsThis week we are installing a couple of new DSP units in the worship center. BSS London Blue 80s are the new brains for our audio system. In the process of testing everything last night we found the the protection circuits are bad in three of our EAW MH-662iA speakers. This has been limiting some of the high frequencies from the main center cluster. Now we have to figure out how to fix them. So again I will be excited to hear what the system is going to sound like after we get this fixed and our system tuner James Young is done with the DSP upgrade and room tuning. Going to be a fun Sunday.

PERSONAL: Just a quick personal note, it was awesome to see Brittney (my daughter) worshiping on stage Sunday in the Edge service. It brought me great joy.

Changes 4/27/08

Surprisingly this was the second hardest week I have had in this job and I really can’t tell you why. But God is good and services today were busy but encouraging. It is so easy in this job to get wrapped up in the technology and the issues and loose focus on what it is really about. I did a lot of work on technology this week, but none of that was very interesting or fulfilling. The trials of this week really help to bring focus to what I really enjoy: investing in people and being creative with in the limits that are in place.

We did make some technology changes this week:


  • Added a dual 18″ sub. Our 15″ drivers are still being re-coned. I was surprised on how hard this sub could kick. It was not enough for the big room, but it was better than nothing.
  • We upgraded from revision one Avioms to the newer version two systems. Wow what an improvement in sound quality.


  • Refocused all of the stage lighting for the minor stage reset that we did.
  • Finally got the lamp for the OS 600 light.

This was a “Sub” par day…ha ha

6 blown subs Last night at rehearsal I was behind the console mixing for the Edge band and heard a bad sound. I spent some time working on the the drums after Mario setup his kit, replacing the church’s set.  I just could not get the kick to sound right at all and then I remembered that John said that a sub might be blown.  I took a walk to the stage left side of the building to hear a subwoofer barking out what sounded like a kick mallet hitting a broken drum head.  The cone on the left side of the cabinet was shredded.  I grab some tools and pulled the driver.  Planned on calling the repair shop in the morning.  When I got the speaker back to the booth I noticed that this speaker had been re-coned in 2000.  I guess that it was just time.

I had a great plan when I got home last night and thought that it might be good to check all of the other sub speakers.  Sometimes it is just better to not know.  At the end of the day we found that six or our eight sub drivers were blown.  This is just some of the fun when you are maintaining a 14 year old sound system.  I have mixed feelings about this issue.  On the one hand, it is frustrating to fix blown speakers and not work on making improvements to the services.  On the other hand I have never been happy with with our subs and I have a little encouragement knowing that I have never heard all of the drivers kicking at once.  Some of the drivers appear to have been down for sometime.  So, there could be some light at the end of the weak sub tunnel.

Nya is taking the six speakers in for repair.  We will not have them for this week and will have to rent some subs, but they will return for the following Sunday.  I have to install and tune the rented 18 inch subs tomorrow.

Changes 4/6/2008

Just a sample of one of the lighting looks for Sunday
This is a big Sunday for the tech ministry at Sugar Creek. We are going digital. The Digico is installed and this will be the first Sunday running it for the services.  All is tested and ready to go and John is charged with making sure all works correctly. Over the next few weeks we will train the volunteers on the job. I think that they will be back running the shows soon as they become comfortable.  We have had two rehearsal with the digital system and both were successful and the musician said they can hear a difference in the monitors.  We have not even installed the version 2 Avioms yet. More to come on that next week.

We have a new (at least new since I have been producing) CG operator for the Edge service…welcome Janet.  The Digico took up a lot of time this week, but I did get to add some curtian slashes behind the drums.  I’m really looking forward to hearing the difference in sound quality over the next few weeks as well as how the A1 take to the new system.

Digico Install

Digico D5 at homeToday was the day that we removed the older of the two Soundcraft Vienna consoles and replaced it with the Digico CS-D5.  Over all, the change over went very smoothly.  Last night John and Vincent pulled the Madi cables for the connection from the stage racks.  They ended up needing to be pulled in the iron. The console is in it’s final home and the stage racks are wired up and communicating. Tomorrow, Bryan is going to bring in the snake and we will get them all connected between the stage boxes and the stage racks. After that it is just finishing up the final patching and rehearsals start Tuesday afternoon.  So far we are right on schedule.  Pictures of todays work are on my flickr account.