Evaluation and Change

A few years back, I wrote a post about being a life long learner. This has always been a driving force in my life. I want to learn something new every day. My favorite days are when I have the opportunity to solve hard problems as well as learn something new. I know that seems like a very lofty goal, but it doesn’t have to be something big, it just needs to be something. We are not trying to prove one of Einstein’s theories each day, it could be as simple as a new keyboard shortcut that makes things easier.

I spent the first part of my professional career in the IT world, which provided lots of opportunities to learn and grow, but eventually I felt that I hit a point where my growth was getting limited. About twelve years ago, I left the IT world and started serving on a church staff. That role also provided many opportunities to learn and the amount of growth I experienced was immeasurable. While the growth in live production came quickly and easily at first, as my time in that field lengthened, the opportunities for growth became harder and tended to be more focused on leadership. Leadership is definitely an area where I had room to grow and didn’t have a lot of experience. However, you can’t really accelerate learning and growing in leadership by just working harder. Leadership growth takes time and patience and surrender.

For about the past year and a half I have been in a time of evaluation. When you go through that process you have things that you have to let go of and new directions get set. If I’m honest with myself, I have been battling letting go of my opportunities to grow technically and embracing a leadership focused direction. On top of that, I have been noticing the loss of talent and experince in the church production community and I didn’t want to contribute to that. However as I continued to evaluate, I realized that my efectiveness had been diminished and I was not going to be able to take my church to the next level. A change was needed.

Looking back, I realize that this road I have been on is a path that many church production guys end up walking. I know in my case I have such a heart for the Church, but found myself in a place where I felt that I was unable to improve myself or my church. I would bet that many of my fellow church techs have felt the same at some point. As I learn more about how God has made me, I realize that I was not done growing technically. I just needed to pass on my old dream to someone else and embrace a new one. One of my beliefs is that change is not hard, but I’m learning that change requires releasing a dream. This has not been an easy road, but I know all will be better in the long run.

Wall Projection

friendslist Recently we have been using a projector and putting images on the baptistery wall. During worship we use it as more as a lighting effect to add some visual effects to the stage. If you do video like we do you know it can be hard to have enough color on the stage after you light every thing with enough light for video.

We also though it would be a good place to show the sermon branding. So here are two short animations I made from the sermon graphics for the wall. This is a great way to keep A.D.D people like me reminded of the sermon series.

ProPreseter and a Free Motion Background

Are you a Leopard user? You just got a free motion background for Pro-Presenter. We were sitting in production meeting last week and I had my laptop up and running. About midway into the meeting my laptop kicked in the screen saver and Stephen loved it and thought it would be a cool motion background. He asked if I could make it work for a song on Sunday. I started running different ways through my head of how to capture the screen saver to a video and make it into loop. I forgot about it until Friday night and then I started working on it. It took me a little while just to find where in OS X the screen savers were stored. I knew that OS X had started using Quartz Composer files for some of the screen savers and the one I was using, Arabesque, was a Quartz file. Quartz happens to be an integral part of Quicktime and the QT player can play Quartz files. Most of the time, if QT can play it then most likely Pro-Presenter can play it as well. Sure enough, I just dragged the file into the background library and it worked. Now we have a new background and it was under my nose all of the time. By the way, the screen savers are stored in /System/Library/Screen Savers.

Quartz Composer is a very powerful compositing and graphic creation program. What is even more interesting is that Quartz files are dynamic. Arabesque is a random composition and when you used in Pro-Presenter it is random as well. This could be good or it might not be what you intended. I’m very interested to learn a little more about Quartz and see how we can use it in media ministry. A few ideas that come to mind are maybe a news ticker across the bottom of an announcement loop or a countdown clock that is longer then 99 hours. Let me know if you come up with some Quartz Composer ideas.

Creating Successful Sundays – NASCAR Style Preparation

To the average viewer this last Sunday was a normal day. From a production standpoint we had a few errors. It is always my practice to review the issues on Monday and see what we can do in the future to prevent these types of issues. Sometimes these issues are hardware failures or operator mistakes that are going to happen and are hard to prevent. Sunday we had one of each. I really don’t loose any sleep over them. The ones that bother me are the ones that could have been prevented with some preparation. We also had a few of these this weekend.

Now some of them we could have not really foreseen, but hind sight is 20/20. Let me give you an example. A mic cue was missed. Being that I have mixed many services, I know that errors happen. Sometimes you get distracted with muting some channels and you forget the open up the next mic. Now being that I understand the error, I know that it can be helped by the producer reminding the audio team of what is coming up. This Sunday I was bothered when I reminded the audio team of the next mic cue and even let the engineer know what mic was being used. When the cue didn’t happen I was a little hot under the collar. After the service I debriefed with the Audio Engineer and found out that the cue was missed due the host using a mic that was on the praise team VCA that was muted. This is not the a normal mic we would use at that point in the service, and lead to the A1 missing the cue and taking a second to find the issue. Oddly enough this mic was used because we were out of 9V batteries. Such a simple thing can lead to preventable errors.

In my past, I raced cars and spent much time studying NASCAR crews and their processes. If you have ever walked through the pits during a race weekend you would see about 5 sheets of paper taped to the cars. Almost all of the teams have long checklists with everything that needs to be completed on the car before the race. I would bet that these lists started much shorter and have grown from experiences such as I had this weekend. I think that it is time to start a Sunday checklist that can be used in preparation during the week and on Sunday mornings. As we all know mistakes are made, we just need to make sure that we learn to prevent them the first time.

Easter ’08

Easter PhotoWell this was my first Easter as a Technical Producer and it was a great day of worship.  I’m glad that it is passed, but also excited for the next program that I get the opportunity to have a part in.  Lighting is something that is new to me, but it is one of my favorite parts of my job.  For this program, I decided to take on the design and programming of the lighting myself.  It was lots of pressure, but over all I was pretty happy with the results.  You can have a look at some of the photos from my Flickr album.

In the worship center we have have three screens that can project two different video streams. We added two more projectors so that we could play a third video stream for the song Yahweh.  That song had dance, three videos and the worship team.  There was so much going on and the volunteers did a great job of executing all of the cues.

I want to say thanks to all of the techs that served this Easter and a special thanks to George and Joe for helping with the setup and tear down.  Can’t wait for our next special program.

Sunday 2/3/2008

Stage shotLast Sunday was again a great day of worship.  The choir was again sounding better than before the EQ change we made last week.  Today we moved some of the worship to the end of the service and the songs were an extension of the message.  It was an awesome change.  I had spent most of my week in the lift working on refocusing some of the lighting.  We also hung some new source four pars for color wash.  My goal was to get even video lighting for Pastor Mark and really improve on the praise team lighting.  The praise team wash was a big improvement.  I don’t know if I will ever get it “perfect,” but it was much improved.  Our pastor wash was not awful, but over all was a little dim and had a few dark spots on the edges of the lighting.  When I was up in the air, I found that we had a mix of 19 degree and 26 degree ellipsoidal fixtures in the lighting for the pastor.  This was leading to some hot spots.  I was able to replace all of the tubes to 19 degree but two.  This left me 2 spots on the stage that were only covered by 26 degree fixtures and gave us big dark spots.  You can guess where Pastor wanted to stand…  Yup in the dark spots.  My video directors, Tim and Jason had their hands full shading the cameras.  19 degree tubes replacing the 26 degrees are on my list for this week to fix.On Wednesday, Tim and I decided to move one of our cameras to a new position.  This camera’s previous position was only really useful for shooting up stage and was very limited during the message.  We moved the camera back about 15 feet and over toward the center about 25 feet.  We can now take down stage shots until about the center of the stage. Still not great, but a much better position.I would love to know how many church technical production teams are using light meters to set wash lighting for video….

Sunday 1/27/2008

Wow what a day. Since the day that I started working in the production department our worship leader has been expressing his discontent about the choir sound.  We have tried hanging the mics, putting them on stands, and moving them to many positions.  Never have we been able to get the sound that we are looking for.  I had resigned to start looking for other mic options.We are currently using six AKG C3ooo mics in two rows of three.  The first row of mics is in front of the choir about 1 foot above the head of the second row and about 2 feet in front of the first row.   The second row of mics are in the same configuration.  At rehearsal on Wednesday I decided to try a few other mics that we had lying around.  In the process of doing this, I started enabling and disabling the EQ on the channel strip.  Come to find out the process our audio guys were using to ring out the mics was really choking the sound.  For the rest of that rehearsal we flatted the EQ and did just some very minor changes to clean up and take out some ringing frequencies.  We also found that the overhead choir monitors had many of the wrong instruments and that was being picked up by the mics.I couldn’t tell that the change we made really helped that night because we discovered the issue late in the rehearsal.  So I was excited to see what the effect would be today.  Let me just say that the choir sounded much better and we were finally able to balance the praise team and the choir.  It was great to finally start making some headway in this area.As happy I was with the choir mic changes, I was even more surprised at how awesome the worship was in our Mosaic service.  Currently most Sundays, I’m filling the role of producer.  In that role I’m always looking ahead to make sure that the team hits the next cue, but today I found myself worshiping.  The music was great and the entire room seemed to be involved and I just couldn’t help but worship.  It was amazing to see how great worship songs matched with a good mix (Amanda and Steve did great today) really brought the congregation into corporate worship.  What a great day.

Tech Issues Sunday

Wow!!! Today was video issues day. Our confidence monitor was not displaying the right content and was patched wrong. We found a really big short in the RGBHV cable that feeds the left and right side screens. This was causing the random blinks in the screens and finally the right screen just stopped displaying content. Last but for sure not least, the graphics coming from the CG machines are being washed out on the production switcher. None of this is going to be difficult to fix which is great, but it is strange how it all happens at once. For the past few weeks I have spent my limited tech time improving our system. Sometimes you have to step back and do some repairs before you can move on to the bigger and better things. It is good to have great volunteers that put up with me freaking out when something doesn’t work.