Snow ShovelKind of sounds like a word that I made up, but it is not. Do you watch Food Network at all? Now come on men you don’t have to surrender your “man” card if you do. I love the show Good Eats and Alton Brown uses the term unitaskers all of the time. He doesn’t think a kitchen tool should only have one purpose. This got me thinking about my production environment and how many unitaskers we have.

I have attached a picture of a snow shovel or is it just a snow shovel? When we moved to NC it would snow on occasion, but I never wanted to pay for a snow shovel for the one to two times a year it would snow until I saw a neighbor use it as a dust pan. Might be the best dust pan I have ever used. Now it has value beyond the single task, I can own it. Of course I live in Southeast TX now and it has become a unitasker again, for now.

At churches we have lots of unitaskers, could be buildings, tech gear, volunteer positions. Sure there are times that you have to have unitaskers, but with some thought or changes could they be used for more? Let me share some examples from my world.

Do you have any wireless systems with only hand helds? Seems like it makes sense that you would have a handheld mic dedicated for solos or the worship pastor. What happens when VBS hits and all you need is headsets or lapels? It costs a little more to add the body pack, but think of the flexibility it adds. We have used them as guitar packs, drama mics, countryman on a violinist for a specials. I think that it is crazy to get a wireless with out both. Multiple times a year we use packs on channels we thought would be dedicated to handheld use.

We have yet to add a dedicated recording console in our worship environment, but I would make sure that I added a vocal booth or maybe even a larger room for doing voice overs/over dub/general recording as well and connect it to the recording console. Why should that be dedicated to doing a service mix only. The same applies to a dedicated video studio how could the equipment in your worship environment be leverage for the creative video work you do. This could be as simple as keeping a few backdrops in the worship center for shooting green screen or other types of shots. You already have the cameras, lighting systems and recording equipment. Would it be the most optimal? Maybe not, but it would be a good use of the equipment that that sits idle other than service times.

We are adding a stage camera next budget year and the camera we have budgeted for is not a studio only camera. I wanted something that could be used standalone for remote shoots or creative video projects. Adding a stage camera will also add a volunteer position that I think we can cover by the training the stage manager that has no responsibility during the worship section of the service. I don’t know about you, but volunteers can be harder to get sometimes than the money for new equipment.

I have two MacPro CG systems sitting in the worship center that are quad core Intels with a Declink Extreme capture cards for ProPresenter with Alpha channel. Great setup, but is that not also a video editing system? Why not have someone do video editing on them during the week? In our case it is pretty expensive to have someone work in the worship center due to a/c and lighting costs, but if you have a video booth that is out of the main room why not leverage this equipment for video editors. At the very least, I plan on setting them up as render nodes when the room is cool enough in the winter.

I could go on and on with examples, but you get the idea. We are spending money given to us by our Lord, it is not our money. We can’t totally eliminate unitaskers from our environments, but especially in financial times like we are in now we need to spend our money and use our resources wisely. Down with unitaskers!!!!


Is there such a thing as right place, right time?

Today I got a call from one of the volunteers in the tech ministry. I love hearing from the team and I really like it when I can be of service to them. Most of the time it works the other way with them serving the tech ministry. In case you don’t know, I live in the Houston, TX area and we had a not so fun visit from hurricane Ike last week. This volunteer and her husband operate a school that was hit pretty hard by the storm and they have been working very hard to get it opened back up. The phone rang just as I was sitting down to dinner so I ate quickly and gave her a call back and was very surprised at her request.

I have learned over that past year of working with the volunteers, that there are parts of ministry that I’m not great at and I’m having to step up and do my best and learn from my mistakes. After listening to her voice mail I was assuming that this was gonna be another one of those times. When I called, we chatted for a few and then she asked if I knew anyone that could help her with some networking and phone issues that the school was having. Do I know anybody? I think so, being that was my job up until the beginning of ’08. Was I in the right place at the right time? Yes I was, but is that due to chance? I don’t think so. God put me in right where I need to be to help and He provided a ministry opportunity that was right up my alley. Glad to have the opportunity to serve.

Vista Training

Vista TrainingIn case people didn’t know I am a man. I state this fact only to tell you that I don’t read manuals.  In previous posts I mention that we upgraded our lighting console to Jands Vista consoles.  One of the reasons that I picked the Vista T2 was that the on site training was included.  Well, this week Steve Irwin came out and did some training for the volunteers and myself.

As stated before, we chose the Vista because it was easy to use and much more familiar to computer users. That being said, it is also a very powerful and expandable lighting platform.  While I was doing pretty well handling the programming needs of regular services, I was glad to get some expert training.

The best part of the training was seeing the volunteers finally get why I was so excited about the Vista.  Both JT and Greg each had their moments when they saw things that excited them.  At first I thought that I would get the training and then teach the volunteers. I t was much better to have JT and Greg learn from Steve because they asked questions that I would not have due to their different experiences programming.  JT for instance does more concert style programming for student events; where I do more cue to cue style programming.  With Steve’s vast experience in lighting and programming, he was able to show us how we could use the Vista in both scenarios.

Just this week, I have already applied things from training that are making me a faster and better programmer.  Steve was able to train on the console, but also extended the training by giving many general programming tips along the way.  At the beginning of this week, I was wishing that training was not going to take two days out of my crazy week but at the end of the week, I’m glad that it did.

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.

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.

Career Day

Today was an interesting day.  The best part of my job is that I get to work with volunteers.  About two weeks ago, I got an email from one of my long time volunteers asking if I would speak at a career day.  He is an assistant principal at a middle school and was looking to fill some slots.  When a volunteer who has served in the tech ministry for a long time gives you the opportunity to help him, you jump.  So I spent the morning speaking to eighth graders about my job as a technical producer and a web developer. Certainly not the way that I had planned my first day off in three weeks.

Each time I think that I have other things to do, God lets me know where I need to be.  I was paired up with a graphic designer and we spoke to six different groups for about 25 minutes each.  Being that my week was crazy, I didn’t have much time to prepare my talk.  During the first session, we each gave a short description about our jobs and then asked for questions.  The question was asked if there was anyway for them to start learning about graphic design, web development or technical production.  What a great opportunity to invite the kids to church and become a part of the tech ministry!  That same opportunity presented itself for the remaining five classes.  Just where I needed to be.