Sunday, January 27, 2008

Working Weekend

We've had a busy, working weekend around Covenant Life.

Yesterday was Work Day 1, the first of our quarterly clean-up, fix-up, sort-out, and organize days. We managed to complete:
  • Rolling carts for our confidence monitors
  • A rolling cart for our keyboards
  • Re-geling all our stage lights
  • Cleaning out the catwalks
  • New doorstops that won't leave the doorways
  • Moving some dimmer circuits from unusable locations to usable locations
  • Adding an board operator's solo monitor to our secondary venue
  • Painting names on our set backdrop rolling carts (Are you seeing a trend? We love things that move easily!)
  • Assembling a new tripod for Camera 2
  • Testing and fixing all of our non-dedicated video lines to various places in the auditorium
We also got a good start on:
  • Testing all of our microphones to see how their frequency responses vary from mic to mic
  • Building a special power cable for all the stuff in the front row.
  • Cleaning up our long-term storage area.
Of course, being the non-archivist type, I completely failed to take any pictures. And I also managed to leave the camera cable at home, so I couldn't even get any pictures today of the final products. Hopefully, I'll have some shots by the end of the week.

After cleaning up from our clean-up day, we got ready for Sunday. Joshua Harris preached the third message in The Old Paths, our current series on Jeremiah. You will be able to hear this passionate, gospel-soaked message here very soon.

I will not be posting for a few days ("What's new?!" you say), as I check out of the blogosphere to take a few extra days off to paint our bedroom (and basement apartment, if I'm lucky).

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Resource Library Database

When I first came on staff at Covenant Life in 2002, another new staffer, the church's first Director of Communications, had a big project on his hands: Develop a new website. And he successfully did so. And we've been using it since.

But that was 2002. That's eons in the web world, so our site has needed a facelift a functionality-lift for some time.

Well, with the help of our new Director of Communications and a full-time web designer, the time has come for a new website. Launching in late April or early May, the new site will be much less like a glorified brochure and much more a place where our church members can go to grow and learn.

One of the most significant improvements will be the Resource Library. Modeled unashamedly after the resource library at Desiring God Ministries, this portion of the site will offer a catalog of sermons, articles, and eventually videos. Everything will be 100% free.

In order to make this happen, though, we needed to also upgrade our record of sermon recordings. The excel spreadsheet we've been using - even with its cool macros - isn't going to cut it any more, so we hired a database manager to create a resource library database.

Last week, we got our first peek into the admin features of the database, and this last Monday we started to enter information about our sermons. No more spreadsheet!

This is exciting progress, but now the work is really in my team's court. Getting the current information cleaned up and the database loaded with other sermons will take some time, but the effort will be well worth it.

Now, we just need to land on a set of topics...

Sunday, January 06, 2008

A Fly in the Ointment

What a wonderful Sunday!

Covenant Life heard a great message on evangelism by Mark Mitchell.

We saw an inspiring and edgy video about New Attitude.

Bob Kauflin led in a longer time of singing.

We had a fly on our video screen.

Yep, we had a fly on our video screen. This happens about once every eight months or so, and always elicits some chuckles. A fly manages to find its way into the projector room, which is largely sealed to the outside world. Then, it hears the call, "Come to the light...come to the light." And it follows dutifully until it lands on the glass between the projector room and the screen room, directly on the projection image. To the congregation it looks like a 1 foot wide moving blob until the mysterious hand comes in and swats it away.

We've got one more item to add to the work day project list: Video Projector Mosquito Net.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Work Day Planning

Management Realization: Getting others to work takes work.

About once every three months, the Covenant Life Production Teams has a Work Day. We take an entire Saturday and take over the entire building to clean, fix, move, organize, sort, and just generally improve our technical systems. With an average attendance of 20-30 people, these are very productive days ... when planned well.

This last week I began in earnest to prepare for our next work day on January 26. Because people are giving up a whole weekend day, I am continuously trying to improve our planning and preparation.

It sure is a lot of work to get others to do a lot of work.

We have to order gear, research project solutions, make drawings, borrow tools, and order food. We have to set aside supplies, create team lists, assign projects, talk through plans with team leaders and make it all fun. But the prep work is well worth the results.

Here is our project list for this coming work day, in no particular order:
  • Post cable color key.
  • Rack camera control units in table.
  • Clean up catwalks and light bars.
  • Clear out CD "collection" from Events Center.
  • Complete our set panel legs.
  • Build rolling carts for our confidence monitors.
  • Mount doorstops to all backstage doors.
  • Run power lines from events center backstage lighting dimmers to more useful locations.
  • Set up a floor monitor to function off events center monitor board solo button.
  • Double check rigging on events center sound system nicopress components.
  • Finish our twistlock power box sets.
  • Vacuum all equipment air filters.
  • Clean up all equipment rooms, sweep and mop floors.
  • Set up an office supply organizational system in our video room.
  • Build a table for our resident "DJ's" spaghetti-like playback rig.
  • Build rolling carts for our keyboards.
  • Clearly label our standard light fixtures that should never be reaimed.
  • Add littlites to our video control room.
  • Test frequency response on all microphones and floor monitors.
  • Replace gels on all our front lighting fixtures.
  • Refurbish the 12 multipin connectors on our events center main sound board.
  • Create 2 custom power cords for stuff in front of the stage.
  • Stencil names on all our various carts.
  • Test and fix all our video tie lines in our main auditorium.
Most likely this list will grow in the next couple weeks. Almost certainly we won't get all of this done. But if we are able to make a good dent, then it will be well worth the extra effort!

Friday, January 04, 2008

What's Next? | A Post-Christmas Return

Some "great" ideas turn out to be just plain silly.

Late last year I wrote about a system we were putting in place to help us understand what is coming next. We purchased a children's paging system and remote displays in order to cut out the middleman in our production communication process.

As the pastors make decisions about spontaneous changes in the service order, they can signal us directly about what was coming next. They simply push a few buttons and the light, sound, and video volunteers immediately know what to expect. Perfect, right?

Some great ideas turn out to be just plain silly.

I failed to adequately assess one part of the equation: "They simply push a few buttons..." We've been using this "miracle solution" for over four weeks now and we still haven't gotten one signal in time for it to be helpful.

Why? Well, the folks pushing the buttons are not production people. They don't really understand how early we need to know about the adjustments. No matter how early we have requested a signal, we have only ever gotten signals moments before the person starts talking.

In addition, the keypad is too complicated. There have been at least four times when they thought they signaled us, but the message didn't go through. They accidentally pushed the wrong buttons.

Some great ideas turn out to be just plain silly.

The sorrow comes when it is expensive.

Please pray that we can get our money back!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

To IMAG or not to IMAG... Where We Landed

In November, we briefly discussed my conundrum about IMAG at Covenant Life's Christmas Eve Program. There seemed to be many reasons to do it. And many reasons not to.

We ended up NOT doing IMAG during the production aspects of our Christmas Eve Service. Why, you ask?
  • There were several times when IMAG was simply not possible due to staging and scripting decisions.
  • There were several times when the screens became the backdrop.
  • The rest of the opportunities for IMAG didn't seem helpful, since they were infrequent and unlike the rest of the evening.
The reason I didn't write about this earlier is that we postponed the decision as long as possible. While I had procrastination, delayed decisions often are better decisions. We actually didn't make the final call until Friday, December 21st.

No IMAG this time around.

Maybe next year?

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Lighting & Camera Tests

One of my favorite parts of the Covenant Life working culture is that we are continuously striving for improvement. This can sometimes be my least favorite part because it means that nothing ever stays the same. We are always changing, adapting, building, growing, changing again, deleting, revising, and changing a third time.

One of those changes is related to a recent series on the sacraments. We'll be adding a permanent baptismal to our main auditorium, so that we can baptize people during Sunday services without having to bring out Big Blue, our lovable 10' wide pool. She has only dumped her contents twice, once all over the stage and once down the walls into Bob Kauflin's office.

Well, it's obvious we need a replacement for Big Blue, so we did some tests today to see what lighting and camera improvements will be required in order to make our new baptismal pool work as well as possible. As much as it slows down the process, I am really grateful for the way our pastors want to think through each big financial decision thoroughly, see it as clearly as they can, and then make the best decision possible.

After a confident sense that we can make the pool look great in real life and on the video screens, the new baptismal pool will start going in on January 15th, I believe. But don't hold me to that!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy 2008!

Happy New Year, everyone!

I hope you enter this first day of 2008 with much faith that God will be at work in your life for the next twelve months. Those of us at Covenant Life this last Sunday heard a message on prayer called Ask for More based on Ephesians 3:14-21. May you ask for much more strength, love, and knowledge with confidence that his grace never runs dry.

Last night my wife and I spent some time going over the last year, identifying the highlights of 2007 for our family. This was a wonderful time of recalling both the blessings and the challenges of following God as a family.

One thing I learned from last evening was this: I should blog more, not because anyone else is reading it but because I'll want to read it later. There is so much that I would have completely forgotten had my wife not recorded it all in our family blog. I wish I had been as diligent here.

While stopping short of calling this a new year's resolution, I can say that I hope to blog much more this coming year. Watch out!

Photo Credit: Joe Lanman, but you can blame me that it's not really a 2008 calendar.