Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Belated Administrative Professionals' Day

Last week Wednesday was Administrative Professionals' Day, and today the staff at Covenant Life was finally able to express our gratefulness to God for our administrative assistants. We took them out to lunch at Outback and shared how God has been using them to bless the church. Here are my notes (which I only followed loosely) to honor my brilliant administrative assistant, Latricia:
John 15:12-13 says: "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends."

Latricia, you have been like your Savior in that you have laid down your life for friends.

In fact, you are now a friend to people that you didn’t know just 10 months ago. I think of your ever-cheerful greetings of Kari and Besilica. I think of how you joyfully not only put up with, but support Ben, Gavin, and me. And I think of how you’ve spent time with volunteers on the technical teams, befriending and caring for them.

I also am grateful that you are invested in the production teams. And what I mean by that is this: you don’t just do a job, you lay down your life. Sometimes its in your quiet, self-forgetting service, sending email after email or entering another sermon description. Sometimes its running lyrics for a wedding when the volunteers just weren’t available, or getting excited about cleaning up the IMAG control room, or wanting to learn how the sound board works.

Your personal care and sacrificial investment makes a difference to our team. You are bringing Christ’s love into this ministry.

And one final note from my wife:

"Latricia, one of the things I am most grateful for is that, largely thanks to you, it no longer seems like my husband is on-call 24/7! I know how faithful you are to look ahead, be on top of the events calendar, actively recruit volunteers, and keep on trying when slots remain open. Since the day you arrived on staff, our family life has been transformed! Now Dave scarcely ever gets those anxious calls from the church notifying us of a last-minute request or an event that has slipped through the cracks. This means that Dave no longer has to go to work at times when we had planned to be together as a family. It makes such a difference for me and for our kids! I am so grateful for you."

Latricia, we thank God for you!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

4.27 Reverb

Please accept my apologies, friends, for the late posting of this weekend's reverb. I was tied up on Sunday afternoon with the Members Meeting, so I just didn't get around to it. And I already have this sense that Sunday was an eon ago, so I apologize if my comments are a bit hazy.


Saturday Setup and Rehearsals

First, thanks to all of you who helped with the work day on Saturday. Not only did you clean, clean, clean, but you also set up for the Sunday service. Thanks for freeing some of the volunteers from Saturday responsibilities. I know they and their families benefitted from your help.

Second, I have been asked by several people if we have abandoned Saturday evening band rehearsals altogether. Nope! It is true that by the end of this next weekend, we will have skipped Saturday rehearsals for five weeks straight. That's been the result of a confluence of many factors, but not the result of any grand plan that I know about.

We'll be back on track on May 10th with Saturday rehearsals, especially given some of the struggles this weekend with the choir sound. We were reminded this weekend that Saturday rehearsals are especially important on unique Sundays.


Sound - Overall Comments

Due to the early morning start and some last-minute organization that I had to do, I didn't even see the way soundcheck ran on Sunday. I'm assuming that silence means things went smoothly, but that isn't always wise. If anyone has any thoughts on it, please comment here.

As far as I remember, there were no missed microphones this weekend. Thanks, Julie, for paying close attention to the multiple transitions and the spontaneous moments.

Also, thanks, Dave, for letting us borrow Sovereign Grace studio mics for the choir again. Even though the choir sound was a battle, the better mics are getting us closer.

My only specific comment on the sound is that the choir was never quite as loud as I would have liked and the mics were always on the edge of feedback. Does anyone have any suggestions? Is anyone aware of a church that does this well that we could learn from? Please let us know by commenting here.

Some "unique" aspects about our choir include that it:
  • is not isolated in a loft
  • is only about 30 people
  • is singing as the lone background vocalist
  • is singing with a full band including drums and percussion (aka bleed)
I definitely took away at two things:
  1. We need Saturday rehearsal time to work with a choir.
  2. We should add at least two "solo" vocalists to support the choir until we are able to work out the mic and gain issues.

Lighting - Overall Comments


Ken, thanks for working with our adapted approach to lighting this weekend. I think that darkening the backdrop made a big difference on the video. I got a number of comments that the changes improved people's experience of IMAG during the message.

My only suggestion after seeing everything was related to the choir and the backdrop. Because some choir members were standing in the backdrop lights, they were much brighter on the screen than the rest of the choir.

When there is a choir (which is almost always on Ken's week 4), I think we need to treat the backdrop and the choir as one object to light. To be more specific, we should aim lights at the backdrop as usual, but we should also aim the choir lights so that they light up the backdrop fully. Then, in the cues where the choir is on stage, the backdrop-only lights should be off, and the choir lights themselves will light the backdrop behind the choir. When the choir is not there, we'll use the normal backdrop lights.


Video - Overall Comments


Wow! This was a busy morning: there was a special song with IMAG, three videos, welcoming new members, a few slides tossed in here and there, and at least one ministry mic moment. Thanks to all for your flexibility and special thanks to everyone who came in early to plan and prepare.

I want to highlight the excellent work done by the camera team on the special song and welcoming new members. What worked so well was the understatement of the video shots. They very much supported what was being sung and spoken, and - while visually interesting and dynamic - drew no attention to themselves.

The team focused on the soloist during the special song with occasional shots of the choir. It was a nice visual mix. They also stuck with non-panning shots of the new members. I'm more convinced now than ever that panning doesn't work well when shooting a group of people on stage. Just pick four or five people and show them. Then cut to another shot of four or five people. This approach is simple, clean, and manageable. Thanks, Isaac, for your leadership in these two areas!

We still have a ways to go in the area of video roll-ins. If you didn't get a chance to read my comments last week, please review them here. For the foreseeable future, we are going to do an 8:30a rehearsal of all video roll-in cues including lighting and sound. I just want to be sure that we are all working together to make this happen well.

Here's the issue, friends: the church is investing a good deal of time and money into these videos, especially the Psalms intro videos. And with such sensitive topics and such short time, every word counts, every image counts. The folks shooting and editing the videos are making very careful and prayerful decisions about scripting and pacing.

We must feel the weight of responsibility to transmit those communication details to the congregation. When the video roll-in starts late or ends early, we are undermining some of their carefully-considered decisions.

This is not to induce fear or guilt, but to make everyone involved in the video roll-ins know that we cannot assume anything in this area. Please don't assume you or your team members are going to get this right. Please practice it and talk about it and practice it again and talk about it again. Then, we'll practice it together at 8:30a.

Thanks for making the extra effort to undistract these videos!

Well, I think that's it from my tiny brain. Please leave your thoughts and comments here. Enjoy your week, and we'll see you on Sunday!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

4.27 Reverb Delay and Another Seminar

Just a note to all concerned citizens: Reverb will be delayed this week.

With the Members Meeting on top of our normal Sunday morning, and some hints that I may have a slight cold, I will be postponing my normal Sunday "Reverb" post until Tuesday. Also coming this week: Work Day Pictures and a post on Members' Meeting.

Until then, another WorshipGod08 seminar question. What would you teach in this class:

"Leading and Caring for Your Tech Team"

Comment here with your ideas. Thanks for the help!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Running an Effective Sunday Morning Rehearsal

So, I didn't get any takers yet on my request for suggestions on the seminar "A Gospel-Centered Approach to Creative Media." I must admit that was a tough warm-up question.

How about this one:

What would you include in a seminar called "Running an Effective Sunday Morning Rehearsal"?

I will be teaching this seminar with Covenant Life's music director, Ken, so we'll be covering both musical and technical aspects of a fruitful rehearsal time. What do you want us not to forget?

Tell us here.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

WorshipGod08 Seminar Assistance

Until today, I had been living in a deadline-free heaven. But alas! 'Tis no longer so.

I have the distinct honor of helping with three seminars at Sovereign Grace Ministries' WorshipGod08 conference, led by Bob Kauflin. I have been plugging away slowly at ideas for my seminars. I've also met with my co-instructors to discuss the topics. But I've been doing these things with the ease and happiness of no deadline.

Until today. The word just came: have your outlines in by May 14, or else! Or else what? I'm not sure, but whatever else it may be is definitely terrible.

So, before too much time passes, I need your help. In the next couple weeks I'll post the title of one of our seminars, and I'd love to hear what you think we should say. What main points should we not miss?

Seminar 1: A Gospel-Centered Approach to Creative Media

What would you teach?

And jot me a comment if you are planning to attend WorshipGod08. I'd love to meet you at one of the tech lunches.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

4.20 Reverb

We got some T4G reverb at Covenant Life today. Thabiti Anyabwile spoke this morning on The Guilty, kindly joining us in our series on the Psalms: Real Help for Real People. He proposed seven wrong responses to guilt, showed how David lived the right response to guilt in Psalm 51, and called us all to repentance. Video team members and others who have missed the message can listen here in the next couple days.

Some reverb from this Sunday:

Checklists and Questions
Since we've gotten through three of the four Sunday teams on the checklists, you probably won't see too much more from me here specifically on the checklists. But here are a couple notes:
  • We are going to try to track changes to the checklists. Anything that's been added in the last month will be highlighted. You don't have to read through the entire thing to see what is new.
  • Remember that the checklists are a good test of your knowledge. Please don't skip anything that you don't know how to do. Ask someone on your team to help, then - if necessary - ask Ben or me.
I love that the checklists are bringing up other questions, too. Here are a couple from the last week:
  • Is there supposed to be a video team meeting in the imag video control room at 11:10a? Yes! The entire video team should plan to meet with the video producer at 11:10a to go over notes from the first meeting. Please plan to wrap up any conversations you may be having at around 11:05 and make your way back up to the control room.
  • Is it necessary to be at our posts ten minutes early, or would five minutes do? Ten minutes before the service (8:50a and 11:20a) is the latest you should be back to your posts. As you know, occasionally there will be a last-minute change that we must propogate through the team. Five minutes just isn't enough time to make the necessary adjustments.
I've also received a request to see the checklists we're working with. You can download a few examples here, here, and here.

Sound - Overall Comments
Audio this Sunday went very smoothly. I thought the mix this morning was strong. It had plenty of energy and a good balance between the instruments. I did mention to Jim that I thought the vocals could have been warmer in the first service, and they seemed to improve in the second service.

I have a few little, teeny, random notes:
  1. If we have to move the worship leader's keyboard, we need to mark the floor where it belongs. Otherwise, we probably won't push it far enough forward when he comes back out.
  2. We need to get the pulpit up quickly for communion. Whoever is moving it should be ready in the front row at the beginning of the song in which communion will happen. This week the sound team was short-staffed, so don't fret Andrew. This is just a note for the future.
  3. For mixers, let's measure volume with the sound level meter set at C-Weighted and Slow Response. That's not the ideal measurement, but it's the one I feel most confident about. We're aiming for about 95dB at those setttings.
Lighting - Overall Comments
Philip did an excellent job with lighting this morning. He's really coming along in his setup and operation skills. A couple little, teeny, random notes for all lighting operators, too:
  1. The Psalms backdrop is just too bright on the video screen. Let's try next week to have it at its brightest only for walk-in. For the entire service, I want to cut it back to 50%. We'll see how it works before we make it a final policy for the rest of the series.
  2. Also, when we park the lights in Gym2 for the first service, we need to leave on the wall lights along the right hand side. That will make the bowl look symmetrical, and it will also provide light for the emergency exit from Gym2.
Video - Overall Comments
First, I want to thank the video team for paying close attention to my notes last week on handling ministry mic moments. We only had one this week, but you nailed it, my friends. There were also a heap of transitions throughout the first portion of singing, and those were right each time also. Excellent job!

Two things this week: hints and tips for camera ops and for Psalms video roll-ins.

Camera Ops:
  • Always Check Focus - Because shooting for worship and for speech is so different, please make it a practice to check your focus every time we move in from worship to speech. We have a fairly consistent pattern across all the teams to be focused too far away when we first come live on the screen. That's because the camera is still focused for the last shot from worship. Most likely, the backdrop looks in focus, but the foreground is slightly blurry. It should be the other way around.
  • Know Your Tripod - We have made some tripod switches in the last few months, and that's caused a learning curve for some. Make sure you know where all of the following are: horizontal lock, vertical lock, horizontal tension, vertical tension, vertical pushback, and level. If you can't picture in your head where each of those items are, make sure to check in with someone else on your team for clarification.
Psalms Video Roll-Ins:

The Psalms pre-sermon videos are an interesting phenomena. They are somber in mood, short in length, and are generally starting with audio over black. Right now we're about 50/50 on getting them right. Here are some thoughts and tips, and I want your suggestions, too:
  • I see no hurry to get into the video. A 2-3 second pause between "Let's watch this video" and the actual start of the audio is fine. Other videos that are more high-energy need a lock-tight start. These can breathe.
  • The same idea can be applied at the end. Let the music go all the way out, then lights up, and cameras on the screen. No rush.
  • We've had some audio transition issues with the graphics switcher, so my recommendation is that we have a three step process from cameras to dvd: 1) dissolve cameras to black; 2) load dvd on preview; 3) cut to dvd and play dvd at the same time.
  • Don't try to dissolve from the cameras to the dvd. You'll almost certainly miss some audio. Don't cut from cameras to dvd as that will be very abrupt. Follow the three step process, and you'll be forced to slow down and the audio will work correctly.
Thanks so much, my friends. As always, comments are open for your thoughts, questions, and suggestions.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Mark Dever on Relevance at T4G

Some have described T4G as drinking from a fire hydrant. I would describe it as standing in front of a firefighter who is dousing the building behind me. When I open my mouth, I get more spray than I can swallow, but truly most of it is going directly over my head. My roommate and I have joked that they need to hand out a conference brochure addendum to Sovereign Grace attendees: Glossary of Common Terms for the Common Man. Included in that glossary should be words like, well, every word in Al Mohler’s message.

When I can’t count as high as the number of syllables in the word, a momentary concern passes through my mind: “I sure hope I don’t really need to understand that.” In that moment, I thank God I’m not a pastor, and I go back to franticly scribbling down the Scripture references that make up the majority of my notes. In spite of my weak mind, there were a few things that I caught, and of those a few caught my attention. One is particularly applicable to tech ministry and is worthy of sharing sooner rather than later.

Mark Dever preached Wednesday morning on maintaining the clarity of the gospel by identifying five “add requests” that would minimally add confusion to the gospel and potentially destroy the gospel. Request number three was so applicable to technology and media that I’ll try to touch on some of his points here.

Request 3: Make the Gospel Relevant!

This is also known as gospel “contextualization.” This popular notion proposes that it is good to make people comfortable when they come into the church. Who would disagree? I don’t.

But we must go one step further and ask the question: Why is it good? Its proponents argue that people who feel comfortable in the environment and familiar with the language will more readily accept the gospel message. Really? How much more readily? How much more quickly? Would it take ten weeks in a less relevant church, if they put up with the “boredom,” but only two weeks in the relevant church.

Suddenly, gospel effectiveness requires more than just a message. We must use particular methods because they can cause people to respond faster. And if we don't use that method, we may hinder them from coming to believe the truth about Jesus. We may hinder God's work in their lives, or even make it impossible for God to save them.

Here is where the danger lies: when we assign the “speed of conversion” to relevance, we are saying that the full power of the gospel is not held in the gospel itself. I believe we must reject any such understanding of relevance because it betrays its lack of trust in the gospel. Paul said, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek."

Would you agree in this rejection?

If so, is there a right way to think of relevance in the church?

What would it be?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

t4g - Sovereign Grace Session 1

Last night, CJ Mahaney spoke to all the Sovereign Grace Ministries pastors about the application of the gospel to church life and church planting, explaining some of the recent functional changes at Sovereign Grace.

While the discussion was definitely aimed at the pastors of Sovereign Grace churches, I did take away this one thought that was very applicable to technical ministry: Church leadership exists for the people of the church, not the other way around.

The question immediately jumped to mind: Is this truly the way I view my leadership role in the church? It should be. My job as technical director is to enable volunteers to serve the pastors and the church. Many times, however, I get so tied up in serving the pastors myself that I subtly change that sentence to... My role as technical director is to serve the pastors, and the volunteers are here so that I succeed.

Father, please help me to learn to be a servant to the servants, with my goal being the strengthening of church more than the execution of an event.

Monday, April 14, 2008

4.13 Reverb

Bob Kauflin preached this morning on "The Depressed," part 3 of our series on Psalms: Real Help for Real People. Though it wasn't the main point of the message, I think the idea that I most appreciated was this: We too often go to the means of grace as if it is the source of grace. For example, encouragement is a way that God helps us. But we can quickly forget that God is the source of help. The encouragement is only the means of help. When we forget that, we look for encouragement - the means - in order to get out of our most recent "depression." Instead, we should look to God, and seek his grace in whatever form he chooses to deliver it. He is faithful to give help and mercy and strength and grace and joy to those in need.

You can listen here soon if you haven't heard the message, yet.

I have a few reverberations from this morning.

Checklists
We completed our second week of the checklists. I got a lot fewer change suggestions this time, which means that the first week took their checklist-editing task very seriously. Thanks! I wanted to answer a couple questions that came up from the lighting checklist, though.
  1. "What are focus arrows?" This question refers to the task, "Identify pairs of lights for each area of musicians. Indicate those channels on the stage diagram with focus arrows." Focus arrows are a simple way to indicate on the stage diagram what lights are on specific locations and the direction from whence they come. Instead of just listing that Devon has lights 29 and 46 on him, the arrows also show instinctively the direction of the light. This is very useful to have when trying to balance levels between the two lights and also helps later when others need to come in and reprogram from your work.
  2. "At what time do we set the backstage area lights? There is much movement until just before the first service?" This is a new item for most lighting folks, so let me explain. From a general perspective, I want our lighting operators to take responsibility for anything related to light. That includes things like overstage worklights, window blinds, backstage lighting, catwalk lighting, etc. One of the common sources of distracting light in blackouts is the backstage lights. The checklist indicates which ones should be on and which should be off. These settings allow easy and safe movement backstage while minimizing that actual light on the "stuff" back there. As far as when to turn them off, I'd recommend making a sweep at 8:45a and 11:15a. That is close enough to the service to minimize people coming behind you and turning them on. It still gets you back in your place in plenty of time for the service. Also, we will post signs by the light switches to indicate to others which lights should be on and off during an event. Hopefully this will discourage folks from flipping switches for their personal convenience.
  3. Are we expected to stay almost an hour after the service ends? This refers to an after-service checklist section which is titled, "At 1:50p or later..." This gets at a question that I'm sure will arise again from several others: "When can I leave?" My main goal is to avoid this scenario: Joshua Harris - "Thanks for coming today have a great Sunday. You are dismi-" Boom - the sound system goes off, the projectors show "Power Off? Confirm?," the lights on stage go out, people rush the stage to tear down. Instead, I want to have the mentality that our service to the pastors and congregation lasts until they leave the room, until ministry is over, until people really have moved on from the Sunday service experience. For the most part, this will mean that the sound and lighting systems can be turned off when the majority of the people have left the auditorium and moved into the lobby. Frequently, that will be 20-30 minutes after the service ends. But know this: if you do need to skeedaddle and make your way out earlier than that, you can ask someone else to take care of those last few details for you.
Thanks for asking these questions, Dave.

Lower Thirds
Lower thirds is the term we video geeks use to refer to images that overlay on the lower third of the screen to show stats or names or the like. Often they are over some sort of rectangular bar to separate them from the camera picture.

We've been trying to add pastor's names as lower thirds since Easter. It's been hit or miss, honestly. Today we had the most catastrophic glitch in our normally reliable FSR Compass S2 switching system. It would not leave key mode, which is the mode used to create the overlay. After Bob got up to preach, strange things were showing up on his black suit-jacket: his title bar, some clouds from the computer 1. No matter what we tried, it would not leave key mode. And every time we tried to fix it unsuccessfully, the picture glitched.

So, here is the conclusion: The graphics switcher is not the place we should be overlaying in the titles. We really need a character generator to benefit from the downstream keying of our camera switcher. A character generator is fairly expensive, but we'll try to get it in the budget next year. In the meantime, we're going to scrap the lower thirds. It's just too much risk for the limited effect.

Sound - Overall Comments
Mitch, your team rocked it this week. Thanks for making everything happen so smoothly. It seemed like the band was able to quickly get through soundcheck and to rehearsal. Julie, I loved the sound this morning. The low end had energy without being overwhelming. The vocals were clear but also spacious. One small thing that I really loved: Patrick meticulously taped down all the cables. Thanks, Patrick, for pursuing excellence down to the simplest details.

A few small things that came up this morning:
  • The DPA headset microphone tends to bend in toward the mouth more the E6s do. Please place it about 1/2" behind the preacher's mouth rather than right at the corner of the mouth.
  • With extended worship and ministry at the end, I'm unclear when to turn off the subwoofers for the benefit of the people down front. I'll try to clarify that.
  • Jim has worked expecially hard to make a table for Jake's DJ gear. The new table hides the cables and gives Jake plenty of space for stuff, so please take the extra time to tidy up the four cables coming off the table.
  • Does anyone know why Jake's click track always comes through the intercom? Talk about a funky but consistent issue.
Lighting - Overall Comments
Three random thoughts:
  1. We need to make sure to "tune up" the lights in catwalk 1 on our next work day. Some of them are more even than others, and the uneven ones are standing out on the new backdrop.
  2. If you've never learned how to "park" lights as opposed to capture them, check in with me. We'll be parking the Gym2 lights regularly during the 1st service.
  3. I'd like to have a pow-wow with all the lighting folks sometime soon to discuss the best way to light the sermon area. I'm not sure I know exactly what the best approach is, but I want us all to be on the same page so that we can fix them if there are problems.
Video - Overall Comments
The number one issue this morning was that you didn't get an accurate script. That's my fault, and I will be taking that up with the production staff as well as pastoral staff. I can't promise we'll always have a perfect script for the announcements, but we've got to do better than this last Sunday. I'm sorry about that.

One of the newer additions to the video repertoire is the camera 4 shot of the ministry mic. I think we can definitely still do a better job in this area overall. Here are some ideas:
  • Camera 4 operators need to identify the required iris level at the ministry mic before the service, so that you can set up the shot in the dark during the service. You will see an addition to your checklist something like this: "Ask the lighting operator to turn on the ministry mic lights. With someone in the light, set your iris level correctly and note the f-stop marking on the lens. Use that f-stop level when you set up for a ministry mic shot in the services."
  • When the camera team hears about a pending "ministry mic moment," camera 4 should immediately get set up for the shot: frame the shot, focus on the microphone, and set the iris level to the f-stop you identified before the service.
  • Finally, camera directors can help the transitions out of the ministry mic by making it a practice to go to black at the camera switcher after each person shares. That way, if a pastor follows up, we can just go to another camera. If another person shares from the ministry mic, we can come back up on camera 4. And if we go back to singing, the house director can take it from camera black to lyrics.
And one last thing for house directors and playback operators: please make sure to watch the videos all the way through together, so that you both know where it ends.

OK, it's time for T4G, so I should go. Please comment below if you have any further suggestions, thoughts, or ideas about what I've written.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Together for the Gospel

Next week I have the distinct honor of accompanying our pastoral staff to Together for the Gospel, a three day conference intended primarily for pastors but open to others as well (phew!). You can see a list of the conference speakers and topics here.

I'm already giving pre-conference awards:
  • Most Intriguing - Thabiti Anyabwile - "Bearing the Image: Identity, the Work of Christ, and the Church"
  • Most Likely to Shake Up My Life - John Piper - "How the Supremacy of Christ Creates Radical Christian Sacrifice"
  • Most Favorite (he used to be my senior pastor, after all) - CJ Mahaney - "Sustaining a Pastor's Soul"
And of Course...
  • The Award For the Title That Most Closely Resembles the Title of a Doctoral Dissertation - Ligon Duncan - "Sound Doctrine - Essential to Faithful Pastoral Ministry: A Joyful Defense and Declaration of the Necessity and Practicality of Systematic Theology for the Life of the Church"
In all seriousness, I expect each message to be a powerful statement of God's heart for the church, and my prayer is that God helps me to glean just one idea from each sermon that I can apply directly to my life. I am particularly excited because, for the first time in at least six years, I'm attending a conference related to Sovereign Grace Ministries where I have no official responsibilities. I get to come, register, sing songs, listen to the messages, fellowship with friends, and not concern myself with anything tech-related.

This brings up one last point. Are any of you going to the conference? If so, I'd love to meet you. Comment below or email me, so that we can connect.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

4.6 Reverb

Today was another wonderful Sunday at Covenant Life. We heard the next message in the series, Psalms: Real Help for Real People, from Robin Boisvert on Psalm 40 called "The Addicted." I so appreciate his God-glorifying gratefulness for the Father's power to deliver anyone from bondage to sin. He also brought such compassion to a subject where self-righteousness can often turn away someone who needs help. You will be able to listen here soon.

Now, for the reverberations from the morning for the tech teams.

Checklists

New checklists are here. Thanks to everyone for trying them out and for giving good feedback on how to make them more user-friendly and accurate. As a reminder, the checklists are intended to serve you in two ways: 1) to more clearly assign different responsibilities to specific roles; 2) to remind each person what he or she needs to do to be most effective in that role.

Sometime next week, we will send out an electronic copy of your checklist(s) to each of you. Please review them before your next serving assignment, so that you can come in with a framework for what you will be doing. The checklist won't be drastically different than you would expect, but there probably will be some additions and clarifications that will affect your work.

On somewhat of a sidenote, will be creating a second set of sound and lighting checklists for weekends when the band does not rehearse on Saturday. Hopefully that will clarify some of the specific questions from this morning.

Some tips on using the checklists:
  1. Read Them Early | When you arrive to serve, make it your first task to read and review the checklist for that weekend. It may be different than last month, so you should look it over to gauge what new may be required of you. Ask your producer right away if you have any questions.
  2. Own Your List | Please claim each thing on your checklist as your responsibility, even if it is something others on your team have typically done. In certain cases, you can ask someone else to do a task on your list, but please take the ownership to follow up with them to make sure it was done correctly and completely.
  3. Use Integrity | Someone will be looking over your checklists, but we don't want you to be afraid of us. I'd rather you fear God, and leave something blank if you didn't do it. If there is a specific reason you didn't do it, please note that on the checklist. You probably won't hear from us about each unchecked box, but we will follow up if there seem to be consistent problems.
  4. Aim for Excellence | Even though you may not hear from us each and every time you skip a box, please don't get comfortable with leaving things undone. Each person's contribution is significant to the overall effect, so make sure to fulfill your commitment to the team as completely as is humanly possible
Sound

As was the case last week, the sound team members are the heroes of this weekend. A late setup last night, an early start this morning, and new checklists to go through. That's a lot of extra work. Special thanks to Jim, Vicki, and family for staying after the show last night to help set up.

My involvement in the sound aspects this morning was very limited, so my comments will be as well. Everything seemed to go very smoothly since rehearsal was essentially over even before I made it down from my office. Does anyone else have any thoughts on how rehearsal went?

The mix seemed good. The vocal mix was very good and the instruments were balanced most of the time. Dave, as we discussed, it seemed like the synth was a bit hot at times. It makes me think of something that I'd like all mixers to keep in mind. The "modern sound" we want to produce is more founded on thick electric guitar than on synth pads. Sometimes both will be happening at the same time. In that case, lean on the guitar instead of the synth.

Also, Dave has mentioned to me in the past that he feels like our mixes generally have shifted back to our pre-punchy-bass days. I would agree. Even though we're not getting extra subwoofers right now, please continue to try to make the kick and bass have impact. I still want to feel the low frequency energy, and it seems like we are getting away from that.

Finally, a small preacher mic question: is it possible to make it so that the wire from the new DPA headset mic doesn't come all the way around the headband and then loop back? Is it possible that it can just drop down the shirt from the center of the headband? It looked a little goofy on video.

Lighting

Lighting looked almost exactly the same as last weekend. Personally, I love the new backdrop. But we did get some comments that, when seen from camera 1, the set made it look like Joshua was preaching from the moon. Ken lowered the lights on the backdrop during the announcements and message, so it looked less like the lunar landscape and more like a texture. I'm not sure we really got there, though. I think we'll need more drastic measures to resolve this issue.

Video

Another excellent job from our video team. Bill, thanks for always having the important shots ready. One thing I appreciate about Bill's directing is that he does not get so wrapped up in directing the music for the in-house broadcast that he misses the simpler stuff that the whole congregation sees on the big screen.

Also, Dave and Eddie, excellent job on cuing the Psalms intro video. The folks who made it were concerned we might miss the pre-video sound, but you nailed it. The video timing does make a huge difference, so thanks for your attention to detail in that area.

Once again, I forgot to ask the worship leader if he was planning to introduce any of the songs. (Where's my checklist?!) There is a consistent lack of planning and communication in this area, and I take full responsibility. Don't let me get away with failing to ask the worship leaders when they are going to speak instead of sing.

My only thought for video this Sunday is for playback operators. The pastors are trying to grow in making announcements warm and engaging. This often means leaving their notes, which also means they may not follow the script precisely. Please look over the slides in the presentations ahead of time. Make sure you know the content on those slides, so that you can be listening carefully for how it fits into what the person is saying.

For instance, this morning we had two slides for school fundraisers, one for a golf tournament and one for a 5K race. Joshua, however, spent a good deal of time talking about the school itself before moving on to the details of the fundraiser. The golf tourney slide went up too early, probably because we were following the script and Joshua wasn't. I will encourage Josh to stick closer to his plans, but we need to be able to follow, too.

Now, to be completely fair, our playback operator this week was at a disadvantage. Due to late edits on the slides and changes to the order of the announcements, the presentations weren't ready until just 15 minutes before the service. This does happen on occasion. However, when you do have the time, please scan through them and get to know them.

Thanks so much, everyone. You all are the best volunteer teams a tech director could ask for. I am blessed to work alongside you each week for the sake of the kingdom of our Savior.

Comment below if you have any thoughts, questions, or suggestions.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Checklists

Ahhhh... Checklists!

I love checklists. I love checking the box and saying, "Done!" I live life out of my to-dos in Basecamp, which is just my tech geek way of doing checklists.

However, when I first started as Covenant Life tech director 6 years ago, I did something surprising. I threw away all the checklists.

What?! Why would I do such a thing?

Well, I learned that checklists have their weaknesses. And they are particularly dangerous when they get confused with instruction manuals. In an effort to serve our volunteers, the checklists were so detailed that they actually eliminated any need for knowledge about the systems.

"Plug this in here" and - voila! - it worked.

Sometimes.

The problems occured when the task on the checklist didn't make the system work. The folks trusted the checklist-instruction-manual so much that they never learned why they were doing the things on the list. The checklists enabled many of them to avoid actually learning about the sound system.

So, I took away the checklists and forced them to learn the process and be able to do it from their brains instead of from a piece of paper. They coped...and then learned...and then thrived.

Fast-forward six years to today.

For a few months now, my assistant Ben and I have been working on re-introducing checklists to the teams. We've noticed some routine "forgetfulness" errors that we think would be served by reminders and accountablity which are two things checklists do well.

Writing the checklists has taken a while because we wanted to include the volunteers so we didn't miss anything important. We also wanted to make sure that we created reminder checklists, not instruction manuals. With the help of many, I think we have succeeded in creating checklists that include everything important while still requiring people to know how the systems work.

Today and tomorrow we will pass them out for the first time. I'm looking forward to seeing how they impact the workload, the efficiency, and the effectiveness of our different volunteers. I'll try to keep you updated.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Psalms Series Backdrop, Part 2

Here are a few more from different angles...

Psalms Series Backdrop

Here are a couple pictures from Sunday, the first day of our new series, Psalms: Real Help for Real People. Thanks, Peter, for the shots!