Tuesday, May 13, 2008

5.11 Reverb

Last Sunday was Mother's Day, so I want to send a particularly loud, "Thank You", to the wives and mothers who served this weekend on the production teams.

Moms serving on their special day include Julie, Kathe, Dolores, and Lani. Thanks for being willing to lay down your lives even when you are supposed to be resting. God will honor you really well in heaven, believe me!

We also had several wives who allowed their husbands to serve. Susanna, Marlia, Kathy, and Amanda: thanks for giving up your husbands and handling the kids on Mother's day. A mother's job never ends, does it? Thanks!

I want to honor my wife, Cara, who serves our entire church each and every weekend by joyfully shouldering 100% of the responsibility for our two little ones so that I can lead our tech teams. I love you, babe!

If you weren't here on Sunday, were on the video team, or were in Discoveryland, you can hear Josh's message about motherhood here. It should be posted soon.

My notes on this Sunday were sparse, which is a great thing. It means that I noticed very few distracting problems and that this Sunday went particularly well. [Post-writing note: somehow, in spite of the sparse notes, this is a really long post. Just a warning, and thanks for reading!] Here are some reverberations from the weekend...

Overall Notes

I was reminded this Sunday that those of us on the staff planning side need to have a more consistent list of questions to ask the worship leader each Sunday. We need to know when they will talk during the song set and what band members will be returning at the end of the service. Ben and I will try to keep better track of this so that we can program lights and plan for video transitions more accurately.

I am pleased to announce that we have added a new feature to our video system that just went fully live this last Sunday. We are now broadcasting on three different channels throughout the building. This gives people in different rooms the option to watch what they want from the auditorium. In the long-run, we are going to install picture-in-picture televisions in some rooms so that they can watch, for instance, both the camera shots of the musicians and the song lyrics at the same time.

This does have some implications for the video team, however. The main change in activity is that the column "spycam" is now being broadcast at all times on Ch. 4. Whatever you are watching via the spycam is now available for others to see as well. Please don't let this hinder you from using the spycam for legitimate video team sight into the auditorium. However, it should return to it's stage+screens shot (preset 4) whenever it's not being used for some other purpose. And now is the time to stop using it to see if your friends and family are somewhere in the auditorium.

Also, as a reminder, the video team does need to set the audio volume level for the video broadcast. This used to be more intuitive when the recording audio levels and the broadcast audio levels were located in basically the same place. Now they are separated. The broadcast audio level control is right above the mixer that controls what you are hearing in the control room. As a general rule, whenever the service changes from music to speech, we need to change the audio level. If you have to turn up the volume to hear the person talk, please also check the audio levels to the broadcast. Make sure the green lights on the output meter are bouncing around zero decibels. This is officially a playback operator responsibility, but assistant directors can be of great help also if the playback op is over by the recording station.

And while we are on the topic of audio levels in video land, Tony wrote in this comment to last Sunday's reverb post that I didn't get to answer:
"We can't see what's going on upstairs, are totally dependent on house audio being at the right volume, and if everyone else is talking in the room, as the Camera Director usually is, and add to that they are usually not sure when exactly the leadership wants the image up (is it right when they say the magic word, which one, or after, how long after, and how long to keep it up)."
Tony is expressing a legitimate concern here, that demonstrates an area where I think we can grow. Certainly, our video control room is cut off from what is happening in the auditorium, but we need to work extra hard to overcome that limitation. We must not assume that there's nothing to be done or - worse yet - to use that separation as an excuse to check out from the service.

We should be tenacious to make sure that the audio level for the control room is at a proper listening level at all times. If you can't hear what is being said or sung, please either make the change to the audio level or ask someone to do it.

We also need to be diligent and tenacious to keep one ear and one eye on what is happening right now even as we prepare for what is happening next. Don't get so wrapped up in what is happening next that you lose sight of the present. I know that's a balancing act, but I think you all are up to the challenge!

Finally, I have the sense that - occasionally - our video teams use the freedom to talk as a license to talk about things unrelated to the work of supporting the church service, things like sports, work, children, websites, or even video tech stuff. There's nothing wrong with talking about these things, but we should be focused on what the pastors are saying from the stage at all times. Video producers, please make sure you are setting the example in this area.


The week 2 sound team did a fantastic job handling the orchestra this weekend. Thanks to Mitch, Frank, Bob, Dan, and Gavin for taking the extra time to get everything set up correctly. One huge blessing was that every single orchestra mic was plugged in correctly the first time. That's a huge time-saver, and it made rehearsal so smooth!

Julie, the orchestra sounded tremendous. I really loved the fullness of the cellos and the smooth sound you got from the higher strings. If you have any notes as to how you accomplished that, I'm sure the other mixers would love to know. Post them here, or I'll pick your brain soon, both for future Sundays at Covenant Life and for my own mixing at Na in two weeks.

Just a note to all mixers on orchestras, choirs, and the like. I've noticed a trend when we have a high number of open mics on acoustic instruments. When no one is in the room the acoustic sound is able to reach FOH more easily. But when rehearsal ends and people come into the room, the overall volume at FOH goes down a little and we push the levels into feedback. Typically after a song or two, we adjust mentally and bring the levels back down so that we're not on the edge of feedback.

A few suggestions:
  1. During rehearsal take some extra time, as much as possible, to get more gain before feedback than you think you need. Make it louder in the house than you really want it. Then when it drops, you'll be in a more comfortable range.
  2. I recognize that sometimes we can't get the level out of choirs or orchestras that we normally expect from a Sunday band. Do everything you can to get the gain, but if you need to settle with a slightly lower volume, don't push it. Being on the edge of feedback for the majority of a service or even a song isn't worth it.
  3. Finally, have it in your mind that these elements will seem softer when we start the service with people. Just thinking about it will help you restrain yourself from pushing the levels into feedback at the start.
One small note to audio producers. Since we changed to the DPA headset mic, the speaker's microphone is often too far behind his mouth. I can see how this would happen, given the way the headset is made. Please make sure, though, that the mic element is about a half inch behind the corner of the speaker's mouth.


The lighting was right on this weekend. I didn't have a single note except that I need to talk to worship leaders about who is coming up at the end of the service. Thanks, Dave. Any comments from the rest of you?


The video crew did an amazing job this weekend. Most importantly, given our recent discussions, they nailed the Psalms video roll-in. It was perfect. There was a slightly longer pause at the beginning of the video in the first service, but it was not a problem at all from my perspective. I'll ask this afternoon if it seemed too long to anyone on staff.

Peter, what tips do you have for the other video teams? Do share, my friend!

Camera 2 operators, I have some notes for you, based on some challenges common to all the teams. You have a difficult job because you have the wider shot and you tend to be the go-to camera when the pastor moves. Here are some framing and following ideas:
  • You have the medium shot, and it should include the entire pulpit top and the pastor, but it shouldn't be much wider than that. If you've got someone who moves a lot, you can go a touch wider.
  • You also have an angle that requires the pastor to be framed up on the right side of the screen. If he turns to his right (our left), you'll need to frame him even more right than the 1/3 line on the screen.
  • This means that you have to be ready to "rock." When the pastor steps back, you must move back with him. Please don't try to frame empty space back there. No matter how it's done, it always looks funny.
Also, because you are the go-to camera for movement, please be ready to move all the time. I frequently see something happen that I would narrate this way:
Camera Director: Take Two.

Camera 2 Operator: Whoa, red light. Red light means I'm live. I better grab that camera and follow.

Video Screen: Whoa. Jerky shot.

Congregation: Whoa, that's distracting.
Three suggestions to eliminate this distraction:
  1. Camera directors, please always make a ready call for camera 2.
  2. Camera ops, please keep following all the time.
  3. And don't take your hands off the camera unless you really need a rest.


And now, at the end of a very long post, a quick thought for SundayPlus operators: If the quote wraps over multiple slides, always break the quote at the end of a sentence. If absolutely necessary break the quote at a comma or other "thought pause." Please don't break the quote in the middle of a thought. I should have caught this before the first meeting, but I didn't look closely enough at the quotes.

Comment Away

These posts have gotten the highest number of comments of anything I've ever written on my blog, so keep the ideas coming. They are very helpful and always provide good food for thought for me and the other team members. So, comment away!

1 comment:

Peter Bang said...

Thanks Dave for leading us and various heads up with extra lead time this past Sunday. After making some major mistakes in the past I'm glad our team nailed it this time. With Dave's leadership what we did different was we rehearsed the Psalms video playback at 8:30am with the lighting and audio team. It's important that the House Director knows the beginning and end of the movie. Here are the steps we took to playback.
1. Cue up the DVD at 8 sec.-that's two seconds before the actual audio of the movie begins.
2. At the last word from the pastor giving the announcement House Director dissolves to DVD which will be a black screen(b/c it's paused at 8 sec. mark).
3. Looking at the spy cam., right about when the light completely dims in the auditorium, I cued the Playback to play the movie.
4. While the movie is playing, House Director changes preview screen to black.
5. Listen for the end of the music of the movie, dissolve to black and if you have a clear shot of the speaker, then put him up.