Tuesday, June 24, 2008

6.15 and 6.22 Reverb

It may seem like the reverb is muted these days and that life in the Covenant Life production teams mix is really dry. For that I apologize. I've been trying to cram entire weeks into a few days in order to take extra time off. Last Thursday and Friday I attended the wedding of one of my wife's friends. This weekend we're off to Louisville to visit my father, step-mother, grandmother, and step-sister. Please forgive me for missing last week's post and for combining the two into one today.

The last two weeks were the final messages in our sermon series on the Psalms. Don Devries spoke on fatherhood on the 15th out of Psalm 78 and Brian Chesemore spoke on the worshiper out of Psalm 95. If you missed either message, they are already available online here. Just a note to interested parties: Covlife.org 4.0 - our new website - launches this coming Sunday, so goodbye sermons page. Hello, resource library.

The last two Sundays were a couple of the smoothest in recent record, and I don't think that's just because I've forgotten so much in the posting delay. In light of how well they went (and how much I have forgotten), I won't go into area by area critique. Here are some of the points worth mentioning, though.

A Sunday Off - On the 15th, I had my first Sunday "off" ever while I was in town. Ben and Bram led all the aspects of the Sunday meeting. I had a radio on, but I just sat with my wife during the first service and tried to stay out of the way in the second. This coming Sunday, June 29th, Ben will lead while I'm on vacation, and probably in July I'll have my first "normal" Sunday experience in a very long time. Thanks, guys!!

Baptisms - The baptisms were fantastic this weekend. We didn't miss any microphones thanks to Nate and Julie. And the camera shots worked the best yet. We set up a rigid shot structure for the baptisms, which I think is worth mentioning here:
  1. Worship leader asks people to sit - Cam 1 tight on worship leader
  2. Introduce baptisms - Cam 4 tight on pastor
  3. Testimony - Cam 4 tight on the baptism candidate
  4. "In light of your profession..." - Cam 5 three-shot of pastors and candidate
  5. Out of the water - Cam 1 medium wide shot for modesty
  6. House director takes blank "logo" slide live
  7. Next person gets in - Cam 2 wide shot for transition.
  8. Next Testimony - Cam 4 tight on the speaker
  9. House director takes cameras live
  10. Repeat steps 3 through 9 until last person comes out of water, then replace step 6 with..
  11. House director takes lyrics live for immediate singing
We will go over this again with each camera crew as baptisms arise in the future.

Window Blinds Open - Due to popular demand, we tried running videos the last few weeks with the window blinds open. Did anyone notice? If so, what did you think? Please, please, leave your comments here. We really do need your reply on this one (because our staff is torn).

The Choir Returns - Not only did we have a choir this Sunday, but we had a choir that returned after the sermon. Nate, Patrick, and Christie were flying to get those mics back up during the sermon's closing prayer. Thanks for knocking it out, and thanks to Dave - one of our combo choir/sound volunteers - for making the last-minute adjustments on them.

One quick thought on being on stage: When any tech volunteer goes up on stage, it is helpful if you communicate two things with your body language and facial expression: 1) I'm supposed to be here; 2) I'm happy to be here. In other words, stand up straight, walk with purpose, and smile (you may just be on camera!).

That is really all I have to share at this point. Maybe I'll think of more details and post them in the comments. But I know you have some more thoughts, so add them.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

6.8 Reverb

Praise God for another wonderful Sunday at Covenant Life Church! I always enjoy Youth Sunday, when we get to hear and see how God has been at work in our high school students. Thanks to all the volunteers who made this weekend happen.

Here's a rundown of the morning to refresh your memory:
  • Singing let by Brett
  • Announcements by Adam
  • Senior Challenges by Sarah, Tim, and Josh
  • One fine sermon by Matt Maka (listen here soon)
  • A review of the 10:31 awards. Congrats John and Julie

Equipment Malfunctions


Before we get into some executional notes, I wanted to mention that we had an interestingly rough weekend when it came to equipment failures. These issues may be related to the two power outages that we encountered due to last week's storms. Or they may be unrelated. But in any case, I thought it might be wise to let you all know what happened, so that we'll all be prepared to handle these types of things in the future.
  • Unsynced Audio/Video Switching - The graphics switcher controller had been having some issues all week, and a new one came up on Sunday. The controller on the table was not able to change the switch type (audio, video, or both) on the actual switcher in the rack. The solution was to reboot the system by powering off all three units (two graphics switcher and controller) and then restarting them (graphics switchers first and then controller). I still had to manually set the switch type to "both" (A/V) on the graphic switcher, but the switcher then followed the controller correctly.
  • Sound System Power Sequencer - Kenneth came up to me at the beginning of the first service saying that the sound system didn't seem to be working correctly on the left side of the house where he was standing. I was skeptical at first, but after a visit to his seat, I thought he could be right. I went back into the amp racks, and - sure enough - two amps for the left side of the system were not powered on. I wiggled a couple of the relay cables on our power sequencer, and - "click" - they came back on. Good ears, Kenneth! For the time being, there will be an added item on the audio producer checklist to confirm that all the amplifiers are powered on.
  • Camera 2 Intercom - For some reason the camera two intercom wasn't working at the beginning of the first service. Everything was set correctly. The solution was to press the camera power source select switch further into its correct position (up to RM). It's a little scary that it was in position but not fully engaged, but it seemed to work for the rest of the morning without any problems. If this happens again, please make sure I know since we'll need to have the camera serviced. Also, checking the intercom is a part of each camera operators checklist. We could have resolved this earlier, if we had checked it before the service.
  • Acoustic Guitar Wireless Connection - For the sake of stage cleanliness, we ran the acoustic guitar completely wireless on Sunday. However, it ended up not working throughout the first service. The wireless transmitter was functioning correctly and the cable was connected tightly, so Mitch suspected the problem was in the guitar itself. I never heard where that ended up. Does anyone know what actually happened, and was it ever fully resolved?
  • Camera Image Frozen - A small thing that I still can't explain occurred during the senior challenges: the camera image froze for about five seconds on the center screen. Any ideas why that happened?
  • Video Projector Lamp Explosion - To my shock and disappointment, the video projector lamp exploded between services. Please read more here.
  • DVD Video Input Sizing - Probably due to the power outage, the graphics switcher lost the sizing information for our DVD player. During the first service, several of the lower third names were cut off on the sides. I resized these during the second service without any problem. Video folks, if you see this happen during rehearsal, please let me know, so that I can resolve it before everyone else sees it, too.
  • Ultimate Support Keyboard Stand Collapsed - As we were tearing down after the services, I heard a crash in the sound storage closet. Mitch was putting the P120 keyboard away, and the ultimate support keyboard stand loosened and began sliding/falling down the stand, eventually dumping the keyboard on the floor. Thankfully, Mitch was unharmed, and he somehow managed to brace the P120 for the impact. This is the second time something similar has happened, and I think I know why: the new rolling keyboard cart is the culprit. Sort of. I don't think those keyboard stands were intended to hold keyboards for long periods of time (days on end) without being retightened. Add to that fact that we often put sideways pressure on the attachment when we push the whole cart by the end of the keyboard. Over time this will loosen the attachment point. So, for now, let's make sure not to push the cart by the keyboard itself. Push the cart or the primary upright support.
Now, to be honest, with all these things going on throughout the morning, I had little time or energy left to make notes on the actual execution of the service, but here are a few thoughts. Make sure to leave yours here, too.

Overall Comments

While I thought everything went well this last Sunday, I did have the sense that things were a little less "fine-tuned" than usual: missing a couple mic cues, lyrics coming up late, video elements coming up on the wrong screens. It could be that I didn't do my due diligence to lead the Youth Department in finalizing the Sunday details appropriately. But I think, too, that we were either a little overwhelmed or a little too loose mentally. Anyone agree or disagree?

Sound

Special thanks go to Mitch's sound crew for handling the whole morning minus two people! Their team is naturally short a person and then they had one person call in very sick. Setup went smoothly, and it seemed like rehearsal did also. Any notes from the sound crew?

Dave, I am really liking your mixes these days. I didn't get to listen intensely critically, but I was really happy with the overall feel of the mix. The bass sounded nice, I could hear the guitars, and I could follow Brett's vocal easily. Do know what decibel level we were maxing out at? It seemed reasonable to me, but I did get a couple "complaints" that it was louder than usual. I think they were sensing the intensity of the bass more than the overall volume.


Lighting

David, it was great getting to spend a casual evening setting up on Saturday. Thanks for sharing a bit of your life and for your personal encouragement. I have zero lighting notes from this weekend, so consider this silence as approval, and feel the pleasure of God in your service.


Video

I only have one note for the video crew: we have a system issue that I have yet to resolve that affects how we roll-in videos. The audio doesn't always dissolve correctly when we transition from a source to the BLK input (and vice versa). If you want to dissolve from black into or out of a video, make sure to choose another input that is blank rather than BLK (usually In8 will work fine). Let me know if you have any questions.


Your Comments Needed

Now it's your turn. Send your comments in here.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Video Explosion

Unfortunately, the title of this post is not hyperbole for an increase in the use of video in Covenant Life's Church services. We literally had an explosion this Sunday.

Our main video projector lamp exploded, as you can see in these pictures.



Most of the glass remained in the lamp housing, but enough of the smaller pieces came through two layers of vents to make a mess on the floor. The speckles on the black rack in the picture above are shards of glass left over after we vacuumed.

I'm grateful for several things, which I take as gifts from God:
  1. This is our rear-projection screen, so the glass didn't come down on the congregation.
  2. The lamp exploded sometime between services, so we didn't have any down time.
  3. We noticed the problem early enough to fix it.
Nevertheless, I have a few questions:
  • Has this ever happened to anyone else?
  • Does anyone know what might have caused this?
  • Less importantly, can I expect a free replacement lamp, given that we were just over 1/2 of the expected lamp life?
I am going to leave the projector manufacturer name off the post until I get to speak to the company personally. However, I will likely post again after speaking to them to let you all know how they respond.

I'm disappointed, to say the least, and this incident makes me hesitant to ever put one of these projectors out over an audience for front-projection. If we upgrade our video screen systems again, we will have to go front projection, and this situation will sway me toward other manufacturers if not sufficiently resolved.

Please leave a comment if you have any experience or suggestions on this.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Mark Dever on Videos in the Church

Mark Dever of 9Marks Ministries has posted his ideas on use of videos in church services. Please read it, pray about it, consider it closely, and - if the Lord leads - comment there.

I have yet to formulate my response to his suggestions, but I know that his ideas challenge much of what we are doing at Covenant Life right now. Such challenges are great, as they sharpen my thinking on the topic.

If you have any discussion that you want to bring to undistract based on his post, comment away.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

6.1 Reverb

It's been a couple weeks between Reverb posts, due to Na last weekend, but it's good to be back. I want to thank Bram, Gavin, Jim, Pat, and Ken who led the tech teams during my absence on 5.25. From all reports, things went well, even if not flawlessly. Ben and I learned a lot about how to prepare for these times away.

The first Sunday services in June included the following elements:
The morning went very smoothly, so thanks to everyone for all the effort involved. Here are some reverberations from the weekend (which won't be complete without your comments).


Sound - Overall Comments

Setup seemed to go well this weekend. One thought: the crew - with my approval - broke to eat dinner at 6:00p before doing a line check. While that seemed like it would be plenty of time to eat and get back for line checks, it did make the arrival of the musicians a little more stressful as they set up and we tried to run line checks at the same time. I would suggest to myself and all other teams to complete both headphone and input line checks before eating dinner.

I thought the mix this weekend was great. Thanks, Dave, for making the low-end impacting but not overwhelming and for working to create a warm, full vocal ensemble sound. I think you accomplished several of the goals we've been working toward as mixers.

There are dangers with having a warm, vocal ensemble sound rather than a brighter, leader-up, bgvs-behind mix. One is loss of a worship leader's vocal direction to the congregation. A couple times I thought that Mike's direction was a little hard to hear. But I don't always trust my assessments because I have a radio earbud in one ear and a headset over the other. Any thoughts from the team?

Another DPA headset mic note. While the new headset mic is great, it seems to have a tendency to stray toward the back of the head. I'm not sure if this is just placement by the audio producers, or if it is actually moving when the pastor sings, or (most likely) both. But we need to get the mic closer to the corner of the mouth. It is more sensitive to plosives than the Countryman E6s, so it cannot be out in front of the mouth. But it needs to be closer or we won't get enough gain before feedback.


Lights - Overall Comments

I don't have any notes on lighting whatsoever. I did get a comment after the 2nd service that there was either a stray or "fallen" light in the worship cue. Let that be a reminder to do a visual double-check all cues on Sunday morning.


Video - Overall Comments

All the video elements went very smoothly this weekend also. Both DVDs read correctly in the player and their playback was flawless. Thanks, team, for not rushing either the in or the out.

I also want to thank Steven on camera 4 for implementing the recommendations on ministry mic pre-service setup that I wrote about here. The shots of the ministry mic were locked in so fast. Excellent!

My only suggestion this week is the never-ending persnickety one: I'd still like to try to get the initial camera shots up faster. Many times, this challenge gets pegged as the problem of the house directors, but the entire team can help them out. Here's the process that needs to happen:
  1. Dave, Ben, or Bram reminds team (or informs them) that someone is coming up.
  2. Camera director assigns camera to get shot.
  3. Camera operator gets shot framed and focused.
  4. Assistant director gets shot shaded correctly.
  5. Camera director takes shot and notifies house director of ready status.
  6. House director takes the shot to the main screen before his first word.
If we are all listening carefully and on our A game, I think we can do this in 15 seconds. Would you agree? If so, let's make this our lofty goal: If we have a 15-second notification, we will get a perfect shot up prior to the person speaking. Please post your "whoa, wait a minute!" comments.

Thanks, friends! Don't forget to share your thoughts, and do have a great week! I'll see you on Sunday, if not before.

Domain Confusion Resolved At Long Last

At long last, I've finally sorted out why my old domain - www.undistract.net - was not forwarding correctly. Please forgive the empty pages that you saw over the weekend. Now, you can find undistract at all the following addresses:

http://undistract.com
http://undistract.net
http://www.undistract.com - this is the official home
http://www.undistract.net

Thanks for your patience!