Saturday, September 27, 2008

9.21 Reverb

"God does eternal good to our souls." That was one of Joshua Harris' themes in last Sunday's Message, God's Blessings in Salvation. If you were serving in Discovery Land or just weren't able to attend, please listen to Josh's exhortation to our church to be grateful for the unseen but very real benefits of God's saving grace.

What else happened this Sunday?
  • Singing - John David's band led
  • Announcements by Mark Mitchell (who was very sick, but you couldn't tell)
  • We welcomed Jamie Leach to the pastoral team.
  • Josh's sermon
  • Communion, led by Mark Mitchell
  • Singing - John David's crew came back for two more songs
I have very few notes from this Sunday. In fact, I have so few notes that I'm not even going to give a blow-by-blow account. All the volunteers did a wonderful job. Thanks, folks.

Instead, I just want to mention one big idea for each team that will serve as a reminder of some areas where we can still grow. Then, I need some of you to jump in and answer questions related to those topics. Comment away.

Sound - Creepiness
We have a creepiness problem. It's a sound team problem and a music team problem. Everyone creeps upstage and offstage. However, we need our musicians downstage and centerstage. The sound crews can help this by being very careful to make sure that we set up music stands and equipment so that the musician or singer - not the music stand - is standing in the place indicated on the stage diagram. We are still struggling with this regularly and across all the teams. Your turn: why do you think this a problem?

Lighting - Intelligent Design
Our lighting folks can grow in intelligent design. What does this look like? When deciding what light to use on a particular subject, the lighting tech stands on stage and chooses a light that is both unused and at the appropriate angle. He or she then aims that light at the subject. What does a less-thinking version of lighting design look like? When deciding what light to use on a particular subject, the lighting tech runs his finger along the bump buttons on the board until the floor lights up in the general area of the subject. Your turn: why is this design difference important?

Video - Self-Focus
Sometimes our camera operators can simply be too focused on others. Okay, I don't mean that in a spiritual sense. They need to pull their focus toward themselves more. This is especially true when someone comes up on stage during or immediately after singing. Regularly, a pastor comes up to speak and the background is in sharp focus but the pastor is slightly soft. Remember, camera ops, to be intentional about drawing that focus toward you. The foreground should be in focus and the background out of focus. Your turn: how does incorrect focus affect you when you are in the congregation?

Lyrics - Are You Leading?
We give the title of worship leader to a guy with a microphone on stage. But he's not the only leader in the process. Equally directive in the music leadership process is the guy or gal behind the lyrics computer. What do you think the congregation is going to sing when the slide is different than what the "worship leader" sings? Most likely, they will sing what they see not what they hear. With that in mind, it is especially important for lyrics operators to practice new songs with the band and make the extra effort to anticipate the worship leader's next move and get those words up early. Your turn: what's it like learning a new song at Covenant Life Church?

Thanks for participating, friends!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

9.14 Reverb

Covenant Life had a wonderful surprise this last Sunday when Mark Mullery taught us from Ephesians 1:3-6. CJ Mahaney came down with a virus, so Mark was the pinch preacher. At the last minute, we weren't sure he was going to be able to preach either, which you can hear more about when you listen to the message.

Comment request: what would you recommend we do in the service if a preacher doesn't show up for whatever reason?

Here's a reminder of what happened on Sunday:
Sound

Dave mixed in Julie's place this Sunday, and I thought everything went very well musically. Dave, thanks for finding out exactly when individual singers were going to take lines and practicing that aspect of the mix during the rehearsal. Those moments were more natural and less abrupt than they've been in the past, and I'm confident your preparation contributed to that improvement.

One note that Dave made on his checklist was to add a reminder for all mixers to set approximate gain levels on the handheld and headset mics as well as confirm that they working in the house. In order for this to be effective, whoever is assisting the mixer with testing those mics must speak up and use the mic as it will be used in the service. An almost-whispered "check-check-check" won't cut it, so hold that handheld up close or put the lav on your ear. Then talk loudly and long enough for the mixer to get a good gain set.

Finally, a quick note on noise gates. Noise gates are used on channels that have a hiss or fuzz, and they automatically turn off the microphone when it is not in use. Dave had one set up on the Rhodes this last Sunday because the amp seemed particularly noisy. This worked very well for the sound of the whole band, but its effect was odd when Ken tried to play the Rhodes softly behind someone talking. The sound was very fuzzy when Ken played but then it went away abruptly in between chords. In these cases, it may be better to de-insert the noise gate and lower the overall level to reduce the distraction. Even better, Ken changed to play the synth in the second service.

Lighting

This weekend was a sad moment for the lighting team. This was Ken G's last week behind the controls (for now!), and we'll miss him this next year. Thanks, Ken, for the years of service and leadership you've provided in the area of lighting. Please thank Ken when you see him and pray for the health of his extended family when you think of him.

As far as notes, I have only one for lighting operators. You can feel free to largely ignore the indications of what will happen at the end of the service. As you know, how we conclude the service is largely left up the Spirit's direction and the final content of the message. With that in mind, make it a practice to plan how you can smoothly get into both a worship look and a speaking look at the end, so that you are ready for anything. That way, if we change things up, you won't be struggling to find the right cue.

Video

And there was more sorrow up in the video room. It looks like this was the last Sunday for Peter to be a Video Producer. He's been a lifer so far, one of the originals, serving from day 1 of IMAG, but now the Lord has called him to other responsibilities on Sundays. We'll miss you, too, my friend. I'm glad I get to see you around the office and twitterland.

Only one note for video also. Here is a refresher from last week's reverb post:
We did have a couple instances when the cameras went live to the main screen before the shots were really ready. As a reminder to camera and house directors: make sure you talk about how you will communicate ready-ness. If you are a sub or working with another who is a sub, please meet ahead of time to discuss your normal practices and how you will communicate with each other.
In addition, house directors should listen to the camera director's communication with the camera operators when transitions are coming. If it sounds like the camera director is close to getting a new shot, the house director can pause just a moment longer before taking cameras live.

Thanks to all! Please add your comments or suggestions to the discussion.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Random Changes Instead of Reverb

I definitely feel out of practice.

It's been about six or seven weeks since I've been able to really do my job as technical director. At the end of July we had the Rebelution Conference immediately followed by WorshipGod08 immediately followed by a work day immediately followed by a 10-day beach vacation immediately followed by the Acts production immediately followed by 7-day family trip.

But now I'm back and I'm out of practice. The production teams picnic on Sunday (pictures forthcoming soon) threw me way off kilter. I both forgot to post the Sunday message online before leaving the building and forgot to gather all the checklists and my notes on the meeting. Therefore, I am not comfortable posting a reverb post today.

Instead, in honor of CJ's mantra "Constant Change is Here to Stay," I want to note a bunch of random changes that have piled up recently.

Iglesia Gracia Soberana de Gaithersburg | Covenant Life's most recent church plant, Iglesia Gracia Soberana de Gaithersburg, had it's first official service on Sunday, September 7th. This is probably the most local church plant ever done, with the new church meeting about 200 yards away from the planting church. Yep, that's right, they meet in our Events Center. With that in mind, I have an important note for all Events Center Discovery Land tech volunteers: do not tear down your equipment when Sunday is complete. Gracia Soberana will use your setup, which means you can leave a little bit earlier.

No More Spanish Interpretation | With the official launch of Gracia Soberana, we will no longer be offering simultaneous interpretation into Spanish during our Sunday services. That means that stage techs will no longer need to set up the mixer in the green room. The fuzzy rack will return to it's former storage location under the mezzanine.

New DVD Players in IMAG Suite | After a challenging Sunday a few weeks ago, we have installed two new DVD players in the IMAG suite. They are more well-suited to live playback with big buttons and easy removal of all on-screen notications. One note for playback operators: I have confiscated the remotes for the DVD players. Please plan to press the buttons on the machines, and do let me know if this causes any problems.

New Battery Procedure in the Auditorium | We are testing a new battery organization system in the auditorium. We now have three containers of batteries, indicated by a certain number of "bars," which is the measurement system our wireless beltpacks use to indicate battery level. 4-5 bars are essentially new and can be used in services. 2-3 bars are for rehearsals only. 0-1 bars will be recycled at the next convenient opportunity.

What does this change?
  • All new batteries will be in the "4-5 bars" bin, so don't look for new batteries in packages.
  • When you pull out a transmitter, please check its battery level to see if you have the appropriate battery level for your use.
  • If you are heading into a rehearsal and have 4-5 bars, please switch out the batteries for a lower set.
  • Preferably, when an event is over, remove the batteries from the transmitter and place in the correct bin.
  • For the wireless in-ear beltpacks, you will need to use one of the lavalier beltpacks as a "battery tester."
That's all for the changes today. The reverb post will come tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

8.31 Reverb

CJ Mahaney wrapped up our latest sermon series this Sunday with Don't Waste Your Sports. If you didn't get the chance to hear to this message, you can listen and apply online.

As a reminder of what the tech teams supported this last Sunday, here is a brief rundown of the service:
  • Three songs led by Ken Boer
  • Announcements by Josh Harris
  • Alpha promotional video
  • Welcome the new Pastors College class
  • Sermon by CJ Mahaney
This Sunday was a bit unusual due to the matinee performance of Acts that happened almost immediately after the 2nd service. Thanks to the sound and lighting crews for their unusual flexibility in working around the strange setup.

Also, special thanks to the video team, who put in extra effort to get a high-quality recording of CJ's message for Sovereign Grace. I do hope this message gets widely distributed because sermons on sports are a rarity.

Sound

The sound team did a great job this weekend, from my limited vantage point. As you will see, I was wrapped up in video issues all morning, so I'm not sure I have the most clear perspective. I only noticed one little glitch: the backup podium microphone was put out for the pastors instead of the regular podium handheld. This caught Dave by surprise because he was expecting the regular one. Thankfully, he caught the change within a sentence. Please make sure to use the regular podium mic (no labels) instead of the backup (with 2-2-2-2-2-2 on it's antenna) at all times.

Lighting

Lighting was ultra simple this weekend because we tried not to change anything from the play. Thanks, David, for doing double-duty between the play and Sunday to make everything happen smoothly.

Video

We definitely had some video complications this weekend, mostly related to equipment glitches:
  • The center graphics switcher wasn't switching both audio and video for a while. It took several reboots to make that work correctly again.
  • The DVD player audio was really weak, so we played one DVD off each of the two laptops. I plan to replace this DVD player soon, since we've had too many issues with it.
  • Computer 2 crashed at the beginning of the Alpha video in the second service. Thankfully, Josh is the master of spontaneous announcements. He was able to cover for the equipment failure. We definitely need to update those computers.
On the team operational side, everything went well. We did have a couple instances when the cameras went live to the main screen before the shots were really ready. As a reminder to camera and house directors: make sure you talk about how you will communicate ready-ness. If you are a sub or working with another who is a sub, please meet ahead of time to discuss your normal practices and how you will communicate with each other.

One little thing came up as a result of the special sovereign grace recording of CJ's message. The detail is known as safe area in the world of television video, and it is something we don't normally deal with because our video screen does not overscan.

Overscanning is somewhat of a relic of old tube televisions and happens when the cathode ray (which creates the actual tv image) moves beyond the edges of the screen. To make sure that everything a video director sees on his monitor actually translates to the television world, the video experts have identified suitable safe areas for action and for text. You can read more about them and see a picture here.

Because our video projector does not overscan, we normally don't have to worry about the red area, designated as invisible. We simply think of the whole screen as green and use the yellow area as text safe. However, since we were interested in getting the best video recording possible, we had to pretend there was an invisible area of the screen.

The best way to accomplish this is to simply zoom out a smidge on all cameras to allow for a bit more headroom and a little more room on the bottom. It may feel a little strange on the big screen, but people will adjust quickly and it will make for a better video recording.

Thanks, everyone, for serving this weekend. Leave your thoughts and comments here.

*Photo Credit: David Somerville