Tuesday, December 30, 2008

12.28 Reverb

This weekend was the first of two Sundays in the series, The Good Recession. Here's what happened:
  • Bob Kauflin played grand piano and led the singing with a string quartet and percussion.
  • Gary Ricucci shared about seeking to receive from God before making resolutions.
  • Mark Mitchell mentioned some announcements and then prayer for the people going to Uganda to serve and evangelize there.
  • Joshua Harris preached on The Folly of Greed. It was a strong message, and worth listening to again.
General Comments

Don't forget our mandatory meetings coming up in January. There are four meetings: two for the sound, lighting, and video teams; and two for the sermon audio team. Each team member (individuals, not families) must attend one of his or her team's two meetings. 34 of you have yet to sign up. You'll be getting an email soon to give you one last chance.

Also, because Sunday was between Christmas and New Years, a number of people were missing while traveling for the holidays. For the most part, all the team members did find replacements, but the situation prompts these reminders:
  1. Every role on the team is important. No role is optional. In both the auditorium and the events center, we definitely noticed those of you who were missing. Please know that your contribution is significant and not easily distributed to the people around you. If you were there on Sunday taking up the extra slack, thanks for your effort.
  2. Please remember that, by participating on this team, you have taken full responsibility to find someone to replace you when you are gone. I had several team members come up to me early in December and notify me that they were going to be gone. They followed that up by saying, well, nothing. I had to remind them to find a replacement. Thankfully, they all responded by following through.
  3. Please remember that, by participating on this team, you have taken full responsibility to find someone to replace you when you are gone. We had several people contact Latricia, after sending one email, saying that they were not able to find a replacement. When asked if they had called around, they had not. Please do call everyone if they don't at first reply to your email.
  4. Please reply immediately when someone emails you about substituting for them. A "no" is more helpful than no reply. If you do need to wait to consult your calendar or family, please reply immediately with a "maybe, but I'll need to get back to you." In that case, the person looking for the sub won't hesitate to follow up with you.
Thanks for making this extra effort to keep the team running smoothly.


The Cowan family gets props as the hardest working sound crew in town. Not only did they handle last Sunday, but they were also the majority of the sound crew for the Christmas Eve services earlier in the week. Thanks to you four, Nate, and Gavin for making such a busy time such a joy.

The soundcheck on Saturday seemed to get off to a late start, but that's probably because we had an undisclosed amount of percussion scheduled for the morning, and Bob let us know after he came in that Jordan would also be playing a small kit. Was there anything else that delayed the kickoff of soundcheck and rehearsal? I want to make sure we are maximizing rehearsal time for the musicians.

We had some holdover rentals from the Christmas Eve production: 4 DPA 4061 lavalier microphones for the string quartet. Honestly, I was not impressed with the results either at Christmas Eve or this Sunday. It seems like we can still get more gain before feedback with a well-placed large diaphragm condenser on a boom stand. Jim, what was your final verdict on them?

I had one mix critique, which is probably as much a critique of the instrumentation as the mix: the drum-percussion combo felt lonely. I really wanted to hear a bass guitar. I've become convinced that a kick drum without a bass guitar needs to be played and mixed very differently than one that has its partner with it. Neither the grand piano nor the cello can make up for the lack of tone in the low-end when it's just a kick drum down there. There was something just not quite right without the bass.


Lighting on Sunday was pretty much an extension of the Christmas Eve lighting setup. Everything went fine except one major planning failure on my part. The Uganda missions trip team lighting was not wide enough for the whole team. I didn't realize they were going to invite the entire team and all the pastors up for both services. Next time I'll remember to follow up on that more fully.


The pastorcam is here, and it is already making a difference. Hung over the center screen, this new remote camera looks down on the stage and the front row of pastors, allowing the video team to easily see when there is a person getting ready to come on stage or share from the ministry mic. On one occasion, Tony, at the house director position, was able to see Josh coming up before anyone prompted us via radio. Thanks, Tony, for keeping your eyes on the pastorcam and for letting us all know of the spontaneous change.

We've had some consistent issues for the last month or so with shading adjustments after the cameras are live. As a reminder to all Camera Directors and Assistant Directors, please use the waveform monitors to get the shading on the cameras right before taking those shots to the screen. Lighter skin tones should register at around 80% and darker skin tones should register around 70% on the waveform monitors. Remember, don't let the backdrop or a light shirt fool you. Video Producers and House Directors can help make sure this happens, too, by not letting underexposed shots go live.

Sometimes I ask for shading changes when I see a camera shot go live. My hope in that case is that we can get another shot shaded correctly, switch to that new shot, and then fix the one that's live. Please don't make changes live unless absolutely necessary.

My lack of planning on the Uganda prayer time hurt the video, too. The second service was better with Mark stage right instead of stage left. Even so, it was still difficult because Mark wasn't told which way to stand and which way to look. I'll try to do better on this next time.

I think that's it for my comments. What do you want to contribute to the discussion?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

12.21 Overdrive

Ben led the production teams again this last Sunday. Even though I mixed for both services, I decided not to steal his thunder this time, so I've limited my comments to the sound portion of the review.

This past weekend we had:


[From Dave] The sound crew did a great job this weekend. They were very patient as we waded through the last few steps of Christmas rehearsal on Saturday while they were supposed to be setting up. Thankfully, the setup was pretty simple. I want to thank Nate and Josh for taking the time to tidy up the unused orchestra pit. We left the chairs, stands, and mics in place for the Christmas Eve orchestra, which saved hours of setup later, but it was somewhat of a mess to start off. Had they not cleaned it up, we likely would never get the chance to do that again in the future.

On the mixing side of things, the first two songs of the first service were rough. The mix was thin and a 250Hz ring with no apparent source showed up at the end of the first song. I thought it was the acoustic guitar, so I soloed that instrument. Big mistake. The "Solo In Place" button was pushed, which shut off the entire mix except the acoustic guitar. New rule for me: No Solo In Place ever. I can't be trusted with it.

After the second song, the ring went away, the mix settled in, and all was well for the rest of the first and the second service.


This week, because we’ve had the drama set onstage, we had to modify the backdrop a little. The exit/entrance of the drama set was a tan colored cloth located upstage center. So in order to accommodate for the cameras and the IMAG screen we placed a strip light on the floor in front of the cloth to give it a brighter image. What we found as soon as we saw someone on camera during the first service is that the lights were far too bright, distractingly bright. So we modified it with a combination of turning down the iris from the video control room and turning down the strip light to about 40%. The main point is to beware of yellow lighting as your backdrop because, even if it doesn’t look high intensity to your eyes, it may translate that way through the cameras.


The video team did an outstanding job this past week. All the transitions were smooth and right on, and many of the cameras faded in from black right before the person on stage began speaking. One small thing Dave realized Sunday morning is that the "wall" of the drama set covered the bottom portion of the stage right side screen, meaning that we would need to modify the slides for announcements. To accommodate for this, the IMAG team simply shrunk the size of the slides. That’s really all that could be done in this situation.

Make sure to leave us your comments, encouragements, and suggestions, too.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

12.14 Overdrive

The Wilcox family had a first this weekend. For the first time since Meg was born over three years ago, we all came to church together, attended only one service, and then all went home together. Thanks, Ben and Bram, for leading the teams this weekend and allowing me to have the time with my family.

Since I wasn't there for all the activity, Ben has written this Overdrive post:

By way of review, this past week included:


The mixing, done by Julie, was crisp and clean last week. Having four singers in addition to the lead is not the typical set up, but Julie did an outstanding job bringing clarity to the vocals. Julie was working especially hard to make sure the mix was even throughout the room. Was there anything missing where you were sitting?


There was a minimal amount that could be done this past week to the lights due to the Christmas Eve production coming up. Dave did an excellent job utilizing what was available. He also mentioned that there are many times in which a small change needs to be made during the service itself. Have any other lighting operators experienced this?


There were a few very nice last minute catches by the video crew this week. Many small things happen week to week that are not planned, such as a pastor walking up on stage during a song to share a word, and the team does a great job handling those moments, especially when I myself don’t catch them.

Also, on a side note, if ever a piece of equipment is not working properly or not giving you signal, make sure it is plugged in to a power outlet. One of our main side projectors was not working 10 min before the first service, so I began thinking through all the possible problems, except the possibility of it not being plugged in. Thanks to Bram for troubleshooting that one.

I also wanted to make brief mention of a couple lyric projection items. And let me just say… working the lyrics and sermon notes is more difficult than you may think if you have not done it! You’re responsible for what a few thousand people will be viewing, so the whole timing/clicking the right button thing can be a stressful. Anyways…
  • One small note is to make sure during the sermon to leave the sermon notes, if any, up long enough for people to write them down. A good rule of thumb is to write it out yourself, with pen and paper (not in your head), slowly, three times before taking it down. (I’m sure it sounds minor, but if its left up too long or too short, people get distracted.)
  • And the second is to be aware of what is happening on stage, and primarily instructions that come from the stage (ex: Mike explaining about not showing a certain verse in the song in effort to memorize the lyrics). The easy tendency, as I myself know, is to stop paying close attention and engage in the time of singing. However, for the sake of serving others we need to be aware.
That’s all for me. As always, please leave your thoughts and feedback.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Auditorium House and Work Light Controls

Ben recently installed some new scoop work lights in the auditorium, based on a recommendation from Craig. We are controlling those new work lights through the dimmers instead of the switch-sliders in the back hallway. To explain the change, I put together a short video training segment on how to use the main auditorium house and work lighting control panel. Please watch this and post any questions you have in the comments.

Auditorium House and Work Light Controls from David Wilcox on Vimeo.

Friday, December 12, 2008

What a Band Likes (in a Stage Manager)

Devon led the band last Sunday morning, and he had such a great experience with the stage manager*, Kami, that he sent me this message:
Kami showed initiative, was reliable, joyful, and very helpful. Two things struck me in particular. First, just prior to getting started this morning, she went around and greeted everyone individually, letting them know that she was manning the stage and to let her know if they needed anything... Second, after the first service she went around and asked for feedback, then proceeded to write the feedback down. This was reassuring to see her not only ask for feedback, but to take note of it so she could follow-through.
This was Kami's first time as stage manager, and she was careful to point out that her whole team helped her to do her job. I'm especially grateful for Doc, who must have given her good instructions and training on what to do in this role. Thank you to the whole first week team and especially to Kami for blessing the band this last weekend with your work.

What interested me most about Devon's message is this: he doesn't mention the speed of the soundcheck or the perfection of his mix. What is noteworthy to him is the way Kami related to the band. She took the time to communicate with them, direct them as appropriate, and make sure she fulfilled her role to the utmost.

Recently, Ben asked all of our worship leaders how they thought our monitor teams could improve. We expected to hear about sound quality issues or mix details, and we did to some extent. But the overwhelming response was this: the band would be better served if the sound team communicated more and led more during the soundcheck process.

Little things like introducing yourself to the band, reminding them of your role, and taking responsibility for the soundcheck time are as important - maybe even more so - than the exact mixes the band members get in the end. Let's all try to follow Kami's example and serve the band by communicating well.

Here are some options for your consideration:
  • Introduce yourself to the band.
  • Introduce the rest of your team to the band.
  • Remind the band about the two-round process: gains first, then mixes.
  • Consistently let the worship leader know where we are in the process.
  • If there is a problem, explain what is wrong, who is solving it, and what to do in the meantime.
  • When all the gains are set, make sure to ask the band leader to have everyone play together.
  • When all the mixes are set, make sure to let the band leader know that soundcheck is officially done and rehearsal can officially start.
  • Ask regularly for critique and suggestions from the band.
  • Write down anything they suggest, so that you don't forget.
What other examples of good sound team communication come to mind?

*Terminology Note for Non-Covenant-Life Readers - We use the term stage manager in a non-standard way. This is a person on the sound team who leads the band in soundcheck and communicates what each band member needs to the person at the monitor board.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

12.07 Reverb

We kicked off the Christmas season at Covenant Life this past Sunday with a new sermon series, The Glory of the Incarnation. What a wonderful morning.

Here's what happened:

General Comments

For RSS readers, what you can't see is a video called 12.07 Reverb - General Comments. Please click through to the blog to watch, and leave me comments on the video. Could you hear it? Did it play back smoothly? Would you like to see more videos?

Sound and Staging

Dave was handling the mixing again this weekend and had his analog tube compression on the sub feed again. I honestly don't remember the mix very well, so feel free to send along your thoughts, as always.

Gavin heeded my recommendations from last week. He said he felt somewhat silly standing on stage with the band at the end of the meeting, waiting for Jeff to finish his closing prayer before removing the pulpit. However, coming from backstage and ending up on the floor was more smooth than coming up from the floor. Thanks, Doc!

I also wanted to mention that Kami did a fantastic job as stage manager this weekend. She served the band so well that Devon took the time to email me about what made her work stand out. God-willing, you'll hear more about this in days to come.


Alex worked really hard this weekend since we had a new set design. Thanks, Alex, for making all the adjustments to light the new background. I thought it looked really good, especially on the screen.

We will be making some adjustments to the set for next week. Julie suggested we move all the curtains to the back wall and change the gel color on the stable roof goboes.


The video team did another wonderful job this week. As I mentioned last week, this team does a great job communicating. The only thing I wrote down for the entire morning was that their communication demonstrates that they make getting any speakers on the screen a higher priority than shooting the music well. I love to shoot the music well, but it's definitely less important than getting speakers up on the screen promptly.

Tyler asked via his checklist (yes, I do read your checklist comments!) about the possibility of getting help from the pastors at the ministry mic to cue ministry mic moments. I checked with the pastors about this, and they agreed to give the camera 4 op a notification when someone has been approved to speak at the ministry mic. The process will look something like this:
  1. When a person comes to the pastor at the ministry mic to explain what they want to say, we'll get camera 4 set up for the ministry mic shot.
  2. If the pastor doesn't believe this is the right time for their idea, we go back to music operation.
  3. If the pastor goes to get final approval, we'll hang tight.
  4. When the pastor returns from getting final approval, he'll notify the camera 4 op, which will be our final word that it is going to happen.
Please keep in mind that there may not always be time for this to happen. We still need to be ready to act quickly without notice. However, this should give us a little more warning in most situations.

On a more technical note, video producers and camera directors should check the controls on the camera switcher before the service begins. Sometimes the switcher is set to a wipe mode instead of dissolve. To change it, repeatedly press the "Take Select" button next to the T-bar until it says "Dslv :5" in the display.


Dawn and Bethany did an excellent job with the lyrics. Lyric operators, keep in mind that the worship leaders don't always know what you need to know. One question that you can ask the worship leader each time is this: Are there any songs that will not start on verse 1? We often get caught when they start with the chorus or with a different verse. The only way you'll know is to ask.

That's it for me. What blessed you from Sunday? What do you think could have been better?

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

11.30 Reverb

Last Sunday was another wonderful morning together. Somehow, it seems like months away to me already, so here's a recap for me, if for no one else:

General Comments

First, our little camera 5 is still missing. If you have any idea where it might be, please let me know today. We will be moving forward with an insurance claim soon if we don't find it.

Second, I believe we had the largest non-drama, single-weekend death-toll of E6 microphones in our history. We broke four E6 microphones on Saturday and Sunday. These mics are $325 new, and the repair costs add up quickly. Please make every effort to take care of these mics. When a person dons that mic pack, they are carrying around a $1000 tithe check.


Dave, thanks for all the work you've been putting in to using your tube compressors to get better subwoofer control and impact. I think you're making some really good strides. Can you explain your thought process behind it for the rest of the team to know and learn from?

After listening through both services, I think there may have been too much sub energy relative to the "higher" frequencies in the instruments in the subs. For example, the bass guitar was powerful, but the tone was missing. I don't necessarily think they need less low frequencies, but instead more high frequencies, or at most 30% less sub and 70% more high.

Three quick staging notes:
  • If we are going to sing after the sermon, the sound crew should be rearranging the stage during the closing prayer, not after it. We want to have the ability to go right into the song immediately after the amen, even if the closing pastor comes up to talk before we sing.
  • New! | Whenever possible, come from backstage to do the stage changes instead of coming up from the seating area. This will probably mean heading back to the green room during the last point of the sermon. When the prayer starts, head out there. If you need to bring the pulpit up from the floor, obviously you'll need to start in the front row.
  • The pulpit should come up first and come down last. When the pulpit is coming up, please bring it up, then do any other stage changes required, then head backstage. When the pulpit is coming down, come from backstage, do any other stage changes first and then bring the pulpit down. This minimizes the trips up and down the stairs.


I really feel like we're locking in well on lighting. Thanks, guys. We're hitting the mark really well each week. Just stay sharp. The stage backdrop will be changing this week and again in January, so you'll need to be thinking harder these next couple months.


The video team performed as close to a flawlessly as I've seen. Why? Communication. This team excels in its communication, especially the house and camera directors. Eddie, who is now the camera director, used to be a house director, so he knows what Tyler needs to know as house director. They are talking through every transition as it happens, and it makes a huge difference. Add to that some excellent camera work, great shading by the AD, and accurate slide playback, and it was a great morning. Thanks, all!


We've added an item to the SundayPlus operator checklist: run the countdown clock. If you don't know how to do it, please let Ben or me know. In short, you press play on the DVD player, choose input three on the local switcher, and you've got a countdown. Don't forget to switch back to input 1 or 2 immediately when the countdown hits 00:00. You can see the timer on the small television by the sound board intercom light.

What would you like to say about this last Sunday?

Monday, December 01, 2008

Anger in the Booth

Chris from Behind the Mixer wrote up a recent experience he had with anger in the sound booth.

I can relate, believe me.

How do you deal with anger as you're serving, and then afterward?