Saturday, December 05, 2009

Reverb with a Long Delay

OK, so I haven't posted a Reverb (Sunday-in-Review Post) in quite a while. That is to my shame. In fact, so much has changed since my last Reverb post, that instead of an actual review post, I'm just going to make note of some of the things that have changed and some of the things that haven't. Here we go...

What's Changed?

Sound
  • The Standard Input List - We've adjusted our standard input list in the main auditorium to more accurately reflect what we do on a normal Sunday. We've also added some extra channels to the drum area to have two kick mics, two snare mics, and a permanent click line.
  • Networked Recorders - We've moved the Fuzzy Rack and the Portable Recording system permanently into the sermon media office. This allows us to fully utilize the networkability of their flash card recorders. When you retrieve them for an event, you will find them powered on and plugged into the network. When you return them from an event, please leave them setup exactly as you found them. Plug the network cable in first, then power on the unit. Your recording will be automatically transferred to our network.
  • Fuzzy Rack Aux Outputs - The Fuzzy Rack has a new addition, a six-channel headphone amp. This will be used by the Youth Band Training which the music department began this last month. The rack has been rewired, so that Aux Outputs 1 through 4 go to BOTH the XLR output jack on the back panel and the corresponding headphone amp. In essence, those of you who use it to run monitors will not see a change, but now we've added the option for local headphones for the Youth Band Training.
Lighting
  • Permanent Floor and Steps Wash - Intern John recently "permanentized" a wash that covers the stairs and the floor area in front of the stairs. We'll use this for any groups on the stairs like kids choirs or new members. It is also available on a submaster for those surprise moments, like when Dr. Grudem walked down into the congregation. These lights are labelled in the catwalk, so please don't move them for other purposes without consulting me first.
  • Ministry Mic Footlight - In order to eliminate the shadows on the face of people at the ministry mic, we've added a footlight at the base of the camera 4 tripod. While we are still experimenting with the best type of light, I think we're going to stick with a Source4 Parnel for now. That light plugs into dimmer 133 in the floor pocket on the baptistery side of the stage and has already been added to the submaster at the appropriate level.
  • Standard Submaster Programming - Over time, our page 1 submaster set had become jumbled, cluttered, and disorganized. So, it has been completely reprogrammed and relabelled. Please note that there are four "weekly" submasters labelled "band," "backdrop," "spec," and "spec." These are for you to reprogram on a weekly basis. For instance, you can light the band, program the submaster, and then easily call up all of your band lights at the correct levels later as you program cues. The same is true for the backdrop and any other specials you may create.
Video
  • Camera 4 Exit Sign Blocker - If you have wondered what that black paddle-looking thing is among the drum set, it's our new exit sign blocker for camera 4. When carefully placed at just the right spot, it blocks the view of the exit sign from only the camera. Camera 4 operators, it is now your job to set up the sign blocker. Please find that new item on your checklist and let one of the producers know if you have a question on how to do it.
  • Camera 5 Converter is Back - At long last, we have received our Cam5 converter back from repair. This means that Cam5 actually shows up in the Cam5 spot on the camera switcher. No more crawling under the table to switch to Cam5!
  • Producers Desk - By popular demand, the video producer desk is no more. This opens up the video production suite significantly and makes it easier for the video producer to work hands-on with the equipment as necessary. Please let me know if we can improve this arrangement any more.
Sermon Media
  • No More Minidiscs - After about ten years of relying on minidiscs as our primary recording medium, we have finally done away with them fully. All the sermon recorders need to do now is record directly into the computer. If there is a computer failure, we have a backup recording running on the autorecorder in the auditorium sound booth which will be available on the network about 15 minutes after the second service ends.
  • Print the DVDs for the Video Team - OK, so this isn't a change as it is a reminder of a past change that hasn't really taken hold. Please make sure you get here no later than 8:45, so you can print the discs, deliver them to the IMAG suite, and then get back to record the service.
  • New Disc Storage Locations - We've been adding and adding more responsibilities to the sermon media team, so you are ending up with a whole heap of discs at the end of the day. All discs have a right location in the room for storage now, so nothing should end up on my desk. I'll be making a video soon to show you where everything goes.

What Hasn't Changed?

Since so much has changed, I thought I'd mention a few things that haven't changed in the last few weeks:
  • Snow - Our snow policy hasn't changed, so remember the three rules: 1) The church rarely cancels anything unless it's iced over; 2) Even if the church is "closed due to weather" on Saturday night, preparations for Sunday will likely continue. We will call you if Saturday prep is canceled. If you don't hear from us, please try to get here; 3) Don't risk your life. If you are really uncomfortable driving, call me and we'll figure out a way to cover for you.
  • Dress Code - As a reminder, we have a basic dress code for the production teams. This applies to everyone, but especially to folks in the sound booths (main or monitor) and the camera operators. Please avoid shirts with large words on them or with large, recognizable logos. We want to be invisible to the congregation.
  • You Are The Best! - Thanks for consistently serving the gospel message with excellence, joy, and faith for the glory of God.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

11.1 Reverb

We had another great Sunday at Covenant Life:
  • We sang together led by an "acoustic" band, which for us means drums, percussion, bass, grand piano, and two acoustic guitars.
  • Twenty-seven parents dedicated their children to the Lord.
  • We learned about some events coming up that are high priorities for the pastors.
  • We heard from Josh Harris on The Woman of Valor from Proverbs 31 (listen and apply, if you weren't able to be there).

General

First, let me thank all the members of the production teams because this is the second Sunday in the last month when no one outside of the production staff had any feedback whatsoever for the teams. As far as everyone else on the Sunday Planning Team, these two Sundays went flawlessly. And this last Sunday, I also had almost no notes at all. Thanks to you all for the undistracting excellence you are bringing to our church services each week.


Sound

Late night Saturday setup after the Harvest Party offered us a moment of a nostalgia as the Week 1 Sound Team remembered back to the days when the 10:31 Youth Ministry Meetings required them to set up from 9:30-11:30pm almost every month. And that moment quickly disappeared into gratefulness as we reveled in the fact that we'd get an extra hour of sleep Saturday night! Thanks, Aaron, Christie, Karen, and Caleb for coming in late on Saturday and early on Sunday.

The mix for the acoustic band was great, Julie, especially in the second service. I know the band worked hard on arrangements because I could hear their intentionality through the mix. Be Still My Soul was particularly nice because the percussion elements were layered so sweetly. Thanks for bringing a careful ear to this unusual band, Julie.


Lighting

Please welcome Chris officially to our lighting team! He's been helping with productions for several years now, but he just jumped into the monthly fray as the Week 1 Lighting Operator. Well done this week, sir.


Video

The video team did a fine job this weekend also. Thanks, John, for jumping in as Cam4 operator for the first service. Your quickness to learn is invaluable in tight situations like that one. Thanks, also, to Chris and Tyler, for training him over the headset while still leading the rest of the video team.

The child dedication slideshows ran flawlessly, and the camera team did a good job of mixing up shots between Kenneth, who was leading the parents in dedicating their children, and pictures of cute babies with happy parents. Thanks for choosing shots carefully and for making them look good before sending them live. I want to especially congratulate Frank, who did his best work ever shading cameras.

Lyrics and sermon notes went very well this weekend also. There was one mysterious song typo that seemed to only show up in the second service, but that was the only thing I noticed all morning. Great job!


Sermon Media

The sermon went up slightly late (4pm rather than 2 or 3pm), but that was because I was in a meeting until 3:30pm. The team got the edits done on time and accurately with all the correct compression algorithms. One clarification for the sermon media team: please come early enough to get the pre-labelled DVD discs to video control by 8:50am. If they don't have them by that time, they will just hand label their own, costing us four blank DVDs. While that's not a big deal once or twice, over time this is poor stewardship. Please arrive just a few minutes earlier, so that you can get those DVDs to the video team.


Your Turn

What did I miss on Sunday that I should have noted here? Leave a comment to let me know.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Overdrive 10.18

This Past Sunday...

Greetings! Thanks for coming back to read another post about our efforts to clearly proclaim the gospel message.

This past Sunday contained the following:
  • Bob and Devon Kauflin leading our time of singing
  • Bob Kauflin leading our time of communion
  • Josh Harris leading our announcements and mission offering
  • Braden Greer preaching on Proverbs 12:18: Proverbs and Our Words

Sound

Our music team and production team has recently been discussing different sizes and types cymbals. In effort to reduce cluttered noise and harsh sounds, I’m wondering how much of a difference different size cymbals would make. It seems that smaller cymbals (16”) tend to be brighter and harsher, while larger diameter cymbals (18” and larger) have a darker, fuller sound. Additionally, larger ride cymbals don’t tend to ‘swell’ nearly as much, reducing some of the clutter.

I’d love to hear anyone’s thoughts or experiences using different cymbals, and any suggestions you may have in producing a clear drum kit sound with minimal cymbal abrasiveness. (Just for reference, we use a drum shield, but the shield is not enclosed.)


Lighting

I don’t have anything to comment on in the lighting department. Thanks to Dave for his patience in between services amidst multiple lighting changes.


Video

The video elements this past Sunday were nearly seamless. Any moments that were not planned for were accurately caught and projected with timeliness, and the transition into the last Mission Presentation DVD was perfect. This again highlights the importance of watching the entire DVD and testing it in the house before the service to eliminate any guess work once its real time for the congregation.

Also, typically we default to using Camera 1 for initial on-stage shots (i.e. any time Bob spoke to the congregation during worship this past Sunday). However, because our bass player was in the background shot of Bob from Camera 1, we had to find a less distracting alternative. Thanks to John and Susannah for finding and recommending the Camera 4 shot down front. It actually turned out to be the best shot during Bob’s speaking moments.


SundayPlus

As of recently we’ve been receiving more detailed outlines to project on the side screens. Typically when this happens we’re not able to spend ample time formatting the points and checking them on the side screens. So you’re aware, we’re talking about how we can more effectively communicate the preaching pastors’ sermon notes he would like projected to help minimize last minute formatting and input. Thank you for your faithfulness to input these elements, which often comes late in the game, and for your patience as we try to find more effective ways to relay information.

Why is this important? If you think about it, projecting notes on the side screens is an incredibly important communication device. It’s basically the pastor saying to each member of the congregation, “From the passage I’m preaching on, I want you to write this down pay careful attention to this.” In other words, its not just a tool that tells people when to write things (though it is that), but more importantly tells people what the pastor specifically intends for you to meditate on.

For anyone using Sunday Plus: Please don't hesitate to leave feedback regarding this discussion.


Your Turn

Thanks for reading our thoughts, now we would love to read yours.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Reverb 10.11

We had a great Sunday Celebration at Covenant Life this last weekend.
  • John David Maresco led us in singing.
  • One woman was baptized in the second service.
  • We saw the next video in Sovereign Grace's Mission Presentation.
  • Wayne Grudem preached on The Greatness of God.
Just to shake it up a little, I'm going to do the review in reverse order this time. General comments are at the end, so makes sure to read through. Crazy, I know!


Sermon Media

Nice job this weekend, Joe and Tom. There was only one issue that I noticed after you two left. You accidentally saved the sermon mp3 file without the CLC Web Settings compression. This means the mp3 file size was 42 megabytes rather than the typical 10-ish megabytes. Be comforted that this is not the first time this has happened. In order to attempt to avoid this in the future, I'm adding an item to the checklist: we should always double-check the file size of the mp3 file just to make sure the compression settings worked correctly.

Also, the sermon media team now has the privilege of being able to serve our prison ministry each week. According to the church website, "Every Wednesday evening, a dedicated team of men extends friendship, care and compassion to male inmates in the Montgomery County Correctional Facility in Clarksburg." Typically, someone preaches a short message to challenge and inspire them. However, occasionally no one is able to preach, and they use DVDs of a recent Sunday sermon instead. Often, that DVD is then given away to another group for use in the prison in the future.

We get to serve this dedicated team by providing a DVD of the sermon each week. Even if they don't show the DVD that week, it will likely be used in the future or given away to serve other inmates in the prison. On the checklist, you'll see the changes to reflect this addition.


Video

The video team did a good job this weekend. It was great to have some cross-training happening during the first service singing time. They rocked the ministry mic moments, getting the shots up there quickly, in focus, with good iris levels each time. They also nailed the baptism in the second service. Usually, it takes us one baptism before the shots all lock in, but they only had one baptism to get it right. And get it right they did. Well done!

Now, there was this moment when Isaac said, "We're going to hear about this in the Reverb next week." Indeed, he was correct. During the first service, the team ran the wrong Sovereign Grace Mission Presentation video. They re-ran the video from last week instead of this week. They caught it pretty quickly, and they hustled to get the right one on the screen. However, there was definitely that awkwardly long "re-cuing" pause that makes pastors and congregation alike nervous for the video folks. Will it play? Do we have to cover? In the end, it played successfully, and no serious damage was done.

However, this instance brings up just how important every detail is to execute video smoothly. If I understand correctly, the person cuing the disc thought he had hit the right arrow to move the selector to the second video, just as he had done successfully for two previous run-throughs. However, in fact, it had not moved, and pressing enter meant he was unintentionally and unknowingly cuing the wrong video. Now, this was a completely honest mistake, and there is no shame in it. I do think, though, that this should bring a few more healthy butterflies to the video playback team. Let's not assume anything.


Lighting

Thanks, Craig, for making the lighting happen again this weekend. I took two things away from this weekend: 1) We should probably create a permanent stairs and floor wash just in case someone surprises us by coming down off the stage like Dr. Grudem did this Sunday. 2) we need to explore ways to light the ministry mic subject from below. When people look down at their Bibles, their faces end up in shadow. Any suggestions on accomplishing this are welcome!


Sound

Honestly, I have little to say about the sound crew, which means they must have done a great job. Setup and rehearsal went smoothly, as did both services. We did have one snafu when the worship leader didn't bring out his guitar's wireless beltpack. Ken ended up on stage to steal the mandolin line for him. In the future, I'd love to see the audio producer jumping up to handle that rather than Ken having to go up on stage. However, Nate, did you have the pack at one point? I saw you poke your head out and then go backstage.


General Comments

I have one general comment related to implementing a NASA development into our technical services. We are now officially using...Velcro. After many requests from the team, I finally got around to purchasing a roll of 6" wide velcro with hooks on one side. I've cut long pieces of this to use as cable covers. A few notes on this:
  • There is a case on the rolling sound shelf labeled "Velcro Cable Covers." This is where you will find them, even if you are a member of the video team.
  • Each roll is labeled on the end for it's specific use. Because they are cut to length for specific purposes, please don't just use one randomly as you desire. You will likely be taking one that is needed somewhere else.
  • When you pull them out, please take the small velcro "tab" that holds the roll together and attach it to the velcro strip in the case lid, so we don't lose the tabs.
  • When you are putting them away, please roll them up and return them to this case. Remember, even the video-related cable covers go into this case on the sound shelf.

Your Turn

Thanks for reading all this way, and make sure to add your thoughts here.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Video Evaluation: Testimonies from Sunday, 10/4

Covenant Life Church's communication staff is posting more videos from our church meetings online, which presents an opportunity for the production teams to receive some constructive encouragement and criticism, specifically on camera work and directing.

Here is the video from the testimonies this last Sunday. Leave a comment to let us know what you think is great and what could be better.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

10.4 Reverb

This weekend was another great one at Covenant Life. God met us again, as he is always faithful to do.

Sound

The sound team did an amazing job this weekend. They managed to flawlessly add a 32-person orchestra to the normal Sunday band. And, yes, each musician in the orchestra had his or her own microphone. I was astonished at how well it went:
  • Setup was done at 6:10pm, giving them enough time to eat dinner before the 6:30 start.
  • Rehearsal started promptly at 6:30. Thanks, Christie!
  • The string line check went so smoothly that we were able to add the orchestra to the soundcheck fifteen minutes ahead of schedule.
  • After troubleshooting a few small issues during linecheck, we found no more issues in the setup except for one drum mic that was acting up.
  • Dave worked hard to dial in each of those mics and make the orchestra sound great.
Thanks to the Week 1 team: Doc, Dave, Karen, Christie, and Caleb. And thanks also to Bryant, Nate, and Justin who came in on their off week to assist with the orchestra setup. Each one of you helped to make the orchestra a great success. I don't think it could have gone more smoothly.

One quick note for all stage managers: We've added something to your checklist. Many of the sound team members have requested that we list headphone and in-ear preferences for the musicians, so that they can get them pulled out before the musicians arrive. In order to build that list, we've added an item on the stage manager checklist to write down what each musician uses. Each Sunday, we'll add that person's preference to our master list. When they play next, we'll include that information on the monitor patch sheet.


Lighting

Since John Behrens and I did the lighting ourselves, I don't have much to say about lighting except this: We are definitely in need of a week 1 lighting operator. If you know anyone who might be interested, please send the name my way. If you have suggestions on the lighting, please comment away.


Video

The video team also did a great job this weekend. The Sovereign Grace Mission Presentation Video went flawlessly. They responded quickly when Bob spoke between songs and for the two ministry mic "moments" in the second service. The week 1 video team does a fantastic job communicating, too. I love to hear the chatter as they all confirm what they think is about to happen.

They also did the best they could with the first service testimony segment, which surprisingly happened on the floor instead of the stage. There was miscommunication among the staff that caused that change in plan, for which I'm very sorry. Thanks for adapting to the unexpected.

A quick note for SundayPlus operators: We want to avoid "dangling" single words, both in the song slides and the sermon notes. If only the last word of the line or sentence happens to run over to the next line, please enter a carriage return before the second to last word, so that two words are on the last line. This may seem nitpicky, but there is something strange about the way it looks to have a single word on a line.


Sermon Media

The sermon media team is earning my vote for most sacrificial team. They frequently stay well past 2pm on Sunday afternoon to get the editing and mastering done. Thanks, guys, for your work. You are spreading the gospel all over the planet!

This weekend took an extra long time because of a special edit to the online sermon. Thanks, Olu, for going the extra mile to make that happen.

One quick note for all sermon media team members: It is your responsibility to get the pre-printed DVDs up to the IMAG video room for recording. I've heard from a number of the video teams that this isn't happening yet consistently. Sometimes you get them up there, but sometimes they don't see them at all. Please make sure you are arriving in plenty of time to print all the discs and get them up to the video room before the service starts.


Your Turn

What do you want to say about this weekend? Encouragements and critiques are both welcome.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

9.27 Reverb

This last Sunday was another wonderful morning together as a church. God heard our singing and our prayers and spoke to us through his word and his Spirit.
  • Bob Kauflin led us in singing, along with the choir.
  • Five people were baptized.
  • Kenneth Maresco shared items of pastoral significance (aka announcements).
  • Joshua Harris shared part 2 of what will become a three-part series on laziness, distractions, and technology. If you didn't hear his message, you still can listen and apply.

General Notes


Thanks for Coming to the Picnic - Thanks to those of you who came to the picnic. For those who couldn't be there, we missed you. I enjoyed the evening with you all, and I hope you enjoyed it as well. Prizes went to the best volleyball team, the most skilled (and lucky) water balloon tossers, the most interesting life story, and the best frisbee golfers. If you enjoyed the picnic or have a suggestion on how to improve it, please leave a comment. We want to do better in blessing you all.

Complete Those Checklists - I hate to bring it up again, but I am still finding some checklists that are incomplete. There were four of them blank this last week. Some of the specific challenges we faced this last weekend can be directly tied to not following the checklists. While that is not true for all of them, it is true for enough of them that it is a good time to remind us all that faithfulness requires filling out your checklist. Let's also agree that reading it is not enough. If you don't check the boxes, I must assume you didn't take the time to read it and follow it.

Checklists Without Owners - While we are talking about checklists, I want to remind both the video and audio producers that you are ultimately responsible for all of your team's checklists. Some sound teams don't have a stage tech, and some video teams don't have a camera 5 operator on baptism Sundays. Even so, those checklists need to be complete, and the responsibility falls to the producer. Feel free to delegate tasks or the entire list to people on your team, but the checklist should still be completed. Because we have avoided duplicating the same tasks on multiple checklists, you will forget something if you don't complete all the checklists.


Sound

Happy Birthday, Jim! - Jim served on his birthday last Saturday. While we won't reveal his true age online, it should suffice to say that he has been serving on the sound team almost as long as I've been alive. Thanks for sharing another year of your life with us. We are grateful for you!

Choir Volume - Jim has been working extremely hard over the last few months to improve our choir sound, working to overcome the limitations of having live drums on stage. I think we had the first Sunday where the choir may have been too loud. That's an amazing thing because it means that we can begin to work on improving the tone. Thanks, Jim, for getting us so far ahead in the last year. Now we can work to even warm up the choir tone even further.

Starting on Time - The sound team listened carefully to last week's reverb post about starting on time. Thanks for getting started promptly at 6:30p. Technical difficulties, unfortunately, overcame the immediate start, but just imagine how delayed the start of rehearsal would have been had we not started soundcheck on time.

Improvising - For various reasons, including one mistake on the paperwork by yours truly, the sound team had to improvise a bit from the written documentation. This improvisation, not by itself but combined with a lack of communication, resulted in at least one of the technical difficulties from the evening. In solving one problem we created another, and we all ended up scratching our heads puzzledly until we put the pieces together. If we stray from the plan, we need to inform everyone else what we did, so that they don't undo it later.

Line Check - One of the problems we encountered during soundcheck was due to a failing monitor board channel which probably could have been identified in line check instead of after the musicians arrived. Make sure to pay close attention during line check. Even if something is plugged in correctly, it may still not sound right or the channel may not be working right. If you have concerns about something, don't get bogged down, but make sure to come back to it at the end of line check.


Lighting

Lighting was very smooth this weekend. I want to commend Phil on how much he has grown in being diligent to aim lights for that week's setup instead of counting on last week's plot. I also appreciate how he receives the inevitable changes with joy instead of grumbling. Thanks, my man.


Video

Camera 5 - A few notes for when we use camera 5 on baptism Sundays:
  • Camera 5 now has a cable loom. The power, video, and intercom are now bundled together. Power and video plug in at the far stage right video panel and the intercom goes further to audio panel 1. Please do not unbundle these cables, no matter which cable you think you urgently need. There are more of all these cables in their pertinent storage locations.
  • For now, the camera 4 operator should plan to move over to run camera 5 for the one shot per baptism that it gets us (and a nice shot it is!). That means you need to know how to operate it. Make sure you check it out before the first service to remind yourself where all the controls are.
  • Finally, camera 5 must be put away after the second service. We already had a camera like this stolen, so please don't leave it out for the staff to pick up later. This is on the camera 5 checklist and the responsibility is owned by the video producer. Leave the camera on the tripod. Take the camera, the power supply and the cable loom to the IMAG room. Store it behind the racks just to the left of the camera director position.
Stop the Fanciness (Sooner) - Over the four years we've been doing IMAG, our directors and camera operators have improved in shooting music. We're getting better at the "fancy" cross dissolves and moving transitions and fuzz-outs and the like. I'm not saying we should stop those things altogether.

We just need to know when to stop the fanciness for the purpose of setting up for IMAG. Camera Directors, please don't attempt to push the fanciness to the very end of the song and then expect your camera ops can get all the right static shots in the moment you have left before the camera shots to go live to the main screen. If we are going to err, we should err on the side of setting up the boring shots early. We may "bore" (not really) moms and dads in the video rooms, but the early shift will serve the entire congregation, which is a far higher priority.

Baptism Shot Sequence - Just a reminder to camera directors and house directors that you need to know our baptism shot sequence by heart. You can read about it again here. We are working on putting together a storyboard that will help you see the images ahead of time and show them to your camera ops, but you should plan to commit this to memory, since - by the mercy and grace of God - we keep having baptisms.


Sermon Media

Sermon media happened smoothly this weekend. Thanks, Tom, for being ready to push out the 1st service files even before 2nd service editing was complete. That gives us the opportunity to get the resources online by 2pm instead of 3pm.


Your Turn

What did I miss? Who would you like to encourage from this last Sunday? What could have been better still? Comment here.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

9.20 Reverb

Yes, the long-lost undistract blog has a new post for the first time in a couple months. I apologize for the delay, but I've been out of pocket for quite some time.

Here's what the end of the summer looked like for me:
  • Last week of July - Prepare for WorshipGod09
  • 1st week of August - WorshipGod09
  • 2nd week of August - Do two jobs (my own job and my administrators)
  • 3rd week of August - Train Jenn, my new administrator
  • 4th week of August - Vacation
  • 1st week of September - Vacation
  • 2nd week of September - Welcome Esme Rose to our family (take more time off)
  • 3rd week of September - Try to catch back up.
  • 4th week of September - I can't believe it's here already and haven't blogged even once. But such is life.
Anyway, that's my excuse, and I want to get back into blogging. Minimally, I'll be reviewing Sundays again. Hopefully, I'll be able to do a little more writing also, but that's always a little sketchy.


General Notes

Welcome Intern, John Behrens - Two weeks ago, John Behrens, a member of the Sovereign Grace church in Pittsburg, came to Gaithersburg to do an internship with Sovereign Grace Music and the Covenant Life music and production departments. You can expect to see him around on Sundays and other events while he is here. Make sure to introduce yourself, thank him for his help, and fill him in on what you do on the teams.

Checklists Updated - I spent some time last week doing a major checklist update. Every checklist has been updated, improved, and plain old neatified. Please look over them carefully next time you serve, and keep sending in your comments on the checklists, so that we can make them even more useful to you.

Weigh In on IMAG Video Team Changes - We are considering some significant changes to the IMAG Video Team that could affect IMAG, SundayPlus, and Sermon Media volunteers. The ideas for these changes are in the infant stages. We can't make any decision successfully without your help, so we wanted to offer you the chance to weigh in on this early on. If you are interested in being a part of the discussion, please comment below or email Dave Wilcox.


Sunday Morning

What happened last Sunday?
  • Judah Groveman led us in singing.
  • Dave Brewer helped us pray for Mexico.
  • Mark Mitchell mentioned a few pastoral priorities for the whole church (aka anouncements).
  • Josh Harris preached on The Sluggard, helping us spot the sluggard within us all. If you are too busy to listen again to this message, you may be the one who most needs it!

Sound

The sound team did an excellent job this weekend. The rehearsal and both services went very smoothly, except for when I failed to unmute Josh's mic in the second service. Ugh!

The only other thought I had relates to starting rehearsal on time. The musicians are instructed to arrive at 6:30pm to begin soundcheck and rehearsal. That doesn't always happen. At 6:45, I called down to the monitor board to see if we could begin soundcheck, and Bryant's accurate response was that the musicians seemed to still be milling around.

The fact is that none of the bands will start soundcheck on their own. Let's own the responsibility to get them started at 6:30 by beginning to set gains with whoever is there at the time. Through the point when all the mixes are set and ready to go, the sound crew is in charge and should be leading. Sometimes we need to stop the musicians from attempting to get into actual rehearsal too quickly. Other times we need to push them along, so that they actually get to rehearsal before the evening has withered away.

Producers and Stage Managers, this is your call, your responsibility. Let's get soundchecks started at 6:30p or before.

The biggest challenge with the mix this weekend was the vocals. The two singers had very different tone. In order to make them similar, I put a significant amount of pitch shift on Shelley's mic to detune it a bit, making it less sweet and pure. This did seem to help it fit with Judah's vocal, but it also made the vocals a bit more "awash." Did anyone notice the difference, and did it cause any problems, specifically for the women to follow the melody lines?


Lighting

I don't have any significant suggestions for lighting this weekend. Great job, Craig!


Video

We are still without our good video projector, and we probably will have two more Sundays without it. After a long back-and-forth with tech support, our projector will be on its way to California any moment now for some TLC. Please pray that they are able to revive the projector without killing our repair budget for the year in the process.

Thanks for working with the less-than-ideal older projector. There has been less room for error in shading the cameras, and each team has eventually caught on to the mental adjustments required to make the shots look as good as possible.

Overall, I thought the video was very good on Sunday. The slides were timed well, and the cameras looked good. Camera 4, in particular, looked unusually well-matched, and I was glad to see more of it live. Well done, Susannah!

One note for all camera operators: don't forget that every time you put your hand on the tripod or take it off, we can see your action. The shot jitters. Even though it's slight, it's definitely noticeable. Whenever possible don't touch (or de-touch) the tripod while your shot is live. It is especially noticeable if the subject begins to move and then you grab the tripod to begin to follow. Not only does it shake, but you end up a little behind them. When you're live, don't move, but always be ready to move. You have a tough, tough job.

Two quick thoughts for SundayPlus operators:
  • I think you all should plan to arrive earlier. My observation is that we are regularly rushed, trying to prep the songs and get sermon notes entered up until the last minute. Please plan to arrive at 7:30am or come in on Saturday night to prepare the songs. That may seem too early when you have a weekend without much to do, but we need to be ready for the worst case scenario when the sermon notes are complicated or the songs are in shambles.
  • Second, on busy Sundays, please try to divide and conquer. I know it is nice to be able to talk and work on things together, but that isn't always the most efficient use of time. If one of you can run lyrics and learn the songs while the other person enters sermon notes, that gets things done even faster.

Sermon Media

We had an issue with the computer this last Sunday that made it impossible to record the first service directly into the computer. Please know that we do have a backup recording running at the main board for exactly such a situation. By 15 minutes after the second service, we can resurrect a slightly lower quality recording of the first service for you to use.

What did you notice this Sunday? Any thoughts for the team. Comment here.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

7.12 Reverb

This last Sunday, Covenant Life continued its sermon series in Proverbs. Here is a brief summary of the morning:

Sound

We had George Clark of Clark ProMedia around all of this last week to replace our MediaMatrix system processor with Biamp Audiaflex processors. Everyone on the sound team was excited about the improvements, and Grant Layman referred to this last Sunday's mix as "the best I've heard in years." Thanks, Julie, for making the most of the new system.

Even though the sound crew was all happy, I did get some complaints that it was too loud. Did you notice a difference in the sound this weekend? If so, was it better or worse? Leave your comments here.


Lighting

Lighting went very smoothly once again. During setup, though, I was reminded how important it is to for the lighting operator to be on stage while choosing lights for different locations. If you attempt to choose lights based on channel number and current location, you will likely not choose the most effective light, so stand up on stage and pick your instruments from there.


Video

The video team did an excellent job this last Sunday, especially with the task of finding happy people during the child dedications. When on stage, members (and occasionally pastors) don't realize how they look on screen. They may be paying attention but look like they are staring off into space. They may be scowling unintentially or chewing gum. Each of these pictures can distract from what is being said on stage.

We challenged the camera operators this week to try to not only get shots of people on stage, but to find the happy, attentive families to highlight. They did a great job, and we'll be attempting to make this the practice from here on out.

That's all I have for this weekend. Leave your thoughts, too, and have a great week.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

7.5 Overdrive

Another Overdrive post from Ben...

I hope all of you are enjoying your summer thus far! There is a lot going on around Covenant Life. We recently wrapped up Summer Celebration ‘09 and are gearing up for Worship God ‘09 early next month. This conference is for worship leaders, pastors, musicians, song writers, and tech teams, so you may be interested in checking it out.

This past Sunday was the first message (and an outstanding message at that) in our new series in Proverbs. The morning included:
This post is more of an accumulation of updates and small administrative items that you should be aware of.


Sound
  1. Special Thanks | Because July 4th fell on a Saturday this year, we did not have a Saturday night rehearsal and did our set up Friday late afternoon. Thanks again to Gavin, Karen, Christie, and Alex for coming in Friday late afternoon for the set up, and for coming in earlier than usual on Sunday morning. The morning went very well.
  2. System Retune | As we speak, we are having the whole sound system retuned by Clark ProMedia, and you can expect to hear more clarity and balance throughout the auditorium starting this Sunday because of their work. They are replacing our Media Matrix System with a Biamp Audiaflex processor, which is newer and less involved system called. While there will be more details forthcoming once the retune is complete, the important thing for mixers and operators to know is that the computer monitor sitting next to the sound board in the front of house will still display the mute outputs for the speaker clusters, but via a different program.
  3. Missing Monitor Channels | For the monitor operators, monitor board channels 18, 23, and 35 have been sent in for repair. The expected date of return we have been given is 2-3 weeks, though last time it took significantly longer.

Lighting
  1. Loose Lighting Jacks | A couple weeks ago, Kolb Electric came in and replaced all of the broken and loose lighting jacks (36 of them) in the catwalks. Thanks to Dave Hoover for bringing that necessity to our attention.
  2. Flashing House Lights | A group of wall lights on right of side of the auditorium were flashing on and off this past Sunday. This is a dimmer problem and can be solved by replacing the bad dimmer with a new one out of the spares. Please make sure to mark the bad one clearly and give to the tech director for the morning. Do not put it back with the spares.
  3. The RFU | The remote focus unit for the lighting board has been malfunctioning and causing problems internally to the lighting system. Please do not use the remote unit until further notice.


Video
  1. Whiteboard | Our white balancing white board has grown legs and run off from us! You will have a new one this Sunday.
  2. Pre Meeting Prayer Slide | Because we’re only displaying a ‘Pre Meeting Prayer Slide’ now before each service, we should wait to display the slide until 15 min prior each service insted of starting the pre-meeting slide show as soon as the first service ends. This is indicated in the house director checklist.
  3. CAM 5 | When using CAM 5 for baptisms, the patch bay behind the IMAG suite should have CAM 5 patched to output ‘V’ from the stage right video tie panel, and the CAM 4 Extron module under the desk should be switched to CAM 5. Both of these things need to be in place in order to receive signal.
  4. Countdown | As a reminder, please be sure to note the ‘countdown’ item in your checklist. Its an item that is easily forgotten from time to time because it takes place before and in between services, but its an important one. The Lyrics Operators should start the countdown clock at 8:45 and 11:15, as precisely as possible. Also, Lyrics Ops and House Directors, please wait until you see the "00:00" before switching away from the countdown, but then switch immediately.
  5. Shot Scripts | I am working on a ‘shot by shot sequence sheet’ for items like baptisms. The purpose of this is to attempt to maintain a consistency of the best shots we can find, and because baptisms happen frequently, we think its best to attempt to set a uniform and consistent sequence to avoid distraction and hopefully eliminate the potential last minute scurrying. (This is not to say baptisms have not been going well. It's simply a way on our end to hopefully serve you guys and ultimately the congregation.)


Sermon Media

Since we’ve made the changes in the sermon media room and have begun using checklists, you no longer need to fill out the 'Mini Disk Recording Sheet'. The red binder that contained the sheets is no longer in the sermon media room.


Thanks to everyone for seeking to do the best you can. A/V Production really is the backbone of anything that goes on here at Covenant Life, and you all play a huge part in that!

Let us know if you have any additional thoughts/comments/suggestions.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

5.31 Overdrive

Thanks, Ben, for this overdrive post...

This past week we kicked off the first message in a 4-part series called "Love Your Neighbor." This past Sunday:

Sound


In the middle of worship this week, we had students from Covenant Life’s Music Academy, including a small choir, brass band, and string section, come and sing a song written by Rebecca Maka, a former music academy student. The students spread across the length of the stage stairs. For the choir, we used two pairs of mics in X-Y pattern. This allowed us to aim the rejection area of the mic at the house speakers, thus widening the area of pick up without feedback.

Also, we recently replaced the metal drum rack with individual stands for the toms and cymbals. We thought this would be more efficient and, honestly, just save a lot of time for everyone - tech team and drummers. Dave and I will be posting a video about some important things to note regarding this switch later this week. If interested in the pieces ordered, check here.


Lights


Craig ran our lights this week and put in the extra effort to aim the lighting for the stage steps from the 3rd catwalk. He also readjusted our baptismal lighting back to its normal position from the youth drama Pilgrim. One helpful thing we did this week was pull the par lights (the ones on the back center rack directly above the IMAG screen) down during worship when Bob or someone else was on IMAG for an extended period of time. The par lights created a bit of a wash on the screen, and pulling them down lessened that effect.


IMAG


Because of the many people singing, we decided to allow them to have the lyrics on the confidence monitors while the congregation sang A Mighty Fortress by memory. Dave Alden invented a new way to do this effectively and cleanly. Here are his notes:
The week three, four, or five house directors may find this procedure helpful for executing "seamless" lyrics transitions when lyrics for the hymn of the month need to be shown on the confidence monitors but not on the main screen. We found that having the CPU1 background sourced from CPU2 or CPU3 often has slight color or position variations that become evident upon the transition from CPU1 to the wordless background image from an alternate source. The following house switcher procedure will avoid this.
  1. Press button 1 (CPU1) putting the live CPU1 source on both the Preview and Main screens. The 1 button will blink between red and green.
  2. When the CPU1 background goes wordless between stanzas or at the beginning of the hymn hit the "preview freeze" button.
  3. When the tech director indicates a particular stanza should be without words on the center screen, cut or dissolve to put the frozen (and wordless) preview up on the main screen. The active CPU1 source (with lyrics) will become the new preview, and now the "main freeze" button will be lit red.
  4. When lyrics are to be restored to to the main screen, hit the "cut" or "dissolve" buttons again to switch it back the other way (live CPU1 on main and the frozen/wordless CPU1 background on Preview). Steps 2 and 3 should be repeated each time a verse is to be sung by the congregation by memory.
  5. Once the memory selections for the hymn-of-the-month are complete, the House Switcher can be restored to normal by choosing any source other than CPU1 in preview.

Side note: In case any one needs to set up camera 5 for baptisms in the future, all of the cables, connectors, and other items needed are on top of the bookshelf towards the back of the IMAG room. I’ve realized that setting up that camera has taken much longer than it should because all of the necessary pieces were in different places.

Leave your comments below!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

5.17 Overdrive

From Ben Neumann...

This past Sunday:
Overall, the Sunday went very smoothly, and there is little to follow up on. There are some video notes you may find helpful.

Each New Members Sunday, Josh invites all of the new members to stand on the steps of the stage. He does this so the congregation can welcome them, and so he can personally speak to them, expressing his gratefulness for them and encouraging them to embrace their calls as a members of the body of Christ.

When he does this, he has his back to the congregation, making for a unique set of camera shots. For the first service we tried switching and panning different shots of the new members. However we found that many of the shots became distracting for a couple of reasons:
  1. Some people were chewing gum.
  2. Some people didn’t look fully engaged.
  3. There were only 30 people in the first service, so the shot sequence quickly became old.
Consequently, we made some changes for the second service. During the second service, we kept camera 2 on Josh the whole time, even though the angle wasn’t ideal. Then we periodically dissolved in and out of shots of different members on the steps who looked engaged. This allowed the congregation to see people affected by Josh’s words but without the distractions. Well done camera crew!

That's it for my thoughts. But maybe you have some??

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

5.10 Overdrive

From Ben Neumann...

Greetings! This past Sunday, Mother's Day, we were edified as the body gathered together again.

Leading the morning was:
  • Bob Kauflin led us in our time of singing with Reilly. Reilly is a band from one of sister churches, Covenant Fellowship, in PA.
  • Josh Harris gave our announcements, and appropriately honored all the moms present, as it was Mother's Day.
  • Eric Simmons preached from Ephesians 6:10-12 in the first of three messages on the topic of spiritual warfare. You can listen here if you missed it on Sunday.

Sound

Thank you to everyone who stayed late Saturday night and arrived early Sunday morning. Your help was greatly appreciated!!

Because of the 10:31 meeting this past Saturday, and a late start Sunday morning, the band had very little rehearsal time. Fortunately Bob and the band were familiar and experienced enough with the songs and arrangements that it wasn't a problem. One thing to note is that when a guest band comes in to play, its good to have an idea of what they're used to, mix preferences, stage set up, etc. The mix may need to change in order to accommodate and serve the congregation, but still good to have an idea in mind. Anybody have any thoughts on what to do in a ‘have to prepare a mix really fast’ situation?


Lights

Thank you also to Isaac for staying late and arriving early as well. One thing we realized is that we had some distracting shadow during the baptism times on the face of those being baptized. I think we simply had too much light coming from one angle. Generally its good to hit the baptismal with lights from opposite angles.


Video

The camera crew did an excellent job transitioning in and out of baptisms. Very smooth and understated. One note: Our video producer, Chris, reminded me that in order to use Camera 5, you have to manually go under the desk in the IMAG room and push VID on the Extron converter. Thanks, Chris, for getting us a solid Cam 5 shot.

Give us any of your feedback...

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

5.3 Reverb

Last Sunday at Covenant Life:
It was a busy morning.


General Comments


First, I want to honor the auditorium sound team for this last week. They arrived at the church at 5:45am on Sunday morning to set up from scratch. The early morning made me most grateful for Saturday evening setup times.

Second, to one team member (who knows who she is): Yes, I do read the checklists and see who checked off what. And, yes, there was a lot of tweeting going on Sunday. If any of you want to jump on the twitter production com on Sundays, you can join twitter and then follow me.

OK, now on to the more specific details, in reverse order from the usual. (I know, that's risky!)


Sermon Media

Thanks, sermon media team, for quickly adapting to the new editing policies. I think they are more logical and should be more effective in the long run. Please don't hesitate to ask if you have questions about what to edit as we go along.

One quick note that will be adjusted on the checklist: We need to make two Archive Audio DVD+R discs each Sunday. One of them goes in the black case of secondary masters. The other should go into the Sunday Archive Audio DVD+R binder in the cabinets. If you have questions as to where to find that binder, check with Ben or me.


Video

The video team did a fine job again this week. I have only one big note, and that is for myself. I need to spend more time familiarizing myself with what the preaching pastor is planning to have on the screen and then communicating the details to the SundayPlus operators clearly. I didn't give it enough time this Sunday, which makes me so grateful for Bethany who joyfully worked extra hard during the singing time to overcome my lack of preparation.

One small note for camera 4 operators: When you are setting up for a ministry mic moment, please make sure to pull out to a head-and-shoulders shot. A 15-foot-tall head-only shot is quite uncomfortable. Pop in to focus, and then pop back out to head-and-shoulders before you go live.

And one followup for the SundayPlus operators: Yes, we still do the countdown clock each Sunday. We now have a 15-minute countdown DVD that you can select on Input 3 on the lyric station switcher.


Lighting

Lighting was simple and perfect this week. No notes whatsoever. Huge thanks to Craig, who ran the board, and to Alex, who stayed very late after the Pilgrim production to focus and program.


Sound

Thanks again to the sound crew for waking up so early to serve the band.

Karen mentioned that there is a problem with the drum headphone output (Aux 3-4 to Stereo 2). I think we tracked this down already, but I can't remember exactly what in the signal chain was failing. Does anyone remember, so that we can get it fixed as soon as possible?

Brian shared a great idea a couple weeks ago that I failed to include in the Reverb post at the time. He has noticed that the color labels on the handheld wireless mics are much easier for the vocalists to remember than the numerical labels on the WIE units. He actually took the time to put color labels on the WIE packs to match the vocalists handheld color. I'd highly recommend this to anyone who wants to do it! Note, though, that they need to be removed at the end of the weekend, since the combinations of mic/WIE can change from week to week.

I think that's all I have. What did you notice this Sunday?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

4.26 Reverb

April wrapped up with another wonderful Sunday at Covenant Life Church.

Gratefulness

This was quite the weekend. Pilgrim opened on Friday, and the second performance on Saturday night made Sunday setup quite the late-night adventure. Huge congratulations to the show crew for their fantastic efforts, and thanks to the Sunday crew for staying late on Saturday only to arrive early on Sunday. There are three more performances of Pilgrim this weekend, and you can still buy tickets.

Extra thanks go to Andrew, Caleb, and Kokko who were involved in both the musical and the Sunday tech crews. I hope you've gotten some sleep by now.

Finally, I want to give credit to Mark who figured out why our Events Center lights failed occasionally. The dimmers were overheating due to a nasty-dirty filter, which he subsequently cleaned, solving the problem. Thanks, Mark.


Sound

Begin with a late-night setup; add to that an ever-changing input and output list; add to that an early morning on little sleep, and one might expect some mistakes. Nevertheless, the sound team handled their responsibilities essentially error-free. No missed mics. The band sounded great. There was one little podium snafu, but it was easily remedied and not repeated.


Lighting

Lighting was largely uneventful due to Pilgrim. For the sanity of our performance lighting crew, we opted to not change the focus of any lights for Sunday, so Phil only had to program a few cues. Everything was smooth.

One small note to lighting operators: channel 192 is not a house light channel. Channel 192 controls the dimmer for the aisle lights. Please do not program this into the house light cues. Running the aisle lights when not necessary, or at non-full intensities, will shorten the lifespan of the bulbs. Please only control the aisle lights via the wall panel control, and only use them when we are going to blackout in the service.


Video

The video team did a fine job this weekend. I was especially happy with what they did with the baptisms.

Typically, our baptism video looks like this:
  1. Camera shot of worship leader asking people to sit, listen, watch, and rejoice as people are baptized.
  2. Close up shot of pastor in the baptistry explaining the purpose of baptism.
  3. Close up shot of first baptism candidate sharing his testimony (via cam 1).
  4. "Baptism" shot from the end of the pool just before the dunk (via cam 5).
  5. Wide shot of the whole baptistry as the person comes up (via cam 2).
  6. Blank the screen while the person exits and the next enters. Begin again at item 3.
The wide shot in item 5 is largely for modesty purposes, which is appropriate and wise. However, it also pulls away right at the moment of greatest excitement, as the person is rejoicing in his or her own baptism. The hope is, as possible, to hold the cam 5 shot longer while still maintaining the priority of modesty.

The video team accomplished this well in two ways: first, for the guys being baptized, they stayed on cam 5 longer and sometimes didn't even cut away to the wide shot on cam 2. For the girls, they cut away to camera 2 right away for modesty reasons, but then, as appropriate, cut back in closer to the camera 1 shot when the girl was hugging her dad.


Sermon Media

As most of you have heard by now, the pastors have requested that we change the way we edit sermons. In the past, we have cut a lot of items out of the sermons in order to shorten the sermon and save both server storage and bandwidth. However, as web pipelines get bigger and memory gets cheaper, these priorities are not as important. With that in mind, we are going to include more in our messages.

Here are some new guidelines...

Regarding where to start a sermon:
  • If the pastor begins by reading Scripture, please include the scripture reading and everything after that.
  • If the pastor begins with an illustration or something else included in his manuscript, please begin there and include everything after that.
  • If the pastor begins with unrelated information that is not included in his manuscript, please cut that and begin where the manuscript begins or with the Scripture reading.
  • If the pastor begins with prayer, please cut the prayer and begin after that.
Regarding where to end a sermon:
  • If the preaching pastor prays at the end of the sermon, you can include the closing prayer.
  • If another pastor comes up to close in prayer, you can cut the closing the prayer.
If you have any specific questions, please don't hesitate to check with me or Ben.

Leave your thoughts, comments, and questions, too.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

4.12 Overdrive

From Ben...

This past Sunday was our Easter service, and serving us was:
  • Bob Kauflin leading worship
  • Mark Mitchell introducing our guests and leading our announcements
  • Josh Harris preaching from John 11 on the story of Lazarus

Overall

Overall both services went very smooth. On the technical end there were very few things to be aware of, which means many people heard God's word with no, or almost no, distraction.


Sound

First of all I'm grateful for the Cowan family this week who offered their time to help on a week they were not scheduled to serve. Sacrifices like this are tangible representations of the gospel and clearly model the body of Christ working together. Thank you!

We had our normal rhythm section band with a 14 piece orchestra, 30 person choir, and Bob on the grand piano. Thankfully, our setup Saturday night was nearly flawless. Its amazing that when things like setup are approached in a systematic and organized way... with a joyful team working together...a near flawless setup is actually possible, and a large setup doesn't seem so daunting as it sometimes can. I have helped set up small five-person bands that had many more technical difficulties than we had this past week. Thanks, everyone, for your example and hard work.


Lights

Our lighting op Dave Hoover served us once again and did an excellent job of detailing all the elements on stage. Dave consistently works hard and asks questions/gives suggestions about details both small and large, and those things make a difference.

We did have a little light show a couple times during worship and the sermon. The section of ceiling lights on the front right side of the auditorium flashed on and off a few different times, and thankfully no more. Turns out there were a couple bad dimmers in the amp room. One thing I'm learning...always check the dimmers in situations like this one that seem to come from no where.


Video

In each service this week the choir did a special song with powerful lyrics to encourage the congregation. In the first service, we had the cameras shoot the choir live on the IMAG screen, and it looked great. Thank you Ryan for putting in the extra work to ensure that happened. We determined, however, that because there are only a few angles to shoot from and only a small group of people to shoot that the live cameras were potentially too repetitive, and thus distracting. Rule of thumb...just because we CAN do it doesn't mean we should. The question to ask is what is going to best serve the congregation. The second service we simply put the words to their song on the center screen instead of the camera shots of the choir.

Please give your feedback!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Pseudo Reverb With a Very Long Delay

I have definitely waited too long to put together a Sunday-in-Review post. Three Sundays have flown by, one being Easter, and only now am I getting around to a more in-depth evaluation of the effectiveness of the production elements.

Meanwhile, we are in the big push for our annual youth drama. This year we are putting on an original show based on the best-selling book, Pilgrim's Progress. As a result, I am going to abbreviate my review once again this week, and simply share some very random bullets on what has been swirling in my mind.
  • People don't make church happen. They are the church. I've said this before, but the Sovereign Grace Pastor's Conference always brings it back to the forefront. And I often need the reminder.
  • Covenant Life Church is made up of my favorite people on the planet. Our volunteer teams, as the church, strive effortfully to create contexts for gospel opportunities. They are joyfully supporting all our normal activities, even with a conference and a major production in the same month as Easter.
  • I no longer believe in the 3-to-1 micing rule. OK, I do believe in it. But I've decided it's a rule I'm willing to break. Sometimes, down-to-earth gain before feedback is much more important than pie-in-the-sky "phase coherence." Overmicing seems to ever-increasingly be my style, and I haven't found the problem in it yet. (Purists may rant here.)
  • Lyrics lead. Like it or not, where the song lyrics go, there goes the congregation. In our case, there goes the worship team as well, since our vocalists are following the lyrics on confidence monitors instead of song sheets. The importance of this role can hardly be overstated.
  • If I ask for feedback, I must be ready to listen carefully and respond quickly. I have learned a lot from our team members these last few weeks. They has sent me some truly excellent, excellence-forming ideas. Hopefully, I've done all I can to implement their suggestions.
  • When in doubt, make a phone call. Often, emails stink. Especially when I write them. Enough said.
What are you learning about ministry and technology these days?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

3.22 Overdrive


Another entry from Ben...

This past Sunday:
It was great to have Chris Silard back from the Sovereign Grace Church of Frederick and to hear all that God is doing there. We also had first time of prayer before each service, which seemed to generate a positive response from the members. It is great to see the body of Christ seek the Lord together. Lastly, Josh announced the 2010 Uganda Trip which is open to married couples and singles. This trip will be the third trip to Uganda where the Lord has allowed us to serve and partner with the community there for the sake of the gospel.


Sound

This week we had a very large band: 3 piece brass section, choir, percussion, drums, acoustic and electric guitars, bass, synth, and Bob on the grand. Needless to say, this presented some mixing challenges. We physically positioned the percussion and drums far stage left in order minimize them bleeding into the choir mics. Thanks to the tech team this week for the hard work and great attitudes in working with a set up larger than normal...especially with NCAA March Madness going on.


Video

Our video crew did a great job last week. We had a crew member arrive a little late, so thanks to Pat our video producer for filling in his spot at the start of the first service. I also received word that both the video room flat screen and the nursing mom’s flat screen were not getting signal on channel two. If the television is on channel 2 and its fuzzy, it is most likely because the Events Center/Auditorium switch box has not been set back to Auditorium from the previous week. The switcher is mounted on the side of the television in the closet two doors down from the video room.

There is also a Sunday Plus note worth mentioning. We had trouble loading the cue list on the second computer, and the reason is a cue list cannot be open on both computers at the same time. The way around it is this: The CPU2 operator needs to copy the cue list from the S: Drive on to the desktop, and then open it.

Thanks for reading...your thoughts are welcome!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Overdue 3.15 Overdrive

Woops. Ben sent me his overdrive post from last week, and I completely forgot to put it online. Better late than never, I suppose. Here it is...

This past Sunday:

Sound

This week we had 10 people on stage, the largest band we've had up there in a while. We were down a man on the audio team this week, and we can certainly tell a difference when one of the parts is not there. Fortunately, though, Bram was able to step in and fill his spot Sunday morning, so it wasn't an issue.

One small note for all stage managers is to make sure the band gets rolling by 6:30pm on Saturday night. It is very easy to let the band take their time, which in turn means they're starting rehearsal around 6:45pm or so. But really it serves them if we move things along promptly because ultimately we're respecting their time. Don't hesitate to get with the worship leader right at 6:30 and get things going.


Lighting

Lighting went very smoothly last Sunday. There have not been many notes here recently primarily due to the absence of a backdrop on stage. We will be sure to post helpful insights as they come up.


Video

We had an instance this past Sunday where we went from lyrics on center screen and confidence monitors to IMAG center screen with lyrics on side screens and confidence monitors. Sounds simple right? Turns out it had to be a fast three step process in the IMAG room in order to orchestrate this, and the team did a fine job with it on the fly.

To make things simpler, however, there is now a preset on the matrix switcher for this situation. Whenever we have to show lyrics on the confidence monitors for the singers but not the screens for the congregation, use preset 5. This new preset is basically preset 2 with CPU1 directly connected to the confidence monitors.

Leave any thoughts below!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Sunday Morning Prayer

“Prayerlessness is an act of practical atheism.” - Gordon Fee

In the hectic schedule of technical team preparations on Sunday morning, I can often run about the church as an atheist. I am doing in my own strength and thinking in my own wisdom. That is not worship of the one true God. God commands me to stop and draw him into my serving.

As Joshua Harris mentioned last Sunday, we
will be trying out a new pre-service prayer routine this Sunday. This will give us all another opportunity to stop and seek God together. Ten minutes before the service starts, a pastor will gather people down front to pray in groups. Each group will be led by a pastor and will pray together for the congregation, our guests, and any special elements happening in that service.

I'd like all of our teams serving in the auditorium to join a group to pray each Sunday. A few things for team members to note:
  • You should aim to be done with all your setup and preparation by 8:40am. Please arrive a few minutes earlier if necessary.
  • Please make your way back to the auditorium fifteen minutes before both services (8:45a, 11:15a).
  • Join the group nearest your serving location.
  • We will go directly into singing from these prayer groups, so please skip out a couple minutes early. Give yourself plenty of time to get to your post and settle in mentally before the service starts. The countdown clock will be playing on the TV screens in front of the stage, so keep your eye on that and leave with at least two minutes to spare.
I am grateful for one more opportunity to seek God as partners in the gospel. May he continue to meet Covenant Life as we gather to sing, listen, serve, and apply.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

3.8 Reverb

Covenant Life enjoyed another wonderful Sunday a few days ago. Here's a brief review of the morning:

General Comments

Did you get sick this winter? If not, take a moment to thank the Lord for his mercy in your life. An unusual amount of people have been getting the cold or the flu this year, which means production team members like you have either been sending or receiving an unusual number of last-minute requests for substitutes. Let me say thanks for being faithful to send those requests and for being generous in responding to those requests. Many of you have given up extra time to cover for someone who is at home recovering. Thanks.


Sound

I have heard nothing but positive feedback about Julie's mix this weekend. Specifically, Don mentioned that the acoustic guitar sounded great and was perfectly located in the mix. I thought that Devon's vocal sounded comfortably in the lead, clear but not harsh.

The rest of the sound team did a great job as well. Soundcheck went smoothly and the band was able to end early to accommodate the 10:31 Youth Meeting on Saturday.

One sound team mentioned to me afterwords that she had changed the batteries in a wireless in-ear receiver, only to find out when the service started that they were in backwards. Her honesty allows me the opportunity to remind everyone to always check that an item works after changing the batteries. At least flip it on momentarily to confirm that you see lights.


Lighting

I have zero notes on lighting this week. All the lights were aimed well, and the cues ran smoothly. Thanks, Dave, for starting from scratch this weekend and making it all work so well.


Video

The video team was busy this weekend, having the most challenging job of all the teams this time around. Naturally, then, they have the most notes from the morning.
  • The Next promo video was perfect both services. Thanks, Dave (video Dave, not lighting Dave), for handling this so well, and for counting down to the end.
  • Sarah did a great job on camera 4 this weekend, nailing the spontaneous speaking in both services.
  • We had some timing issues with slides in the first service. Some reminders: 1) the "Welcome" slide should not come up until the pastor mentions the guest reception; 2) the "Please turn off cell phones" slide should not come up until the actual handoff between the introducing pastor and the preaching pastor. The only exception to this is when the introducing pastor specifically asks people to turn off their electronic devices.
The big note from this Sunday is a note to self. I need to make sure to coordinate ahead of time between the lyrics operators and the house director for the hymn memorization time. This is becoming an increasingly complex moment in video land, and I didn't prepare everyone enough ahead of time, so the first service was somewhat rough. The second service was perfect, however, so thanks for adjusting.


Lyrics

Closely linked with the video team are the lyrics operators, and I had a few related notes for them from this last Sunday, too.

Brittany (I'm guessing based on the handwriting and her personal passion for fonts) asked,
Can we switch the default sermon notes font to "Sylfaen"? It looks purtier. :)
Nope.

However, I would like to change up our fonts regularly, getting away from the "default font" idea, just to keep them from getting too stale. I'll look at Sylfaen to consider adding it to our list. Leave a comment to suggest your favorite sermon notes font. It must be both attractive and easily readable, but it cannot draw attention to itself. Free fonts are preferred but not required.

Two other quick ideas:
  • Please left-justify all the sermon notes. We've gotten into the habit of center justifying some and not others. We should stay consistent and left-justify everything.
  • Remember that pressing the down arrow at the end of a song will take you to the next song. If you mistakenly press the down arrow and then correct yourself by pressing "c," you will show the chorus for the next song. Be careful with those arrow keys.

Sermon Media

Thanks, Tom and Olu, for your hard work this weekend. This was the first weekend that we were able to complete the entire new process without needing to go back and adjust anything. Well done, guys!

One quick note for all sermon editors. Listen to the beginning of the sermon by clicking here. I think this should have started about seventeen seconds later. Specifically, it should start when Bob says, "I have a good friend, Drew..." While our members connect with the fact that we are in a series on Ephesians and that we've been blessed by it, the non-member is clicking on the link to hear the sermon, not to catch up on the most recent going-ons of Covenant Life Church.

I think we are still holding on to an age-old editing rule that says, "Start when the pastor asks people to open their Bibles." Let's throw that out once and for all, and start when the sermon starts. That will serve everyone listening.


Your Turn

Thanks, everyone! What comments do you want to add?