Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Ever Seen Sound Travel?

Here is a great little video from John Huntington demonstrating how sound takes time to travel through the air.


Seeing Sound Waves from John Huntington on Vimeo.

1.11 and 1.18 Reverb

This silly picture (silly only because I'm in it) showed up on Josh's blog last Saturday. The subtitle included,
[Dave] leads a small army of servants who make live video and sound happen throughout the building on Sundays.
I want to take this opportunity to again say thanks to all of you. This picture would be meaningless without all of you doing your part. I also want to point out that you do more than just make live sound and video happen each Sunday. You also make it happen at every other church event. And you don't just make it happen. You make it happen with excellence in both execution and spirit. Thanks for honoring God in your service. Note: my apologies to all the lighting folks who didn't get represented in the caption. You are not forgotten by the Lord!

I also want to thank those of you who came to the mandatory January meetings these last two weekends. We had a great response to the change in the annual serving cycle, with almost half of the team willing to extend their service into 2010. That is such a wonderful representation of God's heart for this church. He is working in you, giving you a sacrificial heart of service, to continue to provide for the church into the future. Thanks so much!

As we discussed, some of you will have your annual commitment decision come due in April of this year. By the end of January, we will assign everyone their month. And those of you who will come due in April will hear from us in early February.

If you were not able to make one of the meetings, I am creating a DVD of last Sunday's meeting for you to watch. Warning: this video will have zero production value, but it will be informational and will explain how to send us your response.

For various reasons, but primarily because moving my office was more work than I expected, I wasn't able to find the time to post my reverb comments for Sunday, January 11th. Instead of going through a blow-by-blow of the past two weeks, I thought I'd mention just a few of the little details that make the big difference. In some ways, these details are very basic, simple, and easily accomplished. At the same time, these are the first things we tend to forget when we start to get too comfortable.


Checklists

First, I need to ask the forgiveness of the entire team. I looked through the checklists this week, which means I looked over my own. It was incomplete. That's unacceptable. Please forgive me for being lazy, and for setting such a poor example. I will make every effort to never do that again.

Why is it important that we read the checklists carefully and follow through with them? The checklists are our safeguard that we don't forget the small details. We had a prime example this weekend, when the house lights went up and down several times during communion. That could have been avoided if the lighting checklist had been fully completed.

Now, let me be clear that I'm not picking on our lighting operator from this last Sunday. It could have been one of my incomplete checklist items that caused the distraction. It could have been one of the other 6 or so people who didn't complete their checklists.

Let's redefine faithfulness. Faithfulness is checking every box.


Storage and Organization

As I always recount on our quarterly work days, the whole world follows the rules of entropy, meaning that things go from order to chaos unless they are acted on by a force from the outside. You can be that force of order when you return everything to its dedicated storage spot.

The Events Center is especially troublesome, so we used the last work day to organize the backstage area. Ben and Caleb also filmed a video to show how it should look whenever our teams leave. Each and every team needs to own this in order for it to work.

Go ahead, subdue the earth.


Stage

Since we have abandoned the flats as a stage backdrop, we can no longer hide disorganized piles of cables, cases, coats, and coffee cups behind them. Now, we need to return to ruthless removal of all unneeded items. To the green room with you.

Similarly, we need to be more careful with the neatness of cables. For the most part, all coils of cable should remain at the base of the mic or music stand. In some cases, extra snake cable should be coiled up at the main wall panels. Please avoid coiling piles of cable near a subsnake box, as the pile becomes tangled spaghetti when troubleshooting is required.

I will be posting a video soon about how to tape down cables, since this is a detail I have not stressed adequately enough. In the meantime, a few rules: 1) don't tape anything down until you are confident it works; 2) never tape anything down with a single strip of 2" gaff; 3) keep your eyes on your RSS feeds for that video.


Camera Shots

Back in November, we had a run of excellence when I told the video crews there would be a prize for the first team that went an entire morning without requiring Ben or me to use the phrase, "Focus Toward You." Unfortunately, since then, we've been back to our old ways. Several, if not many, shots are going up with the wrong exposure or with the focus obviously too far away.

While I know this is difficult to perfect, this is a basic necessity to avoid distraction for the congregation. The essence of the job of the camera crew is to be the eyes of the congregation. The human eye adjusts almost immediately to changes in brightness and focus, and we need to replicate that with the cameras.

This degree of excellence requires 100% of the team to be hard at work at all times. Each camera operator needs to watch those little monitors really carefully. The assistant director and the camera 4 operator must pay careful attention to the brightness of every shot. Camera directors must be pleasantly demanding, insisting that each shot be right before it hits the program. House directors can be that final line of defense. If it's not right, don't put it up unless you have absolutely no choice.

We can improve in this area, and Ben and I will be pushing you all to excel. Let's make the video great, every shot, every moment.


Lighting Setup

Another result of the non-existent backdrop is that our lighting has simplified significantly. The temptation could be to ease up a little on aiming lights on the band, since we don't have the panels there to accentuate sloppiness. Please make sure that you don't rely on last week's light plot instead of aiming lights for your stage setup.


The Little Things

Now, before I conclude, let me make clear that last Sunday was a great morning. People worshiped the Lord, and we heard his word preached. I believe that the Spirit used these things to strengthen and change people and to bring himself much glory. I write this post not primarily about the last two weeks, but instead to address some tendencies that I'm seeing across the teams. While they are just tendencies now, they could become bad habits if we're not vigilant to address them.
"So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." - 1 Corinthians 10:31
The little things do count to God.

What other little things could we do to improve?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Events Center Backstage Cleanup

At our work day one week ago, a team of folks cleaned up and organized the Events Center backstage area. Our hope and expectation is that from now on the Events Center will return to this state after each and every event. While this doesn't necessarily require a video, we wanted to let you see that neatness is indeed possible with the hope that it will inspire you to keep it that way. Thanks in advance for your help in keeping this area in order.


Events Center Backstage Organization from David Wilcox on Vimeo.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

1.4 Reverb

One Sunday down. Fifty-one to go. I can't believe it's already 2009.

What happened on this first Sunday of the new year?

General Comments


January Meetings - Don't forget the first round of mandatory meetings this weekend. Come January 10th at 9:00a if you are on the sound, lighting, or IMAG video teams. January 11th at 1:30p is the sermon audio team meeting. Stay tuned for final locations, which are dependent on final RSVPs. If you opt not to attend this weekend, you must attend the second round on January 18th and January 24th.

Awareness Around Equipment - We experienced a surprising glitch this Sunday. In the third song of the second service, the lyrics froze. But they only froze in a few places: the mezzanine televisions, the confidence monitors, and the RF feed. The lyrics computers themselves were working fine, and so was the main screen.

After a bit of somewhat frantic troubleshooting, we located the problem. The center screen scan converter "freeze" button was on. To be completely honest, I am not sure exactly how it happened. Given it's location, I would not be surprised if an accidental and very light kick from a toe happened to turn that button on. Obviously, it was no one's fault except my own, and we'll protect that gear with some plastic covers as soon as possible.

This is a great opportunity to remind everyone to be aware of the equipment around you. Beware of Bibles on keyboards or lighting boards, involuntarily toe-tapping the camera tripods, stretching your legs out under an equipment desk, brushing the audio patch cable bay as you walk by, loose sleeve wristbands catching sound board faders, and the list goes on. These are all things we've experienced, and, though accidental, they can still easily distract.


Sound

Saturday rehearsal this weekend went well. The band wrapped up 15 minutes early, which is always a good sign. Gavin admitted, though, that the rehearsal didn't start off so well. The monitor team hadn't fully checked outputs before stopping to eat dinner, so there was some troubleshooting going on during the first twenty minutes of rehearsal. That definitely slowed down the official rehearsal start time, but the band was still able to get through all their songs in the designated time. Audio producers, please always make sure to do all line checks before eating dinner.

The mix was very good this weekend. Dave, I thought the sub frequencies this weekend were spot on. You are really helping us get this right, and I'm grateful for your hard work. The overall band sound definitely benefits from PJ's open drumming. He doesn't fill a lot, but just keeps a solid beat going.

I heard all the instruments when I expected to, and you didn't miss any microphones. My only thought on the mix at all was during the first song of the second service. When any song splits the men and women up, I think the women should be as loud, if not louder than the men. For instance, if the men sing first, the women need to be able to hear their line and sing over the guys, so the women may actually need to be a little bit louder.


Lighting

Lighting was very simple this weekend because we had a new set which was, in fact, no set. Overall, it was a nice change. Did you like it?

I have two quick lighting thoughts:
  • Speech During Music - I want to make a change to our regular practice when someone comes up to talk during music. Until now, we have added the sermon lighting to the band lighting. However, the lights on the front line musicians often create hot spots in the sermon area which make the lighting for video less than ideal. From now on, I'd like to transition fully to only the sermon lighting whenever someone comes up to talk, whether planned or spontaneous.
  • House Light Changes - Sometimes, we have lighting cue changes that only adjust the house lights, for instance the transition between the announcements and the sermon. We have house lights at 90% for the announcements, then drop the house lights to 65% for the sermon. If you happen to miss a cue like this, please just skip the cue rather than make the transition at a random time. The difference between the 90% and 65% house lights is much less important than keeping the focus on the sermon once it's started.

Video

I have a testimony from Tyler:
The pastor cam really makes an appreciable difference in the amount of lead time we get in preparing for a ministry mic moment. The extra time gives us a crucial edge in preparation and will allow greater consistency in getting the camera on target. In short, it rocks. Thanks.
Now that we have a much better view of what is happening in the front row, I want everyone to be aware of the ministry mic approval process, so that you know what to look for:
  1. A person comes to the pastors at the mic to get initial approval for their idea.
  2. The pastor considers if it is strong enough and if can be made to fit into the song flow.
  3. If they think it will work, they walk across the front row to consult with Josh or Grant.
  4. Josh or Grant will give the final approval on the content.
  5. The pastor returns to the aisle by the mic and lets the church member know whether or not they will be able to share.
  6. The pastor communicates with the worship leader that a person is ready to share.
  7. The worship leader decides exactly when they can make the musical transition to the ministry mic moment.
All of this may happen in the matter of 30 seconds or over a period of five minutes. The key for us is that at step 1, we should immediately get cam4 set up for the ministry mic. If at step 2 or step 5, the person leaves the lineup, we can return to normal operation. Cam4 ops, please don't forget to write down your preset focal length and iris levels for the ministry mic location, so that you can lock in the shot without lights or a subject.

On a different note, I've noticed that we are slowly shifting to an all-the-same shot setup. All three cameras have essentially the same framing, from just below the pulpit up. We need to change it up a little. Cam1 should stay close in, but cam2 should be wider, preferably waist up. This makes the cut from cam1 to cam2 less awkward and sets up for a nice transition from cam2 to cam4.

Finally, for lyrics operators, a few small but important details to remember:
  • All lyrics should be centered. Not only should they be center justified, they should be centered on the screen. If you adjust one side margin, please make sure to do the same on the opposite side, so that the text remains in the center and doesn't shift one way or the other. Also, please know that your operating position is severely off-center. If you are unsure if the image is rendering center on the projector, please walk to the center aisle and look from there. Don't try to make it look exactly center from the computer station.
  • All sermon notes should be left justified.
  • For sermon points, all complete sentences should end in a period. Sentence fragments should have no punctuation at the end. This is something we'll need to watch because the pastors are not paying attention to these deatils when they type their manuscript.
  • Please make sure that either Ben, Bram, Josh, or I look at the sermon notes before the service starts. We try to get there, but sometimes other things get our attention. It is very important that we look over them before the first service starts, and you can help by reminding us.
I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts on Sunday, also. Comment away!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Saturday Randomness

Some Saturday Randomness:
  • I want to blog more. That's one of the things I'm writing in a blog post about my goals for the new year. You would already know if I had actually finished the post. So, it's not a great start, but maybe this randomness makes up for it.
  • Tech ministry is like kindergarten. Neatness counts. I spent much of today revising our sermon media systems, recreating the order forms, and making an organizational bin for the completed CDs and DVDs that are ready for pickup.
  • Similarly, my next video assignment is this: How to Tape Down a Cable. Somehow, I've failed to adequately train my team in this critical art, and I waste many minutes battling to remove stuck-to-self gaff tape.
  • Windows are wonderful. I'm exploring changing offices to one that is further from the rest of the staff (downside) but has windows (upside). So far, my outlook and my productivity have been way up. We'll see how the new spot works out for tomorrow's church service. Ah....natural light.