Monday, February 23, 2009

New Multipin Connectors in the Events Center

Watch this short video to learn about the new Ramlatch multipin connectors in the Events Center.


New Multipin Connectors in Events Center from David Wilcox on Vimeo.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

How Loud is Too Loud? - Participant Instructions

Piles of thanks to all of you who responded to my request for an extended discussion on volume levels in church. We have some great folks coming together to talk, study, and write. At this point, the count is 11 of us, which is probably about all we can manage, but if you really want to be a part of the discussion, please let me know by commenting on this post.

Now, for all participants, I need you to take care of a little administrivia.

First, I'd love to know a little bit about you ahead of time. Please send me an email at dwilcox[at]covlife[dot]org with the following info:
  • Your full name
  • Your church
  • Your role in your church's sound
  • Your blog address, if you have one
  • Pick your top two preferences for the weekly discussion time: Mondays@2:00p; Wednesdays@8:00p; Fridays@1:00p; Saturdays@10:00a; Saturdays@1:00p (all times EST).
We'll be using tokbox for our video chat, so sign on up. Once you sign up, select "Find Friends" in the upper right, then "Search the Tokbox Directory" and enter David Wilcox. Then select "Add as Friend" so that we can easily connect with each other. You can video chat with me any time if you have questions about tokbox, want to test your connection, or just want to talk.

I'll be trying to use undistract to keep everyone aware of the chat links, etc. However, if you are a twitter user, you can follow me to get up-to-the-minute info on the video chat.

I can't wait for this dialogue to begin. I believe that God is going to use this to clarify our thoughts and convictions about volume levels in our churches.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Next

What's Next?

Find out here.

I'll be mixing the main sessions again this year, with a couple new bands and the return of choirs and orchestras. I am grateful to be able to serve again. Honestly, I'm mystified as to why they ask me back because I'm not in the target audience any more, and, even when I was, I was not cool. Hopefully, I can help them make good music for the glory of God nonetheless.

Enjoy their latest promo video, then register for the conference to meet Jesus once again, and then pass the word on to your friends.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

2.15 Overdrive

From Ben Neumann...

Recap:
Overall this past Sunday flowed very smoothly, and leaves room for only a few brief comments. A handful of very good comments were made on the drum mix this past weekend. Jon David’s band has a softer sound that leaves more room for dynamics to come through with the drums, and they came through very nicely. The accordion (miced simply with a Shure SM58) and mandolin again were a nice addition for the arrangements. Also, an obvious note but worth mentioning, Jon David changed his strings the night before. The brightness that new strings gave really enhanced this portion of the mix. Dave any comments on what you did differently this Sunday regarding the drums?

There were not many lighting changes this week. However, one important note to mention is that shirt color on stage affects which and how many lights to use for a particular person. In this case, the lights were set for the singers a certain way on Saturday night based on the brightness of their shirts. Sunday morning, however, the singers had contrasting shirts on (dark vs light), and therefore small lighting adjustments had to be made, which Craig did joyfully!

Similarly, on the video end, Robin Boisvert had on a shirt with a thin stripe pattern on the shirt. This kind of pattern “confuses” our cameras and makes for some small but distracting effects on the IMAG screen. Our camera operators adjusted by zooming in closer and tightening the frame so that the cameras would see more space between the plaid stripes.

Thank you again to the sermon media team for transitioning into the new mode of editing since the window closed. It does involve more attention to detail compared to when the window was open and people were waiting for CDs. One small reminder is to leave off any comment such as “lets pray” or “lets bow our heads” from the recordings. The last segment of the recording should be the last statement made by the preaching pastor prior to the closing prayer.

Thanks everyone, feel free to leave feedback!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

How Loud Is Too Loud? - An Extended Online Discussion

He's standing behind you at the sound booth. You do not know him well, but you have talked before. You have a good idea of what he is about to say. "The music is really loud. Can you turn it down a little?"

While I am grateful that I don't have to answer this question very often at Covenant Life, I know that this question comes to mind more often than it is actually asked. And I also am confident that this is true for many churches around the world each Sunday.

As the tech director at Covenant Life, I own the responsibility to understand, teach about, and help the pastors navigate decisions related to volume levels of music.

And here's the challenge I am struggling through now:

Most of what I've read about volume levels in church acknowledge the many complexities of assessing loudness:
  • It depends on how you measure and where.
  • It depends on the sound system.
  • It depends on the music mix.
  • It depends on how loud the congregation sings.
  • It depends, it depends, it depends...
But, honestly, those same articles tend to be very simplistic in their prescriptions: Don't get louder than [enter your favorite number] decibels.

So, step one: if you know of an article that actually tackles the complexities, would you please send that my way?

And, step two: please consider participating in an extended online discussion. My goal from this discussion is that we all come away with clearer convictions about volume in our church services, clearer direction for our ministries, and confidence to clearly communicate our conviction and direction to the people whose preferences we don't meet.

This discussion will include (God-willing):
  • One 15-30 minute online chat each week. This will be a group talk event, not a presentation by any one person. I will choose the topic, but I won't be the sole or even primary contributor.
  • One blog post per week per participant based on the video chat. If you don't have your own blog, I would ask you to email me a three- to four-paragraph email with your response to the discussion that I can post on undistract.
  • 30-60 minutes per week of research. You may get an assignment to learn something to teach to the group, so don't expect to just ask questions, pose problems, and then walk away.
So, this would be approximately a 2-hour per week, weekly commitment. I expect the discussion to last about two months, but I'm open to shorter or longer as the Lord leads.

Leave a comment here or email me at dwilcox[place @ symbol here]covlife[period goes here]org if you would like to be a full participant. Lurkers will be welcome to watch the video chat and read the results, but only full participants can talk in the chat or have their thoughts posted outside of the comments on undistract.

Who's in?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

2.8 Reverb

We had another great weekend with a first-time Sunday preacher. Mike Bradshaw - more famously known to our Discovery Land kids as Mr. B - taught us about the gospel and our words. Listen again to learn about how our words carry the dangerous potential to corrupt or the glorious potential to give grace.

What else happened on Sunday?

General Comments


As you know, change is the only constant in our world. Starting in the next couple weeks, we are making another small administrative change. Instead of Ken or Brittany placing song sheets on each stand for the musicians, there will be a wall file in the sound booth near the sound checklists that will hold all the song sheets for that Sunday. Mixers and SundayPlus operators will need to get their song sheets from there. Also, if the band doesn't get this note, you can let them know where their music will be.


Sermon Media

I'm going to start today with a note for our sermon media team. For those of you who haven't met them before, we have nine people who handle all the Sunday sermon recording and editing. For some time, they have been the "outsider" team, but I want to draw them in more under the Production Teams umbrella. You will likely see more notes for them in the future. Now that everyone knows who they are, here's what we learned Sunday on the sermon media team...

First, thanks to everyone on the team for adjusting so graciously to the changes associated with closing the sermon media window. I know it means more work and new processes for you in the first few months. Your help is making a significant difference in the amount of work we have to do throughout the week.

Mark, who was editing this weekend, quite ably followed all the directions on the new checklist. However, the noise reduction part of the software does not work well on music. When he, as instructed, ran noise reduction on the entire service file, it made the sermon sound terrible. Lesson learned: we will only run noise reduction on files that are solely speech, not on anything that includes music. Music recordings will only be normalized. The checklist now indicates that correctly.


Sound

The sound crew did very well, especially considering that they were shorthanded by two people and did not have a Saturday night rehearsal. From my limited vantage point, it seemed like Sunday morning rehearsal went smoothly. The band was able to wrap up at 8:30a sharp, which is usually a sign that soundcheck was done at a good time.

The stage setup was clean and neat, another important factor with the empty stage look we are using. The team also did a good job of putting people exactly where we had indicated on the stage plot. In retrospect, I should have spread people out more, so there wasn't such a big opening stage center, but that was completely my fault.

The only mix comment I received was that it seemed like Jake's loops on Only Jesus were too loud in the second service. If I understand correctly, the band and mixer really liked what Jake was doing in the first service, so they decided to highlight it more in the second service by using it more and having it more prominent in the mix. It might have been too much.

Since we've been doing more with loops in the last year or so, it may be time to have a discussion with the mixers and Jake to figure out the best way to place loops in the mix. Sometimes they are just texture. Sometimes they are the foundation of the mix. Sometimes they are the transitional elements. As always, listen carefully and communicate with the band about arrangements.


Lighting

Craig did a nice job with the lighting this weekend. Thanks, Craig, for flowing with the on-the-fly house light adjustments for communion. I had forgotten to indicate that the house lights should be at 90% when the trays of bread and juice were being distributed.

I was reminded this weekend that lighting is much more than intensity levels on the display monitor. Other things affect the brightness of the subject, including the burn-in level of the lamps, lamp bench focus, burn-in level of the gel, as well as the color of the subject's skin and clothing.

How did this show up on Sunday? Megan was wearing white and has very light skin. She was glowing. Devon, on the other hand, was wearing black and has facial hair. We couldn't get Devon as bright as Megan by just adjusting light levels without dropping Megan into the dark. If we had noticed this in time, we probably should have added another light to Devon. This is just another element for which lighting operators need to be ready to adjust.

Finally, a small thing: because the lighting team is responsible for all lighting aspects to the auditorium environment, the team members should be going backstage to make sure the hallway lights are set correctly. This minimizes light spill from backstage to onstage during blackouts. Some operators have been confused by the labeling of the light switches. Which ones should be on and which ones should be off? I now added numerical labels to the switches which correspond to the checklist. There are nine switches, each with an indicator of "Up" and "Down" to make the three-way switches easier to understand.


Video

The video team was busy this weekend. They did a great job on a couple items in particular. First, they nailed the video of Caly that Mike used as an illustration in his message. It rolled in at just the right time, flowing very well with his speech patterns and was timed perfectly to his verbal prompts. They also did very well with Dean Adamek's pictures. He didn't exactly follow the script, and they reacted very well to direction from several different people. Thanks, John and Ed, for your quick responses.

One thing that all the teams can still improve on is preparation for shots from the ministry mic. Unfortunately, we still have many shots going up late, too bright or dark, out of focus, and with uncomfortable framing. Here's the problem: these are moments when the Spirit of God wants to speak to very specific people in the congregation. If the camera shot is bad, that could draw the attention of those same people away from God. We need to work harder to get this right.

The camera 4 operators have had a checklist item to ask the lighting operator to turn on the ministry mic lights and then note the f-stop number with the lights on. This should allow them to preset the brightness during the meeting even with the lights off. Even though these items have largely been checked off, I'm afraid this either isn't getting done accurately or it isn't being used later in the service. So, I've added some more details to the checklist. The camera 4 operators (and camera 5 for baptisms) should fill in the blanks for the f-stop number and the focal length for a good shot. If you have any questions at all on how to do this, please talk to your camera director, video producer, or me.


SundayPlus

The SundayPlus operators did a good job this weekend. Thanks, Dolores, for staying late after the 10:31 meeting to enter the songs into the system. This always sets us up well for a more calm Sunday morning. I have only one note for them from the whole meeting: Please don't shut off the countdown clock before it hits "00:00". Ken is really pushing the band to start when the countdown hits zero. However, when we shut if off at 00:10, they get confused and tend to start late. We should let the countdown run all the way out, and only then switch back to the lyrics computers.

Thanks, everyone. What would you like to add?

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

2.1 Reverb

Braden Greer taught the fifteenth sermon in Covenant Life's series in Ephesians this last Sunday. You can listen again to hear how the new birth makes new actions possible. As a reminder of what else happened, here's the list of items from this weekend's very full Sunday:
  • Bob Kauflin led us in singing with an "acoustic" band.
  • Bob introduced our new hymn for memorization for February, Be Thou My Vision.
  • Isaac Hydoski shared an exhortation regarding our adoption into God's family.
  • Adam Malcolm prayed for Tajikistan. Due to time, this got cut from the second service.
  • Joshua Harris led the church in praying for President Obama based on Albert Mohler's prayer.
  • Joshua shared some pastoral priorities, aka announcements.
  • Braden preached. Did I recommend yet that you listen to it again?
I want to begin with an encouraging note. Because I am not usually in Discovery Land, our children's ministry, I don't often get to include details from that room in our Sunday follow-up posts. However, I wanted to pass on this note from Sue, who helps Mike Bradshaw coordinate the music and drama teams in Discovery Land:
I worked with the Week 4 team this past Sunday [actually 2 Sundays ago now] and was amazed at how smoothly and quickly everything came together. We were able to follow the schedule Mike had laid out with almost minute-precision. There were only three techs there: Dan, Mark, and Caleb. Honestly, I can't tell you exactly HOW they made it all fall together so smoothly but it did seem that everyone knew exactly what they should be doing and how to get it done efficiently.
Any thoughts from that team on how everything came together so effectively? What did you do to prepare the equipment and yourselves? Please comment on this post to teach us all a thing or two.

Second, I found a note on one of the checklists that went something like this: "It would be nice to be able to IM Dave." You can! Let me introduce you to Twitter. Twitter is a simple messaging service that allows you and me to connect, whether we are at our computers or not.

Here's how to get set up:
  1. Go to http://www.twitter.com and sign up for an account.
  2. Go to your account settings, then devices, and sign up your cell phone for text messaging. Important note: this could cost you money, so make sure you know what your calling plan allows for text messaging.
  3. Go to http://www.twitter.com/davidjwilcox and click on the follow button. Then select "On" for device updates. This will allow you to receive my updates on your cell phone.
  4. Then, I will follow you back, so we can communicate. Please choose a logical username or fill in your profile, so that I know who you are. I don't follow random people (aka spammers).
  5. Then you can send me a public message by texting 40404 with a note starting with @davidjwilcox, for instance, "@davidjwilcox Will there be a song at the end of the service?"
  6. Or send me a direct (private) message by texting 40404 with a note starting with d davidjwilcox, for instance "d davidjwilcox Your hair looks really goofy after you take off the intercom headset."
Also, if you don't want to sign up for an account, but you do want to receive my updates from Twitter, simply send a text message to 40404 with "follow davidjwilcox". You won't be able to send me messages, but you can read the updates I'll post.


Sound

The sound crew did a good job this weekend. Not having a Saturday rehearsal always pressurizes the Sunday rehearsal time, but it seemed like this weekend's team handled it peaceably.

The mix was very good, Dave. Whatever you did with Ben's acoustic guitar was exactly what we were looking for in the "acoustic band" sound. Did you use the tube compressor for that? How did the AKG 535 work for the Cajon?

One reminder for monitor operators: No mix output peak lights should ever come on. This will cause at least uncomfortable compression in the person's headphones. Many times, it will distort the mix.

What typically happens is this:
  • There is a leftover mix from the last week, which was pretty loud.
  • The musician comes in and immediately turns the entire mix down at their box or wireless in-ear pack.
  • They then proceed to turn up the instruments that they want to hear.
  • Quickly, this will lead to peak lights on the meters because we are overdriving the outputs of the mixer.
The remedy is this: Turn each input down in that mix at the board. (Do not turn down the overall mix level). Then have the musician turn their box back up. Then adjust the mix as necessary.

All musicians should have their volume levels at minimally 75%. Don't forget that the wireless in-ear receivers' painted volume "markers" not very accurate. Make sure to turn the volume all the way around (with in-ears OUT!) and then turn it back to about 75% of the highest level. Audio producers, we need to make this a weekly reminder to the musicians. They should not be expected to remember this from week to week.


Lighting

Lighting was pretty simple this weekend, and Alex did a great job. By the way, did you know that Alex was the 10:31 award winner? That means that, of all the high school senior guys, Alex was chosen by his classmates, teachers, parents, and pastors as the one who best exemplifies the motto of our youth ministry: "Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." Congratulations, Alex! You have our deepest respect. Thanks for your example of godliness and service in secret.


Video

The video work was very smooth this weekend. Special thanks go to Isaac and Ryan for jumping in at the last-minute to camera direct. The first shots we saw were solid, without much shading happening after they went live. That was a very good thing.

I think, however, that we can still be faster to get the shots right and then get them live. Two reminders for the assistant directors:
  • All stage lighting changes are indicated on your service rundown worksheet. Whenever there is a number indicated in the line of the service item, a lighting change will be happening. That's when you need to be most ready to adjust on the fly.
  • The lighting cue indicated as "Sermon" on the sheet is such that you can safely start by setting the iris knob at the 12 noon position. When you see "sermon" as the coming lighting cue, for instance when a pastor is coming up on stage, take the next camera shot to the 12 noon iris position, wait for the lights to change, and then adjust slightly to lock in the brightness.
Remember, you are the eyes of the congregation, and most people will open their eyes when someone comes up to speak. The goal is to get each shot right and live before they say the first word. It's a tall goal, but you can do it!

What would you like to suggest from this last Sunday?