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.


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 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.


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!


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?


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


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.