Characteristic Six: Technical Skill
Don’t get me wrong; technical skill is important if you want to be a technical artist. However, the key to being a great one lies less in the raw skills you have technically and more in the previously outlined traits.
With that said, I think it is critical to have a considerable amount of technical skill to be a great technical artist. The technical leader today is being called upon to do more than ever before.
As churches cut their technical staff, we’re seeing people go from being specialists in one area to having to oversee sound, lighting, video, presentation, and sometimes even IT.
I think we are in an incredible era in human history. Never before has so much information been so readily accessible. There is really no excuse any longer for not knowing your craft. Just 40 years ago, if you wanted to get into the live production game, you would have to start pushing road cases, and hope to find someone who knew just a little more than you did to show you the ropes. Most of the information out there was conjecture and opinion, with little hard science.
Today, there is a wealth of great information available at your fingertips (as well as a bunch of conjecture and opinion…). While it takes some effort to separate the wheat from the chaff, it’s not that hard. We have a great network of technical leaders in CTL, and it’s easier than ever to continually expand your skill set.
That’s one of the things we set out to do with our podcast, Church Tech Weekly; bring you perspectives from the best tech leaders in the church today. Take some time and listen to them. End shameless plug.
The best technical artists I know are always learning, adding new skills to their toolboxes. It’s one of the reasons I pay to go to trade shows out of my own pocket—because it’s a great way to network, learn about new technology and talk straight to the people who make it. Yes it costs me personally, but when my skill set grows, I’m better able to equip those around me.
I think most people who are involved in live production technology have a natural bent towards tech (and if they don’t, well, perhaps they need to find a new area in which to serve).
However, technical skill is developed over time. It’s a continual process, not an event. I went to school for four years to learn this craft, and indeed did learn a lot. But that was not the end of my education. Just the other day, I learned how to install an app on my iPad without using iTunes or the App Store (did you know you could do that? Look it up!).
While it’s unlikely we’ll become experts in every single discipline of live production, we should at least have a pretty good understanding of them. I’m not really a lighting guy, per se. However, I know how to design a light plot, I can fix broken fixtures and I can program a service even using a lighting console I don’t like. And while I don’t like it, I keep learning it.
So while I think this is probably the least important characteristics of a great technical artist, I do think it is critical. You can be a great leader of technical people if you possess the first five traits; however without technical skill (and plenty of it), it’s really hard to be a technical artist.
Mike Sessler is the Technical Director at Coast Hills Community Church in Aliso Viejo, CA. He has been involved in live production for over 20 years and is the author of the blog Church Tech Arts. He also hosts a weekly podcast called Church Tech Weekly on the TechArtsNetwork.