Wednesday, December 09, 2015
Convention Committee Announced for AES 140th International Convention In Paris
Will offer four full days of in-depth programs and presentations, facility tours, and a three-day manufacturer exhibition
The Audio Engineering Society (AES) has announced the official convention committee for the 140th International AES Convention, set to take place June 4-7, 2016, at the Palais des Congrès de Paris in Paris, France.
Co-chaired by Michael Williams and Umberto Zanghieri, the 140th convention will offer four full days of in-depth programs and presentations, facility tours, and a three-day manufacturer exhibition.
Charged with leading the paper sessions at the convention are paper co-chairs Thomas Gorne (Germany), Wolfgang Klippel (Germany), Bergane Periaux (France), Robin Reumers (Belgium), and Dejan Todovoric (Serbia). Co-chairs for the convention’s workshops presentations will be Natanya Ford (UK) and Rob Toulson (UK).
The technical tours will be chaired by Phillippe Labroue (France), while additional support will be provided by facilities co-chairs Layan Thornton (France) and Nadjia Wallaszkovits (Austria).
“Our convention chairs Umberto Zanghieri and Michael Williams have put together an impressive team to build the program for the 140th AES Convention,” says Bob Moses, AES executive director. “The 140th is going to be a great event in a great city. If you are serious about audio, you seriously need to join us in Paris.”
Audio Engineering Society (AES)
SoundGirls.Org Presenting Slate Of Tour Managing & FOH/ME Seminars In California And New York
Learning the keys to wearing two crucial hats in the touring production world to enhance employment opportunities
SoundGirls.Org is presenting a series of seminars on handling the dual roles of tour management with front of house or monitor engineering, with two upcoming dates slated for California followed by another in New York City.
“When starting out as a front-of-house or monitor engineer, many tours require you to wear two hats,” explains Karrie Keyes, a veteran mix engineer and co-founder of SoundGirls.Org. “The tour manager and FOH/ME, or production manager and FOH/ME, are the most common dual roles you will find. Being able to handle both roles effectively makes you more valuable, increases your skill set, and allows you to gain the experience needed to tour solely as a sound engineer or tour manager.”
First on the itinerary is a seminar at the Rock & Roll Warehouse at 501 Bitritto Way in Modesto, CA, on Saturday, December 19 from noon to 3 pm. Presenters include Rachel Ryan, FOH and tour manager for PHOX and monitor engineer for The Strokes, as well as Chez Stock, FOH and tour manager for several independent artists, including Yuna, Dorothy, and Empress Of.
Next up is a seminar at Planetwood Productions, 5163 Shearin Ave in Los Angeles on Saturday, January 2, also scheduled for noon to 3 pm. Presenters are Chez Stock and Rachel Ryan. Owned by Catharine Wood, Planetwood Productions is a production facility that handles everything from commissioned pieces for ESPN to producing singles and albums for singer-songwriters.
The educational opportunity moves to the East Coast with a seminar the following week at The Unicorn, 105 Henry Street at Pike Street in New York City, scheduled for Saturday, January 9 from noon to 2:30 pm. Presenting is Claudia Englehart, a tour manager and FOH engineer for Bill Frisell since 1989 who has worked with many renowned artists such as Ryuichi Sakamoto, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Michael Brecker, David Byrne, Laurie Anderson, and many others.
“What do you need to know to tour manage, how to juggle sound check, and get your artists to sound check?” concludes Michelle Sabolchick Pettinato, a veteran mix engineer and co-founder of SoundGirls.Org, “Come find out The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of wearing two hats.”
Biamp Systems Announces New Online Certification Training For Audia
'Audia for Technicians' self-paced course allows participants to improve audio know-how while earning two renewal units toward InfoComm CTS credential
Biamp Systems unveils an all-new online training course for its Audia digital audio platform.
Designed to be flexible and on-demand, the self-paced course allows integrators and end-users to gain insights into maintaining the company’s Audia solutions.
“Audia installations continue to power audio for facilities around the globe, creating the need for us to broaden the training available to meet the continued learning needs of the industry,” said Kiley Henner, director of customer experience at Biamp Systems.
“Targeted at professionals tasked with operating and maintaining an Audia system, the ‘Audia for Technicians’ online training course provides valuable knowledge on how to successfully leverage and maintain the benefits of our networked audio solution.”
“Audia for Technicians” is the latest self-paced course from Biamp aimed at providing the knowledge and tools needed for providing maintenance and making minor modifications to existing Biamp AudiaFLEX and Nexia platform audio systems.
Providing two renewal units toward InfoComm International’s Certified Technology Specialist (CTS) credential, the online learning module focuses on existing systems by looking at topics such as AudiaFLEX and Nexia hardware, navigating configuration software, connectivity layers for communicating with hardware, and how peripheral devices such as audio expanders and controllers impact the overall AV system.
In addition, participants will learn how multiple Audia and Nexia systems transmit sound between each other.
To complement the online training experience, Biamp also provides participants with an extensive collection of on-demand videos via the Biamp Training channel on YouTube. To further assist users in harnessing the full potential of Biamp products, the company has created Cornerstone — an online technical support knowledgebase containing detailed technical information on all Biamp products. As a result, partners gain access to an informative, efficient, and well-rounded learning environment.
More information on Biamp’s new Audia online certification training and how to register for the course is available here.
Posted by House Editor on 12/09 at 11:33 AM
Are You All In? Translating The Passion Into What Really Matters
Ours is a small industry -- but it's an exciting one, a business that the many of the world's "wannabes" dream about
Recently, I was subjected to a strikingly dull conversation with a top touring mix engineer. He really didn’t seem to be into his job, or anything else for that matter.
Apparently, being behind that quarter-million dollar console out in an audience of thousands, mixing shows for that totally hot female star that everyone knows, just wasn’t cutting it for this guy. What? Sounds impossible, doesn’t it? Of course.
We’re blessed to belong to an industry that attracts passionate people from all walks of life. And interestingly, these friends, colleagues, mentors, idols, employees and industry stalwarts tend to have extracurricular pursuits and hobbies, too. Things they do that bring out almost the same level of passion from these folks as their work.
We all know of Dave Rat, of course. But did you know that he’s seriously into surfing? Even if not, this doesn’t come as a surprise, does it? It’s also obvious that he’s passionate about life in general, and looking at his professional success and that of his company, he’s an inspiration, right? Or how about Robert Scovill? I wonder how many of us could keep up with his physical training regimen. It’s truly a labor of love.
My point is that this industry needs people like Robert and Dave, and fortunately, they exist in spades, even if we don’t always know their names.
The In Crowd
Who wouldn’t want to be one of us, anyway? How many times have people stopped by the console and asked “Do you really know what all those knobs and buttons do?” Maybe they’re curious, and certainly they think they’re being funny and original. But really, a lot of them are in awe.
And what about the music itself? And the energy of the audience? It’s intoxicating. There’s a certain rush that happens just before the show starts. And that rush never gets old.
Sure, there’s tons of work (sometimes literally) behind the scenes, and extended periods of days, weeks, months and years on the road. But the payoff is pretty nice.
There’s something more to the equation, isn’t there? Why do so many people in our business have a fondness for fast cars? I think part of it has to do with a love of the power with precision. Doesn’t this also define a well-conceived sound reinforcement system? Enough power for a massive explosion, but coaxed by our careful ears, minds and hands into delivering to the masses one of mankind’s best products: music.
So what’s involved with being “all in,” audio professional style? First, we have to be ready to absorb and understand quite a few important basic concepts. And many of them are counter-intuitive or at least not obvious on the surface.
Take decibels. for example. It’s one thing to understand the concept, but have you ever tried explaining it to a lay person? Or the inverse square law, for another quick example.
We’re also challenged with being able to visualize the signal flow through the system, along with that nagging issue of gain structure.
Surely there has to be an easier way, some kind of “wizard” application that simply makes everything work, right? It’ll probably be a while before we see truly automated tools of that type for professional audio.
But that said, there are some really smart people working on it – folks who are “all in” – so it’s just a matter of time.
There’s also the grueling hours the job can require. It would be rare to find any among us who haven’t cursed their lot from time to time as things don’t go well at setup, leading to sweat and tears (and sometimes blood) as we struggle to make it all work as best as possible.
But still we stay faithful to our chosen craft. The clients may not know or care, the audience may not know the difference, and sometimes we don’t even know why we do it. But we do.
End Of The Day
The question has often been raised: is audio production a form of science or art? Of course the answer is “both.” We can’t have one without the other.
There are math, physics, engineering and other scientific aspects to what we do. Not only in the design and construction of the products, but in the use of those products to create the resulting sound for the audience.
The art comes into play when we’re required to make judgments about just how we’ll do these things. Would the funk in this song be enhanced if I bring out more hi-hat? No machine can decide that. And so we must be “all in” on both sides.
What does it mean to be an artist? I’m not sure if true artists even know the answer to that question. To me, at least, it starts with dedication on a level that few can manage. A common statement I’ve heard with regard to artistic endeavors is “If you can imagine yourself doing anything else, then this isn’t for you.” Certainly it’s true of audio production.
But there’s more to it than that. To be a successful artist we must learn our craft. Another great quote: “A worker uses his hands, a craftsman uses his hands and his head, and an artist uses his hands, his head, and his heart.”
In other words, we must love what we do, simple as that.
It’s not always easy, is it? Passion often doesn’t come easy or with nearly the rewards we might expect for the level of work required. I’ve heard it said many times: “If I were in this business for the money, I’d have left a long time ago.”
Ours is a small industry. But it’s an exciting one – a business that the many of the world’s “wannabes” dream about. We get to live it.
What do we “owe” for this privilege? For starters, humility. It’s something I’ve seen in many of the best in our business. They’ve paid their dues, worked their way up, and don’t act like everyone is there to serve them. They also don’t blame the equipment when things go wrong, unless it really is an equipment problem.
Next is dedication, which comes in the form of constant learning. Not only do we all have plenty to learn, but the learning curve never ends.
And finally, giving back. We’re so fortunate to have people ahead of us who paved the way and gave us invaluable tips and advice, if not an outright education.
So to truly be “all in,” we need to pave the way for the next generation to make sure they’re as well prepared as possible for that ever-steeper learning curve coming just up ahead.
Karl Winkler is director of business development at Lectrosonics and has worked in professional audio for more than 20 years.
Friday, December 04, 2015
NSCA Early Bird Discount For BLC Expires In One Month
Early registration discounts for the 2016 Business & Leadership Conference (BLC) expire after Jan. 4, 2016
NSCA’s early-bird discount rate for all 2016 Business & Leadership Conference (BLC) registrations is set to expire after Jan. 4, 2016.
On Jan. 5, 2016, registration fees for members and non-members will increase by $400.
NSCA’s BLC is a platform for executive-level education and networking. The event has grown over the past 18 years to bring more than 300 executives together annually to share stories, learn from other leaders, and hear about new ways to embrace technology and motivate employees.
The Business & Leadership Conference will be held on Feb. 25-27, 2016, at Four Seasons Resort & Club in Dallas, TX. Atlas/IED is the event’s exclusive Host & Technology Sponsor.
First-time BLC attendees who are also NSCA members may apply for a Randy Vaughan Founder’s Award to receive free registration. To qualify, applicants must be in a management or decision-making role. Applications are available here.
BLC 2016 keynotes and sessions include:
—Great by Choice by Morten T. Hansen
—New Ways to Work & Connect in a New World by Seth Mattison
—Building a Future-Ready Business by Nicholas Webb
—Integrity – Remembering Who You Are! by Jim Morris
—Creating Distinction & Differentiation by Dr. Kevin Freiberg
—Economic Outlook 2016 by Dr. Lee McPheters
—The Shift to Services: More Profit, Less Revenue
—A Multigenerational Look at Business Development
—Benchmark Your Operations Team
Attendees are encouraged to register for the NSCA Education Foundation Industry Charity Golf Outing at the TPC Four Seasons Las Colinas – hosted by Accu-Tech – which kicks off BLC on Feb. 25, 2016.
BLC 2016 sponsors include Almo, AMX, Atlas/IED, Biamp, Bosch, BTX, Chief, Community, Digital Projection, Eaton, FSR, Gepco, Harman, Herman, Kramer, Liberty AV Solutions, LG, Middle Atlantic Products, NEC, Peerless AV, Rauland, Sharp, Shure, Solutions360, SurgeX, Synnex, Tannoy, West Penn Wire, and Williams Sound. BLC is endorsed by Commercial Integrator, IPMA, PSA, and USAV.
Take advantage of early-bird pricing for just $1,099. Registration will go up to $1,499 on Jan. 5, 2016, for NSCA members; registration for non-members will increase to $1,799. To register, visit the Business & Leadership Conference link. Gold and Platinum members save 10% on registration.
Posted by House Editor on 12/04 at 10:25 AM
Church Sound: Top Eight Tools For The Live Audio Toolbox
“Can you come to our church and run sound in a few weeks?” “Can you run sound for my band next weekend?”
Work as an audio geek long enough and you’ll get these questions, usually followed by the statement, “Don’t worry, we’ve got all the gear, you just need to show up.” Danger Will Robinson!
I’ve been in these situations and one thing’s for sure: it’s never as easy as it sounds. Standard equipment is lacking, or outdated at best, and waving a magic wand isn’t an option.
While I can’t do miracles, taking the right tools has enabled me to survive such gigs.
1. Gaff Tape. It sticks to anything so it’s great for securing cables to stages/floors, and it’s easily removed. Gaff tape is not duct tape, which is the silver roll the drummer hands you when you ask, “Do you have any tape?”
I use gaff tape on just about anything except gym/basketball flooring, which can be hit or miss with any type of high-strength adhesive. I’ve seen it remove the oil gloss from these types of floors when pulled up. And, gaff tape is also great for volume critics (forget I said that).
2. Cable Tester. Never assume cables are good when doing a one-off gig. From personal experience, I know some musicians will use gear until it dies. If they have to flex a cable just right so it works, they’ll do it.
Cable testers range in price based on brand and functionality. I have a Live Wire Solutions LWSCT tester that works with Speakon, XLR, RCA, MIDI, TRS, banana, and USB/Firewire cables.
Make sure to test all of the cables in use, and if one fails for any reason, even if it’s only when twisted just right, replace it. Testing only takes a few minutes and may save you from a notable glitch and the embarrassment that goes with it.
3. Whirlwind QBox. Kent Morris, audio engineer extraordinaire, notes that he carries one for those times when he doesn’t have any “helping hands” for line checks. This little box has a microphone, speaker, and test-tone generator, so performing a line check on all cables and audio sources is pretty easy.
For example, place it in front of a wired mic and then go to the console and check that the signal is being detected. Or plug it into the cable and talk into it, which sounds odd until you work with vocalists who insist on carrying their own mics and typically don’t arrive until the last minute. (Not as uncommon as one might think.) The Qbox helps get the line check accomplished when you’re the only one on the job.
4. Multimedia Passive DI. These days, folks are connecting everything from iPhones to laptops to mixing consoles, but too often it’s not being done correctly. The most common mistake I see is taking a stereo TRS and plugging it into a mono channel jack, with the assumption being that’s all it takes—but the console expects a balanced mono signal.
As a result, the outcome varies. Some mixers are forgiving (I doubt intentionally) and they’ll pass the audio without any problems. Other times, the mixer won’t pass the audio or it will do some really funky signal level fluctuations so the volume goes up and down.
Carry a multi-media DI like the Radial ProAV1 or Whirlwind pcDI that takes a stereo signal and transforms it into a mono balanced signal. Another tip: make sure the device is sending the strongest signal before touching the channel gain. This eliminates line noise problems.
Also note that Radial recently introduced the BT-Pro, which uses Bluetooth technology to make the DI connection to the device.
5. Headphones. Never assume a venue or the band has headphones at front of house. And let’s be honest, wouldn’t you rather wear your own?
Headphones are helpful for checking channel EQ and tracking down problems, and also when working in a noisy environment.
At one gig, the house loudspeakers were silent, and I couldn’t tell if the problem was them, or the amplifiers, or the console routing. By plugging my headphones into the console, I was able to check the signal routing and solve the problem.
Traditional cans, in-ears, or ear-buds—it’s up to personal preference. For mix work, go with a solid brand with high fidelity.
And be aware of the frequency response of the headphones. For example, some might accentuate the low end too much (great bass sound! yeah, whatever mister marketing genius).
6. Batteries. Never, ever assume a venue or band keeps spare batteries. Oh, it’s their responsibility, but you’re the one who’ll be asked to solve the problem. I’ve had to make runs for batteries, for cables, and even for the band’s dinner. Nothing like being in a long line at a sandwich shop and then telling them you have seven orders.
Carry a variety of batteries, including 9-volt, AA, and AAA. This takes care of wireless mics, guitar equipment, and any other common battery-powered audio gear. A useful tip: when replacing batteries, carry the new ones in the right pocket and the old ones in the left pocket. (Unless they’re new 9-volts, which like to connect with car keys and warm up a pocket in a hurry.)
7. SPL Meter Here we get on shaky ground. A variety of SPL metering apps are availavle for smartphones, but there are a few problems to be aware of. Some apps are limited to 100 dB, and some don’t indicate if they’re measuring dBA or dBC, let alone providing the sampling rate. One that does do these things is SPL Pro by Studio Six Digital.
The thing is, a smartphone isn’t a sound meter, so results can vary. Some techs have told me that their phone metering is accurate, while others have said it isn’t even close. I prefer a dedicated SPL meter because my phone has another job.
Whatever you choose, be consistent—use the same SPL meter every time so venue comparisons are spot on.
8. RTA. A real-time analyzer displays all detected audio frequencies. It’s helpful to see the sounds of the room when it’s empty to identify any possible problem areas, as well as to actually see the make-up of a mix. And particularly when working a new venue, you can see how the house EQ (the one locked behind the steel door) is affecting the sound.
RTA capability used to be offered only with high-end equipment, but thanks to app development, it’s now available on the cheap. (I use the Spectrum Analyzer app.) Yes, these apps rely on the phone’s mic, but MicW offers the i436 for iPhone and iPad. The i436 package includes an omnidirectional measurement mic as well as a cable, splitter, and storage tube for the mic, protecting it from damage when not in use. Also note that some digital consoles include an on-screen RTA that receives input from a measurement mic.
RTAs include various settings, such as for sampling rate and scale, which are important for viewing a useful chart. I use an FFT size of 4096, fast rate, and simple graphing.
The Take-Away. While it’s helpful to have all of these tools on hand for working in different venues and gigs, it’s also important that they be available at your usual workspace. Right?
And before the complaints start about the price of gaff tape, trust me, it’s money well spent.
Ready to learn and laugh? Chris Huff writes about the world of church audio at Behind The Mixer. He covers everything from audio fundamentals to dealing with musicians, and can even tell you the signs the sound guy is having a mental breakdown.
Thursday, December 03, 2015
PSW Top 5 Articles For November 2015
ProSoundWeb presents at least two feature articles every day of the working week, meaning that there are 40-plus long-form articles highlighted each and every month.
That’s a lot. In fact, so much so that we got to thinking that it would be handy to present a round-up of the most-read articles for those who might have missed at least some of them the first time around.
Here we kick off with the top 5 most-read articles on PSW for the month of November 2015.
Note that since the articles aren’t all posted at the same time, we apply the same timeframe (length of time) for each when measuring total readership.
Also note that immediately following the top 5, PSW editor Keith Clark offers some additional suggestions of recently published articles worth checking out. These articles also scored quite well in terms of readership but were just outside the head of the list.
Without further adieu, here are the top 5 articles on PSW in November.
1. The Best Place To Put Subwoofers? “Subwoofers should be located on the floor if at all possible.” This is one of those classic bits of audio “conventional wisdom.” But is it true? By Jerrold Stevens
2. Wiring The Stage Efficiently & Safely. Improper wiring of a stage makes for more work overall, in addition to making it difficult to trace faulty cables that may arise, and more. This is the way I was taught years ago… By Alex Fernie
3. Take Our Stage Monitoring Quiz. 20 questions about stage monitoring and related issues that are subjective and largely intended for entertainment purposes – better known as fun. By PSW Staff
4. The Tradecraft Of Recording Vocals. Dividing the process of recording vocals, one of the most important things in pop music production, into activities in two spaces: what goes on in the studio area and what’s required in the control room. By Barry Rudolph
5. Living With Sound. Or “what I learned from a cheap spectrum analyzer app.” Gaining an education about sound, along with a new perspective, for six bucks. By Kerrie Mondy
Wireless On The Road. A day in the life of a veteran RF technician on the road with a large-scale concert tour. By Ike Zimbel
IEM Fundamentals & Hearing Conservation. In-ear monitoring presents a lot of benefits, but does it really protect hearing? An in-depth discussion. By Mark Frink with Michael Santucci, Au.D.
10 Technical Skills Every Church Sound Tech Should Know. Members of the Church Soundcheck (CSC) discussion board offer key technically oriented skills that a church sound tech must have (or strive for). By Curt Taipale
Microphones Of The Past. A true recording engineering legend discusses microphone design, technology, and application, along with some need-to-know history and personal stories. By Bruce Swedien
Tuesday, December 01, 2015
Maintaining Optical & Magnetic Media
A while back, I took some aspiring engineers to a trade show where some “antiques” were on display. Namely, CD/DVD players, along with a few analog multitrack players.
Over the last 30 years, audio equipment has certainly followed the better-smaller-cheaper model of the computer industry. But like the computer market, repairs are no longer typically done at the part level. If the laser in a CD player goes bad, the chassis with the whole drive motor and optical track will typically be swapped out.
At this point, it’s probably safe to say that for CD decks, the bag of tricks for in-the-field repair is limited to smelling for burned electronics, scanning for loose wires, and the tried and true whack on the side of the box.
While most consumers have long abandoned magnetic tape and have ditched optical storage in favor of solid state, on any given day engineers may come across a number of relic formats long presumed dead. Thus it’s always handy to have a few tricks on hand for recovering damaged media and maintaining the devices it takes to play back the formats of old.
Optical Disc Repairs
When CDs first came out, everyone held their breath while handling these shiny discs only by the edges. We gently placed them into the player with the level of care typically reserved for open-heart surgery.
Today, we do our best Frisbee throw across the room. As the technology became familiar, CD and DVD media got more scratched up than ever before.
Most people know that scratches following the circular reading pattern on the CD will be more likely to cause a problem than scratches that are perpendicular to the reading pattern. What most don’t know is that the scratch itself is not usually the problem.
There is a clear protective layer on a CD’s read side, which guards the data layer from damage. Since the player’s optics are normally focused beyond the protective layer, the systems typically read past the scratches.
The data layer of a CD is simply a reflective piece of aluminum, with a protective lacquer on the back and a clear polycarbonate on the top.
The problem actually comes from the dirt that collects in the nooks of the scratched area; the dirt is what the laser can’t read through. The way to solve this, oddly enough, is to wash the CD or DVD, much like you would a dinner plate.
Using cold water (so the plastic doesn’t melt), take a sponge with some dishwashing liquid, and wipe from the center of the CD to the outside. Don’t wash in a circle, since that might cause new scratches that follow the reading pattern.
To dry the disc, dab it with a soft cloth. Then put it in your ROM or player. Chances are, it’ll work.
Recovering Crunched Tape
When dealing with audio and video tape formats, the most frustrating problem is when a tape gets jammed and the machine gives you a crinkled mess of tape. It’s even worse when the tape snaps.
If the tape is simply crumpled up, it may be possible to smooth the kinks out. Heat some water and pour it into a glass jar. Stretch the creased tape across a flat surface like a table, record side down, and slowly roll the warm jar over the tape.
The warm jar will act as an iron, slightly melting the backing on the tape and allowing it to re-bond in a straight line. Be careful not to liquefy the tape; otherwise the magnetic filaments will slip inside the tape backing and the material will be lost forever.
Once the kinks have been ironed out, let the tape cool. Putting hot tape back into the cassette will stretch the tape too much, causing the tape to stick to itself when packed inside the reel.
Note that this process does weaken the tape, and it will not totally remove the kinks. However, it should smooth the tape out enough so that it won’t jam the machine again when this section passes through the gears and along the head. So, be sure to transfer the material to another tape as soon as possible.
For cases where the tape actually has snapped, salvage the material on either side of the break. In most instances, the tape will have wound itself back up inside the cartridge. So, the cartridge itself will need to be disassembled.
Most VHS, VHS-C, Hi8, and DAT tape cartridges, as well as some audio cassette cartridges, are held together with tiny screws. This makes the process fairly simple, requiring only a Phillips micro-screwdriver. Some audio cassettes, mini-DV and other tape cartridges use a snap assembly, requiring you to figure out which side to press to open the cartridge.
When you’ve got the cartridge open, it helps to have a good tape close by for reference on re-assembly. For video formats, take special note of the spring for the shield and the tape path through the cassette.
On the broken tape, it might be best to load each half of the tape into its own tape cartridge. It’s not worth splicing the tape, since the material won’t flow smoothly on playback.
The best bet is to use splicing tape to attach the recovered tape to the reel. If you can only find Scotch tape, just make sure the Scotch tape can’t escape the reel and damage the head of your machine.
Cleaning Stationary Tape Heads
Extend the life span of cassette decks and reel-to-reel machines by cleaning and de-magnetizing the tape heads regularly.
As the tape passes over the heads, little pieces come off of the tape and are left on the head itself. The junk that gets on the tape head makes it more rough, which grabs even more junk.
Since these flecks are designed to hold a magnetic charge, they can add a little charge to the tape head, interfering with recording or playback.
The general rule in a studio is to clean the heads before each session’s use and to de-magnetize them once a month. Any installation with a regular technician should try to stick to that.
However, for typical contractor installs, a bi-monthly cleaning and a 6-month demagnetizing will make a dramatic difference. This practice can be added to normal visits with the client, and it can put you back in touch with clients you haven’t seen in a while.
When cleaning tape heads, the most common mistake is using rubbing alcohol. Rubbing alcohol usually contains negatively charged ions, which transfer a negative charge to the tape head.
Instead, use tape-head cleaner. It breaks up the junk on the head without leaving a charge. It also evaporates fast without leaving calcium deposits on the head, enabling the machine to be used right away.
When de-magnetizing a tape head, turn the de-magnetizer on at least 6 feet from the machine, and move in slowly. Put the tip of the de-magnetizer just over the tape head.
Once the tip gets within about a half-inch or quarter-inch from the head, the demagnetizer will pull hard toward the tape head. Don’t let the demagnetizer touch the head! Rather, slowly wave it around over the head. Then slowly move away and turn the demagnetizer off at least 6 feet from the machine.
Cleaning and demagnetizing should take about five minutes. A regular schedule will keep the machine sounding noticeably closer to the factory specs over time.
Cleaning Rotating Video Heads
Helical scan heads, commonly found in VTRs, DATs and tape-based digital audio multitracks, also benefit from clean heads. The decks will read the tape with a lower error rate, better maintaining the integrity of the video images and sound.
The common mistake here is to use the cleaning tapes found in the local discount store. The problem with these is they are abrasive. Their rough edges scrape the tape heads as they move across them. While OK in an emergency, they should not be used for regular maintenance. The heads should be cleaned manually.
1) Use 90 percent or higher denatured or isopropyl alcohol on lint-free cloth. Do not use rubbing alcohol. 2) Start by placing the cleaning cloth between the heads on the drum. 3) Rotate the drum counter-clockwise with light pressure on the cleaning cloth.
To clean the heads on these machines, the unit will have to be opened up. (Check with the manufacturer to make sure this won’t void your warranty.) The rotating drum is plainly visible inside.
To clean the head, take a lint-free cloth and dab it with 90 percent (or higher) denatured alcohol or isopropyl alcohol. Lightly press the cloth against the drum, slowly turning the head in a counter-clockwise direction with the other hand.
It’s good practice to start and stop turning the drum where your finger isn’t resting on the head. While the unit is open, quickly clean the other rollers as well.
Cleaning the heads this way obviously requires more effort, so this realistically only needs to be done once a year, or two or three times per year on decks in heavy use. Cleaning the heads manually certainly pays off.
On some machines, it will extend the life span of the heads by 200 to 250 percent over using the abrasive cleaning tapes. Since the heads are typically the most expensive part in the deck, that’s worth the annual cleaning.
Sometimes You Need To Be Able To Dance As Good As (Or Better) Than You Mix
The venue where I serve as technical director has recently had a number of touring acts come through.
With each tour, there are always special technical requirements that the artists need, particularly in these tight economic times where few of them are able to travel with everything they need.
The last three events, the venue was responsible for providing the entire house system, and for two of them, I served as the front of house engineer.
When a tour group comes to a venue they never know what they’re going to get. Yes, the rider said six separate wireless in-ear monitor systems, but the venue only has two and is unwilling to rent any more. Yes, the rider said the PA needs to hit peaks of 110 dBA, but the installed system can only hit 95 dBA. I know, I know…
I understand this type of thing happens all of the time on tours, and I also know it must be very frustrating for touring artists.
On the venue side, I’ve seen many riders that really don’t mean much at all because they’re not specific enough. Things like “concert quality sound system required” or “adequate monitors for the band” are so open to interpretation that it’s almost comical.
I’ve also seen riders that are rife with overkill, i.e., microphone requirements that include every exotic studio mic that you can think of, the latest, greatest stadium-caliber line arrays, and so on.
In light of all of this, what can we do to sort it out, meet needs, and help them put on the best performance possible?
Learn to dance.
I’ve found that every one of the tour groups that comes through has a certain dance. It usually starts during the pre-arrival check-in by the tour manager.
Good tour managers tell you exactly what they need, and are willing to negotiate on the items that you can’t provide without renting or that just aren’t feasible (such as, if your front of house mix position is on the front edge of the balcony, moving it to the main floor may not be feasible).
The ones that are either stubborn or incompetent (and I’ve dealt with a couple who were both) either can’t tell you what they need, or are completely inflexible in their demands.
This initial engagement with the tour manager usually provides a feel for the type of dance you’re going to need to perform.
Here are some dances I’ve done over the years:
Waltz. This tour came in with 18 people crammed in on one bus. Right from the very first contact, I could tell it would be a great event for all. The tour manager was very specific about the technical needs, but also understood some of the limitations that our venue imposed.
Upon arrival, the tour manager immediately came and shook my hand. He then went over all of the details of the day, handed me a schedule, and asked for my cell phone number. He went on to say it was going to take a couple of hours to load in, so he offered to call me when all of the back line gear was in place.
Needless to say it was a great (and very smooth) day. With the extra time, I was able to program some additional lighting looks that enhanced the concert.
Mosh Pit. This was the exact opposite of the waltz. The tour manager never contacted me in advance, and when he arrived, he expressed his frustration that we only had four subwoofers—not the twelve he was used to. Note that our room seats about 1,000, and this was a contemporary Christian band - not hip-hop. To top it off, they were doing what they were calling an “acoustic tour.”
This tour manager then demanded that that the front of house position be moved. I politely told him it was not possible, and mentioned that if he had called me earlier, perhaps we could have rented a console and snake and had it on the main floor. He was not amused and made a veiled threat to pack up and go home.
All day, I had to continue to push back on things that he wanted done, including removing the brick wall compression that our system hits at around 105 dBA (the system just can’t do more that and I was not going to let their inexperienced mix guy blow stuff up!) Needless to say, it was more of a fight than a dance, and unfortunately, the event suffered because of it.
The tone the tour manager set played out in the entire crew and musicians. People were almost at each other throats and the artists didn’t even look happy to perform.
Line Dance. Much like the waltz this event ran like clockwork. As I was the going to be the front of house engineer for the event, the tour manager had contacted me in advance and offered to forward some of their music so I would be familiar with it.
When they arrived, everyone made me feel part of the team. The artists went out of the way to introduce themselves and thank me for being there. The crew asked tons of questions about the set-up, and also came up with some good solutions based on our venue’s limitations.
The entire day everyone seemed in step with each other and performing the same moves. Of course, this turned into a great event, and everyone walked away pleased.
Now, I know there are a lot more “dances” out there, and each tour has its own particular version. To me, the key is figuring out the general dance that’s going to be done as quickly as possible, and then doing my best to anticipate its rhythm and movement. In other words, based on what I learn early in the process, to be well-prepared to meet needs, adapt, improvise, negotiate, and so on.
One thing I’ve found is that it’s almost impossible to get them to change their dance, so I need to be up to speed on all of the steps.
Gary Zandstra has worked in church production and as an AV systems integrator for more than 35 years. He’s also contributed numerous articles to ProSoundWeb over the past decade.
Wednesday, November 25, 2015
Central Georgia is known for several things, including great food, classic southern culture, and a disproportionate number of churches. One church that’s stood as a beacon for many years is Christ Chapel, located on the north side of Macon.
Currently serving as the audio director at the church, Jon Beachy and his family found everything they were searching for after relocating to Macon about 15 years ago. “We’d picked out a few churches to visit, and Christ Chapel was the first,” he notes. “From the initial service, we knew we’d found our place.”
Upon arriving in the area, the Beachy family (wife Rita, daughters Chloe and Miranda, and sons Garrett and Parker) co-founded a local hotspot known as Joshua Cup Coffee, a partnership with a local youth ministry called The Powerhouse. They also brought a solid history and considerable skills as musicians and audio professionals.
As if that – along with his complex role within the church – wasn’t enough to fill his schedule, Beachy also owns and operates LifeSound AV, a professional audio, video and lighting company. And he still freelances with Audio Visual Services of Macon, mixing various shows around the country.
“My background is really more as a musician and a studio guy. Until joining this church, I really had no ambition of becoming the church sound guy or even mixing front of house,” he explains.
Raised in a family of traveling music ministers, Beachy began his audio career at the ripe old age of three, rolling cables and assisting his father Marvin Beachy’s ministry known as the Gospel Echoes, which eventually evolved into the Gospel Echoes Team Prison Ministry in 1976. He eventually joined the group at age nine, singing with his younger sister as the “Little Echoes.”
As a necessary extension of the organization, Marvin also founded New Life Sound in Goshen, IN as a recording studio to capture their music and advance the ministry. It gradually grew into a full-service company providing audio support along with sound system design and installation, with Jon naturally learning those skills along the way.
As his ability and family both grew, he searched for the place God wanted him to be, leading to Macon and Christ Chapel. The hope was to drop in and let everyone rest for a season and get their bearings before committing to anything. Of course, that isn’t the way it usually works out for someone with passion and calling. So when the need for a sound system upgrade at the rapidly growing church presented itself, the Beachys were back in the system design and installation business.
“Bryan Nichols was heading up the tech ministry at that time,” Beachy says. “After we worked out the new system and had it finished, he asked me to help out and run a few services. From there, it just turned into my regular gig.”
Now there are very few Sundays when he’s not mixing at front of house. Jon and Rita already had a full plate with the coffee shop and youth ministry. But the church was now home. He eventually agreed to join the staff and head up the sound team, still working with Nichols.
Yet it hasn’t all been calm seas and smooth sailing. Several years ago Christ Chapel embarked on planting several new churches, and while that’s led to six successful campus ministries that are growing and thriving, there’s also a downside.
The cost of the effort affected the budget and resources of the home church to the extent that the staff was reduced dramatically. “We released a lot of key people and resources to make it happen, and it’s taking a while to rebuild from that,” he states.
After scaling down to a part-time position for a while, Beachy stepped out and returned to volunteer status. “It’s actually worked out great,” he cheerily explains. “A lot of the stresses involved in a church staff position lifted off, and I was able to mix and serve in a volunteer capacity again.”
Meanwhile, the extended workload had prompted the family to sell the coffeehouse. The deal ended up with them losing money and eventually the business, but they persevered through their faith.
“We prayed and asked for God to make it absolutely clear which direction we should go,” he says. “Whether to try and salvage Joshua Cup, or continue building the AV business. I would say it became pretty clear once all that happened.”
With no regrets, the family continues to serve and support Christ Chapel as it gradually returns to the membership and activity level of a few years ago, while also expanding their AV company.
In fact, oldest daughter Chloe now serves as a ministry coordinator at the church, while wife Rita and kids Miranda and Parker assist Jon in the daily operation of the company. And after working with both LifeSound and the church over the past few years, Garrett recently accepted an internship at Church on the Move in Tulsa, where he’s working with the video production team.
Adapting To Change
Another issue the church has been facing is a change in worship style and tone. “Several of our younger musicians and leaders departed to build up the campus ministries,” Beachy explains. “It changed our demographic; we have an older congregation now. The louder and faster music that pulled in the younger crowd isn’t always what they want or need, so we had to begin tailoring the mix and the music to suit them.”
Keeping the mix at a full but controlled level is definitely an issue, since the sanctuary was originally built as a sports arena. Even with a properly designed system and acoustic treatment, it’s still a challenge to create the “perfect mix” for a dynamic praise band playing in a massive space that’s shaped like a shoebox.
This is furthered by certain realities, such as pastor John Wood preferring the sound of a grand piano as opposed to a digital keyboard that might help calm the acoustical situation.
“Between that open piano, an un-shielded acoustic drum kit, nine front-line singers, a choir, and some guitar amps, it gets difficult some weeks,” Beachy says. “But that’s just another part of the job. Pastor loves the sound of that piano behind him at the end of the services, so we make it work.”
Finding A Place
He’s also passionate about what he sees as the key attributes of a successful church tech: “Check your motivation and give up the ego. If you have the skills but don’t have the desire to treat your position as a ministry or an act of worship, then step out. At least get your head clear and decide if this is really your place.
“I’ve seen professionals hired to mix for church,” he continues, “and they do fine most of the time, but without that passion and desire to serve and worship, it always seems to fall short of what it could be.”
The production team at Christ Chapel has a strategy to help ensure that everyone stays on the same page and retains a collaborative approach, instituting regularly scheduled “tech team hangouts.”
They’re largely just get-togethers, hosted at a rotation of tech member homes where there are games, grilling outdoors, and sitting around a campfire to get to know each other better and further relationships.
“The hangouts aren’t about Bible studies or any organized ministry,” Beachy says. “They’re just a way for us to really connect and get to know each other. We get the whole family involved – wives and kids, not just the team. We got away from it for a while but now are back to doing it regularly. It really makes a difference.”
Making It Right
He also stresses that the relationship between production staff and ministry leaders must be addressed on a regular basis.
“Get your heart right about your relationship with your pastor and worship leader,” he says. “You’re on the same team. It’s not a competition. Whenever something becomes a competition, there has to be a loser. Competitive and strained relationships create enemies, and that only hurts the church.
“Gossiping, grumbling, complaining… all of it becomes self-serving and infects everyone. We can’t work together like that, and we certainly can’t build effective ministries that way.”
Not many folks these days can claim to be a third-generation anything, but the Beachy family has done it, and done it well. And from my personal experiences in working with Jon Beachy over the years, I can state emphatically that he’s the real deal. Regardless of the size of a church or the tech team, an attitude like his serves as a great example.
Friday, November 20, 2015
NSCA Now Accepting Applications For Excellence In Business Awards
Recognize integrators that address challenges head-on by implementing tactics and strategies to improve business performance.
Systems integrators are encouraged to apply for NSCA’s 2016 Excellence in Business Awards.
Submissions will be accepted through Jan. 15, 2016.
Winners will receive one free admission to NSCA’s 18th annual Business & Leadership Conference (a $1,499 value), as well as recognition throughout the year in various NSCA and industry publications.
Companies with solid business sense and creative tactics continually beat their competitors to the finish line – whether it’s through successful strategies in fiscal responsibility, marketing, training, or strategic advancement.
NSCA’s Excellence in Business Awards recognize integrators that address challenges head-on by implementing tactics and strategies to improve business performance.
Integrators can apply in one of six categories:
—Business Performance (establishing methods for accurate job costing, new ways to trim operating expenses, etc.)
—Employee Engagement (corporate culture exercises, increasing job satisfaction, etc.)
—Differentiating Strategies (implementing new sales strategies, growth strategies, etc.)
—Strategic Transformation (entering new markets, increasing RMR, etc.)
—Customer Experience (increasing customer satisfaction scores or repeat business, etc.)
—Talent Development (cross-training, onboarding, recruiting, career development, etc.)
Download a free application at the NSCA website. Winners will be announced on Feb. 2, 2016.
The Excellence in Business Awards will be presented at NSCA’s Business & Leadership Conference, Feb. 25-27, 2016, in Dallas, TX. Winners will be honored during the Welcome Reception, where they will discuss their winning strategies and techniques.
For more information, or to register, visit the link below or call 800.446.6722.
Posted by House Editor on 11/20 at 08:36 AM
The “Hit By A Bus List” For Worship Production
A few years ago, one of my younger readers asked me about a “hit by a bus list” (HBABL for short). So, I thought it might be good topic for an article.
First, it might be helpful to define what at “hit by a bus list” even is. The definition may vary from church to church, but basically it seeks to answer the question, what happens if you’re hit by a bus on the way to work one Sunday morning?
Can others pick up and pull a service together (while they mourn your unfortunate loss, of course)? A saying that I often use with my team is, “Just so I’m not the only person that knows this…” and I’ll fill in the blank with some bit of information that others should know.
Think of it this way, if for some reason you couldn’t be there on Sunday, what information do others need to know to do your job? That information goes on the HBABL. It might be key info like the login to the presentation computer, or password to the audio console.
It may be the location of the pastor’s mic or a detail on how he likes it set out. Depending on the size and scope of your ministry, this list could be one page, or take a 3-ring binder. You may want to break it down into chunks by position (eg. video, audio, presentation, etc.).
Regardless of how you do it, you need to find a way to get information out of your head and on to paper (or in the cloud if you prefer; as long as others have access to it!).
Before we get into a practical example, let me tackle the philosophical side of this. Some tech guys hoard information. They keep it all to themselves and believe it makes them more valuable. I argue that is a bad strategy. First of all, do you really want to be the only person who can turn on the PA?
Second of all, good churches need people who build into others and develop teams. TDs (or technical leaders) should be trying to share as much knowledge with others as possible. Getting off soapbox…
Back then, I called 2011 “the year of the volunteer” at Coast. I really want to start bringing in more tech volunteers and building our team. We had done a lot with systems over 18 months, and we were ready. This meant we needed to document everything.
Documentation makes it easier for the volunteers who serve once a month be successful. Sure they can call me over and ask questions, but when they can look at a checklist and figure it out themselves, they feel better about what they do.
So here’s an example (and it’s only one example) of what I mean. We had started capturing our service straight into FinalCut Pro for easier processing of the video podcast. To help facilitate that, I created the following guide for our video directors.
I walk them throughout he process, step by step, complete with screen grabs, so they can do the job. I beta tested it on my least technical volunteer; with no training I handed it to her and said, see if you can do this. She nailed it! So I knew we had a winner.
We created documents like this across all disciplines. Another example is our Presentation checklist—it’s a different type of document, but outlines what the presentation tech needs to do on a typical weekend.
A HBABL can take many forms; what’s important is that it works for your situation. It all starts with you sitting down and considering what you do every week (in detail) and committing it to paper.
Then edit out the unnecessary information, distilling it down to the most critical. That’s your list. I’m keeping this short so you have time to go work on your lists today…
Is your list ready? How do you plan for the unexpected?
Mike Sessler has been involved with church sound and live production for than 25 years, and is the author of the Church Tech Arts blog. Based in Nashville, he serves as project lead for CCI Solutions, which provides design-build production solutions for churches and other facilities.
Thursday, November 19, 2015
Skill: the ability to do something well; expertise.
I recently asked the members of the Church Soundcheck (CSC) discussion board for their thoughts on the key technically oriented skills that a church sound tech must have (or strive for). It resulted in a lot of great input, which I’ve whittled down into this list.
1. Have a musical ear. When we say people have “good ears,” we mean that they know what a good mix should sound like, as evidenced by their gift of using their knowledge, experience, and all of the tools at their disposal to deliver a musically balanced mix. This skill is at the core of what makes one person’s mix sound so good as compared with another.
Having a musical ear also means knowing what an acoustic guitar, or grand piano, or frankly any instrument or voice should sound like. Don’t think you have a musical ear? Most people can develop this skill.
Start by hanging around musicians as they play their instruments. Listen analytically to your favorite recordings. Listen intently to how the drums are balanced with the bass guitar, and how those lay with the keyboards or guitars, where the backing vocals sit in the mix, if the lead vocal is way out on top or more level with the backing vocals, and so on. Then learn to think that way as you build your mixes.
2. An ability to mix artistically. A seasoned tech should be able to balance the art and science side of the task of mixing. The science part focuses on the knowledge of the technical parameters, like ensuring that the audio signals are clean, with no hums or buzzes, certainly no distortion, and so on. The art focuses on achieving a musical balance of each element. Experienced techs will further enhance the sound character of each element through channel EQ, careful use of compression or expanding, and the tasteful use of effects like reverb or echoes.
How about being able to adjust the microphone preamp gain on an input while simultaneously adjusting the channel fader so that no one can tell that you just fixed a problem with the console gain structure? That’s a skill every tech should master.
3. An ability to build a mix fast. There are no do-overs in live sound. If you’re mixing a contemporary worship music style, especially if it’s a complex arrangement with lots of players, you have to be able to put a mix together really fast. Being able to throw together a decent monitor mix – or several of them – is a skill worth practicing. Consider “drilling” yourself on how fast you can put together a monitor mix. It will pay off!
4. An ability to grasp console signal flow logic. Building a mix really fast also means not having to think about console signal flow. That is, within the console, what path does the signal take to get from point A to point B? What controls does it pass through on the way? A study of signal flow will reveal how the controls on your console interrelate.
For example, is the pick-off point for a pre-fade aux send pre or post EQ? Because it’s likely going to be different on the next console you mix on. Study the block diagram of the console that you use each week. Take a highlighter and trace the signal path from the mic input to the main output. Simplify the signal flow drawing and then memorize it. Get to the point of knowing it so well that you can draw it from memory.
Why? Because the day you can meet that challenge is the day you’ll start to operate the console, instead of the console operating you! You’ll be able to walk up to any console and drive it with confidence. It doesn’t matter if it’s analog or digital. It doesn’t matter if it costs $100 or $100,000. Because at their most basic level, every console operates very much the same way.
5. An understanding of proper gain structure. Seasoned techs know that proper gain structure starts at the mic preamp. That is where the signal-to-noise environment is established for the rest of the sound system. Then that understanding needs to be extended as to how to achieve proper gain structure for the rest of the chain between the console and the loudspeakers. What’s the advantage of building an initial mix with the channel faders at unity? This is vital to know.
6. An ability to identify frequencies. Do you know what a 1 kHz tone or feedback sounds like versus a 100 Hz tone? Is that choir mic feeding back at 400 Hz or 800 Hz? And then what’s the best way to mitigate that feedback quickly? Will changing the channel EQ fix it, do you just need to pull the channel fader down, and for that matter, can you quickly identify which mic and which channel that the feedback is coming from?
Feedback is typically fairly easy to pinpoint and deal with. What if the issue is a “stuffy” sounding grand piano, or a backing vocal group, or an acoustic guitar? Is the best solution to move the mic, change to a different mic, or maybe adjust the channel EQ for that mic?
The ability to find the offending frequency and adjusting to improve its sound may take weeks or even years to fully develop. But enjoy the process because this is a skill that will serve you well over time.
7. An ability to choose the right mic and place it in the best position to capture the desired sound. Actually the skill may be in knowing what sound you’re going for in the first place, and then applying that knowledge and firsthand experience to choosing the right mic and technique that will deliver the expected result.
This starts with knowing how to read a polar plot and understanding the difference in mic designs (dynamic, condenser, or ribbon). Next comes knowing what types of mics are in the church’s inventory, especially their polar patterns. The real skill here is the ability to position the mic in such a way that it takes advantage of the polar pattern, aiming it to get great pickup of the intended source while also aiming the maximum rejection point to suppress sound energy from nearby instruments or monitors.
Read up on mics to better understand them, and then experiment to find out with your own ears where they work well and where maybe they don’t work so well.
8. An understanding of wireless system operation. It doesn’t take a ham radio license to use wireless mics (although that knowledge can be helpful), but one should understand some of the basics, such as antenna orientation, antenna types, frequency coordination, and how to prevent intermodulation distortion. Then you can teach your pastor why he should never curl that antenna on his beltpack into a little ball and stuff it in his pocket.
9. An ability to discern the source of a sound/system problem. It can sometimes be tough to discern if a “problem” we’re hearing is contributed by the loudspeakers, or the room acoustics, or the instrument, or even the player. I wouldn’t expect a volunteer tech to have this skill. In fact, I know many seasoned techs who’ve been mixing for years who would be hard-pressed to tell if the issue was with the acoustics or the loudspeakers. But it’s a skill worth having.
10. Be conversant with common terms. Working with audio can mean navigating a sea of terms, abbreviations and acronyms. Just for starters, knowing the meaning of AFL, PFL, CUE, prefade, postfade, gain, trim, pad, attenuation, pan, matrix, VCA, DCA, subgroup, bus, aux, pink noise, white noise, RF, intermodulation, CMRR, load, ohm, impedance, millivolts, dB, dBu, dBV, dBFS, SPL, RTA, TEF, FFT, Dante, AVB, crossover, being able to explain the difference between polarity and phase, even PAG-NAG, can make life as a tech easier.
Curt Taipale of Taipale Media Systems heads up Church Soundcheck.com, a thriving community dedicated to helping technical worship personnel, as well as the Church Sound Boot Camp series of educational classes held regularly throughout the U.S.
Friday, November 13, 2015
Church Sound: More Than Machinery
Over the last 30-plus years, I’ve served on numerous tech teams at various ministries and have learned many things – many of them the hard way.
While nothing replaces knowing the tech side of the audio craft, there’s a lot more to being successful in the role.
Here are some things I’ve picked up along the way, combined with the results of an informal survey of worship leaders about what they want most from techs.
1. Pay attention. Attentiveness is the number one thing worship leaders value. They want to know that someone cares and is looking out for them. When that’s not the case, it usually leads to animosity that manifests itself at rehearsal (worship leader yelling, “Hey, gang – down here. Yeah it’s me. I need more monitor!) and at services (frustrated look on worship leader’s face as he tries to discretely signal that he needs more monitor). It’s a recipe for disaster, resulting in frustration on both sides.
The solution is to stay consistently focused on what’s happening (of course) and to develop practices to make sure it happens. For example, learning to mix with your head up. Dave Rat, a top front of house engineer in the concert world, positions his console sideways in relation to the stage and even created his own console “Braille” system. This allows him to mix by touch, without continually looking down at the board, so that he can stay concentrate on the stage.
2. Positive attitude. At one church I visited, all of the musicians were quite intimidated by the monitor engineer; in fact, he was so unpleasant that rather than interface with him, they were willing to live with horrible sound in their monitors, rehearsal after rehearsal, service after service. Don’t be this person!
It’s amazing how far good attitude goes. If the musicians know that you care about them and are working to make everything as good as possible, they’ll give you a lot of grace. And they’ll also be at their best from a performance standpoint.
3. It’s not all about you. I’ve encountered several sound operators over the years who actually think the musicians wouldn’t be able to perform without them. Wrong. Someone else can and will step up. Being an accomplished tech is a wonderful thing, but the point is to be as useful as possible in supporting the efforts of everyone involved with worship. As top producer Quincy Jones famously said, “Check your ego at the door.” I call it “TnT” – Tech and Talent working together.
4. It’s not all about the gear. A friend recently made this statement: “With great gear comes great responsibility.” His point is that with the right tools, there’s no excuse not to make it sound as good as possible. To this I add that no matter what gear is available, we still have you the responsibility to do our best. It’s easy to fall into the “equipment trap,” so avoid it.
I recently attended an arena event served by a million-dollar (literally) sound system. The first band sounded awesome. The second band sounded awful. The difference? The techs, not the gear (or the musicians). The first band’s tech team knew what it was doing while the second one did not, so a sophisticated sound system wasn’t going to save them.
5. Musicians are not the enemy. Although at times, it can feel like they are. Some exhibit arrogance and condescension, unwilling to adapt while always ready with a snarky remark.
But it doesn’t matter. We need to make things work as well as possible for the greater goal. And the truth is, most of them want the exact same thing.
There’s no call to be a jerk in kind, or on the opposite end of the spectrum, a pushover. Be ready to kill them, but only with kindness. It takes two sides to go to war, so don’t complete the equation. (It’s also a war no one wins.) Speak to them with a calm, measured tone, and try to do so with grace and humility. Remember: none of us are perfect.
Further, communicate what you’re doing trying to do with their sound and why. For example, tell them you’re moving a monitor two feet to the left so that the output from the monitor is in the non-pickup area of the microphone, and will thus give them a purer sound with less risk of feedback. This type of discussion can go a long way to diffusing tension and reinforcing that you’re indeed working together.
6. Constantly improve your craft. Musicians rehearse, they practice at home, and then with others they play in advance of services. We need to take the same approach, studying our systems, increasing our understanding of how they work, reading and researching and then putting it into practice.
Another thing that really helps is advancing the material to be used at the upcoming service. I try to get the music in advance, and actually listen to it, critically, and then plan and prepare as to how I can best reproduce what I’m hearing
7. Sometimes it requires long hours. Get over it.
8. Sometimes it’s a thankless job. Get over it. Both of these points tend to go together. A tech role can take an inordinate amount of time and it’s rare when anyone notices all we do. We often seem to be the first ones there, then buried in making things work, and then the last ones left to turn out the lights. But that’s the situation, and it’s not about us.
Currently, Todd Elliot, formerly a technical director at Willow Creek Church, is hosting seminars for techs across the country, and I encourage you to attend one. They’re called FILO (First In, Last Out), with Todd offering a lot of helpful advice. The key is not getting burned out – get away as needed, spend time with family and friends, and rejuvenate instead of being a martyr.
9. Relationships are really all that matter. This applies to the tech team as well as worship leaders, pastors, musicians, and others. More than anything, it determines your success and longevity For example, I often get together for lunch with our pastor just to check in and see how he’s doing as a person. I also find out how he thinks things are going and can get a feel for what needs to change. And I have his ear to talk about what the tech team needs.
10. Sometimes we just have to say no. Of course, knowing how and when is the tricky part. Most tech people are servants. We want to make things happen, we want to please, we want to be a hero. This leads to making it tough to refuse requests, no matter how difficult.
For example, someone wants to patch in an additional vocal mic five minutes before the service starts. This can probably be done, but it interrupts other prep and there’s no chance for a sound check. In other words, it’s a recipe for unnecessary problems. So just because we “can” doesn’t mean we “should.” These things also have a tendency to set a new expectation, and where that stops, nobody knows.
Gary Zandstra has worked in church production and as an AV systems integrator for more than 35 years. He’s also contributed numerous articles to ProSoundWeb over the past decade.
Thursday, November 12, 2015
NSCA Announces Excellence In Product Innovation Awards
This recognition program honors products that have a profound impact on systems integrators.
NSCA announces that entries are being accepted for its second annual Excellence in Product Innovation awards.
This recognition program honors products that have a profound impact on systems integrators.
Any manufacturer that produces low-voltage products for installation by integrators in the commercial space is eligible for this award. Industry manufacturers may nominate their own products.
One winner will be named in each of the following categories, along with one overall Grand Prize Winner:
—New Revenue Potential
—Recurring Revenue Potential
—Ease of Customization
Additional considerations are made during judging in regard to how the product impacts user experience (scalability, versatility, deployment cost, ease of use, ROI, ADA compliance, energy efficiency, etc.).
“This is a very different type of recognition for manufacturers,” says NSCA executive director Chuck Wilson.
“Our focus is to recognize manufacturers that are totally committed to our channel, and offer an innovative product specifically designed to help integrators generate more revenue, earn more profit, reach new customers, or open new markets. The response to this program last year was remarkable; it raised the bar by showcasing innovative solutions that truly make a difference.”
Entries are being accepted through Jan. 15, 2016. Winners will be announced at NSCA’s 18th annual Business & Leadership Conference on Feb. 25, 2016, in Dallas, TX.
To enter, visit at the NSCA link below. For NSCA members, the first product entry is $299 (subsequent entries are $199 each). For non-members, the first product entry is $499 (subsequent entries are $399 each). Products submitted for consideration must be announced by Feb. 1, 2016, and must be available for sale and shipment on or before April 1, 2016.