Christmas: it’s the most wonderful time of the year! Unless of course you happen to be a church sound person.
Statistics show Christmas and Easter are the highest attended weekends of the year, and most churches pull out all the stops to make those weekends great. And that tends to make a lot more work for the sound and production teams.
Whether it’s a Christmas Pageant, a giant dramatic production, or multiple extra services on Christmas Eve with a bigger band than usual, we have our work cut out for us.
To make it all happen, we need some extra coping skills. As is often the case, it all starts with “plan early, plan often.” In fact, if you haven’t started your plan by the time you read this, you’re running behind. (Sorry about that.)
The planning process at our church kicks off in June; just brainstorming at first, and then developing the concept throughout the summer. By fall, we know what we’re doing and how much time it will take to pull together.
Once there’s an overall concept of what you’re doing, tech planning needs to get very specific, very fast. Because we do them every weekend, normal weekly services tend to drop into auto-pilot mode.
A large Christmas production, however, can quickly take us way outside of our normal scope of operations.
The first place to start is with a realistic assessment of the requirements. Begin by asking a lot of questions, such as: What is the band configuration? How many vocalists? Will there be an orchestra, and what does that look like? If doing a drama, how many wireless microphone systems will we need?
Further: How many pastors will be speaking? What other special sound effects might we have to do? Will we need tracks with a click fed back to the band? Do we need additional monitor mixes in unusual locations? Will the set pose any acoustical or set up challenges? Is there anything else we haven’t discussed?
Heart Of The Matter
One question in particular brings out a whole host of things that others don’t consider important: Is there anything else we haven’t discussed?
I once asked this at a Vacation Bible School planning meeting and was answered with, “Would now be a good time to talk about the talent show on Friday night?” You think? But I digress…
Once there are answers to these and any other questions germane to your situation, it’s time to build a list of technical requirements.
I’m a strong advocate of an input sheet for every event we do – even our weekly services, which don’t differ that much week to week, get a full input sheet.
The input sheet is simply a chart showing every single input source (mic, DI, playback, video feed, etc.), what it’s used for, and where it plugs into the board. This is often the first filter in sorting out issues. It might show that there won’t be enough inputs on the main console, or there won’t be enough channels of wireless mics to cover everyone, or that there won’t be enough aux sends to cover all of the monitor needs.
Whatever the challenges, they can be overcome if they’re known early enough. The day before rehearsal is not the time to discover you’re six wireless mics short.