Tag Archives: tech guy

Your Church PA (Pt2)

In ‘Your Church PA’ we get a peek into some of the audio/production setups at local churches in South Africa. We get to ogle over some photos of gear, share ideas, and learn from the wisdom and experience of those techs who keep the systems running week-to-week! For more detail look here.

This week – Dean Wilke from Olive Tree Church shares their setup with us.

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“Like most churches our system has evolved quite a lot over the years. This year saw a massive overhaul of our stage and drum booth.

At the moment we are running 4 QSC K12 speakers (2 downstairs and 2 for our balcony) and 2 K Subs mounted between the two K12s on each side. All of those are running through a DBX Driverack PX. We mix on a Presonus StudioLive 24.4.2 desk. Our stage and hall are too small for wedge monitors so we run an in-ear monitoring system. We recently upgraded for the Hearbacks to the Behringer Powerplay system. A Powerplay P16I rack by our desk and 7 Powerplay P16M mixing modules on stage running through CAT5 cables.

We moved and rebuilt our stage earlier this year and decided to use stage boxes at strategic points on the stage with XLR, Jack and CAT5 connections in them. We had these custom built and have proven to be one of best investments. Under the stage we are running Klotz microphone cable and Mogami instrument cable. The instrument cables are for electric guitars and go into an amp room to the side of our stage.

We also had a double-pane glass drum booth built after realising the Clearsonic one we had just wasn’t cutting it in our small hall. It has been amazing from a mixing point of view. It has given us way more control over the drums and has allowed us to get a much cleaner mix.

And that’s the gist of our setup. We’ve tried to keep it fairly simple while still aiming for great sound quality.”


Epic (tech) Fail Pt6

 

 

It’s true – I have been known as a tech guy who will ‘do whatever it takes to make it work’ – but not this! During the retrofit of an old building we discovered this (in the ceiling) powering several stage PAR Cans. That’s right: twinflex, hand-joined and covered in masking tape? (there was also at least 50m excess cable coiled up in the ceiling)

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Epic (tech) Fail Pt5

Data projector mounting: You’re doing it wrong. (although there is something admirable about sticking to cable-ties as a material)

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Rounding down the Decimals

934836-3x2-340x227I was drinking cheap coffee with a wise-old-audio-guy-friend-of-mine recently, who reminded me of a tech concept that has seemed to follow me around over the last few years. I call it “inconsistency in rounding down the decimal places”.

It’s the really simple idea that a technology chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link.

It’s sadly all-too-common to see churches/tech guys who spend a disproportional amount of time and money on scrutinizing the steel links in the chain – while ignoring the links made from paper!

Here’s a simple (and common) example:

A church budget allows for an audio gear upgrade. The tech people, leadership, volunteers and vendors all go into a frenzy trying to decide which new digital console they need to get. The reality is – this room acoustics are so terrible that almost any console will sound the same – terrible.

The problem here is that the question is wrong.

Wrong Question – “which digital console should we get?”

Right Question – “what would be the most efficient investment in improving our audio presentation?”

Answer – “acoustic treatment and a drum screen”

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It’s critical to identify the really weak links, so you can ask the right questions.

This also applies to human resource. In the old days AV gear was so terrible (and expensive) that the gear was the bottleneck to great production.

Nowadays even the most budget consoles sound reasonable, and incorporate really sophisticated electronics – often the bottleneck is the operator. Maybe your resource is better spent on training.

As church tech guys – we are called to be good stewards of what we have been entrusted with. Being wise with our resources is not an optional extra.

Here are some tips I’ve learned:

  1. Beware of taking advice from people who are also selling you gear.
  2. Find out what other churches are doing. Ask a lot of questions. You’d be surprised how many of us are in the same boat.
  3. Keep focus on the problem and not the gear.
  4. Get advice from trusted sources – pay for professionals if need be.
  5. Consider investing in people as important and equipment

‘The worst sound we have ever had’

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It was about 10.30pm in the evening when the call came through. The Comrades Marathon started early the next morning, and our youth group was going to be braai-ing and supporting the runners from the side of the road. The youth leader had just then decided we should have a sound system and invite bands to perform. He had asked someone to call me to arrange something. I was 15.

Having no PA of my own, I arranged to use the church mobile PA. It was everything you would imagine a mobile church PA to be. Two 12” passive speakers, paired with piezo tweeters in home-made boxes, and powered with an 80W amp. We had no CD player, so I borrowed my parents one (along with every extension cord in the house) – and headed out at 3.30am to start the set up in darkness.

Why am I telling you this story?

Well – the memory of this morning is seared into my mind as a defining moment for me. What followed was, as I look back, an experience that could have completely extinguished my passion for tech, and ministry before I even started.

I remember it being the 3rd band of the morning. They were a ‘hip-hop’ band that sang/rapped over a cd track. They strutted onto the stage (a grass bank) and without looking at me plopped their backtrack CD on the audio console, mentioning that they would have preferred wireless microphones.

Despite my best efforts it didn’t sound great. It sounded pretty bad. It was an out-door gig – the volume was underwhelming, over-compressed, and right on the verge of clipping as I tried to squeeze every precious decibel of life out of those tired, sad speakers. The band did not hide the fact that they were not impressed – from me or from the audience. When they were done they came to collect their CD. As I handed it over, the leader of the band looked me straight in the eyes, paused for a moment, and with a disgusted look said ‘that was the worst sound we have ever had’. He turned, and I watched him walk off.

I was broken.

I wasn’t even angry. I was just complete empty. I had got up at 3am, and spent 2 hours in complete darkness alone, hauling gear onto the side of the road. Called in favors, begged and borrowed for every piece of gear we had – then negotiated with nearby homes to ‘borrow electricity’, stressed about mic stands and kick drums and too few DI boxes. While my friends ate boerewors rolls and cheered on the runners and the bands, I was patching cables and wracking my brains for how we would mic up a 5th vocalist. What I had got in return for my effort was a lambasting by a popular artist – a public assault on my competence, which for whatever reason I felt on a really deep level.

Have you ever felt abused as a tech volunteer? Have you ever got to the point where you wonder why on earth you’d put yourself through one more day of this? You don’t have to do this/! You’re not paid! You’re just doing the job no one else wants to do! Why are you serving, instead of enjoying being served – and putting yourself under pressure for no perceivable gain?

My road to processing and recovering from that complicated experience was and is a long one, that has brought me all the way to where I am today writing this post. As I sit here after 8 years in tech ministry, I’m still not sure I have it all worked out! It may sound nuts – but I can tell you that I think I have just about the best job on earth. It may be the death of me – but I love church tech work! At Grace we are committed to honoring the people who serve in our church. It’s a fundamental part of our DNA. Nothing in our church would operate without ‘Grace people’ giving up their time to serve God, by serving each other – and I think that may be how it’s supposed to work.

What I can say with absolute clarity is that God calls us each to a purpose in his kingdom, (Romans 12:3, 1 Corinthians 12:12-26) and only when you find your place, can you start to understand the paradox of being served by serving others. 


Epic (tech) Fail Pt4

Well… technically this is a band fail. I was told several piano keys were “stuck”.

It seems someone was trying to play the piano with a plectrum??


Epic (tech) Fail Pt3

Ok, ok. This has nothing at all to do with audio – and it might be more of a win than a fail!

Earle & Grant found this while packing up after a conference. It seems one of our HD-SDI video cables worked perfectly fine for 2 days, while under the leg of a chair of a delegate! Signal loss in 3.. 2.. 1..

 

**edit** I have subsequently been told this is not proper HD-SDI cable, but just plain RG59 with HD-SDI being transmitted through it. Anyone know what ‘proper HD-SDI’ cable is called? Comment below…