Monday, February 26, 2007

Time to upgrade

A couple of weeks ago on Sunday morning I was getting some final preparations done on stage before the worship team arrived. It was around 7:30am and one of my tech team members asks from the booth, “Jason, are you done working on the computer in here?” Hmmm…that doesn’t sound good I thought. Some quick investigation revealed the computer we use to project words and backgrounds had its cover off and parts missing. Someone had taken the CPU and left the fan, the video card, the memory, a wireless networking card, and the better of the 2 hard drives in the computer. All parts small enough to fit in a coat pocket with ease. This person knew exactly what they were doing. This was not a random act.
Passing by distraught mode and zooming thru panic, I quickly decided I needed to take the computer from my office and make it work. Our wonderful IT director, Glenn, stepped in to make things happen. Thankfully we keep a copy of our song database and the files for each Sunday on the network. By 8:45 things were back up and running. Whew! On the plus side, it was time for an upgrade in the computer anyway.
We decided to not change the motherboard as it is a very nice one but put a new processor and better video card in it. Now, its all spanking new and runs fantastic with its new AMD FX-57 processor and Nvidia GF7600GT video card. (Hmmm… wonder what ConterStrike would look like on the big screens and sound like in our big system.)
Glenn and I discussed several options in moving forward to prevent such things happening in the future. Obviously, locking all the worship center doors would be a primary option, but due to circumstances out of my or his control that is not an option right now. We came up with an ingenious idea.

There are two locks mounted thru the case to prevent the side from being removed as well as a braided steel cable attached to one of the locks on the inside running out the back to be attached to the wall in the booth.

Now, where did I put that CounterStrike CD...

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Web 2.0 in 5 minutes or less

Once again, I admit my addiction with geekdom. Hear my cry, Web 2.0!

Superbowl Part 3

After some discussions on the Prosoundweb forums about the Superbowl there is considerable disagreement among the posters as to the issues surrounding the audio mix for the half time show. I find myself wanting to know more about the process of how the production is put together. Its important to understand the process and the management of that process in order to find the source of the problem and fix it. I offer then the following questions:

1. Was there a planning meeting for the show?
2. Did the show producer or rep meet with representatives of the technical vendors, including the on field audio and the broadcast audio?
3. During the planning session(s) were the technical needs of the performers discussed, inputs planned, and channel assignments made?
4. Were the physical logistics of the audio system discussed, including mic placement, cable runs, quick disconnect placements, etc.
5. Was there a separate, remote mix facility for audio going to broadcast that had a full split of all channels?
6. Does the remote facility have quality reference monitors, a console with full recall and the appropriate auxiliary equipment?
7. Were there rehearsals for the show?
8. Did the broadcast audio team during the rehearsal(s) verify all inputs, set gain structure, EQ, and fader positions for all channels in accordance with accepted standards for an audio mix?
9. Were the settings created during the rehearsals recorded in some fashion?
10. Was the audio mix of the rehearsals recorded and checked on other systems to be sure it was translating?
11. Were all physical inputs left in place after rehearsals and only quick disconnects used?
12. On performance day were all inputs verified to be working and in the correct channels?

Now if the answer to any of the above questions is no, then someone didn't do their job. From a management perspective the above questions should be a minimum for the planning and execution process. I'm willing to pass along some grace if I learn of the technical reasons for the audio being so poor, but I have yet to come up with a scenario where the reasons could justify the outcome. These guys are supposed to be the best. If a goofball geek like me can come up with those questions and think about the process so could those who are far smarter and talented than I.

Am I missing the boat here?

Monday, February 05, 2007

Free at Last

Here is a video we used Sunday. Pastor Kent is doing a series on addictions. This video was shot in DC at the Lincoln memorial. I am very pleased with the way it came out. For the first time since I've been at CFC, the congregation actually applauded for a video. I was shocked. Typically, this church is fairly conservative, particularly the first service.

**Begin nerd speak**

I used a great deal of keyframing in this video. The moves you see with Kent were all done in post with keyframes. It would probably be better to do camera moves during the original shot, but I do gain considerable control this way and can always undo mistakes. I am happy that Vegas makes keyframing easy to do. I am able to hide certain flaws using the technique, such as hiding certain background distractions by zooming in tighter. Makes for a more interesting shot as well. Unfortunately, I was very sick the day we had schedule to do this shot, so I asked one of our volunteer camera guys and my uber assistant JP to take care of it. The lesson I learned is that I must spend the time to story board these videos. I spent twice as long editing it all because I was out for the shot and didn't give clear direction to the team. Kent knew the content part but the footage was a part we had not been able to talk about before that day. I had planned to do it but was sick for about 3 days before the shot. Lesson learned. Storyboarding is vital to a quality shoot. When I have done it in the past my results are always better. In the end it all worked out but the time it took to get there was far more than I really should have spent. I'm currently investigating some story board software to help the process along.

**End Nerd Speak**

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Superbowl Part 2

There are few bigger opportunities for those in the world of production to show their stuff than in the Superbowl halftime show. In 2002, the NFL put on a show that to me was the best one ever. U2 performed and did a tribute to all those who had died in the 9-11 attacks of the previous year. The audio mix was stunning, the lighting and video was top notch. Since that time it has gone down hill culminating with the utterly horrible 2005 show. Even if you take the "wardrobe malfunction", it was simply awful. The "artists", if you can call them that, who performed were mediocre at best and the mix was pretty sad.

Last year's show was at least by a band that has been a staple and has credibilty. Again however, the technical aspects of the show were lacking. As this year's Superbowl approached I anticipated a high-quality event. Prince is an amazing musician and in case you don't know, has made some major life changes and no longer lives the wild lifestyle he once did. I'm not calling him the next Chris Tomlin but at least he has some good morals now. I've been a fan of his since I was in high school so seeing him in this situation would be fun.

I think he and his band played a great show, but once again the show was seriously lacking in technical expertise from an audio standpoint. I do recognize that the weather had the potential for effecting the gernal tone of the drums in particular but it doesn't excuse the fact you could barely hear them. The mix was all vocal and guitar. At one point the keys come in like someone noticed they were muted still and decided to unmute them in the middle of a song. I'll be real honest, the 3 main volunteer sound guys I have at CFC can mix better than whoever is doing these Superbowl shows. Why is this so hard? They do have rehearsals, they do use digital consoles, so why cant you get a mix that works? I am using Directv has my provider and have watched several other live concert events and they sounded amazing. I know it can be done. I have to wonder if they are using some broadcast guys that are not really accostumed to doing a live band. I hereby volunteer my services next year. Fly me to the host city and I'll even buy my own hotel, just let me or someone that can mix, do the halftime show. Its just not that hard.

Superbowl Part 1

I've been a Colts fan since they were in Baltimore. When they drafted Peyton Manning it sealed the deal for me. I grew up in east Tennessee where the University of Tennessee football is considered a forth part of the trinity, Father, Son, Holy Spirit and football. For some people that order will be in reverse. I lived in Knoxville during the Peyton Manning era and what a great time it was. I remember hearing stories of all the new baby boys and girls being born named Peyton. The street that was renamed Peyton Manning Ave. I was certainly thrilled to see the Colts and Peyton win on the biggest stage.

Big congrats to Tony Dungee for being a fine man of God, that never let the pressures of the game effect his faith, character and principles. I sincerely hope his positive influence carries over to other major sports teams coaching and management.