Thursday, March 31, 2011

Garbage in, Garbage out

I had the opportunity to chat with Robert Scovill in May last year about mixing and ministry. You can read that blog post here. Robert has accrued more than 3,000 live event mixing credits during the course of a 30-year career. He has worked with such bands as Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Matchbox Twenty, Prince, Rush Def Leppard, and Alice Cooper.

One question I had for him was What are your favorite mic’s to use on Drums? Vocals? Guitar Amps? His answer was pure gold for me.

Uh … I hate to be vague here … but at the end of the day, many times I just use what is available. The key is making the source sound good before it gets to the mic. If not, the mic is just a better or worse deliverer of a poor sounding instrument. I just don’t think or work like that where I carry a tool box of my favorite tools. I’ll listen to an instrument and think … hmm let’s try this … I’ll bet that would work well. Now that said, I do tend to gravitate toward certain mics on certain instruments but many times the style of music or the style of the player will dictate what mic I use as much as anything.
I have a mantra that I tell the audio guys on my tech team…my wife even knows it by heart. ‘Garbage in Garbage out.’ Robert reminded me that even a high quality, expensive microphone would simply capture the source well. But if that source did not sound right or good, the great mic, great preamp, great eq would not do the source any good. If that amp, instrument or vocal sounds wrong take the time to make it better. That will mean working with the musician or vocalist or your producer or music director.

You have the responsibility to know your tones and your musicians. I have found that I have to get up on stage and take some time listening. The first part of soundcheck for me actually starts on the stage. I always try to be the first one in the room and have the audio console ready for sound check and all the wireless packs and mics on stage awaiting their users. I also take this time to prepare my heart. I realize the role the audio guy plays in communicating the Gospel on the weekend and pray that I don’t get in the way of that – as I fill that role. This allows me to be relaxed and ready for the musicians and volunteers that arrive on stage. I get to greet them, chat about their week and help them find their place. As I take this time to really listen to them I get to be a part of their life from the past week, while we setup their gear. I will also help them in whatever way they need (moving their cases when needed, cable control as they set up and even grabbing a bottle of water for them). I make it known to them that I am there to serve them. I’m also building that a relationship and an open line of conversation that is a benefit throughout the rehearsal and services

Once they are ready I will take some time to listen to amp tones, drum sounds and voices. This helps me really know what and how they are playing and how that should be replicated through the amplified house sound. It also helps me communicate better to the producer, music director or even the musician if I feel that the sound needs more adjustment than what I can do at the audio console. If tweaks are needed, I’d much rather ask the musician to help make those tweaks from stage, if possible, than having to only manipulate it electronically from the console.

Putting the work into the front end of the sound check like this really helps us control that ‘Garbage in Garbage out’ issue as well as develop strong relationships between the stage and the tech booth.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, March 28, 2011

Crew vs. Community

For most of my TD career I have fostered a "crew mentality" in my tech teams.  We come together to achieve a common goal, usually a worship service or event, and then go home.  I would send emails out throughout the week updating on news of the 'crew' or service details and more than that requests for availability to create the schedule. I would reach to one or two by phone throughout the week and may even send a couple of postcards. The volunteer tech crew was there to serve a task and I worked my best to have them show up and execute at their best.

But then I consider community.  I long to be a part of community and I believe that is what God has wired all of us to be in.  So instead of struggling with recruiting, scheduling and training people to do what would it look like if I help create community for them to ‘be’?

What if we had small groups within our Technical Ministries based around their passion (audio team, lighting team, etc…) or even based on a weekend they serve (audio, lighting, visuals ops that serve on the same team every three weeks.)?  What if we lead those teams to foster community outside what of happens on the weekend services? What if the overflow from these communities of volunteers was to serve in tech?  What if the focus of our job as Technical Directors was to develop and connect people into community? 

Lots of questions….what do you think?

Labels: ,

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Yes, but...

If you are the leader of the Technical Arts team, no matter if you are paid, full time or volunteer – or somewhere in between,  you will undoubtedly be inundated with requests of the possible and not so possible.  If you stop and think about it, pretty much any request is possible given time and money.  And honestly, you are probably in your role because some folks thought you were pretty smart and good at delivering their request at some point.
So why in the world would we ever say no to the mound of requests you receive from your leadership and staff? I think, at least for me and my experience, that ‘no’ comes from that fact that your current responsibilities and the few other requests already submitted has you spending way to much time at the church.  And if that is the case then I am pretty certain you are at a point that your head my pop off if someone asks for one more thing from you.  You may be in an environment where ‘no’ is not an acceptable word to be said from someone in your position.  Saying ‘no’ because you don’t want to do it or because you’re overloaded can leave a negative perception against you.  Not being able to say no or feeling like you can say no leaves you in a very spiritually and unhealthy place.
That is why you should NEVER say ‘No’.  Whoa, whoa, who….don’t stop reading or click off the blog.  Hear me out till the end.  Let me say it again.  You should never say ‘no’ to you leadership or staff.  I think you should always tell them Yes, but.  Yes, but…what will it cost – cost in financial terms, time and human resource.  Once you do your research on what those terms are if we do honor a submitted request and present the facts then that will offer your leadership the opportunity to make an educated decision on what is really important. 
If their request is going to require hardware or software to accomplish the task present a couple of options and maybe include purchase and rental prices.  Define the time it will take to complete the request.  In their mind that video may take thirty minutes to produce.  In reality they are not taking into account the time it takes to setup, capture, teardown, import, edit, tweak, sweeten, export, and deliver that video.  Along with how long it takes, let them know what other responsibilities or projects you have that will be affect or pushed off to make this happen.  Finally, discuss the human resource it will spend.  If this is something bigger than you can handle then who do you need to assist?  Will it be other staff, volunteers or even hire a freelancer?
Saying ‘Yes, but’ instead of ‘no’ allows you the opportunity to let your leadership decided the priorities of that request.  It also allows you the opportunity to help educate your leadership in really what your world looks like and what it entails.  I think this may be just as important as their request is- no matter what their request is. 

Labels: ,

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

pour into others....

original post December 10, 2010

As we quickly approach the end of 2010 it’s easy for any of us to reflect on this past 12 months. For me and my family it has been quite a year. It has not been a stellar year but even through that I am thankful for a group of people that God has surrounded me with.
Both at church and just in my small sphere of influence I have been blessed with folks that are willing to build the relationship and speak into me.  A few of those are guys so incredibly respected in the Church technical ministry field.  It is humbling to think God has provided the opportunities of building relationships with them and being able to engage in some deep conversation.  Conversations are not only stretching me in my craft but in my calling and in my spiritual walk.  I find it amazing how God will surround you with certain people at the right times.  I’m so thankful to Him for these guys and their willingness to pour into me the way they have. 
So let me encourage you, find someone (or a couple of folks) that you can share with and that can pour into you.  You’re not going to make it too long in ministry, let alone technical ministry, without having people who have gone before you to support and to pour into you.  It may be daunting just thinking about opening up to someone and share with them.  Doing so will allow God to do some incredible work in you.
You can’t be just a taker, either.  You are called to pour into others.  Find those people in your life that need to hear your voice and that can take advantage from your experience and wisdom.  Better yet, just be there to pray for them and walk with them through what they are dealing with.  Doing so, again, will allow God to do some incredible work in you.

Labels: ,

miss ya dad....

original post September 20, 2010

My dad passed away Sunday morning.  Eight months after sharing his diagnosis of pancreatic cancer with us, he drew his last breath in the arms of his wife.  My dad is now shouting and dancing in heaven.
I got the call Sunday morning as I was sitting in video control during first service.  I knew what the call was about before the first ring ended and even before I answered the phone.  I was up and headed out the church door when as I heard Teresa say mom called and needed to get to the house as fast as possible.  I arrive just a few minutes after he passed away.  I was about giddy with joy and at the same time tears of sorrow streamed down my face.  Mom fell into my arms and we cried together.
I remember an excerpt from my last note….
It will be that moment that where every fiber of my being will mourn the loss of my dad, the loss of his voice in my ears, his hugs, his smile. But it will also be the moment that I will utter the words of ‘welcome home dad’. Because in my soul I will be rejoicing with dad –and jealous of him!- for he gets to see the glory of God, he will receive the reward for which he unselfishly gave much here on earth for.  
It was so exactly like I thought it would be.  But the emotion was so much deeper than I expected.  At times I just wanted to shout and praise God and other times I just wanted to punch God in the face.  From one extreme to the other, though, there was a peace that would not let me go…no matter how irreverent my emotional state may be in.  I can’t believe how good God is and how he blessed not only me and my family but even how His hand of providence carried dad through the last eight months of these disease.  Yet, I cant believe that God allowed dad to go through this.  And that God wouldn’t hear my prayers and heal dad so I could have more time with him on this earth. 
I don’t have a pretty ending here to wrap up this blog post.  As I sit here and write this, it’s a little over fourteen hours ago since I walked through the door and heard my dad had died.  I still have that emotional battle going on in me.  The one thing that I can hold on to was that dad held onto to Jesus tightly over the years.  Because of that I know, without a doubt, where he is right now.  And beyond anything this world could offer, dad is so very much healthier and happier.
Today, this world got a lot worse and heaven got a lot better.  I love you dad, will miss you till I see you again.

my dad....

original post August 5, 2010

Doing life is not an easy endeavor.  Many times we think by processing and walking the journey on our own it is easier and less painful  -and maybe less humiliating – than opening up and trying to share together.  But there is nothing more beautiful and healing than inviting others into your own personal mess. I’ve learned that lesson many times over in the last 36 plus years of my life.  I have seen it a thousand times over the past three years in ministry at The Crossing.  But when it comes to me, the introvert that I am, I tend to think I can handle it on my own.  God shows me that I am wrong.
It was January of this year. A Monday evening. It was cold outside.  The car was quiet on the way to my parent’s house.  The warm air inside our mini-van was as chilled and sharp as it was outside.  An evening I cannot get out of my memory. My dad had called my older brother and I along with our wives to visit him and mom that night.  Teresa and I both knew the visit wasn’t going to include any good news.
It was that night that my father choked out the words while holding his tears back that the doctors had diagnosed him with pancreatic cancer.  They told him he had four to six months to live.  The news was harder to hear that I imagined. It felt like those moments that night extended to early in the morning but it was just a couple of hours.  Tears, silence, hugs, and words of comfort filled the rest of the time.  I think that night was the hardest night of my life…as an individual, husband, father, brother and son.  My dad just told me he was going to die.
I sit here almost seven months later.  That night in January feels like ‘last night’ each day since.  I still can hardly process those words he spoke.  But I have taken advantage of the time God has granted us.  Earlier on it was doing breakfast.  We had great conversations…many times dad just talking about his childhood and sharing stories about life and others that had impacted his life.  Now, as the cancer has spread and has robbed his strength and health, it is spending time with him at home.  Sharing with him about day to day stuff.  Sitting with him as he naps throughout the day.  And simply just being there.
It’s been a long seven months emotionally.  I don’t want to lose my dad.  While I know that all of us have our days numbered, it just not what I want for my 67 year old father.  At the same time, I am excited for him.  All I remember is dad serving in ministry and giving all he has and all he is to others so they would be introduced to Christ.  Heaven is his reward.  Only God knows that exact time he will leave the confines of this earthly shell and enter the sprawling heavenly home where he will be reunited with friends and family and heroes from the Bible and Jesus.  God knows the moment when he will bow at His feet and hear the words ‘well done my good and faithful servant’.
 It will be that moment that where every fiber of my being will mourn the loss of my dad, the loss of his voice in my ears, his hugs, his smile. But it will also be the moment that I will utter the words of ‘welcome home dad’. Because in my soul I will be rejoicing with dad –and jealous of him!- for he gets to see the glory of God, he will receive the reward for which he unselfishly gave much here on earth for. 
I am so proud of my dad.  He is coming up on the end of the path he has chosen.  A path that I know he had to choose many directions and forks in the way, but a path that has crossed with many other lives that he have touched and help start on the right spiritual path. I can only hope to live unselfishly as his legacy proves.
I have shared this news with a few people close to me.  They have been an amazing source of strength through thoughts and prayers.  It now feels like the right time to share this story to more people.  I’m going to start sharing this with others.  To let people in and walk along with me through this season.   I post this simply because this blog should be about me and who I am.  Another step to being real.  A vital part of doing life in community.


a few questions for....Robert Scovill

original post May 24, 2010

Robert Scovill has been called a legendary live sound engineer, one of the most respected people in live sound, one of the most influential people in the business and just an all around great guy.  Just getting to know Robert, I’m pretty sure he will laugh off the word legendary but I do know that his reputation in live audio well respected and highly influential.  I’m also getting to know he is an all around great guy.
I first learned about Robert Scovill and his incredible resume back in 1994 while sitting in one of the audio theory classes at The Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences in Phoenix, AZ .  When you are one of the best in the bizz, people sit up and take notice. As a student of audio,  I sat up and took note of Mr. Scovill. Ever since, I’ve followed and did my best to study his work in live and studio audio.
Robert has accrued more than 3,000 live event mixing credits during the course of a 30-year career.  He has worked with such bands as Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Matchbox Twenty, Prince, Rush Def Leppard, and Alice Cooper.  A 6 time TEC Award winner for Sound Reinforcement Engineer,  today, Robert serves as the Senior Market Specialist for Avid (  He is leading the development of some of the most sought after digital consoles in live and studio production including in the church. 
Robert invests into the future of audio production through his Complete FOH Engineer workshop.  Robert leads the main workshop himself and gathers a few other top professional audio engineers to equip apprentice and veteran audio technicians in the multi day hands on program. You can find out more info here
I’ve had the privilege to meet Robert Scovill last year through a mutual friend.  From a handful of conversations with him one thing has always been obvious.  He is an all around great guy.  He’s the real deal and his passion for audio and people shine through.
So on top of being one of the busiest guys in the business he took some time from all he juggles, including currently mixing front of house sound for the 2010 Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers North American Tour, and was willing to answer a few questions (well, alright, alot of questions…but it’s Robert Scovill!) for us…
Bill [B]: Would you be willing to describe a little of your spiritual journey? Give our readers an idea of your background…
Robert [R]: Well, “spiritual journey” is a great way to describe it I suppose. I grew up in a Baptist setting during my formative years. It was not a religiously strict setting and I would not characterize my family as avid church goers during that time but enough to get one thinking seriously about it for sure. For a long stretch of my adult life I was certainly a person who debated the question of “why are we here” or “is there a God or not” both internally and externally. I’ve always considered myself to be an open minded person and that is the irony I think of how I feel about God, in that what I hear from my friends who are not believers is that they perceive religion as constricting and narrow minded and I have a completely opposite view of it. I consider it completely liberating. It is now nearly impossible for me to consider what a life must be like if there is no sense of “being” attached to it. Meaning, how meaningless would your outlook on your life, or your day, or your next minute of life be if inside you were sure that you were nothing more than some cosmological accident. Why bother even getting out of bed? I choose not to think that way or believe in that way. I choose to believe there is a creator, and I am one of his creations. For my money CS Lewis nailed with Mere Christianity. While I’m certainly not suggesting I am a thinker on par with Lewis, that book was like someone transcribed my thought process for me.
[B]: How are you able to foster your faith –or even share your faith while working with some of the bands you’ve had the opportunities with?
[R]: I get asked this question a lot. I don’t know whether God would endorse my approach, but it goes like this; I try to convince people about the merits of my faith with my actions more so than with my words. I know this crowd, and they like a good debate – but it’s hard to argue with actions. LOL – I sympathize with many of my cohorts in the entertainment business because many of them feel like I felt as a younger adult meaning that; “I have no problem with God, I just don’t care for many of the people that claim to speak for him”. I think at times it looks too much like show business to them as well and for that reason they lose respect for it, not gain it. I just suggest to them hey, stop focusing on the picture frame and concentrate on the picture. On the flip side, once I became fully committed to Christianity it was like a blindfold got pulled off of my eyes a bit. I remember sitting in catering one day and took note of about 3-4 guys quietly saying grace before digging into lunch. These are guys that I had been touring with for a LONG time and I had no idea they were Christians. Now that said, I still find myself tossing out a few cuss words now and again and I am certainly not void of sin. Flawed human to the end to be sure …  
[B]: When out on tour, what do you do to keep your mix fresh when mixing the same songs night after night? What do you do from becoming complacent?
[R]: Ya know I think this just has to do with your mindset in general and your respect for what it is you are responsible for. Now that said, I’m not going to tell you that you don’t struggle with it over the course of an 18 month tour. But you have to respect the moment, you have to respect the responsibility that the client has put in your hands, and finally you have to respect what the fan is expecting to experience while there. All that said, I could count the shows that I’ve done that I would consider as flawless on one hand – but the shows that I was totally focused for throughout the night … that’s a big number.
[B]: Is there any piece of analog gear you carry on the road with an analog console that you’ve not been able to find a suitable plug-in replacement for?
[R]: No
[B]: Is there anything at all about the analog workflow you miss? or have you “never looked back”?
[R]: Well, it’s gonna sound a little fluffy or romantic here, but there is a tactile connection that takes place with analog gear that is missing from digital. I don’t know how else to describe it other than “when you are touching actual gear the actual fader and hearing the response from a movement of a control – if feels different than it does when doing the same move with a virtual piece of gear or a virtual fader”. I would compare it to painting on canvas with a brush vs. painting on a screen with a mouse. Both can yield great results – but the feedback from the medium is very different. Short of that little ditty, some of the tried and true analog workflows that we’ve come to love are still a bit too difficult to implement on digital in my opinion, But all that said, I am fully committed to digital for live sound. The positives of it far outweigh the negatives in terms of practicality and most importantly result in my opinion.
[B]: What are some of the things you do that put what would be a normal mix, an over the top mix?
[R]: Well, really it’s just the amount of detail. And frankly detail takes time, lots of time and commitment to what you are doing. It is where churches struggle a bit because there is little commitment to the amount of time needed to provide detail. It’s much more of a “one-off” mentality – more like a weekly festival one-off if you will. The goal is just to be loose and avoid the major catastrophe. In the end it sells the worship experience short in my opinion. If God is truly in the details, then what we do on a weekly basis in many churches today is playing to the lowest common denominator. I think that is a shame really given what is at stake on Sunday.
[B]: What’s your advice to that guy/gal that gets to sit behind the console a weekend or two a month at their local church?
[R]: Understand the context of what you are presenting. Respect how important it is to do your job well for the person who is there to receive the message as much as the person who is delivering the message. Learn to listen – not operate.
[B]: Do you mix audio at your home church?
[R]: I have a few times in the past at my previous church. I actually worked as the service producer for an extended period of time until I literally burnt myself out. I was in charge of assembling charts, assembling all video and PowerPoint content on a week by week basis, sometimes playing in the band etc. I loved doing it and I loved serving my church. That said, in retrospect I actually feel closer and more in tune with God since I stopped doing it. I’m still trying to process that in many ways …
[B]: Who do you look to or who inspires you when it comes to mixing audio?
[R]: Oh, it’s not one person really. I try to dig in and tap into the passion I had for music when I was just a kid. I always seem to do my best work on something I am really passionate about. I mean I have a list of mixers that I would consider the greats – but at the end of the day, I can’t be them nor should I waste time trying to emulate them. I have to be Robert Scovill and if that’s not good enough, I’ll be okay with that too.
[B]: What’s your favorite plug-in to use with vocals? Bass? Guitar? Drums?
[R]: Uh … EQ, Dynamics, Harmonics or Reverb??? Heck I don’t know, the one that is working … the one that is there? It totally depends on the application and the style of music really. Sorry …
[B]: What are your favorite mic’s to use on Drums? Vocals? Guitar Amps?
[R]: Uh … I hate to be vague here … but at the end of the day, many times I just use what is available. The key is making the source sound good before it gets to the mic. If not, the mic is just a better or worse deliverer of a poor sounding instrument. I just don’t think or work like that where I carry a tool box of my favorite tools. I’ll listen to an instrument and think … hmm let’s try this … I’ll bet that would work well. Now that said, I do tend to gravitate toward certain mics on certain instruments but many times the style of music or the style of the player will dictate what mic I use as much as anything.
[B]: How do you stay fresh and avoid burnout?
[R]: When you find out the answer, please let me know immediately … LOL … my only defense seems to be to get completely away from it for periods of time. A complete sabbatical if you will. For me I can get lost in my family or my wife as a source of isolation from it, My wife sees it in me a mile away. I lean toward participation in individual sports like snowboarding or competitive shooting or golf or running or swimming etc. to get me into another head space. I’m an only child, so I’ve learned to be content with my own thoughts as a companion. This served me very well over many years of touring. More often than not I just need to step away from music for a while and STOP listening. When I do, I find that when I come back my ears and my approach feel very fresh.
[B]: What do you do to gain confidence from the band you are working with?
[R]: Be prepared, be consistent, be accountable … own your mistakes … share your accolades and pats on the back.  
[B]: How do you learn new mixing skills?
[R]: By breaking down other peoples mixes, breaking down my own mixes, listen listen listen and never hold on to any one approach too tightly.
[B]: How do you teach new mixing skills?
[R]: Well this is an interesting question. I’m always amazed at the response I get during my seminars when I start addressing this, because my take on it is that mixing has little to do with operating a given technology. In my mind, when I hear the first sound, be it in the PA or standing next to the instrument on stage or anywhere for that matter, maybe I’m just imagining what it will sound like, and my first thoughts are how I’m going to mic it, place it against another instrument, process it, whatever … at that very moment, I am mixing. So to me the “mixing” skill is more a level of expectation that has to be developed. The console and the surrounding technology then simply become the means to meeting that expectation. That thought process and expectation is what needs to be taught and nurtured.
[B]: How do you keep the ego out of the way?
[R]: Simple agenda check … what or who is your work serving? If it is anyone or anything other than the song, the client, the fan/congregation member, you might want to evaluate why you are doing it.
[B]: How did you get started in doing audio?
[R]: I was lucky enough to get exposed to some pretty high level audio at a very young age. I knew in my early teens I wanted to be in concert sound or record production or both. I just didn’t know how to get there – and given where I grew up etc. there weren’t many clues. Like most kids, I started out as a musician and wanted to be the next Mitch Mitchell or Keith Moon. But I had a couple of key events in my teens that gave me insight into the production side of it and I was hooked from that point forward. From the time I was about 18-19 years of age, I simply took every gig I could get my hands on whether it paid or not. Lucky for me I got hooked up with some folks who actually knew what they were doing and served (sometimes unwittingly) as mentors to me. Without them, I’m not quite sure I would have made it to where I currently am today.
[B]: What do you do to prepare for working with someone you’ve never worked with before?
[R]: I spend hours digging into their music and if given the opportunity spend an equal amount of time with the artist to get some sense of who they are and where their music comes from and how they actually want it to be presented. After that it’s just about execution really. But it’s important for me to know what they bring to the table and for them to know what I bring to the table as well.
[B]: How do you recover from mistake(s)?
[R]: Simple, don’t panic! Mistakes are going to happen at every event bar none. What I teach in my seminars is that you have to lose your fear of making mistakes because it is debilitating to your process. The only way to do that in many instances is to have previously made all the mistakes – maybe even more than once. That’s part of that thing called “experience”. I submit that in concert sound in particular, many high paid people are paid for their experience level more than their actual skill level. Because live performance is so volatile it becomes really important to have people that are cool under fire. I liken it to what a professional golf instructor told me once during a round of golf with him. He said, “you know the difference between you and a pro golfer? (I was waiting for the ribbing to begin) It’s the magnitude and regularity of your mistakes. When you hit a perfect shot, and the pro hits a perfect shot – they’re the same. But if you count up the mistakes that you make during a round vs. the ones that he makes during the round, they have a very different impact on the final score.” That has always stuck with me and is a great lesson for any venture in life – but especially so for live sound work.
[B]: What sparks your creativity?
[R]: Boredom … and it’s why it’s so important to have down time away from the art or what ever work I’m involved in.
[B]: What music are you listening to?
[R]: Oh gosh, a lot of blues. I’m really fascinated and moved by the blues both contemporary and vintage. I’ve also been listening to a lot of older country from around the late 50s and early 60s. There is something magical in the sound and presentation of that music during that period that just works for that style of music. Very cool. Also, got turned on to a new artist recently named Pieta Brown that I’ve kind of fallen in love with – cool stuff.
[B]: Who inspires you?
[R]: Oh man, inspiration comes from funny places. It could be anyone from my kids or my wife to a guy who is out on the street and able to swallow his pride long enough to ask me for a quarter. If you’re paying attention, inspiration can come from anywhere or any situation. If I got to a point where I could only be inspired from looking within, then something is clearly out of whack – I can’t imagine being that self absorbed.
With that said, people, specifically leaders who have attained stature and notoriety, yet consistently work from the position of serving those they lead are who I strive to emulate.
[B]: How much of the mix is science and how much is art?
[R]: With mixing in particular, the science IS the means to the art.
[B]: How do you deal with criticism?
[R]: Welcome it, explore it, and dig deep, because regardless of the criticism and who it comes from, if you dig deep enough, you’ll probably find a hint of truth in it. Embrace it and be open to it, just don’t become a slave to it. Meaning you can’t mix or make music when the agenda is to please critics – You have to be your toughest and most viable critic. Mix sound with the goal of pleasing everyone and you will end up pleasing no one.
[B]: What’s your advice to the guy/gal that wants to make a living mixing audio in a live or studio environment?
[R]: Be patient and be diligent. Get as much experience as you can before anybody learns your name. (see the answer concerning making mistakes) Work with the servants heart and it will take a you a long way in my opinion.
[B]: With a very busy schedule that is never the same, how do you make time with your family a priority?
[R]: Incredibly challenging. It is a complete balancing act as it is with anyone who works for a living. What I’ve learned about kids is that contrary to popular belief, it is NOT about quality time with them – it is about quantity time, and they have every right to expect it. You just have to balance it against the responsibility of preparing them for the world we live in and dedicate as much time to them as you do to your craft. But it’s important in my opinion to have both of those dedications on display at all times for your family to see.
[B]: As a FOH mixer what is the biggest challenge you see to young FOH guys? Did you have to overcome this challenge and if so how?
[R]: Oh boy – from my perspective it’s swaying them away from buying into the idea that technology can be a replacement for knowledge or an approach. Don’t spend all your time learning about the vast array of technology out there. The choices are just seemingly endless. I preach it big time in my classes, it’s not about the gear, it’s about your approach to using the gear. Learn the “why” and then the “how”. As my dad used to say “don’t blame the pipe wrench for the bad plumbing”
[B]: What’s the best way to establish open communication with the band?
[R]: Who really knows? Every situation is different, you just have to be on the lookout for opportunities to communicate and then act on them when they are there. Again part of having experience is knowing when, where and how to speak.
[B]: What do you do if you are put in a situation where you know that due to the circumstances, the sound isn’t going to be what it should be?
[R]: First, evaluate the context of the setting – what are these people here to experience? And then make sure and focus on that singular aspect and simply squeeze every ounce of result out of the situation in order to make it happen. But that said, it also goes back to what I mentioned earlier about having a viable and repeatable approach to doing live audio. If your technique is based on one PA system, or one console, or one processor, or one mic – what the heck do you do when you don’t have those? You show me a person with a solid approach to audio on a lame sound system and a person with an iffy approach on a state of the art system and I will put my money on the guy with the good approach 100% of the time.
[B]: Do you see any brand new technology coming out or just some  refinements of what we are working with already?
[R]: I think we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg in terms of how digital technology is going to impact live sound. For example when ubiquitous networking is a reality, and when computer processing power dramatically surpasses what we currently think is powerful in terms of it’s ability to handle audio become a reality, live audio is going to be very interesting indeed. And ya know what, that is not all that far away
[B]: So, when is the Venue line coming out with a 24 channel version.  Avid has the Profile and the SC48, but both are way overkill when it comes to a smaller sized chapel.  Any insight to future plans?
[R]: Sorry, can’t talk about that …
[B]: Where do you see live mixing going in the next 5-10 years? Where do you see the music industry headed? Production industry?
[R]: See my comments on what I believe mixing actually is … if you buy into it, you realize it’s in no way time sensitive.  That said, in terms of technology, we are certainly getting to the point already where the technology is so powerful  and complex, and you have so many choices in terms of what you can do to the audio and how the console operates that the end challenge ends up becoming – “can the human manage it mentally”? How do we help the human manage more and more functionality within a given workflow. Even at this point in time, we can certainly put more software functionality into the systems than the vast majority of users could effectively manage. So it’s a bit of a balancing act moving forward. The  learning curve is already steep and getting steeper.  I liken it to the current state of jet fighters. Right now, the latest jets are managing the pilot to a degree because the plane’s operational possibilities can surpass the physical limitations, certainly in terms of G-Force that the body can take.  So the plane’s tactical functionality is somewhat governed by the limitations of the pilot.  Hmmm … that sounds eerily similar to digital consoles in live sound. :)


Summer Series Stage Design 2010….and a reminder…..

original post August 2, 2010

One area of responsibility that falls under my position as Technical Arts Director at The Crossing is stage design.  I have a love/hate relationship with stage design.  The final product is the sweet aroma of a velvety rose petal that lures me, but the process is the thorn that causes pain.  Well, maybe it’s not that poetic.  But dealing with that uniqueness of our main auditorium and the ‘scalability’ that we need to transfer to our other venue and campus and all the logistics and ideas in between, my attention and sanity can be consumed with this area alone.   
Because of that, I am constantly looking for ideas and inspiration that could work for us.  One afternoon while flipping through the higher end of the channels on my Dish network, I came across something that caught my eye.  It was the church service of a large Texas church.  The design popped.  It was the stained glass pieces framed and sitting on the stage and flown on the sides.  They used LED curtain behind the layer of stained glass frames which I knew we wouldn’t have available but brought great lighting effects to mind.  The feel of the ‘ancient’ church yet it was contained would mix well with some ideas of the ‘future’ that we could assimilate into the design.  I got excited!   
I really liked the design and had a bunch of ideas of how to implement it in our main auditorium and other venues.  I knew this would be the design for our Summer Series at The Crossing.  I just had to figure out how they had actually done it.  So I did some investigative work and found the video of the service online and took some screen captures.  My lighting guy and I spent about two weeks trying to figure out how they accomplished the design and how we could mimic it.  
Then came an aha moment!  I remembered that one of our staff members use to serve at this church before he joined The Crossing.  My ‘in’!  He was totally willing to call and introduce me to the TD of the church.  A few emails later we actually received the artwork that they had used and told us how they had executed the design.  It was simple!  They were awesome for letting us use their art.  I so appreciate how the Technical ministries of churches are open to sharing and supporting each other.  That is become so evident with resources like and
While doing our investigating work we visited and came across this  I know.  ‘But you already have that design idea’  Yes, we did.  But what we didn’t have nailed down was exactly how we were going to produce the stained glass graphics.  A post at introduced us to Backlit paper.  We have a 42” color plotter in the office that we will often utilize for design ideas typically on plotter paper of clear vellum.  We’ve never used this stuff.  I had no idea what the result would be.  But we took the risk.  The Backlit paper took the ink color so well and help create vivid reproduction of the stained glass art images and the light looked amazing on them. 
It all had come together. Almost. We were about done printing the stained glass images.  The frames were about to be delivered and it was about two hours before the design team was arrive to execute the design and wrap it up the prep for the weekend services.  Then I saw the artwork for the weekend message graphics.  Wow. The stained glass images would have the bold blues, reds, purples and ambers as you would imagine stained glass would be.  The message graphics were more muted earthtones.  They clashed – big time.    
I made the call to our Programming Director in hopes we could tweak the message graphics to match better with the stained glass images…that were already printed and ready for the team to put in place.  What I found through a series of phone calls and texts was that I had missed a  conversation about ensuring the stained glass frame design not looking to ‘churchy’.   Now I had to meet with our graphic designer to incorporate color and texture into these stained glass images pieces.  To say that I was not totally shaken about this turn of events would be a huge lie.  Not only had we finished printing all of these in original color and I had a team coming in to execute the design… but the design and potential design ideas for these flew out the window.    
I typically can shake tweaks and changes as they come knowing the big picture and how they affect the overall outcome.  For some reason I could not get it out of my system this time.  The first round of modified stained glass we printed didn’t look that good.  Which was just fanning the flame.  I knew what we needed to do – well, I knew what I thought I wanted to do and it wasn’t the direction the team was wanting to go in.  I kept pushing.  I meet in the auditorium with our Programming Director the day before the weekend services.  While she was doing her best to convince me they looked good – and would be better with some tweaking – I still wasn’t buying it.  But the boss was happy – so I was happy…well, not really happy –just ready to put this one behind me.   
We went back to printing the last few we need to finish up this phase of the design for the week after we walked through the tweaks with our graphic artist.  They actually came out looking good….yea, I said it, good.  Once we had them tweaked as we liked, printed and in place with some great light on them – they actually looked really good.  And all I heard all weekend, and even on Monday in debrief, was how good they looked.  Yea, Yea, Yea…. I know… and they were all right.   
I learned a lesson last week.  I wasn’t really hoping to with it being summer and all.  But I got schooled by God.  You see, the most beautiful design happens when done together.  This guy in Texas, the Technical Director, his name is Dave Marks and serves at Fellowship of the Woodlands.  He took time out to help build the Kingdom. Simple act of attaching a few files to an email, but it came with a huge impression of building unity in the body of Christ.   The amount of time our graphic designer put in to this design to make it look perfect and the skill and expertise the entire team contributed to pull out an amazing stage design is humbling.  Humbling because we all add value to the process – as a team – those inside and outside our organization and in the end we created an engaging environment. 
Those ‘stained glass frames’ will be a part of our summer message series for the next ten weeks.  I think they are perfect



original post April 28, 2010

I had a chance to chat with a couple of guys on the tech staff at a local church the other day.  We ended the conversation talking about boundaries, boundaries as they pertain to our job, or as we call it in the church world – ‘ministry’.  These boundaries are, more than not, are never healthy for the local church techie. 
While we are the first one in and the last one out and we love what we do – alright, we are passionate about what we got to do.  Because we are passionate we can often lose sight of what healthy boundaries are.  That’s right, I’m putting the blame on us, the church tech for not setting those boundaries.   Honestly, your senior pastor or your worship pastor probably has a little idea of what you actually do and what it takes (both in your time and in dollar) for you to pull off what happens on your church campus week in and week out. 
By the time we get to the point of wanting someone to know we are spent beyond our capacity and want to slap anyone that walks by and asks you how you are doing.  And still, when that last minute video needs to get done or one more event needs to happen we jump in and make it happen.  It’s our responsibility to take care of ourself.
I’ve been leading my tech staff here at The Crossing in a conversation about margin…or boundaries.  How do we create that space in the high stress, time intense enviorment that we live and work in.  How do we create that space so we can better engage with our volunteers to connect and converse with instead of always pushing to make tasks happen around here.  As we have started creating that space, God has been opening doors for some great opportunites for us to connect with our volunteers.
But this margin – or boundaries is critical to not only ministry but in our personal life with family and friends.  So how do you protect yourself and your boundaries.  Well first you have to set those personal property lines.  Do you even know what boundaries are?  If not, a great place to start is by picking up Henry Cloud’s book called Boundaries   It’s a great read and insight that will change your life…both personal and ministry.
As you work through that book , pray and ask God to show you where your personal property lines need to be drawn.  How to establish and communicate those boundaries so other know.  Pray for your leadership and how to enter in to a conversation with them about your boundaries.  It may be a great book and concept to introduce to them.
Bottom line is that we love what we do and the cherish the opportunity to serve with great volunteers utilizing technology in the church.  Most of us will give it our all to do that.  But God has not called us to sacrifice our all to do that.  He has called us to be spouses and parents, disciple makers and most of all – to be healthy.
I would love to hear your feedback and comments and anything you have found to work for you in your pursuit for boundaries.

Labels: ,

the Roundtable & the Network

original post April 27, 2010

I don’t have hobbies like some people have.  A lot of my free time is put into leading/maintaining/developing a few resources for the local church tech and the local church tech ministry leader.  The Church Technical Directors Roundtable and the Church Technical Artists Network have developed out of a vision I had to help resource the full time technical ministry leader.
In the end of July 2009, I hooked up with about seven church Technical Directors from across the country on  The handful of us connected up after I threw out a few posts on Twitter asking any full time church TD’s interested in connecting.  That August, the Church Technical Director’s Roundtable was formed.
The Church Technical Director’s Roundtable is a targeted group for paid, full time technical/production/media ministry directors of the local church.  The Roundtable was founded in the vacuum of such resources focused on the full time ministry Technical Director.  There are currently over 220 members and continued growth is assured as we gain media (print and internet) attention from industry publications and word of mouth.
The Roundtable members impact over 700,000 lives a weekend with their weekly church attendance.  65% of those churches have attendance between1,000-4,000. 17% of those churches have a weekend attendance of 5,000-10,000.  Twelve percent of churches have under 1,000 in weekend attendance while 6% of churches represented in CTDRT have more that 10,000 in weekend attendance.
It has been a blast watching this group of brilliant technical leaders grow and form into something very valuable in each of its members lives and ministries. 
CTANonline grew out of a vision that established CTDRT.  As the Church Technical Director Roundtable has grown and gained momentum in the short eight months of its existence we have seen a growing need and desire in the local church for a resource like CTDRT.  The vision for CTDRT meant that part time and volunteer TD’s along with other full time Tech staff such as Associate/Assistant TD’s, Video, Audio or Lighting staff could not take part, let alone any volunteer technical artist.   And, to their credit, they told me – they showed me- that they needed and wanted a valuable resource like CTDRT.
So, you will see much of the same vision for CTAN as we have for CTDRT.  But, Network is opened to anyone.   Oh, we have asked CTDRT members to be an active part in CTAN and they are.  See, while we all need our place to connect people in similar ministry environments like ours, it is also important to connect with people who serve in different ministry environments and capacities.
The Church Technical Artists Network is a resource that is open to anyone serving in any capacity on their local church technical team.  The Network exists to equip those serving on technical ministry teams by fostering relationships amongst its members, facilitating peer learning, and encouraging synergy through the sharing of ideas.  We hope to accomplish this primarily via the web utilizing the online community.  
The value of this community is the gathering of the technical brilliance and experience in today’s Church in place to share ideas, information and build relationships.  The actual online structure probably won’t be found to be groundbreaking but those individual members visiting CTANonline contributing to the online experience will benefit through seeing the vision of CTAN fleshed out.

Labels: ,