how to keep getting new gear

OK.  Now you’re using the gear you have, doing some great production work with that Panasonic MX-50 switcher you’ve had forever, and the new gear is just piling up right?  Well, maybe it’s not that simple.

Once you ask for more gear, and you get approval for purchasing that new equipment, you better deliver on that purchase.

undersell and over deliver – When you are asking for new equipment, it is important to tell non-technical people what the new gear will realistically do for your church, because chances are they won’t even notice a difference.  The first time I upgraded audio consoles, my beloved Yamaha 2404 for a Mackie 3204 :( , the Business Operations Board, or BOB, asked if it would sound better.  I basically had to tell them that it wouldn’t sound appreciably better, but would allow us to add more instruments and help the volunteers be able to  have a better work flow.

Because I had the track record we talked about last time (here) they trusted my explanation.  The other important thing is that what I said would happen, did.  The addition of 8 audio channels really helped us do more with more efficiency and the mix didn’t change drastically, it only made it possible for us to finally mic that cowbell.

Baby Steps – For me, this means I only would upgrade to something I could deliver on.  If you take a huge leap to a brand new technology, chances are it won’t be successful.  This is one of the big reasons I didn’t pursue moving lights when I was at Kensington (groan).  I knew that we would spend a boatload of money on them, but I personally didn’t have the capacity to learn to use them to their fullest.  Even though people were begging me for them, I knew it would be a waste of money and I would lose trust.

Proving yourself trustworthy matters a ton.  When you are asking to spend the church’s money on new gear, does your leadership look at your track record and know that you can be trusted?


look me in the eye

Demo Contact

photo credit: wader


As some of you know, I am slightly obsessed with all things Winston Churchill.  An indicator of that obsession can be measured by the fact I am currently reading volume 6 (of 6) of the history of WWII, written by ‘ol WC his-self.

Currently it is the winter of 1945, and the leaders of the big three allies have gathered in Yalta, on the coast of the Black Sea to meet and plan the future of the world.  During this trip, Churchill is taken to review some of the troops that have fought so valiantly for the freedom of western civilization.  Here is what he had to say about it:

At the airfield a splendid guard of honour of troops was drawn up.  I inspected them in my usual manner, looking each man straight in the eye. This took some time, as there were at least two hundred of them…

Can you imagine being one of those soldiers?  I have to believe that they never forgot that moment of eye contact with Mr. Churchill.  I am also amazed by him realizing the importance of making meaningful connection each person, especially ones that are giving so much of themselves to a greater cause, especially ones that he was responsible for leading.

There is something so vulnerable about looking someone in the eye, almost like you are allowing someone to look into your soul.  In Germany, when you raise a glass in a toast, you look into each other’s eyes as a way to say you are glad to be together.  We do this on my team when we are having communion together as a way to say we are in this bigger thing together.  As someone with personal space issues, it is definitely uncomfortable to hold eye contact with someone for any length of time…that’s my space!

There are 2 things about this story of Winston Churchill that struck me:

When was the last time I honored someone with words or an action, for the work they have done?  Regardless of how much time it might take?

When was the last time I looked them in the eye when I said it?

For my team, for your team, communicating value to them, is really important.  Look them in the eye when you give it, regardless of the space  it invades.

how to get new gear


photo credit: 2create

I can remember thinking that if I only had a certain piece of gear, that everything would be great….OK. Who am I kidding? I still think that way. Getting new gear is always so fun. Opening the box. That new gear smell.

I also thought that other churches had way more luck getting that new gear. While I was slugging away with the junk I had to use week after week, everyone else had that new gear smell permeating their whole facility.

Most of us don’t have everything we need to do the job that is being asked of us and we need more equipment. So the big question is, how do I get more gear?

Brace yourself.  Here’s the big reveal on the secret to getting the new gear you want/need:   Use the gear you have.

Jesus talked about this in Matthew with the parable of the talents.  Be responsible with what has been entrusted to you and you will be given responsibility for more.  Now, I’m not saying that you should just do a good job with what you have so that you can get more.  I’m saying focus on doing a great job with what you have.  If you are faithful and responsible with the little entrusted to you, the new shiny gear takes care of itself.

Knock it out of the park: Take what you have now and use it to the fullest.  Take production support and production [enhancement] to new levels with what you already own.  If what I mentioned in an earlier post “Production Support” isn’t happening, why should we be entrusted with more?

As a leader, I can’t wait to entrust people with more; more responsibility, more equipment, more you name it.  The only way that I am going to do that is if past history shows that someone is worthy of being given more responsibility.  A great track record is a leader’s love language.

Are you seen as someone who is responsible with what they have been given, someone who doesn’t always complain about having enough, someone that knocks it out of the park with what they already have?  Are you using what you have to the fullest?

what production can learn from Winston Churchill

Churchill announces iron curtain

photo credit: judy_breck

I was reading an article about the 71st anniversary of Winston Churchill’s first speech in parliament as Prime Minister, after the German’s had run the British out of France.  I’m a sucker for most things involving British history and I am inspired by the example of Winston Churchill, so much so that I follow The Churchill Centre on Twitter and often listen to recordings of Winston Churchill speeches…they make me cry.

Anyway, @churchillcentre tweeted about this article and it had the following statement:

Churchill did not value the British armed forces for their own sake. He valued them because they protected a nation he cherished, values that he believed in, allies he supported, and a political system that he praised as the finest in the world.

Read more:

That first sentence caught me by surprise.  I immediately identified with it.  As a technical artist, sometimes I feel like people think I like production for its own sake.  That I like flashing lights, just to flash lights.  Or that I like loud music, because its loud.  Or that I love shots from a handheld camera because they look cool.

Not unlike how Churchill felt about the armed forces, production by itself isn’t the point.  Production has to be used to achieve an end.

A couple of posts ago, I quoted the Willow Production mission statement:

to create life changing moments through the fusion of the technical and performing arts.

Just by the wording of the statement, you can see that production alone isn’t enough, it has to be done in conjunction with something else.  Production without content is just flashing lights, loud music and dutch angle video shots.

How can we help change the perception of the non-technical people we work with, that our goal isn’t production for the sake of production, but it is for the larger impact of production used in collaboration with a life changing idea?

building a great mix

Funk 1 & 2

photo credit: realer2k

I remember the first time I had a mix really come together.  I remember the song (“Messiah” by First Call).  I remember the venue (Kensington Middle School Cafetorium).  I remember the sound board (Yamaha 2404).  This list definitely doesn’t describe what I thought would be the perfect mix.

Looking back, the song wasn’t amazing, the venue definitely was quite awful, and the gear was sub par.  So what made it so great?  Why do I consider it my finest moment as an audio engineer?

I obviously wouldn’t be writing this post if I hadn’t thought of an answer to this.  Here are a few things that applied to me in this particular situation and can also apply in most others.

1.  Know the music – I knew this song like the back of my hand.  I had been in a traveling singing group in high school that performed this song and I knew every vocal part, every guitar riff, every keyboard bass lick.  Even in a less than perfect environment, I knew what that song needed to sound like, and I worked like crazy to get it there.

2.  Trust and Relationship – The music director and I were pretty close and we had worked together for a long time.  I knew that he valued what I brought to the table and he knew that I wanted to accurately translate what was happening on the stage.  I knew he was coming prepared, and he knew I was showing up fully prepared.  We were both on the same page about the goal of what we were doing.  The congregation needed to be able to hear the words to the song and engage with the message of it.

Number 1 is almost laughable.  Of coarse knowing the music will help you get a better mix…thanks for the advice, Todd.  The second one is way more abstract and infinitely more complicated and difficult to achieve.  Knowing the music is something I can do on my own, and it depends on only me.  Trust is mutual.  It requires give and take.  It requires relationship.  It requires letting go and compromise.  To achieve it, I have to make a move, not just wait around for someone else.

No doubt, building a great mix depends on all kinds of factors, but usually breaks down around lack of trust and relationship.

What am I doing to build these?  What can I do today to take a step closer to the best mix ever?

production [insert word meaning “to enhance”]

In my last post, I talked about the conversation my team has been having about production support as a baseline for acceptability.  In my mind, this is just the beginning of what God has called us to do and be as technical artists.  I believe that the full version of who were are and what we should be bringing to our churches, involves production [insert word meaning “to enhance”].

a recent example of production (to enhance)

I would define production [enhancement] as taking an idea and transforming into something amazing by adding technical art.  For someone who has agonized and worked long hours on a particular idea, this can sound like I want to make it into something completely unrecognizable.  In fact,  since production will be a part of any idea we do regardless, it means I am interested in making the most of an idea by using every technical device at our disposal.

As I mentioned in the last post, production support is objective and relatively easy to define.  Production [enhancement] is an art form, and like any other art form is subjective and requires more from us.  It interweaves production with the content, creating an inseparable connection between them. It propels the content of our services away from great art on stage with good production support, and towards to an encounter with God.  For my team, this is our mission statement:

“To create life changing moments through the fusion of the technical and performing arts.”

This requires us to work in collaboration with the other artists who are producing our services.  It requires high levels of trust between the artists on stage and the artists in the production booth.

When I think about it, if I have a creative idea, I know that I want to have control over it and to make sure that my vision becomes a reality.  Giving it over to another person or a team of people to potentially make it into something else sounds a little scary.

From a tech person’s standpoint, when you are presented with an idea, do you treat it with care and respect?  Can we be trusted with someone’s creative idea?  Will we enhance it or turn it into something completely unrecognizable?

the baseline

Baseline and Meridian

photo credit: Chuck “Caveman” Coker

We have been having some great discussions on our team about the purpose of production in the local church, especially our local church and in the course of the conversation, I have realized that there is quite a lot I take for granted in the expectations of production.

As I have been thinking about it, we have been talking about two very different, yet very interconnected ideas about production.  In a very simple way, it can be boiled down into 2 types:  production support, and production [insert a word that means “to enhance”, but sounds better than enhancement].

At the most basic level, to do production with excellence at the base line, we are called to support what is happening on our platforms.  This means mics are on when they are supposed to be, lights are pointed at the right things and the correct graphics are on the screens at the right time…very objective stuff.

So many churches I have been to, or even events at the local high school, don’t even reach this basic level of production.  While production support is the base line for what should be expected, more often than not, even that isn’t achieved.  Without this baseline covered, how can we hope for people attending our services to be able to focus on the message of what we are supporting?

Production support is just the starting point for an amazing technical arts ministry at your church, but to fulfill our roll as a technical artists, we need to start by nailing production support. Am I covering the baseline?  Are you covering the baseline?


Obviously, I haven’t talked about [word that means “to enhance”]. I’ll unpack  that next time.  Meanwhile, if you have a word suggestion, I’m all ears.