Most days, the first thing that I think about in the morning is that I'm thankful for lots of things. This week, we're reminded quite often about thankfulness, as we celebrate American Thanksgiving.
Yesterday, our pastor shared the story of a woman who had challenged herself to find 1000 things for which she was thankful. I considered her task for a few minutes.
Let's see; family, friends, God's grace, a purposeful business, a warm house, a car that starts every time, freedom, plenty, OSU football. OK, that's 9.
Nine, and you might consider at least one of those to be pretty shallow. I could certainly go on, but could I make it to 1000 without being silly about it? Apparently, she had.
I haven't tried to make a list, so I can't tell you yet, but I can say Thank You! to you for making what we do possible.
Let's take her challenge and choose to focus on our blessings rather than on the things that make us frustrated and that divide us one from another. Life is a lot more rewarding when you look for the good stuff.
I was trying to talk on the phone today and one of our guys was laughing, almost uncontrollably, to the point that I had a hard time hearing the person to whom I was speaking. Apparently, he could barely contain himself, so he called someone else over and they chuckled some more.
And I was still in the phone trying to pay attention to the caller. Have you ever talked with a distracted caller? Let's just say that it's not ideal.
By the time I finished the call, I wanted to know what was going on, so I asked what was so funny, and he said, "Come here, you have to see this."
He handed me a Shure handheld wireless microphone transmitter with the battery cup unscrewed (just the battery stuck on the terminals of the transmitter) and said that the client had asked us to repair it. I shrugged my shoulders, as if to say, "I don't get it."
"Pull the battery off the terminals and look at it." I looked again.
The microphone transmitter was working only intermittently, despite the fresh battery. Can you guess why?
We sent the mic back; no charge.
Sometimes, we take ourselves too seriously, and it's refreshing to laugh a little.
Today, a client sent me this note, along with these pictures from Blizzard Lighting which will you give you some insight into who Blizzard is as a company. Here's what he wrote:
"Dave, the Blizzard DMX cables arrived. They are nice, black, flexible cables with black metal connectors. All three pins are wired correctly. (I’ve seen some cheap cables that use unbalanced cable with jumper wires.) I tested them with our lights, and they work great.
"They are inexpensive, look nice, and do the job. They’re exactly what I needed at a great price."
· The Blizzard folks have a sense of humor. The front of the package says “Made with real natural DMX ingredients.”
· According to the back of the package, a portion of the profits goes to cancer research.
· Lifetime warranty.
Make sure to check out all of the Blizzard products we offer. We have just a handful of their lighting fixtures up on the site, but we have several more fixtures (and now cables) to add, so that you can get a kick out of a company that made my day just a little more fun and meaningful than it had been already.
Editor's note: This is the third time I've re-written this post. The first time, it didn't have the right feel, and last time, I thought that I was knocking it out of the park and with a mis-click of the mouse, I erased all of the new edits. I hadn't saved. So hopefully, with version #3, I'll find a way to say what I'd like to, in a style that works, and I'll save it.
On the heels of Mike Sessler's article, "Why hire an integrator", I'd like to follow up.
Some tech projects are fairly easy, if you have the right tools, the right experience, and have a good sense of where you're going.
At the church I attend, our tech budget is pretty limited and within the next month or so, I will have to decide whether to lead a volunteer crew or to hire our crew to do the work. In my volunteer role, I know exactly what I need to do, I know how to do it, I know the list of materials, and I have willing volunteers. A consideration is that it'll take our group of volunteers about a month's worth of Monday nights or every evening for almost a week. For the same project, one of our two-man crews would get that work done in about a day and a half.
So I have to ask myself what the best use of our money and our volunteer time is.
Here are the reasons for not hiring professionals to do the work. "We can't afford to pay someone to do that." Or "we have plenty of volunteers who will do that and it won't cost us anything." And "it's important for our people to serve the church, so our 'guys' will do that."
Without debating the merit of those reasons, the projects that work out best (and that get finished more quickly so that the congregation has the benefit of the changes) are the ones that we pay for. Volunteers may cost nothing, in terms of price, but their availability is finite and valuable. Just ask your kids what your time is worth.
We all want to find a place where we can contribute in a tangible way and serving is an important part of our spiritual growth, but nothing comes without a cost.
As I decide how to manage these projects, I hope to consider the value of those who serve with me. So I ask myself these questions. Are the time expectations reasonable? Do the volunteers have good tools and adequate training or skills? Is my own commitment to lead as strong as what I ask of my team? Do they have better things that they could be doing - at church and at home?
And then I decide whether I'm spending other people's time wisely.
After two days of mad catch-up and long drives to and from Chicago, I have to say that it was worth it. I came back from the Gurus of Tech conference encouraged, equipped, connected, and ready to kick things up a notch. For two days this week, Willow Creek Community Church (known simply as Willow to its members) in South Barrington, IL hosted 1800 people with a passion for technology for worship.
We were welcomed, fed, and given a chance to learn from the presenters and from each other. I'd like to offer a huge Thank You to the volunteers and staff at Willow for their gift of time, energy, and expertise to the Gurus crew.
Prior to the last worship service for the Gurus, we toured the main auditorium. It's quite a place, arguably the best-equipped large worship space anywhere. 7200 seats. Get an idea of what's in there by clicking here. Even guys like me who eat and breathe gear on a daily basis still take pause when they enter the room. A pair of 14x24' Mitsubishi LED displays that can move up and down, and be joined as one large display at the center of the platform will do that to a man. And for seven-figures plus, you could have that, too.
What many people don't see at Willow is what I appreciated the most. Maybe a better way to say that is that I took heart in the fact that, in some places, I saw old projectors, mismatched screens, beaten up monitors, and tired projector lamps. That's not to be critical, but to let you know that the crew at Willow continues to pursue excellence (and they execute really, really well), to offer others the chance to worship and to be taught, and they do it with less than perfect equipment -- just like the rest of us, in some cases.
We'd all like new equipment, but having the latest gear isn't necessary. And it's perfectly normal to have to plan your purchases, and to "use up" what you have before replacement.
John Weygandt, the scenic and lighting director at Willow Creek, told the story of a man from the Dominican Republic who made lighting fixtures from food cans, and who was making a difference with his passionate pursuit of technology, despite the obvious limitations.
For two solid days, the Gurus crowd was encouraged to exercise (and in some cases to find again) our passion for technology for worship. I came back encouraged, uplifted, full of ideas, and ready! How about you?
Winter NAMM 2013 - mark it. The era of the analog mixing console for the worship setting is over.
With the announcement and introduction of new products, the demise of analog became apparent toward the end of 2012, and confirmation came just last month at the Winter NAMM show in Anaheim, CA.
Before I go much further, let me state that I realize that the analog console remains a viable option if you need a very small mixer, and that analog is also very viable in a studio setting for recording. The thrust of Geartechs is technology for worship, and in the worship setting, in sizes of 16 channels or larger, the analog console is most often not your best choice.
Virtually every mixer manufacturer had something new to show at NAMM. Presonus, Soundcraft, Line 6, Behringer, Roland, Allen & Heath, Midas, Digico and others showed us all the reasons that you should buy a digital console.
Back in December of 2009, when the Presonus StudioLive 16.4.2 was released, I wrote an article about the fact that buying a digital console was like getting the mixer itself free. That statement is even more true today.
Factor out the advantages of the consoles themselves (settings recall, per-channel parametric equalization, iPad control, virtual soundcheck, multi-track recording, and more), and you'll find that just the 22 compressors in the StudioLive are worth $112.38 each (1/8 the cost of the Presonus ACP-88). That's nearly $2500 in compressors against a mixer that costs $1999 normally and is on sale through the end of March for $1799.95. Don't forget that every output has a 31-band graphic EQ, that you have two stereo effects processor built in, and that the features are all housed in a fully-functional digital mixer.
The story is similar for all digital console manufacturers. The benefits of owning a digital mixing system far outweigh the costs, no matter whose mixer you select. Mike Sessler from Church Tech Arts recently published a 4-part series comparing three of the leading small-to-mid-sized digital mixers from Roland, Presonus and Behringer. Make sure to take a look.
We offer a variety of digital consoles. If you'd like to discuss the application of digital mixing in your setting, please call us.
On this snowy winter Friday (a rarity in Columbus, Ohio), I'm still working on our last day of business before Christmas, and I am enjoying the quiet. The phone isn't ringing, and all I can hear is wind, the whir of the hard drive in my iMac, and the furnace blower. So far, I've posted a couple articles to the website and am reflecting on another year.
2012 was our 21st year in business. When I started by myself back at the end of 1991, I had no idea what was ahead. My dad encouraged me to "do something you love, so that it doesn't seem like work." The idealist in me latched onto that encouragement and that conversation with him keeps me going, even on the days that I don't love it.
Today, I've received lots of additional encouragement that keeps me loving the business. Thank you to those of you who took a minute to send your words. I cherish those emails.
It's really nice to hear things like "You make what we do possible Dave. Thank you for YEARS of professionalism, expertise and support!!! You are the best!" and "Thanks for all your help and service throughout the years" and "Thank you, for giving freely of your time and experience. We appreciate you."
I received about 10 similar messages today, and they made my day. These affirming words will send me into this Christmas celebration feeling even better about the mark we've been able to leave, and the work we hope to continue.
If you get a chance today, send some words of encouragement to those you value. Let them know what they mean to you. It will make their day.
Several days ago, my phone rang. I noticed that the caller was one of my friends from West Virginia, but he was calling from North Carolina. With church staffers, that change is not always a good thing, but he assured me that it was.
He let me know that he was the new worship pastor, and that he had a problem with the sound system. When pastors get to new churches, they often need new equipment. That's generally a good thing for us.
I asked him to take me on video "tour" of the new facility, so he whipped out his iPhone and we talked as he walked me around the room. The church had a system already, it was installed well, and the room had the right acoustical treatments in place, but the system sounded bad.
Then he walked me back to the mixer. Again, nothing out of the ordinary. Wiring maybe? Improper wiring polarity (+/- inversion) can create phase cancelation, but I wasn't sure how I'd have him test for that easily, and North Carolina makes for a long service call. I do need a vacation. Hmm...
The short story is that I noticed that he had a system processor (equalizer, compressor, crossover). I asked whether he had could access the settings, and he could. He emailed me the file, I looked at it and described back what I thought the system sounded like, based on the settings. "Hollow?" Yes. "Muddy?" Yes. "Lack of presence in voices?" Yes.
So I got to work. With caution, I changed the crossover point and slopes, along with some changes to equalization. I made sure that he saved the original file (and I did, too), in case I made a worse mess of things. And then I emailed the file back to him.
I didn't hear from him Monday after the first Sunday and forgot about it the rest of the week. I didn't hear from him after the next Sunday either. I thought that maybe that was a good sign, but I did make a note to call him. And then he emailed me.
"Dave, Thank you so much for that work you did on that processor file. It sounds awesome. 150% improvement."
That made me smile.
Sometimes, we can make a quick change like we did for my friend in North Carolina. Other times, we can recommend a high impact product like a great earset microphone for your pastor, or a system processor that will help you set up your system on your own.
If you're having issues, please call us. Real people answer the phone at 800-747-7301.
I'm not going to tell you that it'll be easy, but I will tell you that it'll be worth it. When we discuss adding technology to the worship setting, we do our best to always communicate the importance of proper planning and preparation. Does it take time? Is it easy to think through your needs? Would you rather be doing something else? Yes, no, and probably.
The Monday after Thanksgiving the world woke up to the fact that, despite President Barack Obama's re-election and Hurricane Sandy's devastation of the expanded New York City metroplitan area, Christmas was still less than a month away. Oddly enough, the calendar didn't stop for those events.
For the month before Thanksgiving, we had a mix of business as usual and of the wait-and-see type. It was the wait-ers who woke up last week in a panic, and that's not good. At this time of year, it's not unusual to have product shortages and/or events that take place pre-Christmas for which the need is critical. It's also not so unusual for some of the wait-ers to hold off until the very last minute for whatever reason.
And sure enough, on Friday night at 6:30PM, I got the call on my cell phone, "Hey Dave, I'm in a bit of a sticky situation, and I need your help. Our first service is Sunday, and I need a _______." Our warehouse was closed. Our suppliers were closed. Fedex and UPS don't pick up on Saturdays.
For a 4-5 weeks prior to that Friday evening, we tried to get that church to come to the planning table. We literally pleaded with them to think through their self-install with us, and our advise went unheeded.
Just to show you that it doesn't have to be this way, let me share another story. Also on Friday night, I enjoyed the town square Christmas tree lighting in the town where my sister and her family live. Afterwards, I ran into the pastor of a church for which we installed a sound and video system about six months ago. Despite a couple follow-up phone calls from me, I hadn't heard from him since a couple weeks after the system was installed, and I asked him how things were going. He said, "Great. Everything is working just as we'd expect, and we're very pleased."
Plan ahead. Make sure that you buy the right product. Allow yourself enough time to get the gear installed, to learn how to use it, and to make sure that it meets your needs.
The Message of Christmas is too important to trust to chance. We're all busy, but don't let yourself get stuck without options when a dose of advance preparation could have saved the day.
Our recurring autumn blog theme seems to be helping you understand the cost of making wrong decisions. I understand that it's tough to know what to do with all of the information that's out there. My eyes glaze over when I think about how to invest my 401k money. Just like they didn't teach about technology in seminary, they didn't teach much about investing in business school.
Fixing things correctly and helping you make "right" decisions is our goal. A few weeks ago, we received a call from a church here in the Columbus area to see what could be done with their sound system. The team there had brand new speakers, installed by another dealer, and things just didn't sound right. No one could figure it out.
These are difficult situations because we rarely get the benefit of understanding the circumstances surrounding the purchase and installation. We only get to see and hear the end result.
In the end, we installed a new amplifier and a system processor, reinstalled one of their power amplifiers that had been repaired, un-did some "unconventional" wiring, and tuned up the system with SMAART.
The system sounds fantastic, but the church didn't need new speakers. What we found is that their 20-year-old Crown Microtech series power amplifiers were heavily corroded on the inside and were just worn out. Had the other dealer replaced the power amplifiers (a $2000 option) instead of installing new speakers with the old amplifiers (a $5000-6000 option plus the cost for the work we just completed), the church could have saved several thousand dollars.
What others say
The new microphone worked great! The guy running our sound board yesterday said he didn't know the choir sounded that good! We will want to order at least one more.
Danny Dolan, All Saints Anglican Church