Resources

Everything is amazing, and no one is happy!

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by Mike Sessler, ChurchTechArts.org

Louis CK has a bit in his routine where he describes some of the miracles of modern life, and how we're never happy with them. The bit is pretty funny. I was reminded of this a few weeks ago when a few of our musicians got to complaining about the trouble they have communicating with each other during rehearsal now that we're all on ears.

I thought back to three years ago when I arrived at Coast. We had 7-12 monitors on stage, that typically generated 88-90 dB SPL at FOH, 90 feet away with the main PA off. The sound was pretty dreadful back then, the stage was a mess, the piano was rarely in tune and had more drums in those mic's than piano, sound check typically took more than an hour and at the end, people were rarely completely happy.

Today, we're so dialed in that sound check can be done in 20 minutes if everyone cooperates, stage volume is almost 0 and by all accounts, the sound in the house is better than it's ever been. The piano sounds great, and by changing out most of the mic's so does everything else. Oh, and with the M-48 personal mixers, the musicians can usually get a great mix; one that's tweaked exactly for them.

Everything is amazing, and no one is happy.

I'm guilty of this too.

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Selecting a Direct Box for Bass Guitar

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by Peter Janis, President, Radial Engineering Ltd.

When it comes to bass, the question we get asked all the time is "which direct box works best: active or passive?" The answer is easy: it depends. In fact, more than anything lese, it depends on what kind of bass you have. To understand the options, we must first know some of the history and how the direct box has evolved over the years.

When it comes to signal flow, there are two types of bass guitars: passive and active. The first electric basses i.e.: the original Fender Precision was passive and still is today. It employs magnetic pickups to generate the signal. As the string moves in and out of the magnetic field, a low level alternating current is generated. The signal from the bass travels through the cable to the amplifier which in turn increases the voltage level so that it is sufficiently powerful to drive another electromagnetic device called a loudspeaker.

In essence, the signal is amplified by a series of buffers that work together to increase the voltage and/or current as needed.

For years this worked well, until bands like the Beatles messed everything up!

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Facing Spiritual Attack

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by Mike Sessler, ChurchTechArts.org

I don’t know if this has happened to you, but it’s become a pretty predictable routine for me. We do a big week of services—be it Easter, Christmas, VBS—and the weekend that follows is a tech disaster. Weird problems crop up that we’ve never seen before; equipment that worked yesterday doesn’t work today; and of course we’re all tired and a bit cranky from putting in a 70-90 hour week. What a better time for the enemy to call in an attack?

If I’m honest, I used to just get angry and frustrated those weekends. But more and more, I’m starting to see what is happening for what it is; spiritual attack. It really hit home this past weekend. We had just come off VBS, which was a very busy, but amazing week. Over 60 kids gave their lives to Christ, which is incredible. Hundreds more were encouraged and ministered to. New families were connected to the church, and we will undoubtedly see growth from all of that.

When we take that much ground from the enemy, he’s going to want to strike back. And what better way than to go after the tired and beleaguered tech team that’s just given their all the past week.

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A Quick RF Tip for Wireless Gear

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by Mike Sessler, ChurchTechArts.org

For the last few months, we've been having problems with one of our wireless IEMs. It's a PSM900, and while it generally provides good service, it occasionally just drops out for a split second. We've tried a bunch of things to fix it; swapping frequencies, antennas, even changing positions of the transmitter. But we still get these random drop outs. They don't seem to be RF hits per se, as we've done multiple scans and fully coordinated our frequencies between the 900 and our two channels of PSM1000 (the only other thing we have in that range).

I was about ready to send it in for service this weekend, when I recalled an idea that one of my Shure friends suggested at NAB; lower the transmit power. Whereas the PSM1000 has automatic RF attenuation built-in to the receiver to guard against overpowering it, the 900 does not. I thought we were transmitting at 10 mW, but when I checked the transmitter between services, it showed we were at 50 mW.

So, just for fun, I dropped the power to 10 and stood back to see what would happen. After the service...

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How to use video compression for better streaming results.

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With more and more churches producing video, we're finding that it's one thing to self-produce successfully, but quite another to self-encode and stream with predictable, high-quality results.  About a year ago, we began to dig into existing video set-ups to help support some of our clients (and a few referred to us through from video streaming provider WorshipStream).  What we found was that very few were pleased with the results they were getting with Flash Media Live Encoder or Wirecast to stream from services like WorshipStream, LiveStream, UStream, Vimeo, etc. 

And it's not anyone's fault.  Getting good results is dependent on a variety of things.  Everyone has a fairly unique set-up of projectors, cameras, computers, and switchers, and the successful use of all of that for live streaming is dependent upon both local and remote internet bandwidth.  All of the best HD video gear can be completely hamstrung for live streaming by poor Internet connectivity.  Public internet is fairly inexpensive, but it's still a shared pipeline and isn't completely predictable in terms of performance.  Think about that like water pressure; the more people who take a shower at the same time, the less pressure there is for everyone. 

Click right here for a basic primer on video compression from Vimeo.  It's geared specifically to improving performance for users of the Vimeo platform (which many churches are now using for archived service videos), but can help you find your way through settings for other services, and will define some terms with which you might not be familiar.  Also on that page, there are a bunch of separate tutorials for many of the most popular video editing programs.  And at $199 per year, Vimeo Pro is a truly professional hosting platform that's both easy to use and affordable. Vimeo Basic and Vimeo Plus might also meet your needs. 

   

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