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CTA Classroom - Quick monitor tips

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by Mike Sessler, ChurchTechsArts.org

As I've had family in town all week, today's post is going to be simple and quick. I want to throw out three quick tips for helping get your monitor mixes dialed in faster and with a little less stress. The general assumption here is that you're mixing wedges from FOH, but the principles will apply to just about any situation.

Start with a Rough Mix

For some, this may seem obvious, but it makes a big difference. Back when I was mixing on analog consoles, we would typically zero out the board after every weekend. So when the band got there, they didn't hear themselves or anything else in the wedges. It took me a while, but I learned they found this disconcerting.

My initial fix to this problem was to put just each instrument in their wedge to start. That helped, but the more I played with it, the more I found that I could build a basic mix even before they got there that would end up reasonably close to what they wanted.

I started noting roughly where the gains were for each input, and set those appropriately. And I would dial up a rough mix just to get them started.

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CTA Classroom - Phantom of the Power

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by Mike Sessler, ChurchTechArts.org

Today we're going to continue our series on the electrical side of sound. Last time, we tackled ground loops; their cause and a few solutions. This time around, it's phantom power. Phantom power is one of those often misunderstood aspects of sound. It's one of those things that's really not that complicated once you get it, but up to that point it's a bit of a mystery. So today we take the mystery out of phantom power.

Why Use It?
The first question we need to ask is why use phantom power at all? Strictly speaking, we don't need to, as the only reason we need phantom power is to power condenser microphones. Take all the condensers off stage and you can shut off phantom power forever. But most of us like to use the occasional condenser mic or active DI, so phantom power is necessary. Some condenser mics and active DIs will run on a battery, but if you don't have to power something from a battery, you shouldn't (you know it's going to die at the most inopportune time). It should be noted that it is only condenser mics and active DIs that require phantom power; for all other sources, it's best to turn it off if you have the option to do so on a channel by channel basis.

Phantom power moving from the console to the mic, audio goes the other way. In basic concept, anyway.

What is it?

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CTA Classroom - Ground Loops

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by Mike Sessler, ChurchTechArts.org

The topic for today's post comes from a reader, Jonathan Mould. He wanted to know more about the electrical side of sound. This is an interesting topic because sound is both electrical and physical. Sound systems turn physical movement of air into electrical signals, then process and amplify those signals (sometimes changing them into streams of 1s and 0s and back), and finally turn those amplified signals back into physical air movement. It's all kind of crazy when you think of it that way.

I started this post thinking I could tackle three topics and realized that even a cursory explanation of ground loops would take a whole post. So, you're witnessing the beginning of a series here. First up, Ground Loops.

Ground Loops

To understand ground loops, one must first understand electricity. A full explanation is beyond the scope of this article, but here's a brief description. Standard 120 volt circuits consist of three leads; a hot (current carrying) lead, a neutral (the return) and a ground. To vastly over-simplify, the electricity leaves the panel on the hot lead, travels to the appliance, does some work and returns to the panel on the neutral. The ground is properly called a safety ground and serves one basic function—to send any electricity right back to a safe place (the earth) if anything goes wrong inside the appliance. This is a preferred outcome (as opposed to sending said accidental electricity through your body to the earth).

Electrons go from the panel, to the appliance, do some work and then back to the panel on the neutral leg. This is vastly simplified, OK?

Electricity always wants to get back to ground, or earth, and will always take the path of least resistance. Should there be a short inside an appliance, the chassis of said appliance could become energized. If you touched it and happened to be providing a good path to ground, that current will flow through you. Since it only takes about 20 milliamps to stop your heart, it's very possible that a short like that could kill you. This is why we never...

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CTA Classroom - Set Auxes to Post

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by Mike Sessler, ChurchTechArts.org

Last week, Chris Huff had a great post over at Behind the Mixer that explained the differences between pre- and post-fader aux mixes. He said, quite correctly, that you generally want monitor mixes to be pre-fader, and FX sends to be post-fader. I totally agree with that, and run my auxes that way almost all the time.

This post is going to be about when it makes sense to break those rules. Keep in mind that this is a compliment to, not a criticism of Chris's post. But first let's review. You generally want monitor mixes to be pre-fader because you don't want changes made to the house mix affecting the monitor mix; most of the time. Every once in a while, however, that's exactly what you want. Let's look at some examples.

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Environmental Projection

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by Mike Sessler, ChurchTechArts.org

I was about to start this article off with the phrase, "A few weeks ago..." but then I realized it was actually a few months ago now. Anyway, a few months ago, we had the privilege of hosting Camron Ware at Coast Hills as he did a hands-on demonstration of Environmental Projection (EP). Camron is a great guy; very knowledgeable and very humble. He will say he didn't invent EP, but he certainly has been a driving force in helping churches all over the world get up and running with EP systems and media. 

When I was approached about hosting this event, I was a little concerned that our room would not be conducive to EP as the front of our auditorium is a mishmash of curtains, walls, screens, angles and the stage. It didn't take long to find I was wrong. The first thing Camron did was to set up three projectors. Two were supplied by a local vendor (a pair of Chrisite 5Ks). The other one arrive with Camron in a suitcase. No kidding. He walked in with a rolling suitcase in tow, and pulled out a projector the size of two pizza boxes. Made by Hitachi, it spits out 4000 lumens and costs about $2,000. I believe this is the one: Hitachi CP-X4021N LCD Video Projector

After connecting all three projectors to his MacBook Pro using a TripleHead2Go from Matrox, he threw up this very cool grid in Photoshop. He created this to help him create the mask he uses in ProPresenter to mask out the areas he doesn't want to project on. He spent about 10 minutes creating the mask, though he conceded that in a real installation or bigger show, he might spend quite a bit more time getting it dialed in perfectly.

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I had consulted with some of the AVL Integrators whose ads had crossed my email/online path. The scope they were used to, including the cost, kept me searching. I talked with some integrators who wanted thousands (tens of thousands in some cases) of dollars to produce the initial design for our upgrades, and then would start the search for bids on that design. I kept searching. I was looking for someone who would be able to work with a church our size (1,000-1,200 in attendance per weekend total in 4 services), brainstorm with me on a design plan, and then walk through the priorities/cost maze that would likely present itself.

Then I remembered a voicemail I had received from Dave Horn of Truth Seeker Productions. When I listened to his voicemail, and then found out through other means that he had done significant work with a sister church of ours in Columbus, I had the feeling...that's right...the feeling that this was the guy to help us. So I called him, we met, and the path forward that he suggested was a very comfortable one for me, and the rest is history.

We are very satisfied with the projection upgrades in our worship center and fireside room (a total of 7 laser projectors), the larger, 16 X 9 screens everywhere, motorized screens where necessary, installation of 2 Allen & Heath digital audio consoles, upgraded LED lighting and controller, and a state of the art video control and routing system, allowing us to utilize IMag and live streaming.

Dave Horn and the Team at Truth Seeker are knowledgeable and up to date about all things AVL; good listeners, strategists, installers, and trainers. And, great service, even after the final check was paid!

They know how to work with Houses of Worship, "budgets," and how to help you make tough decisions. You'll be glad you contracted with them. We are!

Building Generations for Jesus Christ,
Pastor Brad Pilkington, Spring Hills Baptist Church