Paving the Way

NewTek has been all the buzz since the release of NDI in 2016. NDI is a revolutionary royalty free technology that allows sharing of video and audio signals bi-directionally over a standard Ethernet network in real time. It’s changing the way we produce and broadcast events, saving significant time and money.

In this article published on NewTek’s blog, I interviewed John Cookman, Director of Media at SAGU (Southwestern Assembly of God University) and highlighted a few of the many ways they’re using NDI.

John is using NewTek products like TriCaster in all of their on-campus productions at SAGU. There are many. He uses 5 TriCasters throughout their 70-acre campus and Cultural Arts Center and produces an average of 2000 events per year.

Check out the full article here.

Go-To List of Church Tech Tips and Troubleshooting Guides

When I made the leap from a twice a month Tech Team member to Assistant Tech Director it didn’t take long to find out how little I actually knew about the complexity of producing a worship service.

From PCO schedules on Wednesday to calling camera shots on Sunday I struggled to get my head around it all.

With my constant questions, I’m quite sure my first couple of months on staff actually made the Tech Directors job harder.

Even a year into it, and working with much more knowledge and confidence, sometimes a unique problem would hit at just the wrong time.

We’re always under a deadline and service IS going to start on time whether we’re ready or not.

The second part of the job is teaching and supporting our volunteer tech team.

Thank God for these hearts that unselfishly serve week after week.

Most of these guys and gals aren’t professional tech nerds but they really want to understand and do a good job in whatever task they’ve been given.

It’s up to us to teach them, support them and give them the tools they need to succeed.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a go-to list of online resources that you could quickly and easily access that dealt with the nuts and bolts of church tech?

That’s the heart this resource list.

I tried to find the most user-friendly sites with most valuable information.

My hope is that this list could serve as a quick reference that you can bookmark and come back to again and again.

Share it with your Tech Team.

Use it as a way for them to quickly and easily solve common problems and a channel to gain some insights, tips and tricks.

The Church Tech Resource List

  1. Propresenter –  Pro 6 User Manual PDF  | Tips and tricks – 9 Little Known Features
  2. Backgrounds – Church Motion Graphics
  3. Lighting – Basic lighting principles |  DMX Troubleshooting PDF   |  Jands Vista Support PageJands Vista Quick Tips
  4. Tips for Camera Operators PDF    
  5. Live Streaming – Youtube Tips and Tricks, Troubleshooting | Facebook Live Tips and Tricks, Troubleshooting
  6. Microphones – Shure Audio System Guide for Houses of Worship PDF
  7. Mixing help – Troubleshooting,  Mixing Blueprint PDF
  8. CHMS – PCO Support  | Basecamp Troubleshooting

 

If you know of more websites or blogs that can be helpful please add them in the comments section.

3 apps to free you from the tech-booth

Do you think you could effectively run next Sunday’s service with an empty tech booth?  

When I first joined the tech crew at church I was tasked with putting song lyrics and graphics on the IMAG screen. On the weekends that I served, since I was tethered to the tech booth, my kids were left sitting alone. They could only see me from a distance. I always thought it would be awesome to be able to sit with them while shooting off the slides. At the time, the technology for this flexibility didn’t exist.

That was years ago. Before we had apps that could do anything and everything. Technology has been advancing by leaps and bounds. It only makes sense that the tech booth should be breaking barriers too.

I know what your thinking. “An app couldn’t possibly give me the control I need during a live event.”

Or could it?

Check out some of the remote apps being produced today.

Three major elements are represented here.

Lights – MIDI remote control for Jands Vista developed by rythechurchtechguy

Sound Mixing – TouchOSC by Hexler.net

Graphics – ProPresenter Remote (aka ProRemote) by RenewedVision

Let’s dig in.

Lights

Jands Vista made their first dimmer in 1970 and is now a leader in stage lighting. Their control panels and software gives you ultimate control over lighting for any type of show or event.

After creating pre-set cues you’re able to go backward or forwards to any point in the event with the press of a single button

You can even build new cues during the event without affecting the current lighting.

Their remote app is somewhat limited. You need to be at your control panel in order to build your presentation but once your show starts on can transition from one cue to the next, forward or reverse, from your phone or tablet. 

Graphics

ProPresenter is doing amazing things with graphics and visual media.

ProPresenter also connects to your Planning Center account which makes building that much easier.

Their remote app, ProRemote is Awesome! 

They make the transition from your desktop to your tablet easy and without loosing functionality.

Sound

  Sound mixing is another beast altogether.

You really have to trust an app to walk away from your mixing console during worship, but it can be done.

The TouchOSC app gives you way more than basic hi, mid, lo and mute. 

Use TouchOSC with any software or hardware that implements OSC or MIDI protocols. Touch OSC can be used to control almost anything that your main console can do.

In the Future

Whether you’re ready to implement these or not, these apps are worth checking out. These developers have come a long way and they’re constantly improving and updating.

See, You Have the Power

Make a plan to be the person you want to be, rather than letting life make you the person you don’t want to be.

 

The Set-up

 

I got my first job when I was 14. It was awesome. I worked with my step-sister at her dad’s tropical fish and reptile store just outside of D.C.

It was a really neat place to work. Besides all the cool animals, having my sister as a co-worker was a blast.

One of the best parts of the job was the people. I got to meet a lot of interesting people.

Some of our customers came in on a regular basis, like clockwork.

There was 1 such person in particular that stopped there at least once a week on his way home from work.

If business was slow, I’d sit outside and talk smack with him.

I always liked popping the doors open on his van and check out the tools he used at work.

He was a commercial Fire Sprinkler Fitter.

I was fascinated by the heavy duty tools and the jobsite stories.

By the time I was 16 all I wanted to do was hang sprinkler pipe but all I heard about it was “Never will you. It takes a special kind of crazy to be a Sprinkler Fitter and you don’t have it”.

 

I didn’t accept that, I wanted it in a bad way.

 

By the time I was 22 years old I was on a sprinkler crew hanging pipe.

I stuck with that trade for 17 of the best years of my life.

 

How I did it

 

Why was I successful even though I wasn’t “built” for the job?

 

The answer’s simple. I wanted it and I could see myself doing it.

I made a plan of action and I worked toward it, knowing that I would achieve my goal.

 

I didn’t give up no matter what anyone had to say about it.

 

You can too

 

The key is visualizing where you want to be and believing you’re there like it’s already happened.

 

You really can accomplish anything with this mindset.

 

Let’s do an experiment.

  1. Stand up and hold your right arm straight out pointing at the wall in front of you.
  2. Now rotate your torso clockwise as far as you can without moving your feet.
  3. Notice exactly where you’re pointing.
  4. Now, put your arm down and relax. Close your eyes. In your mind picture yourself rotating further. See it. Do this 3 times, going further each time.
  5. When you open your eyes go through the motion again and notice where you’re pointing this time.

 

You went further didn’t you.

 

That’s because you visualized it in your mind.

 

You’re thoughts become reality.

 

Seriously!

 

This is also why when you say you can’t do something, your right.

 

If you want to change your life stop thinking about what you don’t want or can’t do and start visualizing what you do want and believe you can do it.

 

What now

 

Understand and believe, thoughts become things.

 

If you can visualize what you want and believe like you already have it, it will materialize.

 

This is known as the law of attraction. It’s a law that can’t be broken.

 

We tell our kids they can do anything they set their minds to.

 

That truth is for you too.

Believe it!

Put your camera crew in your pocket, literally

With this new technology, you can create a live church production with tools big enough to stream to the world, small enough to put in your pocket.

NewTek opens a whole new world in the way we approach church-based media production with NDI (Network Device Interface).

We now have more freedom and flexibility than ever before.

The first time I stepped into a production booth at Church it was like walking through the wardrobe door and into Narnia. I was instantly fascinated and dove head first into the ministry of media production. Since 2009 I’ve had the privilege of serving in 3 different Churches which lead to a paid position as assistant tech director of one of the largest megachurches in the D.C. Metro area. Since then I’ve built and tech directed more worship services and other in-house events than I can count. Honestly, I love the toys as much as the finished production.

One thing I’ve learned along the way is that building a production of any size takes time and hard work.

A few times a year we held baptisms, which meant setting up a new camera and re-aiming existing ones and paying special attention to keeping a clear line of sight in between the baptismal and the cameras. because wireless cameras aren’t always reliable setting up a new camera meant running cables under seats and taping them down so that they weren’t a tripping hazard.

I remember thinking There has to be a better way.

We were always searching for new and better ideas.

The people over at NewTek knocked the ball out of the park with their new idea.

The Freedom

NDI takes 95% of the work out of setting up and reduced setup time from 1 hour down to about 5 minutes!

No more big clunky camera and tripod. No more running cables and no more Gaffers tape.

NDI lets you use a cell phone or tablet to send live video right to your IMAG screen!

What about Latency and quality?

Glad you asked. John Cookman, the Director of Media and Production at SAGU (Southwestern Assemblies of God University) shows in his demo that NDI is capable of a beautifully clear image and near 0 latency.

The flexibility

How does it work?

It sends your video over IP.

This technology was first introduced at IBC (International Broadcasting Convention) in 2015 and immediately gained the attention of producers and tech directors everywhere.

At the 2016 NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) show, with a record number of tech connoisseurs in attendance, the long awaited NDI products hit the market lead by TriCaster Advanced Edition software.

From a Producer or Tech Directors point of view, the possibilities are endless.

Imagine being able to use a phone during worship to try camera angles that used to be unthinkable.

Ever have a speaker that wants a scripture or a picture onscreen that you didn’t plan for or a guest speaker that wants to project something from their phone?

NDI makes it easy.

How about reality tv type skits or pre-service prayer groups and interviews from the lobby as the “early birds” find their seats.

Imagine the coverage of youth sports events.

I could go on but I’m sure by now your head is spinning with ideas of what you could do with this kind of freedom and flexibility.

 I urge you to check it out for yourself.

For more info go to NewTek’s website. https://www.newtek.com/ndi/

Lights, Camera, and a Lot of Action

What really goes into a modern Sunday service?

You pull into the parking lot to find someone smiling and waving, pointing you to an open parking spot.

You walk up to the door and hear a friendly “good morning” as someone holds the door for you.

Once inside you’re greeted with the smell of coffee and sound of the worship team already praising God.

Once things get underway the service seems to run like a well-oiled machine.

The words to the songs seem to pop up automatically on the big screen. The lighting changes automatically with each new element of service. Scripture and picture slides match up seamlessly with the sermon.

It all seems so smooth and natural.

What’s it really take to make all this happen?

The Nuts and Bolts

I came to faith in Jesus in 2009. In 2010 just after I was baptized I was looking for a way to get involved on a deeper level within the church. I had a meeting with my pastor and asked him where I could serve. He had me come to the church on Thursday evenings for worship rehearsal. I was tasked with creating and setting up the slides that would show the song lyrics on the screen as the band played.

Fast forward to 2014. Now I’m on staff at one of the largest churches in the D.C. Metro area. My title is Assistant Tech Director. My biggest task every week is to build the tech side of Sunday Service. On Wednesday I would confirm who was going to be part of the band and what instruments would be on stage. From there the stage would need to be wired, lights aimed and programmed, slides needed to created not only for worship but also for announcements, sermon and anything else that was going to take place that day.

I needed to know about everyone and everything that needed to take place and arrange them in the appropriate order and figure out how much time each would be allowed.

By Friday the stage needed to be ready for the band to rehearse.

This is a small glimpse into the setup, missing lots of details and this is only the tech side!

You also have the facility that needs to be cleaned and prepared, a security team, a care team, a hospitality team etc…

95% of these teams are made up of volunteers that do this as an act of love.

Today’s services can be major productions requiring many people and much planning.

It’s also a great way to spend time with your church family and, in my opinion, it’s a lot of fun.

Correction Isn’t Always Punishment

As a parent, a lot of your time is spent fixing, correcting or punishing behavioral issues. Rarely do we understand why kids do the things that they do.

One thing that can be helpful in these times is to remember that correction doesn’t always take the form of punishment.

Following is a life-changing lesson that I learned years ago that still benefits our family today.

I gained custody of my kids in 2011 after being gone from them, except through letters, for most of 2009-2010 and after a nasty split and subsequent custody battle between their mother and I.

In 2012 my oldest, then 8, started showing behavior problems in school. Lots of disruptions, rude to his teacher, not doing his work… You know the story. Surprise surprise right?

I tried everything from time out to taking things away to spanking him to curve the behavior and nothing seemed to make a difference.

One night after another letter came home from school I found myself at my wits end. That night I left my kids with a sitter and went to visit a friend hoping to vent and to seek advice.

After unloading all the emotion and crying “nothings working, nothing’s working” he gave me the most simple and profound advice ever.

At first, it infuriated me. Was this guy even listening to me? Did he hear me say I need a punishment that would work?

What he told me was to spend time with him.

I was a single parent. I spent a lot of time with him!

It wasn’t the right kind of time.

That week I started dating my kids. That’s right, dating them.

For 1 – 2 hours 1 night a week I would take my daughter out and another night my son. We would have no agenda other than being together. My daughter liked to go window shopping at the mall and the boy usually wanted to go to a field and throw a ball.

This simple act had immediate results. There was no punishment handed down. It was 3 years before I got another letter from school about bad behavior.

It didn’t solve everything but it set us on a path to strength and healing and a relationship that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.

10 Ways for small businesses to connect with local community

Small businesses rely mostly on locals to support them. Locals become regular, repeat customers when you can fill their need and create an enjoyable shopping experience. One challenge that’s faced is getting new customers through the front door. The easier and more convenient you make it for them the more likely they are to step in for a closer look. Once they’re inside what’s their first impression of your store? Below are 10 creative ideas for welcoming the community into your business.

 

  1. Dog leash hitching post
  2. Make a seating area for waiting kids and spouses
  3. Have a community board near front door
  4. Free wifi
  5. Give away coupons to other small businesses (cross promote)
  6. Host free giveaways raffles that are tracked through social media.
  7. Host workshop or in-person event.
  8. Create a giveaway guide for newbies in your industry
  9. Host a challenge for a prize. Display winner photos in store
  10. Keep a cooler of free water near register

Local SEO Guide

Can a search engine give your business the edge it needs?

YES! This local SEO (Search Engine Optimization) guide will show you how.

Google studies show that 50% of consumers who conducted a local search on their smartphone visited a store within a day. Furthermore,  18% of local searches on smartphone lead to a purchase within a day.

With our cell phones, the world is at our fingertips. Need something? Google it. I usually look at the top results for my search and that’s as far as I go before committing to a destination.

Sound familiar?

The results that are on the top of the list are businesses that understand local SEO and have launched a campaign to ensure their business stays on top.

What does a local SEO campaign look like?

Keep in mind, there’s not an exact, one size fits all recipe. There will be some trial and error involved and as the web changes, we need to change with it.

That being said here’s 5 steps to successful a local SEO campaign.

  1. Take inventory and “clean up” your website. Make sure your basic info is there and accurate, get rid of everything that doesn’t need to be there.
  2. After analyzing and exploring options decide on a precise plan of attack.
  3. Make it happen! Sit down and step by step make the changes.
  4. Review your site analytics every few days for the next couple of months. This will show you where to fine tune your site.
  5. If you’re not seeing the results you were expecting go back to step 2.

 

Right now you’re probably thinking “Great. More work. Just what I needed.”

There is an easier way. I am a freelance writer and blogger knowledgeable in local SEO and ready to work for you. Find me at Writeswitch.com.

Autumn Hiking

Autumn may very well be the best time of year for hiking.

Traffic on the trails drops dramatically when there’s a chill in the air. Many people don’t realize that there’s heat in your hiking shoes. The faster they move the warmer you become. Be careful no to let your base layers get wet from sweat.  The key is to dress warm, bring your backpack and as you warm up take layers off and store them in your pack. When you stop to rest you should always put a layer back on so that your warmth doesn’t escape.

Another benefit of fall hiking is the views. When the leaves fall off you can see much farther than when the trees are full of green leaves.

Pictures bellow are from a hike in mid-December on the Appalachian Trail in Maryland.