This is one of those places no one likes to be in. Especially as a new member in an organization its easy to come in and get overwhelmed over what all is happening equipment and personnel wise. It's at this point things can go a few different directions.
You can be Mr. Fix it, take the whole thing on and try to fix everything, buy new equipment, and try to solve every problem. I have interacted with many folks trying to do this in organizations and too often they end up in a pile of gear with no money left and nothing really solved. If it is personnel and teams they are trying to fix a quick repair and gut can really mess things up. Many times as a new comer you may not understand the depth of what has gone on and what is happening and may end up damaging relationships beyond repair when you need them the most.
You can settle in and leave it. Its very easy to say everything has been broken, it will always be broken. It's easy to leave relationships as toxic even when you are seeing them with fresh eyes from the outside. To become the NO man, and the we could never do that person and just ride things out is one of the most toxic directions you can take in an AV department.
So if fixing everything doesn't work, and leaving it all alone doesn't work then what can you do? The answer I believe is to reach out for some trusted help and build a plan. These words are funny coming from me because I am one of the least patient people alive but it has shown to be a very functional approach. Step one, phone a friend. This friend doesn't have to be the end of all AV knowledge or even a professional but someone trusted to help you think through things. If you are working in a new organization maybe even choose to reach out to a co worker or boss. Asking for help not only helps you build a relationship, but helps build a team, and can help someone else in the organization to stand with you.
Once you have a team start building a plan. One of my first recommendations in building a plan is to identify the goals of the project in detail. Write them all down, even current already accomplished goals. Start with things that are as simple as "we need a way to plug in a laptop on stage", and move to things like "lighting is too dark". Speak with everyone involved as you may encounter goals important to others like "we need lighting darker in the control area but brighter in the overall auditorium". Once you have goals you rank them by most important or most time sensitive. After ranking, you can present possible solutions.
When identifying and presenting solutions look at the scope or "size" of the project. Is this a multi person or multi department project? Is this project going to require a lot of funds? Is this solution needing to be accomplished on a short time table? Once the scope is identified I like to pick a large project on a larger timeline to start plus 2 or 3 smaller ones. The large project will take lots of thought, people, and possibly funding so you can't do it all at once, it can also get overwhelming if you focus on nothing but that project. This is where the small ones come in! Little things you can finish quickly and easily for noticeable benefit! Little encouragements along the way. Its a great idea to take a break from a project like changing the lighting design in the main auditorium to do a small one like organizing an AV closet for easier access. Finishing the closet makes it easier for you to work, and gets your mind off the big lighting project so you can come back in a day or two fresh!
I hope this was helpful and please remember reach out if there are any problems that Lambda AV can help you to solve!
Church Projection Whats important and having a goal in mindLately it seems like like I have answered countless emails and phone calls about projection. I have heard everything from, “why do I need a screen”, to “i found this old projector used its pretty big…it must be nice”. To all of these requests I say just because it does work doesn’t mean its a good idea. This post is a little on the technical side but should have some helpful info and a great way to repurpose an old projector in a good way at the end.
Picking up used equipment just because it its capable of doing a job is not always a good idea. When it comes to old used projectors you can run into a multitude of issues. Many times old projectors will burn through bulbs more quickly than is normal because of older electronics, or aging cooling systems. Older projectors also may look softer or have muted colors because of dust in the lens or a burned up component called a color wheel. Really it comes down to you get what you pay for, and an older used projector just may not cut it for your new giant front projection screen. If though you have a used projector that maybe doesn’t fit your new application keep it around, there are some uses I will get into later for these older projectors.
So, you are looking at a new projector… where too start. First of all, decide what your end goal is. Are you looking for a new projector just to get lyrics a little clearer? Are you looking to add “eyemag” or on screen camera of your pastor to the projection screens. Are you looking to go with an ultra wide, multi-screen, ultra-large projection setup. Each of these requires different projection needs and picking the wrong projector up front can cause a lot of time, money, and frustration to be spent in the end without reaching your goal.
Ultra-wide projection for instance really requires all of the projectors to match, and some additional hardware and software to split up the image. It is also helpful for this setup if you use a projector that is “installation grade”. Installation grade projectors offer options like replaceable lenses for projecting at different distances and getting a larger image size, lens shift for easily getting your image centered on the screen, and professional grade keystone for straightening images. They are more expensive but very flexible and well worth the investment.
Multi screen setups require multiple projectors and require some additional hardware to split the signal from your source to 2 or more projectors. Some thought with multi screen setups should be given into what you really need to show on the screens. Is the goal to cover one space more evenly with the same content or cover one space with two or more different sections of content. Sending the same content to two screens requires a split or distribution amplifier, but sending different content requires, a switcher, multiple sources, or specialized software. The important thing to remember is most everything is possible but careful investigation should be done up front to match your goal. As a tech director or staff member careful investigation should also be done with the Pastor or other staff members who will be utilizing the setup and how they are hoping to be able to utilize it.
Now for the square part. Up until about 10 years ago almost every screen minus the movie theatre was square. When i say square I mean squareish in 4:3 ratio. Especially in the last 5 years this has shifted to entirely 16:9 or rectangle content layout screens. In this day and age don’t even consider a projector or screen that cannot display 16:9 content. This is another strike against older projectors as many of them are unable to display anything but lower resolution square content. If you are transitioning in your church from square to rectangle its important to remember that your content will actually be smaller if you are using an existing screen. The rectangle content will be letter boxed on the top and bottom with black bars creating some useless space. It may be a good idea to consider changing over to a newer screen that is larger at a rectangular 16:9 size.
Once you know the size and purpose of your projection you need to find the right projector for the job. A great resource I use myself is the projector calculator on www.projectorcentral.com . Using this calculator you can plug in the projector you are looking to use, and the size of your screen, and see whether or not the screen will be bright enough for a room with lots of ambient light, or with the projector at a close or far distance from the screen. In general a projected image is brighter the closer the projector gets to a screen and the less other light from windows and room lighting hits the screen. Unlike a television which is black by nature a projected images blacks are only as dark as the screen is with no light, so the the more other light hits the screen the less deep and contrasty the image will appear. I alway lean a little to the side of too bright vs not bright enough.
Last but not least remember that old projector you found? Set it up in the back of the room as a stage display projector or what is many times called a confidence monitor. You do not need a fancy projector for this and you do not need a screen. This is a way to justify getting a new projector up front because you can put the old one to use in the back and actually add functionality. You can do two things to get signal to this projector. The first one is to use a splitter or distribution amplifier to mirror the signal going to the front, and the second is to use a separate output like this USB to DVI/VGA/HDMI adapter. Using ProPresenter this adapter can output lyrics without the background as well as a clock and messages to the stage.
So remember do your homework before latching onto that used size of a car projector or that fancy new one. Figure out exactly what the goal is and shoot to do it well. Spending a little more money to accomplish a well researched goal can save money in the long run especially if you can repurpose the old gear for a new perk like a confidence display!
Oh and cue the music…
How to get volunteers and keep them volunteering You might be asking yourself what does Pizza, ACDC, and JJ Abrams have to do with church tech? We will get to that. But for as long as I can remember I have volunteered at my home church and enjoyed every second of it because of things like these.
As a Church tech director, worship pastor or pastor you know that volunteers are the most crucial and sometimes most complicated part of any area of church. Volunteers are needed because its just not possible nor a great idea to have a full time staff member for everything that is needed on Sunday morning. With that said it can be frustrating to work with people who aren’t paid to be there and many times especially in tech areas are not experienced in ways that a professional might be. It can also be frustrating when, for no apparent reason, volunteers start to drop of and no longer volunteer, or even leave the church. Then again maybe you are a volunteer yourself and you feel undervalued, or burnt out or maybe feel like you are just there to fill a spot and no one would really miss you. Maybe we need to really think about what the bible says about the purpose for volunteers is.
Ephesisans 4:15-16 we see that as we are saved and grow in Him, we become one body of Christ “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”
So we are one body and then in Ephesisans 2:19 “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household” we are one household.
So as one body and one household and in Romans 8:9 “ You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ” we are also one in spirit.
In 1 Corinthians 12:12 it talks about that this body one in spirit in the same household is made of many parts “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.” and that all these parts are one body with Christ
So lets just start again on volunteers with this attitude that we are all a part of the body of Christ, we are all in this one sometimes carpeted, folding chair, hymnal filled, coffee and juice stained household, we are one in Spirit and we all are different parts of the body united with Christ. So yes every person can have and should have a valued place somewhere serving in the church I am talking to leadership and volunteers here.
Now just for leadership, we are finally getting back to the title here. J. J. Abrams is one of my favorite film directors. He is my favorite not because of the specific movies he has made or how empty I felt at the end of LOST but because of something he does with his stories. He makes us feel like we are all a part of something much bigger than ourselves. This is what takes a boring volunteer job or group of volunteers and makes them a team that can conquer the world for Christ. When I was in college I directed a small quiz show for PBS. The crew of the show was not a bunch of seasoned professionals paid to be there but instead a group of new to TV volunteers. Early on, a fellow director taught me something called “The walk”. Every day before we started I made it my personal goal to greet every person on the crew at their position. I would talk to them, ask them about their job, tell them what they were doing well and give them some fun ideas on how to do their job even better. I connected with them and I built community. Usually, by the second or third week everyone was excited for me to come around and many times everyone would be in a group waving and talking when I entered the studio. This is not because I was a particularly great director but because I cared about them and I worked with them and took them from feeling like just a camera person to feeling like a crew and feeling like they had a common task I needed them all for. Notice I focused on three things, each person, their relationship together, and the importance of continually improving their skills.
Here is another idea for building community; its called pizza! Really lots of food works and actually I get tired of pizza and even Jimmy Johns sometime. A meal together really isn’t that expensive and helps community a lot. The church I serve in feeds us every time we walk in the building and wow we have certainly had some fun… the “hop scotch in the kitchen” Easter incident of 2010. The lesson here is pour into your volunteers, give them friendship, knowledge, food, and most importantly make it all about something bigger than just tech or greeting.
For the volunteers out there, I personally believe not only should we tithe of our finances but we should tithe of our other gifts and knowledge that God has given us. So, here it is… If you are reading this and you aren’t volunteering to serve in the church, you need to! Get in there and be a part of the body. If you don’t feel connected it may be that you aren’t doing what gamblers call “Putting skin in the game.” You aren’t connecting yourself in a way that gives you some ownership in the body. Jump in and serve to serve. When my wife and I joined our church one of the first things I did was call and ask how I could serve in my area of skill on the tech team. Within a few weeks I was running camera and the presentation computer, and most importantly, getting to know the worship team. One other thing I want to stress with volunteers is “YOU ARE A VOLUNTEER” don’t work as a volunteer simply because you want to be payed eventually, don’t complain that you aren’t payed and don’t give the job anything less than your best because you aren’t payed. Remember this verse in Colossians 3:23 “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,”. Why would you give service to God that is anything less than your best?
Last of all we are called to worship Psalms 99:5 “Exalt the Lord our God and worship at his footstool; He is Holy.” Part of worship is service and living as Jesus would and part of living as Jesus would is serving others so get in there have some fun and encourage the band to play ACDC every time the worship pastor turns around to talk during practice it’s hilarious! Comment bellow with some fun memories you have of volunteering or working with volunteers and be sure share your daily volunteer and worship team fun with @orangehatryan with the hashtag #volunteermoments .