Needing a Car

Recently on a photography internet forum someone posed the question:

“Can you be a good photographer without a car? It seems to me that photographers that have cars can have greater freedom in finding locations and venues for photo shoots where those who don’t have a car or access to one either have to pay a lot of money for a studio rental or give up on the hobby completely.”

As I was thinking about the question I considered my own photography-hobby. How often I had considered getting up a 4AM to travel to some location away from my home, ready to shoot just as the light would be “just right!” I thought about how difficult it would be to get to those locations without a vehicle. I’ll admit I started thinking.., at least for the type of photography I enjoy, even demand of myself, that a car is pretty essential. Read more

Musical Mediocrity

A few months ago I visited a church with a musician-friend I know.  I’ve been to this church before.  They are well established in the community near where he lives, have great Bible-oriented preaching and a warm friendly environment.  So, when my musician-friend began looking for a church to call home I recommended that he visit this church with me and check it out.

He visited twice and then stopped.

I asked why.  I could tell he was uncomfortable communicating his answer but eventually he told me. He said that it was great that the church was near his home, had a great reputation for service to the community, had Bible-centered teaching and was friendly and inviting to newcomers. I waited for the other shoe to drop, he continued “but during worship it seems like the musicians are holding back, almost like they don’t want it to be too good.”  He continued, “that drives me crazy!  I can’t go there.”

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Buggy Whips

A few years ago I was representing a video production company that had some pretty old and outdated equipment. A client contacted me about an upcoming show and inquired what I might have available. When I told them what I had there was a long pause before the client spoke. He then said, “that stuff is pretty obsolete.” Knowing he was right but trying to think quickly on my feet I said, “It’s not out-of-date, it’s tested! It’s proven technology! Do you want to trust your show to something new?” He laughed. I didn’t get the job. But I got an “A” for effort.

What might that have to do with churches you may ask?

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Awful Services

Last month I wrote a blog entry entitled “Defining Excellence” which proved to be one of the more widely read posts on this site.  My intention in that essay was to address what I see as a recent trend in the church redefining what the term excellence actually means. It is not the act of redefining words that really concerns me, but rather the misguided conclusions which result.  For example, some have redefined excellence to be something held in moderation, that too much excellence results in excess. As if the church needed to be concerned about having too much excellence resulting in something even less God-honoring than mediocrity. Others have redefined excellence to be but a stylistic fad inseparable in definition from what they see as over-the-top production. Excellence by their definition are church services typified by moving lights, hazers, Imag video projection, contemporary music and rock-n-roll concert PA decibels. They believe excellence is at odds with authenticity and are convinced the youth culture today values authenticity over excellence which they now see as outdated.  Their conclusion assumes excellence and authenticity cannot coexist because in their view productions utilizing a certain type of lighting, projection, musical style or sound metric are glossy, flashy and artificial, all which they see as being the opposite of authenticity.  And so they have succeeded in redefining authenticity as well.

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Defining Excellence

I think one of the most talked about yet most misunderstood subjects in church production today is “excellence.” Week after week I see various blog posts about excellence. Discussions with other church technical artists often touch on the subject of excellence. Could it be that I am just the excellence conversation magnet? I don’t think so.

Yesterday ChurchProduction.com published an article on their website entitled, “The Balance Between Excellence and Excess.”  In this essay the author warns of productions gone amuck in the church. But if that situation indeed occurs, if sometimes churches use production capabilities in a self-aggrandizing or baroque manner “for production’s sake alone,” I would argue that the issue is indeed not that the pendulum has swung from “excellence to excess,” but rather that excellence was ignored in the first place.

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God’s Handwriting

“Love of beauty is taste. The creation of beauty is art.” – Emerson

In the 1991 movie City Slickers there is a scene where Curly, an old trail-hardened cowboy played by Jack Palance, holds up his index finger toward the sky and asks the film’s young-urban protagonist Mitch Robbins (Billy Crystal), “Do you know what the secret of life is?”

“Your finger?” replied Crystal. “One thing, just one thing” said Palance.

King David knew what his “one thing” was. It wasn’t shepherding sheep or ruling over the nation. It wasn’t commanding armies or even defeating his enemies. It wasn’t even making instruments or writing psalms. David’s one thing … was to behold the beauty of the Lord.

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Technically Perfect

“It’s possible to have a technically flawless show or event which utterly fails because of tech …”

Let me illustrate my point

Years ago when I did a lot of corporate work and I was fortunate that I was sometimes hired as a FOH PA audio mixer and on other jobs I worked as a video director or video engineer. When I got to work in the audio department it allowed me to see how other people or other companies do video. When I worked in video, it allowed me to see how other people do audio. It was a great way to learn and be exposed to a lot of different people and techniques.

“It’s possible to have a technically flawless show or event which utterly fails because of tech …”

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What is Good Art?

I hope that at least one positive thing comes out of the recent crop of Bible inspired feature films that the church, tech artists and leaders see the value in defining, “what exactly is good art?”

It seems that at least some of the recent debate within the church regarding Roma Downey and Mark Burnett’s “Son of God” movie, as well as Paramount Pictures soon to be released “Noah,” could be addressed if Christians would come to a consensus on the more important root philosophical question.

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Video Competence

Advice received from tech conferences, magazines/websites, discussion boards or even from fellow technical-artist friends can be great, but have you ever wished you could get your hands on scientific research regarding video communication competency? I have. After all, the opinions or experiences of friends, conference speakers, blog writers, etc., are; if not based on scientific study, just opinions.

Recently I read a DeGroote School of Business research study regarding the effectiveness of conducting job interviews via video-conferencing. Although admittedly not identical to producing a multi-camera broadcast or I-mag presentation at your church, I was amazed by how similar the advice the researchers gave to business leaders (as well as to job candidates) was to the advice I offer to churches. Might the challenges really be similar?

Upon further reflection, when we produce a multi-camera presentation isn’t the ministry we serve in fact on a “job interview” of its own? What do our videos communicate about us, our leadership and our organizations? Aren’t we attempting to communicate to our viewers that our organizations have the desire, skills, abilities and resources to assist them? In this context, the video presentations we create are more like video job interviews than I may have previously thought.
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Medium and Message

A few months ago Phil Cooke wrote a post on his blog entitled, “The Medium is Really the Message.”

I have to admit that even now, months later I am uncomfortable with the brashness of that statement. Upon first reading it and now months later I want to scream out, “Jesus’ work on the cross is the message!” Or, “God’s love for us is the message!” “Not the medium!” You get the picture.

My church upbringing causes a kneejerk reaction in me to defend what seems to be an attack on the preeminence of the Gospel message. But then, does God really need me to defend Him against that statement? And what does the statement really say anyway? Phil Cooke, using the illustration of political elections rephrased it as “the medium is just as important as the message.” Do you agree?

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