Lessons from The Wiz – PT1

Did you catch NBC’s production of The Wiz, Live!? From a ratings perspective it was a huge success. Wait. You didn’t see it? OK. Maybe you were busy. Maybe you forgot? But hopefully it wasn’t a case of “I didn’t want to”. As a member of the church technical community you almost missed a great opportunity, but fortunately NBC will re-broadcast the show on December 19th. Mark your calendar now!

OK. Full disclosure. This isn’t Tom writing (perhaps some of you really good audio guys could recognize that the voice wasn’t sounding right in your head). My name is Mark and I’m a video team leader in a modern, mid-sized, mid-western church with a mission to reach people for Christ. Tom and his writings on ControlBooth.tv have been a huge help to us in our technical production areas.

Growing up I attended traditional churches that would get super-excited when missionary would return from some foreign land for a visit. We would have them wear the clothes of their new country. What was even more special was having them speak something in the language of their new country. Often the missionary told of how they had to work very hard to learn the language of their new culture. Unfortunately, most of those churches I attended didn’t take the same attitude regarding learning the language of the culture right outside their own doors. Read more

The Why

No matter how willing we are to admit that we and our fellow tech team members can at times be a wee bit snarky in our responses to others in leadership, management, clients, other associated ministries or 3rd parties we occasionally support; all outside our small tech-tribe; such acknowledgments do little to mitigate the damage such miscommunication causes.

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Servant or Slave?

Josef, a young pastor had immigrated to the United States and founded a missionary society to help Christians back in his home country. He was now translating Christian books from English into his native Romanian, travelling to and speaking at churches and conferences regarding the persecution of the church and the revival occurring in his homeland. It was during this time that I met Josef.

Conference hosts or senior pastors would typically ask Josef, “How do you want to be introduced?” Despite earned degrees, prestigious formerly held positions and many months of enduring beatings and torture for Christ’s sake, Josef felt that too often these formal introductions proved self-serving. The last thing he wanted to do was bring glory to himself, so Josef began the practice of requesting, “please, if you must, just introduce me as ‘a slave of Christ.’” As the conference host prepared the audience for Josef’s speech the host said, “… and Josef requested that I simply introduce him as a servant of Jesus Christ.” Josef attempted not to grimace as he approached the lectern. No one realized what a difference those two terms, “slave” and “servant” meant to him.

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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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Aeron Stool

One of the things that has always fascinated me is how techs who are often out on the road, or on a tour, or who are day-hires, adjust to being transient week to week and day to day.

One particular FOH audio guy I know travels with his own chair on tour. It’s a Herman Miller Aeron Stool model. Click on the link if you are interested in checking it out.  You can buy one of these babies for just shy of $1200 bucks (plus shipping and handling). Add in the cost of a foam lined, ATA-rated, road case he had custom-made for it (so it doesn’t get banged up in the truck) and his investment in 1st-class touring “buttock-buttressing” rises to the tune of two-thousand dollars! I’ve always wondered how many local stagehands realize during the load-in that they are indeed not pushing around a rack of high-tech audio gear but rather a really expensive chair instead!

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Let go or Go forth

This month I am experiencing a life-milestone. Two of my kids are going away to college. One recently transferred from Seton Hall in New Jersey to the University of Miami. The other is starting this week at West Virginia University as a Freshman.

Experiencing the range of emotions that goes along with preparing kids to leave for school, I’m reminded of a meeting I had with a church Executive and Senior Pastor a while back.

In the meeting the topic of training and investing into staff members and volunteers came up in our discussion. The Executive Pastor lamented a recent financial investment the church made in a young staff IT person who then a few months after completing the training announced he would be leaving the church’s employment to take a position in the marketplace.

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Shading Cameras

Ever see a church video production where they cut from one camera with a reddish tint to another camera with a greenish tint?  Or a low-budget production where one camera had good exposure and another was too dark or over-blown?  How about one camera with good detail and another which was too sharp or so soft it looks like they’re shooting with a swatch of pantyhose affixed to the lens?

When designing a multi-camera production system to record your church’s services for DVD or internet video-on-demand distribution, live Imag projection or live web-streaming, one of the most important things you should be deliberate about is planning-in a capability to remotely shade (aka “paint”) cameras from your control booth.

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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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I Love Lucy

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the I Love Lucy show, which originally aired on CBS starting in the fall of 1951. As many people know, I Love Lucy was a ground breaking production in many respects; however, there are lesser known aspects to the show which I think bear looking at. I Love Lucy still airs in reruns on my cable system on the Hallmark Channel. If you’re not familiar with the show, check it out!

When the production was in development with CBS, it was at a time in the broadcast industry which did not allow for live transmission across a national network of stations. Point-to-point fiber optics, satellite technology and the internet, those tools which television networks now rely on to distribute programming did not yet exist. In the 50’s, some cities were interconnected via copper video cabling. However, there was none yet that linked the east and west coasts of the United States.

The I Love Lucy show producers, Desilu Productions, had a set of requirements they thought would be essential in making a new show a hit.

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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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