Console Failure (and How to Recover)

Spring is a busy time of year at my church.  Right on the heels of Christmas production we have weeks and weeks of rehearsals and performances for youth choir, children’s choir, concerts, and other very special performances.  Most of thes take place in our contemporary worship venue, Wesley Hall.

This weekend marks the end our busy production schedule – and the beginning of a brief break before Holy week and Easter production.  So, with the end in sight, and just before the last few rehearsals, you guessed it (if you read the title of this post), CONSOLE FAILURE.  Thirty minutes before tech rehearsal, our little Avid SC48, was just sitting there in backup mode, unable to boot up.  Did I mention, it was 30 minutes before tech rehearsal?

Here are the steps we followed while attempting to recover our console . . .

  • As soon as it was apparent that we would be without an audio system, we clearly communicated that to the appropriate people.  Better to give the cold, hard truth than keep someone guessing.  Also, people appreciate the candor and honesty.
  • We contacted the manufacturer’s tech support department and started following their recommendations.
  • At the same time we were contracting tech support, we were also reaching out to local rental companies for a replacement console (not an easy task for a Friday evening). Not only was our children’s musical at stake, but also our weekend services.  So while one person was trying to repair the console, another was seeking the replacement.
Bruce, re-seating DSP cards in the SC48

Bruce, re-seating DSP cards in the SC48

In the end, we could not recover our console, and had to roll with our rental.  We didn’t have a very recent backup of our console on a flash drive (shame on us) but we were able to mount the hard drive of our mixer on a laptop and retrieve all the relevant show files.  After transferring these to a flash drive we were able to load the rental mixer with all our weekend shows.

Here are some key lessons to remember when faced with a crisis like this:

  1. Clearly communicate to leadership the truth about the problem, and keep giving updates at appropriate times.  This will help calm rattled nerves and also assure leadership that you are working the problem.
  2. Plan for the worst case scenario.  Hopefully you won’t be faced with that, but better to plan for the worst, and hope for the best.
  3. Back up your digital console regularly.  We had show files to use, but not very recent ones. Our problem was a bad motherboard, so we still had access to our hard drive.  If the hard drive had been the fault, we would have had to use old show files and would have a had a lot more settings to re-create.
  4. Have a Plan B.  Large equipment failures can seem grim, but if you have a backup plan you can most likel;y survive the weekend.  We’re heavily dependent on technology, but I promise you, the Holy Spirit can still show up and change lives, even if you’re using a small analog mixer with only a couple of wedges for monitors.  That, by the way, is one of our plan B’s.

Projector Control

I recently found myself searching hte web for an av controller to control some projectors. We had some panels that controlled only certain brands, but I wanted one that would scale to applications with multiple brands needing simultaneous control.  I also wanted one that would not bust my budget too severely. What I found was the Trulink AV controller.

We installed one of these in a room with two different models of Sanyo projectors and an Infocus projector.  We programmed our system for a simple on/off button for each model of projector.

Programming can be done with a laptop via USB directly to the panel.  It is also possible to train the panel with the original remote for each projector.  That’s what we did.  The receive unit (installed near one of the projectors) provides both IR and RS-232 outputs.  The connection between the panel and receive unit is cat5e.

The base system sells for $249, but be prepared to spend a few bucks on IR repeaters, extenders, RS-232 cables, plus in installation kit that sells for about $10.  You’ll need the kit.  We also bought some blank buttons so we could label the control panel with whatever we wanted for each projector.

Closing the doors . . .

Dear readers,

For a couple of years, I have enjoyed writing this blog.  At first, I posted frequently and often found inspiration for what I was writing about.  But for some time, it has become more of a chore, and it hasn’t come as naturally.  After much consideration, I have decided to stop updating this site. One thing that has helped me make this decision is the abundance of really good church tech blogs out there. I’d like to refer you to one of them in particular: ChurchTechArts.  Mike Sessler is a talented technical director in southern California, and a great writer as well.  He keeps his blog updated, has interesting and helpful articles, and I can’t think of another tech blog I would rather read. I’ll leave this blog here, on the chance that a post could still be helpful to someone.

For me, I still love what I do.  I am at Highland Park United Methodist Church, heading up all technology.  I also have one child in college, one on the way to college in the fall, and one about to be a junior in high school.  So it’s a matter of focus and priority for me.  I do still blog, but not about worship technology.  I have a fishing blog at fishingjournal.wordpress.com. If you’re a fisherman, then I welcome you to join me over there. I blog there as a way to unwind (I’ve found there’s nothing more low-tech than a light fly rod and a sunny afternoon on a favorite pond).

Finally, thank you for reading.  Thank you for commenting.  And if you’re actively involved in church technology, thank you for your service to the kingdom of God.

Blessings,

Brian

Industry Standards / Organizational Standards

Businessdictioanry.com defines industry standard as “Generally accepted requirements followed by the members of an industry”. I hear a lot of people defend why they do something by citing “It’s the industry standard”.

We follow industry standards, in part, because we’re learning from others who have gone before us, who have learned as we are learning, what works best in most situations.  All in all, Industry standards are a good thing.  Sometimes, though, industry standards can be restricting and limiting.  When should you NOT adhere to an industry standard? – When it doesn’t work for YOU or your organization.

Here are some industry standards that in my opinion are up for grabs . . .

  • Wireless mics – let the user power them on or lock power on before hand?  Conventional wisdom says lock it before hand, but how necessary is that, really?  is it worth jacking with the comfort level of the user?
  • Rechargeable batteries – the pro audio mantra to this point has been ‘never use them”.  But with advances in rechargeable technology, does that still hold up?
  • Over/Under wrap for mic cables –   Uh . . . Let’s keep that one!

The bottom line is – Do what works for YOU.  Do what works for YOUR ORGANIZATION.  Do what makes things easier for your volunteers.  Don’t adopt methods simply because they work for someone else’s organization.  There are too many factors contributing to the success or failure of another organization to clone specific methods.  More importantly, find out what works for YOU, and make that part of your own organizational standards.

Question – What are some industry standards that you have chosen to ignore or have modified to fit your organization?