Automation in Worship by Kevin Poole

We talk alot about excellence in worship and in church services these days.  Sometimes, we misunderstand exactly why excellence is important; its because God is perfect and holy and He deserves our very best and that’s why we strive to do things well.  It’s an act of worship!

Doing things well doesn’t just start on Sunday morning; it starts long in advance with strategic planning and attentiveness to detail.  Kevin Poole is a friend of mine who is the tech director at Mobbery Baptist Church in Longview, TX.  I had the opportunity to see his workflow and ideas first hand as they were planning things out for their Christmas production this year.  He goes into detail on how they’ve planned automation in worship and for special events that they do.  The only way you can get to this level of excellence is through careful planning, attention to detail along sensitivity and maturity in understanding how the Holy Spirit will lead the congregation and anticipating it.  Kevin gets it.  This article may be advanced for some but I do believe that there is something that every church can take away from it.  Make sure you follow Kevin Poole on Twitter at @kevinrpoole …he’s full of great insight and ideas!  Check out his article:

 

Automation in Worship

 

Before I start this, let me give credit where credit is due. There are three men that taught me and led me along this workflow, I would know none of this without the help of Jon Daggett, Mike Gerringer, and Daniel Albert of Thomas Road Baptist Church and Liberty University.

 

Excellence is critical; Make it as easy as possible

In worship settings, we strive for excellence. In a volunteer driven technical ministry, many of the team members have careers that are none technical. They serve faithfully, learning the craft as they go. My goal was to create systems that could be used in worship and production that would allow anyone to operate the gear. The preproduction planning of people who have chosen the technical disciplines as their ministry would help lower the learning curve of technically advanced gear.

Sync is a big deal in production. Time is constant and can never be paused or slowed down. Therefore, we as a team all have to be in sync. Musically, this is accomplished through a director with tempo. Technologically, this is accomplished with timecode. These are the two foundations of this post. This does not eliminate the need for execution by a technical ministry, but it helps control the number of moving parts and failure points.

Keeping the musicality

Lets start musically. Our worship team, which includes a praise team of 10, 30-piece orchestra, 6-piece rhythm section, and a 100-voice choir. When I started down this path, we were not using click. The first thing we needed to do was to create a means for them to hear a click source and start learning to play in a time specific constraint. We bought a metronome beat station and inputted that into our console. The rhythm section was already on ears, I had to get the director on ears so he could hear it. Currently, only our rhythm section and director have the ability to hear click. This has worked for now, but we are seeking to allow the orchestra members this option.

Next, we had to get the source click to coincide with a technical timecode of some flavor. There are several applications that allow this. We choose Digital Performer (DP), mostly because I had seen it done by the mighty three mentioned above. DP allowed me to create tempo maps from demo tracks provided by my Worship Pastor. DP could then output timecode along with a click so that digital devices would track in time with musical moments signaled by click.

Now I had to figure out how to get multiple types of devices talk to each other given the same timecode source. Our largest devices we wanted to sync were video playback, lighting control, and audio cues. I found that these three types of devices like to talk sync, but they each talked a different kind of sync, or had a different sync input type. Some strategic purchases had to be made to make sure that all would speak the same timecode.

 

The workflow

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