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Thoughts, life, and the NEXT CHAPTER!

Looking back on my life, I am constantly amazed at how God has worked in me and through me.  We are created as worshippers of our Savior and King over all the heavens and the earth.  He sent His one and only Son to live a blameless life and to die a horrible death on the cross.  He rose again defying all odds and now offers eternal life as a free gift to those who are willing to accept it.  In return, he asks us to follow Him and walk in His ways.  He asks us to follow Him at all costs and to give our lives back to Him as a living sacrifice.

At a young age, I have always tried to follow in those ways and to live my life as unto the God who saved me.  Even though I am still relatively young, I have still been alive long enough to see that God has ordained my footsteps and has walked with me through various decisions in my life.  I am thankful for his provision and guidance.  Maybe not every decision has been “the right thing” but ultimately, God was still in control and He directed me down the paths that He had for me.

My last four years or so at Valley Forge Christian College helped me to learn and grow dramatically.  Through many professors and staff, I learned more then just academics.  I learned how to apply the practical academics, musical skills, and music technology into furthering the Kingdom of God.  VFCC did much more then just teach the skills, they encouraged you and many times gave you the opportunity to put those skills into practice.

One huge part of me putting things into practice and learning things through experience alone was the past two years of touring as an audio engineer for Pneuma 2009 and Chosen 2010.  Those summers and semester bookings taught me how to take the musical and technical skills I had learned and use them in a real application in real time.  I learned to think on my feet and with my ears.  I learned to jump right in and try my hardest to make something work.  And when I didn’t know what to do, God gave me the wisdom to know how to figure it out or to place something or someone in my path to help me press forward.  Also, throw in the variables of travel, relationships with people on the team, friends from school, family back home, and the day-to-day relationships I made with people along the way, and that makes for a challenge!  I know I grew and God taught me so much in those times.  Even now, I know I was so blessed to be part of Chosen and Pneuma these past two years.  The things I learned, the ways I grew, relationships I developed, the friends I made and the connections I made were awesome.  I am so thankful for Chosen and Pneuma and I pray that God continues to use them in ways bigger and better then they would have ever expected.

But, part of a journey includes moving on…moving forward.  I know I always want to be challenged and pushed to work harder and do more then I have before.  In everything I want to further the Kingdom of God while still using my talents and giftings that are from the Lord.  He gave me life and made a way for me to have eternal life; I feel like that in return, I should give my life back to Him as an offering of worship so that He may be glorified in my life.

That brings me to the next chapter of my life.  I have been offered a position as the production coordinator of National Community Church located in Washington DC.  National Community Church uses coffeehouses and movie cinemas as venues for church.  They currently have six locations in the Washington DC and Virginia areas and have plans to open more and to build a new building.  NCC began meeting in the Union Station movie theaters until they closed down.  They continued meeting at their coffeehouse, Ebenezer’s Coffeehouse, just a short distance away.  God, then, place a vision in their hearts to expand what they were doing into the movie theaters of the Washington DC area and surrounding areas.  They brought it before their congregation who decided corporately that this was the direction God wanted for their church.  And with that, the multi-site vision of National Community Church was born.  As God blessed their faithfulness, they opened more locations and currently they have six locations.  They are constantly looking at new locations where they can expand to and will be kicking off their seventh location later this year.

I am so excited about what God is doing at National Community Church and blessed to be able to be a part of their team reaching the Washington DC area.  I love their presentation and their style.  It’s so out of the box and new.  It’s relevant to the culture and meets people where they are.  They fuse what this generation gravitates to, the coffeehouses and theaters, and then reclaims that medium to communicate the Gospel and the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

I’m still trying to work out logistics of moving to DC and starting the job, but it’s going to be fairly quick.  It will probably be around the end of this month.  It’s going to be interesting to figure all that out but I believe that God will lead me and guide me in this new chapter of my life.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me, worked with me, given me opportunities, and invested in my life over the years.  Without all of you, this wouldn’t have happened.

Feel free, as always, to comment or email me at jason@jasoncastellente.com

You mean I can read whatever I want? Mixing in Pro Tools Skill Pack

One great thing I’ve found in the last few weeks now that I’m done college, I have the freedom to read whatever I want.  Crazy right?  I’m not forced to read for a class or for an assignment or paper or whatever.  I have actually really started to enjoy reading again.  One book I am enjoying right now is (nerd alert!!)  Mixing in Pro Tools Second Edition Skill Pack by Brian Smithers.  I have been seriously using Pro Tools LE and HD for the past 3 years and I’ve seen the most recent evolutions from Pro Tools 7 to the new GUI interface and options in Pro Tools 8 and most recently, the “digi-hardware free” version of Pro Tools 9 that hit the public just a month or so back.

This book is pretty cool and helps the reader to understand more of the art and craft of mixing projects in Pro Tools.  It begins with the basics that I was pretty well acquainted with and then got progressively harder and more complex.  I have to say, I was caught a little off guard by how in-depth this book got towards the end.  In fact, I had to go back and review earlier parts of the book that I thought I had down in order to understand little nuances of more complex techniques.  I had assumed this book would be a lot of basic material and tutorials.  And while, it presents it in more of a tutorial method for beginners, the techniques and methods it teaches and the tricks it gives you are very easily applied to your own projects in your day-to-day work, mixing and hobbies.

It starts of explaining equalization and just basically describes what all the GUI knobs and meters do.  It also briefly goes into what equalization is.  Equalization is the adjustment of the timbre of a recorded signal.  It basically dictates the tonal shape of a signal.   Other then that, I thought the chapter would be basic knowledge and a review for me.  Although, when I got farther in the chapter, it gave a few tips that can give better results and can help create a bigger stereo image.  For example, it suggests that while many of your channels are mono when you record them, you can instantly make them stereo by inserting a standard Pro Tools plug-in called “Short Delay II” (mono/stereo).  Pro Tools will then display two meter bars on the processed channel showing that there is a stereo output to wherever the channel is routed.  You can then insert more plug-ins after that to continue your processing although you should use a multi-mono plug-in so that Pro Tools will process each signal individually while still changing the settings uniformly on both the Left and the Right outputs.  Equalization is probably one of the hardest parts of the post production process because you need to make everything sound great in the mix without making thing clash.  That means, you will need to find a unique place in the frequency and dynamic range of the recording.

It continues in the next chapter to talk about dynamics processing.  Obviously, dynamics vary greatly with the style of music but this book talks about the principles you need to be successful in making whatever music your a mixing sound great.  I like how they explain how a compressor works because I think this is something that gets confused very easily in studio mixing as well as live sound reinforcement.  I took the questions they used and modified them a little to better explain how a compressor works.

What gets compressed? – Threshold settings (numeric setting in dBv)

How much gets compressed? – Ratio settings (numeric setting in ratio for i.e. 4:1)

How abruptly will the compression begin? – Knee settings (numeric setting)

How fast will the compressor take before it engages? – Attack settings (us or ms)

How long will the compressor hold the same setting? – Hold settings (us or ms)

How quickly will the compressor release its limiting of signal? – Release settings (us or ms)

Oh, by the way…I used two terms above that I should explain: “us” and “ms”.  “us” means microsecond which is one thousand of a millisecond (one ten-thousandth of a second) and “ms” means millisecond which is one thousandth of a second.

I also love the way that they go into how to get a rough mix later in the book.  They walk the reader though basic organization and things that not everyone would think of a common sense.  Creating your workflow in a session, is extremely important.  Making sure that tracks are labeled from the get-go is important because Pro Tools names waveform data off of that track name to help with organization in the actual Pro Tools session data.  Then, lining up your tracks in an order where you are comfortable working with it is very important.  Coloring your tracks is an added benefit to help you visually.  The way I work is that I have my drums first colored yellow, bass and guitars next labeled green, keys and midi stuff after that labeled blue and vocals after that labeled orange or red.  I will then route them through busses to make mixing easier and I put those busses at the end of the order of channels so that I have easy access to the “master fader” of each group of instruments.  This is very helpful when I mix in the end.

I don’t want to spoil the book for you though.  There are tons of great mix techniques in this book that I will certainly be implementing in the near future.  The book goes into advanced signal flow and advanced dynamics.  It talks alot about stereo imaging and enhancement to make things sound spacious and open while still creating that tight powerful mix that we have all come to know and love in pop music today.  The really cool stuff happens when it gets into special effects for recording and for mixing.  It has a couple really creative techniques that will help you make you studio mixes pop and pound.  I really enjoyed this book and I’m glad I took the time to read through it because I know it will benefit me in my career in audio and production.  I highly recommend this book.  I’ll be using some of the things I’ve learned when I go back in to the studio to finish up mixing The Interlude tracks.

Does anyone out there have any creative or interesting audio techniques to share?  Feel free to comment or email me at jason@jasoncastellente.com

Thoughts on Communicating the Gospel using technology

As I was reflecting on some technology that was developed this past year, I am continually amazed and interested in what has been introduced to us.  I remember watching Star Trek with my dad.  He talked about how he always thought it would be so cool to have a flip communicator like they did.  It would be so cool to just flip something like that open and be able to communicate with anyone.  As a kid, I’m sure he never dreamed it would be possible to communicate with anyone like that.  Now, people have “flip communicators” and even more advanced communicators called cell phones!  I can slide my finger across the heat-sensitive touch screen of my iPhone and have virtually anyone literally at my fingertips.  I can call someone across the room, across town, or across the world.  I remember using my cell phone to call home from Liberia, Africa while I was away on a missions trip a few years ago.  I pressed a few buttons and then seconds later, I could hear the voices of my parents and hear dinner cooking in the background from almost half way around the world.  What we never dreamed possible, has become so commonplace to us that it does not even faze us.  It has changed the face of communication today.

The face of communication is constantly changing largely due to technology and its development and re-development.  We are pushed forward whether we like it or not.  Some people enjoy it and thrive on it; some people don’t like it; some people don’t really care.  But anyway you look at it, we are in the midst of a new culture that is being changed and influenced by the current technologies.

The church is being forced to take note of these changes and change how they communicate in order to reach the culture that they are a part of.  It would be easy for the body to just fall back on what they know and point out how the Bible talks about not conform to what the world is saying and doing.  But maybe the church needs not be so defensive and realize that it’s not about that.  God is alive and His word in the Bible is alive.  This means that the Bible’s principles of standards and ethics need to be applied to the life that we live and in the culture we are a part of.

Many times, people think being in the world but not of the world means that we need to avoid evil at all costs and to keep away from it.  Shining your light doesn’t go very far if all of your “lights” are staying together where they are comfortable.  They can be so much more effective by going into dark places and illuminating them.  I am not saying we should participate in what is going on in that dark place.  I am however saying we should be there to show contrast to the darkness.  We can still be in the world but not of the world.

How does all tie together?  I think the church is afraid of what they cannot see or understand.  They fear the darkness of sin and of the unknown because it is uncharted.  We know sin leads to death but we must be willing to stand in the darkness in order to stop those who are walking further into the darkness.  We also should not be fearful of the unknown.  Traditional methods are just that: tradition.  They may still work at times but there are new mediums for interpersonal communication.  These mediums need to first be understood and their power realized.  Then, they can be harnessed for the furtherance of the Kingdom of God.  The early church stopped at nothing to communicate the gospel.  That same passion should motivate us today.  We have more channels available to us.  Let’s use them as effectively as we can.

Obviously, this is simply my opinion.  Feel free to comment or email me with your thoughts and opinion.  jason@jasoncastellente.com

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