Intentionality with time, focus and life

 

As I kick off 2012 and launch headlong into another year, I started thinking about projects, goals, writing, work, and where I hope to be by the end of the year.  I want to be able to work on some audio training videos, improve my mixing skills, be more ingenious and creative with how I work with lighting, blog more frequently, be more efficient and intentional with my time at work, bench more at the gym, push up my level of endurance, improve my walk with God and my depth spiritually among many other things.

My list started growing and growing as I kept listing things out that I felt like I needed to do and then looked back through it and felt instantly overwhelmed.  How in the world can I do all this?  Feelings of inadequacy crept in and I started to feel discouraged.

Have you ever felt this way?  I’m sure you have.

I started thinking more about it and I realized that I need to bring more focus and intentionality to my life and goals.  While diversity in what you do isn’t bad in and of itself, you can burn yourself out and feel like you’ve made no progress even though you’ve set goals and listed things out.  Especially for those of us who work in the church, we tend to be multipurpose individuals who strive to serve and do what is needed, filling in the cracks and there is nothing wrong with being willing to serve.  But, we also need to decide what we’re NOT going to do.  Let me explain.

We split ourselves in too many different directions, dabbling in a bunch of different things. Sure, it’s fun but we turn into a “jack of all trades, master of none”.  We’re not intentional with our time and we never fully develop our strongest talents.  If you’re one of those creative types, you know what I’m talking about.  How many times have you put a ton of effort into something and it came out good or simply okay?  Practice makes perfect and you know if you worked at it, you could be great at it.  But then you get distracted by the next project, idea, or inspiration and focus on that.  Once again, it comes out good or simply okay.

We get determined and driven to do something and we stop at nothing to accomplish that.  But, if we focused ourselves on specific goals and talents, wouldn’t we be more productive in the long run?  Have we taken the time to identify what we do best and pursue excellence in those areas?  Sure, it’s great to be a well-educated and well-rounded individual and having variety in your skill set makes you a valuable person.  However, I think especially the creative types tend to go a little too far.  That’s where we need to bring what we do into focus and make sure we’re being intentional.

Do you want to be good at alot of things or great at a few things?

Depend on God, and do what you do well

 

I remember towards the middle of last year, I did an event that really stressed me out.  It wasn’t necessarily bigger then what I had done in the past.  But, it had aspects of it that I had never done before.  I walked down paths that I had never walked down before.  Sure, others had walked down those paths before or else there would not have been a path, but it was my first time.

So many times, we hear people talk about how stress and pressure is a bad thing and that we need to avoid it.  But, there is a positive side to feeling that kind of crunch.  God has not given us a spirit of fear, but He has given us power and a sound mind.  Having the power of God at our backs certainly empowers us and without Him, we can’t really do anything.  All our talents and skills are from God and if He is the force behind what we do as creatives, innovators, and production techs.  It should give us boldness and confidence.  The sound mind is huge here.  No, it’s not an audio engineer joke.  A sound mind is one that thinks clearly and evaluates the pro’s and con’s and makes wise decisions.  It plans things out logically and in the best way possible to get things done.  If you’ve done your job, then you should walk in confidently even in the unknown because you’ve done you’re do-diligence and you’re prepared.

Anything else is an attack of the enemy that wishes to steal that time and opportunity away from you.  I was really stressed out before that event even though I was prepared because Satan knew God was going to do great things and he’ll strike fear into your heart to bring you to a grinding halt.

If you try to do things without planning, then you should be nervous.  Don’t say something failed because God let you down.  He gave you a sound mind…use it!

Press forward, press on and do what God has called you to do.  Do your job well and be prepared.

Mix with your EARS, not your eyes

With the advent of digital consoles, meters, RTAs, and the like, so many times, we as audio techs begin to lean on those tools more and more.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing however, lately I have noticed that I began leaning on them too much instead of simply using my ears to make it sound great.  I think we can easily get caught in a trap of turning knobs that make changes on a screen until it “looks right” whether it sounds good or not!

I don’t think that displays or graphs are bad.  They are an extremely helpful tool when used appropriately.  However, when they are used as a crutch, they’re no good.

I recall something that Danny Duncan from Vanguard Recording said to me.  It’s so simple I feel like I should have thought of it before but never did.  Stop looking at the controls.  Stop looking at the screen with the graphs on it.  Close your eyes and EQ only using your ears.

It’s crazy that we have become so dependent on the graphic and visual representations of what we do as audio engineers.  Ultimately, it’s all about how it sounds in the end.  Call it a New Years resolution, but I’m going to make a conscious effort to not depend so much on visual tools to get me to where I need to be.  Rather, I’m going to force myself to depend on what my ears hear.

 

Related Articles:

Creating an Artistic Mix

Killing Feedback

The Church Balcony and the FOH Engineer

When the Production Leader steps into the Worship Leader’s Shoes

Allen & Heath announces the new GLD series digital console

Allen & Heath has really outdone themselves this time announcing a product that is a serious contenter for the mid-range price point and the medium format digital console market.  Their small format digital console teaser is now public with announcement of the GLD series.  They created a happy medium between their high-end iLive series and their  reliable, budget-friendly, workhorse GL series consoles.

The console is very similar to the iLive in look and feel but obviously scaled down to come in under the more budget conscious bar.  The GLD-80 is currently the only control surface in the GLD line.  It should be interesting to see if A&H will expand this range with another control surface or two.  The GLD-80 has 20 faders and 4 layers so you can lay your show out however you’d like and connects over a CAT5 cable using the new DSnake protocol to an audio rack.  There are currently two racks in the GLD line: the GLD-AR2412 which features 24 in’s and 12 outs and the GLD-AR84 which features 8 in’s and 4 outs.  The GLD-AR2412 features a CAT5 port labeled “Monitor” which is compatible with Aviom.  Similarly to their iLive line, they offer the ability to scale the system capabilities to what the user or venue requires.  Those two models can be linked together and, when connected to the GLD-80 control surface, it is capable of processing a maximum of 48 inputs and 24 outputs.  Each of those inputs features gain, polarity control, HPF, gate, 4-band parametric EQ, compressor and individual channel delay. It also has 8 stereo FX racks, 16 DCAs, 30 mix busses and 20 mix outputs which are all configurable and accessible from the GLD’s 8.4 inch touch screen.

I was extremely excited to see that the GLD system includes a card slot in the console for expandability similar to the iLive system and cross-compatibility with the iLive system if you put an ACE card in that slot.  However, I’d certainly be more inclined to put a Dante card in there and have a killer multitrack rig or the Waves plug-in’s card and rock some of those.  Either way, that slot option is an extremely powerful option that pushes the GLD farther then the rest because it leaves the door open for future functionality and updates without having to buy a new system.

A feature that is new to Allen & Heath’s digital systems is the ability to record and playback audio files with a USB flash drive.  Hopefully, this functionality will appear on the iLive in a future firmware update.

I must say, I’m really excited about the release of the GLD.  On paper and in pictures, it looks awesome.  Out of the digital console manufacturers, Allen & Heath has planned their development and marketing strategies extremely well.  They developed an extremely innovative family of systems that create a world of flexibility both now and for people who many need to expand down the road as their needs and requirements change.  I will certainly be excited to get my hands on the GLD and work with it in a live concert situation for a real world test.  I will certainly write a demo as soon as I have the opportunity to do so.

For more info, check out A&H’s promo video.

Check out my Hands-on Review of the new ALLEN & HEATH GLD digital console:http://bit.ly/LhKSrL

 

Allen & Heath to announce new digital console January 2012

Yesterday, I received an exciting promotional email from Allen & Heath “leaking” pictures of a new digital console that will be officially announced in January 2012.  You can check out a link to the announcement on the news section of their website by clicking here.

It’s advertised as a “professional digital mixing console system at a distinctly analogue price.”  They also mention that their most accessible digital console will be unveiled in January 2012.  Obviously, it will probably be announced at NAMM which is towards the end of January every year.

It’s a pretty huge deal to me considering what I do and the goals I need to make sure are accomplished on a week-to-week basis.  National Community Church runs Allen & Heath consoles almost exclusively across all of our locations including their current iLive digital series in our Barracks Row location with another iLive system with Dante being installed in our Ebenezers Coffeehouse location early in 2012.

I’d like to give my opinions based on the few teaser pictures that Allen and Heath has released already and try to predict some features that will be available on the new digital system.

Here are a few pictures from the Allen & Heath website.

Picture #1 shows that not only does it feature a touch screen similar to it’s bigger brother, the iLive, but it also has a feature that the iLive does not have as of yet.  It seems like it will feature flash recording to a USB drive as well as playback.  The tab on the top of the navigation screen says “USB Audio” and in the box being displayed below, it says “Playback”, a file name and size as well as controls that seem to allow you to navigate playing the selected file.  Below, there is a finger touching a record button on the screen with an indicator showing how much space you have available on the USB that is plugged in.  Also, the navigation menus to the right of the screen indicate that the operating system will probably be similar to that of the iLive.

The LED channel strips are also similar to the iLive so it seems like Allen & Heath will be keeping a pretty similar vibe across their lines of consoles.

In the second teaser photo, you can see that the button arraignment is similar to the number on the iLive but we’ll have to wait and see exactly what they are but I’d venture to guess that they are Mute, Select, Mix, and PAFL buttons.  It looks like it will look similar to the iLive.  However, I assume they’ll continue the trend that it set when they released the T-series and R-series of flattening the original oddly-shaped i-series modular iLive.  It will feature LED meters on each channel for monitoring levels but obviously not as long as the iLive’s.  To the left of this photo, you see two PK lights which I assume are to indicate peaking on different layers.  That also would mean it features layers which could mean that this console will be capable of a higher channel count then other smaller digital consoles.

Teaser photo #3 confirms a very similar vibe to that of the iLive in orientation of controls and functions.

Teaser photo #4 is another very interesting picture.  It’s a picture of a small section of the control surface and the stage rack.  Purple is certainly an interesting choice of color since the only purple mixer I’ve ever seen to date is a Midas.  The featured stage rack has 12 outputs on it which I’d say is a pretty decent number for a small format console.  There are also 3 Ethercon networking ports on the right side of the stage box.  The top one looks like it says “Expander” and in the picture, it looks like there is a separate rack stacked on top of the main rack so I’d assume you can use multiple stage racks with the same surface.  Second ethernet port down says “Monitor” which makes me wonder if these small stage boxes will support a digital split to a monitor console.  I’ll be interested to see if that is a feature or not.  Finally, the last ethernet port says “dSnake” which I assume is the connection protocol for the new digital system.  I also assume it will not be compatible or interchangeable with any of the iLive systems at this point since the iLive control surface protocols are currently only Ethersound, ACE and MADI.  Photo #5 shows a more close up shot of the stage rack but unfortunately does not show how many channel inputs the stage rack has.  I’m hoping it’s 32 channels.  That would be awesome!

Teaser photo #6 is a picture of the EQ menu on the screen.  Even though it’s cut off, I’m assuming that it will be a FOUR BAND fully parametric EQ with the option to select cut, shelf, or parametric filters on the low end and high end.  You can see five different filters on the screenshot they showed.  Purple looks like a high pass filter, then you see green, light blue, blue and a red filter on the graph.  On the display below the graph you can see that it indicates where you’ve swept the filter and the Q-size.

Bottom line is that I’m really excited about this console.  I’ll certainly keep my eyes and ears open for updates and blog about them as they come out.  If anyone else gets more information, please pass it on to me at jdcastellente@gmail.com.

 

UPDATE:  Allen & Heath has now released more information on this console.  You can check out my post on the release here:  http://jasoncastellente.com/2012/01/mix-with-your-ears-not-your-eyes/

The Next Level

The big question:  ”How do I get to the next level in what I do?”  I’ve always loved audio engineering and mixing.  It’s something I’ve been passionate about for years.  Someone once told me that when you think you’ve arrived and you’ve got no more to learn, you’ve died as a creative and an innovator.  I want to consistently stride forward and improve in my field as and in new areas as well.

There are tons of great nerd books out there that I enjoy reading and learning from.  Hands on time with gear is critical in moving forward.  Mixing shows, tuning systems, training your ears…it’s all critical and I undertand that.  However, I want to take what I do to the next level.  There must be ways to learn more and I need to find them…  I have a few ideas already but still, I want to learn and grow.  I’d love to get some feedback and ideas for how I can do that.

Feel free to comment or shoot me an email at jdcastellente@gmail.com

The Parable of the Talents rewritten for audio guys

 

 

I’m kind of in a silly mood tonight yet also spiritual.  So, I was thinking about one of my previous posts where I talked about the Parable of the Talents as found in Matthew 25 and Luke 19 and I decided to rewrite in more modern terms with a church audio tech twist.  Since all of you know my conversations all come back to audio equipment anyway, this shouldn’t surprise you :-)

Here it goes:

The boss gives his guys some speakers. Terry and Jerry sit down and think about how they can most effectively execute their shows with some dinky speakers.  They figure out how to rent stuff out, market their ideas, do great events and then they’re able to upgrade their gear cause they worked for it.  Joe decides to put his two dinky speakers on his coffee table, sit on his butt and rock out on his couch.  Sure it sounds great in his living room, but that’s as far as it gets.  When the boss gets back, Terry and Jerry are crankin’ up some sweet line arrays with awesome subs and rockin’ their boss’ socks off!  Well, Joe still has the same old speakers that the boss gave him.  The boss is really disappointed, so he fires Joe cause he didn’t do any work!  He gives Joe’s speakers to Terry who promptly grabs them and runs to the front of the room screaming “YES!!  Front fills!!”

And for those of you who want the serious post where I write about the Parable of the Talents, click here.

The God Anthology Live releases TODAY

Today is the day you can download National Community Church’s live CD that was recorded this past August at the Lincoln Theatre in DC.  The God Anthology is available at www.godanthology.com as well as iTunes.  There are samples that you can check out on iTunes by clicking the button below.  I was blessed to be a part of the recording concert and I hope everyone who listens to it is inspirited by the messages and truths that are communicated through the music.  Be sure to rate it and spread the word.  Feel free to retweet my post or share links to the music.  I hope you’re blessed by listening to it!

The God Anthology - National Community Church

Restless Purpose

Lately, I’ve been feeling some kind of restless feeling of wanting to do things better then I have before.  I look back sometimes and I’m amazed and what I’ve been able to do in the short time I have already had on this earth.  I feel very blessed…

I was reading the parable of the talents recently as it was told in Matthew 25:14-30 as well as Luke  19:12-27.  Each person was given gold in bags from their master.  They were given a portion of the master’s greatness and wealth.  In fact, a talent was one of the largest measurements of currency at the time.  So this was a big deal especially because someone’s greatness in the culture of that time was determined largely by their wealth.  Two of the servants went and invested that gold, so that they had something to show for the time they were given before their master returned.  But one of the servants simply went and hid his gold.  Personally, I always think, “what the heck?  Why would you do that?”  It’s kind of like jamming you wallet down in the couch, sitting there all day, not going to work, and expecting to make money.  Not going to happen.  But the two others went out, worked hard and made something happen!

Now, let’s go back.  Way back…to the creation of the world.  God Almighty spoke the world into existence and created everything out of nothing.  But He saved the best for last.  He created man completely different from anything else.  He created man in the image and likeness of Himself and breathed the breath of life into him.

How does this tie in the story of the talents?

Not only has God created us in His image and likeness, He has entrusted us with a gift like the servants received from their master.  We have been given a portion of our Master’s greatness that we must invest during our lifetime.  It’s a process of hard work and dedication to the cause or calling that God has laid out before us.  Maybe it’s a spiritual gift or a practical skill that we use in our occupation.  We must invest it wholeheartedly and responsibly.  That doesn’t mean we will never make a mistake or lose something we’ve gained, but more of a continual process of pressing on and forward to the greatest reward from a faithful investment.

I am certainly earlier on in this process.  God has blessed me abundantly in the time I have lived and I am thankful for the investment He has entrusted me with.  I don’t want to miss out on anything He has planned for me.  Lately though, I’ve been pretty critical of myself in what I am working on as far as my own projects and learning as well as my work for National Community Church.  In my heart, I yearn to continue moving forward and investing in the Kingdom of God.  The hard part is the actual investing.  This uncertainty in how to reach the goals that God has set before me has definitely made me quite restless at times.

However, the master didn’t tell his servants how to invest their money or how to do anything with that money.  He gave them the order, and they needed to figure out what to do in order to meet the end goal.  That is my frustration.  I feel like sometimes, it is really difficult to find the right ways to invest.  I am always looking for new ways to do things and use what God has given me but still I always seem to wonder if I’m doing enough or if I’m trying hard enough.  Am I working on things that matter and make a difference?  Am I pushing too hard on issues that don’t matter as much as I think they do?  What can I be learning in each and every circumstance and where can I go from there?  I’m learning more and more about God each day through the investment He has placed in me and even if I don’t always do everything right, I’ll still try to head the right direction and recklessly pursue the purpose he has place in my heart and in my life.

JBL PRX635 Review

 

One of my reviews originally posted on www.musicgearreview.com.

Okay, so you’ve had a long day at work and you can’t wait to get out and play that gig tonight.  You’ve got your day job, but you love the opportunity to play your music. You meet up with your buddies and pack everything into the van and hit the road. Once you get there, now its time to haul all of your gear in, set up and do your very best to make things sound as good as possible.

Chances are, you’re already whipped and exhausted from the day, but lugging all that gear in kicked your butt.  If you’re in a band that has to bring their own PA (or feels like they have to bring in their own PA after they see what the venue is or ISN’T providing) it gets a lot harder not only on your back, but your wallet.  All of that makes it really hard to put on a great show that everyone will love.  Fortunately, JBL has released a new series of portable loudspeakers called the PRX600 that sound great right out of the box while still maintaining a price that the working musician can stomach and weight that won’t kill your back.

Recently, I needed to purchase a system that would be able to rock a 300-seat auditorium but would also be versatile enough to be used as a portable indoor / outdoor touring system.  I knew the PRX series was solid because I had heard the self-powered JBL PRX635 before.  So, I decided to look at the whole series before making my final decision.

Lots of options
There is a decent variety within the series; all of which are self-powered.  There is a 2-way with a single 12 inch woofer, a 2-way with a single 15 inch woofer, a 2-way with dual 15 inch woofers, and a 3-way with a diaphragm compression driver, a mid range horn and a dual voice coil neodymium woofer.  There are two subwoofers in the series as well but none of them had the output that I was looking for so I decided to go with a passive SRX series subwoofer which I will be reviewing soon.  Ultimately, I decided to go with the PRX635 for my set up.

The PRX635 features two XLR jacks on the back.  One is a pass thru so you can daisy chain multiple PRX635’s together and the other feeds a class-D 1500 watt Crown amplifier with a preset DBX DSP input section featuring a limiter as well as the internal crossover that splits up signal to each of the 3 drivers. The JBL spec sheet claims that it can produce a maximum of 135 dB which I completely agree with.  These speakers are totally capable of some serious bump!  But, bump is nothing without a quality sound.  The PRX635’s cover 90°x50° and can push 53Hz-18Khz with only a variance of plus or minus 3 dB which is awesome because most people can barely hear a difference of 3 dB.  Also, any variances are easily fixed with a 31 band EQ. It also has a user selectable EQ on the back allowing you to choose to run it flat or with JBL’s preset EQ.  I found their preset EQ totally useless because the speaker’s response is solid to begin with.  No crazy corrections or major boosts and cuts are needed for my application.  With that kind of frequency response, you can pick these up and wait a little while and get subs later because they will be able to hold their own.  They have a surprising and accurate low-end presence while still maintaining clear and crisp highs.

Lightweight heavyweight
The PRX635 speaker box is made out of lightweight poplar plywood, which is one of the best features because the whole unit only weights in at 60 pounds! The construction feels solid even after I loaded and unloaded them a few times as well as set them up and pushed them pretty hard.  The outside is covered in Obsidian DuraFlex finish.  I have no idea why it includes “dura” anything in the name because the finish is anything but durable.  It chipped off very easily after the first gig.  It did not effect performance at all, but they look like I beat the heck out of them.  That was kind of disappointing to me but as long as the sound quality was not compromised, I guess it’s okay. They have large ergonomic handles on the sides which are covered in rubber to increase grip when moving them or positioning them.

I have read online that the PRX series does have a problem with rattling inside of the unit when they are pushed hard and apparently, it is something that shows up after some use.  So, I figured I’d just be aware and keep my ears open for it.  Just recently, one of my speakers started doing just that.  The other ones aren’t doing it but I assume it’s only a matter of time.  It is not a major problem because you can really only hear the rattling from behind the speaker. It does not affect the sound quality that you are standing in front of the speaker.  It is just slightly annoying.

The Bottom Line
Overall, I must say I am pleased with the performance of the PRX635’s.  As far as bang for your buck, they come in at a pretty sweet $999.  There are small issues with the finish and the internal rattling but I think it is still a very solid competitor in that niche of the live sound market.  Check them out today!

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