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Working Around a Challenging RF Environment for Worship, Part 2

Nov 18, 2010 9:44 AM, With Bennett Liles

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Yes, you progress and the system gets more complex and you add more things to take care of more performers. It’s really easy to get boxed in and build your own skyline right out there in the middle of the house.
Absolutely, absolutely. So it makes a great feature not to have to do that. [Timestamp: 8:51]

So you mentioned that there’s a lot of churches around there along in your neighborhood. Do you have to coordinate any RF with them or do you just watch out for each other?
I have not had to coordinate any with them yet. I see the day coming. We are luckily surrounded by neighborhoods. It’s like a neighborhood, and then diagonal from us is another church and diagonal from them is another church, so we’re spaced out just enough that I’m not having to really worry about it, but I don’t ever take anything for granted, so if we get to too much adding of too many more wireless, I got a feeling I’ll be making some visits around the neighborhood to talk to some churches. [Timestamp: 9:30]

Do they have any way of seeing your service? Do you broadcast it or stream it online or anything?
We’re working on that. Yes, we do though. We record everything as much as we can it feels like. We actually do Digidesign ProTools multitrack—actually, excuse me, Avid Pro Tools. They have moved to Avid audio, and we’re using Pro Tools and multitrack recording everything. You cannot hear that—obviously [with] copyright stuff. All we really do is we will make an MP3 of the sermon, and we use that and then we also record everything on video also. And we have a great piece of gear that’s called the AJA Ki Pro, and it is an external hard drive that records all of your video. [It] just records an output of our switcher directly to it, and it’s a 250GB hard drive that I’m able to just eject from that recorder, put on my computer, and pull it over so I don’t have to wait for realtime dump down or anything like that, and that is a phenomenal piece of gear and have been really pleased with it. And so we are working on getting that up. We’ve had a few issues with our player on the Internet as of late, but we are putting them up on the Internet as quick as we can, and very very soon we will be getting on iTunes and be under Asbury UMC that you will able to actually download our podcasts also. [Timestamp: 10:57]

All right, will do. I was wondering though, even now, with all the stuff you’ve got, how long does it take when you walk in there to get from zero to completely ready to go for the Sunday service?
I get to a Sunday service—let’s see—I try to be here right at 7 o’clock on a Sunday morning and we’re running by 8:45, and that is me coordinating all volunteers. Everybody else gets here right at 7:30 and we do a run through; we all warm up and make sure everything’s working correctly and we’re done by 8:20. So in less than an hour, we’re up and running and are able to go full on and ready to go. I think we could probably push it and make it even quicker. We don’t like to do that—at least I don’t—and so we can do it pretty quickly though. [Timestamp: 11:46]

Well, once you get the routine down, it gets a lot easier and especially after you’ve gotten the volunteers trained on their jobs and you’re not trying to break in a lot of new people.
And we’re giving them checklists and things of that—check through this, check through that, check through this, and so that they’re able to go, “OK, I need to make sure everything is right where it needs to be.” [Timestamp: 12:04]

You mentioned the other churches. What’s your take on the 700 MHz situation on the wireless systems? How aware do you think the church tech people are and how on top of that do you think they are overall?
Well like I said, before I came here, I designed audio, video, and lighting systems for churches, and I would say 90 percent of them aren’t ready. Obviously we have made the transition; we have made the jump. It is technically—I guess, it has become illegal if remember correctly that they have officially said it is illegal to use the 700MHz, but we haven’t, in my opinion, haven’t seen the major effects of it, especially in the rural markets. Like I said, I came from a place in Louisiana, and they weren’t as populated as at Dallas and in Atlanta and in New York and Boston and L.A., and so we weren’t as worried with this 700MHz transition. But now that these cellphone companies are buying it and are wanting to become the nation’s largest carrier or whatever they want to call themselves today, we definitely have to be aware of it, and so I think every church out there who’s using wireless line needs to make sure that somebody in their campus understands what is happening, what has happened, and what will continue to happen in that MHz range as well as how they can avoid that future problem and obviously if you’re buying used gear, what gear not to buy and things. So I feel like they’re not prepared, but I feel like we’re making slow and steady progress in the world of making sure everybody is prepared. [Timestamp: 13:38]

Well, I think after a few maybe front-page stories and a few stiff fines…

The FCC’s not the one’s you have to worry about. I think they don’t have the wherewithal to go around pleasing everybody, but the people who bought the spectrum do have deep enough pockets to do that.
I agree with you. I think that once you see a couple of those kind of things happen, you’re going to start getting the phone calls of, “What do we need to do to fix this?” And in fact, here when they sent out the press release and said it’s now illegal, here we are a campus of 3,500 people and I had just been here for a couple months at this point, and I got an email from one of my bosses here, our executive director, and he said, “Are we prepared for this?” And I’m going—“We’re a big church and we’re just now looking at it.” I kind of laughed at him. I said, “You are. I made sure we’re prepared here.” And I had gone across the street and looked at all the wireless and I laughed. I said, “Yeah, no we’re golden on all of them,” and so we had obviously made that transition, but even a church who’s as predominant—we are one of the the largest 25 churches in the United Methodist Conference in America and we we’re going, “Are we ready for this? What is this?” And so it’s a confusing thing, but I think a few fees and fines and you’ll see people wake up pretty quickly. [Timestamp: 15:01]

So where does it look like you’re going from here? You got anything in the works? What do you got coming up?
Man, we’re at a growing church. Of course we have more! Let’s see, what do we have coming up? I think my next big goal is to advance some of our lighting. We have some really great lighting and we use ETC for all of our lighting, and we’re using several of their LED fixtures. I think we want to move, in the future, to some more lighting. We have a song-writing team here who is in the process of developing music that we can use, and I think the ultimate goal would be to be a complete inhouse creative arts team. And what I mean by that is making our own videos, making our own records if we can, and making our own worship albums and our videos for preservice and postservice. And so my goal is, through time, to hopefully get to add some staff and keep growing and keep presenting the gospel, keeping the message of Christ in our fore-front. That is our number one goal. Our message is everything. When we lose our message we need to quit, and so for us the step forward is to just keep growing creatively, and when our creative director comes to me and says, “Can we do this?” for my first answer not to be “No” but to be, “Yeah we can,” because we prepared and planned for an expansive worship service where we have the ability to add more things to it. [Timestamp: 16:28]

Well, I wish you all the best with that. I know it’s a handful with the volunteers and all the equipment you’ve got to take care of. But Beau it’s been great having you here on the SVC podcast. It’s Beau Miles with Asbury United Methodist Church in Madison, Ala., right near Huntsville. Thanks for being with us.
I really appreciate it. I loved being here.

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