It’s Just a House

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I flip the lights on early this morning and I see that people have been hard at work.

It’s under construction.

Someone’s been in the house.

Preparing. Thinking ahead.

Working with others in mind.

Tonight in this house, hundreds of young people will gather to worship Jesus. Some for the very first time.

Their arrival was planned for.

Intentional.

Deliberate.

The sacrifice of many for the freedom of a few.

Tonight we’ll meet with God. And turn a house into a hall of homes. Where the Holy Spirit can reside.

It’s just a house. Full of miracles.

ch:

Building Sprig Records Studio: Log Entry 6

20120412-070722.jpgOne of the coolest little features about the new studio is something my father is particularly proud of: a set of Jefferson Stairs.

Invented by the late President Thomas Jefferson in order to conserve space, Sprig’s variation uses a central laminated beam with incremental steps on either side. The effect is a surprisingly natural climb into The Loft that overlooks the Control Room and Main Studio A.

Bob Brola and his son Mike have taken the lead on this and thrown their hearts into the project. While the final steps will be more elaborate and include galvanized piping throughout the architecture, yesterday’s mock-up had all of us climbing on it like boys on a jungle gym.

Boys will be boys.

ch:

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Review of The Hungers Games Movie

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I finally went out to see The Hunger Games with my Dad yesterday. After reading the books by Suzanne Collins right when they came out, I was excited to hear the manuscripts would be hitting the silver screen.

As a fan of such works as Brave New World, 1984, and Lord of the Flies, I’ve thought THG’s off-beat premise is one of the more compelling in the last few years. I admire stories that seem to have their own gravitational pull, not just because of their characters, but their absurdly outlandish yet dangerously plausible scenarios. It’s fiction enough that you feel safe for the time being, but inwardly you’re thinking, “Dang, I sure hope this never happens to me.”

Given that Collins wrote THG in first-person present – not only the hardest point of view to write from, but also the most grueling tense – I had even higher hopes for the film. Yet how often have we all been disappointed by the on-screen adaptation?

Early screen shots released on the Internet last year had me worried. It looked like it was shaping up to be a made-for-TV movie, not a piece of cinema. But fortunately that was the marketing firm’s fault. Within the first thirty seconds I knew I was in for a good show.

If anything, my only complaint was that the film employed too many close ups, not enough wide shots, and the Director of Photography and his crew had IV’s of Jolt as the camera shaking was a little over the top. Granted, I got they were trying to build intensity and probably capture Collins’ first-person present POV; but when things are distracting and not complimentary, the art is missing the point. It could have been toned down and still gotten the same message across. Hungry? I was starving for the steady, wide shots when they finally came.

Having Collins on as one of the Producers ensured the story stayed true to the book – an absolute must for a piece like this. It also made sure the casting was impeccable.

Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss Everdeen) was feminine enough that she was beautiful, yet not so dainty that you didn’t fully believe she could hold her own and survive in the woods. Peta was exactly as I pictured him, as we’re Rue, Kato, Glimmer and others. And I thought bringing in Donald Sutherland, Lenny Kravitz, Woody Harrelson, and Elizabeth Banks were all great touches.

My dad poignantly commented that the score (James Newton Howard, T-Bone Burnett) was understated, a welcomed change to many hyped-up flicks, and exuded the naturally tendencies of the tribal, the hunt, and the melancholy. Strings, drums, and Celtic-folk undercurrents were extremely complimentary.

Obviously the movie had to cut out a lot. But on our ride home, hearing my father bring up a lot of the exact emotions I’d experienced while reading the first book lead me to know Collins had helped invoke her same intensity into the film versions of her story as well.

For those concerned about the content or premise: yes, THG aren’t for everyone. But I found the themes of self-sacrifice, overcoming tyranny, confronting personal demons, and the mob-lust of a pleasure-saturated and flamboyant elite society all strikingly relevant. Not just entertaining, these are reminders that our culture needs to hear.

ch:

Building Sprig Records Studio: Log Entry 5

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Finishing Schedule: Lighting, Flooring, Paint, Textures

Yesterday was a creative fire storm of wonderment as my design team converged on Sprig Records Studio with cameras, laptops, and iPads in hand.

Peter and Kristen dissected materials and color palettes, while Jason created a mobile office where he brought still images into 3D space for pre-viz of surfaces. A myriad of lighting concepts and materials were discussed, many of which were recycled. Another father-and-son team Bob and Rob Brola were there to make sure things stayed practical and within budget. And videographer and designer Joseph Channell was there to capture it all on camera.

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A special thanks goes out to Jeff Arquette who’s sheet rocking expertise has been put to the test on this project. He’s treated every angle and curve with utmost care, details that would test the mettle of even the best sheet rockers.

From bamboo flooring to avante guard light sculptures to diagonal cedar siding, everyone came up with some pretty formidable and truly creative ideas that will add Sprig to the list of New York’s premier recording environments.

Now for searching sources, getting quotes, gathering materials, and inputting the timeline. Rock on.

ch:

[One of the pre-viz concept designs]
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Reinvention by Fire

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I’m more than halfway through Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs on audio CD. My mom gave it to me for Christmas and I’m just now getting to it.

I always had a lot of respect for Steve, but I had no idea just how diverse, full, liberal, adventurous, ironic, and trial-bound his life truly was. Which makes me respect him all the more.

I’m sure many of my observations will come out here over the next few weeks, from spiritual remarks to business principles to family life. But the thing that’s struck me the most – the thing that’s actually had me saying “Wow” out loud – was the manner in which Steve Jobs embraced moments of blatant defeat, both personally and corporately, and found ways to reinvent himself unto success.

Some by choice, others through what my father called “the great sieve of life,” Steve confronted personal demons that caused him to implode as a twenty- and thirty-something, and allowed him to flourish as a forty-something and beyond.

The interesting thing is that career-wise, Jobs was a multi-millionaire by age 25. But he was far from being a successful person in life. To live life well is a very different venture than running businesses in the black (though arguably related). The embodiment of our expectations, our dreams, our perceived gifting, and the way in which we treat people can make or break us as people.

In the 80′s, Jobs was ornery, prickly, polarizing, a know-it-all, pushy, and brilliant. But through being fired from his own company, building another company that hemorrhaged cash every year (Next), love lost, love gained, marriage, children both in and out of wedlock, and the success of Pixar, he was slightly less prickly, slightly less polarizing, thinking through the need for moral high-ground, patient, and still brilliant.

The very things that tried to destroy him were refining him to tackle the issues he was born to resolve. And he couldn’t face them until he was resolved. Until he was reinvented.

We tend to look at our own lives in the scope of today, this week, and next month. It’s not often we think about who we’ll be in twenty years and the things we’ll need to walk through in order to become the person that our environments need. Most of us – myself included – tend to look back and notice change. But what incredible foresight it is to see change that needs to take place ahead of us, and then embrace it.

I believe the root of such vision is divine in origin. It comes from a connection to the Holy Spirit who sees the end from the beginning.

I’ll save my limited thoughts on Steve’s spirituality for another day. Whether he had foresight, or simply was a product of the pressures that assailed him remains to be seen. But it’s apparent that he was able to accept many of the maturing influences that life threw him and grow.

Don’t put off your future fortunes by failing to miss the point of your present pressures. ch:

YWAM (JEM) French Web Store is Live

The world is full of amazing people who work tirelessly and namelessly behind the scenes to promote the Gospel. I am privileged to have befriended many such people over the years, and count it an honor to serve along side them with many of their selfless – and often covert – exploits.

The French-speaking world was blessed yesterday when Youth With a Mission’s French counterpart, Jeunesse en Mission, launched their first-ever web store for the general public. It is full of amazing resources, including books, CDs, teaching materials, and sheet music, to both equip Christians and reach the unsaved.

Based in Yvderon, Switzerland, JEM works fervently to publish original works of Christian littérature and music, doing all the translation, printing, producing and promoting themselves. My hat’s off to Sylvain Freymond and his amazing team; heaven will speak of their exploits for eternity.

If you know anyone in the French-speaking world – Christian or not – please forward this link on to them. It is an invaluable resource and further proof that God gifted mankind with technology for the singular purpose of promoting the Kingdom; everything else is just an added blessing.

And of course you can order Le Ciel Touche La Terre (Heaven Meets Earth) on there as well. Enjoy! ch:

Building Sprig Records Studio: Log Entry 3

Yesterday I had the honor of watching two of my heros collaborate.

Master audio engineer and producer Peter Hopper dreaming with master designer Jason Clement.

It was epic. Drawings everywhere, ideas spouting, visualization well underway. The studio is framed out, over 35,000′ of cabling laid, and ready for insulation and sheetrock. Now we’re working on the finishes list and lighting.

Team work is everything to me. Whereas before I preferred to work alone – taking credit, and penalties for myself – today I wouldn’t dream of doing something by myself. Co-laboring has become the only way I know, cherishing the inspiration and insight that others bring to the creative table.

Interesting that God views humanity with the same interest. Thus why he loves building with us, not around us.

Sprig Records is rising. ch:

God Spaces

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Last night Jennifer and I had the privilege of taking this stage in the mountain-ensconced city of Martigny. Christians from all over the region gathered together for their monthly night of worship, and we were so honored to serve them with our team. Jennifer in particular had some powerful things to share with the people and was used mightily in song.

One thing that impressed me was the Swiss team’s ability to transform an ordinary hotel ballroom into a house of worship. They worked tirelessly, imported a truck-load of gear, and managed to create an atmosphere where not only did people feel welcome, but the Lord did too.

Creating God-spaces in our lives is extremely important. They help facilitate moments of encounter and inspire long-term memories. Whether it’s a prayer closet, a stage, a forest-nook, or a church sanctuary, creating a physical space where people can connect with the Holy Spirit is not only something I’m passionate about forming, but God is too.

Of course His greatest space is that of the human heart. He’s very intentional about turning it from a dark, cold rock into a warm and inviting home. But he was just as passionate about prescribing specific instructions to builders of the Tent of Meeting – the Tabernacle – and the Temple.

What’s your role in preparing God-spaces? Being intentional with your preparations is not only good for you, but benefits those who are effected by your service. Minimizing distractions helps eliminate disappointments. ch:

Inspiring Awe with Your Passions

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Worshipping the Lord is a lifestyle.

Yes, music plays a key role, as does our response to it. Like it or not, the biggest book in the Bible is a compilation of song lyrics from an elite group of writers. Like a 4,000 year old version of ASCAP/CCLI.

But recognizing all the various ways we bring him glory is paramount in understanding the value of using our passions to bring him glory.

Glory is better defined as “things that summon awe” than the proverbial appearance of a mystic cloud of his presence (though there is Biblical precedent for the later).

Everything you see in this shot was constructed by extremely passionate people. To my knowledge, none of them are of a quality to perform a memorable singing solo, nor would they prefer the limelight to even attempt it.

But this stage set has inspired to many compliments – so much awe – that it’s assisted people in a very direct way of connecting with the beauty and majesty of God.

It’s awe-some.

Not awe-a-lot. That would be Jesus himself.

But our passions + “some awe” = a worship experience that points others to Jesus. That’s ultimately one of the greatest rolls you can play in life.

My heartfelt thanks to Megan Buckles for being Project Manager on this one; and to her husband Dave, as well as Zach, Trey, and Faith. Thank you for inspiring wonder in those who worship at New Life. ch:

Backstage Right

Most people at New Life never see backstage right. And for good reason. It’s ugly. It has a work bench, cables, staging area, racks, shelves, and more odds and ends than we know what to do with.

Yet backstage areas have always been my favorite. There’s a sense of raw anticipation about them. That great things are prepared in these wings. It’s where strings are changed, cables are repaired, cues are made, and prayers are offered that will never be heard elsewhere.

To the public it’s objectionable, but to the performing artist it’s home.

My dad always told me growing up that the most glamorous jobs to the public are actually 90% grunge and 10% glory.

The myth of overnight success is just that – a myth.

People with anything worth promoting have labored and strived and crafted and honed and cried for years.

The public sees the 10% and thinks it’s 100%. So be careful not to make the same mistake when comparing your present creative circumstances with your eventual goals. Anything worth doing is worth taking your time and doing it right. Because your 10% will come.

Here’s to all those wading through the mire of the 90%. Enjoy the journey while you can – it won’t last forever. ch:

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The Lair

Serving people.

It’s what makes our Production Team tick at New Life.

But often we focus so much on serving the people that come in to our services, we don’t realize we’re also serving one another as Production Team members: doing things for one another’s ministries that make them run smoothly.

When we’re “in the lair,” our own execution of duties with excellence ensures someone else has all they need to do their job with excellence.

We are co-dependent.

We are a team.

One of the greatest motivators for doing things with excellence is recognizing that other peoples’ successes are based upon what we provide them.

Get in the lair, dig in, and serve with excellence. ch:

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Need Inspiring Church Graphics?

I’m sitting on a big project right now. So stoked. Can’t say much. But I can at least ask a very cool question:

Would you or your church pay a small fee to have professional print collateral (weekly handouts, handbills, response cards, business cards, letterhead, posters, billboards) custom designed for your church?

I know, I know. Your church isn’t that big. But it should be thinking big. Because we have a lot of people to reach. And let’s face it: we reach them – in part - through how things look. We are a visual-value based society. And the Church is not exempt. If anything, She’s called to lead.

I know lots of small churches would love to move beyond Microsoft clip art, multicolored copy paper, and Papyrus and Times New Roman typefaces. (Or someone should inform them). But hiring a full-time, or even part-time, graphic designer is pretty low on the Board’s priority list.

So what if you could hire us?

New Life’s Creative Team helps your church standout in your town’s culture in a big way, you help keep our staff employed.

Every business venture, Kingdom or not, must be a win-win to work. This could be your church’s chance to radically change the way it presents itself to the community. And this is our chance to invest into the Body on a global scale, and fund the development of the creative arts within the Kingdom.

Open to all your thoughts and comments, especially if you or your church would like to chat. No pressure. ch:

Dear Jon

“Your message is too subtle for Bible thumpers, and too honest for the party scene.”

My friend Matt Drake wrote Jon Foreman a letter this week.

It said everything I wish I could say to Jon.

So I hijacked it and “signed” it in the comments section. Now I’m linking to it.

If you’re a Switchfoot fan, this letter runs in your blood; if you’re not, maybe you’ll understand your friends who are a little better.

http://www.fuquestions.com/blogs/dear-jon-a-love-letter-to-switchfoot

ch:

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Video Production Schematic

Audio is fairly easy. There are loads of tutorials online, gear is easy to come by – especially used – and almost any church geek can help you get set up in a few hours.

But video is a whole other animal. In fact, it’s probably not even an animal at all. It’s a monster.

I have been asked countless times (no – seriously – I’ve lost count) to share just how we’ve wired New Life’s live video production department. The reason? There’s very little out there on video. And what’s there requires a very steep learning curve, tons of proprietary information, and a skill set that – among other things – necessitates the discipline of monitoring gear that changes monthly. That, and the equipment is expensive enough that you can’t afford to make mistakes.

The other factor is that there’s very little out there for mid-size budgets.

Sure, anyone can plug a home video camera into a computer via firewire and get a livestream.com or ustream.com account for their church. We’ve done that, and it served it’s purpose for a season. But it won’t last long, unless your viewers love when your senior pastor’s message gets interrupted by a 30 second Teen Wolf commercial of a guy groping a girl. (True story).

And on the high end? Well, you don’t even want to know. I followed a lead that my friend in a 5,000 member church gave me for what they use: a Spider box from Vista Systems. Oh, it did everything I wanted, and then some. Even had the name recognition of being used in FoxNews studios, CNN, the NFL, and other major production facilities. And for an entry level price of $53,400 I immediately understood why. “Yeah, I’m going to have to pass on this one,” I politely said and then hung up.

Back to the drawing board.

After joining nearly every video message board, having emails and posts go unanswered (or under answered) for weeks on end, and researching far more than I had time for, I decided no one was going to help me the way I needed, and that I didn’t have the budget to hire a consulting firm (only then to spend more money on the actual gear I needed).

I was going to have to create something from scratch.

The following represents 6 months of work (with even more research before that from my Video Director, Tim Desormo), a lot of sleepless nights, and the inevitable call from my “video savior” Mike Ricks of Westside Baptist Church in Gainesville, FL, who – after seeing one of my final desperate pleas on a message forum along the lines of, “Will someone just please tell me if this schematic I’ve created will work?” – wrote me back and said, “Bro. It will totally work. We’re doing the same thing down here. Call me.”

I’m making this schematic as well as a detailed description below available completely free because, a) this is the Kingdom, and we share our successes as well as our failures, and b) I don’t want others going through the hardships I went through.

Many thanks go to Mike Ricks, Eric Dally (LCM), Jeremy Bielawski (TFH), Dave Bode (Elim), David Seaman (Revive), and my own production team, Tim Desormo, Tammy Desormo, and Joseph Gilchrist. Without your patience and input, we’d still be interrupted by Teen Wolf every Sunday.

NEW LIFE VIDEO SCHEMATIC OVERVIEW

CLICK TO DOWNLOAD HIGH REZ PDF

MAC PRO: Our main hub is an Apple Mac Pro 8 Core tower. We have a cinema display and a wireless keyboard and mouse. It’s hardwired into our router, serviced by Westelcom’s screaming fast fiber optic lines that provide us with amazing 17mbps up and 10mbps down service. Among other video editing and ripping applications, our main use for the system is Wirecast. Tied with it is Desktop Presenter which I’ll discuss under the iMac section.

WIRECAST: Rather than going back to physical hardware (TV monitors, switching consoles, lots of cable, and a $15-$20,000 price tag), I wanted to stay digital, knowing software was easier to upgrade, and I had more than enough power. Wirecast by Telestream was the answer, especially at $400 for the por version. It allows for mixing of multiple shots in multiple layers all in real time, including chromakeying and clear background PNG overlays (that we produce in Photoshop for each series). Even more important than the mixing features is the encoding abilities. Wirecast has the ability to assign our final signal to multiple locations at once, including our in-house projectors, video and audio archiving, online iCampus streams (flash), and our iPhone and iPad streams.

LIGHTCASTMEDIA: Unrelated to Wirecast, LightCastMedia is the largest Christian live-streaming servers in the world (if not the largest), and provides the backend of all our delivery, bandwidth, and storage needs (see LifeChurch.tv). Erik Dally has been an indispensable wealth of knowledge, and represents a company that provides amazing customer service and reliable products.

CAMERAS & VIDEO CARDS: Until we’re ready to make the jump to HD, we’ve been buying up used Cannon GL2′s (broken tape drives, bad mics) and utilizing their great white balance options for low light and their great glass (lenses). We’ve been running BNC cable (available cheap and fast from monoprice.com), but for longer distances – and the eventual conversion to HD – we’re starting to use only cat5 with RCA converters on either end. The video cards that work best and have the least amount of lag are Decklink’s Blackmagic Intensity Pro cards. Each one will run you about $200, but your lag time will be about 13ms. (The only better solution that I know of is the Spider box. Refer to price tag previously mentioned). The Mac Pro can handle up to 3 cards (with one camera per card), and each card comes with the wiring harness that allows for all sorts of marvelous connections concoctions. I ordered ours through B&H Photo out of Manhattan. (Note that each card must be installed and set up one-at-a-time. A fairly simple process, but you’ll bugger it up if you do them all at once).

iMAC: We use a new iMac to run ProPresenter 4 by Renewed Vision. In my opinion it’s the simplest and most straight forward display program on the market, especially if you’re an Apple user. Making the switch for a few of my PC-only users has taken some getting used to, but they are enjoying the OS. (Side note: at New Life we stress that we’re not Mac or PC people – we’re Kingdom people. I’ve seen geek loyalty, which I’m the first to be guilty of, get in the way of friendships and stir up dissension. Make a policy on your team to celebrate the use of technology for the Kingdom regardless of your allegiances. I can truly say I celebrate someone’s new Droid as much as I celebrate someone’s new iPhone). The tricky part here is that – because the Mac Pro can’t except a fourth video card – we had to figure out a way to make Wirecast “see” the iMac as another camera. This is where Desktop Presenter comes in (included with your purchase of Wirecast). This little app lets you select a screen on the originating computer (in our case, a cheap Dell monitor that ProPresenter is sending a full-screen output of it’s master display to), and Wirecast – using it’s internal Desktop Presenter protocol – “senses” the IP address of the sending computer (our iMac) and treats it as a “new shot.” Because we edit the shot on Wirecast to chromakey out green, and logically make all the slides in ProPresenter have a green background, a always have song lyrics displayed over top of camera shots whenever the Media Director (on the iMac) changes slides – all in real time.

AUDIO: The last component is actually sometimes the trickiest to run. Our audio. That’s because we’re using the Mac Pro not only as a receiver for audio coming from our console (which is how our online audience hears the services), but we also play videos in-house from Wirecast – which means if we don’t mute the incoming console feed, we’ll get a feedback loop (as the viewers would hear both the original play-video audio, as well as the audio coming back through the front-of-house console). Like wise, the in-house audience hears a wild looping delay. So making sure our Video Director stays on top of things is key. (It’s one of the biggest jobs we have on a Sunday morning and requires a lot of practice, diligence, and discipline). You’ll also note the implementation of a small powered Mackie 1202 console, which you can pick up super cheap. This has been one of the only solutions we’ve found that conditions the line-level output of the main console into the Mac Pro without frequency oscillation issues or ground hums. It also allows us to use extra outputs or aux sends to power speakers placed thorughout our production suites so we can hear what’s happening in the sanctuary (as we’re all enclosed in glass up top).

As with any church entity, we’re already looking to expand, adding more projectors, better cameras, bigger screens, and more effects. But for now, the guts of our system will stay the same.

I’m happy to try and field any questions you may have, so ask away. If I don’t know, I’ll reach out to someone who will.

“Getting wisdom is the wisest thing you can do! And whatever else you do, develop good judgment.” Proverbs 4:7 ch:

UPDATED – 2013.07.24: Here is a more recent version of the schematic, which still doesn’t fully reflect the entire system we have today (I need more time to document it); our newest schematic should include our new audio mixing system, and the addition of a third, center-screen projector run from a MacBook Pro handling Wirecast and the same lyric feed from the ProPresenter iMac. Hope it helps! • ch:

nlcc video schematic v3