Are you keeping your tech area organized? The most indelible impression that sticks with me about each and every booth that I have been in is the organization—or the lack thereof. I am going to preach about the importance of keeping your sound booth clean and organized. You need to have systems in place, communication, and the proper tools and supplies to organize it and keep it that way.
I always tell anyone new working with me the following, please put everything back and keep it organized, so if you need to call me to help you over the phone, I can pretty much tell you where everything is so we can troubleshoot an issue quickly or avoid it all together. Which leads me to my next point – Systems to Have in Place.
Systems to Have in Place
As dull as the process can be, the engineer in you should make you want to put together a comprehensive inventory of all sound, video and lighting gear. Building a master list that includes all serial numbers and descriptions of audio, video, and lighting equipment should be part of your process. Note the date the item was purchased, what was paid for it, and even where it was purchased. A copy of that list should be kept in the church office for insurance purposes “just in case”.
If various ministries within your church borrow audio, video, and lighting gear, consider having a formal equipment check-out system. In other words, people don’t just run through the sanctuary and grab a mic stand or floor monitor or a couple of cables with the best of intentions to return them later! Unless, you’re cool with coming in on Sunday morning only to find that the mics you pre-set on Thursday for the Children’s Choir are missing, you should exercise some control over how people can access the gear and, more importantly, ensure that it actually does get returned when promised.
How long have you been putting off organizing the tech closet? Adding wood dowels to organize how cables are stored, building a work bench where you can handle simple repairs, including proper task lighting to do that work, ample shelving for storage as well as locking drawers to keep expensive items from walking off – all of those features will help you do your job better.
You can make this year better than last year. Less stressful. More fun. Better for everyone involved. Everyone reading this is at a different point in the process of getting organized. Know that you don’t need to do it all at once. I just encourage you to assess where you are with such things, pick something and get started. If you don’t take the step, then you’ll be asking yourself these same questions a year from now. Why go through another year of being frustrated by the little things when taking some small steps to get your tech life organized now will help you enjoy this year like none other?
It has been said that poor communication can keep any organization from being successful. What steps can you take to ensure open communication this year? Do you use any planning software to help your team stay on top of the schedule? If the entire tech team is you and Mike, and you always alternate weekends, then you don’t need an online planning system. But as your team grows, using some accessible, easy to use scheduling tool can help everyone remember who is taking responsibility for all thing’s tech, especially for special events, rehearsals, etc.
Tools & Supplies
This is a good time to take stock of your tools and supplies. If all you still have is that 15W soldering pencil and one cheap screwdriver, you’re just going to stay frustrated with the state of things. It’s time to get real. Maybe this is the year that you should go ahead and buy a quality set of screwdrivers, wire strippers, nut drivers, and a couple of wrenches. It will be the best money you ever spent for the tech ministry. Maybe next year you can budget to buy that quality soldering station and vise. Once you have it, you’ll wonder how you ever got along without it.
Beyond the batteries for wireless mics, do you have a well-organized supply of typical parts like XLR connectors, quarter-inch plugs, Neutrik SpeakOn’s, BNC’s and RJ45’s? Do you have spare mic cables, speaker cables, video cables, CAT5 cables, and lighting extension cables? What about a Spare Digital Snake and cable? Do you have special cables and adapters for when a guest speaker comes in and needs a different type of video connection than what you normally use? Think it through and make sure that you can handle any “surprise” connection need.
There are some little things that can be a big help in the sound booth:
— If you have multiple wireless mics, simply put a different colored piece of electrical tape on each system. Using the same color on the transmitter and receiver will allow for a quick visual check of which transmitter goes with which receiver.
— If you have a patch bay, use different color parch cables for input and output connections. If you only have one color patch cable, use colored tape on the connectors. Purchase a patch cable hanger to store the extra cables. You can even use a kitchen towel hanger.
—To store extra connectors there are many plastic storage containers that have multiple compartments for holding things.
—For the various loose cables that inevitably end up in a booth, use a simple plastic storage unit/file cabinet. This same type or storage works well to hold wireless transmitters and assorted microphones.
Being organized can make a big difference in the peace you experience during sound check, and always results in a better service—at least from a sonic perspective. Remember: Stay Organized.
About the Author
Bill Di Paolo has worked in live production for over 30 years, He is the owner and technical director of Entertainment Services, a production company based in upstate New York that handles lighting, audio and video for events of all sizes in the Northeast. If you have questions for Bill you may send them to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.