The biggest and most obvious thing we've done is replace our aging Yamaha GA32/12 FOH console with an AVID Venue SC48 digital console. This brought a huge improvement in the house sound and opened up a range of sonic options and tools that were never available to our volunteers before. The clarity of sound has increased and our techs have been able to increase their knowledge of live sound techniques and sound reinforcement technology. Another huge advantage of our SC48 is its direct integration with ProTools. This allows us to track our band by individual channel and then play back the tracks later as if the band was on stage. This is a huge training opportunity that cannot be overstated. This allows volunteers to come in at any time during the week and practice mixing in a real life situation. This is immensely beneficial when I'm training volunteers and really helps boost their confidence going into a weekend service.
The next change that we've made is directly related to the our new console. We used to run two simultaneous bands, linked via click track, in our Main Auditorium and our Lower Auditorium. However, as you can imagine, this required a lot of coordination, rehearsal time, and tech support. Also, due to room limitations in our Lower Auditorium, it was very difficult to get a good mix of the live band in that space. Because of the routing options available to us, we have been able to route a "band mix minus the vocals" from the Main Auditorium to the Lower Auditorium. There is still a team of vocalists leading the worship, accompanied by the mix from upstairs. The engineer in the Lower Auditorium can tweak EQ on the band feed to fit the room and then mix in the localized vocalists. We've found this to be an excellent solution in our situation, resulting in a satisfactory mix and much less headache for musicians and staff.
The third change is also related to the new SC48. (I see a trend here...) We used to have a separate broadcast mix studio that fed the CD recorder and the Video Booth recordings. Because we run a silent stage, our house mixes are not as, shall we say, lopsided as board mixes in rooms with hotter stages. Furthermore, since we only distribute the teaching portions of our services, even if our band mixes were awful, it wouldn't matter. But the reality is that the FOH board mixes are actually quite good. So in conclusion, it didn't make sense to tie up an audio tech for nearly six hours every Sunday morning for no reason. This also frees up those techs to serve in other locations Sunday mornings. Win, win, win.
Another great change has been our adoption of ProPresenter as our presentation software. We were running Media Shout 3.5 on a dying PC desktop and it had gotten so bad that our techs had to time their slide advancements to account for the 2 second delay in the software. Video playback was jerky, editing lyrics was difficult, and the GUI was not intuitive for volunteers. We were able to upgrade to a iMac running ProPresenter 4 and it has been a great change. Editing lyrics is a breeze, motion backs are smooth, and the Stage Display feature has been very nice for our musicians.
Thats four of the top things we've done in 2010, but there are lots more things we could mention. Moving the Lighting position to the FOH booth, retuning the PA, retuning the Lower Auditorium system, improving our video signal path, updating some of our outdated CC TVs, reconfiguring our two of our tech booths, and numerous other fun, techy things. And there's lots more planned for 2011, but we'll have to wait and see how all that goes.