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Author Topic: Portable Church  (Read 5124 times)

Eric Cole

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Portable Church
« on: January 15, 2011, 10:21:35 pm »

I am a volunteer at a church who is opening its second portable campus.   This will be my first experience with portable churches.  I come from a background of concert and corporate event production.  What has your experience been with portable church and the tips and tricks you have picked up along the way?


 
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Eric Cole

Tom Young

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Re: Portable Church
« Reply #1 on: January 16, 2011, 02:37:22 pm »

Eric-

When advising my clients about or simply observing portable churches I always say/think the same thing: look to the touring, regional and local sound and lighting companies and observe what they do as far as packaging and road-proofing. So much volunteer energy us used up and so much wear & tear is placed on the equipment when done in the usual way that churches do this.

But of course doing this "right", like everything relating to church production (and live soud in the secular world), costs more cash up front. So most churches balk. But over time they almost always pay as much or more when they lose man power and see the effects of failed equipment and wiring systems because they simpy didn't see the wisdom in doing it well (professionally) at the outset.

I'm not saying that anyone needs to go top dollar. I'm saying that reasonable investment in cases, appropriate vehicles, the little things (handtrucks, ramps, inventory control, etc) as well as looking at  ergonomic design of cabling, storage, speaker design, etc. is worth investing in.

That's my general observation. 
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Thomas Lamb

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Re: Portable Church
« Reply #2 on: January 16, 2011, 04:21:28 pm »

I couldn't agree more with Tom. We are working on the launch of our first portable church and I'm biulding it just like I would a touring rig. Multipins (ones that will last w, Veam, ramlatch)are a must and the proper casing is huge. We did a launch last year in a permanent location and the cost to do essentially the same thing portable is considerably higher. Road cases for everything that are well thought out. Make sure that your doghouse is the right size. Consider multiple use of cases ( if you have outboard at foh a pullover lid might be used for a table for the console). Cable trunks might be tables for projectors. Lay it out on paper and think it out well.
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Taylor Phillips

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Re: Portable Church
« Reply #3 on: January 16, 2011, 08:19:32 pm »

1. Good cases
2. Lots of labels - You don't want the bass plugged into the channel the lead vocal was in last week.
3. Set-up/Tear-down process - Make sure it gets set up the same every week and in a timely manner so that you don't lose volunteers or have to start late.

I accompanied a choir in college along with a full band and we had to bring our own equipment to every show.  We had several mics across the front that had a colored band on the mic, a matching colored tab on the cable, matching colored sticker on the snake, and a matching color label on the mixer.  We even labeled the electrical strip as to which outlet the guitar amp, bass amp, keyboard amp and stand lights went to.  The altos were in charge of packing the drum set, the sopranos wrapping the cables, tenors the speakers and mixer, basses the risers.  Then everybody had a hand in packing the van, and we had a specific order for those things to make sure they all fit. We could leave a venue in less than 20 minutes after we finished a show, and that includes changing clothes.
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Jonathan Johnson

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Re: Portable Church
« Reply #4 on: January 16, 2011, 08:51:27 pm »

Minimize the number of cables & connectors you have to handle. Cables are probably the most time-consuming part of setup and tear-down.

Use snakes as much as possible. Besides the main snake from stage to FOH, consider using short drop snakes from the main snake's stage box to various points on stage.

Use multipin connectors. This allows you to leave the "medusa" end of your snake connected to FOH, and only have to make/break a single connection for the entire snake.

At the stage end of the main snake, instead of a traditional stage box, you could terminate the snake at a patch panel in an amp/effects rack. Then, rather than having to plug and unplug the various devices from that rack plus all your microphones, you just use a multipin connector (mounted to the rack case) so you won't need to plug/unplug the rack equipment. You'll only need to wrangle the microphone cables.

If your "portable church" is always in the same location (such as a rented gymnasium), see if the venue owner will let you install some of the main cables in such a way that they are convenient for your but not in the way of other uses. This will save you a bit of time in that you wont have to roll it out and roll it up for every show.
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John Fiorello

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Re: Portable Church
« Reply #5 on: January 20, 2011, 04:20:58 pm »

Use multipin connectors.

+1 on this.  Anything that has multiple lines to it should have their cables together if possible.  If you don't want to spend the $ on multi cables or snakes, at least wrap bulk cable with cable ties or cable organizers.

For example, if you have 2 or 3 keyboards stacked, grab all the cables when the come together and combine them until they get to the DI's.  Color code the ends on each side for easy connection (including the inputs on the keyboard for the volunteer crew) and wrap the cables together as 1 big cable.


Also, pay attention to how the stage area gets set up.  Load your trucks (or whatever) in the reverse order you need to set up so as soon as things come off the truck, they can be setup.  For example, don't bring the drums to the stage before the riser has been brought in.  It's helpful to have 2 groups, one doing load out, another starting the setup (IME) so basic stuff can be ready to go before the truck is empty.


The only other thing I'd suggest that hasn't been mentioned is to make sure you're buying donuts on a regular basis... A happy crew is a quick crew, and a happy crew continues to show up on time :)



JF
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Jonathan Johnson

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Re: Portable Church
« Reply #6 on: January 21, 2011, 10:35:09 am »

This also brings up the dreaded "B" word -- Budget.

Do not simply ask how much money you have to spend. The church board will pull a number out of the air, a wild guess not based on reality. Remember, they are counting on you as the sound guy to advise them on what is needed to fulfill the mission.

Instead, develop a plan for what is needed. Break this into three phases:
  • High-priority items that are needed to solve immediate problems
  • Things that will make your job easier
  • Future growth
List what's needed for each phase and put a price on it. Don't forget cables -- individually they seem like small expenses but, collectively, they add up to enormous amounts of money and you will need a LOT of cables for each phase. In addition to these phases, be sure to budget for ongoing expenses such as maintenance (cables and microphones that go bad and need to be replaced) and consumables (blank CDs, gaffer's tape, donuts for the road crew).

What this three-phase budget does is it forces you to plan for the future so what you must buy today will serve your needs in the future and not have to be replaced prematurely. It also informs the church board of future costs, so they can plan the general fund budget accordingly.

Your primary mission as a church is to spread the word of Christ. Being able to project your pastor's voice clearly to all in attendance is a key part of that mission. Think of the sound system as part of your whole worship team. It should not be an "incidental expense," yet so many churches treat it as such, placing it's budgetary priority somewhere between Kleenexes for the cry room and thumbtacks for the bulletin board.
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Frank DeWitt

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Re: Portable Church
« Reply #7 on: January 22, 2011, 09:15:46 am »

You don't say if the equipment exists yet, but if it doesn't I would take this opportunity to go digital  Aside from all the other reasons for digital, you run a CAT5 cable for your snake, perhaps 2 CAT5s  Companies are now making CAT5 cables in road worthy packaging for portable use.  You would open a rack on the platform, pull out a couple of sub snakes and plug in,  Run the CAT5 to the FOH and you are ready to go.  There are people who run the FOH mixer wireless, but I don't think that is quite reliable enough.  (Just me).  If you think you can't afford it, look at http://www.softwareaudioconsole.com/

Frank
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JonathanSmith

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Re: Portable Church
« Reply #8 on: January 23, 2011, 03:43:54 pm »

There's a company I consulted with a couple times a few years ago called Church On Wheels - www.churchonwheels.com   They specialize in portable churches and everything that goes along with them. Since they specialize in churches, they understand the needs of churches and the "politics" of working with them.
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Michael Robertson

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Re: Portable Church
« Reply #9 on: February 10, 2011, 10:34:01 pm »

We have used portable church in the past. They were decent folks. Their cases are still going pretty strong after a little over four years.

Definitely get good multi-pins. We had cheap ones and they only lasted about two years. They are costly, but don't skimp on them you'll regret it.
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Mike Spitzer

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Re: Portable Church
« Reply #10 on: February 22, 2011, 01:57:41 pm »

I'm one of the few people I know who loves portable churches.

1. Good cases are not an option. LM Cases, Road Ready, PCI, etc. They all make good cases that hold up well, as far as I've seen. I've been in portable churches where they try the cheap, somewhat flimsy cases to store things and they always crush at some point and something gets broken. That gets expensive and you don't want to find broken equipment at 7 o'clock Sunday morning. If your budget is real tight, I've also used some Stanley cases. They have large wheel and pull-out handles. They hold up pretty well, too, but I wouldn't put a mixer in one. =) If you fight for nothing else come budget time, fight for this.

2. Figure out where everything is going to go and get it labelled. On each box/case, put a digram of the room it goes in and where it should be placed. That way, even somebody who's showing up to help the first time can get it to the right place the first time without needing to stop somebody else.

3. Also, organize the boxes and label them. The same equipment goes into the same box the same way every week. You don't want to be hunting for cables and connectors when you're already limited on time.

4. FOH cases hold FOH equipment. Stage boxes hold stage equipment. When they mix, even if labelled properly, your setup takes longer as people walk back and forth for things.

5. Wheels. Everything should either have wheels built in or available. That could mean dollies and furniture carts. Whichever it is, protect your workers' backs.

6. Label. Label. Label. Cables should be marked in some way to show length. Some people use color coding; some use masking tape and the number. Whatever works for you. Input sheets should be provided each week for stage snakes and mixers. The more people can do without consulting the "tech guy" the more efficient your setup will be and the easier it'll be to plug in new people.

I may think of more, but those are definitely the big ones for me.
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Eric Cole

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Re: Portable Church
« Reply #11 on: February 23, 2011, 12:32:36 am »

The trailer from PCI arrived last week and Saturday was the unpacking and for the most part everything went well.  PCI did a good job providing a package that the other FOH engineer and I had up in running in under 30 min.   

Here are some of the things I did like;

-Everything came labeled and the rack was dressed in velco. 
-Cases were labeled as what was in each case.
-Everything fits in the trailer
-For the most part all the equipment provide was very good.
-PCI took the experience of the churches other portable campus and applied it to the new Lane Ave campus. 

Things I did not like:

-PCI did not provide any spares.   Saturday was the first time setting everything up and someone borrowed an IEC cable that was needed for the mains
-Every Extension cord was 50 ft long, small thing but when you are trying to keep stages neat it bugs me. 
-There were a couple of pieces of equipment were skimped on for budgetary reasons when cuts could have been made elsewhere, like using Shure SLX instead of ULX.  (I was recruited after the final contract was signed)
-The mic cables PCI provided felt cheap, had horizon ends and did not coil well
-I did not expect tour grade cases but the large 6 foot cases PCI provides feel flimsy to me, and they are hard to see around.  With some other cases lids will only fit in one direction. 

Overall I think things will work well for Audio, we have a good set up for the space with a Soundcraft LX7 for FOH, JBL PRX612M and PRX618S for mains and Avioms for monitors.  The biggest challenge is going to be teaching musicians how to properly wire the stage and how to over-under cables.  We are blessed with a push of less than 100ft from the trailer to the sanctuary. 
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Eric Cole

Jordan Wolf

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Re: Portable Church
« Reply #12 on: February 24, 2011, 04:57:24 pm »

Things I did not like:

-PCI did not provide any spares.   Saturday was the first time setting everything up and someone borrowed an IEC cable that was needed for the mains
Fortunately, those are fairly easy to come by.  It would be prudent to have spares available, though...shame on them.

Quote
-Every Extension cord was 50 ft long, small thing but when you are trying to keep stages neat it bugs me.
I can see how that would be a tad irksome, but I'd rather have the length (and appropriate gauge) cable than too short.
 
Quote
-There were a couple of pieces of equipment were skimped on for budgetary reasons when cuts could have been made elsewhere, like using Shure SLX instead of ULX.  (I was recruited after the final contract was signed)
That's not necessarily the company's fault.  Next time, hopefully you'll have more of a say in what does/does not get included.

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-The mic cables PCI provided felt cheap, had horizon ends and did not coil well
Yeah, cheap cables are often the cause of much frustration and aggravation for me, too.  They annoying to fix, use, and coil.
 
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-I did not expect tour grade cases but the large 6 foot cases PCI provides feel flimsy to me, and they are hard to see around.  With some other cases lids will only fit in one direction.
Well, if they hold up to the abuse they're given, then I don't think it will matter.  I'll typically try to look over the cases, rather than through them.  ;D

Quote
The biggest challenge is going to be teaching musicians how to properly wire the stage and how to over-under cables.  We are blessed with a push of less than 100ft from the trailer to the sanctuary.
If those are the biggest problems you have, that's great!  After that's all taken care of, you can focus on other things.
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Jordan Wolf
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Re: Portable Church
« Reply #12 on: February 24, 2011, 04:57:24 pm »


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