What is Going on with Foothills Tech?
By: Steven Topham
For over a decade the audio and visual tech inside the sanctuary had been unchanged. Anyone who came up to the balcony likely noticed the mess of wires and stacks of devices that had overwhelmed the Foothills tech booth. Problems plagued us and despite the depth of knowledge we have on the team, we were unable to track down the ‘gremlins,’ as we call them. We were then suddenly blessed to receive a sizeable grant from the estate of longtime Foothills member Anne Von Der Mehden. Three weeks ago, the overhaul began. The focus of the funds went towards removing the analog video signal and replacing it with digital. The rest of the tech booth was completely cleaned out as we gleefully ripped out all of the decades old, problematic devices. This massive feat was accomplished in just 5 days and I crossed all my fingers that Sunday would go off without a hitch, and that everyone in the congregation would ooh and aww at the incredibly crisp imagery.
Of course, nothing goes as planned. The imagery is now crisp and amazing. I can’t get enough of it. However, there are a slew of problems. Fortunately, I know what every single one of them is and with the new trimmed down tech area, these problems are much easier to locate, isolate and work through. I know that sitting in service when these glitches occur must be frustrating and can ruin the experience of communing with Christ and community. It is my utmost priority to purge the system of all of the gremlins.
Here is a list of the current issues, what they are and when I think they will be fixed:
The left projector going to the stage right screen shakes and jumps
There are two AC compressors in the balcony located directly behind the two projectors. The one on the left side is faulty and thumps the floor. Our new projectors are incredibly light compared to the old ones and more prone to this shake. Our contract with the AC people set specific times to inspect things and the next one is fortunately coming up in December. It then comes down to the cost of fixing the compressor, which may be pretty high.
Video cuts out to black, blue and green screens
The digital image passes through a device that parses out the audio signal and sends an analog version of that to our analog sound mixing board. This device is faulty. I am in regular contact with the manufacturers, have sent them several videos and most recently they have actually replicated the issue in their labs. I am hoping to have a replacement device within the next few weeks.
Black screen when switching inputs
We are excited to be able to show live video on the screens (it will be really fun for baptisms!) and much more easily show video from other devices like a blu-ray player. This happens via a device that switches between different video inputs by the simple press of a button. Our device unfortunately has a 5 second delay between switching video inputs where it shows a black screen. This is the way the device was manufactured and if we want seamless transitions, we would have had to have bought a much more expensive device which we did not have the budget for.
We still have some 20-year old devices in the tech booth. These are the amps and the processor that drive the main speaker system. One of them has gone bad and causes a hum over the choir area. It will cost $4,000 to replace them.
Pastor’s mics Cutting Out
While our sanctuary is beautiful, it is as if it were designed by someone who hated audio waves. The architect who made it went on to great renown and acknowledged that he made some serious mistakes when it came to acoustics in our building. The antenna receivers for our wireless system aren’t picking up the signal from the altar area regularly and when it loses that signal, that’s when the mics cut out. We are repositioning the antenna this week. If that doesn’t work, then it will cost around $1,000 to get beefier antenna that we will mount on the balcony.
The Computer is underpowered
We are adding more video and engaging graphics in our presentation and, suddenly this past Sunday, the computer decided it had had enough with all this fanciness. There is space for more RAM in the computer and we have people who will provide it, so this should be solved by the next Sunday.
Our Presentation Software is Poor
We use a church-centric presentation program called MediaShout and have used it since well before my time. It has given me many problems over the years and has let me down a lot, but despite all that, I had always found a way to work with it. However, it presents video very poorly and has become too buggy in its latest versions. I am currently looking for an alternative, but the other issues on this list have priority.
The Assisted Listening System Stinks
A lot of people use these devices during first service. The whole system is really old, many of the devices are faulty and the ones that actually work don’t provide much additional volume. Replacing this whole thing is on our radar and will move up the list as we take care of all the other things.
That’s the sum of it. If you would like to help me solve any of these problems, please contact me.