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Getting Your Network Ready for BYOD

Most employees now own and carry very powerful personal communications devices, particularly smartphones, laptops and tablets. Increasingly, they want to use these personal devices for work, particularly for access to privileged information and applications.NetworkingPaone

That can create big problems for IT managers and C-level execs, who might pine for the days of closed corporate computing networks, where every work-related mobile and portable device was provided by, and strictly controlled by, the employer.

Those days are gone, and they aren’t coming back. Employees don’t want to carry two smartphones around, one for personal use and one for work. They’d like to use their personal laptops for productivity applications, their own iPads to read work documents. They want (or need) access to their work network at any time, no matter where they might be — at home, on the road, even on vacation.

The emerging concept of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is based on the idea of formally integrating these personal devices into corporate and organizational computing networks.

BYOD may sound simple, but it presents a host of challenges for any organization. That’s why extensively planning for BYOD is so critical, because once you open this particular Pandora’s box, it’s difficult to close it again.

On the surface, BYOD would appear to be great news for employers, who no longer need to invest nearly as much as they had been on laptops, phones and tablets for their employees’ use. Because BYOD devices are the property of the employees, employers can also enjoy reduced maintenance costs and can adopt new technology more quickly.

However, BYOD opens up a whole other can of worms.

“BYOD leaves the CIO in a conundrum,” says Chris Spain, vice president of Product Marketing for Cisco Systems’ Wireless Networking Group. “He’s thinking, ‘The rate of change is far bigger than anything I had to deal with before, with more devices changing more frequently…and my IT staff hasn’t gotten any bigger. So how do I get these devices on network easily and securely?’”

To ensure an organization’s BYOD roll out is solidly designed, IT decision-makers must address numerous issues, such as:

Security. What if an employee’s personal device is hacked, stolen or lost? What if an employee’s child wanders into sensitive documents on her parent’s iPad? What if the employee purchases a new device and passes the old one on to a family member or friend?

Change of employment status. What happens when an employee is fired, laid off or quits? In the past, employees would simply surrender their company-owned devices when they left the company. Now matters are not nearly as straightforward. Without a solid BYOD strategy in place, former employees could still use their own devices to access the network in order to take confidential documents or wreak havoc on the company’s information systems.

Liability. If BYOD gear is damaged or lost on the job, who is responsible for repair or replacement?

Who pays? Do employees get financial considerations for using their own devices? Who pays for Internet and phone service? Are the costs shared?

Administrative infrastructure. Employees and systems must be put into place to support, update and service these personal devices.

Permissions and policies. What information can an employee access? When? On what device(s)? From where?

Is your wireless network up to snuff? Employees want to use their personal devices as full network nodes within a workspace. Your wireless network must be able to handle all of this traffic while providing quality of service and reliability commensurate with that of your hard-wired network.

As you can see, BYOD is a daunting task for any organization. Fortunately, bundles of products and services are emerging to help decision makers implement effective BYOD systems.

“Don’t fight BYOD; feature it,” says Michael McKiernan, vice president, Business Technology with Citrix. “Keep it simple. Embrace self-service. Secure your data and the service, and leverage your infrastructure broadly.”

McKiernan lays out three BYOD pain points — and (good news) “pain relievers” — for decision makers. The first is “addressing the concerns of all the naysayers to accommodate all hypotheticals.” McKiernan says you must secure buy-in from your organization’s executives, along with a willingness to “acknowledge and manage non-zero risk.” Secondly, he says decision makers must “make the ROI case” by quantifying total cost of ownership, choosing when to use a stipend and how much, and being realistic that while the savings may be small in the grand scheme of things, they are “merited by the less measurable soft benefits,” such as employee happiness and productivity and risk reduction. Third is securing corporate data within a “rapidly evolving device ecosystem”; McKiernan says it is imperative to “implement a data loss prevention strategy while designing a good user experience” — the familiar balance of security versus performance.

Reprinted from Worship TechDecisions by Joe Paone

Do-it-Yourself A/V Installations: A Recipe for Success or Disaster?

“Should we do this A/V/L install ourselves or hire a contractor?” is a question I’m asked often. Too often, the question comes down to budget. On paper, it looks like hiring a contractor is always a more expensive option, but this is rarely the case when all factors are considered.

20569_bannerThe illusion of cost-savings comes from the fact that most churches (and many companies) don’t factor in the cost of labor for their staff. But there is always a cost, and a wise manager will take that into account.

This isn’t to say that doing a job in-house is always a bad idea; it’s simply a matter of weighing the options and determining the best approach for a particular project.

Here are some guidelines that to use when trying to decide how to proceed.

Do the job in-house when:

1) You Have the Skills In-House.  Some churches have highly skilled tech staffs, and it makes total sense to use that skill set to do the work of an install. The team will be working with the equipment day in and day out anyway, so installing it makes sense. Having people on staff who can lay out cable runs, pull said cable, solder, interconnect and commission systems is a blessing to many larger churches. If you have the skills, by all means, proceed.

2) You Have the Manpower In-House.  Sometimes a church has one or two highly skilled people on staff that could do the install, but is that enough? Depending on the size of the project, more hands may be required. Often, larger churches will have larger tech staffs that can put in significant time on an installation. So again, this makes sense.

3) You Have the Time.  Larger churches with sizable tech staffs have those large staffs because the church is very busy doing ministry. If the project is not extremely time-sensitive, it’s entirely possible that this team can get the job done. Deciding two weeks before Easter that you’d like a new video system may not allow the in-house team enough time to get the job done, however.

4) The Budget is Tight.  Sometimes we have to do installs within a tight budget, and the easiest way to save money is to self-install. Even factoring in the costs that really do exists with self-install, it’s often easier to stomach that bill than paying a contractor.  Sometimes it can even mean the difference between getting the job approved or not.

Note that the order of those criteria is intentional; as hard as it is, budget should really be last in the decision-making process.  If you put budget first, you may not truly consider the other three factors fairly.

Hire a contractor when:

1) You’re Hanging Things Overhead.  Very few churches have tech staff that are truly qualified to hang hundreds (or thousands) of pounds of speakers, projectors, screens or other stuff over people’s heads. And even if you are qualified, why would you want the liability?

2) Time is Tight.  Some projects have very tight timelines and the in-house staff doesn’t have the bandwidth to get it done. This is a perfect contractor job. They can bring in additional installers who do this every day, and will probably do better work in less time.

3) Manpower is Limited.  A solo technical director will probably have a tough time installing a complete A/V/L system by himself. Even if he can pull in some volunteers, it’s going to be a long, hard install. Churches that don’t have professionals on staff will almost always come out ahead when they hire a reputable contractor.

4) The Church Wants to Protect Its Staff.  Some churches are wise enough to know that pushing the staff to the limit all the time will not result in long-term employees who are committed to the organization. Sometimes it’s a smart call to let your highly qualified, fully capable tech staff leave at 5PM while someone else does the install. As a church leader, would you rather have energized, fully-engaged and excited or tired, disengaged and aggravated staff? You make the call.

Sometimes a hybrid approach is best; install what you can and bring in a contractor for the rest. I generally recommend hiring the rigging, because it’s just safer. But pulling cables, installing amp racks, consoles, patch bays and the like can often be easily be handled in-house, especially if the install company has helped with the design, making sure things are well thought out.

This decision-making process is not hard, but it should not be taken lightly. It’s almost never as easy as, “We’ll save so much money…” so be sure to think it through. You may find that at the end of the project, everyone will be better off if the install was handled by professionals. Or maybe not.

written by Mike Sessler, Church Production Weekly

5 Innovative Ways Churches are Using Text Messaging

Text messaging (SMS) is fast becoming one of the most-used communication methods, especially among young people. Churches are starting to use text messaging for church communication. Here are some of the innovative ways churches are using text messaging for ministry:

1. Encouragement for Sojourners

One very large church has a dedicated SMS keyword for church members who are away at college, travelling/living abroad for an extended period of time, or serving in the Armed Forces. These are mostly people under the age of 25 who are away from home and their church community for the first time. Subscribers receive weekly words of encouragement, support ,and inspiration from the Church’s pastor — as well as the occasional joke, just for fun.

2. Meeting Planning and Assignments

texting in front of churchMany churches are using SMS for meeting planning and assigning readings for Bible study groups. This also works for men’s groups, women’s groups, etc. This use case may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many churches haven’t thought about segmenting lists for different audiences. TextMarks allows one church account to have a different manager for each keyword, making this kind of setup clean and easy.

3. Thought of the Week

One Youth Pastor sets up a new keyword for each meeting of the youth group and then has attendees text the keyword to discover the “thought of the week” — often a funny, irreverent, or topical way of discussing a core message from the bible. This allows him to take attendance at group meetings while reinforcing his theme for the week.

4. Rallying Emergency Volunteers

Many churches need volunteers for a variety of activities, sometimes at a moment’s notice. These activities include prayer circles, emergency church repairs, collecting donations of food, cash or clothes for a church member in need, or even giving a ride to an elderly church member who needs a lift to Sunday worship. Several TextMarks churches maintain a standing army of volunteers who are ready to act when their mobile phone buzzes, anytime day or night. This is particularly valuable in areas when natural disasters are common– the Gulf Coast, the East Coast, and California come to mind.

5. Text Message Church Announcements

Every church makes announcements before or after services, but often times these announcements are lost in the shuffle of people coming and going. Many churches send weekly announcements to all members via text. These include upcoming events, updates on sick church members, financial needs for the church (and a link to a donation page), special services (particularly around major holidays) , etc.

Should increasing the frequency and effectiveness of the church’s touchpoints be a priority?

YourChurchTech Joins Dell’s PartnerDirect Program

dell_partnerdirect_registered_rgbLouisville, KY, 03 13, 2013 – YourChurchTech, LLC, a providor of technology solutions for churches throughout the region, today announced it has joined Dell’s PartnerDirect program as a Registered Dell Partner.  Built on three main tenets of simplifying IT, less complexity, and the advantages offered by the Dell business model, PartnerDirect will create a lasting and mutually beneficial relationship between Dell and YourChurchTech.

As a Registered Dell Partner specializing in Enterprise Architecture, YourChurchTech gains additional expertise in key enterprise products and solutions, including servers, storage, virtualization, computing flexibility and energy efficiency.

PartnerDirect, administered by the Dell Global Commercial Channel Group led by Greg Davis, is designed to provide companies like YourChurchTech with the opportunity to utilize Dell’s enterprise expertise while also helping Dell to evolve its culture.

“YourChurchTech is incredibly excited in forming this partnership with Dell as it provides us with a key component to offering churches a total solution to their technology challenges”, said Mike Howser.

Through PartnerDirect, Dell is formalizing existing initiatives to help partners like YourChurchTech increase profitability and deliver greater value and choice to their customers. In December 2007, Dell launched a dedicated partner online community to broaden conversations about how Dell can best meet the needs of its partners and work with them to simplify information technology for their customers.

Based on feedback from thousands of solution providers, features developed as part of the PartnerDirect program include:

  • Access to a dedicated partner Web site at www.dell.com/partner
  • Partner logos and guidelines for certain marketing activities
  • 100-percent dedicated sales and customer care
  • Certification paths and training
  • Range of financing options; and,
  • Deal registration serviced by SalesForce.com’s partner relationship management tool.

Organizations interested in Dell’s PartnerDirect program can learn more by visiting www.dell.com/partner.

About YourChurchTech

            Whether it’s installing and configuring a safe and reliable network for the staff, or assessing your current sound system and tuning it to give the most benefit to the congregation, YourChurchTech can help show how existing tools may be used to their potential.  If necessary to accomplish the church’s goals, YourChurchTech can make recommendations while being a good steward of the church’s blessings.  YourChurchTech can also provide training to the staff and volunteer teams in using computers, sound, projection and lighting equipment during services, including how to best use your systems during the week.  To help churches connect people to Jesus Christ by making technology an asset for the church and not a problem.

About Dell

Dell Inc. (NASDAQ: DELL) listens to customers and delivers innovative technology and services that give them the power to do more. For more information, visit www.dell.com.

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Open vs. Closed Wi-Fi Access on Sundays

Ed. Note: While this article is a reprint of an excellent post in ChurchTech, the timing couldn’t be better as I’m fine-tuning the exact Multi-SSID setup described at the end in a church right now.  All three access options are viable, but if it supports the message that your church is conveying, I highly recommend Multi-SSID and it doesn’t have to be cost-prohibitive to make it so!

While the Internet seems like it has been with us for ages, it only has become popular and fully integrated into our lives within the past 8-10 years. While innovation and adoption has moved at lightening speed in the business, academic, and home markets, churches are only now beginning to understand how powerful it can be with ministry and adopting it for evangelism and discipleship.

In some areas, we still are arguing about if we should be using cell phones during the Sunday service and in the same conversation could be wanting to get as many Facebook followers as Rick Warren.

One question that church tech volunteers and staff have struggled with is if they should allow access from the church to everyone that comes in. In a normal business setting, you will not have fifty to several thousand people coming into your building and therefore open access is not a problem, but for a church on Sunday morning you need to decide if you want to open up your churches wi-fi connection or simply expect them to use up some of their data (if you can even get proper cell phone service in the sanctuary).

It would seem that churches have three individual options when it comes to a wireless router:

Closed Wi-Fi

Group of young people having fun with digital tabletThis option simply means that no one in the congregation will be using your church’s Internet.

Pros Great security solution and an IT person’s dream. This means that you do not have to pay for high-speed internet solely if the congregation is using it and therefore may be a short and long term budget-friendly solution. It also prevents any outside people from stealing Internet and ensures that the staff will have optimal Internet speeds.

Cons Do not expect many people to use their mobile devices in church if they have to rely on their own personal data plan and may have restricted service in the building. While this may be a happy solution on Sundays, it can cause numerous headaches and issues in the long run for congregation members, board meetings, youth pastors, and many others.

Password-Protected

The Internet is password-protected and presumably the password is known by some of the staff and church technology volunteers. It is presumed that the password would be given to members as long as they come and ask for it.

Pros You do not have to worry as much about security as compared to it being open. The limited access will ensure that speeds are higher than normal for all people using the service. If at any time you want to reset security for the router without much effort, you simply need to change the password. It also requires congregation members to have a face-to-face conversation with someone to get the Internet.

Cons While the Internet may be available to the congregation, many will not sign on simply because of the hassle of coming and getting the password. As with any security measure, nothing is fool-proof and the password may get lost on Sunday morning and unusable as well as you can still have Internet filtering needs after someone logs on.

Open Wi-Fi

There is no password and the Internet is wide open for use by anyone that can get online from their mobile device.

Pros Less steps between the user and the Internet invites people to use it. If you are a pro-cell phone/tablet church, this maybe the best solution so that they can Facebook share the church’s service and message or access YouVersion online and take notes. This openness inspires people to talk about your church which can be a great way to bless and evangelize to the community.

Cons This is a big security risk and you cannot simply have your Internet open for anyone to get on. If you do allow for an open wi-fi during Sunday, ensure you have proper web filters to promote healthy online activity. At the same time, letting the masses all online may significantly slow down your Internet speeds and if the church is all on one Internet plan, you can potentially impact other ministries running at the same time or the YouTube clip you wanted to show at the beginning or end of the service.

While no one solution has come to the forefront of usability for the church, there is another option out there that may churches do not realize is available to them.

Multi SSID Solution

So many of the new wireless routers actually provide you with a fourth solution that gives you the ability to do multiple options of the above solutions.

Routers like the Linksys EA3500 or the Netgear N750 offer what is called Multi SSID solutions that can let you setup an open wireless option and at the same time a password-protected solution too. There are many different reasons for wanting to do this with minimal extra setup, including maintaining wi-fi Internet speeds for church staff while still being able to offer open Internet to the rest of the congregation, setting up different Internet filtering for different wireless options (presumably more strict for the congregation), and different wi-fi can allow for network specific solutions and therefore stronger internal security.

Mic’ing Techniques

MicrophoneWhen it comes down to it, what your congregation hears begins with the microphone. If you don’t initially capture the audio source with sufficient level and clarity, everything else in the audio system is playing catch-up. Perhaps you can make it usable so that a person in the last pew will still have an idea what is being said, but even the best processors, mixing consoles, and speaker systems will not take you back to the source.

The mic you choose for a particular application, and how you apply it, can make a great deal of difference in how well they hear the sermon or the singer, on the balance of instruments in the praise band, and on how much work the sound person has to do to provide sufficient level and intelligibility through the house system. What follows are some useful techniques for working with the pastor, the choir, the band, the holiday pageant, the church meeting, and other audio capture situations you may encounter.

UNDERSTANDING THE PASTOR While some pastors are gifted orators with strong, distinct voices that will travel intelligibly to the back of the room, with even a quiet or whispered passage having sufficient level and articulation to be heard, many are not so blessed. The microphone is essential to active communication. The choice of microphone and where it is placed relative to the pastor’s mouth will make the difference between comfortable listening and straining to hear—and between having headroom in the system and riding the fader on the edge of feedback.

Since most pastors need their hands free, the typical microphone choices are a pulpit mic, typically on a gooseneck, a lavalier, or a headset. Depending on how much the pastor moves while preaching, the lavalier or headset can be hardwired or connected to a wireless transmitter.

A gooseneck mic has a flexible boom that allows the mic element to be positioned at varying heights and angles to best respond to the particular presenter. As with all microphones, the signal level from the voice will decline a very significant 6 dB each time the distance doubles between the presenter and the mic, so coach anyone who will be using the mic to work fairly close to it—perhaps a hand-width away if possible. This distance will allow the presenter some side-to-side head movement while still remaining in the coverage pattern of the mic. Have the user take a moment to adjust it to their height before speaking.

When using a gooseneck mic, keep an eye on where your loudspeakers are located. Especially with speaker systems located above and slightly to the front of the pulpit and altar area, try to keep the mic element positioned level, more or less parallel with the floor and at mouth level to the presenter, rather than pointing up toward the ceiling (and the loudspeakers). In many cases you’ll achieve more gain before feedback.

Lavalier microphones are available in omnidirectional and directional/cardioid polar patterns. They can keep hands free and the face unencumbered, but are often difficult to use in live settings to achieve a full frequency response and enough level. Make sure to choose a quality mic with as flat a frequency response as possible, to maximize gain before feedback. Some lavalier mics have a shaped frequency response with added highs or diminished chest resonance frequencies; check out the specifications.

Omnidirectional mics typically have less clothing, cable, and handling noise, but pick up sound sources relatively equally from all directions. And because of the lack of directionality, it is harder to keep their pattern away from the speaker system—resulting in more feedback potential. Directional mics can provide more isolation, but the user needs to be more consistent with their movements so that their head (and voice) don’t dramatically move away from the mic’s pickup pattern.

Try positioning the lavalier mic at the upper chest/lower throat area. Once positioned, make a loose loop of the mic cable below the mic element and secure it as a strain relief rather than just letting it hang. You can also pull a loop of cable and return it to the mic clip to hold it. The loop of cable will help to lessen movement noise being transferred to the mic and out the speakers.

When possible, a headset microphone is a more consistent choice, and the frequency response is invariably better in a live setting. Low-profile headsets are available from many manufacturers; invest in one of higher quality. Headset mic advantages include considerably greater gain before feedback, more natural voice quality with full frequency response, and more consistent audio level with movement. Place the mic element toward the corner of the mouth but out of the direct line of the voice to minimize breath noise and consonant pops.

Perhaps the pastor will present part of the service from the pulpit and other parts at the altar or in the center aisle just in front of the pews. In this case, having a pulpit mic on one channel and a wireless transmitter and low-profile headset on another makes sense—and then you can mute one or the other, as needed.

PRAISE BAND MIC’ING When working with the praise band, and trying to maintain consistency and more control on overall levels from the mixing console, a technique that combines amp positioning and mic’ing can prove useful. Instead of having the instrument amplifiers pointed directly at the pews, and directing their output to the congregation, have them side-fire so that they are aimed across the stage. Place a microphone on a short stand or boom, with the mic head positioned toward the outer edge of the speaker cone (if you mic toward the center, you will usually pick up too much high-frequency content).

Have the musicians adjust their desired tonalities, but at a lower level than if they were trying to fill the building with sound. This may be difficult at first to get them to turn down, but it will benefit the overall musicality of the performance. If they need more of themselves on stage, either put more of their signal into the monitors, or have them tip their cabinets a bit so that the speakers are pointing more toward their ears.

Using this technique will have several positive effects. First, it will minimize the bleed of the guitar or bass into the vocal and other mics on stage. Second, it will give the sound mixer more level and audio shaping control over the entire mix, so that an overly loud guitar or bass part will not overwhelm the vocals or other instrumentation. Use the same technique with a keyboard amp, if used. When I’ve used this method, both the listeners and the band have been pleased with the resulting clarity.

VOCALS MICS Harking back to the beginning of the article, it all starts with the microphone. So this is not an area to skimp in the sound budget. Look for a microphone with good, consistent pattern control (polar pattern) across all frequency ranges from low to high, and a relatively flat frequency response. Such a microphone will require less equalization and will typically achieve higher gain before feedback.

Condenser mics with a cardioid or supercardioid pattern are often used for vocals because of their added responsiveness and crispness at the top end, but a number of excellent dynamic mics are also available for the purpose. When possible, use the same model of mic for similar functions, such as lead vocals, background vocals, and certain types of instruments so that you can learn their responses and treat them consistently.

One key element that you cannot control from the console is the microphone technique of the singer or speaker. Many inexperienced users hold the mic far away from their mouth, or down below their chin, or other hard-to-hear locations—often because they think their voice is too loud. So you end up pushing the limits of feedback to make their voices intelligible.

Before the service or event, whenever possible, spend a few minutes with anyone who might be using a mic to show them how to hold it in front of their mouth, pointed in, and typically between two and four finger-widths away. For singers, encourage them to stay on the mic and keep a consistent distance from it. And know your microphones, as some are optimized for lips-touching use, while others can effectively be used a few inches from the source.

Your overall gain before feedback will be highest when you judiciously use the channel mute to minimize the number of open mics. Mute any microphone that is unused for a time during the service; by keeping an eye open and knowing the routine you will have it unmuted by the time someone is ready to use it. Keep the choir mics muted until necessary. If the pastor’s wireless is still on when stepping up to the pulpit, don’t turn on the gooseneck; this will also alleviate potential phase cancellations between the two open mics.

During instrumental breaks with the praise band, mute the main and background vocal mics, if possible. In some cases, if you have a high-quality cardioid mic with consistent polars, your backing singers might share a microphone rather than having one per singer. Also, it is sometimes helpful if you need to minimize stage noise—as well as to prevent noise from HVAC systems and similar [equipment from] adding to your mix—to engage a high-pass filter on the microphone, or on the mixing console, starting at 100 to 150 Hz.

When reinforcing the choir with microphones, specialized small-diaphragm cardioid condensers are typically used, either suspended from the ceiling or on high stands. Use these mics sparingly, and try to maintain a ratio between mics of at least three times their distance to the nearest singer. Position them above the head of the tallest vocalists in the back row, and set the angles so that they are aimed toward the choir (rather than pointing straight down to the floor) and with their lower sensitivity zones toward the speaker system.

INSTRUMENT MIC’ING For an acoustic guitar, use a directional mic—preferably a condenser—on a boom stand or gooseneck and experiment with the best area to aim it. Good candidate locations are at the guitar’s upper bout where the neck meets the body or slightly below and on the top or bottom side of the bridge, a few inches away. Mic’ing directly in front of the sound hole will give more level, but also tends to be boomy.

With acoustic piano in a larger space where you need additional reinforcement, or when the piano is part of a group of instruments, you can use a combination of a cardioid condenser mic on a boom stand over the sound board (or a pair covering the low and high side about midway between the hammers and the rear) with one or more small condensers mounted inside the piano above the sound board and clipped to the harp. When bleed from other instruments or gain before feedback is a problem, emphasize the close mics for the fundamentals and high-pass the overhead mics at around 2.5 kHz for the piano’s shimmer.

Sax and other reed instruments often are naturally louder than many of the other instruments, and having a fairly directional microphone a foot or so away will provide some additional reinforcement for the sound system and monitors. Acoustic bass can be picked up with a small instrument condenser clipped under the bridge. A minimal drum kit mic’ing consisting of kick, possibly snare, and a single or XY pair of overhead condenser mics can be quite effective.

IN THE END … A church service is a dynamic event combining spoken word, with experienced and inexperienced speakers, solo vocalists, choirs, bands ranging from mellow to rock levels, and responses from the congregation. And though the program can often be fairly predictable from week to week, new variations always arise. So keep experimenting and trying new ideas.

As you go, keep the key principles in mind: use quality microphones with consistent polars and frequency response; control the number of open mics; use directivity to your advantage by keeping the mic’s most sensitive pattern pointed toward the source and away from the speaker systems; coach the users in good mic technique; and judiciously use equalization to minimize any problems that can’t be solved by mic selection and placement.

by Gary Parks; Reprinted from the March 2013 issue of Church Production Magazine

 

Intelligent Building Management is Fast Becoming the Way to Save Money

Building_Energy_ManagementThough we all know the nine-to-five workday is a relic of a bygone era, the buildings we work in are frequently unaware. Lighting, if automated at all, often starts shutting down at a prescribed time even though staff may be working into the night. HVAC systems that require manual switching from winter heating mode to summer air conditioning, usually don’t get switched over until employee complaints become too loud to ignore.

Enter intelligent building scheduling. Play it smart and it becomes possible to use lighting in a targeted manner that is easy on employees’ eyes as well as the wallet. And by tying building controllers into facility scheduling software, spaces, such as conference rooms and classrooms, can be brought to an optimum temperature prior to the start of an event.

“The most effective lighting scheme is one that incorporates ‘daylight harvesting,’ that knows the angle of the sun, whether it’s cloudy or bright, and where the sun is facing in relation to your facility, according to the astronomical calendar for your latitude and longitude,” says Michael Carter, director of Building Automation Solutions at AMX. “There are also lots of other data points to consider, such as how many people are in a room at a particular time and whether the order in which rooms can be booked should vary based on time of day and the amount of natural light each one receives.”

For Kirk Davis, managing principal at the Portland, Ore. Office of sustainable engineering firm Glumac, leveraging maximum daylight comes first when developing any intelligent automated facilities schedule, whether building from the ground up or retrofitting an existing structure. For him, even though daylight is free, it can be harnessed to varying degrees based on the age of an existing building and the extent of updates. With the right tools and an approach that’s flexible enough to change as the project progresses, retrofitting is no longer the challenge it once was. Those tools include automated window shades and sensors to detect the presence or absence of people.

Occupied or Not?

Occupancy sensors, used to turn lights on or adjust temperature when someone enters a room, are not always the best choice for overriding a preset facility schedule. In spaces that do not benefit from natural light — bathrooms, windowless lecture halls, and printer alcoves among them — it makes sense to use occupancy sensing to turn lights on. In other spaces, the contrarian strategy of using sensors to detect the absence of people often makes more sense.

One tip for efficient facility management relates to energy and occupancy sensor best practices, according to Glen Marianko, technology manager for Enterprise Software at Crestron. “You don’t always want to use sensors to detect when people are present. It’s often smarter to do the opposite and detect vacancy, the absence of people.” In a simple scenario, Marianko says an employee attending an afternoon meeting might dash into his or her officeat 6 p.m. to grab keys and briefcase then head home. Instead of having an occupancy sensor turn on the lights which might be needed for just a few seconds, it’s better left to the employee. “Let the occupant decide to switch on the light and use the vacancy sensor to turn it off after a brief period of inactivity.”

The question, of course, is how quickly to turn that light off. Through the use of controllers and software from AMX, Crestron, Lutron and others, the timeout value can be varied by time of day. “You want the timeout to be long enough so that lights are not turned off when people in a conference room take a 20-minute coffee break, but you may want to shorten the timeout to five minutes after 6 p.m.,” says Doug Jacobson, vertical markets manager for Lighting and Energy Management at Crestron.

Since lighting is instantaneous, there’s no need to prepare a space more than a few minutes before scheduled use, mainly to accommodate early arrivals or set-up. HVAC is vastly different. An auditorium booked for a 2 p.m. meeting in mid-July needs to be pre-cooled well before the event starts, says AMX’s Carter. “You also have to take into account the heat generated by several hundred bodies in that auditorium.”

With pre-planned and ad-hoc events continually at odds with a structured hour-by-hour facilities schedule, there is universal agreement when it comes to implementation – it’s okay to be energy efficient, but it’s not okay to be annoying. If you’ve installed sensors in a conference room to detect occupancy or vacancy, overlaying system-wide time-clock scheduling on top probably will not work. The converse, however, giving the sensors precedence over the clock schedule could work much better.

Yet, even the exceptions have exceptions. During in-session school hours, it may make more sense to have the control system disable or disregard occupancy/vacancy sensors installed in hallways to prevent lights from turning off when classrooms are full and hallways empty. After school hours, hallway lighting could switch to a low mode in which only every second or third fixture is illuminated. Sensors detecting occupancy could then turn on the remaining lights as needed for a set interval or turn them off in response to vacancy sensing. Similarly, the handling of parking-lot lighting is not simply a time-of-day matter. “You could start with a time clock, but adding a photocell may help, especially when a summer thunderstorm rolls through and darkens the sky, even though it’s 2 o’clock in the afternoon,” says Crestron’s Jacobson.

In the end, facilities managers invariably discover that intelligent building management is an iterative process that warrants periodic re-visitation. Assumptions about workday length made when schedules were initially developed may not be reflective of current employee work patterns. Desks may be shared by people working staggered shifts. Fortunately, with individual lighting fixtures controllable by flexible systems over the corporate network, keeping lighting and HVAC in sync with employees’ work patterns — while minimizing energy consumption — has never been easier.

By Joel Shore

Everyday Remedies for Conflicting Video Standards

imagesCAW25BZ7In 2010, Intel, AMD and PC makers Dell, Lenovo, Samsung, and LG announced that they would phase out VGA connectors (or ports) by 2015. Their reasoning: digital formats such as DisplayPort and HDMI allow for slimmer laptop designs and higher resolution with deeper color than is possible with VGA.
In early 2012, analyst firm NPD In-Stat released a report stating that DVI ports will also disappear from PCs over the next five years, setting the stage for “standardization” on HDMI and DisplayPort. There are several other issues driving the phase-out of VGA and DVI interfaces. One is that VGA does not allow for content protection, so it may be phased out due to digital content license agreements. A more practical issue for manufacturers and users is the size of the connectors: VGA and DVI connectors with thumb screws are difficult and sometimes impossible to accommodate in ultra-slim notebook and netbook designs; connecting and securing these cables to monitors is difficult in confined spaces.

So why do we still need two digital interfaces?
DisplayPort and HDMI are very different technically, and each has a different product focus. HDMI is the de-facto standard in home theater and is used widely on HDTVs, and some PCs and monitors include HDMI to enable connectivity with HDTVs and other consumer electronics gear. DisplayPort is focused on PC, monitor, and projector applications as a replacement for DVI and VGA where high performance is critical, and allows backwards and forwards compatibility over standard cables. The DisplayPort connector is compatible with HDMI signals, enabling product interoperability. And, to make content owners happy, DisplayPort 1.2 supports HDCP v1.3, ensuring that protected content such as Blu-ray disc movies may be easily viewed over a DisplayPort connection that includes HDCP support.
Video connectivity standards seem to change or “evolve” every time a new video source or display technology is introduced. This presents obvious problems for integrating new components into existing systems. The problem is not always the change, since rarely do standards disappear completely. The challenge is juggling multiple standards; old standards must often co-exist with new standards.
Sorting out the connectivity issues is complicated by the fact that it involves different formats, standards, and physical connectors. Before digital, the VGA format (developed by IBM in 1987) was the most common video signal format, and it was considered “standard” although it was never adopted by an official standards-making body. For many years, most PCs output VGA, and displays and other sources accepted it. VGA uses the common DE-15 connector, still seen on many PCs.
That’s all changing with digital video signal formats. For commercial AV applications, the most common digital formats are DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort, and SDI. Within each format, there are multiple variants and connector types.
PLAN YOUR CONNECTIONS Whenever possible, try to determine the connector type of all possible sources and displays before any installation project or ad hoc presentation. Check to see if there are matching connectors on installed AV devices (projectors, flat-panels, switchers) and connectivity interfaces (pop-up access panels or wall  plates, etc.). If you’re lucky, the issue is easily resolved with a single format cable of the appropriate length. When that is not possible, there are three courses of action:
1. USE ADAPTERS Adapters provide the simplest solution, but with digital video signal transmission, there can be drawbacks too. For example, don’t expect to get audio from a DVI connector (it’s video only). Also, most adapters are passive devices, and won’t convert from digital to analog, or vice versa.
2. USE AN ACTIVE SIGNAL CONVERSION DEVICE A very common scenario in which connectors present problems are group presentations, where multiple presenters each bring their own laptop. But combining multiple formats is considerably easier than it used to be, by using presentation switchers. A presentation switcher accepts and scales a wide range of video signals to a common, high-resolution output rate.
3. CHECK ALTERNATE INPUTS ON DOWNSTREAM DEVICE Many display devices (like video projectors) offer several input options. Instead of concentrating on making the connection work at the source end, try working backwards and check to see if options are available on the next device in the chain.

By Mark R. Mayfield  On March 04, 2013

Five Ways Churches Can Use Text Messaging

If you think texting is only for Generation LOL, think again. Reputable churches around the world are taking this popular mobile-phone feature more seriously; they’ve discovered that text messaging allows them to communicate more frequently, and more efficiently, with their members and followers. Five ways to use texting in churchCompared to newspapers, junk mail, radio or TV, mobile text messaging (or SMS, for “short messaging service”) is a relatively new communication tool. Compared to other features and functions on a mobile phone, like mobile apps or near field communication (NFC) chips, texting is a “new media” veteran. And unlike most of the newer tools, the text messaging application is ubiquitous: so-called basic phones can send and receive text messages (smartphone not required). And lately, wireless-service providers have begun offering unlimited text-messaging plans with their most basic phone contracts.

Unlimited text messaging is clearly a good thing for the teenager who literally sends hundreds of messages a day (and for his or her parents who are footing the bill). But why does any of this matter for your church? Consider the following statistics:

  • There are more than 5 BILLION mobile phones in the world; more than 85% of Americans own a mobile phone
  • An estimated 7 TRILLION text messages were sent in 2011, and with the new, unlimited texting plans, that number will surely rise
  • Most importantly,, 97% of text messages are opened, and 83% of those are opened within an hour; that’s compared to a 20% open-rate for emails
  • For all its benefits, text messaging is a relatively simple, low-cost, and low-maintenance marketing tool; for example, Symbiota’s crossMRKT tool allows an organization to create and schedule multiple text messages in advance.

Not yet convinced? Here’s five ways used by other churches who are finding positive results from their text-messaging campaigns:

  1. Text Message Alert for churchesTo send timely, or important, alerts. After members or visitors opt-in to your text-messaging campaign (here’s how that works), you can then send your SMS subscribers breaking news, such as an event cancellation due to extreme weather, or a friendly reminder of an upcoming event.For example, Third Reformed Church in Iowa uses texting to send messages, like meeting locations, to members of itshigh school ministry program.
  1. Contact List for ChurchesTo collect contact information. When they opt-in to your SMS database, subscribers can also be asked to submit their email address for inclusion in that database.
  1. advertise through textingTo advertise and manage events. Texting is ideal for live updates during events, and is a more stable and more ubiquitous platform than Twitter. Wave Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia uses Symbiota’s crossMRKT tool to advertise their annual conferences and to update attendees before, during, and after the event.
  1. text message polling for churchesTo conduct live “townhalls” and polls. Some churches, like Mars Hill Church in Seattle, allow members to text questions during some services to the preacher, who then answers them after his or her message. Pastors at other churches, like Symbiota client Metropolitan SDA Church in Maryland, ask poll questions during Bible Study meetings, then immediately discuss the (displayed) response with the congregation.
  1. all in one marketing for churchesTo promote or connect to other media campaigns. Are you hosting a great discussion your Facebook Page or in a Google+ Hangout? Or  would you like to promote sermon that’s locate on your website? Chances are good that you’ll get your subscribers to click on the link if you send it via text message.

Bottom line: Sending bulk text messages is cheap and easy. And there are plenty of good ways for your church to use it to advance it’s mission.

Reprinted; by Joel Sam

Making Sound Work in an Historic Church Structure

1stAlexandria

The Alexandria First Presbyterian Church’s main sanctuary was built in 1843 and the building is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. Even with periodic updates, its interior looks much the same as it did for over a century, with hard-surfaced, parallel walls that can make intelligible sound a challenge. It’s also a relatively small church, seating about 200, so the line array solution that has become more common in mid-sized and larger churches wasn’t a suitable solution for it.

Fortunately, there is a relatively new technology that offers a perfect fit for smaller churches and that can address aesthetic concerns that many older, landmarked structures have. How Ken Wieder, a church member and its ad hoc sound consultant discovered it is how more and more churches in this situation are doing just that.

“I Know How to Connect Things”

Wieder’s pro audio knowledgebase accrued from a combination of some academic work in college but perhaps more from his years as a drummer and later as a club DJ. “I know how to connect things and adjust them,” he says of his practical knowledge. But he also knew what he didn’t know, so when the church last year came into a small windfall in the form of a willed bequest from an elderly member of the congregation — who specifically asked that it be put towards a new sound system — he was asked by the church committee to head up the task of determining how best to spend the money.

Wieder put out a call for bids to several local A/V integration companies. He says the responses were complex and in many ways vastly different. “We got bids for everything from a basic PA system with a mixer and amplifiers to some fairly complex solutions that you could pretty much tell would be overkill,” he recalls. One company, Blackwood, NJ-based JD Sound and Video, suggested a columnar array, specifically, Community Sound’s ENTASYS system. Wieder likes the fact that JD Sound owner Joe DeSabatino made the effort to explain how a properly aimed columnar line array would project a nearly consistent level of sound from front to back in the sanctuary, with a deviation of no more than 5 dB from front to rear, and do so nearly invisibly, when a system with white components was mounted on the white interior walls of the church. The fact that JD Sound was a Community dealer and was able to secure a better price essentially sealed the deal.

A Niche Solution

The columnar line array is at once a descendant of the modular line array — the often-huge tentacle-like series of loudspeaker enclosures that are hung from the ceilings of large arenas and stadiums — and its predecessor, a design similar to the that of 1960’s portable PA that is like the iconic Shure Vocal Master, which was famously part of the PA system used when the Beatles played Shea Stadium in 1965.

Modular arrays are more versatile. Designers can add or subtract enclosures as needed and the curvature can be shaped to make coverage very precise, and manufacturers have created lines of so-called compact line arrays in recent years. The column array, on the other hand, tends to be more cost effective, easily installed, and its thin design often makes it a more aesthetically preferable solution, particularly for churches and landmarked structures that need to avoid architectural distractions.

1stAlexandriaCloseup

Column line arrays are generally passive (versus the self-powered active-electronics options that most modular line arrays offer) and have limited steering (i.e., directionality) capability compared with highly steerable self-powered modular line arrays. But manufacturers are innovating around those limitations. PA-maker Community’s ENTASYS system, for instance, has multiple mechanical steering settings and also offers a low-frequency-only column with 6 3.5-inch drivers that reinforces the low end from 200 Hz to 1.6 kHz. This enables low-frequency reinforcement without having to increase the size of the full-range column. (Array height directly influences low frequency directivity: the taller the array, the better its low frequency output.)

After DeSabatino spectrum-analyzed the sanctuary, it was determined that a pair of ENTASYS columns and two Community VLF208 subs would be sufficient for the church’s needs. As DiSabatino explained, the building’s stone walls and hard surfaces make for a highly reflective acoustical environment, and achieving good spoken word intelligibility has long been a challenge. “It’s a large, boxy room with high ceilings, hard plaster walls, and lots of hard wood,” he says. “It sounds great for the choir, but not for the sermon.”

The array columns are installed on the side walls, by steps leading up to the stage; the subwoofers are installed underneath the stage. Control of the system is purposefully simple: A Rane HAL 1 DSP system that automixes the sound system as well as checks system and peripheral status, CAT 5 wiring integrity, and other functions. This level of automation was desirable, says Wieder, because of the wide range of possible users of the system, including the church’s youth group.

“We needed to keep it simple, and this does,” he says, noting that the wall-mounted controllers, one each at the rear of the sanctuary and on the stage, are essentially little more than microphone input selectors and overall volume controls. More parameter control is available via a USB-connected laptop, but Wieder says they have not had to go beyond the basic programming that DeSabatino left the system set with. The system also includes four channels of Shure SLX wireless microphones, and Shure lavaliere and podium microphones. A Tascam SSR-200 digital recorder was installed to record services.

The project also included extending video to an adjoining hallway and social hall, to accommodate overflow attendance for services, using LG 47CS570 LCD displays and a Panasonic HDC-TM900 HD digital video camera. Each display has a pair of JBL C2PS speakers attached linked to the main PA system.

The entire project came in well under budget, at about $18,000, says Wieder, due mainly to using a single contractor for the entire project and taking advantage of the installer’s distributor relationship with the manufacturer. But Wieder also points out that to get to that point, he had to consider a wide array of options and strategies offered by several vendors, and had to learn as much as possible about a technology he had never encountered before. “There was a lot to figure out,” he says. “But after you spend time with it, you begin to see what works and what doesn’t.”

By Dan Daley, Worship TechDecisions