Mobile Micro-Controls for Big AV in Churches

During rehearsals before Sunday services, the monitor mix (A2) guy walks onto the stage and approaches each of the vocalists one at a time and has a brief conversation while looking between the singer and the iPad tablet in the A2’s hand. During these brief 15 to 30 second chats, the vocalist removes one of their in-ear monitors and tells the A2 how they would like their personal mix adjusted.

As the musicians play, the lighting director (LD) walks upstage and adjusts two of the moving head lighting fixtures to change the focal points for the electric rhythm guitarist who has decided to play from a different spot than usual. Simultaneously, the video director sits in one of the audience seats about halfway back next to the senior pastor and cues the playback of a video roll-in clip from his smartphone to time the video clip with the end of a particular song from the set list.

Mobile Micro-Control Is Ideal for Churches

Sunday comes every seven days. Within this never-ending cycle, these churches techs are immersing themselves and engaging with others in ways not previously possible, all due to the ability to use a tablet or smartphone to make themselves available away from the confines of a tech booth or production room backstage. The technology is seamless and the results are far more than technological; the connection through personal engagement has made the biggest difference for today’s church audio, video and lighting teams.

If your church AVL technology could be micro-controlled through a tablet or smartphone, what would it free you up to do differently?

Connect with Volunteers

When an AVL technician is stuck behind a console or metaphorically glued to a position due to the proximity of the audio, video, or lighting technology, the ability for that person to interact with volunteers is limited. For most tech positions (A1, A2, LD, TD), the immobility of the larger technology components places a restriction on the freedom of the operator to do much more than stand or sit behind the console. In many church production environments, the space allocated for the front of house (FOH), monitor mix position, lighting control and video production areas is minimal on purpose: It’s expensive square footage when building a church venue for maximizing attendee seating. With the limitation of available space, many a tech booth is cramped and crowded, eliminating or capping the inclusion of volunteers. But what architectural constraints limit in the placement of the large AVL hardware, mobile applications release the shackles of tech confinement.

In management, there’s a practice called MBWA — management by walking around. The idea is that by simply being visible and available through proximity, the opportunity for connection and sharing opens up feedback loops and build camaraderie. MBWA becomes practical for mentoring or training volunteers when the lead tech isn’t locked down to a console the entire time.

Communicate Directly

With mobile apps for control, setup and operation of AVL technology, the MBWA approach applies beautifully in the church tech scene and provides for new ways to build cohesion, listen to the input of others and even collaborate between AVL disciplines. As with the real-life example above, mobile micro-controls help connect the tech with others involved in the production of weekend services.

Build Empathy with Others

When the A2 gets to adjust the monitor mix on each vocalist and for each instrumentalist by communicating directly with each person, the exchange is far more than transactional: it shares understanding between the two disciplines. Adding more of the bass guitar and snare drum to a soprano’s IEMs (in-ear monitors) is about more than the adjustment of a mix; it is a face-to-face, eye-to-eye (I see you — and I hear you — and I understand you) connection. This is how empathy is built.

When we communicate directly with others in a two-way dialogue, we gather more than what is being said; we get the tone, body language and inflection of their words to form a more complete understanding of what they say.

Build and Repair Relational Bridges

In the 1,000+ churches I have worked with over the years, I have seen a harmful pattern repeated time and again: the conflict common between the musicians and vocalists and the AVL tech teams. I believe this tension has been created from a disconnection of communication due, in part, to the physical proximity distances between the stage and the tech booth. The communication gap seems to be proportional to the distance from the stage to the AVL technology.

In ways much larger than the size of the handheld mobile devices themselves, the introduction of micro-control apps for AVL bridges the relational gap between tech-operators and musicians.

Though the convenience, practicality, and flexibility of remote operation through apps is undeniable in the AVL space, the house of worship market may benefit the most from this technology because it re-engages the people behind the microphones and consoles to come together for mutual benefit once again. Is your firm creating mobile micro-control solutions for the HoW market? Comment below.