by Logan Sykes

Before 2020, I was working as a Production Assistant part-time in church and dual enrolling in high school and college. My production journey took an unexpected turn in 2020 just like many of yours. When Covid-19 hit things quickly changed. Our staff team had a decision to make. Whether we limit the ministry by our capacity and current technological capabilities or grow, make things better, and reach more people. This was an easy decision for us, we never enjoyed easy, we liked a challenge. Our goal has always been to reach more people and teach production to other church production teams. Within two weeks we had purchased an Allen and Heath SQ-6 and a Waves Plugin Server to replace our current X-23 which was our broadcast console at the time. We got a Blackmagic 4ME Broadcast Switcher. We quickly went from 3 in-person and online services each week, to 9 online-only services a week. Our team carries the belief that the world should be learning things from the Church and our production ability. Building and equipping leaders who are innovative, willing to try new things with state-of-the-art equipment without breaking the bank. As well as being used to support the Church reaching the lost and giving them the best encounters possible, for them to experience Christ without distraction is our fundamental purpose.

This was a training ground for our team. We wanted to be cost-effective and efficient, just like many of you, we didn’t have the budget to waste money on equipment and systems that were temporary or didn’t work. We did not know how long we were going to be doing broadcast-only services. We did everything we could to make it sound the best, look the best, and create the most live in-person feeling service we were able to create for an online audience. In a matter of weeks, our online viewership went from about 100 a weekend service to about 500 a weekend service and about 150 a weekday service. Now we had to be careful, we feared crossing a boundary and being an overproduced and fake service experience. However, we also had the goal to bring the best quality and excellence to the services we had the power to bring.

With audio being so important, especially in broadcast, this was a primary area of our team’s focus. A waves server was a game changer, we were able to spend a fraction of the cost of the physical rack units and can use some legendary plug-ins to make each step along our broadcast audio sound the best we can.

After a few months, our church decided to re-open. But how we were tasked with a problem. We had focused so much on mastering and fine-tuning our online services, how did we take the quality we were providing to our congregants and guests online to the ones physically showing up in the room? Hence the process repeated. Our initial focus is our in-house audio and visuals.

Five JBL point source boxes and 2 single 18” subs to cover an 800-person auditorium just wasn’t going to cut it. Luckily, we had the opportunity to purchase some used equipment from a production rental company that was looking to sell some of their gear. We designed the system and purchased 16 boxes of Meyer Mina, 2 Meyer UPAs, and 2 Meyer 700HP subs. This system instantly transformed our quality in the room, the even coverage and warm sound of the Meyer boxes mixed with the processing of the Meyer Galileo and Yamaha QL Console Processing gave us the sound quality we were looking for. We still had the challenge of reinventing our visuals.

Pre-Covid we knew LED walls were the next step, but the price point was just unreachable for us. Then, we got the opportunity to purchase 110 tiles of Unilumen LED wall and 2 Novastar Processors from the same production company where we got our line array. This visually transformed our in-house experience, allowing us to bring similar quality to our in-person and online services.

Was it perfect, no far from it. Our team still has the areas it needs to improve. There is always more gear, new pieces of equipment out there, something to try and implement. Now many of you may be reading this and asking what the takeaways may be. How do you do this for your team? How do you convince your leaders and or pastor to leap into innovation with you? Or maybe you’re a pastor who wants a second opinion or trying to find how to encourage the leaders you oversee to take the challenge and reinvent their production departments. These are all valid focuses and questions. There are so many pieces of equipment with a plethora of applications how do you know which one is right for your application, or what to say and when to purchase? For our team, we went by a few steps when considering purchasing equipment.

For starters, the necessity is the equipment. For many churches, the newest Digico Board probably isn’t the best to have. Now don’t get me wrong, I have used my fair share of Digico boards and absolutely I want one. However, for the majority of our services, we are not using more than 40-50 inputs, so an Allen and Heath or Yamaha is more practical to save some money. For lighting, if you’re running 20-40 fixtures a Hog or Dot 2 may work just fine in comparison to buying a Full Size GrandMA. However, if your board or gear keeps failing, crashing, or not working, it is probably time to find a fix or a replacement. Yes, gear has a lifespan. This is dependent on how much the gear is used but driving your old car will only take you so far before it is going to start needing some help or trading in for a new set of wheels.

This leads to the second focus we had. Lifespan of the gear. Many pastors and leaders I’ve worked with don’t have to struggle with the purchasing of the gear. Most of the conflict I have witnessed has been because the gear did not last or did not fit the proper needs of the church. Fixture or channel count grew too large and now the church is spending thousands again on a new board.

Now growth is a fantastic thing, keep growing, keep learning, and keep trying to find new solutions in a modern society. We live in a world and a culture that is tech and media-oriented. The generation of the influencer, sensory over-stimulated environments, with an emotion-driven society. As production leaders, we have to be innovative, efficient, effective, and focused. Our goal is to point people to Christ, so use the tools you have at your reach to reach people with the Gospel. Focus on finding the best solution that works for you and your team, and be willing to try something new at the risk of impacting more.

Logan Sykes, East Coast Believers Church

As a young production leader, Logan currently holds the role of Production Director at East Coast Believers Church while also consulting and freelancing as a production engineer. With a Bachelor’s degree from Full Sail University, his aspiration is to share innovative and effective production insights to support local churches in their missions.

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