Weeknotes: Saturday 13 March 2021

What have the tech team been doing this week?

Fitting some monitors

We hooked up two new screens to help us see what we’re doing whilst streaming services and managing the technology within the church building.

Increasing the bus factor

Much of the technology in the church at the moment has been thrown together during lockdown by one person, which has left us with a very low bus factor (the number of people who need to suddenly become unavailable before a project became impossible to continue).

This isn’t a great position to be in, so we spent some time this week filling more people in on the intricacies of systems, and improving some of our documentation.

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Weeknotes: Saturday 6 March 2021

Now that most of the physical work has been done for the cameras project and new desk, what have the tech team at Whitkirk been up to in the last week?

Less power!

We did some more maths on our tech desk’s total estimated power load and refined our numbers downwards. This meant we could swap some of the fuses for something even more conservative, bringing the already small risk of someone overloading the circuit in a dangerous way even lower.

“Il meglio è nemico del bene”

As Voltaire said(1), “perfect is the enemy of good”. The tech team always aim towards perfection, but we take a pragmatic view that most of the time “good enough” really is, and we can make improvements later.

Several years ago, when the Church website was redesigned into its current form, we made one of these “good enough” decisions about the look of our website header images. In doing so, we inadvertently left a bug lying around which would only manifest itself in a specific set of circumstances. Not a totally-breaking-things bug, but one which meant the website didn’t always look quite right. More specifically, if you uploaded an image that was narrower than a 9:2 ratio for the page header then it would be tiled incorrectly and look rubbish.

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References

References
1sort of, there was a bit of a translation error

Weeknotes: 27 February 2021

Things the technical team at St Mary’s have been doing or involved with this week.

Power!

Our tech desk has plenty of bits of equipment on it which need power, and we’re about to add even more. Up until now, power was distributed through a tangle of extension blocks which would invariably tie themselves in knots.

This was hard to make sense of, and annoying.

So we fixed it, making use of an off-cut from when we built our desk.

Continue reading “Weeknotes: 27 February 2021”

Weeknotes: 20 February 2021

Weeknotes are a short summary of what the Tech Team here at St Mary’s has been up to in the past seven days. We keep them as a way of sharing what we’ve been up to, as well as summarising our own progress on things.

Oh no!

We kicked off our Sunday Eucharist with a bit of an audio glitch – read about what it was and how we solved it.

Ash Wednesday

We made a brief return to pre-recorded services for Ash Wednesday, for the first time this year.

As part of this, we recorded a number of hymns and sung responses, which helped inform some of our plans for longer-term positioning of microphones in the building. It turns out that organs are really difficult to capture on their own, and this has some implications for how we plan to capture ambient congregational noise alongside the instrument itself once we return to in-person worship.

Cameras Project

As our Cameras Project continues we’ve been planning to move some equipment and wiring around the building. This poses a few tricky problems in a place where anything permanent needs to go through a sometimes complex and lengthy approvals process, and since it isn’t strictly speaking part of the work of installing the cameras we need to make sure whatever we do is temporary.

We build a new desk, and we wrote about how we did it.

The first step in this was creating a bespoke temporary desk which fits over and around our existing furniture, giving us a single place to control all the technology in the building from, both existing and in the future.

We’ve also shuffled around some of the many bits of wiring in the back corner, to make them tidier, simpler and more robust.

Weeknotes: 13 February 2021

Here’s what the technical team at Whitkirk has been up to in the past week.

Church audio system

We’ve been investigating how the audio system in the church is currently set up, and where we can make improvements. There are some quick wins, some tweaks which require a bit more work, and some long-term changes which we’ll need to add to our future plans.

In the short term, we’ll be making some small adjustments to how we mix the audio together to let us include external sources (like CD players or other music) in our online broadcasts. We’ll also be investigating ways we can reposition our ambient microphones to pick of more of the organ and the building itself, and less of the footsteps.

Cameras Project

We’ve done some planning for how we integrate the Cameras Project into our regular worship, particularly thinking about where we locate the camera operator and necessary equipment. We’ve also been thinking about later phases of the project and making sure whatever we do now is ready for the future.

Orders of service

We further refined some of the styles we use for orders of service, which make things easier to read on a wider range of screens.

On the physical front, we’ve done some more fine-tuning of the way we set up our pages to leave things more visually balanced.

Playbooks

We made a raft of improvements and clarifications to our playbook for streaming services, making sure we include a few things which got missed last week (a few eagle-eyed watchers noticed we were slow off the mark in turning the lights on at the start of the service). The list now includes almost double the number of preflight checks as well, particularly around making sure the audio is set as expected.

Our website

We’ve rearranged a couple of things on our home page after some feedback, making it easier to find our Midweek Musings.

Elsewhere

We offered a quick bit of advice to another church on accepting online donations and card payments.