iStat Menus

For the tech nerd in all of us, I present:

iStat Menus from bjango

iStat Menus is an OSX system monitor allowing you to know exactly what is going on inside your mac. This app is super handy for me to know what my network bandwidth is doing as well as my laptop temperature. It is very, I currently only have it showing me: Temp, Network, and CPU/Memory usage.

 

When I am encoding videos, or monitoring the network bandwidth I am glued to these readouts. Clicking on the CPU graph shows you all the cores and what services are using them.

The Network tab has a cool feature that I use constantly. With my work laptop, I have 3 networks I connect to regularly. Two of them are DHCP enabled so I can select automatic, the other is when I am setup at work in our auditorium, connected to the hard wire. With the click of a mouse button on the FOH tab I immediacy change my network settings and can connect with a saved static IP. Gone are the days of going into system preferences to make that change.

This software has a free trial and then is only  a few dollars to buy. I highly recommend it.

Review: Matrox MicroQuad

For the last several weeks we’ve had the privilege to be a test site for Matrox’s latest development. The MicroQuad is a compact quad SDI to HDMI  multiviewer. It can handle anything you want to throw at it offering suport for SD, HD, and 3G. The HDMI output allows the user to turn a consumer grade HDTV or HDMI compatible monitor into a multiviewer.  Weighing in at under a half of a pound the MicroQuad is an amazingly compact unit, which is helpful in already over crowed control rooms or in the field. User control features are accessible though push buttons on the side of the unit, allow the user to switch between a 4 up display or cycle full screen each input.

When we were approached if we’d be interested in trying this unit, I jumped at the chance. Our team had just been throwing around ideas as to how we could add an additional preview monitor to our video room to preview added cameras. We had already outgrown our existing multiviewer solution, and needed to expand. We quickly put the MicroQuad into action, attaching a 24″ LED Asus monitor to the HDMI output and  four of our cameras  (720p/59.9) to the input. We then in true Frankenstein fashion “threw the switch,” well, we just plugged it in. The multiviewer came to life in no time. What blew me away about this unit is that there is no software installation or configuration required to make it work. Just plug it in and go.

This then got me thinking, “where else could this be useful?” With that, I took it away from the video guys, and placed it up in my world for the audio guys. Our monitor console sits at a weird angle from stage left. This angle causes some line of sight issues for the engineer there so we mounted a TV there with a locked off camera feed for the them. By adding the MicroQuad to the mix opened up addition viewing options for the monitor engineer who can now scan several video feeds to see the entire stage.

I later found our video director using the MicroQuad during the week for video shoots. It was brilliant, he was already using a Matrox MC-100 to see the feed from his main camera on a 24″ LCD monitor. The MicroQuad allowed him to view 2 feeds side by side. This kind of flexibility is what I have come to love with Matrox’s products.

As part of our testing we would report back to the Matrox development team our thoughts and possible changes. One thing we did notice is that because the unit is small, it displaces the heat it generates through the casing.  Now it wouldn’t double as coffee warmer or hot plate, but I also wouldn’t bury it in a rack.

When the MicroQuad was released at the end of July several improvements had already been made that our test box didn’t have. They were all things we said would be cool if it could do and voila. I wish I could say it was cause of us, but it was already in the works. These enhancements make this device a compact power house. I am really excited that they added the ability to customize the input labels. It comes standard as CAM 1, CAM 2, and so on. Through the micro usb connector you can now change those. They also added VU meters, which would make anyone using this in the field super happy. The final big improvement is the ability to control it remotely from a PC.

In the short time we had this test unit, we found multiple great uses for it. I would recommend the MicroQuad to any church looking for a simple multiviewer solution or to augment their current setup.

* Disclaimer: This review was not sponsored by Matrox or any of their distributors. There was no exchange of money or equipment offered for this post. It consists of personal views and experiences with the actual product. The goal of this post is to help others churches in the technical endeavors.

 

This Post was originally created on northviewtech.us

Review: Matrox Convert DVI Plus

It always seems to happen the same way. No matter how much prep work you do advancing an event. The guest speaker shows up with something other than what was specified. His laptop has a DVI out and the technology gremlins just ran off with the adaptor. Now the tech guys are scrambling like the engineers at NASA trying to get Apollo 13 home. By the event start time the video on the screen is dark, grainy, and has hum bars.

When Northview’s new auditorium was finished, it was a technology playground for the techie. However one thing was missing, the ability to get a DVI signal from a laptop into our system while maintaining the signal quality. Often times we would need to take that signal – convert it to VGA then into a scan converter. The scan converter would then turn the signal into a composite source. Then down in the control room the signal had to be upscaled to 720p and converted again to SDI. All these conversions eventually added latency, grain, and distortion. We needed something different.

The newest tool we have in our bag of tricks is the Matrox Convert DVI Plus. What I thought would be just another scan converter has become a swish army knife to our video needs. The ability to take a raw DVI source signal input and send it out – SDI, Component, and Composite is worth the money. No longer do we have to route the video through multiple pieces of equipment to get it our screens.

Pictured below was where the Convert DVI really helped us. We were able to use it’s DVI thru to get the signal to the on stage Plasma and its SDI out to get it on the large house screens.

The Matrox Convert DVI Plus is small, portable and rugged (I can neither confirm nor deny that it was dropped once.) It requires an initial configuration via a PC, which in a MAC world makes you get creative. However, after the configuration I have never had to plug it in again. I would hope Matrox could create a Mac version of the software. I would like to be able to use some of the devices more advanced features on the Mac.

Here, the Convert DVI helped us project on to the two sets cardboard box screens on the stage.

Bottom line: I use this converter weekly and it has saved me a lot of time “jury-rigging” something together.

200 Pomegranates and an Audience of One: Creating a Life of Meaning and Influence

200 Pomegranates and an Audience of One: Creating a Life of Meaning and Influence

By: Shawn Wood (@shawnwood)

I don’t remember how I came across this book, but I am very glad I did. It was just the spiritual pick me up I needed when I found it. I wasn’t really sure what to expect going in, esspecially from the title. My wife loves pomegranates, I on the other hand, am not a fan. I know their a super food and I should like them, but they’re not for me. Super foods is not what this book is about, but it did give me an appreciation for the beauty of a pomegranate.

The book dissects a story from 1Kings, which I either missed or glossed over in all the “begots” and “son ofs”. It’s the story of  a bronze worker, Huram of Tyre. Huram was a craftsman who was asked by King Solomon to help construct the temple in Jerusalem. How he went about his craft, he created art and is an inspiration for us.

Author Shawn Wood lays out in the book that we are all artists. Whether we play an instrument, paint, or raise our kids. We are an artist performing for an audience of one.

“No longer is art limited to painters and musicians. Each one of us is an artist, endowed by our Creator with skills and talents that can make our world a more beautiful.”

Since we’re all artists, Shawn explains through Huram’s story we a have a mandate as artists, the five essential components of life-artistry:

  • Get great at something
  • Do something with that talent
  • Invest yourself in things that will last and that others will benefit from
  • Work for an audience of one, because sometimes our best work is seen only by God
  • Finish what you start If everyone is an artist then life itself is a grand work of art.

“The problem is many of us are trying to get great at the wrong things— and some of us are trying to get great at everything. We battle to become great at so many things that it seems like we focus on things in which we are not proficient to the exclusion of that one thing that is really our gift. We will have the opportunity to be good at many things in our lives, and most of the time “good enough” really is good enough. But in a few areas of our lives, God really does equip and call us to be great.”

Like I said before, I needed this book right when I got it, God knew I needed a reminder that I was right where He wanted me. He’s placed me where I can be GREAT for Him. I could work anywhere (maybe not a hospital, I’m squeamish) to provide for my family. I may not be good at it, but I’d be good enough. Well God is not satisfied with “good enough” from me in the area of my ministry and is empowering me to be great.

“But in order to get great at something, it seems that God intends for us to build upon the foundation of skills and wisdom that he has given us, and not just daydream of skills and talents that we wish we had. He intends for us to use the greatness that he has given us to serve.”

For many years I had thought God had called me to be a great audio guy. To use my skills of mixing and technology for His glory, which is true, He wants me to do that. Those skills were just what I needed to get in the door, He wants me to serve Him by serving His people. Suddenly realizing that I am honing my skills not for my benefit but for God’s glory. It’s a real eye opener!

“There comes a point in your life where you have to decide if you will continue to live a life centered on yourself or if you will make the difficult choice of investing in things that will last.”

The book is a short and an enjoyable read. It’s under 150 pages, so it really sets you up for success on mandate number five: “Finish what you start…” 

Read these few verses below about Huram’s work:

“First he cast two pillars in bronze, each twenty-seven feet tall and eighteen feet in circumference. He then cast two capitals in bronze to set on the pillars; each capital was seven and a half feet high and flared at the top in the shape of a lily. Each capital was dressed with an elaborate filigree of seven braided chains and a double row of two hundred pomegranates, setting the pillars offmagnificently. He set the pillars up in the entrance porch to The Temple; the pillar to the south he named Security (Jachin) and the pillar to the north Stability (Boaz). The capitals were in the shape of lilies. (1 Kings 7: 15-22)”

Much like the “Begots” I would have just passed right over this scripture. Shawn writes:

“God, through the writer of 1 Kings, relates the minutia of each and every one of Huram’s actions. Why does it matter how intricate these carvings were, and what the exact size of each bowl was, and where the pomegranates were located, and that there were two hundred of them?”

It matters because God cares about the details. God, did not create the Heavens and the Earth and say, “eh, it’s ok” no He said it was good and He cared for every single detail, even ones known only to Him.

Needless to say this book changed my ministry mindset. It made me realize why I am doing what I’m doing and that God wants me to not take pride in my work but to take pride in Him for who I’m doing the work for.

Go and get this book, unleash your inner artist and ask yourself:

“What are you creating?”

 

MPEG Streamclip

My swiss army knife of video conversion tools.

MPEG STREAMCLIP

It dices, it slices, it converts almost any video format into any other. I use this weekly to post video from Northview’s worship service to vimeo. I use it to Rip DVDs (custom made ones that a presenter brings me 10 minuets before their talk.) This handly piece of free software is a must on your computer. It is Mac and Windows compatible and will get you out of a video bind.

A cool feature, is even if the video file is damaged, it will do it’s best to recover what it can or fix the issue. For a piece or Freeware, it’s a must have!

 

 

Getting what you want…

I grew up watching Merry Melodies in the morning while I would be getting ready for school. Almost every morning there was an episode where Willie Coyote relentlessly chased after that on thing he wanted… the Road Runner. He was ruthless in that en devour. There are two things that come to my mind when thinking about Mr. Coyote, am I chasing after those things I think are important with all my being and are those things I’m chasing after worth it? Willie put so much energy, money, and his life on the line for one dinner. Now I know the purists say that Willie did catch the Road Runner at one point. In the episode “Soup or Sonic” right after being shrunk to a fraction of his original size, clings to the leg of the regular size Road Runner,  he then turns to the “camera” and holds up a sign:

“Okay wise guys, you always wanted me to catch him. Now what do I do?”

While technically he did catch him, he wasn’t in any position to partake in the victory.

For me, I had a dream to be a sound engineer for a touring band. When I was 11 years old I was in the audience of a Newsboys’ concert in my home town and said, “I’m going to tour with them.” 12 years later after spending almost every weekend working for regional sound companies, and then onto small tours out of Nashville. I found myself sitting across the table at catering from Peter Furler and the rest of the Newsboys – dream accomplished. I came to realize though after years of touring, this dream wasn’t what I thought it was, I loved it but it wasn’t for me.

I believe we are called to pursue that passion God has put inside us with all our being. With as much tenacity as Willie Coyote trying to get that one Road Runner dinner. Just don’t forget to stop and take a gut check now and then. Make sure that thing you think you want is really worth it. I thought being a sound engineer is what God created me to be, to be on road. What I am finding is, He’s asking me to use those gifts to pursue the real thing He wants me doing. What I thought was a passion for audio and all things techie is really a heart for people and their relationship to Christ. Being an audio engineer is just the mode He has blessed me with to open the door. So, before you order that next item from the ACME company, sit down and pray, ask God what is your deep down passion. The thing that drives you and keeps you up at night, is it a selfish passion or a Holy one? Open yourself up to God’s ideas, you’ll be surprised at what you can do then.

Are you doing what you thought you would be as a kid? How is God shaping and changing what you’re passionate about? Leave me a comment, let’s talk about it.

Dropbox

In keeping up with the theme from last week, I will recommend another “cloud” based program I couldn’t live without.

DROPBOX 

Now, Dropbox isn’t new and there are a lot of similar options out there. Dropbox is just the one I have become loyal to. Mainly because they are responsible for storing over 50Gbs of my data right now. I have become a huge fan of cloud storage. I was an early adopter of Carbonite and Mozy and they saved my butt several times. My problem was I wanted to just be able to access files quickly and not have to un-archive them. That is where the beauty of Dropbox has come in. I now store documents, photos, and things I don’t want to lose there. I can share folders with friends, family, and colleagues or they can share their items with me. I have worked with other churches having them send me pictures and files via Dropbox collaboration.

Between my iPad, iPhone, Laptop, Desktop, and family computer my files always stay within reach.

Again there is a free version, and paid (yearly) version. There are also several ways to have Dropbox add storage space to your account, just by tweeting, adding photos, or sharing with a friend.

 

Thoughts on the Global Leadership Summit

Preparing for this year’s Global Leadership Summit has me reflecting about previous years. I am often asked by people who have never been “what’s so important about it?” My answer is always: It changed my career. Before attending the Summit I was always focused on the Tech and not the People. I was a nerd who wanted to be a leader and didn’t know how. I can still hear Bill Hybels (Senior Pastor of Willow Creek Community Church) saying in his opening talk in 2010, “Leaders move people from HERE to THERE.” That’s when it hit me, I am not moving anyone from anywhere doing things the way I’ve always done them. Now let me take a moment and explain, there is nothing wrong with the ultra techie. The guy that can spit out model numbers from memory and can tell you the ins and outs of all the latest gear. But I had to make s decision, I had to decide if I was going to be the ultra tech and if so, was I willing to put the effort into it. See, I have never been good at model numbers and such. I always feel embarrassed when asked what kind of mics I am using and end up getting the numbers all messed up. I was going to have to hunker down and study if I was going to be able to run with the big tech dogs.

This all started a stirring in me that I am still working on today. It’s a feeling that started in my heart and is making its way to my brain as I figure out how to implement it. I had to ask myself the tough question: “Can I be okay walking away from mixing sound and let someone else do it?” I found that answer at the Leadership Summit, “Yes, I can.” God put a new passion in my heart, centered around my old passion. I still love tech, and am still a nerd. But now I find joy in helping others find that passion. I find greater joy in building a team than pulling off a flawless performance. Hybels went on to say: “Figure out what it is that God wants you to do in this world, then move people from HERE to There.” I have figured out what God wants to do with me at this point in my life.  It’s not being the front of house guy, it’s not being the road manager for a band, it is leading and caring for a team of volunteers at a church for the glory of God.

 

 

What has God called you to do? Are you doing it, or still trying to fight down the path of your own wants and desires?

 

 

I urge you to check out the Global Leadership Summit and see what changes God wants to make in you.

 

 

(As an added note, I want to give Tim Schraeder a major thank you for his meticulous notes. I used his notes to augment my own and want to thank him for that. His notes can be found at: http://www.timschraeder.com)