[Guest Post from Duke DeJong]
A frequent question I get asked is, “what are the most important things I should look for in a piece of gear?” I have three answers to this question regardless of whether it’s audio, video, lighting, or any other gear.
The first two are pretty obvious and related: What do I need a specific piece of gear to do both now and in the near future and what will give me the most bang for my buck.
When I’m helping someone determine the right item for them, the first thing I’m looking for is all of the things this new item needs to do. As we discuss what they know they need, my job is to help figure out what they don’t yet realize they want as well. So many churches don’t have anyone knowledgeable on staff nor involve a capable integrator to help them buy the item that will help them for years to come as opposed to just what they see they need now.
For larger purchases and projects I highly recommend working with a good consultant or integrator for this very reason. Their job is to help you figure out what you need now as well as in the foreseeable future and then help you narrow down the products that can meet both needs. This step is so critical because a little forethought into what you will need in the foreseeable future can save you a great deal of money in the long run. If you were looking at video switchers and went with one that had just enough inputs now, but then needed to expand in 3 years, you would have been better off by purchasing what you would need up front instead of purchasing both.
The second response is that you must figure out which item option gives you the most ability and flexibility for the money you will spend. For larger purchases this should absolutely include getting hands on time with the item before purchasing. Sticking with the video switcher analogy, if you’ve found 3 switchers that will meet the needs and all have a variety of added features, functionality and usability, those all need to factor in.
For instance, one switcher may take all of your inputs, your preview and your program output and combine it to one screen for you. This can be a valuable function as one of the other switchers could require video splitters and numerous monitors in order for you to be able to monitor the inputs.
Go through each item feature by feature and determine which one will get you the most usable bang for your dollar. In my experience the cheap one rarely does enough, the expensive version does way too much but there is frequently a mid-range version that has a lot of feature and functionality for the price.
The last answer I give is the one I believe most churches miss, and that is to make sure you get the gear that is appropriate for the people you have to run it. This is where knowledge of your teams is critical (hopefully you have an idea of what they are capable off). You should reconsider purchasing a high-end digital sound board if your team can just barely run the old analog one you have. You should consider holding off on purchasing intelligent lights and lighting consoles until you have someone capable or at least shows the promise of capability of learning how to program as well as maintain the lights. I have seen many churches buy gear that is essentially over the head of those who will be required to use it. If your teams can’t run it, it’s a waste of resources.
A while back I recorded a podcast with Mike Sessler from www.churchtecharts.org about all of the new things that came out at Infocomm 2010 and I realized later that every item that grabbed my attention were items that were packed with many great features yet were very user-friendly and extremely trainable. Whenever I’m evaluating gear one of the questions I always ask myself is, “Can my average volunteer learn and run this?” If the answer is no, I don’t need it. While there are exceptions to the rule, if my team won’t be able to learn something and be proficient on it, I don’t want it.
My job as a ministry leader requires challenging people, but I still must set people up for success. If they can’t be successful on a piece of gear, I have failed them as a leader if I expect them to use it anyway.
So there you go, three things to look at when you are purchasing new gear. When picking out what you want and need you should not just think about the now, but the near future as well. You will save a lot of money in the long run. The second is to get your hands on the options and make sure you get the most bang for your buck. It’s good stewardship of time and money. Last, make sure the people who will need to use it are capable so they can be successful servants in your ministry. It doesn’t do any good to spend money on gear you don’t know how to use.
Duke DeJong has been involved in live production for over 15 years and spent 10+ years in full time ministry, and in 2011 began serving as the Church Relations Director for CCI Solutions. You can find him online at www.dukedejong.com or on Twitter @dukedejong.
Question(s): What's going to be your next purchase? Ever regret a purchase?
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