Note: I am not sure how helpful these notes will be. I used them as a guideline for my teaching session, but did not plan on them being published. Because of requests for the information, I decided to go ahead and post them here in hope they might be of value to someone.
The Gospel Magician And Technology
Simple Silk Act
The title of this workshop is “The Gospel Magician And Technology.” Although not based on technology, the routine you just saw was surrounded by technology.
- There was sound which had to start and stop at the proper times
- There was equipment used to play the sound
- There was a microphone for my voice
- There was a display up on the video screen.
- There was lighting that allowed you as an audience to properly see what was happening
Technology is a modern reality which a performer cannot escape. It has become such a critical aspect of society that no longer can a person who wants to be an effective communicator say, “I’m too old to bother with that stuff,” or “That stuff just isn’t my thing.”
One day I caught myself doing that. I has having trouble with a program on my computer. I decided the way to solve the problem was my usual method so I said to Mary, “We need to call our sixteen-year old neighbor. He can come over and fix this!”
I heard myself saying this and I realized what it meant. In terms of technology I had given up on myself. I had bought into the idea that my generation is not able to successfully function in this current generation. The realization led me to ask myself, “Do I want this to be true? Do I really want to be a self-made dinosaur? Do I really want to accept the idea that I have become something similar to an obsolete piece of machinery? Do I want people to think Duane and eight-track tape players belong in the same category!
My heart responded to those questions with a loud “No!” I am not ready to move to the sidelines of life and ministry. I am not done yet. Therefore, like it or not, at this stage in life I must learn new things. Even though I’ve already learned a lot and done a lot, if I care about getting God’s truth out in this 21st century world, I need to keep on learning and doing.
This means I must pay attention to technological tools and learn to use them. They are tools which can tremendously enhance our abilities to entertain and communicate. They are tools modern audiences expect us to use. If we do not use them some may even question our credibility.
At this particular point in history, which is age of digital devices and personal media, we are foolish if we do not take advantage of technology.
By the way, we did not call the teen-ager on that day. I used Google and YouTube instead. They helped me solve the problem. Beyond that, from that time forward I have given myself the task of becoming reasonably skillful with at least one new aspect of technology every year.
- One year I learned how to edit my own music.
- Another year I learned to edit and share video.
- Another year I learned to create my own websites.
- Another year I learned to do graphics so I can produce my own posters and brochures.
- Another year I learned a digital lighting program so I could design and operate the lighting in a theatrical setting.
- This year I am working on understanding live-streaming and webinars.
Those who are younger than I am and smarter than I am may not need a year to learn such things. The point is, whether young or old, a slow learner or a fast learner, now is a time when we cannot allow technology to leave us behind.
The goal of this presentation is to help those who use magic tricks to illustrate spiritual truth to have a basic understanding of the technology which needs to be in use now. We are going to look at things which are fundamental and essential.
We will be guided by practicality. The world of technology is constantly changing. No one can know everything about everything. It is easily to become overwhelmed and frustrated by a plethora of details. We not here to become technological experts. We are here to learn how to get a job done. The job is that of successfully bringing God’s truth to modern audiences.
With this goal in mind we will give our attention to four main things…
- TECHNOLOGY IN RELATION TO MUSIC AND SOUND
- TECHNOLOGY IN RELATION TO VIDEO
- TECHNOLOGY IN RELATION TO LIGHTING
- TECHNOLOGY IN RELATION TO MARKING AND PROMOTION
As we consider these things it is important to understand we working on knowing where to start and seeing the direction we need to go. This is not about instant mastery of a technological tool. It is about seeing the path to follow that will take us to where we need to be.
We begin with…
- TECHNOLOGY IN RELATION TO MUSIC AND SOUND
We begin with this because this is the issue about which I have received the most questions and the issue about which there is the most to say.
The guiding concept in thinking about music and sound is, as much as such a thing is possible, to control the playing of our own music. It is not good to rely on a sound man to understand one’s show and to properly hit all the cues for the show. This is true for several reasons. One is, if we are good performers, even the sound man will get caught up in watching what we do. This will lead him to make mistakes. Another reason is the sound man has not had several days, and often not even several hours to review the show. He does not understand what we are going to do and it is hard for him to learn what we are going to do in a short time.
One of the biggest laughs I ever heard in my life happened at a pastor’s conference. I do not remember what led a speaker to make the comment, but for some reason, during the course of a teaching session, he said, “When Satan from heaven, he landed in the sound booth of the local church!’
The audience, which consisted of about seven-hundred pastors, roared with laughter. It was a huge laugh because the church leaders could relate to the idea of having problems in the church sound booth.
I could tell you story after story after story of problems I have had with sound people. Years ago I performed for a Children’s Pastors conference in Denver Colorado. It happened in a hotel ballroom that was a union house. They were required to hire a sound man from the local union. He arrived drunk. I did not know this until the show began and what was happening with the sound system was a nightmare. What he did, relating to the sound that night, all but ruined the show.
We probably are not going to have drunks showing up to run the sound for a church program, but on occasion we do have to deal with well-intentioned people who don’t always understand what we need and, unfortunately, sometimes we have to deal with egotistical people who believe they know better than we do as to what is supposed to happen in our show.
The easiest way to avoid problems in the sound booth is to have a simple way of managing your own cues and volume.
A. Keynote or Powerpoint from a laptop
This is the best way I have found to run the music for our shows.
- You probably already have a laptop
- The songs stop on their own
- You can set the volume for each song individually
- You can change the volume on the computer while maintaining individual song settings
- You can operate it with an inexpensive remote control
- You can easily operate it by way of having someone tap the space bar
- Laptops are expensive
- You must carry a laptop with you.
B. Remote systems for playing music through various devices
- David Laflin uses “Show Cue” and “Audio Ape” $90 – $500
- There are other systems. If you can understand and master the system, it will be a good choice for you.
C. Devices for playing your music
- iPod or MP3 player
- CD If you use CD, do not travel with it as your only way to play music. Do organize the music on the CD in the order it will be played for a show. (Do not expect a sound person to “jump around” on a CD to find various songs.)
- Flash Drive or Thumb Drive is a good way to make sure you have copies of your music with you, but it does not provide a playlist. However, you can have your Keynote/Powerpoint file on the drive with everything in order.
*Takeaway – Travel with three ways to play your music. Such as Laptop, iPod, and CD. (As well, it is good to carry a Flash Drive containing your music)
- 1/4 inch to XLR for plugging into house systems
- Long microphone cord (XLR to XLR)
- 1/8 to 1/4 cord
- 1/8 to 1/8 cord
E. Test Speaker
Carry a small battery operated speaker with you so you can test your sound. This way, if the house sound person says, “Something is wrong with your player” you can immediately plug into the speaker and show them your player is working and the sound is good to the speaker. This means your sound is good to their system, so the problem is in their system.
Why travel with your own microphone? So you can be sure it is a good one and be familiar with how to use it. An unfamiliar microphone can get in the way of the magic you need to do. Unfortunately it is not uncommon for good venues to have cheap microphones that do nor work properly even for them!
- Why I use a handheld wireless mic (Why I like my particular brand of handheld)
- When I use a lapel wireless mic
- A “Countryman” type microphone is very good and many recommend it highly. I don’t use one, but others do with much success.
- We have had good success with audio-technica brand microphones. It is mid-range in price yet reliable and great quality sound.
- Get a good mic. If you are willing to spend $300 or more on a trick used for a few minutes, why not spend that much on a mic used for the entire show?
G. Your Own Mixer
Traveling with a small mixer allows you to set the volumes on your own sound and microphone…and keeps a sound man from turning one or the other up too loud. (XLR Connection)
H. Personal Sound System
I almost always carry a backup sound system with me. I may not need it, but if I do need it…it is a huge blessing to have it!
- One powered speaker. Inexpensive, but gets the job done.
- A second smaller powered speaker for use as a monitor.
- The Music Itself, Should It Be Royalty Free?
The organization that books is responsible for music royalties. As long as you are working for someone else, you do not need to worry about it. If producing your own events, you do need to pay royalties.
- Mary and I pay both ASCAP and BMI. Most do not need to do this.
- For Youtube video and other commercial uses, royalties need to be paid. Because of this, royalty free music is a good choice.
- Audio Jungle and Arthur Stead are great resources for Royalty Free Music
- If you know who to work Garage Band or another music editing program, you can create your own music.
J. Editing Music
- I use Garage Band
- I started with Audacity and know many who yet use it
- You can learn to do this if you just make up your mind to work on it
- A simple secret to editing music is to use a sound effect to cover a rough cut. Example: Cymbal crash over place where chunk of music was deleted
K. Pre and Post Show Music
- We create a 40 minute preshow playlist
- We use a minimum of 10 minutes music for postshow
L. Music For Getting Volunteers
- It can be looped
- Otherwise know your time
Feedback and Questions? Chris and Aaron
TRICK: Music and Emotion – Thumbtip Streamers/Soft Soap
II. TECHNOLOGY IN RELATION TO VIDEO
Video is a big part of modern meetings, especially in churches.
- Keynote or Powerpoint
If means of showing video is there, why not use it?
- Carry a Keynote or Powerpoint file on a Flash Drive. The file may only be you and/or your logo.
- Video can be shown preshow to create excitement, make announcements, and sell product.
- Video can be shown postshow to convey contact information, sell products, or simply add to a happy mood. It might simply be your logo up on the screem.
- Preshow video should be from 20 to 40 minutes. (We use 40 minutes) Post show video need not be long. (10 – 15 minutes)
- Remember the event is for the client’s benefit, not yours. Do not insist on your video being shown in place of theirs.
B. Video your act
- Do this to get footage for use in promotion
- Do this to study your work. (Don’t watch to decide how good or bad you are. Watch to see what you can fix or do better)
- A DVD recorder can work well for creating video of a show. Go from the video camera directly to the recorder and thereby directly to a disc. When the show is over, the disc is ready to view
- For video editing, iMovie is great. (For MAC users)
- To get video, use your phone, an iPad or inexpensive camera. Nowadays there are many ways to get high-quality video.
Feedback and Questions? Chris and Aaron
TRICK: Question on video – Illusion Of One Rope – Video John 14:6
III. TECHNOLOGY IN RELATION TO LIGHTING
This is not just a big issue, it is an issue that can become too big. Keep things simple and practical.
- Remember The Purpose Of Lighting
It is not a light show, it is a magic show. The first purpose of lighting is to be seen. The second purpose of lighting is to create or enhance mood. Lighting should not be done for lighting sake, it should be used for sake of communication.
B. Normally, It Is Best To Use The Lights Already There
When I was young I carried my own lights. It wore me out and did not seem worth the effort. I figured, if the venue is happy with the lighting they have, I can assume they will be happy when I perform under those same lights. For most situations, I continue to think this way.
- Ask for a general wash. (This means a main lighting scheme that makes the stage bright and the show easily seen). I prefer a wash containing a mix of red light, white light, and blue light.
- Ask if they have any presets or specials. If they do, have them show these to you and decide if you can use them or not.
C. Even When Lighting Options Are Available, It Normally Is Best To Have Them Create Just Two Settings. A General Wash And A Mood Wash
- The general wash is what you will use for most of the show
- The mood wash is what you will use a few times for special effect
- The reason for only those two washes is otherwise most of the day can be spent on lighting. It can take so much time it wears you out before the show starts. As well, it can keep you from having other aspects of the show properly prepared.
D. A Recommended Lighting Program
An easy lighting program to learn is Chauvet’s Show Express. With inexpensive DMX fixtures you can do some amazing things, but it takes time to learn.
E. Your Own Backstage Lights
– Have several small LED flashlights with you. Keep on near the sound system and another near you props
- Travel with some small (cheap) LEW clamp or desk lights. Use them when needing to add light to backstage or off-stage areas.
Feedback and Questions? Chris and Aaron
IV. TECHNOLOGY RELATING TO MARKETING AND PROMOTION
Yes, you need to have a website. It is a necessity if you any intention of doing programs for other people. Why do you need a website? The two primary reasons are credibility and information.
Credibility comes by way of how the modern world thinks. If someone asks you, “What is your website?” and you say, “I don’t have one,” the person is likely to assume you are not serious about what you do and you probably are not much good at what you do.
If you know what you are doing and you can do it well, you will have a website. In this day and age that is the automatic assumption.
Information is about quickly and easily accessible answers. People are used to instant information. If they want to know something, almost anything, they immediately turn to their phones and expect their phones to show them what they are looking for right away.
For those of us who grew up in a time when phones hung on the wall and there was only one phone for the entire house to use, this is an amazing thing. We have to adjust to this amazing thing. Nowadays nearly everyone has a phone and the moment a question comes to mind they either ask Siri or tap the screen of the phone to start a search.
If people are interested in booking you, or if they have simply heard your name and wonder who you are, they will immediately look on the internet. They will expect to find a website. If they can’t find it, they will look for someone else and you lose.
This means, when creating a website, the two primary concerns are credibility and information. Knowing this can be very helpful in moving forward to create a good website.
I learned how to make my own website using WordPress. It wasn’t easy, but I learned it.
When I started into the process of building my own site I was intimidated and even questioned if I should do this. I thought I will never be as good at this kind of thing, as others are. Wouldn’t it be better to hire a professional?
Then I discovered that making a website is not like entering a beauty contest. Normal people do not compare one website with another website to see who has the best or most attractive website. They do not go to websites so they can “ooh and aah” over how marvelous the website looks. People go to a website to find answers and learn what they need to know.
This means, all a website needs to do is give answers in a direct and convincing manner. I can handle that. If I can make the site extra interesting and appealing as well, fine, but the main concern is providing answers to the questions people have. Answers to the questions that bring them to the website in the first place. This is something I can do.
I went ahead and built my own websites. I am pleased with the result.
Whether you build your own website, or find someone else to do it for you, here are the key issues to have in mind about making a good website.
- There Needs To Be Clear and Simple Visual Design.
“Bells and whistles” are not necessary to a website and can be a detriment. On the matter of website design one internet expert said: Your website design should be clean and simple, but at the same – eye-catching. A tasteful website isn’t flashy. Blinking letters and flashing pictures are disturbing, and will turn away most readers instead of attracting them.
Another internet expert said, As a general rule “less is more.” Pages should not be crowded. Keep white space around your sentences and paragraphs. Black text on a white background is the best combination for reading and remembering. Large blocks of text should be split up into paragraphs containing 4-5 sentences. Use pictures to tell the story.
*Takeaway: Start taking lots of digital pictures and cataloging them for use. They are a huge help for promotional and marketing purposes. They contribute much to the quality of a website.
2. There Needs To Be Meaninging content
A website should provide relevant content that readers want. The prolific and highly successful author, Elmore Leonard, once said the secret to good writing is to “Leave out the words people don’t want to read anyway?” This is especially true for a website. People are in a hurry. They do not want to wade through a lot of verbiage.
Keep in mind the purpose of a website is to display information about you while also persuading the reader about how what you do can benefit them. Make it your aim to clearly display this information.
Directly and plainly answer the “Who, what, where, why and how” questions. (Who you are, what do you have to offer, where do they find you, why they would want to book you and how do they book you.)
3. Be Sure To Have Easy To Find CONTACT Details
Do not fail to include contact information. Do not assume people will find your contact information in a footer or sidebar. Make it easy for people to followup a website visit by sending an email or making a phone call. Publish the email, phone number and mailing address you want them to use. Make this information impossible to miss.
That is all I am going to say about websites. During break times you might want to discuss the subject with others. There is much more to learn, but for this session the main concepts to embrace are what was just said.
- Yes, you need a website
- It does not need to be fancy
- It does need to clearly communicate
- You can learn to create your own website (WordPress.com is a good tool for doing so. It is not the only tool. It may not be the best tool. It is a good tool with which many have found success.)
- If you hire someone to make a website for you, make sure they understand you want it simple and practical.
B. PDF And Video Files that can be emailed
When I first started in the magic business I was advised to have a folder to mail to prospective clients. In this folder would be an 8 x 10 glossy photo, a sheet of paper with biographical information, another sheet of paper with a press release, and yet another a sheet of paper listing my performing credits. This was all hard copy material because it was the only thing we had to use in those days. (Some of you remember those days…someone has said, “You know you are getting old when you say ‘I remember when’ more than you say, ‘Hey, what’s happening!’” Anyway…
The world has changed. Now, once a show has been booked, clients want things sent email. Apart from what they ask you to send, there is opportunity to add to the success of an event by sending additional promotional items such as files for posters and bulletin inserts.
In practical terms this means…
- Have a biography ready to email (Just a couple of paragraph)
- Have a press release ready to email
- Have an introduction for use by an emcee ready to email
- Create a poster that can be emailed
- Create bulletin inserts that can be emailed
Here are some examples….
Many churches and organizations will be able to use video to promoting an upcoming appearance or event. For this purpose video needs to be short. It should motivate people to attend the program. It is good to have several different videos of different lengths for use in different ways to call attention to your work.
- Create a 30 second video
- Create a 60 second video
- Create a three minute video.
Video promo example
C. Social Media
The latest statistic is more than 2.2 billion people are active users of Facebook on a monthly basis. The current estimate of the world’s population is 7:6 billion. This means more than on fourth and nearly one third of all the people in the world are on Facebook every month.
Facebook can be a waste of time, and for a lot of people it is. Facebook can also be a great place to do business, and for many people it is. Facebook is a place where business and communication can be done on a worldwide basis. Many do that.
I have no idea how many shows I have booked simply by making an announcement on Facebook about a time when I am available or about dates I need to fill when visiting a particular part of the country…but I have booked many shows that way.
This particular event, Gospel Magic Day, was almost entirely promoted through Social Media.
My suggestion is to look at Facebook as a way to promote you and your ministry. It can be a toy or diversion if you want it to be, but it also can be business. You don’t need to get involved in Facebook arguments and discussions. You don’t need to waste time messaging people simply for the sake of conversation. You can treat Facebook as a free way to create interest in who you are and what you do. You can view it as a free way to communicate. You can even attach contracts and booking information through Facebook personal messages. I repeat…you can do this for free!
In practical terms this means…
- Use Facebook to create awareness of who you are. Don’t brag about yourself. Don’t try to sell yourself. Do post pictures and pleasant comments about friendly aspects of life. Some seem to have lost sight of the fact that on Facebook people are called “friends.” Many go to Facebook for the sake of friendship. Therefore having a good Facebook presence comes from being friendly. If you know how to be friendly, you should be able to make good posts on Facebook. (I think, for purposes of business, this applies to other social media platforms as well. Have a friendly presence.)
- Use Facebook to create awareness of your business. Make posts that remind people of how what you do might benefit them. This should be done carefully. It should not seem like you are “tooting your own horn” or showing off. Mention new things you are doing in a show. Comment about specific things that happen during a show. If you are not doing many shows, comment about ideas/concepts you are working on for a show. Work to promote awareness of the kind of work and ministry you do.
- When a show is scheduled, announce it on Facebook. Let people know where you will be and when it will happen. You might be surprised by the results.
That is as fas we will go with Marking and Promotion because there is so much else to talk about. Let’s take a few minutes for feedback and questions. (Dr. Beck? Aaron?)
While recommending the possession of a good working knowledge of technical tools relating to sound, lights, video and promotion, we do not recommend doing much magic that is, in itself, based on technology. Why? Because, when it does not work, there usually is no “out.” (Sure shot failing to work). A second reason not to use it is there are so many incredible tricks already in existence that do not rely on it. Why put yourself in a situation where technology can let you down, when you do not need to be in that position. (Broadway still prefers pulling things with ropes and using manpower.)