3 ways to simplify your cabling as a church – Production System at Saddleback Berlin

Microphone with long cable

If you are a portable church or a church with fixed installations, one of the important components are your cables. Treat them well and they will treat you well. If you maintain your cables well, you will safe time and money.

As Saddleback Berlin we always had to work with boundaries such as time constraints , budget constraints and so on. We want to create a great Worship experience but can not get away from those limitations.

We are struggling with accepting any kind of boundaries. We always ask ourselves: “Isn’t there a way to simplify this? There must be a better way.” And I encourage you to have someone in the team who does this all the time. It is somehow inconvenient to get those questions but it helps you think out of the box.

At Saddleback Berlin we questioned the way we setup our stage and one part of it is how we do our cabling. We basically sticked to the principle to use the shortest cable possible.

On stage we implemented multi-core cables which bundle a set of input and outputs in one thick cable. Additionally we plug our instruments and mics with the shortest cables possible to those multi-cores. We also teach our people how to coil cables which helps reducing setup time.

Let’s dig a little deeper in those three areas:

1. Keep the multi-core cables short

With a multi-core cable several cables are combined in one line. Usually there is a row of plugs at one end and a strip with several connectors at the other end.

At Saddleback Berlin we are using a digital snake with 32 inputs and 16 outputs to connect the stage with the sound board with just one Cat 6 cable (RJ45). On stage we use several smaller multi-core cables to provide connections at several positions of our stage.

With multi-core cables it is fairly hard to find the exact needed length so we end up buying multi-cores always longer than we need them. But when we are having our stage always in the same size and in always the same building we can reduce the range of those multi-core cables by just tying them shorter and fixing this length with a cable tie.

The second binding is then loose, so that every stage manager knows that he can release this binding and then the stage box has exactly the right length. Each Stage Box is labeled with the same terms as shown in the table above, i.e. Front, Left and Right.

The multi-core cable with the two cable ties; one remains fixed, the other is loose

2. Keep the cables for instruments and microphones short

We use color coding for the cables that we make available to the musicians. Each color stands for one cable length. In our cable box we then have a small manual explaining the meaning of the colored marking (the cable length) and then write behind it for which use this cable length is suitable (e.g. 5m for singers and 3m for the keyboard or guitar). The shorter the cable is, the faster it is rewound at the end and the longer the cable is, the worse it is usually coiled and next Sunday the trouble is big if someone tries to get the cable apart again.

A color coded cable and a description for how we use the colors easily visible for the whole team

3. Learn how to coil cables

We don’t explain to everyone how to roll the cables correctly and knot-free. From my point of view this is a waste of time. We expect our Stage Manager and Producer to know how to roll up the cables correctly. They are also the only ones to roll up multi-core cables and cables longer than 5m.

Well coiled cables come loose immediately; in fact I can hold a well coiled cable at one end and then throw it out straight and without loops or knots on the floor. With a badly rolled up cable it can take – depending on the length – a minute until it is unknotted. The shorter the cable, the less problematic it is, so it is worthwhile to use short cables for the majority of cables.

You should learn how to coil cables properly and teach your Stage Managers and Producers how to do it. I found this video sequence which helps a lot to learn it:

Great description for how to coil cables with the “Over Under Technique”

Conclusion

This may have been my shortest article ever but the principles are simple and the effect is huge. If you keep the cables as short as possible (but never shorter than needed of course), if you tie your multi-core cables and if you teach your core people how to coil longer cables it will pay off.

You will be quicker with the setup as well as with the tear down. This will result in more time for practice and sound checks. This will ultimately benefit a better worship experience which is our end goal.

You can see that even a small thing like the cabling will benefit your end goal if you do it right.

Let me know what you’ve done to optimise your cabling by posting a comment below. Also feel free to point any question to me.

Production System at Saddleback Berlin ⛪️

Saddleback Church celebrating Easter
Photo by Greg Ortega on Unsplash

The picture above is from our mother church in California. This is how we celebrate our Easter services in California. Sometimes we still have snow here in Berlin, so we prefer to stay in the building. 😉

What is Saddleback?

Saddleback is a church in many locations. On the one hand we share many similarities worldwide and on the other hand we respond to our regional needs.

Our teaching pastors are Rick Warren, Tom Holladay and Buddy Owens. Each campus is led by a campus pastor, who is usually supported by a team of staff and volunteer leaders. Dave Schnitter started our campus in Berlin and still leads it as our Campus Pastor.

Our special challenges as Saddleback Berlin

Saddleback Berlin celebrated its first worship service in October 2013. We have been renting party and event locations since the beginning. At the moment we are in the Kalkscheune in Berlin-Mitte.

This means that every Sunday we set up all of our equipment, then rehearse once, check the sound and celebrate two services. Afterwards we tear everything down and store it in a storage room provided by the venue.

We must constantly balance between the different requirements.

Finding balance

  • We want to maximize the time for the rehearsal of musicians and the sound check.
  • We want to let our volunteers sleep as long as possible.
  • We want to take as little time as possible from our volunteers.
  • We want to rent the venues as short a time as possible.
  • We want to conduct our services at meaningful times and all guests should have the opportunity to participate in the service.
  • We want the audience to experience as little sound check and rehearsal as possible.
  • As a consequence, we want to spend as little time as possible on the setup.

Our conclusions and the reason for this series

As a consequence of the above challenges, we have made the following decisions:

  • We start at 8am with the setup of stage and technical equipment.
  • We optimize the technical equipment so that we can empty the storage room and set up the stage and technical equipment within 45 minutes.
  • We can then rehearse and check the sound for 90 minutes.
  • Our services start at 10am and 12 noon and last about 90 minutes.
  • We slowly start the teardown at 2pm and leave the event rooms at 3pm.

At first glance, it looks like we are asking a lot of our volunteers and that is difficult to refute. I have been responsible for production in many churches over the past decades. However, I have never experienced such incredible encouragement between the volunteers.

This results in us delivering a high-quality performance. I have never had so much fun in this role and I firmly believe that the whole team does.

Almost every Sunday I myself — a volunteer like many of the others — spend seven hours in our church. We don’t expect that from any volunteer, and I just want to be there because it gives me a lot of energy.

I studied sound engineering a few decades ago and never before has my knowledge and experience been so challenged as with Saddleback. I have never experienced such a dedicated and enthusiastic team before. This motivates me and many of the other volunteers.

Every Sunday Saddleback Berlin has about 350 worshipers (including children) divided into two worship services.

How is the production system organized at Saddleback Berlin?

We have set up our production system in such a way that we have achieved a good balance between the time available and the optimal use of this time.

The production system is divided into the following elements:

  • Sound Board
  • Presentation computer and video system
  • Translation system
  • Stage
  • Software systems

In the coming weeks we want to explain the individual elements in more detail. We hope that many churches can learn from them — small and large, mobile churches like us, but also churches that celebrate services in their own spaces.

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