The Preflight Check

So what is the most important part of your sound system? The speakers? Amps? Power Conditioning? Nope. As a matter of fact, the most important part of your system is not a piece of gear at all! And no matter what condition your system is in, you are the determining factor to this component! Are you confused yet?

The most important part of your system is your preparation, and the most important part of that is what I call the “Preflight Check.” Just as a pilot checks his aircraft every time before taking off, so we must check our systems before every event or service. The Preflight Check is not some lengthy ordeal; it’s a simple tool that helps you be aware of the condition of your system and be certain that you are as ready as you can be before the service or event begins.

I recently had a real life example of why we must do our Preflight Checks! As I was getting ready for church on a Sunday morning, I got a text from a tech director at a church I’ve worked with saying they were having a problem with their system. I immediately called them back and talked with them. In their Preflight Check they had realized their master EQ of the system was not like it should be. Instead, it was all flattened out. Now this was a serious problem. On this system the master EQ was being used to prevent feedback, deal with several acoustically troublesome areas in their building, and most significantly, it controlled the crossover points for the speakers and subwoofers! Running a service with their master EQ flat would at best have sounded really bad, and at worst, have blown their speakers! A wrong crossover point can blow a speaker in as little as 2 seconds with the kind of power a system like theirs was running! Good catch, guys!

Every Preflight Check is different because every system is different, so spend some time writing it out. After your entire tech team is up to speed on the list, then work on committing it to memory. After a while it will become second nature. Think through what you need to check, and what’s important not to forget to check. When I was running crews, I used to have a saying that helped them remember the basics for big picture checks:

“Every mic, every monitor, every light, every slide, every battery… every time.”

A saying like that gets you through the big stuff, but you also need to address the details unique to your system and service. For example:

  • Is the mixer set correctly for the service?
  • Do all the tech team members that need an order of service have one?
  • Have the camera angles been planned and checked?
  • Are the camera settings where they should be (e.g., focus, iris, white balance, etc)?
  • Is the translator’s headphone volume set?

You can see my point here. There are a lot of things to be checked in any system. The more detailed and thorough you are with your check the less things will go wrong. As we say, “Prevent the stupid stuff.” More than likely, you’ll have enough issues deal with due to last minute changes, equipment problems, and the like without having to deal with things that could have been caught in a Preflight Check.

So how do I know what to add in my check? Good question. Get your team together and brainstorm: “What are some things that might go wrong, and how can we prevent them?” You might be surprised how many things you come up with.

If you are vigilant, many problems can be prevented. Let’s continue to do all we can to remove distractions in our tech ministry.

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