Thursday, June 2, 2011

Yesterday I posted The Background, The Numbers, and The Setup for a battery test I ran overnight last night where I paired some regular Alkaline AA batteries against some rechargeable NiMH (nickel-metal hydride) AA batteries. And here are the results:

Click the graph for full size.

Note: The graph shows the length of time (in hours) along the bottom axis and the number of bars the battery indicator shows on each transmitter on the left axis ("-1" indicating that it fully lost power). I made the two Alkaline battery lines a green color to help group them together. Note that they are the two that stay at three bars the longest but they are also the first two to drop off.

There are three main things I took away from this:

1) The NiMH batteries won! No surprise here as Mike Sessler's battery test which this test is emulating (read about it here: Part 1 and Part 2) shows almost exactly the same graph. Just like in his tests the NiMH batteries lasted about 15% longer than the Alkaline batteries.

2) Also just like in Mike Sessler's tests, the NiMH batteries dropped bars quicker than the Alkaline batteries but in the end outlasted them. This is good to know so that when we are running the batteries we know not to freak out when we see two bars, but we should freak out when we see one bar!

3) My one surprise, and the one difference from Mike Sessler's tests, was that my test ran longer than his... by more than four hours (almost a third longer)! His test ran just under 14 hours, my test ran over 18! This could be for several reasons, including (but not limited to):
a) we may not have played music as loud as he did,
b) the transmitters were five feet away from the receivers,
c) we are using different transmitters than he is.

Anywho, I am super excited about the results from this test! Even worst case scenario we know that our new rechargeable batteries will last 16 hours, well more than we will ever need them!

If my opinion changes on this I will certainly let you know, but for now: I am excited that we went rechargeable, and I think other churches should too!

Matthew Kelling
Director of Media Ministry
Argyle United Methodist Church

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Background

About 6 years ago I tried to take our little 250 person church "green" by using rechargeable batteries for our wireless body packs. I went out and bought the cheapest rechargeable batteries and the cheapest charger I could find. I would put the batteries in to charge Sunday after church and a week later would use them Sunday morning.

I don't know why I was so surprised when my little plan failed! The batteries would last 30 minutes and DIE! What a waste of money and time! (In retrospect, I shouldn't have bought the cheapest stuff, and I shouldn't have charged them and then let them sit six days, but that is beside the point.)

Because of this we have always used regular old AA Alkaline batteries. They are reliable but can be expensive and a waste because you are throwing them away with charge still on them. (We would put ours in a small tub with a "Free Used Batteries" sign and let people take them for use in toys, remotes, clocks, etc.)

I never again thought about going to rechargeable batteries, that is until 14 months ago when Mike Sessler (the Technical Arts Director at Coast Hills Community Church in Aliso Viejo, CA) ran a "Battery Shootout" on some Alkaline and rechargeable batteries.

The results were surprising: ALL 5 rechargeable batteries he tested outlasted his Alkaline battery; they lasted from one hour to four hours longer!

Well, I thought, this is great proof that rechargeable batteries are a great way to go. But still I didn't act.

A year after his first test Mike Sessler did another test to see how the rechargeable batteries were keeping up after a year of use. Again the results were staggering. The Alkaline batteries once again lasted about nine hours, and again the NiMH (nickel-metal hydride) rechargeable batteries were the clear winners by a minimum of four hours!

THIS is the proof I need to finally take our church to rechargeable!

The Numbers

Due to Mike Sessler's tests I decided to go with Ansmann 2850 mAh NiMH batteries (24 in total). They aren't cheap ($3/AA), but they are top-of-the-line. I also got three 9V batteries ($10 each, yikes!) and an Ansmann charger than can charge 12 AA and 4 9Vs at once.

As I was making my purchases I ran some numbers to make sure we were going in the right direction. On January 12th, 2010 the church bought two cases (144 each case) of "Energizer Industrial AA Alkaline Battery (EN91)" from Medic Batteries. The total cost (with shipping) was $110.44, making each AA cost $0.38. However these two cases lasted us only 16 months, so on a per-month basis it cost us $6.90. Not a huge cost for a church our size (we have grown to about 500 in attendance each week). But that also means we are going through, on average, 18 AA batteries a month. What a load of rubbish (quite literally!).

Compare that to the new rechargeables we got in. I bought the AA batteries from Horizon Battery (a sponsor of Mike Sessler's tests) and the 9V batteries and charger from Amazon (I would have gotten everything from Horizon, but Amazon was cheaper). The final cost for all of the product was $208.98 (all shipping was free). If you compare that to the $6.90 a month for Alkaline batteries, we will break even after 30 months (two and a half years). If you assume that the batteries will last you five years before you have to buy the same batch again (I think that this is a very conservative number based on the packages advertising "1000s of charges"), the batteries cost us only $1.41 a month, a savings of about $65 a year. (Of course this doesn't account for electricity used by the recharger. If someone has a watt-hour meter I could borrow I would gladly run that math.)

Again, $65 a year isn't a huge savings for our church, but I believe that cutting back where possible and keeping hundreds of batteries out of the landfill every year is a great direction for our (or any) church to go.

The Setup

But it wasn't just enough for me to run the cost analysis, I had to repeat Mike Sessler's test myself. We have had the batteries for a few weeks now but haven't used them "live" yet as we want to make sure they will last plenty long for our needs.

Note: Click the images for larger size.

For the test I am using two types of batteries (Energizer Industrial Alkaline and Ansmann 2850 mAh NiMH) but I am using a total of six transmitters. (We have eight transmitters but only six receivers. I don't know if our Sennheiser microphones talk back and forth between transmitter and receiver or if communication is strictly one way, so I didn't chance it and only used six transmitters and I left the receivers turned on.) The green handheld transmitter has the Alkaline batteries and the blue handheld transmitter has the NiMH batteries. Of the body packs," Jim" has the Alkaline batteries and the other three ("Joe", "Kory", and "Liz") have the NiMH batteries. I have three body packs with the NiMH batteries because I want to see if there is a difference between different microphone types (lapel on left, over-the-ear on right). Will one use more or less battery power? Who knows, we will find out!

I set up all six transmitters in front of our sound booth iMac and used our camera to point down at them. I opened iMovie on the computer to watch the camera feed and used ScreenNinja to take a screen shot every 30 seconds (uploaded via Dropbox so I can check it from home). I also played songs from our modern worship band over the iMac's speakers to give SOME sound to the microphones (although the body packs' microphones are directly under the speakers and the handhelds are a bit aways, but this is just a rough test so it is OK).

(Between the body packs and the handhelds I am charging up two fully dead HiMH batteries because I am curious as to how long it will take. Also, because there is a light switch outside of the booth that controls the booth's lights, I set up a florescent work light to make sure that the area is alway lit.)

Seen here is a current screen shot. As you can see the NiMH transmitters are all at two bars while both Alkaline transmitters are still at three bars, but this isn't too surprising as the same thing happened in Mike Sessler's test; the NiMH dropped the first bar faster than the Alkaline but far outlasted it in the long run.

Tomorrow I will post the results from the test. Thanks for reading, hope this has been informative and helpful!

EDIT: Here are the results!

Matthew Kelling
Director of Media Ministry
Argyle United Methodist Church

Friday, February 4, 2011

In the spring of 2009 Argyle United Methodist Church moved from on top of Methodist Hill to a new campus just down the highway forever giving up the old idea of being a small town country church. Now we are a "large church" (by most definitions), our new campus is very modern (see photo in the header above), we have a contemporary service, and our pastor sometimes doesn't wear his pastoral robes (even to our traditional services).

Yet the communications with our congregation and the community are still as if we were in that 75 year old building on top of Methodist Hill. THIS IS NOT GOOD! We are missing ministry opportunities every day by not being active on social media or even keeping our website updated. How we got to this point is a long story not worth retelling at this point, but here is a spotlight on what we are currently doing:

Back when we were in that old building we produced a monthly newsletter that was mailed to each member of our congregation. This process was very time consuming and costly so a few years ago we decided to stop mailing them to every person; instead we mailed them to only select members (people could still get a copy at the church and/or read it online). Eight months ago we published our last copy of the monthly newsletter (much to the relief of the staff member that was in charge of it).

Now instead of having a monthly newsletter to tell everyone about all of our programs we try to fit every piece of relevant information into one weekly all church e-mail. This technically works but is cumbersome and (I would guess) no one actually reads all of the way through it (they have surely fallen asleep by the time they get to the bottom).

We have a Facebook page but haven't used it to its full potential (note that we don't even have a vanity URL). The main problem with our Facebook page is that there has never been a plan as to what to post, how to post it, who posts, etc. It is just there and sometimes people in the office post to it.

We have a Twitter account but it has a grand total of 5 tweets and it hasn't been updated in 18 months (THAT one you can blame one me).

Our website was redesigned a few years ago so it looks great but some pages are horribly out of date. For example every page on our website has a footer that still features a large button with "Newsletter" written across it (even though the last newsletter was published 8 months ago).

So as you can see we haven't done a good job using social media to communicate with our congregation and the community. This will soon change.

Tomorrow I have a meeting specifically for the purpose of creating a plan for our social media. (Note: I am using "social media" as a very broad term which would include [but is not limited to] Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, and our website.)

I have been doing a lot to get prepared for this meeting. The first thing I did was grab all of the breakouts from the 2010 Echo Conference that had to do with social media (thankfully I have the DVD set which includes the audio from all of the breakouts). I listened to as many as I could and I shared the files with the other person that will be in the meeting with me.

I would often listen to these breakouts while taking my roommate's dog on long walks in the evening. The breakouts have a lot of great content that got my brain working, and when my brain got working I would pause the audio so I could think and walk for a while. In this way I was able to flesh out a lot of ideas.

How do I apply someone else's great ideas to our church? How will this work for us? What steps are important to getting this done? I would say that about half of my time devoted to "researching" social media was not actively listening to the breakouts but having my iPhone on pause so that I could process the information. And because my brain is not good at remembering things I would open the Voice Memo app on my iPhone and record short memos to myself about my thoughts. I later transcribed these notes onto a legal pad, and I now have two pages full of ideas, things to talk about, ways to approach subjects, etc.

So tomorrow will be a big day for our church. It won't be marked on any calendars, it won't be celebrated for years to come, and most people won't even know that something happened. However I believe that the planning that we do tomorrow will start an amazing ministry that will touch many lives, not just within our congregation but our community and the rest of the world as well.

Please pray with me that this meeting will be God centered and that we would have wisdom about how to approach this brand new ministry that can touch the lives of people in a way that our church has never been able to.

Tomorrow I will post about how the meeting went and I will expand on our process of thinking through this ministry.

One last note: I fully believe that one of the greatest features of social media is COMMUNITY! I write this post (and the posts to come) not just to help others that may be going through a similar transition as we are but also to get feedback from others that have traveled down similar roads. This in turn blesses the other readers of this post. So please post your thoughts and ideas about Social Media Ministries in the comments below. Has your church figured out social media already, or are you where we are now (fumbling in the dark)? What resources would you suggest for guidance on the Social Media front? What pitfalls should we watch out for, and what goals should we strive for? Share in the comments!

Matthew Kelling
Director of Media Ministry
Argyle United Methodist Church

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

For a long time I have wanted a droplet for exporting QuickTime files. That is to say I wanted an icon on my desktop that I could drop video files into and it would export them with custom settings from QuickTime Pro. Many times have I started a search looking for Quicktime droplets, but I never could find anything. Well, due to some extra time recently, I was able to get down and dirty with some AppleScript to get it done!

Note: I owe many thanks to the help I received online for this, mainly this post from which I have copied (word for word) parts of to help with this post. To the others that helped: Thanks!

Note 2: Sorry Windows users, this is OS X only. These scripts require QuickTime Pro ($30), which allows you to export videos from QuickTime. If you are on Snow Leopard, you have to have QuickTime 7 installed for this to work.

Note 3: I know that not everyone is a scripting pro... I know for a fact that I am not! So I have tried to make this walkthrough as simple language as possible. You need NO experience in any form of scripting to get this to work, but you will need the ability to comprehend what is going on. Just follow the directions and you will be fine. For those pros out there: Feel free to glean what you need while ignoring the rest!

Step 1: Retrieve the export settings from QuickTime.

1) Open a movie representative of the kind you'd like to export in QT.
2) Choose "Export" from the "File" menu
3) Select the desired export kind from the "Export:" popup menu (I always use "Movie to QuickTime movie", using something different may not work with this setup)
4) Click the "Options..." button to specify your custom settings, then click OK
5) Note that the "Use:" popup menu now displays "Most Recent Settings"
6) Start the export by clicking on the "Save" button (if you don't start an export the "Most Recent Settings" won't stick)
7) Cancel the export if it is a long one
8) Leave the video open in QT as we move on...

At this point you are ready for some AppleScripting. Open your Application folder, then open the Utilities folder. Find "AppleScript Editor" and open it. Copy and paste the below text into the window that pops up:

tell application "QuickTime Player 7"
tell first document
save export settings for QuickTime movie to file "Macintosh HD:Users:Matthew:Documents:QuickTime Scripts:Export.set"
end tell
end tell

Note that this is MY snippet of code, you will need to make it work for you. There is one thing that you may need to change, and one thing that you will need to change:

tell application "QuickTime Player 7": Leopard (and below) users will need to change this to "QuickTime Player. Snow Leopard users leave this as "QuickTime Player 7".

save export settings for QuickTime movie to file "Macintosh HD:Users:Matthew:Documents:QuickTime Scripts:Export.set": This sets where your setting file will be saved. Remember that this file will have to be stationary for the life of your QuickTime Droplet, so choose a place where it won't get in the way. (IE: on your desktop is a BAD idea!) Note that I have created a folder named "QuickTime Scripts" in my "Documents" folder. After you have decided where you want your export file(s) to reside and you have created the necessary folders, update the script to reflect where you want them. IE: Change "Macintosh HD:Users:Matthew:Documents:QuickTime Scripts:Export.set" to wherever you want it to save. Also, change Export.set to name of what you want the file to be.

NOW it is time to run the script! On the top of the AppleScript Editor window, click "Run". If everything is good then it will look like nothing happened right away, but if you open the folder where you told the file to say you will see the file: "Export.set" (or whatever you said to save it as). (If things don't go according to plan and you get an error, try to figure out what happened. Go back and read the steps and make sure that each step was done correctly. If you are still having problems, contact me and I will try to help out.)

So, after all of that work we have a single simple file. If you have more than one droplet you would like to create, feel free to repeat the above steps for as many droplets you would like. Also, save this script so that you have access to it later. Now, on to...

Step 2. In this step we will create the actual droplet file.

In AppleScript Editor, create a new script and paste in the following code:

on open these_items
repeat with i from 1 to the count of these_items
set this_item to item i of these_items
tell application "QuickTime Player 7"
open this_item
get name of the front document
with timeout of 36000 seconds -- 10 hrs timeout
export document 1 to "Macintosh HD:Users:Matthew:Desktop:" & name of the front document as QuickTime movie ¬
replacing no using settings "Macintosh HD:Users:Matthew:Documents:QuickTime Scripts:Export.set"
end timeout
close front document
end tell
end repeat
tell application "QuickTime Player 7"
end tell
display dialog "Your Encoding is done!" buttons {"Thanks a bunch!"} default button 1
end open

Once again there are several things that you will need to change for this to work on your machine:

tell application "QuickTime Player 7": Remember that you may need to change this to "QuickTime Player" if you are not on Snow Leopard.

with timeout of 36000 seconds -- 10 hrs timeout: Currently it is set to timeout after 10 hours. This means that at the 10 hour mark whichever video is being exported will finish, but any additional videos will not start encoding. If you export lots of large files, you may need to bump this number up a bit, otherwise leave it alone.

export document 1 to "Macintosh HD:Users:Matthew:Desktop:" & name of the front document as QuickTime movie ¬: Change this to where you would like the file to save to. It is currently set to save to my desktop.

replacing no using settings "Macintosh HD:Users:Matthew:Documents:QuickTime Scripts:Export.set": Change this to where you saved the export file in Step 1. Feel free to copy and paste from the script in Step 1.

display dialog "Your Encoding is done!" buttons {"Thanks a bunch!"} default button 1: This is a dialog box that says "Your Encoding is done!" whenever the encoding is done. Feel free to delete this line if you don't want a dialog box.

Now, DON'T Run this script! If you do, nothing will happen. Remember that we are creating a droplet, which is (technically) an application. So (after saving the script for future reference) go to "File>Save As...", type in the name you want for your droplet, and change the "File Format" to "Application". Also, check the "Run Only" box. Now click "Save", and you are done!

Feel free to test out your droplet. Quit QuickTime (if it is still open), grab a few video files in the finder, and drag them onto the top of your droplet. QuickTime should open and start exporting your video files. When it is done it will quit QuickTime and show you a dialog box saying it is done.

Well, there you go! Have fun playing around with AppleScript, the possibilities are endless! For example, you can set it up so that you have a "Hot Folder", and any video dropped into said folder is automatically exported. (See this post for help on that.) Because I have 7 export settings I want to manage, I am now off to work with the "display dialog" tag and compress all seven export settings into one droplet which will ask the user which export setting they want to use.

Hope this helps! If you were successful in getting this to work, let me know by posting a comment! Know of a way I could write this tutorial better? Let me know!


Thursday, November 12, 2009

In the booth this week is: Me, Adam, and David. This week we are going to play a video clip from The Simpsons...

Link to the AUMC AV Breakout


Thursday, November 5, 2009

I am excited to announce that our new AUMC AV shirts are in! Here I am styling the new T:

I am excited how this will bring our team together!

In the booth this week is: Me, Carter, and Mike.

Link to the AUMC AV Breakout


Thursday, October 29, 2009

In the booth this week is: Me, Adam, and Bill. Did I ever tell you that the AUMC AV Volunteer Team ROCKS? Well they do!

Link to the AUMC AV Breakout


Thursday, October 22, 2009

In the booth this week is: Me, Adam, and David. Party at my place!

Link to the AUMC AV Breakout


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I am out of town this weekend, so Carter is in charge this week. You guys be nice to him!

Link to the AUMC AV Breakout


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Working in the booth this week is: Me, Adam, and Bill. Bill is the BOMB! BOOM!

Link to the AUMC AV Breakout



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