How to See Blocked Out Dates When Scheduling in Planning Center Services

Our church uses Planning Center Services to schedule volunteers and plan worship services.  Under Services volunteers can actually block out dates that they will be gone so that schedulers do not waste time by scheduling people for dates when they will be gone.

Planning Center Services

Recently I found myself scheduling people for dates they had blocked out. Needless to say, I was frustrated. My volunteers were doing what I asked them to do by blocking out the dates they are gone, but I was not seeing that information when I added them to a service. Not seeing this information also added lots of time to my scheduling because I had to fix the mistakes as people informed me they would be gone.

I fired off a quick email to Planning Center Services tech support and I received a prompt reply. Their answer was simple and direct and I learned something I have not known since I began using Planning Center.

In order to demonstrate what I learned, let’s add someone to a service.

I want to add a Presenter for Announcements on July 21, so let’s go to the service flow page for that date and open up the “Presenter” positions category on the left of the screen. There I find “1 person needed” under “Announcements.”

Planning Center Services - Service Flow - "1 person needed"

When I click on the “1 person needed” window, this is what I see:

Planning Center Services - Select People for Announcements Window - no blocked out dates

In reality four of those people are unavailable, but I will not be able to see that information until I fix a small issue.

In order to see who is unavailable, I need to click “cancel” on this window and return to the main service flow page. When I get there I need to click on the Service Time in the upper left hand corner:

Planning Center Services - Service Flow - Service Times

After clicking on the Service Time I see this window:

Planning Center Services - Editing Time Window - unchecked Assigned People Categories

You can see the red oval around the unchecked boxes. In order for me to see the blocked out dates when I schedule someone their category of service needs to be checked here.

Planning Center Services - Editing Time Window - checked Assigned People Categories

Now that the categories are checked off, I am going to return to the service flow page and click on the “1 person needed” window under “Announcements” to see if I see anything different:

Planning Center Services - Select People for Announcements - blocked out datesNow I can clearly see that four of the people have blocked out July 21 on their calendar and I will be able to avoid scheduling them.

Thanks to Planning Center Services’ prompt tech support I am up and running smoothly again.

When you create a Service Time, Rehearsal Time, or Other Time, make certain you have checked the boxes for the relevant “Assigned People Categories” to make certain you can see their blocked out dates while scheduling.

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Re-Post: A Guide to Planning Center Online Permission Levels

Throughout the month of April I am taking a break from writing in order to focus on other things.  As a result I am re-posting some of my most popular articles.

Planning Center Online (PCO) is a powerful resource for churches, but it can also be complicated.  Permission levels is one of those potentially confusing features.

PCO provides multiple permission settings for each person.  For instance, if your church is like ours, several ministries use PCO.  At our church Worship Ministry, Children’s Ministry, and Student Ministries use PCO.  As a result every person has four permission settings:

  • Site Permissions
  • Children’s Ministry
  • Student Ministries
  • Worship Ministry

The other day I noticed that our setup of PCO had 10 people listed as Administrators at the Site level, which is inviting disaster to camp out on your doorstep.  I have since adjusted permission levels accordingly.

Let me share my reasoning with you.

Several years ago I was editing categories for my people on PCO and I decided that a particular category was incorrect – not matching across the program.  I deleted it.  Then I found out that I had just deleted all of the activity under that heading throughout my PCO history.  Oops.

Those are the kinds of things that can happen when someone has Administrator privileges and does not know what they are doing.  Needless to say, I am much more careful now, and I train people to watch out for those hiccups.

PCO provides four permission levels in addition to Administrator.  Here are the permission levels in PCO, with PCO’s own descriptions:

  • Scheduled Viewer: Can only view plans that they have been scheduled for and that the notification email has been sent.
  • Viewer: Can view all plans & songs.
  • Scheduler: Can view all plans & songs. Can edit & schedule people.
  • Editor: Can edit all plans, people & songs.
  • Administrator: Can change permissions for the service (templates & categories).

I find it helpful to think about the different levels this way:

  • Scheduled Viewer: Use this level if you want the person to only have access to song, plan, media and people information when they are scheduled for an event.  At all other times they will only be able to access their own personal contact information and calendar.
  • Viewer: A person with this permission level can always access songs and media, view plans, and see contact information for other people, whether or not they have been scheduled.
  • Scheduler: Use this level for volunteers who help you schedule people.  They can edit people information, but they cannot edit anything else.  In every other area they are at the same level as a Viewer.
  • Editor: Volunteers who help with service planning, people management, and song entry need this level of permission.  These people are only restricted from global ministry category and template editing, which is reserved for Administrators.

The Site level permission setting determines the default permission level for the person throughout PCO.  If a person is set as a Viewer at the Site level they will have Viewer privileges in every ministry.  If a person is an Administrator at the Site level they will have Administrator privileges in every ministry.

In order to manage these different levels of permission PCO also provides two other permission modifiers:

  • Disabled: User cannot login and is excluded from all emails and is not able to be scheduled.  This modifier is only used at the Site level.
  • Same as Parent: Will use the same permissions as the group above that service. If there is not a group above it, it will inherit the site permissions.  This modifier is only used at the Ministry level and is the default setting.

I recommend Scheduled Viewer as the default setting for every volunteer and guest artist.

If you have people who are Administrators, Schedulers, or Editors you will want to decide if you want them to have those privileges in every ministry or just one ministry If your answer is every ministry set the Site permission level to the proper setting and leave the Ministry permissions at Same as Parent.  If your answer is just one ministry, then set the Site permission to your default permission for everyone (in my case, that is Scheduled Viewer) and then give them the proper permission level for the specific ministry.  Then make certain the other ministry permissions are set to the default level as well.

Finally, if you have a volunteer who moves out of state and no longer serves in your ministry, DO NOT DELETE THEM from PCO.  If you do you will lose all of their serving history.  Simply change their Site permission level to Disabled.  Their name will disappear from the People contact page but will remain in the history.  If you ever need to pull them back up you can go to the upper left hand side of the People page and select “View disabled accounts.”

A few important comments from Aaron Stewart, Product Manager for Planning Center Online:

Permissions are also what give people access to the main top tabs (Plans, Media, Songs, People). If you set a site or ANY permission to Viewer, those people can now access everything on the songs tab, the media tab, and the people tab. They can listen to and access any files and get to other people’s contact information. For this reason, we generally recommend you leave the site permission set to Scheduled Viewer unless you really want the person to access everything in all the other tabs.

From a song copyright standpoint and a people privacy standpoint, it’s usually not ideal to give this access to your regular volunteers. There is a way for you to change a master site setting so that Viewers can’t see the people page, but they will still be able to get to the song and media pages.

What strategy do you use in handling PCO permission levels?

Re-Post: How to Adjust the Date and Time for Photos in iPhoto

Throughout the month of April I am taking a break from writing in order to focus on other things.  As a result I am re-posting some of my most popular articles.

One of my biggest frustrations with iPhoto was been figuring out the best way to sort my photos.  I prefer to sort by date, but for some reason my computer decided a bunch of my photos were taken in 2082.

Um, really?

Just today I realized that making this change is super simple; the solution has been staring me right in the face.  I generally consider myself pretty tech-savvy, but if this one was an alligator it would have reached out and bit off my nose.

If you you have photos listed in iPhoto with the wrong date and/or time, here’s how to fix them.

  1. Open iPhoto.
  2. Select the photos with incorrect dates; OR, if you have whole albums or events to adjust, select the the album or event in question.
  3. Click on “Photos” in the top toolbar.
  4. On the drop down menu select “Adjust Date and Time” if you are individually selecting photos (see #5 below) or select “Batch Change” if you are selecting whole events or albums (see #6 below).
  5. Under “Adjust Date and Time” simply select the incorrect date and/or time and change it to the correct date and/or time by typing in the info or using the up and down arrow buttons to the side of the information.  If you want to modify the original photo as I did, click on the box provided.  Finally click “Adjust” and the task will be done.
  6. Under “Batch Change” you can choose to edit the Title, Date or Description.  Select “Date” and then change the date and/or time information accordingly by typing in the correct information or using the up and down arrow buttons to the side of the information.  If you want to modify the original photo as I did, click on the box provided.  Afterwards, click “OK.”

Needless to say, I am now a happy camper and I imagine you will be, too.

If you know further tricks for modifying photo information, please share.  I’m all ears.

Re-Post: Guest Post: How to Use Amps and Iso Cabs on Stage, Part 2

Throughout the month of April I am taking a break from writing in order to focus on other things.  As a result I am re-posting some of my most popular articles.

Kevin McPeakKevin McPeak is the Creative Director at EastLake Church in Chula Vista, California. He is a proponent of both tubes and digits.  You can follow Kevin on Twitter @kevinmcpeak or find him on Facebook.  Kevin has kindly agreed to lend us some of his expertise in technical issues and will be posting from time to time.

Part 1 is available here.

Q: I play electric guitar and love my amp sound, but we donʼt use amps on stage because of stage volume. Is there some way I can use my amp so it does not impact stage volume?

Well, first off, letʼs identify the problem, because that will help us find a solution. The reasons that our mix engineer wants us to keep stage volume under control are many:

  • stage volume blurs front of house (FOH) mix clarity
  • stage volume creates ever-increasing demand for volume from stage monitors
  • stage volume leads to “hot spots” and “cold spots” where instruments are either too loud or too soft
  • stage volume dramatically limits the FOH engineerʼs ability to create a thoughtfully and musically designed mix.

So letʼs be clear: amps arenʼt the problem in and of themselves; the problem is that amps tend to get treated like personal monitors and turned up too loud. Furthermore, many amps donʼt sound their best without running at a decent volume. How the heck do we solve the problem?

Letʼs say that youʼve already got a combo amp – in other words, a single unit that has both the amplifier section and the speaker – that you love and you donʼt want to purchase an external cabinet or haul around something big. What can you do then?

In our case, we have an all-tube Mesa Boogie combo amp that our electric guitar 2 volunteers generally use. Although the amp can power an external cabinet, the amp already contains a perfectly matched built in 12” speaker, so we asked one of our volunteers to construct an iso cabinet for the amp.

This is what he made:

Iso Cube front

Iso Cube back

As you can see, itʼs effectively a four-sided cube. (For those of you trying to figure this out, a cube is a six-sided object with equally-sized sides. In the case of the iso cabinet above, we have a cube with no bottom and one side missing.

Okay, itʼs really not a cube because it doesn’t have equal sides. But I slept in Geometry class the day we talked about six-sided objects with unequally sized sides, so you will just have to go with it being called a “cube.”  If any of you would like to educate me as to the correct term for a six-sided object comprised of unequally sized sides, Iʼm happy to listen. If I can stay awake.)

You can see that the idea is to point the business end of the amp into the box. The top and interior walls are lined with sound baffling material and the floor takes care of itself by being carpeted. (If your stage floor is a hard, flat surface, you may want to throw a small rug in there.) This all works together to create a tremendous reduction in the sound output from the amp.

However, there is a catch in this case, and itʼs a very important one: this combo amp has an open-back cabinet.

Front side:

Mesa Boogie Amp frontBack side:

Mesa Boogie Amp back

As you can see, the back of the amp is open. (Thus the name, right?) Many guitarists prefer the tone produced by open-back amps. Open-back cabinets create a challenge because the back of the cabinet emits quite a lot of sound; putting an isolation box on the front of the amp only solves part of the problem of lowering stage volume.

In our case, we solved this problem by placing the amp off-stage, behind a thick curtain, and against a Tectum wall.  You could also create a matching iso box for the back side of the amp to limit the sound coming off the open-back side.  Make sure, however, that you allow sufficient airflow in and out of the amp because the amp will overheat and fail without airflow.

Have another technical question you would like Kevin to answer?  Post your question in the comments.

Re-Post: Guest Post: How to Use Amps and Iso Cabs on Stage, Part 1

Throughout the month of April I am taking a break from writing in order to focus on other things.  As a result I am re-posting some of my most popular articles.

Kevin McPeak is the Creative Director at EastLake Church in Chula Vista, California. He isKevin McPeak a proponent of both tubes and digits.  You can follow Kevin on Twitter @kevinmcpeak or find him on Facebook.  Kevin has kindly agreed to lend us some of his expertise in technical issues and will be posting from time to time.

Q: I play electric guitar and love my amp sound, but we donʼt use amps on stage because of stage volume. Is there some way I can use my amp so it does not impact stage volume?

Well, first off, letʼs identify the problem, because that will help us find a solution. The reasons that our mix engineer wants us to keep stage volume under control are many:

  • stage volume blurs front of house (FOH) mix clarity
  • stage volume creates ever-increasing demand for volume from stage monitors
  • stage volume leads to “hot spots” and “cold spots” where instruments are either too loud or too soft
  • stage volume dramatically limits the FOH engineerʼs ability to create a thoughtfully and musically designed mix.

So letʼs be clear: amps arenʼt the problem in and of themselves; the problem is that amps tend to get treated like personal monitors and turned up too loud. Furthermore, many amps donʼt sound their best without running at a decent volume. How the heck do we solve the problem?

First, you may want to give amp modeling a shot. The technology of amp modeling has come a long way in the past few years, so if you tried it before and you didnʼt like it, you might want to try it again. The versatility and tone quality of most amp modelers has gotten quite good.

But letʼs say that youʼre like me and youʼre one of those finicky tube amp people. Youʼve spent a lot of time on your tone and have finally found something you want to stick with, but itʼs dependent upon that magical combination of guitar, whiz-bang pedals, and amp. And at least for me, part of getting the tone I like involves turning up the amp a bit and letting the tubes do what they do, and that requires me to run at a higher volume. When thatʼs the case, what can you do to keep your tone intact but keep the FOH engineer from throwing darts at you?

A few years back, I decided to solve this by purchasing an isolation cabinet for my beloved amp. An isolation cabinet – also commonly called an iso cab – is an enclosed box within which a speaker and a microphone are mounted. The iso cab also commonly features sound baffling to help reduce the amount of sound that emanates from the cabinet once itʼs closed up.

What does it look like? Iʼm glad you asked. First off, hereʼs how it looks from the outside (itʼs the box on the bottom):

As you can see, it functions much like any other speaker cabinet in an important way: It gives me something to set my amp on. (After all, we couldnʼt put these tube amps directly on the floor, could we?) Bear in mind that the cabinet is a completely enclosed box. But how do we see whatʼs inside? Check out the picture below:

Once you open up the cabinet door, you can see the microphone and stand that are used to pick up the natural tone of the amp and speaker. (See below for a closer look.)

The idea is then to take the microphoneʼs signal from the iso cab and send it back to the mixer, where the FOH engineer can use as much – or sometimes as little – of it as he/she needs to create a workable mix. But the use of the iso cab allows me to open up and let the amp sing a little bit without generating angry looks from everyone else in the room.

For the tone purists, itʼs reasonable to ask if the iso cabs alter the sound in any way. The short answer is that they do. My experience has been that iso cabs can inhibit spaciousness a bit, but thatʼs not unreasonable if you consider that the sound is being picked up in a small, padded box. However, for the purposes of live sound, the benefit thatʼs gained by using a favorite amp more than offsets a modest alteration in tone.

So, if youʼve got a favorite tube amp that you want to use in a live setting but your FOH engineer keeps giving you the stinkeye when you bring it in, itʼs time to start thinking about getting yourself an isolation cabinet so you can turn it up to 11 and let that amp sing.

Have another technical question you would like Kevin to answer?  Post your question in the comments.

How to Create a Music Video

In today’s world anyone with a little bit of creativity and the right tools can create a video.  All you have to do is upload photos, choose music and effects, and there you have it.

Here are just a few of the online options:

OneTrueMedia
Animoto
Stupeflix

Here are a few apps:

ptch
Socialcam

If you want to create a music video and craft every piece of it yourself, however, have no fear; iMovie is here.  I am certain there are similar programs, but this is what I use.

Not long ago my pastor and I were planning for upcoming services and he mentioned a particular song that highlighted the exact points he wanted to emphasize.  I am not a video expert by any means, but I said, “Wouldn’t that be great as a music video, with still pictures to highlight the key themes in the song?”

He jumped on the idea and before I knew it I had been drafted to create a music video for the services.

I love video, I love music, and I love the music videos that my volunteers and employees have created in the past.  I, however, had only created one brief music video up until that point, and I barely knew the capabilities of iMovie.

Incidentally, by music video I mean a single song accompanied by appropriate pictures and snippets of the lyrics in order to heighten the effectiveness of the song.

I dove in and I loved the process, so I thought I would share some pointers and resources here in case you are trying this for the first time.

  1. Begin with the music.  This is the obvious step, but we can miss it all the same.  In my case I imported the song into Garageband and trimmed off the long gradual introduction.  We wanted to end the song before the final chorus, so I trimmed that off, too, and then looped a final phrase to make an echo effect as the volume died out.  Then I exported the final track.
  2. Import the music track into iMovie (or your preferred software).
  3. Listen and take notes.  Next I listened to the song.  A lot.  I imagined what emotions were happening between the lines and what circumstances might lead to a particular lyrical image, and then noted what obvious images were stated in the lyrics.
  4. Find images.  This step will take you the most time.  After taking good notes as you listened to the song you should have a general idea of what kinds of pictures you need.  Finding just the right photo at the right resolution and for the right price is the challenge.
    1. If “free” is your necessary price, here are two sites I found greatly useful (thank you, Frank De Luccio!): www.morguefile.com and www.sxc.hu.  Both of these sites feature free high resolution photos.  Warning: be careful as you search for images.  You can run into inappropriate images if you are not careful in how you search.  Also do not just pull photos off of the web; purchase photos or use clearly free photos.
  5. Import and place images.  Once you have found the images and imported them into your iMovie project you will need to do several things:
    1. Order the pictures to match the lyrics they represent.
    2. Adjust the timings of the photos to transition on the beat of the music.  Transitions feel “off” when they are not synced to the beat of the music.
    3. Choose the right transition effect.  Some effects are more attention getting and time-consuming than others; choose the transition that fits the situation.  Usually a simple dissolve is best in the middle of a verse or chorus, while something more dramatic can accent section changes in the song.
    4. Fine tune the Ken Burns effect.  Ken Burns is known for his use of zooming in on a still picture to create the illusion of movement.  iMovie naturally sets this for you, but you may want to adjust the start and stop frames to highlight a particular feature in the photo.
  6. Insert lyrical snippets.  The final step is pulling key phrases out of the lyrics to actually bring into the video.  At some points I pull out a single word.  One photo I used was a washed out black and white image of a woman with her head down.  As this photo came up the singer talked about the first lie he told, so I had the word “lie” slide in and out of that picture.  A following lyric spoke about healing, so the single word “heal” slid in and out of the next photo of two children embracing.  iMovie has many different ways of showing words over images; just choose the one that fits your picture and the mood you are trying to convey.
  7. Export to DVD.  You are not finished until the project has been rendered to an actual DVD for viewing.  I made the mistake of missing this the first time I tried using iMovie several years ago.

You do not need a college degree to make a music video; all you need is time, and lots of it.  Please on spend 5-8 hours per minute of final viewing length.  If your final video is 4 minutes long, expect to spend a minimum of 20 hours to get a high quality result.

I felt a huge satisfaction when my pastor used the video I created as the culminating point in his message.  The video enabled him to say more clearly what he wanted to say, and that was my goal.

Have fun with it.  Recruit colleagues and friends to research photos for you.  Take a chance.  You can do it!

What video editing tips do you have for newbies?

Guest Post: How to Use Amps and Iso Cabs on Stage, Part 2

Kevin McPeakKevin McPeak is the Creative Director at EastLake Church in Chula Vista, California. He is a proponent of both tubes and digits.  You can follow Kevin on Twitter @kevinmcpeak or find him on Facebook.  Kevin has kindly agreed to lend us some of his expertise in technical issues and will be posting from time to time.

Part 1 is available here.

Q: I play electric guitar and love my amp sound, but we donʼt use amps on stage because of stage volume. Is there some way I can use my amp so it does not impact stage volume?

Well, first off, letʼs identify the problem, because that will help us find a solution. The reasons that our mix engineer wants us to keep stage volume under control are many:

  • stage volume blurs front of house (FOH) mix clarity
  • stage volume creates ever-increasing demand for volume from stage monitors
  • stage volume leads to “hot spots” and “cold spots” where instruments are either too loud or too soft
  • stage volume dramatically limits the FOH engineerʼs ability to create a thoughtfully and musically designed mix.

So letʼs be clear: amps arenʼt the problem in and of themselves; the problem is that amps tend to get treated like personal monitors and turned up too loud. Furthermore, many amps donʼt sound their best without running at a decent volume. How the heck do we solve the problem?

Letʼs say that youʼve already got a combo amp – in other words, a single unit that has both the amplifier section and the speaker – that you love and you donʼt want to purchase an external cabinet or haul around something big. What can you do then?

In our case, we have an all-tube Mesa Boogie combo amp that our electric guitar 2 volunteers generally use. Although the amp can power an external cabinet, the amp already contains a perfectly matched built in 12” speaker, so we asked one of our volunteers to construct an iso cabinet for the amp.

This is what he made:

Iso Cube front

Iso Cube back

As you can see, itʼs effectively a four-sided cube. (For those of you trying to figure this out, a cube is a six-sided object with equally-sized sides. In the case of the iso cabinet above, we have a cube with no bottom and one side missing.

Okay, itʼs really not a cube because it doesn’t have equal sides. But I slept in Geometry class the day we talked about six-sided objects with unequally sized sides, so you will just have to go with it being called a “cube.”  If any of you would like to educate me as to the correct term for a six-sided object comprised of unequally sized sides, Iʼm happy to listen. If I can stay awake.)

You can see that the idea is to point the business end of the amp into the box. The top and interior walls are lined with sound baffling material and the floor takes care of itself by being carpeted. (If your stage floor is a hard, flat surface, you may want to throw a small rug in there.) This all works together to create a tremendous reduction in the sound output from the amp.

However, there is a catch in this case, and itʼs a very important one: this combo amp has an open-back cabinet.

Front side:

Mesa Boogie Amp frontBack side:

Mesa Boogie Amp back

As you can see, the back of the amp is open. (Thus the name, right?) Many guitarists prefer the tone produced by open-back amps. Open-back cabinets create a challenge because the back of the cabinet emits quite a lot of sound; putting an isolation box on the front of the amp only solves part of the problem of lowering stage volume.

In our case, we solved this problem by placing the amp off-stage, behind a thick curtain, and against a Tectum wall.  You could also create a matching iso box for the back side of the amp to limit the sound coming off the open-back side.  Make sure, however, that you allow sufficient airflow in and out of the amp because the amp will overheat and fail without airflow.

Have another technical question you would like Kevin to answer?  Post your question in the comments.