In March of 2015 I did one of the scariest, craziest, most uncomfortable things I’ve ever done. I walked away from a secure corporate job to become a full time freelance tech.

While I can be super adaptable and fluid on a job site, in life I tend to be a creature of habit, I like my home and my life to be stable and predictable. So shifting from the comfort of a  reliable paycheck, co-workers I knew to the complete chaos and risk of going out on my own? This took more courage.

This month marks 5 years since I took the leap. 

It’s crazy how time flies. These past 5 years pushed me in ways I didn’t know possible. Professionally, and personally, it has been one challenge after another. But the good kind of challenge.

I’ve worked some amazing shows, made some fantastic new connections, learned countless new tricks in the field and – and this is a big one – paid all my bills!

Looking forward to seeing what the next 5 years bring!

Returning to My Roots

Once every few months someone gets confused when they hear that I have 25 years experience in tech, because they look at me and the numbers don’t add up. But it’s true. I’ve been at this longer than some of the younger techs have even been alive. And I’m not even 40 yet.

I began volunteering to run sound for my church at 13 years old. My family attended a large church, resulting in lots of technology and opportunities for me to learn so I spent all of my teens hanging around the booth, soaking up everything I could learn. I was blessed to have a great mentor and pastors who were willing to let kids like me play and got to design and install complex stage setups before I could even vote.

Engineering seemed like the natural next step so I went to UCF for my degree, working as a tech at Disney and for my church. Here I am, 25 years later with a thriving business. I’ve run tech for Chris Tomlin’s tour, sporting events with Olympic athletes, Tony Robbins and CEOs from companies like Google, Walmart of Bank of America. I absolutely love what I do and know that I am blessed to have gotten such an early start in my career thanks to serving with my church. 

Recently I’ve felt called upon to return to my roots and serve the churches of Orlando. As much as I love working big budget gigs and traveling around the world I want to serve and give back to my community and to God.

We are opening up CYA Productions to do free consultations for local churches, where I walk their sanctuary and campus, talk with them about what technology they’re currently using to see if there’s anything I can do to help.

We’ve already worked with a handful of churches and, call me a nerd, but it has been a lot of fun. If you know of a church in the Central Florida area who could benefit from some oversight or consultation on their technology, send them our way!

Do you need a Projectionist?

Some people think that just anyone can be a Projectionist, however, if that was accurate then our industry wouldn’t have dedicated a whole job title to it. 

Projection is a technology that has many parts and pieces and it takes time and work to become an effective Projectionist. You need to understand things that most people never think about when they look at the image on a screen and may seem like knowledge and skills that are weird or unrelated. For example, a skilled Projectionist understands lenses, blending, pixel space and warping just to name a few. 

When do you need a Projectionist?

A Video person can be sent a projector, aim it at a screen and just make it work. 

When you have more than one projector aimed at a single surface, this is when you really want a Projectionist. 

When you get into this level of complexity with your projectors there are many choices that need to be made to ensure the highest quality result and a Projectionist will be able to guide you through them all. For example, the wrong lens could mean the picture size is too small or way too big, it could also mean the image isn’t bright at all.

We’ve been hired, flown in for one day on an event JUST to handle projection mapping and blending. This may seem like a lot of cost, but the production company knew that it was worth the travel expense to have our expertise there, rather than deal with the risk that a video person either not be able to get it exactly right, or that to get it right might cost them many hours of overtime and stress on the work site.

How do you know if they are a good Projectionist?

Be prepared that a good Projectionist is going to have questions about your installation. This is because solid, level installation is required for them to do their job and it’s far cheaper to ‘fix’ problems by focusing on the physical install than it is to try and handle them via the projection software.

A good Projectionist will also understand basic creative concepts, they will be able translate the clients vision so that it is exactly what is seen on the screen. They’ll be able to spot skewed images, warping and other challenges and know how to fix them.

They will also have an engineer’s mind and be able to quickly calculate how many pixels your screen can hold, how many projectors are needed etc. There’s a surprising amount of math in projection.

In short, a good Projectionist will be able to communicate with both analytical and creative people and have experience working on complex projection projects.

The Magic of a Workbox

I am known as someone who has all the ‘toys’ in my work box. 

Yes I do love to have gadgets and they may seem like toys, but more than being fun, they have also all saved my butt at some point in my career. I recently upgraded to a bigger workbox to maximize the tools I can bring with me. My workbox is my bag of tricks, I fill it with adapters of almost every kind and cables and converters, all dependent on the gig I’m headed off to. My workbox has gotten me hired, or re-hired, more than once.

So, how do you curate your own magical workbox?

1. Consider the box itself

I have three. A large and small Pelican as well as a backpack with a stealthy workbox built in.

2. Decide what goes in the box

Having the right tools at your disposal can be the difference in whether the show happens or not and if you get the call the next time. 

The right tools can pay for themselves over time, and maybe even lead to extra income when you’re able to rent them out to the client.

Knowing what tools are important for the show is something you learn over time as you see what comes up and what the techs around you have with them. 

3. Make sure you know how to use your tools

Just having the tools in your tool box doesn’t mean they will help you. You must also learn to use, and if possible master, the tools of your workbox for them to have a purpose other than looking good or giving you bragging rights.

4. Make sure your box can travel

Knowing how much your tool box weighs is very important. Making sure it will not cost you an arm and a leg to take with you is something to keep in mind. Having a luggage scale makes this easy.

5. Know your rental rates

Sometimes you’ll use your tools to impress, other times you’ll want to rent them out to the client to save them (and you) a trip to a local shop etc. Be prepared with what you charge to clients for each tool appropriate, and be sure you have a mechanism to actually invoice them once the event is over.

6. Claim your stuff

I’ve had more than one iPad walk away during a gig. I invest in asset stickers for my company, but you could also opt for a simple label maker (which incidentally is a great addition to a workbox). Be sure to label all of your gadgets with your name, or your company name.