Using Ableton and ProPresenter to Automate Easter Services

Every Easter at The Crossing Church we try to add some unique production elements, and this past year consisted of a live crucifixion scene, ascending mirror ball, and a vertically aligned center screen. While each had it’s unique challenges, running a center screen with limited video equipment was an enjoyable task to conquer.

Our normal weekend setup includes two iMacs for ProPresenter, one main machine and another for backup. But our video switcher had no third output to push content to a different size screen, and no SDI or other video cables are run on-stage. So we decided to power the center screen by connecting a MacBook Pro directly to the projector.

We had two people, one operating the ProPresenter slides going up on our side screens, and one running the MacBook onstage, but I wanted to have them in perfect sync. We also had several video elements that needed to be played precisely together, and for that I tried ProPresenter’s Master Control Module.

While not a flawless plugin, I found it simple to setup and worked 96% of the time. You have to have your playlists and documents named exactly the same, and they need to be at the root level, at the top of your ProPresenter Playlists on both machines, but once we arranged this our main CG iMac could control the on-stage MacBook Pro over our network.

Side note: While we did rehearse several times with all machines on Wi-Fi, I highly suggest having each on a direct ethernet connection for reliability.

This setup allowed us to have text-only lower third lyrics on our side screens, and a bold, centered font over B-roll backgrounds on the center screen.

Now we could have stopped there and had one CG operator manage all slides, but I finally wanted to get Ableton and ProPresenter talking so every slide could be triggered perfectly.

For reference, this video is all I needed to follow. Watch it start to finish and don’t miss a step, otherwise it won’t work.

After some trial and error with a third machine running Ableton on stage, we managed to have it trigger the iMac running ProPresenter in our crow’s nest, which controlled the slave MacBook Pro running the center screen.

One might think it was foolish to try using Ableton controlling ProPresenter over MIDI AND using the Master Control module for the first time on Easter weekend, and to that I say balderdash.

For the record: everything worked very well over six services, with only one frozen lyric screen that was remedied with a Clear-All in just a few seconds.

Some people ride roller coasters, others skydive, I try two completely new ProPresenter modules on Easter weekend.

Fulfillment Isn't Always Getting To Do What You Want

There's this idea planted in our minds from a young age that if we study long enough, and work hard enough, one day we'll earn the privilege of only doing things we enjoy. Our job will align with our passion which aligns with our calling, and we will reach personal utopia.

As long as you don't mess up, drop out of college, or make the wrong job choice, you'll be able to do fulfilling work that you're passionate about and love every minute of everything you do.

That is a lie.

At some point we began to equate fulfillment with getting to do want we want, but the two are not always in tandem. You may enjoy volunteering at your local church and find it fulfilling, but many times fulfillment doesn't come until after the hard work is done.

I don't enjoy exercising, at all. But the accomplishment I feel knowing I have exercised is worth the drudgery. So exercise doesn't equal enjoyment, but it can equal fulfillment.

Raising children includes many tasks you won't enjoy. Poop diapers, sick children, disobedience, and the list goes on. But knowing you managed to raise them into sympathetic and intelligent adults is fulfilling.

That dream job you have on a pedestal may include many tasks you don't enjoy, like answering 100s of emails a day, having to fire someone for the first time, or having the pressure of a board of directors over you. But doing that job well may bring an immense satisfaction.

Don't judge your passion or your work by how much you enjoy all the tasks required, but judge your rate of fulfillment after the hard work is done.