14 Jan 2015
In today’s guest post, we get to hear from the legendary Joel Smith from ChurchMedia.Pro:
When I was a tech director, I had a love/arrrgh relationship with ProPresenter. While it was 98% love (seriously, Renewed Vision has done an amazing job with this software), every once in a while I would discover new quirks about the software or the Mac. Everything in this list was implemented on our system and taken from my 13 years of experience with Macs and 7 years of experience with ProPresenter. That system ran solid week in and week out for 3 years with only one crash (sigh, nearly perfect).
This is a simple guide to help you get the most out of the software and system you have. It is not absolute and things will differ for every situation. I also don’t claim to be “the man” when it comes to ProPresenter or Macs. While I’m pulling from personal experience, I’m constantly learning and definitely not perfect. I encourage you to take this list and apply it in your own context to what works for you and your system. Without any further ado, let’s get started:
1. Use A Dedicated Computer
While this might be a no-brainer, it needs to be stated. Using a dedicated system is the best way to keep it running at its peak. If your daily computer or some multi-purpose production computer is also used for ProPresenter, the odds of issues happening go way up. Keeping a lean system is key to assuring everything runs smooth. It’s also easier to troubleshoot when things do go wrong.
2. Use A Solid State Hard Drive (SSD)
The cost of SSDs has dropped enough for it to become a fairly cheap way to boost performance in a computer. Now, this is not an “SSDs are better than spinning drives” argument. I recommend finding whatever works reliably for you. If you have a spinning drive that works great for you, keep using it. However, I have had great success using SSDs for system drives, especially in older systems. If you don’t have budget for a new system but want a performance boost, try installing an SSD. I recommend the Samsung EVO Pro series of drives or the OWC SSD drives from MacSales.
3. Use A Separate Hard Drive For Media/Content
Using a separate hard drive for all media/content can save you a ton of time and headaches if/when your system drive crashes. It will also save time when you need to do a clean install or re-install of the operating system. I used a 250GB SSD for the system drive (operating system only) and a high-performance 1 TB drive for content/media (videos, images, audio, ProPresenter library, backups of fonts and necessary system files). If you’re using a laptop for ProPresenter, a separate media/content drive is not necessary. You can run everything just fine off one drive, but having 2 drives makes system maintenance and upgrades more flexible.
4. Use A Solid Black Desktop Background
This way, if ProPresenter happens to crash the audience won’t see a pic of your family vacation or a galaxy on the screens.
5. Turn OFF Screen Savers
You don’t want the dictionary word of the day accidentally showing up an hour into an event or service.
6. Turn OFF Mission Control Settings
This includes hot keys and hot corners. This removes the chance of an operator accidentally bringing up Spaces or the Dashboard when running the software.
7. Turn OFF Notifications
This is just a way to eliminate distractions for operators. Notifications technically won’t hurt anything, but they could possibly get in the way of some button or slide.
8. Turn Display Off After NEVER
You don’t want the monitor to shut off during anything important. You can always physically turn monitors off when you leave (this is a good habit to have).
9. Turn OFF “Put hard drives to sleep when possible”
You don’t want your operator falling asleep, it’s the same for your hard drives.
10. Turn OFF Mouse Gestures
Not everyone uses the same gestures or mouse setup. Keep it simple by using only a standard left-click and right-click mouse setup. This means turning off multi-touch gestures and zooming. Also, I recommend the old school scroll down for down and scroll up for up.
11. Alert Volume OFF (0%)
It’s everyone’s luck that a duck quack alert will go off during a prayer or quiet moment. Disabling these alerts puts the odds in your favor.
12. Turn OFF “Play user interface sound effects”
This setting is key to avoiding any random sounds developed by your Mac. It also goes a long way to turn off “Play feedback when volume is changed” in your audio settings.
13. Turn OFF All System/Software Updates
You want to control what is updated and when it is updated. The last thing you need right before a service or event is OS X to update and something in that update break your system or cause issues. If it’s working, you shouldn’t have to update that often or at all.
14. Turn Time Machine OFF
If you need Time Machine, at least use a Time Machine scheduler to schedule around your event/service times. I used a scheduler to only allow backups between midnight and 6 AM. I also made a point to do manual backups of content and ProPresenter files every few months. This can be done by simply copying those files to an external hard drive.
15. System Volume At 100%
This should always stay the same. This ensures audio to your console/mixer is always the same. This also removes any guesswork when you need to troubleshoot audio issues. I’ve also found this lessens noise in trouble consoles when outputting from the headphone jack of the computer.
16. Close All Applications When Leaving The Computer
When I was on staff at the church, there were a few guys (ahem, student ministers) that were notorious for leaving ProPresenter open after their events. On a number of occasions I would notice, sometimes days later, that ProPresenter had locked up (as in frozen) because of this. One of my mantras was “leave it like you found it”. That meant closing all applications and restarting the computer when you were done. This way you were leaving the system ready for whoever came in next.
17. Be A Religious Restarter
I got made fun of when I was on staff at the church for always restarting computers. One thing I did with all production computers was leave them running 24/7 (running, never sleeping). This is not necessary but something I believe helps Macs run solid. Here’s the reason why I chose to leave them running. Restarting is an easy way to know the computer is running fresh before you begin. Since you may not know who was on the computer before you or what was done on it last, it’s always good to restart the computer before a rehearsal or event. Note: Be sure to deselect the “Reopen windows when logging back in” checkbox before restarting. If you’re on a laptop, I recommend shutting down after use and storage. It also wouldn’t hurt to leave the laptop plugged in and running overnight every few weeks.
18. Do Not Install Non-Essential Applications
This will hurt someone’s feelings, but I’m going to say it anyway. DO NOT INSTALL MICROSOFT OFFICE ON YOUR PROPRESENTER COMPUTER. In fact, don’t install any applications, preference panes or software that is not essential to running ProPresenter. If someone insists on sending you Microsoft Word .DOC files for notes or lyrics, either ask them to start sending PDFs or convert it on another computer. One of the great thing about Macs is that they can read most filetypes without running the necessary software.
19. Run ONLY ProPresenter During “Show Time”
A lot of people, especially those that don’t use Macs on a regular basis, tend to leave applications running on Mac and don’t realize they’re doing so. They think clicking the red X button in the top left of the app’s window quits the application, when in fact it just closes the window. They also may not understand what happens when an application is open or runs in the background. Make it a habit to close all apps on the computer before things get started. Better yet, make it a policy that no apps except ProPresenter can run on that computer at all times. This was more of an issue a few years ago when it was pushing even the sturdiest of systems to run ProPresenter. Now it’s not as big of a deal if you have a newer system, but it is still a good habit to practice.
20. Reinstall The OS Every 12–18 Months
Even the best of systems need a refresh every year or so. Cache files, missing file links and corrupt files build up over time and can cause the system to slow down. I made it priority to reinstall a fresh (no Time Machine backups) installation of OS X every year or so. It may seem overkill or too much work, but if it saves one major crash it’s worth it.
• Create a custom desktop background for the main monitor with the computer’s title. That way anyone walking in knows what the computer does. It also helps to recognize easily what computer you’re on if you screen share often.
• Schedule the computer to restart automatically on a schedule. I set our system to restart every Sunday morning at 6:00 AM so it was fresh for rehearsal at 7:45.
• Use a wired keyboard and mouse. Nothing worse than batteries dying at the worst time.
What other things do you do to keep your system running snappy?