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AV behind the Scenes

Mike Milkovich at Virtual ServicesMike Milkovich

A dedicated super-volunteer helps our clergy lead services online and sing together.

Mike Milkovich is currently a member of the Bet Shalom Board of Trustees and serves on the Executive Committee and the COVID Response Team. Since he also has a full time job and a family, he obviously has lots of free time. Here he explains the magic he works coordinating Bet Shalom’s online services.

I’ve always been a “behind the scenes” guy – theatre tech, lighting and sound design, roadie for the worst cover band on the New York / Pennsylvania bowling alley circuit. (How many bands do you know that can cover Billy Idol and Madonna? Of those, how many *should* be doing that?) 

Here at Bet Shalom I’ve been behind the scenes for several years now, helping the people in our community develop Bet Shalom Yeladim (our incredible preschool), recruit our wonderful Cantor Tamar Havilio, and foster our focus on Jewish relationships. 

Mike Milkovich and Dale BluesteinWhen we made the early difficult decision to close down the building and it became clear we were in for a long shutdown, Steve Barberio, Dale Bluestein and I started talking about how to technically support live services. Dale and the team ultimately produced the incredible High Holy Days services, and I took on improving the tech behind our Friday night services. 

Currently we run 4 “studios” live and join the signals from all of them into the livestream we send out to Zoom and Facebook. Each of the clergy has their own customized studio: Rabbi Crimmings’ office is wired with video, audio, and a “Torah Cam,” Rabbi Locketz is mic’d up for voice and guitar, and the studio for Cantor Havilio is set up specifically for her vocal dynamics, candle lighting, and the Tot Shabbat dinosaur! 

Mike Milkovich and Steve Barberio - AVVideo and audio from each of the studios comes together into a control studio, where I manage the audio mixes, video switching and prayer / lyrics text to go along with services. The magic behind all of this is an inter-studio monitoring system that allows each of the clergy to hear each other in real time, not delayed through the usual Zoom / livestream delays, so that they are able to perform together. Plus I can talk in their earphones without being heard in Zoom, so we can coordinate last-second changes to service order. (This is marked on my controls as “VOG” aka “Voice of G_d” mode….)

I’ve also built some custom software to let the clergy see if their mics are unmuted, and to let them mute themselves in the monitoring system. 

You may also remember some of our early experiments with outdoor services.  What you may not know is each of those 45 minute outdoor services required over a dozen people prepping for a day and a half. If the congregation likes those outdoor activities, we’re going to need some more volunteers, so please contact me at info@betshalom.org!

Professionally, I am a technology executive at a fast-growing behavioral health company, where we’re seeing first hand the impact COVID is having on people’s mental health. My wife, Cindy Cohen and I joined Bet Shalom when we first signed up our daughter Sonja for preschool 15 years ago. I became active in the community about 5 years ago when Bet Shalom was struggling with turning around the preschool. I’ve met and worked with some incredible people here, and look forward to meeting and working with many more!