Published in March 2003

Kid's Church Learning Experience
By Jim Stokes

North Point Church’s KidStuf Theater brings its message to life with live-stage entertainment techniques and technology.

     KidStuf Theater is a live-stage, high-interactive Sunday program of North Point Community Church (NPCC) in Alpharetta GA, not far from Atlanta. In the live-stage, hour-long presentation for kindergarten through fifth graders and their parents, AV plays an important role teaching Christian values.
     More specifically, KidStuf is where parents and kids are encouraged to learn a monthly virtue, such as patience, courage and faith, via songs that appear on large video screens as part of the stage presentation. The show does not replace Sunday school, which children typically must attend prior to KidStuf Theater. The production on a two-story set combines storytelling, drama, lights, music and video to entertain and challenge families.
As Reggie Joiner, NPCC’s director of family ministry explained, “KidStuf is where kids bring their parents to church.” KidStuf Theater is also symbolic of the growth of the north Atlanta non-denominational church. Founded in 1995 by senior pastor Andy Stanley, NPCC currently has more than 11,000 adults participating in five morning worship services in two multi-
thousand-seat auditoriums; 3000 of those are members.

     Clark ProMedia in Atlanta was responsible for the acoustical/sound-reinforcement design and implementation. Representing the company were George Clark, chief designer; and Matt Card, vice president, business development and marketing. At NPCC’s KidStuf Theater, production credits go to Collette Taylor, producer, assistant director of family ministry; and Marc Shroyer, KidStuf technical director. The church’s internal staff used existing equipment, supplemented with additional purchases from Clark ProMedia as well as other local vendors, to outfit the video/multimedia side. Our spokespersons/guides through this AV project will be Mesrrs. Card, Clark and Shroyer.

Parallel Growth
     Although our focus here is the theater, KidStuf is part of a larger AV design and install by Clark ProMedia, which includes the church’s two 3000-seat sanctuaries. Just as North Point Community Church has grown in its eight years, the design/build company has experienced parallel growth. “Back in 1995 in the early days of the company, it was George Clark and a technician in a green pickup doing live production and touring as well as 200-seat smaller churches,” said Card. “George was contracted to produce a live performance every week for NPCC for their services held in a local convention center, where they’d set up a sound system, tear down and pack up each time.” When the church took a giant step, moving from their temporary services venue in a convention center to a permanent 3000-seat worship center, Clark ProMedia landed the job of providing “an acoustically pure room and a sound system for rock-n-roll” in the church. Clark ProMedia continues providing AV design/build for NPCC, including the current large project.

‘Want to Be Relevant’
     NPCC “wants to be competitive with every other alternative in an [attendee’s] life,” explained Card. “That’s especially true in this north Atlanta suburb, which is a relatively upper-middle-class affluent area. Within a mile of the church are 25 movie screens in four cinema multiplexes. There are lots of restaurants, night clubs and high tech malls. So people are inundated every day in their lives with technology.”
     Accordingly, Card noted that the overall guiding principle in choosing NPCC’s AV equipment was the high quality that attendees encounter in their secular world. “They expect the same quality level out of their worship experience as how they invest their entertainment dollar.” Clark added, “This church wants to be relevant. Let’s face it, most people have better car stereos than most churches.”

Warehouse to Worship Space
     According to Card, the biggest challenge in the KidStuf Theater space was “taking what was essentially a large warehouse and turning it into a worship space.” Although not literally a warehouse, the KidStuf venue has all the earmarks of industrial construction because of its highly functional design.
     Inside dimensions are 90Lx140Wx30H feet, with the two-tiered stage on the 140-foot-width axis. KidStuf Theater is surrounded by cinderblock walls, metal frames and various exposed pipes/HVAC structures. Although the actors, production crew and audience aren’t housed in a traditional ornate marble, wood and glass worship center, the practical space has its own charm. Actually, the warehouse style is trendy and highly functional.
The 30-foot ceiling is blacked out. “It’s very much like a television studio,” pointed out Card. “A pipe grid allows lighting positions to be created wherever the technicians want them. Below the blackout line is a significant amount of theatrical lighting. Intelligent lights create interactive effects in the audience area.” The theatrical lighting system is controlled by an ETC console and Martin Moving Lights run on dedicated PC software.

Acoustic Treatment
     Clark ProMedia effectively brought the natively reverberant warehouse acoustic environment under control. After developing a complete acoustic model in EASE, the room was treated with MBI frequency-selective panels: Lapendary on the ceiling and acoustic fiberglass on the walls. “It was all designed to bring the room into an overall reverberation time,” said Card. “It was brought to 01.0 - 01.1 seconds,” according to Clark, “and it’s even tighter on the lower end because it’s extremely important that the bass be punchy and tight.” Absorbing the lower-end frequencies creates intelligibility.

Clark ProMedia, Atlanta GA, assists clients with projects from concept to performance. Although the acoustic and AV-design/build company has been involved with many different projects and venues—from corporate to restaurants to entertainment—90% of their work consists of houses of worship.
Some recent examples include Davis Islands Baptist Church in Tampa Bay, a smaller church colorfully characterized by its location, literally on an island. A large church install is Atlanta Vineyard Christian Fellowship, a non-denominational, warehouse-turned-church in Atlanta, which features a very progressive Christian rock-music service. Then there’s Valleydale Baptist Church, a large contemporary Southern Baptist church in Birmingham AL.

     “We found that a flat reverb time gives you more control over the room with the sound system,” added Card. “You don’t have to EQ out the low end, and you now have discrete control over loudspeakers instead of EQing frequencies out to address the reverb time.”
     Meyer-powered left/center/right stage clusters and fill speakers along with OAP subwoofers comprise the sound-reinforcement system. Meyer boxes include two CQ-2s for the left and right clusters; the center cluster has three CQ-2s. Each L/C/R configuration has a UPM-1 mounted on the bottom to maximize cluster coverage. For the audience seated at the extreme ends of the stage, one-each left and right UPA-2P speakers cover those farthest corners. OAP TR218, 18-inch subwoofer cabinets are flown three left and three right at the very edge of the stage.
“In virtually all of our applications, we fly subs in a line-array configuration where you actually broaden and even-out the sub coverage,” said Card. “Our signature sound is a tremendous amount of low-end presence in a room.” In addition, Clark noted that there’s some stereo imaging for the audience. This was done by assigning the left channel to the center cluster, while setting up the right channel via the left and right clusters. “No matter where you’re sitting in the room, you’re hearing left and right image sources.” There are eight Renkus-Heinz TRC121 wedges, available as needed, for stage monitors. Currently, two are used on the lower stage level and the upper stage level has three.
     Regarding speaker choice, Clark stated, “There’s a sonic signature that we look for, and companies like Meyer and Renkus-Heinz have the sound we listen for. Then there’s the taste of what the client is looking for. We believe in putting the money up in the air in the boxes.” Card noted that the church demanded a quality comparable to what you’d find in any high-grade performance touring group, “and Meyer has a sonic signature that is clearly associated with world-class touring groups.” The church’s goal is to build a world-class application within the church setting.

Additional Audio
     Ashly Protea speaker management systems handle all of the Meyer-powered speakers and OAP sub-crossovers. Crown MT Series power amplifiers drive the subs and Renkus-Heinz stage monitors. Other signal processing includes Ashly 31 band EQs, Presonus compressor/gates and TC Electronics effects processors and delays. A Soundcraft K2 48-channel mixing console handles signal splits for FOH, monitor and recording. The console’s recording send goes to the church’s recording studio located elsewhere in the building. That studio is capable of producing 5.1 stereo surround sound.
     “It’s interesting in that they’re running 16 channels of Shure wireless and they want 20 in there right now,” said Clark. “It’s a pretty phenomenal group of people. When you give them the correct tools, they use them to put in an impactful, meaningful service for the kids.”
Card noted that churches have been “falling in love” with the Countryman E6 headworn mic because it’s an incredible sounding mic that picks up an inch from the performer’s mouth. KidStuf has 10 of those for the actors. Other performer-related gear includes Shure wireless in-ear monitors and a bevy of Shure SM Series wired mics.

Producing KidStuf
     KidStuf producer Collette Taylor and technical director Marc Shroyer lead and train production-team volunteers. Greg Payne, the show’s director and main writer, is in charge of the actors, sets and all other related functions on the performance stage. During the week, Shroyer edits and produces the show’s attention-getting, high-energy videos in the acoustically isolated AV production control room.
     The audience sees these pre-recorded videos during the live-stage production on Sunday. The videos consist of a highlight reel of the previous week’s show and a clip about values. “We try to make things edgy and fun with lots of colors, high energy and music.” Video cut-ins, songs and skits are interspersed throughout the presentation. “It’s a very high-energy children’s show, comparable to what you’d see on Disney or Nickelodeon,” said Shroyer. “We strive for excellence and spend a lot of time training our volunteers.”
     Six video cameras are available for production, including three JVC KY19 studio cameras plus a Canon XL1 boom-mounted MiniDV, a Canon GL1 handheld and a JVC DV550 handheld. Sony production decks include a DSR 1500 for playback and a DSR 20 for recording. Switching is done on a Grass Valley 200. Videos are edited on a Media 100. Two Mac G4 CGI (computer generated imaging) systems are used for editing and character generation such as song lyrics projected for the audience. All video is projected onto two large screens via Barco LCD projectors. Regarding the studio lighting system, there’s an ETC lighting console and Martin Moving Lights running on their dedicated PC software. Voice communication for the director, camera operators and production crew is via a Telex intercom system.

On With the Show!
     With the actors in place on the two-tiered stage and the production team at their respective places, the show begins. Parents and children enter KidStuf Theater together. “That’s the main priority,” said Shroyer. “Children and their parents are here together. Parents can’t just drop off their children.”
     KidStuf Theater does not replace Sunday school. Children attend Sunday school, called “Upstreet” before going to KidStuf. At the same time the kids are released from Sunday school, their parents are released from church service. Shroyer noted that the KidStuf productions are of such high quality that kids bring their friends.
     The audience sees a highlight reel of the previous week, followed by several high energy “virtue” songs, with lyrics projected on the lower third of the large screens. The show revolves around the themed “virtue of the month,” such as honesty, gratitude and forgiveness. The live show is co-hosted by straight man NPCC Associate Pastor Reggie Joyner and his comic sidekick, Lanny Donoho. There’s a skit with professional actors portraying kids in real life situations, all revolving around the month’s theme. The show wraps up with a Bible story, using graphics and videos. Throughout all the songs and skits, the “virtue of the month” is emphasized.

Rest of the Story
     KidStuf Theater is part of a large NPCC install that also includes the two sanctuaries. Both rooms seat about 3000 parishioners and have been designed to enhance the spoken word and support Christian rock music. “The challenge is to use technology so it creates such a lifelike experience that the technology actually blends into the background and enhances worship,” said Card. “So the rooms are designed to create an intimate feel with low reverberation time.” Both rooms are very tight, with reverberation times close to KidStuf Theater. One sanctuary is 01.1 to 01.2 seconds, and the other is a bit more live at around 01.3 seconds.
     Both sanctuaries are primarily Renkus-Heinz main speakers with OAP subwoofers: the same model subs as in KidStuf. Both rooms have Soundcraft 56-channel consoles. Pastor Stanley is viewed live by worshipers in the worship-service origination sanctuary. A Panasonic high-definition SDI camera picks up the pastor in a static wide-angle shot, and the signal is fed over a dedicated fiber link to the second room, where it’s projected on an 18x26-foot video screen. Each sanctuary has its own worship band that follows relatively the same program. When it comes near time for the pastor’s teaching, the bands monitor each other so they’ll both end their music at the same time.

3 Crown MT1200 power amps (monitors)
3 Crown MT2400 power amps (subwoofers)
10 Countryman E6 headworn mics
7 Meyer Powered CQ-2 speakers
2 Meyer Powered UPA-2P speakers
3 Meyer Powered UPM-1P speakers
6 OAP TR218 dual 18" subwoofers
8 Renkus-Heinz TRC121 stage monitors
3 Shure PSM600 wireless in-ear monitors
w/E5 earphone
16 Shure UC-14 wireless mic systems
6 Shure SM57 mics
8 Shure SM58 wired mics
4 Shure SM87 wired mics
1 Soundcraft K2 48-channel FOH
mixing console

Signal Processing
3 Ashly MQX-2310 31-band EQs
2 Ashly Protea 4.24C speaker management
2 Presonus ACP88 compressor/gates
2 TC Electronic M1 effects processors
1 TC Electronic D2 delay

Video/Multimedia Imaging
2 Apple Mac G4 computer-generated
imaging systems
2 Barco 5000 lumens LCD projectors
1 Canon GL1 video camera
1 Canon XL1 3-chip MiniDV camera,
1 Grass Valley 200 video switcher
1 JVC DV550 video camera
3 JVC KY19 3-chip studio cameras
1 Media 100 video editing system
1 Sony DSR 20 video recorder
1 Sony DSR 1500 video recorder

1 ETC Express 48/96 lighting console
8 Martin MAC250-plus moving lights
MBI Lapendary, (10) 4x20 and (10) 2x20 fabric-covered
fiberglass acoustic panels
1 Telex MS-2001 2-channel Intercom Master Station

Jim Stokes has been involved in the AV industry for more than 30 years and is a Sound & Communications Contributing Editor.

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