Published in July 2008

Tight Timeline, Amazing AV
By Dawn Allcot

Seventh Day Adventist Church creates immersive experience.
An AV booth at the back of the sanctuary houses the mixing board.

Many Christian churches today put technology at center stage, never overshadowing the minister or the message, but not hiding or disguising the 21st century tools required to create an immersive audiovisual experience, either.

Gettysburg Seventh Day Adventist Church (SDAC) in Gettysburg PA has a traditional approach to worship and, in that vein, sought subtle, yet advanced, sound and video systems to help the pastor deliver his message, keeping the technology firmly in the background. The church even requested a flesh-colored wireless microphone for the pastor so the headset would appear nearly invisible to worshippers. “The pastor wanted a discrete microphone,” said Jamey Lerew, owner/partner of Biglersville PA-based integrator A/V Solutions, LLC. “He didn’t want to look like Garth Brooks up there on stage.”

Like many Seventh Day Adventist Churches, Gettysburg begins its Saturday worship services with Sabbath School, using the 225-seat sanctuary as a classroom or, more accurately, two separate classroom areas. Several church members in one class are hearing-impaired, and needed an assistive-listening system. The church also needed distributed sound in seven smaller classrooms, and infrastructure to accommodate additional classrooms and a fellowship hall in the future.

Gettysburg SDAC leaders and the church’s Gary Bled, audiovisual director, called on A/V Solutions, LLC, to design and install AV systems that would meet the church’s current needs, blend in with the church’s architecture and allow room for future growth.

The contractor specified a small but powerful JBL AE system with a 24-channel Soundcraft mixing board, a Williams Sound assistive-listening system, distributed sound by means of a Rane processor, and an Eiki projector with a short-throw lens. The projector displays lyrics, shows DVDs and broadcasts a satellite feed from a religious television network. During Sabbath classes, the projector can be hooked up to a laptop for PowerPoint presentations, as well.

The church recently moved from a rented space, where the audio components consisted of two speakers on the stage, tasked with covering the entire auditorium. “There was a lot of opportunity for improvement, moving on from that system,” Lerew said.

The first order of business for A/V Solutions was specifying a speaker array for the hexagonal room. The church uses mobile chairs to configure the room in different ways. Hard walls with no acoustical treatments and 20-foot ceilings created a reverberant space, but cloth on the chairs and carpeting on the floors helped dampen the room.

“If you saw the room, you might think it would be very live. But it’s not as active as you’d think,” Lerew said. “Because the room is not a big, square box with 90-degree angles, we had to be creative in making sure we had the right dispersion pattern.”

The integrator selected the JBL AE series, hanging two AM4200/95 medium-power, mid-high frequency speakers and one high-power ASB6118 18-inch sub directly above the center of the stage. The system is able to handle the high frequencies of spoken word and the lower frequencies required for organ music with ease. The speakers offer a well-controlled 90-degree by 50-degree coverage pattern and are hung vertically, close to the ceiling. The white DuraFlex finish blends in with the ceiling. “Aesthetically, as you walk into the church, the speakers don’t stick out,” Lerew said. “It was challenging to keep our coverage and our dispersion pattern but, at the same time, maintain a clean look.”
The pastor or guest speaker uses a gooseneck mic and can control PowerPoint presentations from the podium.

A 12-inch JRX112M stage monitor was also provided. The speakers are powered by Crown XTi 2000 and XTi 4000 amps.

A Soundcraft LX7ii24 24-channel mixing board resides in an AV booth at the back of the sanctuary. This board is similar to the LX7i used in the previous facility. Bled called the console “very easy to run, with plenty of flexibility, dependability and expandability.”

The pastors use a 915B Astatic gooseneck mic at the podium, or an AKG WMS400 wireless bodypack system with a C44L headset microphone.

The audio component also includes the Williams Sound PPA375. A Rane RPM 26Z programmable microprocessor features a special switch that allows the teachers on one side of the room to turn off input to the main PA and use a lapel mic to address the hearing-impaired students without interrupting the rest of the room.

The Rane processor, which was programmed by the integrator and “locked down” so church staff cannot change the settings, handles EQ, limiting and speaker crossovers for the main PA. It also handles distributed audio to seven classrooms and the church’s hallways. Each room has volume control by means of an Atlas at10d attenuator and one or two Atlas ceiling speakers, powered by a Crown amp.

The processing equipment and amplification system provide the church with room to grow. “The church is talking about expanding for more classrooms and possibly a fellowship hall,” said A/V Solutions owner/partner Bobby Dengler. “Additional outputs on the processor and plenty of room for expansion in the amplification system will make it easy for the church to expand. When we design a church, that’s one of the questions we ask: ‘What are your plans for the future?’ Now is the time to do that design for the future.”

The church originally requested a projector mounted in the back of the room to display hymn lyrics, videos and a satellite feed onto a 7'x9' Da-Lite Cosmopolitan Screen mounted on the wall behind the pastor. However, certain church members felt that a projector hanging from the back wall of the sanctuary would detract from the aesthetics of the space. Additionally, the projector would have required an expensive long-throw lens.

Instead, A/V Solutions used an Eiki LC-XG300 LCD projector, which the installer located behind the speakers. “Eiki makes a short-throw lens that allowed us to fill the screen while tucking the projector in tightly behind the speakers. When you walk in the room, you see nothing of a projector,” Dengler said.

An FSR switcher/scaler located in the AV booth provides inputs for a DVD player, laptop computer and a live satellite feed for television programming. An additional input is located on the stage for guests and teachers who wish to control PowerPoint presentations from the podium.

A/V Solutions came in to the project late in the game, when the church changed AV integrators more than halfway through the construction process. “A/V Solutions was better able to meet our needs within our price range,” Bled said. “We wanted good quality, something that would last for awhile, but was reasonably priced.”

Lerew added, “We knew the church had a tight budget, and we had to abide by that. Our company doesn’t use smoke and mirrors. We lay the details on the line, but we don’t add fancy features unless the customer is looking for it. We care about the customer’s necessities, while also providing for future expansion and technology.”

To help Gettysburg SDAC cut costs, A/V Solutions provided the designs and cable for wire runs, and the client ran the wire.

Coming in so late in the process gave the installer only 2½ weeks to design and install the AV systems, and it created some unique challenges as the A/V Solutions team worked side-by-side with the other trades. “Typically, in a new construction, we do our rigging above the ceiling,” Dengler explained. “But the ceilings were already finished, so we had to crawl through ceiling structures and small areas to finish the rigging. One day, they were blowing insulation, and we had to work around that.”

Other challenges faced during the project were more typical to house of worship design and installations. The founders of A/V Solutions have been serving audiovisual customers for more than 20 years, and have completed design and installation projects in restaurants, entertainment complexes, government facilities, educational venues and more. The company’s projects have been featured in Sound & Communications several times, most recently for the Dover Area High School’s stadium sound system (November 2007).

The house of worship market, according to Dengler, reveals challenges not commonly faced with other clients. “When we do a nightclub or school,” he said, “one person typically outlines the AV needs. With a church, there’s a whole body of people who are part of the AV team, and everybody has his own wishes and needs. The challenge is to keep all those people happy, while staying within a sometimes-tight budget.”

He added, “Churches are not all built the same. We can’t go in there with a template. Every project is unique in the structure’s size and shape, the type of services they hold, and the type of materials on the walls, ceiling and floor.”

A key factor in working with house of worship clients is listening to their unique needs and also providing education about advances in audiovisual technology—specifically, how new equipment may help the church accomplish its goals. “We were pretty successful in doing that, on a very tight timeframe, at Gettysburg Seventh Day Adventist Church,” Lerew said. “I think we have a customer for life because of that.”

Dawn Allcot is a freelance writer specializing in the audiovisual and health and fitness industries.

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