House Of Worship

Technology: One Church, Six Venues

By the numbers, Tomoka Christian Church (TCC, sounds impressive. The audiovisual and lighting integration project in the church’s new home in Ormond Beach FL spans 60,000 square feet and includes 17 Danley Sound Labs loudspeakers, 17 LG commercial grade plasma screens, 14 video projectors and screens of various brands, 33 QSC 70-volt speakers for distributed sound, 19 QSC amps and three digital mixers, not to mention a QSC Q-Sys Core 250i integrated network audio system and 60,000 feet of cable tying it all together.

Dial it down to the main sanctuary and you find a few more staggering numbers: 50 Auralex sound panels, 92 mic jacks on the stage and 96 channels of mixing on the Avid Venue console. The sanctuary is designed to accommodate 800 seats, nearly triple the size of the previous sanctuary, while a chapel that receives a live feed of the service holds about 200 seats.

When you learn the project was completed in just nine months from the first wire pull to the final tuning, you’ll begin to have an idea of the challenges audiovisual integration firm, National Audio Technology & Electronics Company (cleverly called NATECO, a play on cofounder Nate Mudge’s first name, of Holly Hill FL, may have faced.

Fortunately, the company had a strong team on the job, including Mudge, who acted as project supervisor; NATECO Lead Installer Dave Cates and Shane Stanton, the church technical director who is also an AV professional, moonlighting as a systems integrator when he’s not managing the TCC technical team of volunteers.

When Mudge tried to describe Stanton’s creativity, words failed him. “He is like a mad genius who sits up at night and dreams about ways to push technology beyond what even the equipment designers had in mind. He has taken the latest technology and applied it to create…something. I spent 20 minutes trying to think of a word to describe it, and can’t.”
Cates has similar problems describing the project concisely. “During the course of the project, when people asked us what we were doing at Tomoka, it was difficult to answer. We were doing six different churches, six separate venues on one property for one church group.”

The size and scope of the project also makes it difficult for the integrator to pinpoint any single over-arching theme to the installation. And that, according to Cates, is exactly what makes it so unique. “We’ve not done anything this dynamic before, with this many systems integrated in one building, all completely different, apart from two back-to-back children’s spaces that are essentially identical.”

In addition to fully functioning AV systems in the main sanctuary, a 300-seat chapel, three children’s worship areas, a youth center and a café, the church also has distributed audio and a digital signage system across campus, which helps increase communication between the church and its congregation. Although five out of six of the audiovisual systems differ, they all help achieve similar goals: providing ample sound and video coverage across the facility so the church could reduce the number of services even as its congregation continues to grow, while maintaining a certain aesthetic standard.

Connectivity was important because the church technical director wanted to be able to send audio feeds from the sanctuary or chapel to other spaces across campus, and also send any video source to any screen.

The fan-shaped sanctuary stands as a good example of how the technology helps meet these objectives. Cates noted, “One of the biggest challenges was ample coverage and quality of sound without intruding on their aesthetic desires. The client wanted things to look and feel a certain way in the room. The sound and lighting had to be well disguised; we couldn’t have speakers hanging too low or screens in odd places. The design aesthetic required a clean atmosphere.”

With this in mind, the integrator selected five SH46 loudspeakers from Danley Sound Labs as mains, flown over the front edge of the stage with each cabinet covering one section of the seating. Five SH Minis sit at the front of the stage as front fills, while an SH95 sits at the rear of the sanctuary as a front of house monitor.

Four TH115 subwoofers sit under the front edge of the concrete stage, in a cavity poured specifically to isolate the subs from the stage. QSC CX502 amplifiers power the front fills, delays and mains, while the subs are powered by a pair of QSC PL340s.

Even with the precise coverage pattern of the speakers and the capabilities of the Q-Sys processing, acoustical treatments were required. A total of 50 Auralex panels cover the back and side walls of the sanctuary, but the panel layout and design didn’t occur until very late in the project, posing a challenge to the integrator.

After the sanctuary was painted, the integrator learned it would be impossible to hang the panels where the original design drawings had placed them. NATECO coordinated with Auralex to reshoot the digital response of the room with a new panel placement. “There was a lot of collaboration, calibration and then re-calibration,” Cates says.

Several 4″x8″ panels cover the side walls of the sanctuary, with 12 more panels across the back wall. Multiple 4″x4″ and 8″x8″ panels hang on the wall directly above the front-of-house position. In addition to providing sound dampening, the panels also serve as accent points to achieve the right aesthetic. Cates said, “When the interior decorator realized she could decorate with the panels by choosing the colors she wanted, it helped ensure that the acoustical treatments did not get cut from the budget. They became a design feature.”

The church uses an Avid Venue 96-channel, four-layer digital console at front-of-house, which the client transferred from the previous sanctuary. The console uses Avid Digidesign’s native hardware along with Waves plugins to achieve a well-controlled studio sound during live services. For instance, Cates said, “They use 12 microphones on the drum kit, and a trigger on each drum for processing, which is really a studio practice.” The console also provides the capability to record every service in multitrack.

At the heart of system processing is a Q-Sys network audio system that offers full processing as well as audio distribution across the facility. “It provides absolute control over everything,” said Cates, “even down to direct feedback from the QSC amps through a controlled dataport.” If an amplifier malfunctions, clips or has a fault, the technical director is notified in any number of ways.

The Q-Sys also handles processing in the chapel, permitting simulcasting of services or events from either the sanctuary or the chapel into the opposite space, as well as across campus.

Just as the Q-Sys processor connects the sanctuary audio to the chapel, and vice versa, a Ross Carbonite switcher distributes the sanctuary video to the chapel or the café for overflow during services, while also offering capabilities to run videos to support worship, image magnification, lyrics or service notes on any of the three screens in the sanctuary.

The stage houses a full band, including a drumkit with 16 microphones, for contemporary worship.
The stage houses a full band, including a drumkit with 16 microphones, for contemporary worship.

Two 16-foot 16:10 format Draper fixed screens on either side of the stage are powered by Digital Projection E-Series 1080p 8000 lumen projectors. The screens typically show video to support the service on the upper segment, with the lower-third reserved for lyrics or scriptures. A 150-inch confidence screen on the back wall, powered by an Optoma projector, displays lyrics for the praise team.

The pastor uses a 60-inch LCD on a rolling cart to display sermon notes written on his iPad, either prior to, or during services. Using the video switcher, these notes are routed to the small monitor, as well as the larger side screens.

Video is controlled in the front-of-house booth, which houses two iMacs running ProPresenter worship software. A sanctuary feed is captured on three client-owned cameras that came from the church’s original worship space.

The Ross switcher routes the signals from the cameras or the iMacs to the control room for live editing or post-production editing, as well as to the chapel and café screens for overflow services. “The primary function of the video switcher is to distribute that video presence throughout the building,” Cates said. “Their goal is to recreate the live atmosphere in video, so they use two cameras on the floor of the sanctuary and one fixed camera at the rear of the room for wide angle shots, recreating the look and feel of being in the room.”

The view from front-of-house at Tomoka Christian Church in Ormond Beach, Florida.
The view from front-of-house at Tomoka Christian Church in Ormond Beach, Florida.

The chapel’s sound system might be described as a scaled-down version of the sanctuary system, providing reinforced sound for spoken word as well as a full band, but it uses few of the same components. The chapel sound system includes an Electro-Voice EVI-12 loudspeaker on each side of the stage, powered by QSC CX302 amplifiers. “They throw a very specific coverage pattern onto the floor of the room, keeping sound off the walls,” Cates said. “We use those loudspeakers often when we can’t do acoustical treatment in a space. No panels are needed because of the way those speakers handle sound.”

An Electro-Voice ELX118 sub and four ELX112 stage monitors, also powered by CX302 amps, round out the chapel sound system.

The church uses an Avid SC48 at front-of-house in the chapel, which provides scalability for technical team volunteers. Stanton can train volunteers in the chapel and then move them up to mix in the sanctuary.

The chapel employs a Hitachi CP-RS57 projector lighting up a Draper screen on the back wall as a monitor. The main video system consists of two Panasonic PTD5500U projectors and Draper 133-inch screens on each side of the stage to create a video venue for overflow.

A secondary overflow space exists in the café, which has a distributed sound system comprised of 14 QSC AD-C152T 70-volt ceiling speakers and a QSC AD-C81TW eight-inch sub in the ceiling, all powered by a TOA A-724 six-channel, 240-watt, 70-volt amplifier.

Commercial grade plasma screens throughout the building are used for overflow video, digital signage and more.
Commercial grade plasma screens throughout the building are used for overflow video, digital signage and more.

The video feed from the sanctuary also goes to 42-inch LG plasma monitors in the café and across the facility by means of an RF modulator. When the screens aren’t running a live feed from the sanctuary, they display produced videos or digital signage announcements. “The goal of the digital signage is to have the screens rolling announcements, to improve communication and give congregation members as much information as they possibly can during those few hours they spend at the church over a weekend,” Cates explained.

The children’s hallway houses eight children’s worship rooms, three with full AV systems that include a pair of Community ENT206 speakers each and an Electro-Voice sub using a QSC DSP30 for processing. The rooms include either a Behringer or Allen  Heath mixer, a Mac Mini to run lyrics and videos, a Hitachi projector and Draper screen. “The children’s room systems are simple and basic, but fully functional,” Cates said, adding that one of the rooms regularly hosts live musical performances for the kids.

The hallway itself includes three 42-inch monitors that run digital signage announcements from a USB thumb drive. Cates pointed out that the facility uses nearly every type of source imaginable in one place or another.

In addition to the extensive technology systems, the integrator reported that the client was most excited about the extra space in the new building. “They can reduce the amount of time ministers and employees put into a weekend, so they can put more focus on ministry than preparation,” Cates said.

This is especially true for the technical staff, consisting of Stanton, Brendan Erazo, visual director for lighting and stage design, and Cindy Lescarbeau, video director, along with a team of volunteers. The QSys system allows the team to schedule technology “events” as needed in a sequence. “When we open the doors,” Stanton described, “the Q-Sys is scheduled to turn on the lobby speakers, the audio feed going into the chapel, the speakers in the backstage areas, and also the assistive listening systems. The chapel can receive independent, local audio or can be used for overflow, and that’s preprogrammed into the Q-Sys, too. We can route the audio feed from the sanctuary into the chapel without even turning on the chapel FOH console.” The Q-Sys provides control via an iPad or a laptop on a dedicated network.

A video switcher permits a volunteer member of the technical team to the sanctuary feed to the chapel, hallways and other locations.
A video switcher permits a volunteer member of the technical team to the sanctuary feed to the chapel, hallways and other locations.

Finally, Stanton described one of his favorite time- and energy-saving features in the new installation: a Lyntec power sequencer. “The power sequencer puts an end to flipping breakers and complicated setups,” Stanton said. “It turns on and off all the circuits feeding the audio system, the amplifiers and the stage racks in the right sequence with the flip of one switch.”

Admitting that the project was completed on a tight budget, he said that his background as an AV integrator helped, although he tried to keep the two roles as separate as possible. “I spent many weeks working with Nate and Dave to put in the best elements we could for the money we had,” Stanton said.

The reward is a high-tech facility that gives the contemporary Christian church plenty of room to grow, and a great sense of satisfaction for the design and integration team. “The best part is going out to local churches and hearing people talk about the systems at Tomoka, and to know people are really getting something out of it,” Cates concluded.

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