Vegas Church Goes ‘All In’

The Crossing church ‘gets’ AV.

Church has gone big in America in recent decades. The mega church has evolved from oddity to commodity, dotting the suburban landscape from Portland ME to Portland OR.

But in Las Vegas, any attempt at scale has to be taken in context: There, the biggest stars get their own theatrical venues cosseted with leading-edge technology. So, when you build a worship center in Sin City for the biggest luminary in Christianity, you’d better be shooting for the stars.

That’s what The Crossing, an 1800-seat church that opened in February in Las Vegas’ upscale southwest neighborhood did. The third and largest sanctuary on the decade-old church’s campus, the new church building doubles the capacity of the prior one. But it’s not about size so much as it is about quality AVL. That’s not surprising when much of your congregation comes from the upper reaches of the Strip’s own entertainment venues. For instance, The Crossing’s staff front-of-house mixer is Bob Meyers, who used to mix live monitor sound for Frank Sinatra. That pretty much tells you what you need to know.

What Sets It Apart
“What set this project apart from the typical large house of worship—but not necessarily from a music venue in Las Vegas—is that it’s designed to act like a performing arts center, in terms of its sound and video and lighting,” explained Kevin Potts, a principal in Coherent Design, the Las Vegas-based AV systems designer and integrator for the project. “The church’s technology team specifically indicated that that’s what they wanted to achieve,” he continued. “It’s not that surprising: Many members of the congregation work in the hotels, casinos and theaters in the city, and some are part of Cirque de Soleil.

They’re comfortable with the technology of entertainment. Plus, they wanted the church to be able to host concerts by Christian music performers. They wanted it to be as good as any concert hall of this size.”

The Crossing’s new sanctuary is wide, with a low ceiling that presented a challenge for the sound system. After some modeling of the room in EASE and other software, it quickly became clear that it was not well suited for a line array approach. Instead, it was decided that two pairs of stereo clusters, with a left and right box sitting on either side of the stage, would provide both the coverage the room required and the imaging desired for a music environment.

Potts said that there was a brief debate about using a passive system powered by remotely racked amplifiers, advocated by the church’s team, and the active-powered speakers Coherent Design suggested. Initially, he offered, the additional cost of active speakers was off-putting to the client, but when the cost of the amplifiers and additional cabling was added in, the cost differential was considerably less. The Meyer Sound system chosen consists of 18 JM-1P speaker enclosures, with each stereo cluster including a pair of UPA-1P compact speakers. The stacked clusters, positioned at the stage lip, also include four 1100-LFC subwoofers, paired front to back per side in a cardioid configuration, to increase directionality. Four Meyer UPA-1P compact wide-coverage speakers are soffited into the front of the stage as fills for the front rows in the shadow of the clusters, as are two Meyer 600-HP subwoofers.

System Control
The system is controlled using a Meyer Galileo Callisto 616 processor. FOH audio is mixed through a Yamaha CL5 digital console and uses a pair of Yamaha Rio3224-D digital stage boxes. Monitors are mixed through a Yamaha CL1 console.

“The JM-1P is a concert box, with a very narrow [dispersion] pattern, so we’re able to aim it very precisely,” Potts said, adding that the cardioid subwoofer configuration was chosen for the same reason. The decision to go with an actively powered system did require that power be run into the ceiling to plug in each enclosure, but he said that more than offset the cost of building a self-contained air-conditioned amplifier room and the cabling it would require.

Another distributed audio system covers the church lobby, and is comprised of 34 JBL Control 47 C/T and 20 Control 24 surface-mount speakers, and nine Control 67 pendant speakers. These are managed by a BSS Soundweb London processor. Communications between FOH system operators and the church’s post-production suite take place on a Clear-Com SB-704 four-channel intercom system.

Assistive listening uses a Listen Technologies LT-800 system with 51 receiver sets. Other audio system components include eight channels each of Shure P9TRA IEMs, Countryman E6XDW6L2SL earsets, and Shure ULXD2/B87C handheld transmitters and ULXD1 wireless beltpacks. As befits a music venue, there’s a sizable complement of instrument and vocal microphones, some AKG, Audio-Technica, Sennheiser and Audix.

Dante Network
Audio is moved throughout the system on an Audinate Dante digital audio network, which is cabled using Cat6 wiring and Cisco gigabit switches. “We’re at the point now where any digital audio system is going to have to become an IT proposition, as well as an audio one,” said Potts. “We’re in the IT world now and we have to understand how to work with networks.”

As appropriate for a versatile performance center, the church asked for as much flexibility in its systems as possible. Thus, the design called for all AV components to be mounted on theatrical trusses with chain motors, to allow for components being changed out quickly and efficiently. An architectural aspect to that is the fact that the auditorium’s rear wall is designed to be removable, making the seating expandable to 2600 seats, for which concrete risers are already in place. The sound system as it’s installed now did not require any delay speakers to reach the rear of the room; however, if and when the wall is removed to enlarge the space, Potts said that provisions have been made in the design to install delay speakers at approximately where the wall is now.

The Big Picture
Even when that wall comes down, attendees should not have trouble seeing any of the video. Two 150″x266¾” Da-Lite Series 300 16:9 wide-aspect-ratio screens flank the stage in fixed positions. A third screen, a Da-lite 24-foot (diagonal) screen, sourced from the previous sanctuary, is on a motorized drop above center stage. These are illuminated by two Panasonic PT-DW11KU 11,000 lumen projectors with ET-D75LE20 lenses for the outboard screens, and a Christie LX1500 projector (also sourced from the old sanctuary) for the center screen.

All projectors are getting SDI signals over fiber cabling that runs back to the video control room and its Blackmagic ATEM 2/ME production switcher, broadcast control console and Ultrastudio Express Thunderbolt SDI interface. An Apple Mac Pro and iMac computers are used as video sources and for video editing of services for later distribution. Live video of services and performances is shot through three JVC GY-HM790U HD cameras fitted with 17:1 zoom lenses.

The two outboard projectors presented an interesting challenge when it came to mounting them. “The temperatures in Las Vegas can range pretty widely in the course of a single day,” Potts, who’s lived in Vegas for more than 20 years, said, pointing out that he’s seen them go from 50° at night to 105° 12 hours later. The church is covered with a large seamed-metal roof, resting on steel girders and beams to which much of the interior infrastructure is attached, including the 13-foot poles that the projectors are suspended from.

As the temperatures change, the building itself expands and contracts, which can affect the aiming of the projectors. So, in addition to the Chief VCM75P mounts used for the projectors, Potts added a Chief CMA340 stabilization kit and CMA372 flange to keep the projector pole mounts steady. “We have them tied off at four separate points each, to offset the effect of the sway that the expansion and contraction can cause,” he said.

Interestingly, that same climate issue impacted the room’s acoustics. Las Vegas summers require a lot of air conditioning. To keep the vents as quiet as possible, they used oversized outputs and returns, and ducts were heavily baffled. In addition, the HVAC units themselves are located on top of a separate portion of the building and mounted on top of spring-loaded isolators to minimize mechanical transmission of vibration and noise.

The overall effect, said Potts, is a very low NC-25 noise rating inside the sanctuary.
The rear and side walls are also heavily covered with large absorbent panels: Corning fiberglass covered with acoustically transparent fabric. Potts estimates that acoustical treatments and HVAC noise reduction cost as much as $200,000.

The Crossing is rounded out with an extensive array of LED and moving-head lighting from Elation, fixtures that Potts said are common in the clubs and casinos of The Strip.

“You just get so used to dazzling lighting everywhere here, that it’s not unexpected to see it in church, too,” he said. The lobby also has two Samsung UN50EH5000F 50-inch LCD televisions attached using Chief RMT2 wall mounts, used as digital signage and as video from the sanctuary cameras for overflow crowds. They’re connected to the video control room by basic coaxial cable, perhaps the most mundane cabling in the entire facility, said Potts, offering that “It’s inexpensive and can carry HD signal.” He added, “It’s simple and it works. It’s one of many ideas we borrowed from doing AV in the casinos here.” He smiled, adding, “It’s like they made a little contribution.”

Dan Daley is a journalist who has covered the confluence of technology, business and culture for almost 30 years. He has also been a successful composer and recording studio owner, and authored the book, Unwritten Rules: Inside the Business of Country Music.

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