Church Reaches New AV Heights, Part 1
Apr 21, 2010 10:59 AM, By Bennett Liles
Editor’s note: For your convenience, this transcription of the podcast includes timestamps. If you are listening to the podcast and reading its accompanying transcription, you can use the timestamps to jump to any part of the audio podcast by simply dragging the slider on the podcast to the time indicated in the transcription.
The Heights Baptists Church in Richardson, Texas, features some of the top names in musical performance and its services offer music that sets the spirit on fire. The church’s recent massive AV upgrade was a challenge, and Technical Director Bobby Dennis is here to tell us how the whole plan was crafted.
SVC: Bobby, I really appreciate your being here with me for the House of Worship AV podcast. And we are talking about the Heights Baptist Church out there in Richardson, Texas. And that sounds like a really jiving, jumping place. I mean, that doesn’t sound like they are doing too many of the old monotone dirges in that church.
Bobby Dennis: You know, that is not really our style. I mean there is room for that. Everyone has different worship styles they like, but that is not typically the style that you will find here.
What exactly is their style? There seems to be a lot of live music.
You know what? Music is an incredibly important part of our worship services. Each week and each Sunday, we have two different services: one that’s 9:15 in the morning and one that’s 10:50. The 9:15 is what’s referred to as a “blended service”. I mean, you will hear some traditional music. It does have a choir, an orchestra, a praise team, a rhythm section, but also, they do a lot of more updated material in that service too. Now, the 10:50 service is a contemporary service; there is no choir, no orchestra, no praise team. Actually there is a regular band that does that one; the name of the band is Dutton, and they’re a five-piece group and they lead worship in the second services, and it’s a very high-energy service, but both of them are very upbeat. [Timestamp: 2:08]
OK. Is this something that, say, evolved from a more traditional thing or have they been doing this for a good while now?
You know what, here at the Heights, the church has been around for some time here in the Richardson area, but starting with the new worship center, which we moved into, I guess it’s been five years ago now, is when they divided the styles of the service up. Now, prior to that, they had already transitioned into what you would refer to as a blended service, but about ... four or five years ago is [when] they implemented two distinct styles of service and added the contemporary, but it’s always revolved around a real strong emphasis in the worship set of the service on music and music that would appeal and minister to the particular crowd that was attending that service. [Timestamp: 2:56]
And what’s the size of their congregation there? … I went on their website, and it looks like a fairly young crowd. Of course, I was looking at the music performances.
The core of the membership there is aboutgosh, I haven’t even looked at the latest numbersprobably around 5,600 membership. On a given Sunday, we have attendance that will be somewhere around 3,500 between the two services. The core of the congregation is in that latter [service], later 20s, early 30s thru later 40s; that’s the largest segment. We really have a huge predominance of young families—lots of children on the campus. [Timestamp: 3:36]
Well, that in itself is going to be a challenge, along with a lot of live music, because that’s really hard to do and make it sound right if you don’t have the technical talent. Do you use all volunteers, or do you got some pros on there that are full-time?
Bennett, the only full-time staff that we have that are involved from a technical prospective is myself, and I am technical director. On Sunday services, I actually mix front-house audio. My partner is, by title, the media director. Now, he really covers our web content and graphic creation, but [he] also does the creative element in videos. He oversees the video production room during the services. The remainder of the crew is volunteer. [Timestamp: 4:21]
OK, so that’s kind of an ongoing thing then. I guess you are constantly training people to some extent.
We really are, even the ones that have been with [us], and we’re very fortunate. We’ve got such a dedicated group of volunteers. Many of them have been doing this as long as we’ve been doing this here in this facility. So they have grown up with it and matured, and we do constantly recruit additional new volunteers and thus the ongoing training. But we can really pull in; it doesn’t always have to be me or Shawn, the media director, doing the training because a lot of our lead and longer-term volunteers, they step up to the plate and they do training of the young guys also. ... At our student ministry level, they have their own venue on the campus called "The Brick." It’s about a 400-seat venue, and we start training the volunteer crews because the student ministry staffs and crews their own events also. So it’s sort of a foreign team in a way. [Timestamp: 5:19]
OK, so tell me about this installation. When did this all happen and what was the goal behind it all?
Well, the most recent part of it is we were trying to upgrade our video facilities, quite candidly, when the new worship center that we are in now was envisioned several years ago. The budget that they came up with, they wanted to be as frugal and realistic as possible, but at the same time, they didn’t want to tie our hands and they wanted to incorporate growth potential into that. Well, the initial budget (which this is before I came onboard), from the stories that I have been told, was not enough really to 100 percent adequately cover video, lighting, and audio. And me being an audio guy, I am certainly happy that it worked out this way: The main emphasis of that original budget was concentrated on audio as an install, so we had adequate video and adequate lighting, but it had really been scaled back and what we’ve done in the year since we have moved in is try to have a plan of progress to increase and enhance the capabilities in each of those. Most recently, that’s the video element of this. … Almost a year ago now, our senior pastor came up to me and—this is, to me, kind of a funny story—he had just gotten an HDTV set at his house. And he came up and he said, “Bobby, why do our screens not look quite as good as my TV at home?” And that took more explaining than really he wanted, lots more details than he wanted. But bottom line, he said, “I really would like to see if it makes economic sense for us to upgrade our video capabilities.” And he asked me for some prices and I gave him some ballpark prices and he said, “Well, we better make this a transitional process.” So we’ve kind of built a plan and are into what we call “phase two” of it. The first step was we added new cameras; the second phase of it, we brought in the switching, and what we’ve done most recently, which is when we brought in the new For-A HVS-300HS switcher which has made all the difference in the world. [Timestamp: 7:37]
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