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Not Built for Video

How one integrator adapted a Michigan church for better sightlines. 1/01/2009 7:00 AM Eastern

Not Built for Video

Jan 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By Dan Daley

How one integrator adapted a Michigan church for better sightlines.




Although Calvary Church in Grand Rapids, Mich., was only built in 1980, video technology has come a long way since then. The church had integrated video into its systems early on, but line-of-sight issues kept the church from realizing its full video capabilities. Integrator Parkway Electric & Communications implemented a new AV system that took advantage of today’s rear-projection technology.

Although Calvary Church in Grand Rapids, Mich., was only built in 1980, video technology has come a long way since then. The church had integrated video into its systems early on, but line-of-sight issues kept the church from realizing its full video capabilities. Integrator Parkway Electric & Communications implemented a new AV system that took advantage of today’s rear-projection technology.

In the grand scheme of things, 1980 doesn't seem so long ago in the house-of-worship market, but in the context of media systems that integrate with houses of worship, today is a completely different techno-archeological era. That was the first thing that came to mind when Gary Zandstra, sales and marketing manager for integrator Parkway Electric & Communications in Grand Rapids, Mich., began surveying a project at Calvary Church, also in Grand Rapids.

“This church was not built for video,” Zandstra says he remembers thinking. And that, he adds, is frequently the case with many churches that predate the recent megachurch trend.

Calvary Church did have some modern design elements, including a semicircular thrust stage with a wing for a sizable band or orchestra and chorus that faces 1,800 seats splayed in a 110-degree angle on the main floor in front of the stepped stage and in a balcony above.

After looking at all of the possible ways to integrate a new video system at Calvary Church, Gary Zandstra—sales and marketing manager for integrator Parkway Electric & Communications—says the best approach came down to rear projection using a 79”x140” Draper 116023QL Targa screen.

After looking at all of the possible ways to integrate a new video system at Calvary Church, Gary Zandstra—sales and marketing manager for integrator Parkway Electric & Communications—says the best approach came down to rear projection using a 79”x140” Draper 116023QL Targa screen.

The sanctuary was first occupied in 1986, and it did have an electrical drop-down screen, which was mounted with three lights in the V-shaped area above the stage. This screen was quickly abandoned and plastered over. Later in 2000, a rear-projection electric 7.5'×10' drop screen was installed at stage level. However, due to the architectural design of the stage's backdrop (two more-than-20ft.-tall brick columns that look like huge pieces of shoe molding encase a V-shaped aesthetic centerpiece made of wood, plaster, and organ cloth that conceals the church organ's loudspeakers), the screen was installed so that when deployed, it virtually touched the stage floor. This necessitated that the minister using the stage step to the side when video was playing. Even worse, occupants of seats located in the balcony were having trouble seeing the screen due to its low height.

In 2002, the church tried to rectify the line-of-sight issues by adding Fujitsu and Sony 42in. plasma displays into areas of the main church that had sight problems, as well as into overflow areas outside the main seating area. But it was a patchwork solution at best. In 2007, the church's finance committee approved a multiphase plan to completely remake the building's AV presentation system. The last phase would include the addition of a new digital audio mixing console.


Not Built for Video

Jan 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By Dan Daley

How one integrator adapted a Michigan church for better sightlines.




In the video-switching area (pictured), an Edirol PR-50 video-presentation system with a 17in. touchscreen controller and DV-HD120 removable hard disk was installed as the primary video source. In addition, an Edirol LVS-400 video switcher is used for the existing cameras.

In the video-switching area (pictured), an Edirol PR-50 video-presentation system with a 17in. touchscreen controller and DV-HD120 removable hard disk was installed as the primary video source. In addition, an Edirol LVS-400 video switcher is used for the existing cameras.

A NEW APPROACH

Parkway's designers came up with several proposed solutions, including adding additional front-projection screens on either side of the stage and at a much higher position. Instead, they chose an approach that involved a significant modification of the front of the sanctuary behind the stage to accommodate a larger, high-definition screen that would remain stationary in a viewing position as optimal as possible for the overall building's layout. This also meant that the project would require significant coordination and co-planning with the project's general contractor. In a twist on that usual relationship, it would be the systems integrator doing an architectural design that the contractor would need to execute.

“It was kind of a tail-wagging-the-dog scenario,” Zandstra says. “But this was all being designed and built around the video system, so the needs of that system had to come first.

“We had looked at all of the possible ways to put video in there, and we came to several conclusions. First, we had to stick with a rear-projection approach for several reasons: The balcony, where it would have made the most sense to mount a front projector, is subject to vibrations from people using it. That could cause the projector to require constant aiming adjustments as well as distracting movement of images being projected. Additionally, aesthetic and maintenance issues made flying the projector in front of or above the balcony area impractical. The advantage of a rear projector is that we can control the aim more precisely and control the amount of light that gets behind the screen. Rear projection would give us a better image and better sight lines, allowing more of those seated in the church to actually see it.”

The structural modifications called for about 7ft. of the existing assembly that formed the backdrop behind the stage to be removed, including the relocation of at least one structural beam inside it. This would create an opening for a 79”×140” Draper 116023QL Targa screen, which offered a 16:9 aspect ratio for HD video.

“Measurements at this stage were critical,” Zandstra says. Those measurements included distances from specific locations in the main seating area and the balcony, as well as calculating the critical space between the screen location and the rear brick wall of the church — which would impact screen size, projection location and mounting, and mirror positioning.

“We measured, once, twice, then we measured again,” says Jeff VandeHoef, Parkway's system engineer on the project.


Not Built for Video

Jan 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By Dan Daley

How one integrator adapted a Michigan church for better sightlines.




The general contractor removed the wall sections as well as the existing screen, mirror, organ loudspeakers, and the subwoofers for the PA system that were in the assembly. After clearing the space, a horizontal floor was installed 7.5ft. above the stage floor and set back behind the plane of the stage. Originally, it was to be used to rest the rear-projection mirror on, but issues concerning how leveled the floor could be made as well as vibrations from the stage changed the plan. Instead, a flexible Draper custom mount would support the mirror. That, in turn, acts as a shadow box for the system to limit ambient light behind the screen.

Encased in its transport padding, the mirror is 12'×36”×6.5' (L×W×H). The 36in. width is the same as the main door to the church. To get it inside, the door jams were shaved down. Once inside, it was jacked up on two material lifts and eased into place, and then secured to the mount. A Sanyo PLC-XP46 projector fitted with a LNS-W07 short-throw lens was then mounted on a Chief Manufacturing RPAU projector mount.

VandeHoef says that it took a full day and a half to precisely aim the projector and mirror; this was due in part to the discovery that the general contracting crew had replaced a structural beam in the space that was to be occupied by the mirror.

“Even with a very high degree of coordination with the construction crew, which we had, there was still the potential for crossed signals,” Zandstra says.

The nature of the church's layout still dictated that video displays be placed in areas where line of sight to the main screen was still not improved or not possible. Under the balcony, six Panasonic TH-42PH9UK 42in. plasmas on Peerless Industries PLCM-UN1 plasma mounts were installed; two Panasonic TH-50PH9UK 50in. plasma displays on Peerless ST650P plasma mounts were placed in the sidefill areas in the church. The new plasma screens had Belden low-skew Cat-5 cable pulled to their locations. (Belden also supplied the RGB cabling and audio/control cabling.)

Houses of worship are happy when savings can be found in budgets, and Parkway was able to help in that regard: Two of the church's existing Sony 42in. plasma screens were mounted on custom carts built by Parkway and are now used as confidence monitors for the stage.

The switching system was completely redone. An Analog Way Centrix CTX8022 seamless switcher with an RK8022-T T-bar controller was installed for main video switching, with two Analog Way Easy Cut ESC341 switchers installed for input selection and switching for the overflow projector and confidence monitors. An Altinex Multitasker 1×18 VGA D/A converter distributes the signal. All these elements were loaded into a Middle Atlantic BRK16 rack.

The existing Crestron AV2 control processor's software was updated to enable it to run the projector and the video switching equipment, as well as a Crestron Cage2 expansion unit. RS-232 remote control was added along with Cables To Go Minicom 38517 Cat-5 RS-232 extenders to beef up the signal for the longest home runs.

“Remote control for the old system had been infrared,” VandeHoef says. “Now they have positive power status on every screen in the system.”


Not Built for Video

Jan 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By Dan Daley

How one integrator adapted a Michigan church for better sightlines.




A Roland Edirol PR-50 video-presentation system with a 17in. touchscreen monitor and DV-HD120 removable hard disk was installed as the primary video source. In addition, an Edirol LVS-400 video switcher is used for the existing cameras. Camera preview is provided with a bank of three 5.6in. monitors, while program and stage monitoring is shown on a bank of two 8in. screens installed in a desktop rack.

AUDIO CHANGES

While most of Calvary Church's distributed sound, PA, and signal processing remained in place, Parkway vigorously recommended updating the church's aging analog console with a digital mixer. Several boards were considered, but in the end, the church opted for a DiGiCo D5 console after seeing it in operation at another church facility Parkway had been involved with.

Zandstra says church officials liked the fact that the board could deliver 96 inputs and doesn't rely on mouse-based operation. “This church, like many, still relies on volunteers, and the DiGiCo is easier to operate for someone with live-sound experience rather than recording-studio experience,” he says.

VandeHoef adds that the DiGiCo's audio transport is based on multichannel audio digital interface, which can be run over coaxial cabling.

“That let us abandon the whole long [audio cable] snake split for a much simpler wiring proposition,” he says. It also allowed for multiple inputs on the stage connected directly to the console via a DiGiCo input box — which also houses an Aviom card, allowing the console to also provide a monitor mix to the Aviom system used by the house band.

The new video system and upgrades to the audio and control systems took place over a six-week period in 2008, though VandeHoef says that most of the actual installation and integration work took place in the last few days of the job.

“What came before that was mainly checking on how the schedule of the construction work was going, but in the end, that was important too,” he says. “Planning is what makes it work.”


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