Podcast: AV for a Worship Sanctuary and Overfill Space, Part 1

At St. Thomas the Apostle, the seaside church membership almost triples in the summer and the church needed a way to handle the big summer congregation. 11/08/2012 4:17 AM Eastern

AV for a Worship Sanctuary and Overfill Space, Part 1

Nov 8, 2012 9:17 AM, With Bennett



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At St. Thomas the Apostle, the seaside church membership almost triples in the summer and the church needed a way to handle the big summer congregation. They called in ACIR Pro to outfit its events center and connect it to the sanctuary. Bobby Harper is going to give us the technical details on the job coming up next on the SVC Podcast.

SVC: OK, Bobby Harper from ACIR Pro. That’s Atlantic City Instrument Rentals and we’ve got a big installation at St. Thomas the Apostle in Brigantine, N.J., to talk about, but first tell me a little about your outfit. What’s going on at ACIR Pro?Bobby Harper: Our company started probably eight years ago as a backline rental house owned by Ed DiBona and he partnered up with John Grasso, who is a lead audio engineer for the Sands for years in Atlantic City and John brought to the table the audio portion of the backline. So the two made a great partnership; they provided a lot of backline in audio rentals and then a few years after that Tom Young, sound engineer for Tony Bennett for the last 15 or 20 years, he became a third partner bringing even more to the tables. And with him came our installation division, which they’ve asked me to head up and what I do is I do sales and installation. Right now we’re a full production house. We also do some lighting, a little bit of staging, [and] we project manage concerts. We’re a growing company that is all encompassing and right now we’re going to be talking about, I guess, the installation side of it. [Timestamp: 1:58]

Sounds like you guys are busy enough. What sort of a church is St. Thomas the Apostle? It looks like its right there on the shoreline.

[It’s] right on the beach in Brigantine. [Timestamp: 2:06]

OK and they had a big renovation going and they called you in to do it. What was going on with them?

Well, the interesting part is at a time when the economy was going through a recession [the church was] at a point where they needed to expand, but still keep it in mind [it is] in a recession. They contacted us to do a design-build for them and what their idea was, during the summer they have all their summer crowds and the church just couldn’t handle all the quantities of people that would show up on a Sunday, so they figured if they had an overflow room they could maybe get some video and audio and broadcast the service and that would take care of it. Then they took it one step further and said look let’s build a nice room that will handle outsourcing—everything from weddings, receptions, PowerPoint demonstrations, overflow for the church, Monday night football, anything really—and also they wanted to renovate the interior of the church without having to expand it too much. Typically in Catholic churches they always have these naves off to the left and right of the altar, and this particular church had the space for them, but it was being used for other things. The architect that designed it redesigned those nave areas and made them seating areas along with the entire renovation of the church, but before they could do that they needed to get this other property built that’s attached to the church. They got that built, ACIR came in with a design to do everything for them, and to make that facility, so you can do what I said from 5.1. We started with overhead ceiling cans, typical JBL Control Series, and we turned it into a 5.1 using a Control Series again on all four walls. We put three audio panels on user walls and made I/O panels on them for everything from inputs to your outputs and Ethernet, video, everything, and we also provided some JBL subs and the JBL powered line. What they could do is they could have a band come in there, plug into the wall, it will go through their rack room and go right to the powered system, and actually perform and sing and do that whole thing with a nice pretty beefy little club PA or they could plug into that panel without the powered system and have it come out of just the ceiling cans for a Sunday church service. They could also plug in a DVD and Comcast is also hooked into this system, so they could either play a DVD and/or watch Monday night football and by setting up two subs out of the cinema sub outputs of the wall panels and they would be getting 5.1 with the subs. So that room is a huge success and they actually moved the sanctuary into that area for three or four months and performed all the church services, did some weddings, did some PowerPoint demonstration. We have a videoscreen in there; it’s recessed into the ceiling and it comes down via switch on the wall. It’s preset with a projector—front-screen projection so people can just come and either wirelessly do PowerPoint or they can plug their laptop right into the wall and do PowerPoint. So while the main sanctuary was being renovated, this whole thing was taking place and it was just really a huge success. [Timestamp: 5:35]


AV for a Worship Sanctuary and Overfill Space, Part 1

Nov 8, 2012 9:17 AM, With Bennett


So they had some place to hold services while the overhaul was happening in the sanctuary. What effect did the renovation have on the acoustics in the sanctuary? Did it help or did it end up making the new sound system more of a challenge?

It made it a lot more challenging. The old sanctuary had carpet down on the floor; also the walls were really old school; they had fake wooden beams and just different textured stucco, which kind of broke things up and diffused things a little bit and the carpet absorbed some of it. So it really wasn’t that bad sounding. What they went to was an all marble floor, all marble altar, hardwood walls, and it made it really tough. [Timestamp: 6:16]

So you probably had to go with more of a distributed sound system then.

Yeah, I felt a point source thing coming off the altar just wouldn’t work; it would probably put a little bit too much energy into the room causing a lot more reflections and reverb, and typically a Catholic church isn’t going to want to see a line array anyway. So I had to come up with a solution to do this, which again, distributed system didn’t have to be huge. There’s not a lot of program going through it, but it had to be real clear and distributed and delayed right. [Timestamp: 6:51]

OK and you went with Community Professional speakers. What was behind that choice?

I did go with Community and I’m so glad I did. They’re a great company. I’ve known them for years. Fortunately they’re only about 60 miles from us and I ran into their products lately a couple of different times. They’re a very specific speaker for very specific things. They do outdoor stadiums incredibly well, basketball arenas incredibly well, and then they do, like, the low powered theaters incredibly well. When they get into their competition, the high-powered line array stuff, that’s a different ball game. They don’t try to get into that market, and the beauty of it is they have a demo room 60 miles from here, so I took a ride up there with one of the owners, Johnny Grasso, and we went to their demo room and it’s just an incredible room. They have a four post truss system in there with everyone of their speakers mounted on it and all of their subs scattered on the floor and you sit down on these couches and there’s an engineer behind me with a computer and you point to the speaker and the sub that you want to hear together and he hits a button and it just programs the delay. It’s already preprogrammed, but it selects that speaker with the sub and you get a chance in a real controlled environment to hear it and the quality—the clarity was really what impressed me. [Timestamp: 8:10]

It’s great they can do that because you can go over specs on paper all day long, but when you can actually A-B test the different models first hand and hear it right in front of you. there’s really no substitute for that.

That’s what sold it to me, I’m telling you. I could of spec’d different systems until I was blue in the face and once I heard this product live I was sure it would work and their price point is just phenomenal so they got into the spec. That’s how that happened. [Timestamp: 8:34]

Where did you end up putting the amps? Did you have any difficult situations with the cabling or electrical grounding stuff in the new place?

[We had] lots of problems with grounding. Before we worked on the new sanctuary, we pumped music we tied into the new room audio and video feeds and I didn’t have quite enough light in the main sanctuary for the video to really be punchy in the new room. So I went in there one day to put in a couple of PAR cans from the choir loft just to see if that would work and I just pipe clamped them to the railing of the choir loft and when I plugged them in I got this huge buzz out of this existing system, which meant something was seriously wrong with their wiring because it was just a railing. [Timestamp: 9:20]

I hate when that happens!

Yeah, right?! So we had electricians come there and work all that out. We had to run [all the wiring] underneath the church. There’s only about 30 in. at the most of crawl space, so obviously my fat butt wasn’t going to get under there. The kid that did it was skinny and non-claustrophobic, I guess, but it was a tight squeeze under there and he had to pull a lot of cable. The amplifiers are in a Middle Atlantic product rack and they built us a closet for that and everything just came up through the floor into there and that’s how we did that. [Timestamp: 9:59]

Well, I’m sure that wasn’t a dull time with all the fun with the cable and grounding. I’m sure they loved the way the new place looked, but they probably didn’t spend a whole lot of time considering the acoustical implications. Thanks for giving us the details on this one Bobby and in part two we’ll get into the video stuff and the wireless mics and all that. It’s Bobby Harper from ACIR Pro in Egg Harbor Township, N.J. We’ll see you then.


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