A Church Audio System for Traditional and Contemporary Services, Part 1

At Arapaho Road Baptist Church in Garland, Texas, they hold a traditional service and a contemporary service, but their technical requirements force them to be held in different rooms. 12/02/2010 7:34 AM Eastern

A Church Audio System for Traditional and Contemporary Services, Part 1

Dec 2, 2010 12:34 PM, With Bennett Liles

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At Arapaho Road Baptist Church in Garland, Texas, they hold a traditional service and a contemporary service, but their technical requirements force them to be held in different rooms. Luke Raymond with Dispersion Design is here to tell us how he used an Aviom system and digital mixer to bring them back together.

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A Church Audio System for Traditional and Contemporary Services, Part 2
Holding a traditional and contemporary service back to back with vastly different sound requirements proved to be a challenge for Arapaho Road Baptist Church in Garland, Texas. ...

SVC: Luke, thanks for being here with me for the SVC podcast with Dispersion Design, and you did the Arapaho Road Baptist Church project in Garland, Texas. Now whereabouts is Dispersion Design and how long have that company been around?
Well, thank you very much for having me. Dispersion Design is based in Carrollton, Texas, which is in north Dallas, and we serve the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Over the years I have done a variety of different jobs relating to audio and video, however, Dispersion Design as a company has only been in existence for the past year, and so we’re relatively new and hoping to fulfill a need in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area as far as smaller churches that can’t afford to pay for the larger contractors and installers that are available. [Timestamp: 1:35]

Well, I would think there’s a big market for those, and you’ve obviously made a big difference for the people at Arapaho Road Baptist Church. How did you originally get with them on this project in the beginning?
I was recommended to them through a mutual contact, and so they approached me and requested that I put in a bid for the project. I think they had at least one other person bidding on it, and so we put together a proposal and we were accepted for the job. [Timestamp: 2:03]

What sort of a church is Arapaho Road Baptist Church? What sort of a service do they have there?
The Arapaho Road runs two services on a Sunday morning. One is a traditional service, which use choir, sometimes a praise team, a piano, and an organist that plays the synthesizer. And then they run a contemporary service that has a typical contemporary worship band with drums, base, acoustic piano keys, acoustic guitar, some electric guitars. They don’t have any choir singing during the contemporary service. And their difficulty was how to try and combine or to run both of these separate services in the same room. It really wasn’t suited for the contemporary service. Prior to that, to us coming in, they were having to run the contemporary service in a different building—actually in their youth gym because the auditorium, the main auditorium, was just not appropriately set up technically and acoustically it was not appropriate as well. So they approached me on a thing that they really needed to revamp—the audio system in their main auditorium, and [they] really wanted to try and fix the room such that they could run both services in that back to backmdash;be able to have a quick turnaround time and be able to have the technical capability that the contemporary service required. [Timestamp: 3:53]

And how are the acoustics there in the sanctuary? Was that a challenge for you?
Yes, the sanctuary has a 46ft. high ceiling at the peak. It was originally built to have a balcony, and the balcony was never installed. With seating of about 700 seats max, [it] makes for a very reverberant space. And there was no acoustic treatment when we came into the room. It had over a 3 second reverberation time. So it just simply: Spoken word was difficult to understand, and you can imagine that a drum kit in that room just became a terrible cacophony. [Timestamp: 4:17]

Yeah, that must be a real trick trying to get the sound environment right for the spoken word and having it work for music at the same time. Most of the time you really can’t get that perfectly suited for both.
That’s right, so the one thing that was apparent with the 3 second reverberation time is that needed to come down considerably. And we knew that we could reduce that quite lot without affecting the sound, probably still improving the sound of the traditional service, while making it much more manageable for the contemporary service with the drum kit. [Timestamp: 4:49]

And I figure the tech set ups being pretty well different between the two services, it must have been a fast six-handed game when you’re trying to do it all in the same place. I can see why you have to split it up and do the services in different places because there might be some days when, well, you might not have a lot of available man power.
The traditional service was using a small Mackie board. They had a limited number of inputs, but they had a tech team that was fairly inexperienced. And the contemporary service was used to having quite a lot more inputs and their technical team was a little bit more experienced, so the contemporary service volunteers were very concerned about moving into the main auditorium hoping that they would have the same capabilities that they were enjoying in the gym with the Logic Console and having multiple aux ends and multiple monitor feeds. So we did a careful analysis of what the different techs set ups were in the two rooms and upgraded the main auditorium to make sure that they had all the capabilities and more that the contemporary service was currently enjoying. [Timestamp: 6:03]

And when you split up the services, the contemporary service was being held in an adjacent building?
The contemporary service was being held in the adjacent youth gym, and they only had about 15 minutes between services. So one of the concerns was creating a situation that could be easily turned around from one service to the next in that short amount time without having to repatch a lot of channels and without having to reconfigure a complicated console. [Timestamp: 6:34]

Do they pretty much know what they needed on the technical side or did they just leave the whole thing up to you?
The people in charge at Arapaho Road came with a few ideas of their own, but they were very open to suggestions, and I found them very easy to work with as far as being able to incorporate what they were interested in and being able to guide them in the direction that we thought was best for them. On the whole, we found that they really were very open minded knowing what their problems were and just wanting to know what we would suggest to fix them. [Timestamp: 7:10]

And it seems that one of the main hardware additions there were the Aviom A16 personal mixers. Why did you go with those?
Aviom, as most people would recognize, is the standard as far church personal monitor systems are concerned. They came into the game very early with a low-cost quality piece of equipment, and so it’s a system that people are very familiar with. Volunteers that come from other churches are often already familiar with and musicians that play at a variety of different churches often are using the Aviom system at their other churches. And so that combined with the price point that worked for the church meant that’s what we recommended. [Timestamp: 8:00]

A Church Audio System for Traditional and Contemporary Services, Part 1

Dec 2, 2010 12:34 PM, With Bennett Liles

I’m sure they’ve heard of Aviom before. That is an established enough name where you probably didn’t have to explain where that came from. Is that when you went with the in-ear monitoring or were you doing that before?
Prior to the install all of the monitoring was done with floor wedges. Even with the additional acoustic treatment that we added to the room, we recognized that trying to reduce the number of floor wedges in the main auditorium was going to be our best bet as far as being able to control the sound. So we recommended that they go to in-ear monitors for the Avioms in order to reduce the stage volume. The added bonus to that is the fact that it puts the musicians in control of their own mix and takes a lot of the responsibility off the volunteer tech team. When your volunteer tech team has limited experience, it makes it a lot easier for them not to have to worry about what the musicians are hearing and having to adjust their mixes as well as adjust the main mix. [Timestamp: 9:01]

Yeah, the changeover to in-ear monitoring is sometimes a little traumatic for some performers. So how did that go? Did you meet with any resistance or did they take to it from the beginning?
So early on in the process, before we’d even installed anything, I had good conversations with the band. I like to meet everybody involved and talk to the volunteers and let them know what’s going on, talk to the tech team, and talk to the band. And from the get-go I found them to be very enthusiastic about the in-ear monitors. I think nowadays musicians communicate with other musicians and find that they tend to prefer the clarity and control that in-ears provide, and so even the musicians at Arapaho that had not used in-ears before were very enthusiastic about trying them out and enjoying their benefits. So we didn’t find any resistance as far as that was concerned. [Timestamp: 9:58]

So how did the transition on all of this go? Did you break it in with some rehearsal or what was the reaction when you said, “OK, now we’re going to be doing everything in the same place”?
So we would have liked to have had some time to do the transition slowly, to do a series of rehearsals in the new room and to practice with the in-ears, but because of the way that our schedule was and because of where the Easter services fell, there was not a lot of time for the transition. So we had an evening that we brought the musicians in and gave them a technical overview of the system and explained technically how it worked, but then all they had when it came down to it was a single rehearsal early on a Sunday morning in order to prepare. I was quite worried about this because, as you can imagine, having such a short amount of time with a new system installed there could be all kinds of problems occurring as well as the fact that it would be nice for the musicians to have more time to get used to it. But we found it went very, very smoothly. The big advantage to the Aviom system with the Yamaha digital console installed is that Aviom makes a card that goes into the Yamaha console so there’s no outboard gear. The outputs for the Aviom mixers can be patched directly from the console, and there isn’t another set of levels on another piece of equipment to worry about for the operator. So we patched the Aviom outputs and set some initial gain settings for the channels and the band members all plugged in and away they went. And I was amazed to look up from the console after about 5 or 10 minutes and find that they were very, very happy with what was going on. The equipment was easy enough to use that they were able to dial it in very quickly and didn’t have to have any assistance from the tech team what so ever. So I think everybody was very, very pleased with how their first service went. [Timestamp: 12:13]

Well, I can imagine that was a big relief…
Yeah, that’s right.
...once you got everything going. So what is it like with the congregations there? Do they specifically different sort of demographics on the two congregations or was there some overlap between them?
The demographics were quite varied across both services, although the traditional service would have an older congregation in general—I wouldn’t say that that’s the rule—but the services are separate in that there are only a few people that would attend both services. I guess people find that they like the music programming of one or the other and that’s what they choose to go to. The main speaker or preacher speaks the same message at both services and so both congregations are hearing the same message. Really the true difference is just what style of music they prefer. [Timestamp: 13:13]

So how does the transition go now? How quickly do you make the change on the technical front of it?
So originally they had 15 minute between services when the services were being held in different rooms. Now that the services are held in the same room, they’ve extended the time between services to about 30 minutes. However, that does go down a little bit if the first service goes long. Because we have a digital console in place, the console switch over is very quick. It’s the fastest we go on a scene, and the drum kit is able to remain plugged in with a long snake and be slid into place and so we don’t have to repatch that. We gave them enough inputs on stage so that as much as possible could remain plugged in, and the Yamaha LS9 has enough preempt inputs that there doesn’t have to be any repatching, and this makes for a very quick transition. All I have to do is set up the choir mics if necessary and the band members come in and set up their equipment, and often the tech team is ready to go before the band members have even got their instruments ready to go. [Timestamp: 14:32]

All right, sounds like a big improvement. I know the people there were liking not having to wait so much and not having the hair-raising technical situation between services trying to get everything set up. I very much appreciate your being here Luke. It’s Luke Raymond with Dispersion Design and the Arapaho Road Baptist Church project in Garland, Texas. It was great having you here for part one Luke, and in part two we can get in a little bit more about the Aviom system and the LS9 board, and I want you to tell me about those Ace Backstage floor pockets you put in, but thanks for being here for part one.
Thank you very much.

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