Church Reaches New AV Heights, Part 2

The Heights Baptists Church in Richardson, Texas, is home to some of the most high-energy praise music around and matching the caliber of the performers with professional level sound, lighting, and v 4/21/2010 7:17 AM Eastern

Church Reaches New AV Heights, Part 2

Apr 21, 2010 11:17 AM, By Bennett Liles

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Heights Baptist Church, Richardson, Texas

Heights Baptist Church

The Heights Baptists Church in Richardson, Texas, is home to some of the most high-energy praise music around and matching the caliber of the performers with professional level sound, lighting, and video on a budget is no small task. Technical Director Bobby Dennis is here to finish his story on how it all came together.

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SVC: OK Bobby, in part one we were talking about the cameras and how you record the various feeds and everything at the Heights Baptist Church out there in Richardson, Texas, and I wanted to get into some of the audio stuff. Now, you’ve got a control room there, obviously, some kind of production area. That’s one thing that we didn’t get into on the video part of it. Where is the video and everything, the switcher and everything, located and how do you monitor all of this stuff?
Bobby Dennis:The video production room is obviously located backstage on the second floor. It’s actually adjacent to one of the projection rooms for the IMAG screens and the video crew obviously works back there. In that same facility, there’s a separate [room] that has an ISO-glass joint wall between them that eventually will be our audio for video room. We just haven’t grown into that yet, but the facility is already there and the infrastructure is there and hopefully we will grow into that at some point in time. But back there,the video crew, that’s where they operate.

A typical crew staff for that is we have a dedicated director person, a switcher, a graphics person, a remote camera operator, and then we have the four camera operators out front, and they are all switching live to the projection screens—which are, we have two IMAG screens, and they are approximately 24’x14’ screens, that are out front. Now on the audio end of it, obviously, I am located out front at FOH. As often times is the case, there was a compromise that went on when they designed the facility, and my predecessor had argued strongly but didn’t win the argument against the senior pastor of having the mix position on the lower floor. Currently it is up in the balcony, fortunately, at the front edge of the balcony and it’s totally open. I am not in a room, and actually as I’ve learned, the room, it’s a good place to mix.

But out there we’ve got—Clair Brothers Audio did our audio install and like I said, a significant proportion of the original AVL budget was dedicated in that direction, so we really do have a fit and excellent audio system—we have—and then you’ve got to think of the time period that it was put in—we do have an analog console. We have a Midas Legend 48-channel. That’s our main console. We have a 32-channel side-car that does orchestra—for orchestra and choir mics. And then an additional 16-channel side-car that does our drama mics if we are doing events that have dramatic elements incorporated into it. And then we have the normal assortment of outboard gear from Drawmer and TC and Yamaha and Klark Teknik, and so on down the line. All of our monitoring is done at FOH. If it’s a wedge mix, and we do have two Clair wedges. The majority of the monitoring, though, is a Godsend for me in that they had the foresight to put in the Aviom system back when they did it. So all the orchestra, all of the rhythm section, everybody on the stage—with the exception of the live singers—all use Aviom for their monitoring and mix their own, and it works wonderful and keeps the stage level down. [Timestamp: 4:08]

Yeah, I hear that from everybody who has put one of those in that it really takes the load off of the mixing people and …
... and gives everybody the chance to kind of blast their own instrument up full blast and then just fill in everybody else’s that is around just the way they want it.
Tremendous time-saver too.
Oh, yes! Well, that’s it, because obviously the 10:50 service is the same band every week, well, they can just hit recall and they have their settings because, obviously, between the two services, theoretically, we have 20 minutes time for change over. [In] reality, we sometimes have less than 5 minutes, so literally, they walk on the stage, we don’t check anything, they count off, and away we go. So that recall function is perfect, but the same for the orchestra and the rhythm section in the first service too. [Timestamp: 4:56]

So how does everybody communicate during the production?
The tech crew does it via intercom, headphones, and everything. Our main system is a 4-channel Clear-Com system, and then we have one person on staff—and he is actually one of the ministers—but he is over what I would call a floor director. He is out front on a wireless radio-com intercom system and can talk with the video people or me or the lighting people or the graphics people and call. He can override live cues at that point in time if he needs to or say, “Hey, we’ve got a problem coming up,” or “We’ve had a change.” He’s the only one that is wireless. [Timestamp: 5:36]

Church Reaches New AV Heights, Part 2

Apr 21, 2010 11:17 AM, By Bennett Liles

Yeah, that’s really nice to have somebody out front. I have worked audio and a zillion remotes, and I rarely had anybody, like an A2 anywhere so…
Exactly! It’s perfect!

So what’s the size of a crew? How many people have you really got, sort of, up and rolling on this whole production freight train when it’s going?
For each service, there’s 12 people including FOH audio. Like I said, I mix audio. I have an assistant, we have a lighting person, and then a teleprompt operator out front, and then the video crew I have already mentioned in the back, so there is a minimum of 12 people working each service. Audio and lighting are consistent from service to service. All of the others change from service to service, so we have to have a continuing depth in our volunteer pool to be able to staff all of those but also that keeps everybody fresh. [Timestamp: 6:23]

And that’s really true because it doesn’t get, sort of, so routine that people start getting lax and making mistakes. I was …
… wondering about what the routine is like for a service. I mean how long does it take you when you get there from the time you get there to get the whole thing up and running and the various steps you go through on getting everybody ready to go?
We’ve got this down to where is works relatively, I shouldn’t even say relatively smoothly, but it does. I usually get here at 7 o’clock, and I power up all systems and everything and just do a little preliminary check list that I have as far as making certain everything’s working properly. Shawn, the media director who oversees the video room during the services, gets here at 7:30. He runs checks on all the video equipment, which is already powered up at that point in time. We begin sound check and any last-minute rehearsals, or if there is a guest star that is coming in and they want to do a last-minute sound check or something, we begin that at 8 a.m. And at 8 a.m., all FOH crew is there, the lighting, the teleprompt, and the audio people. The video crew comes in, or the camera ops. The director gets there earlier, but the main video crew gets there at 8:30. The director goes over the flow sheets with the graphics people, the switchers, and the camera people, and starts setting up shots—preliminarily setting up shots. Those always change during a service. But anyway, trying to get a game plan and going through and just making certain that we are not going to be totally caught off guard with any element and at the same time preparing for—we’ve all participated long enough that you know things never go exactly as the flow sheet says and sometimes stage positions are not hit and you just learn to compensate, but [it] really goes pretty smoothly. Starts at 7. We hit the stage at 9:15 for the first service and then again at 10:50, and typically the time I shutdown and initiate uploading the videos for the Web at the end of the service, I am probably walking out of here for the morning services at 1 p.m. So it’s a compact morning, but not a bad morning at all. [Timestamp: 8:32]

Yeah, once you’ve got the routine down, I mean, that’s really …
… and that makes a big difference in how you can react to those little gotchas that come along every now and then.
And they do. I know you’ve been there.

Oh yeah. I was also kind of wondering about the lighting on this thing because some people like the light more for the video and some people like the light more for the house, and it is such a subjective thing that can get to be a bone of contention between various, you know, different people.
You’re exactly right, and I think I’ve got it a little bit easier here, in a way, than some people do in other situations similar to this in that, since I interface with the video people and I also program the lighting. I don’t run the lighting for the services, but I write all the cues for it and everything, so my volunteer people don’t have to spend additional hours coming in and writing cues. It kind of gives me the opportunity to pull in the compromises that are needed and gives the video people heads-up on particular things so …a scene doesn’t pop-up and them go, “Oh, my gosh. What’ll we do now?”
As much as I can, I run through the lighting cues for the director so he can see what to anticipate. As far as, do we light for video or live? Bennett, it’s definitely a compromise. We are right in the middle somewhere. It looks good on the screen. It looks good live. There are things I would do differently if it wasn’t going to have to be dealt with video wise, there’s …
… things I would do differently if I didn’t want it to look as good as possible on the stage. We kind of meet in the middle. [Timestamp: 10.03]

I’ve seen situations like that where it’s lit just for the house and sometimes it can come off on video looking like it’s under like 20ft. of water.
Oh, exactly, exactly, and bottom line, this is a team. We’ve got to pull together because our whole goal in all of this is to make certain that the worship experience for the people who attend the worship service is as positive and enhancing and not distracting, and then also in anticipating that we have a lot of people who are not able to attend for various reasons—we’ve got military people and other people that are out for various reasons that are going to watch it on video, and we want it to look good on that also. So we’ve found what we think is a good compromise. [Timestamp: 10:48]

Well, it sounds like you sure have. I was wondering about that For-A switcher. What’s been the reaction to that? You’re training people on it. What’s the learning curve like on that thing and how fast have the people, kind of, ready to work it?
Bennett, I hope I don’t come off sounding like a PR person for For-A because I don’t work for them, never have, don’t have any friends who work for them or anything like that, but I’ve had nothing but positive experience, comments, and results from the For-A thus far. The volunteers that come in—now, granted, all of them with very few exceptions had at least experienced our preceding switching situation to everything—this has been such an easy adaptation. I know you’ve seen the mixer. The way it’s laid out is just incredibly intuitive, literally. I think I could bring somebody that had no video background at all, walk in and very easily set them up to where they would feel relatively confident in an emergency situation doing simple switching during a service. It has been incredibly easy to do. Now, granted, it’s a big box, and if you want to get into some of the fancier and deeper things it does, it takes a little more time. We open the facility during the week for those volunteers who want to dig a little deeper, and I’ll book time and set them up and we’ll fire up cameras and lighting and everything and let them come in and practice, and we’ve got people every week that love to do that and that’s good for us—that shows their enthusiasm, that keeps them enthusiastic. When they learn something, they share it with other volunteers, but also, it helps them refine their skills. The For-A has just been—it’s actually been one of the easiest pieces of gear where there was audio or video that I’ve ever had to implement into a volunteer situation. [Timestamp: 12:33]

Well, you’ve certainly got a good thing going there. I went on YouTube and I saw some of the video clips from some of the acts that you had in the church, and well, I was just knocked over about the quality of some of these. These aren’t just part-time things. These are really professional top-grade acts.
You are very kind. We’re very fortunate, though, with all the volunteers that we have. It’s a great crew.

Well, it’s a tribute to you. You’ve managed to make it sound so professional and look so professional with the volunteers, and of course, that’s always the trick with most churches, and I really appreciate your being here to explain how all of this kind of comes together. The church is the Heights Baptist Church in Richardson, Texas, and Bobby Dennis, technical director. Thanks very much for being here; it’s been great.
Thank you kindly.

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