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Focus on Houses of Worship: Upgrading a Rock ‘n’ Roll Church

When Faith World set out this year to significantly enhance its audio and visual production values, its points of reference were not other churches, but 10/01/2008 8:00 AM Eastern

Focus on Houses of Worship: Upgrading a Rock ‘n’ Roll Church

Oct 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By John W. DeWitt




Faith World church in Orlando, Fla., recently underwent a concert-style AV upgrade. Because the church puts a lot of energy into each of its weekly services, Production Manager Ryan Russell wanted the upgrade to include elements to help create service productions that would appeal to the younger crowd.

Faith World church in Orlando, Fla., recently underwent a concert-style AV upgrade. Because the church puts a lot of energy into each of its weekly services, Production Manager Ryan Russell wanted the upgrade to include elements to help create service productions that would appeal to the younger crowd.

When Faith World set out this year to significantly enhance its audio and visual production values, its points of reference were not other churches, but rather musical concerts and the numerous theme parks surrounding its Orlando, Fla., hometown.

“Our services are rock ‘n’ roll, with a real concert feeling,” says Ryan Russell,production manager for the non-denominational church founded and led for the past 15 years by Rev. Clint Brown, a popular gospel recording artist who has a distribution deal with Universal. “The production stuff is important to Pastor Brown, and living in Orlando — with all the entertainment offered by Disney, Universal, and the other theme parks — we have to do something to appeal to a young crowd that wouldn't necessarily go to church.”

The concert-style approach must be working, because the 2,300-seat sanctuary is routinely filled to capacity for each of Faith World's regular services; services are offered on Tuesday nights and three times on Sunday mornings. Moreover using the Broadcast Pix Slate 3016HD production switcher — installed as the core of the recent AV overhaul — the church has more people watching over the Internet than in the building, Russell says.

Services are streamed live over the Web to an average audience of 5,000 viewers per service. A live host talks to the Internet audience before and between each service, handling emailed prayer requests and announcing new products — mostly Rev. Brown's albums, along with inhouse-produced CDs and DVDs of his sermons that are available for purchase on the church's judahbookstore.com website.

Services are also broadcast across fiber on closed circuit around the church campus, including in the gym, which is where a big screen, projector, and audio system serves overflow crowds on Easter and other holidays. Russell eschews the use of PowerPoint presentations typical in other churches, preferring instead to produce full commercials with moving graphics and sound that run in between services on the sanctuary screens and CCTV.

Attaining this level of production sophistication has been a long, gradual evolution for the church and for Russell, who has worked at Faith World for a decade.

“We had never started from the ground up and built what we wanted,” he says. Faith World purchased its current facility from evangelist Benny Hinn in 1999, when Hinn moved his ministry to Texas. “We inherited a lot of equipment from Benny Hinn and integrated as much of our own stuff as we could,” Russell says. “Over the years, we had done a major upgrade on their audio. But the video controller was built for their gear, and we were still using all the existing wiring, which was like 20 years old.

“[The facility's vintage switcher was] on its last legs, and the whole video system was composite,” Russell says. As for the audio: “The front-of-house console needed to be replaced; we had unclean power and a lot of other issues like that, so we had a lot of snap and crackle,” he says.

New AV Foundation

All that began to change this past year when, tired of renting equipment for major events such as the summer Judah Music Convention, Brown and his board gave Russell the opportunity to clean things up. “[They] handed me a budget and trusted me to focus on what I wanted,” Russell says. “With the budget, we had [around $600,000, which the church secured via a contractor's loan], I said I wanted to upgrade the core so we would have a strong foundation to build on.” Russell then engaged Jeff Cameron of Encore Broadcast — a dealer and integrator with offices in Orlando; Tampa, Fla.; and Chattanooga, Tenn. — to help the church develop a budget, a detailed wish list of equipment, and an integration plan.

Cameron, who went to college with Benny Hinn's chief engineer and specializes in churches, says Encore usually charges upfront for design work. But in the case of Faith World, which previously had done some work with Cameron's video engineer, Ken Smith, decided to work around this requirement.


Focus on Houses of Worship: Upgrading a Rock ‘n’ Roll Church

Oct 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By John W. DeWitt




The front-of-house audio station was fully upgraded with a Midas Venice control console for audio distribution and a Soundcraft Vi6 digital audio board (pictured above), which enabled the church to eliminate copper and provides 64 simultaneous inputs. The console is upgradable to 128 inputs, which allows the church to expand and grow down the road.

The front-of-house audio station was fully upgraded with a Midas Venice control console for audio distribution and a Soundcraft Vi6 digital audio board (pictured above), which enabled the church to eliminate copper and provides 64 simultaneous inputs. The console is upgradable to 128 inputs, which allows the church to expand and grow down the road.

“I had a really good feeling that they weren't going to use me to get an equipment shopping list,” Smith says. “They wanted someone to help them, be patient, and come up with the right solution.”

For Faith World, the right solution included a completely gutted and rebuilt control room with new flooring, walls, a console area that would house the Broadcast Pix Slate production switcher, a videowall with three Panasonic TH-42PH10UKA plasma screens, and two Avid Media Composers with Mojo SDIs.

“We loaded them up heavily to be real strong [Adobe] After Effects machines,” Russell says. “I'm an After Effects guy, so to be able to build an animated key and slide that in live, that's really key. Whatever I think of to do, I can execute. All the built-in features of the switcher were great, because they let me do anything I want.”

The solution also included three Panasonic PT-DS5700U 6000-ANSI-lumen DLP projectors with new Da-Lite screens, along with a seven-input Kramer scaler/switcher that provides a complete standalone switching station and an upgraded Cat-5 distribution system that upconverts to VGA for projectors.

The front-of-house audio station was fully upgraded with a Midas Venice control console for audio distribution and a Soundcraft Vi6 digital audio board, which enabled the church to eliminate copper and provides 64 simultaneous inputs — upgradable to 128. “[It will be able to] expand and grow with us over the next 10 years,” Russell says.

A reconfigured 120ft. truss-lighting rig is powered by a new, top-of-the-line Jands Vista T4 lighting console that replaced the church's WholeHog 2; it also incorporates around 20 new full-color mixing LEDs as truss warmers. The conventional lighting rig, which provides a wash on the stage and audience, includes around 40 moving lights purchased four years ago. This includes a mix of Martin Mac 600s, TechnoBeams Studio Spot 575s, and TurboColor 250s.

The onstage monitor console was eliminated. “We put it now on an Aviom system where each band member controls their own mix,” Russell says. “We use the Soundcraft at front of house and run the front wedges for the lead vocalists.”

The stage was rebuilt with with powered wedges, three multiplugs for subsnakes on each side wall, and a new Rosco floor that provides a flat, open surface that can be completely reconfigured for each service. “We treat the whole production like a touring rig. We can run a subsnake and drop a box, then go in the back and patch it in,” Russell says.

A 56-channel Yamaha PM3000 in the broadcast control room distributes services to the Internet, records them to Betamax, and burns live to DVDs that are immediately available for sale.

The church also installed a variety of other new AV equipment, including an Ensemble Designs sync generator, Analog Way and Gefen converters, Peerless mounts, a Hamlet waveform vectorscope for testing, and Extron equipment for converting VGA to Cat-5 or twisted-pair cabling for long runs.

Originally, the core of Faith World's upgrade — the Broadcast Pix switcher — was not on the new equipment list, but Cameron changed his recommendation and took Russell to a Broadcast Pix installation in Tampa, as well as to the company's booth at the National Religious Broadcasters Convention in Nashville, Tenn., for extensive demos. Opting for the PC-based system rather than a component-based solution gave Russell extensive built-in capabilities, including live and crawling titles and the option to upgrade to HD when the church decides to replace its existing cameras.

To handle the installation for Faith World, Cameron assembled a project team that included himself and Smith, as well as Craig Beyrooti of Atlantic Professional Audio of Altamonte Springs, Fla. (Cameron says he felt that Beyrooti was better positioned to provide the hand-holding and direct customer service required for the audio portion of the church upgrade.) Russell was, in effect, another team member as well as the client. “[He] took responsibility for all the lighting decisions and hired an installer,” Cameron says.

Both the integrator and the client are pleased with the outcome of Faith World's AV upgrade. “The control room is awesome. Ryan and Ken designed its layout, and it's really a beautiful studio,” Cameron says. As for the worship service, he says it's like going to a rock concert.

Or perhaps even better: “I produce shows in the secular market, not just church, and I sit there and say to myself, ‘Wow, we do more elaborate concerts than this artist is doing,’” Russell says. “People show up to see what we're doing, just to check it out, and it's amazing the different people you can reach when you implement current technology in a church. As long as we capture that experience and push it through the Web, we've done our job.”


John W. DeWitt is a marketing consultant and business writer based in New Salem, Mass. He can be reached at john@jwdewitt.com or www.jwdewitt.com.


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