New Church, New AV Gear, Part 1

In this edition, SVC contributing editor Bennett Liles talks with Randy Turner of Pennsylvania firm Turner Specialty Contractors. Turner outlines the sound, lighting and projection project done by hi 3/02/2011 7:56 AM Eastern

New Church, New AV Gear, Part 1

Mar 2, 2011 12:56 PM, with Bennett Liles

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Editor’s note: For your convenience, this transcription of the podcast includes timestamps. If you are listening to the podcast and reading its accompanying transcription, you can use the timestamps to jump to any part of the audio podcast by simply dragging the slider on the podcast to the time indicated in the transcription.

There’s no end to what can be done when you have an installation with new construction and a young congregation ready and willing to try new things. That’s how it went at the Family Church of the Southern Tier in Jamestown, New York and Randy Turner of Turner Specialty Contractors is here to give us the story coming right up on the SVC podcast.
Randy thanks for being with me here on the SVC podcast from the Pennsylvania firm of Turner Specialty Contractors. Is that in the Bradford area?

Down in the middle of nowhere in north-central PA but we service western New York, central New York and northwest Pennsylvania. [Timestamp: 1:01]

And the name Turner Specialty Contractors leaves it pretty wide open—that could be just about anything. So what all do you do there?
Well I came out of the old days, I worked for Jim and Tammy Baker at PTL in the old days and back then I did nothing but lighting and one thing led to another after 25 years and I’ve worked for about all the TV networks but always in the background doing mainly lighting back in the old days—did lighting for a lot of TV shows, did a lot of stuff ABC News. And one thing led to another and I wound up doing a lot of installs for a couple of big contractors in Charlton out of Atlanta and then we moved back up here a number of years ago and I just kept doing it. [Timestamp: 1:39]

Yeah, you can get right into doing a lot of different things with that name and it still fits. So you got into this project for the Family Church of the Southern Tier in Jamestown, New York on a big installation for sound lighting and projection. So how did you get involved with that church on a major project like this?
I was actually doing a different project for Habiterra which is an architectural firm of about a dozen or so architects out of Jamestown, New York and one of their architects introduced me to the pastor of the church a couple of years before they built the building and one thing led to another so I designed this system and then they built the church a year and a half or so later and we installed all the equipment. [Timestamp: 2:14]

OK this was a new construction project so you really got in on the ground floor with this one.
Yes, brand-new church. I figure the total dollar value of the church was around a little less than three million I think and a beautiful facility. It’s a charismatic, non-denominational church. A very young pastor who is very dynamic and he’s…it’s a brand new church really they’ve only been around for four or five years and they’ve exploded from four people meeting in a Holiday Inn to about 400 or 500 meeting every Sunday. [Timestamp: 2:41]

Well that’s always intriguing the way that starts and I’ve heard a lot of stories about churches that started with a half a dozen people or so meeting in someone’s living room and ending up with a major building and expanding to video links, satellite locations and so forth. So it can really take off if you have the right message and the right people. What kind of services do they have at the Family Church of the Southern Tier? You said that they’ve got a young pastor so that sounds to me like maybe they have a lot of live music.
A lot of live music—yeah, they got a nice band. They’re pretty competent people, they’re all volunteers but they do a very, very nice job. And so that just led to…their list of equipment was long. They wanted the in-ear monitors. They wanted…they wanted to be about as high -tech as they could afford to be frankly. [Timestamp: 3:24]

What were they doing at the old church? What was the sound and lighting situation there? This seems to have been a major improvement.
Well they were around for about four years, a little over four years and the old church sits right smack dab next to the new monster and the old one was a whole miraculous story of how they got the thing for practically free from a Church of God that closed its doors. And just rudimentary equipment in the old building and so this was a pretty…it was like a quantum step for them to move into all this kind of equipment. [Timestamp: 3:52]

New Church, New AV Gear, Part 1

Mar 2, 2011 12:56 PM, with Bennett Liles

And of course as you pointed out, you had a major advantage on this one since it was new construction rather than having to refit and redo an existing architecture and so forth. And not having to tear out any of the old gear and wiring. That’s always a great advantage.
A huge advantage—yes, I’ve done this for 20-some years for myself and then for other people down south and you get into the remodels and remodels are…they’re a little more hairy. I did a little remodel a few years ago on a big Lutheran church up here and it wasn’t pretty because nothing where you thought it would be and your hour estimate to do the job was more than double by the time you’re all done so you pretty much lost your shirt—they’re happy but you’re not. But a new building, you can lay it all out and since we’d put a digital backbone into the thing with a bunch of Cat-5 wire and that simplified things eventually. When we went into this building, since it’s brand new, I said, “Well let’s separate all the power to all the lighting,” so that we don’t have to have that lovely hum problem with the ground loop and then we still put in ISO operated transformers for all the audio and the video system. So yeah you’re right, doing a remodel is much more work and problematic than doing a new if you can specify what you really want. [Timestamp: 5:05]

And a big part of this project was a wireless mic system that you put in. I believe you went with a Shure ULX wireless mic system for that. Of course a lot of churches have had to make the wireless upgrade for the 700MHz spectrum changes anyway.
Anything you get now is already going to be compliant so that wasn’t even an issue because they didn’t have any wireless mics before to speak of. So we didn’t try to bring anything old from the old church over and tried to re-use it. We just went brand-new and these are all the Shure ULX series and we coupled of them with six of the Countrymen in-ear pieces and then one hand held mic for the pastor if he wants to use that route as well. [Timestamp: 5:41]

Oh and that’s great if the pastor’s are into using head-worn mics because that really makes things easier on audio people.
Oh it does. It’s immense and then you couple that with a band who all has in-ear monitors for the Aviom system—you don’t have that lovely feedback issue. And so you could really crank up the volume obviously. You can crank up the gain without having tons of feedback. It’s…I’m amazed that more churches don’t do it frankly. [Timestamp: 6:02]

Well the churches are dealing, for the most part, with volunteer tech people. Of course the big churches can have full time pro people but most of them are trying to put things together with crew people who may be there one week and maybe not the next. And when the 700MHz changes came down I think a lot of the smaller and mid-sized churches probably got caught a little flat-footed on that.
Yeah, oh yeah. I’ve had quite a few, especially the smaller ones around locally here that call you up and they can’t figure out why that it worked great for two or three years and now all of a sudden they’re having these cutting in and out issues on Sunday morning and so you go through the whole education. I think that a lot of them were forewarned. It’s funny, I’ve got a number of friends who they get a lot of…well a lot of audio magazines and what not and they’re really into it yet then their own churches never upgraded because they never saw any problem initially for the first month or two after the rules changed and then when they finally started changing the cell towers over and using that frequency all of sudden then they were caught right flat footed. [Timestamp: 7:03]

Yeah all it takes is some tangible evidence of things going wrong but the real fun’s going to be happening when all of these portable broadband devices come online and those bands and we’ll just see what happens.
Yeah, I think you’re right.

So you’ve got a young crowd and a young pastor using head-worn mics. That’s a lot of wireless gear. What kind of antenna arrangement did you install for that wireless mic system?
Well we used the Shure antenna distribution system and they’re just the half-wave antennas. [Timestamp: 7:33]

Ahh, half-wave, yeah.
But we used…we used the antenna distribution system—there’s two of those plus we put into a passive antennas gain system so you can run both of those antenna distributions into just one block into one antenna. So I only have two antennas for seven units and I had worked it out with the church tech people and they…this is what they recommended and it works great. [Timestamp: 7:54]

New Church, New AV Gear, Part 1

Mar 2, 2011 12:56 PM, with Bennett Liles

Yeah that’s always fun with wireless stuff. You can put it in and it can work great right from the top and other times you can really get into moving antennas around and dealing with interference. I think wireless is part alchemy sometimes. I guess it’s a lot easier to sale if you have a contemporary service with lots of live music. But you had a new place and a young congregation not afraid to try new stuff.
Right that was a big part of it and they loved the idea of doing the digital backbone in there too and frankly I loved the idea of not having to pull 40 mic cables front to back in that place. By the time we did the wire runs because there were obstructions, even though it’s a new church I still had some obstructions and what not, my wire runs were about 220ft. from front to back and running that Cat-5 cable and getting rid of 40 pair it was just a wonderful deal. [Timestamp: 8:4]

So what do they have on the crew? Do they have people backstage handling wireless gear or are all the pastors and so forth pretty much in charge of their own mics and things?
Well they’ve got a number of people on their tech team and we’ve gone up and trained them a couple of times. Always every…first Sunday of every service we’re always there and…but we do the training before that as well so we’re there I think on a Wednesday or Thursday night and then we went back on a Saturday and so on Sunday morning they were pretty well prepared we pretty much could stay on the background and just oversee and they did a fine job. But then like most churches they had some personnel changeover and so six months later we went back up and did some re-instruction and kept them going. So their people are pretty self sufficient. [Timestamp: 9:18]

Where did you locate the antennas? You mentioned that it worked pretty well right from the beginning so where did place the antennas for a pretty well dropout free operation?
Well Bennett we’re spoiled. I’ve got a…we’re on a balcony position with a line of sight 80ft. up to the stage and those antennas are right there on the front of the balcony. They’re still somewhat discrete, you really don’t notice them because of the way we do it but they’re there and it just made life very, very easy because of the line of sight. [Timestamp: 9:46]

Well obviously you capitalized on the advantages on this one. Family Church of the Southern Tier in Jamestown, New York and Turner Specialty Contractors came in and did the job. Randy Turner thanks for being here for Part One and in Part Two we’ll talk about the Aviom stage monitoring and get into some other things but thanks for being here.

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