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Worship Install From the Ground Up, Part 1

In Fairmont, W. Va., the South Ridge Church was ready to install sound, video, and lighting systems in the new sanctuary and they wanted to do it just right from the ground up.

Worship Install From the Ground Up, Part 1

Feb 11, 2014 2:01 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.

In Fairmont, W. Va., the South Ridge Church was ready to install sound, video, and lighting systems in the new sanctuary and they wanted to do it just right from the ground up. Local AV expert Kevin Kuhn volunteered to help them and he teamed up with Northern Sound and Light to put in the gear. That’s all next on the SVC Podcast. SVC: Kevin, thanks for joining us on the SVC Podcast from what I think could be generally described as the Pittsburg area so tell us what you do in that part of the country, AV-wise.

Hi, Bennett. Good to be with you and I’m just below Pittsburgh, down in W. Va., here in Morgantown. And this last project I’ve been working with a church down in Fairmont, which is a little bit further south than me. They had asked me to kind of help them spec out some new gear for a building project they were in, and that’s kind of what got us started on what turned out to be a several-year-long project getting them up and running with a new building and all that that entails. [Timestamp: 1:28]

A new building for the South Ridge Church I think it was, and you teamed up with Northern Sound and Light for that project. I guess they provided a lot of the gear for that?

That’s correct. I’ve worked with Northern Sound for quite a few years on various projects, running sound for local bands, putting small PAs together for miscellaneous venues and whatnot, and I’ve used them in the past personally for a lot of my own gear and studio stuff that I do. I always had good service and no complaints with them. [Timestamp: 2:00]

Yeah, I noticed on their web site they have a lot of AV equipment and theatrical stuff so I would think that they had pretty much what you needed. So the people at South Ridge Church called you in. What kind of an outfit is South Ridge Church? What sort of a worship style or services do they have? I guess it does involve some live music at least.

Yeah. South Ridge Church is a church plant from Chestnut Ridge and similar worship style; so basically the non-denominational Christian Church. Basically contemporary or kind of today’s Christian music worship: full, live band, multiple vocalists, the occasional theatrical skit or something of that nature. So they’ve kind of got a well-rounded group; guitarists, electric guitarists, acoustics, drums, full keyboard, bass – the usual suspects. [Timestamp: 2:52]

And that’s a lot going on for some churches with mainly volunteer tech staff, limited budgets, and a lot of high-energy music. It’s a great draw, especially for the younger crowd, but the technical elements don’t always come together. What was their situation up until you helped get them going with the new setup?

Sure. So prior to this recent installation they were leasing space out of a community building in the area, so they had worked out a really good arrangement. The community building had actually been a former church as well, but it was kind of an octagonal room with wood ceiling and wood pews and a lot of hard surfaces. So it was a little bit of a challenge for them. They had, I believe, a couple of EV powered boxes up in the ceiling that was giving them basic PA capability, but that was about it. So when they wanted to move into the new building, so they literally started from scratch, you know, constructed a building on property. They kind of wanted to emphasize, or at least put a lot of attention to detail into creating an auditorium or worship environment that was easier on the volunteers and musicians, and then also provided them with kind of the next level of sound capabilities. That was kind of their goal moving into the new space. [Timestamp: 4:15]

Not always an easy transition to make. Who teamed up with you and NSL on this project? I think Acoustic Dimensions was in on it and Paradigm Acoustical Design, so this was a pretty big team effort.

Absolutely. I definitely played a small role in the big picture of everything that was going on. So the architectural firm was Paradigm Architects and a gentleman named Todd Christopher was the lead architect on this project. I got to know him and worked closely with him over the better part of a year and a half or so. It was great to be right in on the beginning of the project and would be my recommendation for any other organization that is contemplating some form of building project of this scale to get a consultant or audio/video contractor in from the get go so that they have input not only into what wires go where, but some form of acoustician or acoustic design as well would be key right at the beginning so that they’re not fighting remotes and other issues that just installing a PA won’t take care of. [Timestamp: 5:25]

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Worship Install From the Ground Up, Part 1

Feb 11, 2014 2:01 PM,
With Bennett Liles

Oh, well just the fact that they were willing to take the time and get into some serious acoustical treatment goes beyond what most small churches do and it speaks well for their efforts in planning.

Yeah, it’s kind of a funny story. I don’t know if Justin would mind me sharing this, but right from the get go, I’m strictly a volunteer as well. I want to make that real clear – just enough to keep me busy in fun projects like this. Right from the beginning I told them look, I’m not an acoustician and it would be very helpful. The budget was really tight, so it was pretty hard to bring someone in right from the beginning, but I was able to provide a little bit of input to the general shape of the room and just small changes here and there that hopefully made a big difference later on. Once the room was constructed and the walls went up and we went out to the room and I kind of did some very crude preliminary tests just vocally and measured a good 20-second reverb decay. It really just seemed like it was an endless ring in the room. Really quickly got the attention of the church staff and we basically huddled up and said look, before we get in here we really need to kind of address this and worry. Well at that point, since we were that far along in the project, we were able to bring in Acoustic Dimensions to take a look at the room remotely from plans and designed some acoustical treatments and gave us the recommendation on where they wanted it and how they were applied. We worked with the contractors to get them up and man, that makes just such a huge difference. I know not all organizations are able to do that right from the beginning, but it’s very worth the investment of the acoustical side – the room side – of things as much as it is on the electrical side of things in terms of PA boxes and things like that. It really is a combined effort to give yourself the advantage of making a room easy or difficult to mix in. [Timestamp: 7:30]

You pretty much led the audio installation effort on that one and I noticed that you went with a Soundcraft Si Expression for the front-of-house mixer. Was there a particular set of features that worked especially for that situation or was it just that the price was right or just a combination of both?

It was definitely a combination of both. Again, that whole kind of tried to have a tight budget, you know, again trying to strive for as best quality of gear and basically the most functionality without sacrificing quality. I had looked at a couple of different consoles and we also did consider a few smaller analog desks as well, but I felt that going digital at this point in time is kind of a wise idea, especially with a lot of the younger volunteers that they have or will have coming up. And to be able to select a console that’s gonna give them, for instance, the one-touch mixing so every channel gets digital EQ and compression and gates aside from recallable flying faders and just give them the flexibility that they may not otherwise have had we gone to, for instance, an analog desk with outboard gear. Price point just isn’t a comparison at that point, so the Soundcraft sounds pretty good. I was a little hesitant at first because overall it’s 100 percent digital and reliability for me in a live environment is very crucial. We actually did have a few issues right at first, but that’s because we were one of the early adopters of that desk and it was shipped with a beta. So as soon as we upgraded the firmware to its full production version, the desk has been pretty good for us and the volunteers seem to like it and have picked up quickly with it. [Timestamp: 9:20]

That’s always been one of the great things about digital boards for small churches because you can upgrade them in software and you can always have kind of an “oops” button on them to undo and take you back where you were before. I noticed the design of the speaker system is kind of interesting. How did you lay out the speaker system for the church?

Well, either you call it a stereo or dual-mono, I guess, but it’s a left-right flown Renkus- Heinz PA system. You know, the market’s pretty full right now of a lot of different power boxes, but it seems like everybody’s kind of going that direction in terms of providing internal power. And I felt that made sense for this installation, to cut back on some of the equipment and then also keeping, for instance, processing and everything like that internal to the boxes. It just makes life a little bit easier on a lot of people, myself included. So we went with the Renkus-Heinz, the CF101LA’s and basically did three per side. At the time that I spec’d those boxes, we ended up going with the JBL subwoofer. Again, I was fairly pleased with the boxes, although I have made feature recommendations, of course, for the low end so that we can add to it. Being that at their former, or prior, location they had no subwoofers, we thought it might be a shock to the congregation to have all of a sudden that tactile feel. So we kind of wanted to ease into it a little bit along with saving a little bit of money up on the front end. In terms of actually installing and aiming the arrays and going through some configurations with the arrays, I used a product from EASE, EASE Focus, AFMG Focus, and basically just really generically kind of modeled the room. I wasn’t exactly sure how that would work out, but it turned out it actually worked out really well and the overall result, I was really pretty pleased with it. [Timestamp: 11:21]

Was there any specific problem on this project that seemed to stand out as the most challenging aspect of the sound part of this?

Well, I should have seen it coming, but delays in the building construction kind of put a crimp in the installation schedule, so it kind of compressed my installation schedule to – what I thought I would have a good four or so months. I think it compressed it down to about six weeks or so. The audio was only kind of the one part of it. I was also actually doing all of their audio, all of their lighting and their video system as well. So luckily I had some absolutely amazing volunteers from their church body, so it was really good to see them step up. But I mean I had some of the brute labor just, ‘Here, carry this box and sort these parts.’ But I had licensed electricians and network systems installers, so I had really great technical people step up and help me out with the installation, you know, members of their church. So on that side, it went really well. I think one of the – a short anecdote of trials was I went to use a Furman power sequencing system for the PA’s on/off functionality and it was distributed between the power arrays flown in the ceiling, a couple of units in the amp racks, and then one in front of house for the console system up there along with a key switch that would basically turn on and off the entire system. I just remember I couldn’t get the thing to work, couldn’t get the thing to work. Finally I broke down and actually not only read the manual, but I called them and I said, ‘Look, I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. I can’t get this to work.’ They’re like, ‘Oh, well did you buy the external 12-volt power supply that plugs into the back of the unit?’ I’m like, ‘No. Why would you sell a product that you need to buy another power supply?’ But they were great on the phone and really helped me out with customer support, so of course I just ran down to Radio Shack, bought a 12-volt power supply and everything worked. So it just goes to show that having good customer support is definitely critical on any size job that you’re working on. [Timestamp: 13:38]

You pick up the phone and know they’re going to help you. It really makes all the difference. Thanks for giving us the lowdown on the first part of this project, Kevin. They did it right but a lot of things had to come together. In Part two we’ll get into miking the pastors and crew training and a few other things. We’ll see you then.

Great. Thanks very much. I appreciate it.

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