In this edition of the SVC Podcast, SVC Contributing Editor Bennett Liles wraps up his chat with Phil Mitchell of the Mitchell Design Group about their recent upgrade of the sound system at the First Wayne Street United Methodist Church in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. Phil discusses the challenge of acoustic separation for recording of choir and organ and he details the microphone layout used for services and other events in the church.
Links of interest:
- The Mitchell Design Group in Kokomo, Indiana
- Audio-Technica AT-4040 microphones used for recording piano
- Audio-Technica AT-8022 microphones for organ and choir
- Earthworks FM-500 pulpit microphone
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Oct 9, 2014 10:52 PM,
With Bennett Liles
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From Sound & Video Contractor Magazine, this is the SVC Podcast with Phil Mitchell of the Mitchell Design Group. Show notes for the podcast can be found on the web site of Sound & Video Contractor Magazine at svconline.com.
The First Wayne Street United Methodist Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana had to do it all over on their sound system. The Mitchell Design Group tore out the old setup and replaced it with a new Bose RoomMatch system. Phil Mitchell is back to tell us about the cabling layout, the mics and the Bose ControlSpace Designer software. Coming right up on the SVC Podcast.
Phil, it’s nice to have you back for part two on the SVC Podcast from The Mitchell Design Group in Kokomo, Indiana to tell us about the First Wayne Street United Methodist Church sound system upgrade. In part one we talked about the Bose RoomMatch system but I wanted to get into the specific layout for where everything is there in the church so where do they have the front of house mixer?
The front of house mix position is actually located where the existing one was which is on the left-hand side of the auditorium. They don’t have really a traditional balcony per se; they have kind of loge seating with small box seats more or less, like more of a theater situation. Even though it’s more modern architecture, I think they tried to incorporate some older tradition when they built the new building so it kind of has its own little box seat off to one side. So it’s a nice mix position. [Timestamp: 1:40]
Well, that’s better than looking at the house through a window from up in the balcony. I’ve done that before.
Yeah, absolutely. I have seen those many times.
And you used the PowerMatch PM8500N amplifier.
So what’s the cabling layout for that like? Is it out there where the mixer is or is it mounted in a closet somewhere?
Yeah, they had an existing rack and room upstairs and we were able to pull out some of the existing amplifiers and repurpose them in some other areas of the church and then install this. It’s actually located above and behind the existing mix position, so it’s a shorter cable run. We were able to use, for the most part, existing cabling going back and forth. The area had a good infrastructure in place, so we were able to cut down, actually with the number of channels the Bose amplifier has and the processing built in, we were able to get rid of a good bit of rack space, free it up there, that was previously occupied by larger and older components. [Timestamp: 2:42]
And probably running a lot cooler these days, too.
Yes. Absolutely. Right.
You mentioned this a little in part one but when they record their services you seem to have had some challenges there on getting separation between the choir and that huge pipe organ.
Yes. We used some little I call them mini shotguns. It’s kind of a line gradient condensed mic from Audio-Technica that we placed on some custom mounts that we had fabricated to try and disguise them as well as allow them to remove them for certain events that they have. To mic the choir, it’s kind of a close-miking situation, so that we can try to shade out as much of the organ, even though the choir is located right in front of the pipes. Then we flew a couple of recording condenser mics for strictly organ pickup and we flew some additional mics for audience pick up and they run all of that through the digital console. They have a separate record feed that actually goes to a solid state recorder that we installed. [Timestamp: 3:45]
Flying all those mics is fairly involved during the installation but it’s got to save a huge amount of time for the crew in being able to always have them in place.
Exactly. The only thing that they really have to pull out any more is they have a hand bell choir and that kind of comes and goes as the season dictates, so they have some portable microphones that we include in the package for those. But everything else is pretty much in place, ready to go. [Timestamp: 4:11]
It seems to be fairly uncomplicated from the way you’ve described it. Did you have to do anything in the way of operator training? Do they have an all-volunteer tech crew there?
Yeah, they have a volunteer crew and their audio person actually is very computer literate. It was very easy to get up to speed on this Allen and Heath console. They transitioned from an analog to a digital, so there’s always a bit of a learning curve there. And he was able to take some time off, which was fortunate for us and him as well, during the installation so he was there to be able to ask questions during the installation process. I love when that can happen. We like to leave the customer fully informed and ready to go. Then we were there also for the first several services that they ran the system for to be able to answer any on-the-fly questions, but the training went very well. In fact, he later would comment that everything was very easy in the transition was very comfortable and very happy with everything. He said it was just a very smooth transition. [Timestamp: 5:16]
Yeah, churches are sort of a whole different animal on sound. Sometimes they don’t want any sort of acoustical treatment to lessen that lofty reverberant church sound so you have to solve your problems pretty much with the sound system itself.
We’ve often found that to be the case. There have been a few instances where for one reason or another the architect just didn’t think of the acoustics of the room when they were designing it, budget I think often drives that and they just want to get into as inexpensive of a box as they can and oftentimes it results in – depending on what the worship style is like – a room that’s a little less than friendly. So we do some light acoustical consulting and treatment that way, but a lot of times you do have to come and work within the environment that you have. We did a basketball game for a college one time and it was an old historic building that had the glazed block walls and about 100-foot-high ceilings. It was about a 15,000-seat arena. And they had zero money for acoustical changes and it had just a horrendously long reverb time in there. So in that case we were left with the challenge of simply just trying to overcome the acoustics as much as possible. This thinking occurs, really I think, in a lot of churches. They just don’t have the budget to do both the acoustical treatment and sound, and so sound a lot of times take the priority. [Timestamp: 6:45]
Fortunately nowadays you can do a lot with a little if you do it right. Did you use the Bose ControlSpace Designer software on this?
Yes, we did. We found that to be very valuable in two ways. It kind of confirms – I think anyone who’s been in business a long time and is familiar with the equipment that they use can kind of walk into a room and come pretty close with an off-the-top-of-the-head design, but this allows you to confirm and detail the placement a lot better. Sometimes there are some surprises that are revealed by the software, but it also makes a great tool for presenting your findings to the customer in a form that they can understand and appreciate the amount of engineering that goes into a system design. [Timestamp: 7:29]
A verbal description of a sound system can get pretty involved but a good, realistic demo can sure save a lot of time.
Yes. Absolutely. On both ends.
Do they pretty much operate this system in one mode or do they have various presets set up for different kinds of events?
Well, in terms of the Bose system itself it’s pretty much in one mode although they do, with the advent of the digital mixer, have different scenarios for different setups that way. So from the front end of the system they can accommodate different type events. For instance the symphony when they come in – I think they do about four concerts a year there – they can preset everything and record it and then just instantly jump back to things and that’s always nice. We have done installations with the Bose system where through the Bose software we can do some toggling and change things back and forth with different inputs and so forth. So there’s a lot of flexibility and it’s one of the things that I’ve found that’s been most fascinating about the old days versus equipment that’s available now is so much of the equipment today is driven by DSP, which is a steep learning curve for us old timers, but it’s fascinating what you can accomplish with this stuff now. It allows you to program a lot more flexibility into systems that what we used to have and ease of use becomes so much better for the end user. [Timestamp: 8:56]
Yeah, more reliable, too. Fewer boxes to connect to each other.
Yeah, absolutely. You’re right.
You got this one done now so what’s coming up next for the Mitchell Design Group? You got some things coming down the road?
Well, yes. We have some church designs that churches seem to be very happy with on the boards and some new things coming in. A lot of churches now are waiting on funding. Times have been a little challenging the last few years in terms of our economy and I think the giving in churches tends to reflect that. So we’ve had a lot of projects that are on hold at the moment simply because of budgets, but we do have a number of things we’re doing. We’ve started doing some production work in terms of concerts. We had one contract we’ve taken that’s kind of interesting on a church in Indianapolis where we’re actually operating the console as the engineers for all their services and then training an entire new crew of volunteers to come in. They dismissed all of their old crew and wanted to start over and are trying to train an entire new crew up. So that’s a challenge we’ve taken and it’s been very interesting and rewarding. [Timestamp: 10:05]
Alright, well sounds like it and it seems like this one had just enough surprises to make it interesting but not enough to turn it into a real ordeal. Phil Mitchell from the Mitchell Design Group in Kokomo, Indiana and the First Wayne Street United Methodist Church sound system upgrade. Thanks for telling us all about it.
Great. Thank you so much. I appreciate the opportunity.
Thank you for being with us for the SVC Podcast with Phil Mitchell of the Mitchell Design Group. Show notes are available on the web site of Sound & Video Contractor Magazine at svconline.com. Be right back here with us next time for the SVC Podcast.