In this edition of the SVC Podcast, SVC Contributing Editor Bennett Liles talks with Mark Coble of Paragon 360 about the complete sound system overhaul performed for Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid, Oklahoma. Mark outlines the project including the installation of Crown amplifiers, BSS sound processing gear and JBL speakers to deal with the challenges of acoustics and very passionate and dynamic sermons from the pastor. This project represented a major architectural redesign of the entire worship center.
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.
From Sound & Video Contractor Magazine, this is the SVC Podcast with Mark Coble of Paragon 360.
You can swap sound systems in a church but at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid, Oklahoma they went even deeper with acoustic treatment and new lighting. They called on Paragon 360 for the job and Mark Coble is going to take us through the project to set it all up for serving two very different types of congregations. That’s coming up next on the SVC Podcast.
Mark, thanks for being with us on the SVC Podcast from Paragon 360 in Springfield, Missouri. You guys had a very big church tech upgrade, more than just the sound system. Tell us about Paragon 360. How long has the company been around?
Paragon 360 is owned by Brawner & Associates, which has been in business since 2000. Paragon 360 provides turnkey design/build solutions for auditoriums and live-event productions. We’re in the business of creating engaging environments with audio, video, lighting, acoustics, rigging and scenic and staging systems. Our clients include houses of worship, theaters, performing arts centers, Fortune 500 companies, universities and amusement parks nationwide. [Timestamp: 1:36]
Okay. You’re no strangers to working on church projects. So they wanted a complete overhaul at the Emmanuel Baptist Church including sound, acoustics and lighting. Now is this church more traditional or do they have a lot of live music and a more contemporary service?
Baptist Church has both traditional and contemporary services, appeasing two very different groups of worshippers. However, as in so many of today’s churches, the contemporary service is growing tremendously, but the space was originally designed to accommodate a more traditional setup and was not really supporting today’s programming of contemporary worship. To help change this, and to do it well, we had to keep it affordable and it was going to require a whole new approach to the space. [Timestamp: 2:22]
And this church wanted to upgrade a lot of things all at once. What were they going for with this upgrade project? Was it mainly the variety of congregations they have now?
Yes. Their biggest issue there at the church was creating an environment in that space that would allow the ability to reach a broad range of people groups from one stage with a limited change over time between services. Paragon does not accomplish this just through changing out of loudspeakers or adding light fixtures. That really doesn’t solve the big picture. You have to dig deeper and you have to change the experience in the space. This means everything you see, touch and hear. It meant for us a great audio experience, great visuals, and it means non-distracting AVL systems. It means attention to the right architecture, seating, ceilings and sightlines. These sanctuary renovations can be very complex if you really want to get it done right, and it really helps if you control all of the elements because each one of them affects the other deeply. You just can’t throw new speaker systems or pretty set walls up there. You really have to take a look at the big picture to get it all right. [Timestamp: 3:38]
A lot of that is acoustics and churches are notorious for having tricky acoustics for sound systems and being pretty reverberant, so you had a good look at that situation first.
That’s correct. We did some acoustic studies in the space before we began our project to kind of see what the facility sounded like. That particular venue was purpose-built for a choir and organ performance. With the styles of worship becoming more diverse it really required us to determine the amount of acoustic treatment necessary to satisfy all styles of worship that would be presented in that space and most importantly, to assure speech intelligibility was excellent in all seats. We were able to do so by floating a new ceiling which not only provided acoustic control for this large domed ceiling, but it also gave us new positions for stage lighting and LED house lighting as well. The combination of these new ceilings and other panels that were placed in the balcony face and back walls allowed the acoustic control that we were looking for to let this JBL system really shine in that space. [Timestamp: 4:44]
A couple of advantages were you didn’t have to do any electrical system modifications and the church people managed to get the old sound system out of your way so that was a plus, but I understand that the pastor has a unique speaking style that involved specific requirements for the sound setup.
Yeah. One of the requests of the pastor right up front was that he wanted this new system to allow him to be able to have the capability to bring his voice down to a whisper and have all the congregation still be able to hear him. With their old system he felt like he needed to shout in order for everyone to be able to hear him. He’s a very dynamic pastor and he needed a system that could support his style of preaching. We were able to meet all these needs through the design of the audio system along with the necessary acoustic treatment in the building. [Timestamp: 5:35]
And of course some churches were not designed with high-level sound systems in mind, so were there any really tough things for putting that in like hard stuff to get through or things to have to go around?
Absolutely. As with all older church buildings, that becomes a problem. This room was not really designed to handle a lot of the required rigging that needed to be done in there and that the client was requesting. One of the great things about our firm is that we are a turnkey operation so we’re able to work with the architects and engineers on the projects and figure out what needs to be done. We do all of our own rigging using ETCP certified riggers. We were able to get all the designs necessary for the rigging of these systems, which in this particular project also included motorized lighting positions. [Timestamp: 6:25]
I know that sometimes, especially when lighting and sound are done by different people at different times, sometimes the control and power for lights and sound don’t like each other and cause problems.
That’s right, and that’s kind of one thing that is unique about us is when we look at designing AVL systems we have individual folks on our staff – audio designers, video designers, lighting designers, scenic designers. We all have our own traits but we all come to the drawing table simultaneously to look and see how these systems will work with each other. It is somewhat common when these systems are installed by individual contractors, that everyone wants to jump into the space first to get the prime areas = for example the projector shooting through a light fixture or a loud speaker hung in the middle of the screen such as that – but we all work closely together to ensure that all of the AVL systems work in harmony with each other. [Timestamp: 7:19]
And so you decided to go with the JBL Vertec system and the Crown I-Tech HD amps?
Why did you decide to go with that specific hardware?
Well, for several reasons. First and foremost that particular loudspeaker system met the requirements that the church had, which obviously the pastor had requirements of being able to make the system very dynamic down to a whisper level. And also the church had the requirement that this system needed to handle the needs of national touring artists which would be coming into the facility. It also needed to handle the requirements of just traditional and contemporary worship, so it limited us down to several speaker systems and through the modeling process, the JBL Vertec line became very apparent that that speaker system would work very well in that space and provide the necessary SPL for these touring acts that would come in. And it was just a natural extension to use the Crown HD amplifiers for this setup as they offer the unique filtering sets that make these Vertec speakers sound really good. [Timestamp: 8:27]
And I think you had something like seven of the Crown amps along with some of the JBL 4886’s and a lot of the other Vertec gear in there.
Yeah. We used all the Vertec 4886’s, 4883’s. We also complimented some of the overhead choir monitors with the AC 28’s; under-balcony fill was handled with the AC 25’s and they still use four traditional stage monitors as well, which are the STX 812M floor monitors. [Timestamp: 9:00]
Well, your guys got in there and did it right and in part two we’ll get into some of the other gear you used and sort of where everything is in the place, and how you did the under-balcony fill. Till then, thanks for being with us. Mark Coble from Paragon 360 in Springfield, Missouri, and the Emmanuel Baptist Church. We’ll see you in part two.
Thank you for being here with us for the SVC Podcast with Mark Coble. Show notes are available on the website of Sound & Video Contractor Magazine at svconline.com. In part two Mark will go into detail on the under-balcony fills and the physical layout at the Emmanuel Baptist Church. Next time on the SVC Podcast.