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THE SVC INTERVIEW: Chad Hess, Florida Hospital Church

SVC: This sounds like a pretty progressive church. That probably means that you have a lot of live music going on.

Chad Hess: Yes. It’s all live music; a very blended service. We’re not contemporary, and even blended is probably not the right word. We just try and cover the whole gamut. All genres are available. We’ve had orchestras, we’ve had quartets, we’ve had strings, steel drums – sometimes in the same service.

Of course the name of the church got my attention. I know the place has an interesting history so what’s the story?

Sure. So for those not familiar with Florida, Florida Hospital is a huge hospital system here. It has 20-some hospitals, it’s been here over 100 years. And their main campus is right here in Orlando across the street from our hospital. Our origins start from the doctors and nurses at the hospital wanting a service on the weekend. And so they would get together and they would have a little service just right there on the porch. Over time that grew and it grew and we grew and now we’re a separate institution, but we’re right across the street. We have a very good relationship with them. We actually broadcast live to six of their campuses on Saturday morning.

What kind of physical layout is there to the church?

The capacity of our building is 500. We average about 750-800 between two services.

Orlando is a huge AV market and you have a lot of companies to choose from for help on this monitoring system. How did you get together with AVnew and Gil Parente?

Yes. I’ve worked with Gil for as long as I’ve been in this role here, which is about eight years or so. He’s actually a church member here as well, but he’s been my integrator. He’s been my go-to guy. Amazing guy who really knows his stuff, has a heart for the churches and what we need and understands the uniqueness that a church can bring and always works to give us the best solution for our needs. And being that he goes here, he actually knows our needs very well. So that just makes it even better.

What does your job as the technical director job there involve?

So basically it means I oversee everything technical which would be audio, video, lighting, computers, networking – kind of the whole gamut there—all of the technical equipment for the worship services, the different teams and everything like that, getting it all set up and making sure everything is running smoothly.

This particular project was focused on stage monitoring. You’ve got musicians playing all kinds of live music and with, let’s say, artistic temperaments. Most of the performers went with an IEM but then some of them didn’t.

Our singers still use the front wedges, at least for now. We’ve talked about changing that, but that’s been that way for a while. The band has been on a form of in-ear monitors for a long time. We’ve done several different systems over the years. Before this we were using Allen & Heath’s ME-1 monitoring system, which works very well. It’s a nice system. The problem that the band was running into was they wanted to be able to move around. Not that they move around much when they’re playing, but you walk off and your headphones grab you and pull you back kind of thing. And so they had talked about wanting to go wireless. We could feed the ME-1s into wireless, but that’s kind of a lot of work and a lot more cables. So we talked with Gil and he said you really ought to check out the KLANG system. I really liked what I saw and heard. So I talked with our minister of music and he was on board with it, he liked it, and so that’s the direction we went.

I would think that probably required a good bit of testing to see how many liked it. One of the most useful things I think is the 3D monitoring concept where they can have the various sound sources appear to be coming from any direction they like.

Yeah. So one of the things that I like with the KLANG is that it does such a great job of separating it and it makes it very intuitive to do so. So even our ME-1s, they were fully capable of doing a stereo mix, and I would probably count the number of times our musicians ever actually did it, you know? They’re concerned about just turning it up in volume. They’re not thinking oh, let me pan this over here and that might make it better. So mostly they would even run in mono essentially. With the KLANG system we started out with a template that moved them all around—so they’re starting from that position of having a wide mix. But the interface, you have to work hard if you want to make it mono. [Laughs] It really kind of pushes you towards separating out those instruments and vocals to put them in different places so you can hear those and have a wider sonic space to work with.

The musicians have their own monitoring mixes and when they practice, do the sound levels tend to keep going up?

[Laughs] Yes. That’s another piece that I loved with the KLANG. That’s exactly the problem that you tend to run into a lot with musicians when they’re mixing their monitors. It’s: oh, I need more of that and then I need more of this and more of this. Pretty soon everything is at 10 and it’s all muddy and fighting each other and you can’t hear anything. But with this one, as soon as you moved an input all the way up, if you hit Up again, it automatically lowers everything else, which is really what needs to happen. If you’re needing more of that and you can’t push it any more, you need to bring other stuff down. But this does that automatically for them, so it still makes it very intuitive for them.

That would seem to save a lot of time and confusion, too.

Other mixers can do that, but not this user-friendly and intuitively.

And there’s a way that they can use Amazon Fire tablets to control their monitoring?

Yes. That was another benefit that I really liked with the KLANG. It can be controlled from $50.00 Amazon Fire tablets. You know, all of your sound boards and stuff, you can have them remotely accessing a mix via iPad or something, but then you’ve got to buy $250.00-$500.00 iPads. Well, when you’re buying eight of them, that cost savings is quite significant. The Fire tablets really made that an economical choice.

That’s got to be fun to work with. Exactly what do they do when they come in to get that all ready to go?

The Fire tablet is connected to the KLANG base station, so to speak. And that just connects via Wi-Fi. It’s a pretty simple, easy-touse interface. And then that all gets fed out into the Shure PSM 300s that they’re wearing, that actually gives them the sound.

And how far away are those? What’s the transmission distance on that system?

The actual receiver is in our control room probably 80 feet away, but the antenna is right there on the stage.

Since you have so many people playing such different types of music you must have some fairly intensive rehearsals.

Yes. We have a practice usually on Thursdays or Fridays and they’ll also come in earlier on Saturday morning. Our services are Saturday morning. But they’ll come in several hours beforehand to do more practice and then we talk through the entire service – the whole team does. So even before practice begins on Thursday or Friday, I will have everything all set up. I set up the stage – because we strike the stage every week because it’s a very multi-use building. I have that input list and we set it all up and I get their monitors placed in there and the tablets are ready and charging so they can walk in, plug in, and they’re good to go.

That sounds like the creativity isn’t just required of the musicians but that it starts with how you decide to physically set up the stage.

Yes. Sometimes that requires a lot of creativity. [Laughs]

You’ve got so many different things there musically. It’s a different setup every week and then you have to strike all of that stuff right back down to a bare building, right?

That’s correct. There’s another church that rents from us on Sunday mornings and then we have other events during the week as well. So it’s a very multiuse space, which means we’ve got to keep that stage clear which is another benefit of a wireless monitoring system. It’s fewer cables I have to strike every week.

I would think that one of the trade-offs might be some coordination required on the RF.

Yes. RF coordination is always a tricky one, but it seems to have worked pretty well. We’ve had to adjust on frequency, but otherwise it’s been pretty good from our initial setup.

That’s fairly remarkable for the Orlando area. That place is really cooking in RF anyway.

Yes. Now when we replace all of our 600 MHz and we crowd it all in the frequency, that story may change. But we’ll make sure to coordinate that well when we do it.

And this is a Dante system that you have, right?

Yes, it is. It saves me all the bus processing on my board. I don’t have to have eight stereo mixes, 16 buses to eat up on my board, which I don’t think I even have. I can just feed it all through Dante and keep that processing off of my board. And we already do Dante for a lot of different things. That’s how we send from house to broadcast and multitrack record and stuff like that. So we’re very familiar with Dante to begin with and that made it a very easy integration.

And once you’ve got that down it’s just a matter of plugging in more things.

Yeah. This setup of the KLANG system with the Dante is actually surprisingly easy. Once I figured out what channels I want where and got all that routing sorted out in Dante, really I turned on the KLANG, I went in and told it how many mixes I wanted, and named the channels and everything was working. It was just very simple. Once you got it all pushed in the right spot, and with the name on it, it was done. It didn’t take a lot of fiddling, which really kind of surprised me.

Of course you’ve got more than just stage monitoring to get right. You’ve got projection, too?

Sure. Yeah, we have one very large screen up front and the confidence monitors in the back for them to see. And so I get that ready as well, make sure all those slides are ready and songs and backgrounds and everything.

And that’s mainly hymn lyrics?

Yeah. Motion backgrounds with lyrics over them.

And you do any IMAG? Is it all robotic cameras or do you have some manned cameras?

We don’t do live IMAG. But yes, we have an extensive team, eight cameras, three manned, two remote control and a few static cameras for our broadcast and our stream.

What type of mixer do you use?

Our house mixer is an Allen & Heath iLive. Broadcast is an Allen & Heath GLD.

Well, I’m using an Allen & Heath mixer to do this interview so as far as I’m concerned you can’t go wrong with that.

Yeah. Someday soon we’ll upgrade that to a dLive, but right now we’re running on the iLive.

You told us about the mixer. Is that going to be the next tech upgrade for the church? What’s next for upgrades?

Microphones is the first one thanks to the FCC auction. That will be coming up this year and we’re already in the midst of planning all that and doing some demos of capsules to choose that. So that’s the next big one that’s happening. After that would probably be a new mixer. The GLD and broadcast is limited to 48 inputs and we hit that limit a few times a year. So we need more capacity both in-house and broadcast.

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