Do we stay shut down? Do we re-open? How do we conduct installations safely? AV integrators are dealing with uncertainty. RTW Media had all of this in mind when Great Bridge Baptist Church called them in for a complete AV renovation. Operations Manager Zack Guida tells us how they made it all work.
SVC: Tell us about RTW Media first. We’ll give you a chance to put your company up in the spotlight.
Zack Guida: Yeah, thank you. The audio, visual division of our company started about 15 years ago as a division of a general contracting firm. We started as a really small division and now we’re bigger than the GC part of our company. We have about 18 employees from field staff technicians, audio DSP folks, programmers, engineers, and sales and support staff, and we serve a variety of clients. A couple of our biggest vertical markets are the higher education market and the house of worship market, but we service everybody. We have plenty of corporate clients, government clients, K-12, museums, so we cover the whole gamut.
How did you first get connected with Great Bridge Baptist Church?
Like so many times with our church clients, they call us with word-of-mouth referrals from other churches that we’ve done in their area. It was very similar in this case. We partnered with Regent University and Christian Broadcast Network on a handful of projects over the past three or four years. A few of the members of the church work over on the Great Bridge campus and they threw our name in the hat and said “listen, this is a qualified integrator that you definitely need to sit down and talk to.” We talked about their vision, both in the sanctuary and what they wanted to do beyond that and it was just a good fit for our company and a good fit for the church.
They’ve got an orchestra, a choir, a praise band. They’ve got a pretty big operation going.
They have a very big operation. They’ve got quite a few praise team members and a very big choir, a very big orchestra. They invested in quality gear over the years, but it had been getting towards the end of its lifecycle and in order to really elevate their worship on Sunday mornings, it was just time to invest in new gear. Technology can do so much more today than it could 12 years ago when they last looked at this. In addition to what they want to do for enhancing Sunday morning worship, they just have an awesome plan for their digital ministries, and this was even before COVID. They have a really exciting plan for reaching folks in their community over the Internet and over social media, so it was a very exciting project.
What was the timeframe on the project as far as the COVID-19 pandemic? Had it already started when you got into this one?
The project kicked off in January. There were construction renovations going on in the sanctuary while we were doing our scope of work. So the sanctuary had shut down for the renovations and then as we reached the end of the project, COVID put a stop to reopening the sanctuary. So nobody has entered the sanctuary yet to experience the new upgrades. But the church has definitely been able to use the network that we built for them for their digital presence during this time, which has been really cool.
What precautions did you have to take when you were in there? Did you have to follow any special safety protocols or anything?
Yes. So each church is different in the protocols that they want. Like I was mentioning earlier, we do a lot of work for hire and do a lot of state and local government. Every single client has a different set of protocols so it’s just all about communication. Then we mold our policies to match and to blend with the client’s. But most frequently our guys wear masks. They wear gloves. We try to keep crews to two or four maximum, hand sanitizer. Just pretty much the standards we live by every day on the job.
You designed a system I think with mostly Danley products.
Yeah. Danley is just our go-to choice for performance venues when it comes to point source sound. It’s so much bang for your buck. The coverage is just so uniform. If you look at the pictures of the install you’ll see that the 1,500-seat sanctuary is covered pretty much 100 percent by three speakers, the Jericho J3-94 speaker, and two side speakers that hit the left and right flanking balconies. And with the exception of some under balcony fills and a couple of front fills just for directionality, those speakers cover the entire room—it’s more power than the church will ever need – it’s got so much headroom and the coverage is just seamless.
And you got the DNA Series amplifiers.
Yep. We’ve got about 80,000 watts pumping through the Danley system, through all the DNA amplifiers which are super robust and easy to use and easy to set up.
When I look at the pictures of this it looks like you’ve got a few little challenging architectural things there. You’ve got a choir to get monitoring to. You’ve got an orchestra pit in there. How did you cover those?
Yeah, it’s really tricky. It’s tough in churches in general because everybody on the stage wants to hear themselves, but you’ve got to control that noise as best as possible. You can’t just have a bunch of really large speakers pointing at everyone’s ears on the stage.
So we just strategically located some FLX12 Danley floor monitors on the front lift of the stage for the praise band. We’ve got two FLX12s on mic stands for the choir right up in their face. And we have some of the Danley Nanos, like six or eight of them, on mic stands. You know those Nanos are about the size of your fist and those are just little hot spot monitors that they can move around the stage for the orchestra as needed.
Are you miking the choir?
Yeah, we’ve miking the choir with some of the Earthworks choir mics, which are just the best in the business.
OK, yes. That would be a challenge to mike a choir and get them good stage monitoring acoustically at the same time.
Yeah, it’s a balance. A lot of it happens in front of house, but they’ve got a really good crew keeping an eye on things.
And I would guess that the performers have in-ear monitoring.
They do, yep. They’ve got Shure in-ear monitors. They’ve got a Danley eight-channel amplifier which just handles the multiple monitor mixes so they can get up to the eight monitor mixes. They’ve got some Aviom on the stage. They’re using the Dante network to get their Aviom channels onto the stage, floor pockets throughout. It’s a really flexible setup, so whether it be a Sunday morning service or a Saturday night wth a concert tour coming through, they’ve got the infrastructure to handle everything they need.
What kind of mixers did you put in there to use?
We went with the Allen & Heath dLive backbone. So front of house they have an S7000. Up in the broadcast suite they have the 3500. They’ve got a DMO in their amp rack and multiple I/O boxes around the stage. We created a really nice Dante network for them to handle everything in the sanctuary and to capture all of that and also to send it up to the broadcast suite for post-production in their digital ministries.
Well, that makes sense. The Allen & Heath S7000. That’s a very versatile mixer with a very small footprint.
Yeah. It’s definitely our favorite. What it can do at the price point is just really remarkable. It creates such a robust network and Allen & Heath is always evolving and coming out with really great products that are scalable to that platform.
Let’s talk about the video a little bit. How many and what model cameras do they use to pick up the video?
They’re using the Panasonic HE130 pan/ tilt/zoom cameras. They have four of them throughout the sanctuary and those are being sent in to a Blackmagic ATEM switching solution. They also have a Blackmagic Smart Videohub 20×20 system that can pretty much send any input that they have into their system and we’ll be able to route it to any output, whether that be a digital signage player or a display four hundred feet down the hallway. We’ve created a really nice video network so they can just have total flexibility in the sanctuary and throughout the building.
And in the sanctuary they’ve got some very big projection screens in there, too.
They do. Part of the renovation was moving those front walls and then the contractor framed in some projection screens. We have two RZ120 12,000 lumen Panasonic projectors projecting onto those screens. We have a 98-inch display in the back for the choir for a confidence monitor. And we have a 110-inch video wall in the lobby to welcome everybody into the building. So it’s definitely a very robust system.
So, let’s say worst case, will the church be ready to provide streaming-only services if there is a resurgence of COVID?
Yeah. I mean, they’re ready right now and they were ready from Day 1. They’ve leveraged some of the backbone that they’ve invested in and they’ve been having drive-in Sunday morning service. So the pastor, Pastor Will, gets up on the second story of the church and has a drive-in service, which they stream using the infrastructure that we provided. They’re definitely ready. For a second phase of the project they’re creating a broadcast suite that will be able to handle a talk show. So not only will they be streaming on Sundays but they’ll be hosting some talk shows and putting out content. It’s a really cool digital ministry.
What sort of long-term effect on AV integrators do you think the pandemic will have? More videoconferencing installations maybe?
Yeah, if things keep trending the way they are, definitely more and more video conferencing and just remote connectivity and distance learning. We were quiet there for a couple weeks when the lockdown first hit and ever since those two weeks it’s just been crazy. The demand for livestreaming in houses of worship, the demand for distance learning in lower education and higher education, the demand in the corporate business environment to have new infrastructure, to have some folks at the office and be able to reach people at home. The five-year plan that we expected just fast forwarded and happened in about three months, so I think we’re just moving towards a world where every room needs to have quality video and quality microphones and the ability to Zoom or stream.
So what’s coming up on projects for RTW Media?
We’re continuing to grow. We’re continuing expand our client base. We’re doing some really large higher education projects, really large performance venues in the works. We’re growing very organically, expanding our footprint into northern North Carolina/southern Maryland. We’re getting a bigger footprint in the DC area. So I just see us continuing to grow organically and we’ve got such a good team of guys that works for us.