Remember what it feels like to be part of the production team? How exciting and rewarding it is when the communication is flowing under fire–when music, displays, and capture are all unfolding, uniting your audience and your team? This is a part of the mission, and it’s one more thing that can help bring a congregation together.
As churches of all sizes continue to become more sophisticated with concert and broadcast technologies, it’s inevitable that field communication becomes more sophisticated as well. As worship pros and volunteers understand what it takes to put on a quality production, they learn first-hand the importance of support infrastructure. For something as team-based and emotional as worship, good communication doesn’t just make for a better product, it also makes for more satisfying connections among those who are doing the production. In turn, this energy radiates out to the congregation; they will experience a smoother presentation, but they will also sense the teamwork energy that comes alive when production teams are communicating effectively in real-time. Let’s look at a couple of examples. –Cynthia Wisehart
LIFE is a multi-site church in Auckland, New Zealand. It’s got a sophisticated live audio-visual production set-up that provides its congregation with compelling coverage of services, worship-based concerts, and conferences.
Exactly one year ago, it opened its newest facility, LIFE Central Campus, with an 1800-seat auditorium, a 300-seat Chapel facility, and foyer spaces. The extensive facility needed a wide-ranging, high-functioning communication system to keep production teams connected, not just around the building but also with the other LIFE campuses.
“The new facility is set up as a typical live production environment, including a vision control room and auditorium FOH,” explains Riki Willis, Production Project Coordinator for LIFE. “We needed multiple channels of simultaneous communication to support the various job functions, from technical directors and video producers to lighting operators and stage management crew, so a matrix was deemed necessary. We also wanted to be able to live-link audio and video to and from our two other Auckland-based campuses.”
The installation includes a Clear-Com Eclipse HX-Delta matrix frame with E-IPA cards, with FreeSpeak II IP-enabled transceivers and beltpacks, V-Series Iris intercom panels and LQ Series IP interfaces.
Willis explains that decision, “I felt that FreeSpeak II’s audio quality and noise floor were far superior. We also already owned some Clear-Com LQ units and partyline equipment, so there was compatibility with the existing kit, and there is also more knowledge of the Clear-Com product line in New Zealand, which is helpful when we are hiring or welcoming external teams to the facility.”
The new system enables much more granular and direct communications, which has been a huge boon for the team, as has the addition of more focused partylines. The multi-channel, fully integrated wireless system has also provided a boost in flexibility and greater functionality.
“Previously, almost all communications were heard by all parties, which can be distracting to those not affected by the conversation and who need to focus on what is happening in the moment. This meant that sometimes the team would communicate less than needed to avoid creating distractions,” says Willis. “The possibility we now have for multiple groups/partylines is very useful, along with the ability for easy direct conversations, station to station.”
Regular live-link audio and video to the two other remote campuses is now simplified, by linking the remote campus’ 2-wire communications into the matrix via remote LQ-2W units. Willis also praises the longevity of FreeSpeak II beltpacks’ battery life, their solid build and wide-roaming ability without losing signal, as well as full integration with the matrix and the flexibility of the ‘profile’ based system. The ability to change and save configurations for an event and then revert to the ‘standard’ setup afterward is also helpful.
Clear-Com’s authorized partner, Gencom Technology, supplied and installed the system. “Their assistance in working through the design and follow-up support was really appreciated,” says Willis.
On the opening weekend of the facility, the LIFE Central Campus hosted the Hillsong Young and Free band for a worship concert, and within a couple of weeks of opening, the church held a Christmas Spectacular show open to the public, with three showings at full capacity. “It was quite a way to start with a new communications system, but everything went very smoothly and has continued to do so ever since,” says Willis.
When Grace Church, Maryland Heights, MO, was looking to upgrade its coms, they found their volunteer-friendly solution with Pliant Technologies’ CrewCom wireless intercom system.
The church, which regularly uses intercoms for weekend services, communion, prayer services and concerts, needed a reliable system that also had a small learning curve for volunteer staff. Its wireless system also needed to provide wireless coms throughout the main sanctuary. The church often has up to four users operating in one zone in their 3200-seat auditorium, and Pliant’s CrewCom provides connection for multiple users.
“I’ve been band-aiding our aging 700MHz wireless coms system for several years now, and earlier this year we finally made the decision to invest in a new, modern system,” says David Banks, lead tech for the church. “Our main contact at Pliant, Art Gonzales, just happened to be in Saint Louis for a live sound event and was able to set up a demo of CrewCom so we could put the system through its paces. We quickly saw how we would benefit from making the purchase.”
The Pliant system at Grace Church includes a CCU-22 CrewCom Control Unit and four Pliant CRP-22-900 900MHz 2-Volume digital wireless beltpacks. Additionally, a CrewCom CRT-900 radio transceiver houses a radio with corresponding antennas and serves as an access point enabling RF communications with the beltpacks. “We chose the 900MHz system to avoid interference issues, and that has proven to be a sound decision,” adds Banks. “With CrewCom, we immediately noticed the clarity of the beltpacks. Another standout feature is that we can create profiles for every person on staff. When they pick up their pack, they select their own profile, which is customized as far as mic level and all-in listening level, and they’re ready to go.”
Grace Church also purchased four newly enhanced Pliant SmartBoom headsets. “The lightweight headsets have great sensitivity and really reduce distortion,” adds Banks. “The headsets we previously used were much more cumbersome. With SmartBoom, we definitely got something more comfortable with increased stability. Also, the noise-canceling feature helps keep users who are often operating in a live stage setting, with live drums or other instruments, in the background.”
With volunteers being an integral part of the church’s DNA, their opinion was an important part of the decision to purchase. The feedback was unanimous. “During our sound check and in rehearsals, CrewCom provided great ambient noise rejection and the increased clarity helped with better communication between us all. Everyone felt it was easy to set up and use, with clear transmission and reception.” Grace Church now plans to expand its wireless coverage area to include a 500-seat chapel and a 300-seat Foundry venue.
Small churches can now have a big media reach and selecting the right production gear can make a huge difference in getting the word out. In Ocala, Florida the NOW Church runs a top-notch broadcast infrastructure with ATEM switchers and cameras from Blackmagic Design. Ricky Perinchief of Proton Global Media Group outfitted NOW Church with their system and explains how the intercom system integrated production over a Unity intercom platform. Unity has gained increased visibility in recent years with its outings on the ESPN X Games and the Olympics. “Unity is a Mac-based application and server software based-off licenses,” Perinchief explains. “It uses iOS devices or Android devices. Most of our volunteers either have either an iPhone or an Android so when they come in they just have the software of the Unity app installed on their phone and they can just connect to the Wi-Fi that we have set up for Unity. They can communicate wirelessly on six different channels. So you can have lighting on one channel. You can have broadcast on another. The parking lot crew or the ushers, the security team might be using some of the other channels of Unity. It’s affordable wireless communication—even giving us the ability to have the program monitor and output so you can hear what’s going on in the service as well. Even if you’re out of the room or at another campus, you can communicate over a cellular network.” –Bennett Liles