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Installation Profile: New Life, New Sanctuary

A church's construction became an opportunity to integrate a new all-digital audiovisual system.

Installation Profile: New Life, New Sanctuary

Jul 1, 2008 12:00 PM,
By Trevor Boyer

A church’s construction became an opportunity to integrate a new all-digital audiovisual system.

When New Life Church in Louisville, Ky., expanded to accommodate its Sunday crowds, Administrative Pastor Paul Parish took the opportunity to have an all-digital AV system installed, including a video-enabled AMX NXT-CV10 10in. touchpanel to control video switching and routing. Photo: John Nation

There was always room for expansion on the campus of New Life Church, a nondenominational congregation based in Louisville, Ky. Building its original sanctuary in 1984, New Life deliberately positioned the first building back from the road in order to leave room for future additions.

New Life indeed grew larger. By 2004, the sanctuary’s 340-seat capacity was no longer large enough to hold the entire Sunday crowd all at one time, so the church was running multiple services. It was time to make use of the space that had been set aside.

In 2005, Paul Parish, the administrative pastor at the church who also handles the audiovisual aspects of the ministry, started talking to AV integration firm PSG Systems in Louisville. The architectural plan was to construct a new sanctuary that would be attached to the existing structure. The original 340-seat main sanctuary would be repurposed, and new classrooms would be carved out of its wings. The remaining space in the original sanctuary was to become a multipurpose room, and the church would continue to use the space’s existing projector, loudspeakers, and 32-channel analog Soundcraft mixing console.

This meant that the new sanctuary demanded a completely new audiovisual and lighting system. New Life Church plays video content every week and about 40 minutes of music during a typical service, so Parish needed to get it right for the congregation. Over the course of the next two years, Parish worked directly with PSG Systems — rather than through the general contractor, who could then subcontract out the AV and lighting — to ensure an optimal system for the church’s reopening in August 2007.


The new sanctuary was designed to seat 925. New Life, which attracts about 550-600 people on a typical Sunday, again left itself considerable room for growth. The architects had designed the new building with no parallel walls. “Everything is curved or slanted,” Parish says. “The floor is sloped like a theater. The ceiling is sloped opposite of that. It not only slopes up, but slopes on an angle on both sides.”

Plans changed during the design process. Although the design for the main sanctuary was not affected, the plans for other new rooms would be. The requirement for sufficient parking meant that a secondary chapel had to shrink and the number of additional rooms, such as cry rooms, was reduced.

As the building design changed, so did the AV system design. “There had been a preliminary AV system design before we got involved,” says Jonathan Noffke, project manager for PSG Systems. “And then by the time the final design had been approved, it had changed entirely. It wasn’t a bid situation; it was more of a design/build relationship that started.”

In 2006, the AV system design discussion began in earnest. Ground broke on the new sanctuary construction in spring 2006. PSG Systems had to keep close tabs on the construction process to know if the company had to change its audiovisual plans. “During that entire period, I was at weekly or biweekly construction meetings,” Noffke says. “We had to be able to step in and say, ‘If you do this, it means this for the AV system.’”

For a smaller cry room and a smaller chapel than was initially planned, for example, PSG and the church decided to downsize the displays from projectors to 50in. plasmas and then finally to 42in. Sony FWD-42PX screens.

Minor architectural details changed somewhat late in the process, as well. New Life and the architects decided to install a wing-shaped object to mask the lightbar in the sanctuary so that the congregation wouldn’t see the backs of the cans that illuminate the stage. This created a challenge for PSG — the team needed to reposition the loudspeakers’ throws so they would avoid the architectural feature.

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Installation Profile: New Life, New Sanctuary

Jul 1, 2008 12:00 PM,
By Trevor Boyer

A church’s construction became an opportunity to integrate a new all-digital audiovisual system.

New Life’s design, which includes a sloping floor and a drop ceiling that threatened to obstruct loudspeaker throws, called for five Nexo cabinets hung with 3ft. to 4ft. of aircraft cable. Bottom photo: John Nation


During the time the building design was evolving, AV technology was also changing. PSG Systems ended up specifying and hanging five Nexo cabinets from three positions on the ceiling of the sanctuary. (It’s essentially a left-center-right pattern, but the church does not use it for stereo panning.) The loudspeakers are hung with 3ft. to 4ft. of aircraft cable to make them lower than the drop ceiling that would otherwise obstruct the throws.

Because the New Life regularly hosts concerts by traveling musical acts, there had been some discussion of a line-array system, but ultimately, that would have been too expensive and possibly overkill for what the church needed. (It also might have created sight-line problems.)

PSG specified Nexo PS15U 15in. two-way mains loudspeakers for two reasons. First was price/performance: Parish and PSG concluded that the Nexos were the best loudspeakers for what New Life wanted to spend. Second was coverage: Because the Nexos are one of the few loudspeakers on the market with an asymmetrical horn, they’re well-suited for the sanctuary — a wide room with a high ceiling (25ft. to 30ft.). From their positions on the ceiling, the cabinets’ narrow top (about 50 degrees) covers the back of the room, and the wide bottom (about 100 degrees) covers the front row. “We’re able to cover the front row a lot better without blowing a lot into the side walls at the back of the room,” says Chris Hermanson, lead installer and engineer for PSG Systems on the New Life project. “That would have created a lot of echo.”

Three Yamaha IF2205 dual 5in. two-way low-profile loudspeakers are mounted to the front edge at the center of the stage. These aren’t to fill gaps, but to make the pastor’s voice sound more realistic to the front of the room. “When the pastor’s standing at the pulpit downstage center, it feels more like his voice is coming from him as opposed to up in the sky,” Hermanson says. Two Nexo LS1200 SubBass subwoofers are built into the New Life stage, and five Yamaha P7000 units handle power amplification for the sanctuary’s system.

According to Parish, a PSG engineer who EQ’d the room after the installation of the loudspeakers was very happy with the coverage. “He was pretty impressed how well the other guys had done hanging speakers at such a trajectory that the whole room got filled, and how well the system sounded straight out of the box,” he says.

Parish says he runs the system between 85dB and 95dB, and the Nexo loudspeakers provide more than enough power for this. “I already run the decibel level a lot louder than what most of the older folks would like,” he says. “Because of that generation, I do pull it down considerably.”

Since the church’s reopening this past August, five touring bands have performed in the new sanctuary. When they first see the five cabinets hanging from the ceiling 20ft. up, they’re typically not impressed, Parish says, but the bands are more than satisfied when Parish pushes the system to 110dB.

Ultimately, the administrative pastor is happy with the sound of the main sanctuary — especially when he compares it to the old sanctuary’s sound. Its A-frame construction means a high, narrow ceiling where sound bounces around. Parish had stressed to the architects of the new sanctuary that the church really wanted an acoustically sound building. The new building is a definite improvement, with less reverb and no dead spots, but it’s not quite perfect. “Our system sounds incredible, but when it’s a single voice speaking, there is a little too much echo,” Parish says. “We’re looking at putting up some baffling, some panels that are decorative.”

PSG Systems specified a Yamaha M7CL-48 digital console to ease the learning curve of New Life’s volunteer operators. Photo: John Nation


A Yamaha M7CL-48 48-channel digital console sits at the front-of-house position in the sanctuary’s balcony, which has no seating. Besides Parish, all of New Life’s operators are volunteers. If they had any mixing experience before the sanctuary’s reopening, it was with the legacy analog Soundcraft board, on which every knob corresponds to a discrete channel. That’s not often the case with digital mixers, which often require the operator to page through menus in order to adjust the proper channel. So the goal for PSG Systems was to specify a powerful console that was relatively simple to use.

“The Yamaha M7 is a digital desk that relates well to an analog desk,” Hermanson says. “It gives you a fader for every input available all the time. If something goes wrong, you can reach over and grab that fader, pull it down.”

Analog mixers provide more tactility than digital boards do, but they don’t offer presets. These help the operator in two main ways. First, in case something gets screwed up, the M7CL can be reset with a few keystrokes. Hermanson says PSG Systems typically walks church clients through the first couple services. “We have one of our guys out there mixing,” he says. “We record it as the PSG Start preset and lock it, and say, ‘That’s what you go back to whenever you get problems.’”

Second, by creating EQ presets based on personal preferences and presets for common situations, the operators can spend less time doing repetitive EQ tasks. “We have different people that lead our music depending on the week,” Parish says. “High voices, low voices, raspy voices — and I can EQ their voice to a certain microphone and then save that out in our EQ library. And if they’re up there that week, it’s about a 10-second process to import that EQ setting.” Parish says that even if the OS crashes, he’s covered because all his presets are saved on a thumb drive.

Still, the digital console presented a considerable learning curve — not just for the volunteers, but for Parish himself. Even before construction was complete, PSG Systems trained Parish and a core group of operators on the M7CL at its office. In turn, Parish has trained the rest of the volunteers at the church. He says that he continually asked the PSG reps questions during the two months of the installation and for months afterward, whenever a PSG engineer showed up at the church to do some minor tweaking — which happened quite often soon after the new sanctuary opened. “Between the training they provided in the actual sessions and just the questions here and there, I feel, on a church level, very adequate,” Parish says.

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Installation Profile: New Life, New Sanctuary

Jul 1, 2008 12:00 PM,
By Trevor Boyer

A church’s construction became an opportunity to integrate a new all-digital audiovisual system.

The sanctuary uses a Vaddio WallView 100 single-CCD pan/tilt/zoom camera for IMAG capture. An AMX AutoPatch P37-0808-844 8×8 VGA/audio matrix sends the video to two Sanyo PLC-XT25 projectors and Da-Lite DaSnap 9’x12′ projection screens while the feed is captured to DVD simultaneously. Photo: John Nation


The large collective of musicians who regularly perform at New Life Church had already become accustomed to its Aviom mixers and in-ear monitors. The church already owned eight Aviom boxes, which attach to mic stands and output to headphones, but the church bought an additional five Aviom A-16II units through PSG. Integrating these 16-channel personal monitor mixers with the new Yamaha board required an Aviom MY16 interface for the M7CL. PSG also had to break out to analog the signals for the church’s first-generation Aviom monitors and re-encode them digitally in the equipment rack.

Besides the 16 output channels dedicated to the Aviom monitors, the Yamaha board also sends four channels to eight floor monitors, daisy-chained in pairs that each receive a mix. PSG specified four Nexo PS8U-PW 8in. two-way stage monitors to go with the church’s legacy floor monitors. The pastor uses two of these boxes to monitor his voice, and some singers prefer them.

Parish describes a service that featured both the regular New Life musicians and a visiting group. Sharing the Aviom monitors was no problem. “In the middle of service, in between the switching of people, we hit a couple of presets, and everything went from our settings to their settings,” he says. “It took about 5 seconds.”


A single video-enabled AMX NXT-CV10 10in. touchpanel in the balcony of New Life Church controls video switching and routing, the house and theatrical lights, and a Vaddio WallView 100 pan/tilt/zoom camera that captures the service for IMAG and for direct recording to DVD. The video operator is also responsible for adding text elements — information such as the speaker and the topic — to the audio stream of the Sunday service that’s webcast live. (It’s output from the Yamaha board via a Sound Blaster sound card, a Windows Media encoder housed on the church’s server, and the church’s modest Internet connection.) So that person stays quite busy.

Fortunately, lighting setups do not change too much from week to week, which makes it simple for the video operator to choose presets via the AMX touchpanel. Of course, it’s a different story during the church’s occasional theatrical programs. During Easter and Christmas pageants and some concerts, an operator directly controls a Lightronics TL-2448 DMX lighting control console. This drives two Lightronics AR-1202RTC 12-channel, 2400W architectural dimmer systems. PSG Systems specified and installed 12 Altman 360Q 6X16 575W ellipsoidal fixtures and 20 Altman SP-A Star Par cans.

As for the video system, two Analog Way OVF831 8×1 switchers select a video source from among the Vaddio WallView 100 single-CCD camera, two desktop computers (for song lyrics and the pastor’s PowerPoint presentation), and two DVD players (which show weekly announcements and other video that Parish produces).

The outputs of the two Analog Way switchers are routed through an AMX AutoPatch P37-0808-844 8×8 VGA/audio matrix, which sends one of the two video signals to the four Sony plasma screens (42in. and 50in.) around the complex and to the two rear-projection systems within the main sanctuary. These systems comprise two Sanyo PLC-XT25 4500-lumen XGA projectors with short-zoom lenses and Da-Lite DaSnap 9’×12′ projection screens. Why two switchers? Typically, the main sanctuary projectors display the PowerPoint, song lyric, scripture, and DVD content, while the flatpanels in the atrium and the nursing mothers’ room often display the IMAG of the stage.

Almost everything in the video system is connected via Cat-5 cable, which enables a high-resolution signal to be sent throughout New Life Church. PSG Systems chose Magenta Research 1×5 distribution hubs in order to send the Cat-5 signals around the facility. The bandwidth of Cat-5 allows the church’s computer-based content to remain in its native resolution (1024×768), and any future high-definition cameras won’t have to leave too much resolution on the table. PSG Systems says that one reason it specified Analog Way switchers is their variable-resolution output.

Parish says he does see the possibility of someday possibly upgrading the IMAG camera to a 3CCD system, although he chose not to spend the extra money this time around. Fortunately, PSG Systems thought ahead.

“If they do upgrade cameras, the camera that is at front of house right now — which is their one camera — would go to the wall onstage for the audience shot,” Hermanson says. PSG ran enough Cat-5 cable around New Life so that adding a camera will be a simple matter.

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