On Easter Sunday 1980, Saddleback Valley Community Church in Lake Forest, California held its first public service, with just over 200 people in attendance. Twenty-eight years later, Saddleback is touted as one of the nation’s largest congregations, with a weekly attendance of over 22,000 and more than 200 ministries serving the church and community.
Saddleback now encompasses four campuses, each equipped with state-of-the-art audio and video systems, and the church maintains an active presence on the web, thanks to the efforts of a media-savvy technology department. Saddleback’s Lake Forest sanctuary was recently treated to a major audio upgrade, with the help of Case Sound Solutions and the church’s former senior audio engineer, Wally Grant. Grant and Case Sound installed two 96-input VENUE Profile systems into the church – one at FOH and one at the monitor position – along with a Pro Tools|HD system at FOH. They also installed a 96-input Pro Tools|HD system and Avid ICON D-Command console in the church’s recording room, which also features a dozen Avid PRE microphone preamp units that feed six Avid 96 I/O audio interfaces.
After researching all the live sound options, Wally Grant and FOH/monitor engineer John Wilson, both long-time Pro Tools users, found VENUE to be the best overall choice for the church’s varied audio needs. “I believe the VENUE system is as good, or better, than any console on the market today, digital or analog,” Grant offers. “The D-Show software allowed us to have the system configured even before we received our consoles. Since the systems have been in place, their performance has been 100% reliable.”
John Wilson adds that the dual VENUE systems are ideally suited to the church’s wide-ranging needs. “Any given week here can include sermons, services, concerts, conferences – you name it. VENUE’s snapshot automation enables us to save and recall settings for individual songs and speakers. We have a number of engineers using the system, and the ability for them to store their shows on their own flash drive is very helpful.”
Wilson says the church’s pastor of worship, Rick Muchow, prefers the monitor console to be at FOH position during weekend services, so the room was designed with that flexibility in mind. “The system is configured so we can relocate the monitor desk at the traditional stageside position when needed, and the Profile console is light enough to easily move it.”
The church’s recording engineer Mike Mierau, another Pro Tools veteran, says the move to VENUE and ICON systems was a logical choice. “We’ve recorded on Pro Tools for some time now, and being able to take a feed directly from the (VENUE) FOH system into the ICON in the studio is a huge advantage.” Mierau then edits the sessions on the recording room’s Pro Tools|HD system using a D-Command console, streaming the services live and archiving them for future downloads. The Pro Tools|HD system at FOH also records the services for use with VENUE’s Virtual Sound Check.
The system at front of house features a VENUE Profile console that handles 96 inputs and 16 outputs, plus two HDx Option Cards installed in the system’s FOH Rack that allow for up to 128 tracks of audio recording or playback through the connected Pro Tools|HD system. The monitor system features a Profile console configured for 96 inputs and 24 outputs, plus two ANO A-Net Output Cards installed in the system’s Stage Rack that provide a direct interface between the VENUE system and Aviom remote mixers for personal monitoring. A Pro Co Sound Momentum digital snake provides line and mic signals to both the front of house and monitor Profile systems, as well as to the Avid PREs in the recording room.
Feedback from Saddleback’s technical crew has been overwhelmingly positive, though no one is surprised. “We knew in advance this was the right way to go,” says John Wilson. “The only surprise at this point is discovering that we can do even more than we’d anticipated with the systems.”