One of six North Point Ministries churches in the Atlanta area, Gwinnett Church recently completed construction and outfitting for a new worship center on its campus.
The center’s main sanctuary, named the Theater, is a rectangular 1300-seat auditorium that features the latest audio, video and lighting technology to provide a completely absorbing worship experience. Installed by Clark of Atlanta, Dallas, Austin and Los Angeles, a key component of this technology is a Martin Audio MLA Compact loudspeaker system that provides uniform coverage for every member of the congregation inside while controlling noise overspill outside the building, which is located a few hundred feet from a residential neighborhood.
Asked to describe a typical Sunday service, Gwinnett Technical Director Adrian Varner says, “We usually start with an announcement video about the service and upcoming events, not all communications from the stage are verbal. Sometimes we’ll have a music video as a fun attention grabber, before moving into one of three songs and a transition before the sermon.
“Because we are a North Point Ministries Church, we’ll have lead pastor Andy Stanley speak to us on video via fiber. He generally speaks 40 to 42 Sundays a year with Gwinnett pastor Jeff Henderson speaking to the audience live on other Sundays.”
A five piece electric band (two guitars, bass, keyboards, drums) with two to four worship leaders who also handle vocals provides “rock and roll style” music for the contemporary praise worship services. The audio, video and lighting systems are intended “to break down the wall between the stage and audience and bring that stage experience directly out into the audience,” according to Varner.
“With the style of worship that we’re doing, I’m trying to have an experience that really surrounds you. It doesn’t just feel like it’s coming at you from the stage, but you feel really absorbed in it as it happens all around you.”
A big part of this experience depends on the sound, which explains the choice of a Martin Audio MLA Compact system with eight enclosures a side, four DD12 for outfills and eight DD6s for front fill.
“We have a DD12 outside of each hang for front of congregation and one DD12 a side for the back of the hall,” Adrian adds. “The eight DD6s are mounted on the subs under the stage.
“Our room is 150 ft. wide by 75 ft. deep and, as a rectangle, it can be hard to provide uniform coverage to the far extremes. We’ve been able to achieve that coverage extremely well. The system has exceptional clarity for speech and we needed a system for music reproduction that could comfortably hit 100dB (A-weighted) or greater with enough headroom, which MLA does easily.
“We also wanted to provide smooth, even coverage from front to back, not just in terms of volume, but consistent tone for every seat in the room. I don’t want anyone to feel it’s too bright where they’re sitting, because it’s not fair to have people seek out certain seats in the audience so they can have a consistent tone experience. We don’t have that problem with MLA.
“Also, the volume is loud enough where people can sing comfortably and not be afraid that the person in front, behind or alongside will hear them, so they can be more engaged in the singing without worrying that they don’t have pitch-perfect voices.
“I absolutely love the MLA Compact system, Adrian enthuses. “I mix Front of House and have found it to be the most enjoyable system I’ve ever mixed on. One of the things I continue to hear from people who come up to us, both professionals and audience members, is how smooth and clear the system is. How clear the top end is but it doesn’t hurt, there’s no harshness to it, which for me is a big selling point for this system.”
The audio system also includes DiGiCo SD10 consoles for FOH and Monitors, a Neve 5045 Portico Source Enhancer and a selection of Shure, Sennheiser, Royer and Radial wireless and wired microphones.
Gwinnett’s sophisticated video system is based on Digital Projection Titan projectors for side and center, with Panasonic AK-HC931 and HPX-10 cameras; a Ross Carbonite 2ME production switcher; Harris 96x96 router; Clear-Com Matrix for communications; Harmonic message playback, and a Renewed Vision Pro Video Server and Pro Presenter.
The lighting system includes a Jands Vista L5 console; Arkoas MediaMaster media server; ETC Source Four (zoom, ellipsoidal, and parnels) and ETC Sensor 3 for key lighting; Martin MAC Aura and MAC Viper lights; Chauvet Tri Tour and Epix Strip 2.0 LED lights; a Pathport Octo for distribution, and a ChromaQ Inspire 2 for house lighting.
In addition to providing consistent coverage for every congregant, the MLA system also solves a critical noise overspill problem for the church. There is a residential subdivision located a mere 300 feet behind the back wall of the auditorium and building.
Knowing this would present a problem given the high decibel audio for early morning sound checks and services, the church specified walls with three inches of concrete, two inches of Styrofoam, and three inches of concrete, with four inches of lightweight poured concrete on the roof. Although this “does a good job of keeping the sound inside, some still leaks out a bit, especially during soundcheck at 6am on Sunday when it’s pretty quiet outside,” according to Adrian.
“Because of MLA’s amazing control, we’re not only covering the seated section very well, but also actively keeping sound off of the roof and the back wall. And with a situation like ours where we don’t have 18 boxes a side, it’s tough to get that control over those low mid frequencies, but MLA has really been a huge help. Ever since we’ve been up and running, we haven’t gotten any noise complaints from the neighbors. And with all of those electric instruments and vocals, things have been pretty lively on stage, so the kind of control we get from MLA has been a big help.”
Houston Clark, co-founder and principal of the installation company that recommended MLA, echoes those sentiments when discussing the project: “Clark has partnered with North Point Community Church for over 15 years. During that time, we’ve built a significant amount of trust. We were asked to help them solve a unique problem with their new Gwinnett campus. We had to develop an audio solution that met their very high sonic requirements that would also minimize sound ‘bleed’ into a nearby housing subdivision. After researching the design parameters, we knew Martin Audio could give us the results we were looking for. The MLA speaker line was a perfect fit. We could literally steer the sound away from the areas we wanted to avoid without in any way degrading the sonic experience.”
Summing up the Church’s reaction to the MLA Compact system, Adrian concludes, “Everyone that’s heard MLA has been incredibly pleased with it. Our music director brings in music directors from other campuses, and he’ll always ask me to turn on the sound system and show them what it can do.”
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About Martin Audio®
Founded by audio engineer David Martin in 1971, Martin Audio pioneered the use of all-horn-loaded bass designs in world-class touring loudspeaker systems for groups such as Pink Floyd, ELP and Supertramp. Located outside of London, Martin Audio now embodies a sophisticated mix of acoustic design, research, mathematical modeling and software engineering for a wide range of products in the installation, cinema and touring sound markets.