Hidden Technology with a Modern Impact

First Presbyterian’s new AV system modernizes this 1957 church facility while retaining the beauty of the classic church architecture.

Many long-established churches are facing the same challenge that First Presbyterian Church of Greenwood, SC faced: a desire to move into more contemporary music and drama, yet a technical infrastructure designed for basic speech.

Founded in the late 1800s, and in a sanctuary built in 1957, the church reaches a largely white-collar group of people, with a diverse range of ages. “We jokingly tell folks we’re full of doctors, lawyers and bankers,” states Reverend Dr. David Mayo. “We have a very diverse range of ages – we’re very healthy in that way. We have many children and young families, as well as a very active senior citizen ministry as well.”

With the age of the facility, it’s not surprising that the church did not have appropriate audio and video systems for contemporary music. Not having to be concerned about sound reinforcement beyond the spoken work, the sound system was very limited in its capabilities. “We simply had a sound system in a closet,” Mayo describes. No video system was installed, and the lighting was very rudimentary. The system was turned on in the morning, and left alone with no audio tech to run it.

About one decade ago a lighting system was installed to provide more visibility to the platform, and with the desire to add a praise band to the Sunday morning program, it was time to throw away the key to that sound closet and bring in a system that could handle a new musical repertoire as well as drama ministry. In addition, the church wanted to bring video projection into their services, as well as a way to provide DVD copies of the service to members.

They put the project out to bid to three firms, and Hames Pro, a company with whom the church already had a history, came in as the most reasonable bid and was awarded the contract. Located in Greenville, SC, the firm had done several installation projects in the past.

Audio Design
“One of the biggest challenges in designing a system for this facility was the long reverberation time from the hard surfaces,” states Hames Pro Owner Russ Moore. With 30-foot ceilings and an 80-foot throw distance from the speakers to the back wall, finding a loudspeaker with the right throw pattern would be critical in reducing reverberation. With the beautiful architecture of the sanctuary, it was important to control reverberation through pattern control instead of hanging acoustical treatments on the walls.

In order to provide hands-on control of the audio system, a balcony mix position was selected. The new mixer, video camera control and Multimedia computer would all be located in this new production booth.

Tannoy Q-Flex loudspeakers appeared to have the coverage pattern needed, and the local Tannoy dealer brought in the speakers for an on-site demo. Moore was pleased with both the sound quality in the venue as well as the small footprint. “We custom-matched the cabinet paint to the existing wall color and you hardly notice the speakers, even though they are in plain sight,” Moore comments.

Two Q-Flex16s were hung approximately 15 feet above, and at either side, of the main stage. Two Renkus Heinz SGX eight-inch speakers are used for stage monitors, and JBL Control 29AV speakers are used to provide overflow sound in their Chapel.
Crown CDI series power amplifiers were chosen for their quiet operation as well as built-in DSP (digital signal processing), providing EQ, limiters and delay that otherwise would need to be handled by additional processing hardware.

For the church’s first audio console, two 16-channel PreSonus Studio Live digital mixing consoles are linked together via FireWire to create a 32-channel mixing system. “This provides an easy-to-use digital interface,” adds Moore, “allowing the users to save presets and scenes for late recall.” For microphones, Audix 1255W mics are suspended from the ceiling to capture the choir, and Audix Microbooms were selected for mic’ing handbells and children’s programs.

Video Design
With the sanctuary being fairly light with lots of stained glass, bright projectors were desired to get the best possible image. Two Eiki LC-X80 projectors were installed in a front-projection configuration, projecting onto two Draper Targa retractable screens. “We picked the Draper Targa screens for their clear image and quiet motor design,” explains Moore. “The screens are recessed into custom made valances painted to blend with the sanctuary.” The screens are lowered only when needed for that portion of the surface.

There was no good option for hanging the projectors directly in front of the screens without dangling them at the end of a long pole from the ceiling – not an aesthetically pleasing option. Part way through the project, Moore discovered Flexible Picture Systems’ Image Anyplace 3D. This hardware system provides video image processing which might be described as anti-keystoning on steroids – able to correct the geometry of the projected video for when a projector of off-center in either vertically or horizontally. Using this system, the projectors could be mounted off to the side, and yet still provide an image perfectly squared to the screen. With the projectors mounted on the side walls, they are invisible to most of the seats in the sanctuary.

In order to provide video to their chapel for overflow needs, as well as to create DVDs of their services, Vaddio WallView 70 PTZ standard definition cameras were selected and installed. The cameras are controlled remotely and switched via a Vaddio ProductionView FX console. The console provides a joystick for controlling pan/tile, enables you set 12 presets for up to six cameras, and provides switching between the cameras.

A Kramer VP-728 switcher controls what video is sent to the projection screens, providing the ability to switch between the media computer in the booth, DVD player, the Vaddio camera switcher output and a computer input on stage. Kramer Pt110 and Pt 110 CAT5 video transmitters and receivers, along with Kramer Vp8 distribution amplifiers, provide video signal distribution over inexpensive CAT5 computer networking cable.

In order for the choir to see what is happening during the service, two 42-inch televisions were mounted on the side walls of the choir area, and are also fed via the Kramer switcher.

To help reduce clutter in the production booth, the tech team came up with the clever idea of attaching Velcro to the backs of the remote controls for the various pieces of video gear, and now the remote controls are neatly hung on the size wall of the balcony next to the video position. Their easy to grab and use, and are kept organized and out of the way when not needed.

Installation Challenges
Any renovation of an existing facility will present difficulties, and this installation was no exception.

“Some of the challenges we faced included wiring access in a 54- year-old church with a lot of crown molding,” says Moore. “We also had the challenge of completely relocating all of the sound equipment and wiring from the closet behind the stage to the balcony. The aesthetics challenge was to make the installation as transparent as possible. The hiding of the projectors was something that plagued us throughout the installation, until the Image Anyplace solution was discovered.”

Words of Wisdom
Moore has some suggestions for any church moving from traditional to contemporary worship and needing to install their first serious AV system. “Plan out what your goals are for when the system is installed. Don’t settle for a lesser product because of budget. It may take a little longer to get to your desired goal by saving or raising more money, but you will be grateful for not having settled. Also, appoint one person in the church to work with the installation and design team. Tommy Wilson at Greenwood First Presbyterian was a valuable resource for us, as he knew the ins and outs of the building and often helped us gain access to areas in order to install wiring.”

Jim Kumorek is the owner of Spreading Flames Media, providing video production, photography and writing services. He has also been an editor at Church Production Magazine, and a church technical director responsible for audio, video and lighting systems. He can be contacted at james@spreadingflamesmedia.com.

— Writer’s Anecdotal Story —
I had the pleasure of visiting First Presbyterian Church to shoot photos for the article in this issue of Church Production Magazine, and greatly impressed by the aesthetics of the AV installation performed by Hames Pro. The church received a new sound and video system that blends in so well with the architecture of the beautiful sanctuary that you truly don’t realize that most of the equipment is even there. From the horizontally offset video projectors and retractable video screens with custom valences, to the loudspeakers and remotely-controlled video cameras, Hames Pro did a remarkable job of preserving the beauty of this 50+ year old sanctuary while bringing the technical systems up to modern needs.

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Russ Moore, CTS
Hames Pro
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hamespro@gmail.com

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