Choosing Church AV Systems

06.21.13

Communication. Getting your message across. This is what your church is all about. Making sure you have the proper Audio/Video system in place is paramount to this goal. Designing the correct Audio/Video system can be a daunting task, but with the right personnel and information it can be done correctly the first time.

Get It Right the First Time

Most churches will have three or more AV systems installed before they get the one that actually does the job. Avoiding this pitfall can save you time, money and headache.

The first system is put in when the building is built. Often times designed by the electrical contractor on the job or subbed to a local AV contractor. While great at installing lighting and power systems, the electrical contractor or local AV contractor usually doesn’t have the expertise in things such as room acoustics, speaker/microphone placement, signal routing/processing, video signal type, projector brightness/screen size & location guidelines, etc. The result is often poor speech intelligibility, feedback, image size not large enough or bright enough and problems with signal compatibility.

The second system is usually designed by a well meaning member(s) of the praise team. They know people who work in the local music stores and are current with the latest “pro” technology. While the best of intentions are put into play in this scenario, the specific technical knowledge necessary to properly design a church AV system is still not up to par. A great AV system employed by a local music store most times does not come close to what a house of worship needs to communicate with the congregation.

This brings us to the third system, or hopefully in your case, the first system. With the third system the church decides to bring someone in who is knowledgeable in room acoustics, sound system modeling and all of the other intangibles that cause problems with AV. Someone who communicates with the pastor, leaders of the technical, worship and praise teams prior to doing any design. And finally, someone who can take that input and design an AV system based on the needs of the congregation and is independent of any product manufacturer.  This person is an AV/Acoustical consultant.

The AV/Acoustical Consultant

The AV/Acoustical consultant is an expert in audio and video systems design. They represent no manufacturer and derive no compensation from any vendor. They are work as the church’s technical representative on the design team. An AV/Acoustical consultant works with the architect to integrate your AV system into your space.  They coordinate the AV system with the designed room acoustics, lighting and architecture of the space.

AV/Acoustical consultants help develop a budget for the AV system, provide all system drawings and specifications to allow the system to be competitively bid, oversee system installation and provide system commissioning.

Acoustics

Working with the architect, the AV/Acoustical consultant needs to answer many acoustic questions before an AV system design can begin:

How can we best design the shape of the room to meet the congregations needs and provide a satisfactory acoustic environment?

Should any of the floor be carpeted?

Is there an acoustic need for pew pads?

What are the best wall/ceiling finishes to use to create the correct acoustical environment?

How is ambient light affecting video playback and image magnification?

Is a proper HVAC design being employed to keep the space quiet?

Once the acoustic requirements of a room are answered, the AV/Acoustical consultant can move on to actual system design. Using computer modeling and expertise, the AV/Acoustical consultant will design an AV system that meets the needs of the congregation, provides optimum audio intelligibility, musical clarity, visual brightness, proper image size and is integrated as much as possible into the building’s design.

The A in AV

Audio is communication. Providing your church with a proper sound reinforcement system is paramount to getting your message across.

The sound system needs to provide good intelligibility for the spoken word, clarity and dynamic sound for the musical components of worship, even sound coverage throughout the congregation and balance between the choir and praise team.

Loudspeaker choice and location is critical in performing these tasks. Integrating the loudspeakers into the architectural design of the room is also very important when considering a sound reinforcement system design.

Sound systems should be carefully designed utilizing the acoustical data and parameters obtained during the acoustic design of the room, in conjunction with electro-acoustic modeling and other required calculations, to accurately predict the performance of the sound system in terms of frequency response, sound coverage and speech intelligibility.

Video

Video is becoming more and more an integral part of worship communication. The digital age is upon us and your video system needs to designed with this in mind.

The video system should provide proper image size and brightness so the entire congregation can participate in the message. Multiple signal types (HDMI, VGA, component, etc.) need to be combined, formatted and routed so the resulting image is clear, clean and without artifacts.  Integration of the video system into the room design using projection lifts and electric screens can maintain aesthetic integrity when the system is not in use.

The use of cameras for image magnification and distribution is becoming more common in all types of churches. Determining the proper camera type and location, recording medium and distribution process all need to be incorporated into the video system design.

Control

So you have these great audio and video systems, how do you manage them? A properly designed control system can help reign in all of this wonderful technology and place it at your fingertips (or  tablet computer). From audio mixing consoles and video production switchers to touch panels, laptops and tablets, there are a myriad of ways you control all aspects of your AV system.

The key to successful control system is proper integration and programming . All components need to be able to communicate using the same platform. Programming needs to be done by a qualified programmer to ensure that the system functions as designed and is easy to use.

Have Confidence!

Getting your message across with confidence is the reason you have any AV system. Bringing the right personnel in at the beginning of your building project can turn what has often been an ongoing headache into a success the first time.

There is an adage among AV/Acoustical consultants– “Nobody notices the AV system unless something goes wrong”. Having an AV/Acoustical consultant on your design team can greatly reduce the instances of “something going wrong” with your AV system from the beginning and let you concentrate on the important aspects of worship.

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