By: Anthony Faranda and Mark Gorczycki
Integrating multimedia systems into worship spaces must be looked at from a global perspective of how the message will be delivered to the congregation. All of the elements of these vastly complex systems have different perspectives depending how you are involved with the worship experience.
It is not feasible in the context of this article to look at the entire process. However, a lot can be learned by looking at one aspect closely and understanding that this level of complexity is occurring many times over when applied to multiple interfacing systems.
This same level of understanding and perspective will apply to all of the systems. One of the many facets of this complex array of technology is the speaker systems used as part of the audio system. Speakers are electromechanical transducers, and, as such, there are numerous considerations that go into achieving the proper balance and tradeoffs between quality sound, aesthetics, ease of use, cost, and physics. Physics is the one immutable law that seems to fight designers when making all of the above decisions. There is no silver bullet when designing speaker systems.
There are a number of areas that need to be explained in order to grasp the big picture: the final design. The first area is the designerís perspective. Simply stated, each of the following elements affects the final design and rests on the knowledge, experience, and personal preferences of the designer.
The following are a few of the considerations that affect the ultimate design. Enter the perspectives of:
The sound engineer
From the sound engineerís perspective, the rig must sound phenomenal and respond to the minutest adjustments. Cost and aesthetics are not a concern. (Some systems may not have an operator.)
From the audienceís perspective, any one person must be able to hear everything perfectlyónot too loud, not harsh, and, above all, intimate and natural sounding. The audience does not want to see the system or have it interfere with their experience. Cost, technology, and all aspects should be totally transparent.
From the musicianís perspective, the sound must be musically balanced. Timber, harmonic content, inner detail of the voice and instruments must be impeccable. Cost, aesthetics, and technology may be of some interest, but are not of paramount importance.
The engineer or scientist
From this personís perspective, how the system works, the physics and mechanics involved, are critical, as well as how it measures. The engineer or scientist may want to design the silver bullet in an effort to achieve technical perfection. Sonic performance and aesthetics are less important.
Finally, donít forget the manufacturer, as well architects, boards of trustees, interior designers, pastors, and music directors. They all have their own perspectives and priorities.
One of the key aspects of sound system design is transparency. Visual transparency is critical; I have learned that sound systems you canít see tend to sound better. Sound systems also need to be audibly transparent in that you donít notice the PA speakers talking; you hear and listen to the person speaking or performing and not the sound system. Systems that have this quality sound more intimate and personal and create more of a one-on-one experience than a ďPA system.Ē
For example, I was in a church the other day that I have never gone to before. When the service started, there were two women who were singing beautifully. When I looked up from what I was reading at that time, I had to look around the venue to see where they were. They were standing off to the side of the magnificently large pipe organ, but their voices were coming from the speakers hung in the high ceiling area. They sounded like angels from the heavens, but I donít think that is what this church had in mind. This is just not natural; the system should have covered the venue in a way that my attention was not drawn to speakers hanging from high above but to the women singing their hearts out for everyone. You are talking to your people, not the speakers talking to your people. It should be like you are talking in your living room and your guests can hear every word coming directly from you.
There are many different aspects of what needs to be done to do the job right when it comes to A/V in your place of worship, but what you really need to look at is what your congregation is going to be seeing and hearing.
From the young child who is interested in what is being shown on the big screen to the elderly person who would like to hear the ďWordĒ and message of what you are trying to get across and everyone in between, your spoken word is what needs to be heard, as well as the emotion conveyed with it. Remember that you didnít stay up last night writing your sermon for your own good; it was for your people.
Most individuals will not realize that they didnít hear correctly or that they didnít see what was on the screen; they just know that maybe they just didnít quite get the message you were trying to get across.
You need to find a company you can work well with and one that will understand what you are looking for. That said, you need to know what you are looking for. Have a meeting with your decision-making people, put it on paper, and make it happen.
Here are some things to consider when looking for a company to work with you to get the job done right the first time.
* Their reputation
* The overall details of their business Ö.
* Their past work
* Training and follow-up
* Service contracts
In the technical world, this is a big job to get right. The company you hire for designing and ultimately installing your integrated multimedia systems is going to be your partner for a long time. There are many aspects to consider when putting multimedia into a venue: the size of the room, acoustics, angles to the seated and standing congregation, ambient light, ambient noise, RF (radio frequency) interference, and program content. Seeking out a competent design build company or consultant is most certainly the surest way to a successful outcome. There are too many disciplines that need to be brought together for this to be a do-it-yourself project.
Anthony Faranda is co/owner designer and Mark Gorczycki is sales and marketing coordinator for A-Line Acoustics, www.a-lineacoustics.com.
Picture courtesy of:
Fellowship Bible Church
Integrated Systems Group
St. Louis, MO