in April 2007
High Energy Worship
By Dawn Allcot
River Hills Christian Church 'cranks up' the technology.
The main entry area of River
Hills Christian Church, known as "The River," located
in Loveland OH.
In the past 10 years, the worship experience has changed. The Message remains the same, but many pastors present services akin to Broadway shows, capturing the congregation’s attention with passionate sermons punctuated by high-end multimedia effects.
This is no secret to audiovisual integrators, who have capitalized on this growing market to provide systems for worship facilities ranging in size from 200-seat sanctuaries in small towns to big-name “super churches” such as the well-known Willow Creek Community Church, which hosts 7200 congregation members at one time. Sound & Communications’ monthly “House of Worship: Technology” showcases the application of audiovisual systems in these facilities.
Even by today’s standards, River Hills Christian Church, in Loveland OH, sits on the cutting edge of technology and design. The difference is evident even before you enter the theater-style sanctuary. “The building looks more like a lodge than it does a church,” stated Thomas Rutledge, owner of Worship Resources, the audiovisual contractor that installed the building’s new AV systems.
The church’s lobby features a large glass wall overlooking a manmade lake on the campus. A waterfall in the spacious lobby, which is complete with a coffee bar, tables and plenty of standing room, adds to the ambience. A circular slide leads from the lobby into the basement, literally dropping kids right into the children’s ministry.
Inside the 650-seat sanctuary, a 30'x15' concave screen behind the stage dominates the view. The décor leans toward industrial, with black walls, hard edges and exposed trussing on the sloped metal ceiling. The sanctuary is cone-shaped, with a 24-inch drop from the back of the room to the front, while the roof has a 410° pitch from side to side, and a 110° pitch from front to back, creating a high ceiling over the stage.
River Hills Christian Church (RHCC), a non-denominational church outside of Cincinnati, celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. It was planted in 1997 by Pastor Jeff Metzger, still RHCC’s Senior Pastor.
The church started out as a “porta-church,” holding services in a local shopping center. It soon merged with another small congregation and set up a permanent residence. As the growing congregation ran out of room, the church once again moved to a larger “portable” facility.
In 2006, the church purchased an extensive plot of land and began constructing a permanent home. “The new facility gives them a number of things they’ve never had,” Rutledge said, “including the ability to expand within that facility.” Rutledge described the church as “fluid…what they did this week will be different next week.”
For this reason, the church technical staff required a flexible audiovisual system that would provide high-powered sound and permit creative video design. Technical director Raymond Bodley explained, “Where we’re headed in the church, from a technical standpoint, is to get closer to the entertainment industry….People expect that quality today. If you’re going to bring people into your church, you have to compete in that realm. Even if you’re doing a more traditional service, your sound system has to be better today than it would have been 20 years ago.”
‘Video on the Edge’
Worship services at the church congregation members call “The River” are far from traditional. With a style characterized as “rock worship,” The River presents high-energy services incorporating lively music and dynamic multimedia presentations, and stages a band that the church’s website says performs “everything from Bach to Bon Jovi.”
This high-energy contemporary Christian group features all the instrumentation of a rock band, including guitar soloists, keyboardists and drummers, but is not limited to one genre of music. “We do everything from blues to country,” Bodley said.
The new system allows the church to stretch its musical limits, and Bodley reported that they recently started advertising to bring in touring groups, as well. “We’re able to do anything we want on stage, musically,” he told Sound & Communications.
The church’s performance demands stretch the newly installed AV systems to their limits, but the new $130,000 systems deliver exactly what church leadership expects.
The church’s unique needs also stretched the building’s architect and the audiovisual integrator, Worship Resources, to the limits of their capabilities, but Rutledge was happy to face the challenge. “When a church is driving to be out on the cutting edge, it brings some unique challenges,” he said. “These projects are not for the faint of heart, and they’re not just for those who want to make a lot of money. When you’re doing ‘out on the edge’ stuff, you don’t always know if it will work out the way you expect it to. You love the end result, but it’s sometimes painful to get there.”
Long Hours, Extensive R&D
|The FOH booth in the rear of the auditorium houses the mixing console and rack with the outboard gear.
Rutledge noted that his company worked a lot of long hours, and did a lot of research and development in the field, testing the capabilities of the new system. “On projects like this, you’re doing things that stretch you as a contractor, and you’re stretching the manufacturers’ products to perform in ways they haven’t thought about, in some cases.”
Rutledge cited the video system, including Sanyo projectors, an EDIROL by Roland Video Presenter and a TV One C2-7200 video switcher, as some of the products stretched to their maximum capabilities.
With an 18'x32' concave projection screen behind the stage, designed to match the contour of the wall, the installer required a system to accommodate the concave screen, and a projector with capabilities to adjust the images to look “normal.” The Sanyo PLC-XF60A 6500 lumen video projector provides the brightness required, and the capability to install an add-on software card to perform morphing and warping of images on the screen.
The church also required picture-in-picture capabilities, seamless switching between multiple moving backgrounds and even picture-in-picture against moving backgrounds. The EDIROL by Roland PR-80 Realtime Video Presenter provides the church with instantaneous recall of digital video clips, or jumpbacks, while offering effects such as mirroring, colorizing and various switching effects for smooth transitions between images.
The backbone of the video system is the TV One C2-7200 switcher, which allows the church to select from a variety of sources, including video cameras for image magnification, a DVD player, several laptop computers or the EDIROL by Roland. The C2-7200 scaler/switcher blends the images between the two projectors for a seamless look onscreen, and opens up capabilities for multiple pictures-in-picture against a moving background. “They have the ability to do two pictures in picture,” Rutledge said. “They can have lyrics for a song and a video of their pastor, simultaneously, against a moving background, and position them anywhere on the screen.”
The C2-7200, based on TV One’s CORIO2 technology, provides frame rate conversion as a standard feature, enabling PAL and NTSC standards conversion. Two independent video processing and scaling engines, plus two video mixers, give the church tech staff the flexibility it requires. The system can operate in any one of three modes: switcher mode for basic processing and switching between a choice of 11 inputs; independent mode, which allows the operator to perform two tasks separately; and dual window mode, where any video input can be placed in one of two windows and controlled independently. Of special interest to River Hills Christian Church is the “edge-blending” feature, allowing the operator to align multiple images vertically, horizontally or both, and then create soft edges, or “feather-edging,” around any of the images.
The C2-7200’s companion piece, the A2-2000 audio switcher, ensures that sound from each source syncs with the video. “You take the audio feeds from all the different devices—the DVD, the laptops, the EDIROL by Roland—and as you switch from product to product, the audio switches, too,” Rutledge said.
The video systems are rounded out by a second Sanyo projector and Da-Lite motorized screen, provided by the client, placed in the back of the church as a video “monitor,” and several consumer plasma screens in the lobby.
The café in the lobby can be used to hold overflow services, with distributed video from cameras in the sanctuary onto plasma monitors: two 42-inch displays around the outer edge of the room, and four smaller screens on the countertops. The client wanted to keep sound isolated within the vicinity of the displays, so no speakers were installed in this area. “They did not want to blanket the lobby with sound,” Rutledge said. “They wanted it to be localized.”
The church opted to go with consumer-level video monitors to cut costs in an area where more powerful, professional-quality equipment wasn’t necessary. “We’re not running them 24/7, so they seem to be working just fine,” Bodley said.
|Monitors, mixers, controllers and switchers are found in the Video Tech Room.
When it came to the audio system in the sanctuary, River Hills Christian Church requested every bit of professional quality its money could buy. “They wanted extremely clean, in-your-face sound,” Rutledge said. The integrator specified the EAW AX Series, laid out in a left-right-center configuration, with two AX-966 boxes in the center for voice and one on each side for music. Rutledge added four SM109Z 10-inch floor monitors, and SBX220 dual subs, also on the floor.
Rutledge noted that he liked the tight horn patterns, the output levels and the quality of sound in the AX Series. “For that size building, it’s a really good install box,” he said.
The speakers are powered by QSC PLX1604 amps for high frequency, PLX2402 for mid/low frequency and a PLX3402 for the subs. A PLX1604 is added for the monitors.
Selecting an audio system was not without challenges, however. Noting that, “the only absorption in the room is the padding on the theatrical seats,” Rutledge called the room “very live.” Sheetrock walls, a metal ceiling and concrete floor create all kinds of reverberation. “We needed tight pattern control, and we wanted very clean output out of our upper boxes,” he said. Tight pattern control was even more crucial at the low end; Rutledge selected the SBX220 subs for their tight bass response.
Cut Acoustical Treatment
Acoustical treatment, originally specified for the sanctuary, was cut to manage costs. “When they put the treatment in, the sound system will be exactly what they need,” Rutledge said. “Right now, it’s probably a lot more than they need.” However, the integrator kept the room down to manageable levels through EQ and feedback elimination products, including a Sabine FBX1020-P-U feedback eliminator. “We’ve had to opt for some lower volume levels to keep reflection issues down,” Rutledge noted.
He selected an Allen & Heath ML3000 48-channel mixing console for its ease of operation, and for the features offered for the price.
Rounding out the audio systems is a Shure PSM400 in-ear monitoring system and Audio-Technica Series 4000 wireless mics. The mics include six AT-4000 handhelds with Artist Elite 5400 heads and two AT Series 4000 wireless body pack systems, with flesh-colored over-ear microphones. Wireless mics were essential, according to Bodley, because, in such high-energy services, ministers don’t stay in one spot on the stage. “You don’t even see the mic on them as they’re talking, but the clarity is so much better than what we had previously,” Bodley added.
Not only do the new systems fulfill the growing church’s AV needs, Worship Resources installed them under a tight time frame of four weeks, while church services were still going on and other contractors were finishing construction. “We were working while they were having rehearsals,” Rutledge recalled.
In a hurry to get out of its temporary facility, the church moved into the new building while construction was still taking place. Every Monday, work began, with contractors putting up sheetrock, sanding, running electrical and then cleaning up on Saturday in time for Sunday services.
“We did temporary wiring of snakes and signal cable to get them up and running,” Rutledge said. “Then, on Monday, we’d tear it all out so the other contractors could do what they needed to do.”
During this time, the church used portable AV systems because the installation products had not yet arrived. “They knew this going in,” Rutledge said. “They moved into the facility before we had some of the gear in our hands.”
Even so, Bodley and the rest of the church technical staff were pleased with both the end result and the overall experience. “Tom comes from a church background, and he understands the church mentality,” Bodley said. “I can’t express how important that is. He works diligently to accomplish everything you ask him to do. It is just a tremendous pleasure to work with him.”
Thomas B. Rutledge, founder, owner and president of Worship Resources, understands church audiovisual systems. He should. A graduate of the Cincinnati Bible Seminary, he uses projection, lighting and sound whenever possible in his music and teaching ministries.
In 1992, he launched Worship Resources as a consultation and installation firm to help churches expand their own technical ministries. Filling a growing niche in the AV marketplace, Worship Resources became a full-line AV dealer, offering product lines to houses of worship at substantial savings.
By 1996, the Cincinnati OH-based company had grown so much that Rutledge focused his fulltime energies on the company. Even today, Rutledge is active in ministry, on an interim basis, to stay in touch with the needs of the church market. He runs his business with the same Christian values he preaches, declaring: “It’s all a matter of good stewardship.”
Clients vouch for Rutledge’s skill and dedication. River Hills Christian Church’s Raymond Bodley noted that the integrator often worked long, odd hours to meet the deadline. Bodley has equally kind words for Rutledge’s wife, office manager Kathy Rutledge: “She instills confidence and gets things done.”
Worship Resources’ success on projects such as River Hills in Loveland OH; Plum Creek Christian church, Butler KY; and Tri-County Assembly of God, Fairfield OH, shows that even small integrators (the firm employs four to six people, depending on the time of year) can make an impact. Focusing on a niche market, and truly understanding that market’s unique requirements, sets Worship Resources apart.
For more information, go to www.worshipres.com.
1 Allen & Heath MixWizard WDZ3 16-channel mixer to run AV from control room to main board
1 Allen & Heath ML3000 48-channel mixing console
1 Aviom AN-16ii/M input module for Aviom system
2 dbx PB-48 patch panels w/pigtail to mixer
1 Denon DN-C550R dual CD burner/CD player
1 Furman Power Link power sequencer to control power on/off functions of all gear
1 Lexicon MPX200 effects processor
2 Littlite 18-XLR4-LED mixing console lights
1 Presonus ACP88 8-channel compressor
1 Raxxess ER16 16-space rack
1 Raxxess ER-8-space rack
1 Sabine FBX1020-P-U feedback eliminator
1 SurgeX SX1120RT 20 amp power conditioner
Stage Components, Wiring
6 Ace Backstage double floor pockets w/back box, plates, electrical receptacle, connectors (each box includes 6 mic inputs, 2 monitor mixes returns, 2 Cat5 connectors)
Horizon Music 56-channel audio snake w/Neutrik connectors
4 EAW AX396 3-way installation speakers
2 EAW SBX220 dual 12" subwoofers
4 EAW SM109Z floor monitors
1 Aviom A-16D distribution amp
1 dbx Drive Rack 481 4 in/8 out digital processor
2 QSC PLX1604 high-frequency stereo power amps (FOH)
1 QSC PLX1604 stereo power amp (monitor A/B)
2 QSC PLX2402 mid/low frequency stereo power amps (FOH)
1 QSC PLX3402 stereo power amp (subwoofer FOH)
1 Raxxess KAR-44-28 44-space locking rack cabinet
2 SurgeX SX1120RT 20 amp power conditioners w/remote switching
8 AKG C1000 wired mics
6 Audio-Technica AT 4000 wireless handhelds w/Artist Elite 5400 head
2 Audio-Technica AT Series 4000 wireless bodypack systems
2 Audio-Technica AT AT892 MicroSet mics
2 Audio-Technica AT3032 omni-directional mics for ambient
6 Aviom A-16ii personal monitor mixers w/Shure PSM400 in-ear monitoring
1 Chief RPA mounting bracket*
1 Da-Lite Da-Mat high-contrast 18’x32’ projection fabric w/frame to match wall contour
1 Da-Lite Cosmopolitan motorized screen for rear-facing projector*
1 EDIROL by Roland PR80 Realtime Video Presenter
1 R.L. Drake RF modulator
2 Sanyo PLC-XF60A 6500 lumen/1300:1 contrast video projectors
1 Sanyo PLC-7200 video projector*
1 TV One A2-2000 audio switcher for C2-7200 video switcher
1 TV One C2-7200 video switcher
1 TV One CC300 controller
1 TV One CorioScan scan converter
* supplied by owner
List is edited from information supplied by Worship Resources.
Dawn Allcot is a freelance writer specializing in the audiovisual and health and fitness industries.