Light and sound systems: more than flipping a switch : Friday, Aug. 6, 2004
August 6 2004 by Jane Paige

Light and sound systems: more than flipping a switch : Friday, Aug. 6, 2004
Friday, Aug. 6, 2004

Light and sound systems: more than flipping a switch

By Jane Paige
Special to the Recorder

Gone are the days of flipping a switch or turning a dial for the lights and sound inside church sanctuaries. Today, state-of-the-art systems are helping to illuminate and broadcast Sunday morning services, holiday concerts and community performances.

Selecting the right light and sound systems for churches can be challenging, confusing and expensive, experts agree. Early planning, research and communication can help ease the process for church members, architects and builders.

"Today, people are expecting quality lighting and sound no matter the size of the church," said Stan Howell, planning specialist with ADW Architects of Charlotte. "The demand for such systems is in high gear now across the state. We are seeing more and more churches wanting pretty sophisticated equipment and systems."

Early in the overall planning process, church leaders and members are being encouraged to decide on the function of the lights and sound system in the new sanctuary or facility. Lighting and sound for elaborate musical pageants several times a year can be very different from what is needed at weekly worship services. The availability of money for both systems also is a critical factor since state-of-the-art equipment can be expensive. An industry estimate is that at least 9 percent of the total construction cost could be allocated for sound and lights, Howell said. This means a $3 million project could include $270,000 for the two systems.

The earlier the architect knows the sound and lighting priorities, the better, Howell said. Today many churches are hiring lighting and sound consultants. It is also important that these specialists get involved early with the design of the new facility.

"We have had some churches that come back to us after the design phase is complete and want to change the shape of the sanctuary in order to add screens and lighting," Howell said. "Obviously, it would have been much better if we had all this information from the start."

Members of Oakmont Baptist Church, a 900-member congregation in Greenville, knew they wanted the latest in advanced technology for their $5 million sanctuary and facilities that were completed last year. Small group meetings held several years ago resulted in top quality sound and lighting systems being a priority for the new facility. ADW was architect for the project.

"When we built the facility, we got the very best systems we could afford at the time," said Steve Harding, Oakmont's minister of media, arts and children. "We know that as our world changes, if churches do not keep up with the technology curve, people will just tune it out."

Sound and lighting consultants were involved with the Oakmont project from the start. David Evans with Sound Advice of Eastern North Carolina began working with the design team in January 2002.

"Oakmont knew they wanted the latest technology for their new building," Evans said. "Many hours were spent putting their audio-visual needs on paper and planning so nothing would be overlooked."

Sound Advice installed supports for its hardware before the sheet rock was placed. Due to the height of the ceiling, the company had to hang the main speaker cluster before the large construction lifts were taken out of the building.

"Churches minister in both word and music," Evans said. "It is a challenge to get the sound balance just right so both ministries will work. Frequently we are just faced with a building with bad acoustics that we have to work around the best we can."

Stephen Ellison, a lighting consultant based in Apex, worked with Oakmont on its lighting system. He is also a writer for the magazine, Technologies for Worship.

"It is important to know what churches are trying to do with the space in terms of lighting," Ellison said. "If they are going to be on television, if they want productions in the space, it is critical to have all the information on their plans."

Both Evans and Ellison agree that church members are becoming savvy about sound and lighting systems. The Internet is loaded with sites on both topics.

"Churches used to not have anyone with any technical ability, but that certainly has changed over the years," Evans said. "Today, more churches are hiring technology people like Steve at Oakmont to handle their systems."

Lighting and sound are a work in progress each Sunday morning in the Oakmont sanctuary. Four volunteer technicians are needed to operate the systems for the worship service that is also broadcast on the local cable television channel.

There is a 40-channel audio board in the main sanctuary and a 32-channel audio board for the television control room. Cameras are on remote controllable tilt heads for mastering DVDs of the service. They also have a series of switchers for distributing the video signal. Two screens that retract into the ceiling are used for computer graphics for the main congregation and one projector is available for the choir. Architectural and theatrical lighting is controlled by 98 dimmer banks. Several televisions are located throughout the building to broadcast the sanctuary events.

Video clips from movies like "Bruce Almighty" and the popular Andy Griffith television show have been shown on the screens during worship services, Harding said. He meets weekly with senior pastor Greg Rogers to coordinate the sound and lighting for the services.

Oakmont's use of theatrical and stage lighting has dramatically evolved through the years.

"We started out with some clip lights hanging from a metal pole," Harding said. "As our ministry has grown, we have worked to be proactive and develop an excellent system. We want to continue to grow and develop as our congregation does."

8/6/2004 12:00:00 AM by Jane Paige | with 0 comments

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