By: Carol R. Emmens
Mega-churches, those having 2000 seats or more, have been in the forefront of using audiovisual systems for dramatic effect in their services. Their music systems rival those of performing arts centers and rock tours, featuring state of the art projectors, multiple large screens and stage lighting. But now smaller churches, especially “satellite” churches, synagogues and numerous houses of worship (HOW) of all sizes are utilizing AV to inform and engage their congregants. Is your house of worship ready to add AV systems or to upgrade the ones you have?
State of the art AV/IT is important because houses of worship are trying to attract congregants especially the millennials. Attracting and keeping congregants is a multi-fold, ongoing project. For example, the younger generations often view an organ as old-fashioned. Planning to implement a more contemporary slant to your worship service? If so, the electric guitars, synthesizers and drums require speakers that can handle the more ‘rock’ type sounds that will be incorporated. There are also congregants who prefer a more traditional service. Does your audio system handle that as well?
And they are not the only audio issues; high cathedral ceilings often make intelligibility an issue. The congregants want to hear and understand the sermons, prayers, and announcements; consequently a house of worship needs several types of microphones. And even though not required by law as in other public buildings, having assistive listening devices available for your older congregants may be a worthwhile investment.
Does your house of worship have a website? With the astounding proliferation of social media, it is the best and most cost effective way to post events whether it’s a potluck dinner, Bible study, or discussion of the Torah. Often a website is less expensive than print media and more accessible. Before attending a service the vast majority of people “visit” the house of worship online and they expect to find clear, concise information about the style(s) of worship, children’s programs, and schedules.
But people want much more when they visit a website – they are accustomed to the “wow” factors of social media. Do you have the ability to post video? Do you have a link to Facebook? Do you have a YouTube™ account? Who will produce the video and what equipment do you own? It is not enough to use your smartphone or iPad camera to record a video; the congregants do not expect the quality of a high-definition Hollywood movie, neither to they want to see a choppy, poorly lit video that screams “amateur.”
Once the congregants arrive at the house of worship they want the same AV technology they have in their offices, educational institutions and homes. They want to read the words to a hymn on a large screen, and sometimes they will need to see and hear the service or wedding ceremony in an overflow room. Hundreds, even thousands, of handicapped and senior congregants who cannot attend the house of worship want to see what they are missing on their flat screen televisions or tablets in the comfort of their living rooms while they sip a cup of coffee.
To achieve all the AV/IT goals of today, the systems are complex and intertwined; for example, the camera lights cannot wash out the screen(s); the speakers cannot transmit feedback – and these are only two potential problems. All components must work together as a whole to complete the desired presentation.
The first step to incorporating audiovisual technology is to define your goals for each aspect of the project and determine the budget. In addition, it is typically difficult to install audiovisual equipment in a house of worship. It is possible an engineer will need to provide an analysis of the structural integrity of the facility, e.g. is it possible to hang heavy speakers from the beams or do they need to be reinforced? There are many factors to take into account: Is the electricity adequate? Is the network up to par? Is there storage space for components that don’t need to be seen?
The cost of audiovisual equipment has declined and manufacturers have brought new products into the market to address the needs of the house of worship clients. But generally a HOW relies on volunteers for everything from baking cookies to maintaining the website to operating the AV/IT systems. That places an emphasis on installing systems that are easy to use and easy to control. Controls range from pushing a button to amplify a microphone to handheld remotes to iPad systems that control all the equipment with a few clicks.
The components of an audiovisual system – audio, display, lighting, recording – need to be robust, flexible and seamlessly integrated. That takes working with an experienced audiovisual company at every stage of the project. Call on Zeo Systems for a free consultation to help you set your goals and meet them.