by: Carol Emmens
As the holidays approach, the spotlight—sometimes literally—will be on how houses of worship communicate and how they present their pageants, holiday shows or services.
The audiovisual systems will be more important than ever. They will be expected to have the highest level of resolution and fidelity in their stereo systems, projectors and flat screens, and even their own phones, tablets or digital cameras.
They will be expected to be easy to use, and to offer the capabilities of video capture and distribution. Often that is not easy to achieve because of the challenges of a house of worship’s design and construction (e.g. hard surfaces and high ceilings).
Now is the time to evaluate the equipment that the church owns and to assess whether or not it needs to be retrofitted or enhanced based for how the audiovisual systems will be used:
- To Support “Conventional” Prayer
- To Enhance Theatrical Presentations & Contemporary Services
- To Archive Sermons and Guest Speeches on CD’s or DVD’s
- To Stream Services or Project Them in an Overflow Room
Now is the time to evaluate the acoustics, to review the sightlines for video and computer displays, and to determine who will operate the audiovisual systems.
At a minimum a good, high-quality sound system is needed to ensure that clear intelligible speech is heard regardless of where anyone is seated. Houses of worship are not required by law to provide Assistive Listening Systems (ALS) as other public buildings are, but they are a plus.
The largest segment of the population is the Baby Boomer generation and approximately 30% of those over the age of 60 have some level of hearing loss. If they have issues hearing the service, not only will they not receive the message your pastor is trying to convey, but it is likely that they will lose interest in attending the service altogether.
Ideally, a well-designed audio system supports clear speech and music. However, there are systems that need to be retrofitted for contemporary “rock” services, which are increasing in number. Often this can be done easily and affordably.
For example, they may need to add an automatic audio mixer or sub-woofers, which adds the deep bass sound missing from most speakers. An automatic audio mixer senses the sound levels, and can make adjustments in real time to volume. It can also balance a group of microphones for a band, choir or stage production.
An automatic audio mixer does have limitations and it cannot compensate for acoustical issues inherent to your building. Sometimes acoustical panels are also required to absorb “noise”.
Nowadays, video projection is just at home in a house of worship as in a corporation or a school. High resolution, adequate brightness and accurate colors are expected on both the large screens and the flat panel displays that are used to project the words to a hymn or song, a video, a schedule, or other announcements.
An audiovisual expert needs to determine the projector lens and brightness needed for the location and structure of the facility to ensure both an exceptional image without destroying the aesthetics of the facility.
The cost of flat panel displays has dropped so they are often used to display announcements, directions, and even photographs of special events, provided there is adequate staff or volunteers to keep them up to date.
A high-resolution LED flat screen provides a very creative way to add a back drop or stage set for enacting vignettes, religious stories, or to display the service in an overflow room.
Streaming both live and archival video meets the needs of all age groups, and helps expand the size of congregations within the community and beyond. It presents a unique opportunity but raises a few questions:
- Do you have a camera? Does it have the features needed?
- Do you need more than one camera?
- Do you have a budget for it and for a video selector/mixer?
- Do you have a camera operator(s)?
Streaming allows baby boomers who are unable to attend the services due to aging, injury any other physical limitations to take part in the service.
The “Now” Generation—or Generation X, along with Generation Y—want the service available when and where it is convenient for them. The Internet is so pervasive that many people “sample” religious services to find the one they like best.
Streaming allows relatives and friends who are unable to attend an event the opportunity to see weddings, bar mitzvahs and christenings, and makes them feel that are a part of the event.
Many congregations report that streaming increases donations as the congregation has grown. It also provides data about who is watching and what are they watching. It is then possible to tailor the streaming to the needs and wants of the congregation.
Installing or retrofitting an audiovisual system is dependent on the budget. Don’t forget to include service and maintenance.
If the budget is modest, financing the equipment from one of our available financing sources, such as Global Finance or Direct Capital, is an option. If direct purchase or financing of new equipment is not in the budget, consider a short-term rental as a possible option.
To ensure a track record for safety, it’s important for the rental company to be certified as a mobile stage rental company.
Consumer grade or consumer equipment, while usually less expensive than professional products, is sometimes viewed as a way to save money. However, there are important factors to be considered. Typically, consumer products are less durable and dependable than professional models. Most manufacturers’ warranties for consumer products are often null and void when the equipment is used in non-consumer applications and contractors will sometimes refuse to install it.
Whatever your audiovisual system budget, it is worth a house of worship’s investment whether the facility services hundreds or thousands.
Even a modest budget allows a house of worship to make the best use of the technology and the facility. Sometimes the addition of a piece of equipment or rental of equipment alone can make an impactful difference.