Posted in practice on January 1, 2016 4:11 pm EST

Winning Specification

Two AVL designers, winners of past WFX Solomon Awards, disclose how they helped church clients achieve their visions for immersive worship spaces -- and the AVL gear they specified.

Asbury UMC, Tulsa, Okla., image courtesy of AE Global Media.











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TAGS: audio, avl, avl design, design, integration, lighting, sustainability, video,


By Dan Daley

Houses of worship share the same ultimate goal: engage congregants as deeply as possible to enable them to better grasp the message they want to communicate. AVL technology offers churches an increasingly deep toolbox with which to accomplish this. But there’s more to it than just putting up bigger video screens or louder sound systems. These systems need to be individually tailored to each facility architecturally, thematically and aesthetically.

Those that achieve these goals are the ones likely to pick up awards for their work, such as WFX Solomon Awards. Here, Church Designer magazine details two such church projects and their designers, learning how they matched technology to specific worship needs to achieve a winning synergy.

Asbury UMC’s Immersive Solutions

Asbury United Methodist Church (UMC) in Tulsa, Okla., won a 2014 Solomon Award from WFX for Worship Technologies. Donnie Haulk, CEO of AE Global Media, the Charlotte, N.C., AV integrator the church contacted to renovate its sanctuary, recalls that the church was struggling to overcome physical and perceptual barriers between the pastors and the congregation.


“Inside, there was a space between the stage and the audience that separated them by more than space,” he says of the church’s old stage, which elevated the pastor during sermons but that also created an emotional gulf between them. In addition, the church’s existing lighting was insufficient for its video needs, making the sanctuary on video look dark and uninviting. “It looked like a cave,” says Haulk, because of poor lighting and camera placement.

AE Global Media redesigned all three systems. These included five new 20,000-lumen digital HD Titan projectors [from Digital Projection] and a video server driven from the Jands Vista lighting console, while audio was boosted with a new EAW sound system mixed through a Midas Pro 9 FOH console [owned by Behringer; distributed by Starin]. But the real solution was more than the sum of these parts.


To overcome the barrier, AE Global brought in Churches By Daniels, a local construction firm that executed Haulk’s new stage design, whose salient feature is a thrust that allows the pastor to walk deeper into the seating area and create a more engaging presence while still remaining elevated enough for the entire congregation to see him. (That image is reinforced with an image magnification, or IMAG, image on screen.) And the new sound system was chosen based on its ability to provide a great deal of power through highly directable speakers, and with a high degree of gain before feedback, allowing the sound pressure level (SPL) to be higher and the wireless microphone used by the pastor to go further into the audience without creating a feedback loop. This combination of louder, more specifically aimed sound was done to permit the pastor to talk in a more conversational manner, which helped overcome another perceptual barrier.

“It’s a psycho-acoustical phenomenon: we tend to talk louder when we perceive the listener to be further away,” Haulk explains, noting how he was even doing that unconsciously as we spoke on the phone. “It strains the vocal chords and makes it feel as if the audience was being shouted at. With a more powerful sound system that could be aimed exactly where we wanted to put the sound, the pastor could lower his voice and become more conversational with the people. It’s amazing how real that effect is.”

The topper to the remake of the church’s sanctuary renovation was the inclusion of projection mapping (i.e., environmental projection), which envelops 330 feet of the front and side walls of the worship space, covering the walls of the 2,800-seat auditorium with moving and still images from the video server through the projectors. Now congregants will see stained glass windows appear on the walls or whales float through a sea that immerses them, adding a stunning graphic element to accompany sermons. In fact, the result is so effective that Haulk recommends that churches that employ graphics like this also consider bringing on staff someone with the ability and talent to create new graphics as time goes on.

“We created a [technical] template that they can just drop new graphical elements into in the future, to create new projection scenes,” he says. “Being able to do this themselves lets them add depth to stories and to put their own touch on them.”

The projection and IMAG video systems were further complemented by a new LED lighting system, and all the AVL systems are sync’d through the show control system to allow a multimedia experience: moving-head lights and LED washes will enhance the effect of the projection mapping as prerecorded sound effects play in time to the visuals and the worship band plays to a synchronized click track.

“It creates a really sensory-rich environment,” says Haulk. “What the church is doing is creating an experience that draws people in and engages them with a look and sound that’s unique to their church.”

Free Chapel, Limited Choices

Free Chapel, the church of pastor and author Jentezen Franklin, was expanding. Its original Gainesville, Ga., site and its newer satellite campus in nearby Suwanee, in Gwinnett County, both needed substantial AVL upgrades. The process was complex—Free Chapel’s main 3,000-seat facility campus in Gainesville, opened in 2004, also originates television content for Franklin’s Kingdom Connection broadcast ministry to a worldwide audience.

Free Chapel, Gainesville, Ga. Photo by Moyers Group.

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