Upgrading a Church Audio-Visual System

How to do it right!

We are moving into a new building, how can we have a great audio-visual experience? We need new equipment, what and where should

we buy it? How come our church sound does not work well?

These are some of the many questions that church leaders keep asking themselves regarding Audio-Visual systems. So, how can a church make the right decisions regarding these systems?

Let me show you how. This article is based on my experiences working with different churches of different sizes, styles and expressions. Many a time, the Audio-Visual subject is a source of many questions and frustrations. However, I have also been a part of and seen churches that seem to have cracked this code. So, here below are my few pennies on how to get it to work! This article is taken from the first part of a talk I did recently at a House of Worship Audio training in Nairobi, organised by Sound Creations Limited.

How to get an Audio-Visual Installation/Upgrade right!

. Consult a Systems Integrator/Consultant

If you are planning a system for a new building or thinking of overhauling your existing system, then you need to consult with an expert in this field. You need to see a systems consultant. We do this in every other area of our lives, when building we seek architects, when faced with a health dilemma we seek out a doctor. Now, I am not saying for every decision, we seek help. There are some small issues for which you will not need to see a consultant, say you want to buy one extra microphone. This is a one off headache, for which a pair of paracetamols will do!

However, when considering a serious Audio-Visual decision, you need to consult with a professional integrator. Five reasons for this;

–        You don’t know enough! The world of technology has grown exponentially in the last couple of decades. There are so many vast technologies around and unless you do this for a living, you probably are not aware of half of these technologies. A consultant would be able to know what would be the best fit for you. For example, it may simply look obvious that you need a speaker, but there are so many things to consider like the SPL, dispersion pattern, power usage, amplifier type, how it will work with other speakers and fit in the room acoustics etc…this alone shows that there is a lot of work that goes in this process that you are probably not equipped enough to deal with.

–        You don’t have the time! To come up with a perfect system for a venue, a lot of time goes into the design process. As mentioned, there are many factors to be considered, meaning a great deal of time needs to go into the thinking and analysing of various options to come up with the best solution. Now, unless this is your full time job, I do not think you would have the time to dedicate to this work. I have spent hours, days and even weeks coming up with a system design that will work for different venues. I am sure your boss will rather not have you spend a month just going through different systems!

–        You will waste money on your own! The chances of you spending on what you do not need or some technology that is good but irrelevant to you are high. I have even seen people buy things online that they thought were cheap, only to find that they do not integrate with their existing system. They then end up having to spend a lot of money changing the whole system or end up with equipment they bought but never used. I have been to church stores with equipment that was bought but has not been used. Save yourself the trouble of wasting money.

–        You are setting your team up to fail! There are very few churches, in fact I only know one in the region, that have the technical manpower to handle a systems overhaul or upgrade completely on their own. They have a full time team of 10 technicians, 4 of whom have over a decade’s experience each in installing systems. The reality is, this is less than 1% of the churches, the rest have a volunteer team of engineers. There is a difference between an engineer and an integrator/consultant. Asking them to do the job, only for them to be held accountable if it goes wrong is setting the team up to fail. For such reasons, I have seen well meaning technicians leave the church, wounded. To protect the team, get an integrator, who will work with your existing team. That way, if something goes wrong, you don’t have to shoot your team.

–        You will have to live with the facility for a very long time! If not for any other reason, I would suggest that an audio-visual system installation is done right for this one. You will spend a very long time with the facility, and for that reason, it is just nice for it and the systems in it to be a source of joy and not frustration. When building ones house, one does everything to get it right, because no one wants to spend the rest of their lives in a house that is a big reminder of a wrong decision. Same thing applies to the church; let your new facility be a source of joy and inspiration and facilitate the ministry rather than being a stumbling block.

Hope I have now helped you see the need to consult with a systems integrator. Like a doctor, the consultant is the specialist but you will work together with them to get this right. Here below are some of the things you will discuss for them to help you make the right choices.

Note: As you look for a consultant to work with, previous experience with church systems will be very helpful. Church sound is different from Club experiences, or an Outdoor gig. Someone who has work experience with churches will be much easier to work with and will more readily understand your needs.

o    What is the mission of your church and will this technology help advance it?

o   Do you have a technical team, or will there be need to recruit? If you have a team, how can training be arranged to familiarise them with the new system?

o   Will this new technology lead more people into worship or will it be a distraction?

o   How should this new system be better than the existing one?

o   What is your style of expression so as to know the system capacities required?

o   Do you have a budget? Are you able to finance this or do you need options to help you acquire the system with a payment plan?

o   What are the acoustic dynamics of your space and will that require some treating?

These are some of the questions you will discuss to help you get started.

With this approach, you should be all smiles by the time the project is finished. Remember, this is a team effort – your Tech team, the consultant, your building team and the leadership of the church.

Vincent Kasule is a Systems Consultant with Tech Ease Systems and also consults for Sound Creations Limited. He has also worked with churches before in different capacities like Mavuno Church in Kenya and Uganda, Watoto Church in Uganda and New Wine Church in the United Kingdom. He is married to Ciiru and they have a 21-month old son called Musabi who wants to be a drummer when he grows up!

Contact: Vincent Kasule

                 Tech Ease Systems




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