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Houses of worship have become home to some of the most sophisticated high tech professional audio/video systems designed and installed today. To design the right system, there are many things to consider, such as safety, performance and aesthetics.

Many houses of worship are utilizing two-piece projection systems to deliver bright, crisp, detailed images to the congregation while services are being held. This type of projection system is also being utilized to provide choir members with lyrics in large scale on screen. Two-piece projection systems require that a projector be mounted to the ceiling using the proper ceiling plate for the application.

There are several choices when considering how to attach the plate to the ceiling. Some installations are performed in an open architecture environment, with beams that require a ceiling plate that is capable of pitch adjustment, due to a cathedral-type ceiling. Others need a flat ceiling plate that can be attached to the ceiling by bolting the plate to a flat surface. Others may require a “drop ceiling” adaptor plate. This is a plate that can sit above acoustical ceiling tiles, secured by guy wires and safety cables.

Cable routing and electrical connections have to be considered when engineering/designing the installation of a projector.

The second part of the two-piece system is the screen that the image is projected onto. Most screens are attached to a support beam or a wall, allowing the screen to be securely mounted for safety and optimum performance. Most screens used in these situations have electrical motors and some type of remote interface, both of which require the need to get wiring to the screen.

Ambient light can cause the picture to be washed out. If there is an inordinate amount of ambient light, it must be controlled through some type of window treatment. These can be as simple as pull-down window shades or drapes, and as elaborate as a motorized window covering that is activated whenever the projector is powered on.

In addition to the use of projection systems, flat panels are often an integral part of the video system. Flat panels, both LCD and plasma, are being installed in the narthex as digital signage to provide the content of the service being held.

Some things to be considered when selecting a flat panel display include:

• The size of the display (will the display have text information displayed for long periods of time, such as worship schedule, special events, etc.).
• Will the display be utilized for PowerPoint type presentations to reiterate the content of a service?

If the content is going to be information containing a great deal of text, displayed statically for long durations, then an LCD panel would be the best choice, since LCD panels do not suffer from “burn in” as plasma screens do when an image is left displayed on screen for long periods of time. If power point presentations are to be part of the content, then LCD panels would again be the best choice in flat panel technology.

For viewing of the services being held at a given time, plasma technology is desirable. Plasma screens handle live action very well and generally have better contrast ratios and are more affordable than their LCD counterparts.

Once a decision has been made on the size and type of panels to be installed, the type of mount is the next consideration. Questions here include: Will the panel be wall mounted? If so, do you need a flat wall mount, a tilt mount, or will you need a cantilever mount?

Flat wall mounts are best suited for panels that are installed in a manner where the center of the screen is at approximate eye level to the viewing audience.

Tilt mounts are best suited for panels that are going to be installed where the screen is mounted above eye level. The tilt feature allows the screen to be angled down toward the viewing audience for the best performance. Tilt mounts are also useful where glare due to sunlight may be a factor, because the screen angle can be adjusted depending on the time of day to avoid the picture being affected by sunlight.

A cantilever-type mount is appropriate when the panel needs to be pulled out for viewing and then pushed back flat against the wall when not in use. Cantilever mounts are also a good solution in providing viewing capabilities to two different locations, depending on where the viewers are located, (one location at a time).

If wall mounting is not an option, then a ceiling mount must be utilized. Ceiling mounts are available for mounting either a single panel or two panels mounted back to back. All of these mount types have choices that facilitate mounting the panels in a landscape or a portrait orientation.

Landscape is where a panel is mounted with the length of the panel on the horizontal axis. This is best suited for “normal” television viewing.

Portrait is where the panel is mounted with the length of the panel mounted on the vertical axis. This is the best choice when the panel will be used primarily as a digital sign, displaying schedules or information that is text based.

Once a mount type has been selected and the location(s) have been determined, the next step is to ensure that the wall or ceiling is structurally sound to facilitate a safe installation. Wall mounts must be secured into wall studs, closely following the manufacturer’s installation guidelines. The ceiling mount must be bolted to a solid ceiling joist or a ceiling that will support four times the weight of the mount and panel assembly. The ceiling mount must also be secured in accordance with the mount manufacturer’s installation instructions.

Cable routing and access to electricity must be considered when undertaking such an installation. Many times an electrician will need to be brought in to bring AC power to the panel locations. Aesthetics are a primary concern, as well, if the installation at hand is a retrofit application. It is virtually impossible to hide the cabling the entire length of the run. There are many different choices in aftermarket cable management products that will do a good job of concealing wires and cables that cannot be hidden in an attic or pre-installed conduit or cable chase.

Once the video has been designed, getting audio to all areas serviced by visual display is the next part of the equation. Speaker choice and placement are just as critical as choosing the correct visual display. Most speaker systems used in house of worship applications are 70 volt high impedance speakers which allow many speakers to be integrated into the system and powered efficiently with the appropriate 70 volt amplification.

Speakers must be securely mounted in an aesthetically acceptable manner and in locations that will allow the system to provide intelligible voice reproduction and deliver choir and background music to the congregation as it was intended.

Just as there are different types of mounts for visual display, there are many choices for mounting speakers. Speakers can also be either wall or ceiling mounted. Generally it is easier to conceal speaker wiring if the speakers are ceiling mounted, as the wires can be hidden in an attic or overhead chase. Cathedral ceilings are the exception here. With cathedral-type ceilings we do not have the luxury of using the existing construction practices to aid in concealing wires. In this case, a conduit or aftermarket cable management product is the best choice. Many of the cable management products are paintable to match the existing color scheme.

Depending on the size of the speakers and the manner in which they are installed, it may be appropriate to include a safety cable attached to the speaker and secured to a different structural point than where the speaker mount is secured. The speakers are constantly vibrating when in use and over time can come loose or vibrate in such a fashion to compromise the integrity of the installation. In this instance, safety cables are invaluable. Most manufacturers include these guidelines in their installation manuals.

With the right amount of research, there is tremendous opportunity to design and install a world-class audio video system in your house of worship.

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