In 1998, suburban Chicago Heartland Church began meeting in a rented auditorium on the campus of University of Illinois – Rockford College of Medicine. From the beginning, the church has relied heavily upon video teaching, presenting its religious lessons on a big screen during services.
By 2005, to handle these large services, Heartland purchased a 350-thousand sq. ft. shopping mall and began converting 150-thousand sq. ft. of it into a new church with three auditoriums. This called for a $4 million video production renovation in the main auditorium, with the church’s existing equipment serving the other two halls.
Heartland had relied on the Clear-Com party-line intercom system since the beginning. “With the complexity of services increasing, it was to the point that there was so much communication going on that it was getting confusing on a party-line,” said Brent Hayes, owner of SVL Productions, which contracts for video equipment integration, and serves as director of technical services for the church.
“With the shaders, camera guys, graphics, directors and producers on the same channel, it got very complicated to do a service,” he said. “We needed the ability to do point-to-point communication, which led us to Clear-Com’s Eclipse Omega matrix system.”
The ability of the Eclipse matrix in the main auditorium to work with the Clear-Com party-line systems in the other two auditoriums is key to Heartland.
The church also needed mobility for some of its production staff. For these crewmembers, Heartland bought five of Clear-Com’s CellCom wireless headsets, which seamlessly integrate into the Eclipse Omega matrix.
“Some of these crewmembers are producing for the main room, some of them are producing for the building,” said Hayes. “So they’re able to walk around and have constant communications with everything that’s going on.”
Since the CellCom headsets work like cellular telephones, handing off from one antenna to the next, the church has strategically planned placement of seven antennas to give the headsets connectivity throughout the new building.
As heavy users of wireless microphones, more than 30, that work in the licensed UHF band, Heartland Church also benefits from the fact that CellCom headsets work in unlicensed spectrum, where they cannot interfere with the church’s RF microphones.
Flexibility was a key feature the church looked for in its new intercom. Heartland’s video production staff ranges from full-time video professionals, who pre-produce video materials during the week, to a crew including volunteers who staff the weekend services. Hayes pointed out that the Eclipse intercom system does not force new volunteer crewmembers to learn sophisticated operating techniques for their intercom stations.
“The nice thing about it was that we were able to use the matrix system as a party-line system as people were getting used to what the buttons were and where everything was. Now they’re graduating into point-to-point communications.”
He noted that some members of the crew still prefer to operate in a simple, party-line mode, and that each crewmember’s intercom station can be customized individually.
For the producers, however, point-to-point communication is key. “If a producer needs to specifically talk to a person, they have the ability to do that privately, where before everybody had to hear that conversation,” he said. “Or if a producer wants to talk with everybody, they can push a button and do that too.”
“Mike Rucker (Southwestern/Midwestern Regional Sales Manager for Clear-Com) helped with a lot of the design elements to make sure we had all the bits and pieces in place, and had everything we needed. The installation was actually a breeze, very simple, very clear in what we needed to do. We did have Clear-Com come in and help us with the mapping, because it’s fairly complicated and complex. That was money well spent, because the system has the ability to do a lot of things, and this way we got more out of it than we might have if we’d tried to configure it ourselves.”