How to Harness the Technology Uplifting Churches Around the World.
Churches of varying faiths and denominations around the world are embracing technology in record numbers, transforming the traditional worship service into a colorful, amplified mix of lights, sound, video and multimedia. Many congregations, however, have found their advanced equipment complicated to use, often resulting in frustrated staff and an increase in technical glitches during worship services.
An integrated control system solves this problem. All of the church’s electronic equipment can be easily operated using a touch panel with a graphical user interface customized to meet the unique needs of each church. These systems are so easy to use, they can even be operated by volunteer staff after only a few minutes of training.
So what type of equipment can be controlled, and what makes up the system controlling it?
Just about anything with electric current running through it can be managed with a control system, but equipment in a church usually includes devices from any or all of the following areas:
Audio: CD players, cassette decks, amplifiers, mixers, speakers and microphones
Video: TVs, DVD Players, VCRs, video switchers, projectors and screens, cameras
Lighting: Lights, dimmers, lighting boards and systems
Computers: PCs, laptops, wireless access points, the Internet
And if needed: Window Shades, Security Systems, Climate Controls, and more.
The Control System
A control system consists of two main components that work together to communicate and manage the controllees – the controller and the user interface device.
The controller is the nerve center for the system. It connects to all of the devices being controlled and tells each of them what to do. This can include telling the lights to dim to a specified level, the projector to turn on, or the computer to begin playing a video clip.
The User Interface
The user interface device is the conduit between the controller and the end user – it enables the user to tell the controller what he/she wants the system to do.
The most common user interface device used in churches today is the “touch panel, which consists of a customized, interactive screen that allows users to select graphical images by literally touching them. Each touch is then translated into a command that is sent to the controller, which then communicates with the individual device. This whole process occurs in a matter of seconds.
For example, to power on the DVD player and start video, you would likely touch a picture of a DVD player on the touch panel, which would immediately take you to another screen with options for play, pause, stop, rewind and fast-forward. Once here, you would tell the system to begin playing the DVD.
What Can These Systems Do?
As discussed earlier, a control system has the power to centrally control all of the functions of any device connected to it. This means powering equipment on or off, lowering or raising volume, fast-forwarding and rewinding, even focusing cameras – anything that the device is built to do can be controlled by the user via the touch panel.
Another significant benefit of a control system for churches is automation – i.e. the ability to simplify a complicated or cumbersome multi-step process. By touching a single button on the screen, for example, you can:
– Power up CD player and begin playing track four of background music before the service begins.
– Bring house lights down gradually in six timed sequences before service begins.
– Lower two projection screens and turn on rear projectors for warm-up.
– Bring up volume on lectern microphone
– Angle and focus five remote cameras on minister at lectern and various audience shots.
– Switch video image of minister onto projection screen one and create a split-screen of four different audience members on screen two
– Lower house lights to lowest level
– Lower background music, stop CD player and power CD player off.
– Return full control to the administrator
In addition to managing all of the devices in the sanctuary, a control system can control any number of devices located in other rooms throughout the facility or in other associated buildings, such as chapels, conference rooms, classrooms and youth centers.
Can I Program/Operate The System Myself?
End-users should not attempt to program a control system. Rather, they should work with a manufacturer-certified systems integrator to design, install and program the system. The integrator will work closely with you to ensure the system components and the graphical user interface are customized to meet your church’s unique needs.
Once the system is programmed, the graphical interface on the touch panel is so intuitive, virtually anyone can operate the system with little or no training.
When Is The Best Time To Add A Control System?
While it is certainly never too late to add a control system, systems that are incorporated into the earliest stages of facility design will undoubtedly provide more options at a much lower cost. Retrofitting an existing facility, however, can be accomplished when working with an integrator that has extensive retrofit experience.
How Can I See a System In Action?
Any authorized control system integrator can demonstrate the benefits of a system. Once you see how easy a control system is to work, and the nearly limitless possibilities it offers, its return on investment should be clear.