By Marcus Hammond
What goes into a successful, fully operational A/V system? What is really required to make church happen? At Pleasant Valley Baptist Church, it has been quite the journey to arrive at a place where the A/V systems are truly operating at an optimal pace and the church is reaping the benefits. Pleasant Valley is located in the northern suburbs of Kansas City, MO, and has a weekly congregation of around 4,000 attendees. The main campus in Liberty, MO was opened in 1997 and has capacity of 1,700 seats in the main Worship Center. Each weekend, we provide three unique worship service experiences in the same room, with various worship styles.
Like many churches, Pleasant Valley has been on a journey over the last 16 years to improve the audio system to serve the needs of an ever-changing scenario that fully facilitates various worship styles and speaking types. So often, churches buy the wrong audio system on their initial build because they don’t consult with the right experts or have staff in place that truly understands what is required both immediately and in the future. In 2001, we installed our second PA system which is still in service to this day, in some forms, and consists of JBL Venue series speakers, Crown Macro-tech and Micro-Tech amplifiers. In 2010 we replaced our old DSP with a BSS Soundweb London system that is the backbone for control of all audio distribution throughout our 200,000 sq. ft. campus. The BSS Soundweb is also the PA in the main Worship Center auditorium.
In 2010, we also introduced an Allen & Heath iLive T Series audio console for FOH mix, as well as an additional console for a broadcast mix location. We had been using an Allen & Heath ML5000 48ch analog console, so the progression to the iLive workflow, terminology, and concept was very natural for our all-volunteer team of audio engineers. Each iLive system consists of an T112 control surface and an iDR48 MixRack which offers 64 channels of input DSP and 32 mix buses.
Due to the large number of sources during services, 64 input channels are necessary to control the mix from the main stage. At some services up to 12 wedge aux mixes, 4 stereo matrix mixes, and 8-10 16ch Aviom personal mix stations are utilized. Monitors are all mixed at the FOH position, primarily for space and style reasons. The stage is set up with 14 floor pocket locations, offering 136 XLR inputs, all fed to an analog patch bay, which allows any stage input to be patched to any input channel on either A&H iDR48 MixRack at FOH or in the broadcast Control Room suite.
Pleasant Valley primarily uses Sennheiser wireless microphone systems, with 14 active systems in the main Worship Center. Across our campus there are nearly 50 wireless mic systems, all operating successfully in the 500MHz and 600Mhz wireless spectrum without interfering with each other. With a campus over 200,000 sq. ft., this becomes a huge benefit in avoiding wireless intermodulation.
Audio is distributed to various zones throughout the building via the BSS Soundweb London DSP system and is controlled via many London remotes in each distributed zone. Master control and routing on a laptop runs HiQ London Architech at FOH. With this setup, control and basic automation (Foyer, recording distribution, etc.) and proper DSP (delay, auto leveling, compression, EQ) for each zone can be attained for the best experience for any listener in any area.
Over the next 3 years, we will be upgrading the PA in the Worship Center with new speakers and amplifiers to improve audio quality and energy consumption, and will be moving away from our current personal mixing system to the Allen & Heath ME system to improve flexibility and audio quality for each user.
We have been blessed with lighting volunteers, some serving for nearly 30 years at multiple sites, that are incredibly proficient and know what really works – sometimes by trial and error, but always holding the standard very high.
From 1997 through 2007, our stage was lit fairly traditionally with a primarily white, even wash, set up on a three-point “grid” of sorts, comprised of mainly ETC Source Four Pars & Ellipsoidal fixtures, and a few color scrollers. It was driven by an ETC 72/144 Lighting Console, dimmed via two ETC Sensor Racks and limited to one DMX 512 universe. In late 2007, PV moved into the world of multiple DMX universes as well as intelligent, LED, and other multi-channel fixtures. The console was replaced with a 2-universe Entertainment Technologies ILC Marquee console, which was soon discontinued.
In early 2012, was ready for a control console that freed up the lighting programmers to really explore what could be done with lighting. The Jands Vista control system we purchased with a Jands S3 console, 2,048 DMX channels (4 universes), and DMX distribution via copper, wireless, and ArtNet perfectly meets our needs. Dual 21” touchscreen displays are used to encourage a tactile creative experience as opposed to always using a mouse. They utilize many intelligent and LED fixtures – Elation Platinum 5R Pro (6), DesignSpot 575e (4), and Vari-lite VL1000 (6). The LED fixtures used are primarily less-expensive RGB Chinese fixtures for color accents with no video flicker and at a price point where replacement is always the better option than repair.
Lighting is an ever-changing department full of exciting visual opportunities. The lighting system seems to adapt and change as musical styles and production needs change. As new LED technology is emerging, PV is planning a transition to RGBW LED house fixtures, with the goal of creating a truly immersive experience that extends beyond the stage and is a wise act of stewardship regarding annual energy costs.
When our Worship Center auditorium was constructed in 1997, the first video system consisted of a single 1,200 lumens CRT projector on a 20’x15’ center screen, with song lyrics and sermon content only on-screen. No cameras, other than an SVHS camcorder for archive recording. The system was 100% composite video with cable runs well over 200’ feet. No IMAG – even though it was greatly needed – and no vision for video in a time where available cost-effective video technology was emerging.
At Pleasant Valley, the farthest seats from the stage are around 120’, so clearly seeing the face of the person speaking or worship leader became a huge step in helping people connect with the content driven from the stage. Realizing that IMAG was a necessary step toward the expanding vision for the church, we introduced an SD and analog system in 2003 that we used for years. 16×9 aspect ratio side screens were added in 2008 in addition to the center screen, and primarily displayed videos and song lyrics and began the scenario of multiple video zones simultaneously displayed for each service.
In 2011, we moved into the world of HD video, introducing a 100% HD-SDI infrastructure with a 72×72 Ross Video NK Series HD-SDI Router as the backbone of the new system. This gave PV a huge amount of flexibility to route video signals between rooms, sources, switchers, recorders, and more.
The main video switcher in the system is a Ross Video 2MLE Carbonite, which is fed by four Panasonic HPX-370 ENG/manned cameras, and up to four Panasonic HE-50 PTZ automated cameras. Router destinations include: five HD Panasonic projectors (three for front display, and two for confidence displays), three 42” plasma displays on the floor near the stage for confidence and Pro Presenter stage display; various recorders, encoders for ATSC RF modulation and distribution; fourteen 47” LCD displays in the Commons/Foyer areas; and remote locations including feeds to a 16×16 HD-SDI sub-router for custom content distribution to various digital signage zones across the campus.
The system allows for an incredible amount of flexibility and control. Where routing HD video from a given source to any destination used to be nearly impossible – now it’s as simple as pressing a few buttons. Pleasant Valley’s flexibility in the realm of video and IMAG means expanded creativity and the possibility for a greater level of connection with the congregation.
The systems at Pleasant Valley, like most churches, are constantly changing and evolving to what they need to be to facilitate ministry at an ever-increasing level.
Having a vision for quality technical production, planning adequately in the annual budget, and developing a team that can effectively operate the systems are all key requirements to managing and maintaining systems that will have Kingdom impact. The future of technical production and ministry support at Pleasant Valley is looking bright due to the continual management and development of these ever-evolving systems.