It’s a strategy implemented by the team behind the high-caliber sound reinforcement system serving the new worship center at Resurrection Life Church, which recently opened its doors in Grandville, Michigan (just outside of Grand Rapids). The 4,200-seat facility, offering contemporary services, is served by some of the leading elements of audio technology available, but the truest measure of success comes from form following function.
“We aren’t doing big things with this system just to do big things, but rather, with the goal that there’s always some way to reach everyone,” explains Cliff Rosenberg, technical director of the church. “What we’re helping to foster is an intimate relationship with God, and everything we do is in pursuit of that ultimate goal.”
The new construction project was originally conceived almost 10 years ago, with Resurrection Life Church already experiencing the rapid membership growth that continues to this day. What’s now been realized in addition to the beautiful and highly functional two-level, fan-shaped worship center is a campus that includes a 26-room nursery/youth ministries facility, chapel, café and bookstore and much more.
Fortunately, it didn’t take an intensive search to find the high level of expertise it takes to manage a project of this scale. Doug Sluiter, a church member who rose to this challenge, is a building consultant with over 20-plus years experience in managing large institutional and corporate building projects.
At an early stage, Sluiter invited Craig Janssen, principal of Acoustic Dimensions, Dallas, to talk with the church building committee about system and acoustical design concepts. “It turned out that Craig interviewed us as much as we interviewed him. Right from the outset he was very interested in hearing our goals and ideas, and he also wanted to be sure it would be a good working situation for all of us,” Sluiter notes. “That’s when we were sure Craig and his firm would be exactly right in helping us get where we envisioned.”
While construction was already underway, the acoustical goals for the space changed, and David Kahn of Acoustic Dimensions stepped in to guide this facet. Interfacing with the project architect, the space would be altered largely with the addition of acoustical treatment to enhance early reflections, helping create a more “live” signature that invites participation from the congregation.
With Acoustic Dimensions finishing up the preliminary sound system design, Sluiter and the building committee solicited bids for its installation, inviting five qualified firms to submit proposals. “We were seeking assurances of very high quality, rather than basing our decision on price,” he says. “We definitely didn’t want to go cheap, because it rarely, if ever, will result in what you want and need, particularly in a multifaceted system project.”
One of the competing installation companies, the Communications Division of Parkway Electric, presented a compelling proposal with an attractive caveat. The Holland, Michigan-based entity was already onboard as the project’s electrical contractor, so utilizing its Communications Division for the A/V installation would result in a more cohesive, turnkey effort.
“There are so many details to be addressed, requiring tight coordination, and it was our belief that keeping things in the same camp would dramatically increase efficiencies,” Sluiter says. “The people of the Communications Division have great depth and experience with sizable system projects like ours, combined with an overall reputation of integrity built in this region over several decades by Parkway Electric. These factors also influenced our decision.”
With a window of only about eight weeks to install the entire sound system amidst continuing construction, the various teams committed to weekly status meetings that helped keep the project moving along at a highly proficient pace. In consultation with Acoustic Dimensions Project Manager Robert Rose, system issues, changes and problems could be anticipated and solved without costly delays.
“This cohesive team approach moved effectiveness way up the chart,” adds Gary Zandstra, director of sales and marketing for Parkway. “As it played out, you could really see the difference in comparison to similar projects we’ve done in the past, and it was quite exciting. For example, if the sound system team needed a cable somewhere, the electrical team would react quickly with a run of conduit, and it was invariably run correctly and to the exact location needed. The bottom line is a level of overall installation quality that’s impeccable, and with efficiencies that truly benefit the client.”
Rosenberg and Sluiter had already been investigating what they considered the key pieces of the sound system puzzle: mixing consoles. They envisioned a front end that leveraged the considerable flexibility and repeatability of a digital format, but with an eye on user-friendliness required of a system expected to be run by a group of volunteers. Following some preliminary homework, the two journeyed to a trade show to get an up-close look at the leading candidates.
“Almost immediately I could see that the DiGiCo digital console format holds a lot of appeal, and for several reasons,” Rosenberg says. “The first is ease of use. Stepping in front of a D5 Live for the first time, I was comfortable with its operation. That was a key, but the real test came when Doug, who has very limited mixing experience, also looked over the board and quickly understood it. His comfort level increased my own about this being the right format for us.”
Reason number “1-A” getting Rosenberg’s attention is the ability to seamlessly interconnect DiGiCo digital consoles without need of complicated network interfaces. Each console’s stage rack is outfitted with analog to digital input/output cards feeding a termination port for linking via fiber optics or CAT-5, allowing the creation of what is actually a single, powerful and mondo-flexible “super console.”
Rosenberg’s vision had been attaining this type of capability by linking the front-of-house, monitor and production consoles, providing the ability to call up mixes, access recorded tracks and even take control of other digital devices in the system via any of the three consoles. He made this vision a reality, laying out a system backbone of a 56-channel DiGiCo D5 Live console at FOH, a D1 Live on stage for monitors and a Soundtracs DS-00 console in the remote production studio, all connected via fiber optics.
This backbone is tied into an impressive stage configuration that features dozens of wired and wireless microphone inputs, numerous Aviom Pro16 Series personal monitoring stations (many with wireless in-ear monitors,) as well as stage monitor wedges. A trough system under the platform allows multi-pin cabling to be cleanly run anywhere needed, with any configuration desired, and it can even be expanded in the future if required.
“Cliff really deserves a lot of credit. He laid out this entire portion of the system very smartly, putting a lot of thought into it,” Zandstra notes. “Every performer has a great situation where they’re getting exactly what they need, where they need it. Cliff didn’t just specify the equipment; he also did the detail-oriented work in figuring out exactly how to integrate it within the DiGiCo console network.
“It’s really something to see in action, the linking of everything together so that any input, output or device in the system is available at the tip of your fingers,” he adds.” This really hit home one day when I watched Cliff take control of the Otari multi-track recorder system in the production room from the D5 Live at front of house, routing tracks from the Otari unit through the house sound system.”
The digital consoles indeed make life a lot easier for both volunteers and for Rosenberg. For example, he establishes presets on open channels to accommodate the last-minute changes that invariably come up right before – and even during – worship services. As a result, unplanned guest contributors can be accommodated “on the fly” with a working, optimized microphone, the praise band can decide to play a different song than planned, and so forth.
In addition to the capability the digital backbone provides on the production side, DiGiCo technical support leader Taidus Vallandi suggested another handy way to record at FOH by using the D5 Live’s MADI output port to feed up to 192 tracks to an inexpensive PC. “If Cliff wants to record rehearsals or specific tracks or whatever he might want, he’s got that ability for just the cost of adding a Dell computer,” Zandstra notes.
The overall plan is harnessing and presenting the creativity as it happens, without impediment and without getting tripped up by the technology. “I love these consoles because they hide their ‘computer-ness’ very well,” Rosenberg says. “They operate like any premium console, but with the additional bonus of that big, convenient digital back end. This is also a mature technology, where both the hardware and software present a proven, solid platform. On top of it all is great sound quality. The pre-amplifiers are superb, the EQ a real ‘wow’ factor.”
The challenge then becomes filling the voluminous worship center with concert-quality audio produced by the 12- to 20-member praise band, 200-member choir, featured vocalists and of course, spoken word. Acoustic Dimensions proposed a main system loudspeaker approach based upon line arrays flown above the gondola structure that hosts three large video screens above the front platform, supplemented by compact loudspeakers to bolster coverage to remote and/or shadowed regions.
A choice of line arrays was outlined, with the system team settling on L-Acoustics KUDO models primarily for reasons of sound quality. Consultant Ryan Knox of Acoustic Dimensions utilized L-Acoustics SoundVision acoustical modeling software for an assist in formulating the positioning and layout of three line arrays, each with five KUDO enclosures. Low-frequency reinforcement is supplemented by three SB218 subwoofers also flown above the gondola along with eight more SB218s housed in cavities carved out beneath the front length of the platform.
“Because of the size and width of the room, the house system runs in mono rather than stereo,” Zandstra says. “Trying to make it stereo with commensurate quality would have upped cost and complexity a great deal, and it’s not clear if it would have produced better results. The church agreed, having evaluated several good mono systems at churches in the area.”
Coverage of the line arrays to the first few seating rows is supplemented by EAW AX396 full-range coaxial loudspeakers flown behind the gondola’s scrim areas that separate the video screens. These loudspeakers are flown with special AX Series hardware developed by Polar Focus that facilitates maximum adjustment with minimal effort. A compact EAW MQ1346 full-range loudspeaker also mounted on the gondola structure provides added reinforcement to seating at the far right of the worship center.
Above the balcony, mid-high presence is bolstered via more EAW AX396 loudspeakers mounted well up by the ceiling catwalks. This location renders them virtually invisible, with their output precisely time-delayed with that of the main loudspeakers. The rear half of the seating rows under the balcony, shadowed from the main loudspeaker coverage, receive mid-high reinforcement from a dozen EAW UB82e low-profile loudspeakers that are mounted in “slots” cut into the balcony ceiling, minimizing their impact on sightlines.
The rigging and flying of these loudspeakers was carefully conceived, and again, if it wasn’t for the communication between all parties, delays would have set the project timetable back and other aspects could have been compromised as well. For example, the heavy equipment and scaffolding rigs required to hoist the loudspeakers into place were deployed before the sanctuary’s concrete floor was poured in order to prevent possible damage.
All loudspeakers are driven by Crown I-Tech Series and CT Series power amplifiers rack-mounted with the system’s BSS London digital signal processors in an air-conditioned room at the ceiling catwalk level. Additional processing in select applications, usually for the system’s subwoofers, came courtesy of the DSP add-on option available with I-Tech amplifiers.
“The house system goes beyond my expectations in terms of its coverage, fidelity and the way it can reveal every detail in the mix,” Rosenberg expounds. “I’ve experienced so many rooms and sound systems over the years that can’t reproduce everything that’s in the music, so we focused on bringing out every detail at every seat, in order to present a delicate tapestry.
“The aspect where this system really shines is with the vocals, which is where we wanted the primary emphasis to be. People come to church to sing, and to be inspired by the words of the music,” he continues. “What I’ve focused upon with my mix is putting a little separation between the parts – alto, tenor and soprano – as opposed to hacking it to pieces. Craig Janssen is a real master at this, and his help with it has been invaluable to me.”
Now that the new worship center and its sound reinforcement system have been up and running for a few months, Sluiter offers some perspective on the results. “While it looks like we spent a lot of money on this system – and indeed we did – each dollar went to a useful purpose,” he concludes. “There isn’t anything wasted. Every bit of technology is utilized to its fullest in meeting an overall goal of total excellence.”