From Recording Podcasts and Rehearsals, to High Resolution Playback of Backing Tracks During Services, Zen Studio Keeps Production Values High for Growing Congregation
Back in 2008, FreedomHouse Church began with seven people on a mission to bring hope and change their world one life at a time — with an inspiring Christian message built on principles of excellence, honor and commitment. Six years later, with a dynamic young pastor whose vision was to create a church people want to come to, FreedomHouse’s congregation has grown to just under 1,000 — mostly under 30 years old and reflecting nearly every ethnicity and background. At the center of FreedomHouse’s media production toolkit is a new Zen Studio multi-channel interface, from Antelope Audio.
FreedomHouse Church, which recently acquired its own dedicated sanctuary space, has been ‘mobile’ for six years — renting high school auditoriums, movie theaters and commercial buildings each Wednesday and Sunday. The church’s production team consists of over 25 volunteers, part of 175 total volunteers who serve throughout its different ministries.
The church’s use of technology helps create an atmosphere conducive to worship: “I have always felt that if you want to do something, you should do it well,” says Omar Reyna, Music Director, FreedomHouse Church. “This meant being intentional and inventive about when and how we use the technology. Since we acquired it a couple months ago, the Antelope Zen Studio has become an integral component in our pursuit of excellence in many different areas.”
One tool and a clear message
When Omar Reyna acquired Antelope’s Zen Studio to bolster FreedomHouse’s media capabilities, he didn’t immediately recognize all the potential uses and applications unit would have. Measuring just 16.8″ wide x 1.8″high x 5.8″ deep, the Zen is the ultimate portable device, enabling Reyna to ‘set up and go’ with his MacBook Pro.
With 20 analog inputs, 12 microphone preamps, onboard DSP and an onboard monitor controller among many other features, the Zen Studio presents a vast array of features — and professional audio quality — for just about any sized church. “One of the first things that caught my attention on the Zen Studio was just how many features are packed into this little unit and just how portable it is,” he says. “This was a big factor in my purchasing decision.”
Turning Inspiration Into Reality
On acquiring the Zen Studio, one of the first things Reyna did to begin using it to capture audio for the FreedomHouse Podcast, which has already produced no less than 50 episodes since launching in October of last year. “This is the most simple scenario we use the Zen for and it has proven to be a solid and reliable setup,” he explains. “Our podcasts are rated highly among the Christian podcasts on iTunes and have devotional content, as well as sermons and general guest Q&As.” In this application, the Zen’s portability shines, enabling the media team to interview guests in any location, or capture sermons ‘on the fly’ in the sanctuary using a pair of MXL 990 large condenser microphones plugged into the front of the Zen interface, and Logic X recording software, running on an Apple MacBook Pro.
After he became more acclimated to the quality and feature set of Zen Studio, Reyna began to use it for recordings of FreedomHouse’s band, which performs at the church each Sunday. “We’ve begun to write our own songs,” he says. “We play very dynamic music that embraces our diverse church culture: from high energy EDM style songs, to epic rock ballads, to old hymnals with a modern sound.” So far, Reyna and his band have been pleased with the sound quality: “For everything we’ve done, the sound quality of the Zen has been fantastic. I would describe the sound as very transparent, and natural. The preamps, by the way, are phenomenal.” The church band is recording a new CD with the Zen, and has already completed four songs.
Aside from podcasts and recording, FreedomHouse Church also uses the Zen Studio for playback of tracks during worship services. “After we’re done tracking vocal parts and any additional instrumentation in rehearsal, we will use between four and six tracks as part of our stems for our click tracks,” says Reyna. “The tracks enhance the overall sonic quality of the music — with the playback on the Zen, everything sounds bigger, wider, and the image is very crisp.”The church’s live performers include a drummer, bass guitarist, two guitarists, acoustic guitar and four vocalists. These are then combined with the backing tracks.
For FreedomHouse Church and Omar Reyna, the Zen Studio has not only brought about a dimension of audio quality, but has also challenged how the production team thinks about creating new content. “Our congregation is growing, and we are not afraid to go out and try new things. The Zen has really motivated us and helped us bring some of these ideas to reality.