Inside Heaven’s Rehearsal A look at the technology that made it happen

In Uncategorizedby tfwm

Back in the summer of 2007, the home of Toronto’s beloved hockey team was turned into an explosive display of high-energy praise and worship. The Air Canada Center became the venue where the 2007 Heaven’s Rehearsal was held; an occasion that drew over 16,000 people for one extremely powerful and passionate night of worship.

The Heaven’s Rehearsal encapsulated a message of togetherness, crossing cultural and language barriers to bring everyone together under one roof to prepare for the Second Coming of Christ.

“All nations, all denominations, all generations”. That was one of the many messages of unity that drove the promotion leading up to the event. Even though promotion and press for the event was ubiquitous in industry online and print materials, Heaven’s Rehearsal was extremely conscious about how the event was publicized. The organizers did a formidable job of giving the evening an identity that could not be linked with any marketing or commercial initiatives. The gathering was announced as “A Moment In Time to Prepare For Eternity”. The plan was to provide an environment where congregants would be immersed in nothing other than the spirit of worship.

By all accounts, it appeared that Heaven’s Rehearsal lived up to all expectations by accomplishing what it had set out to do. When over 16,000 people gathered at the ACC, united by their desire to worship the Lord, undivided by age, race or creed, anyone attending the event could not mistake the awesome power of what took place that evening.

Although much emphasis was placed on making sure there would be no promotional or commercial distractions for the event, the reality was that a steadfast technical backbone had to be developed to pull everything together.
Even as top level technical productions have become more nimble than ever before, an intense amount of time, effort, planning, and of course praying went into making this event a success. Technology is constantly improving the way technically solid performances are conducted in venues like the ACC, but that of course doesn’t mean that many, many hours of preparation don’t have to go into making it work.

In a matter of 16 hours, the ACC was transformed into a living, breathing, intimate place of worship. For that incredible Saturday night, the ACC may as well have stood for A Colossal Church. This transformation was of course a massive undertaking that required an effective use of current technologies, to ensure that all the gear could be rolled in and rolled out, the right way.
Robb Sykes of Artech Communications Inc. helped the event organizers at the start of the initial planning for the event back in 2006. The Artech technical team was brought in to the project to help pull this event together.

“At least a dozen of our team plus fifty or more union crew at the ACC were on hand to do this. Despite some “first-time-event” challenges, the event developed into an awesome, God-inspired evening.” Sykes remembers.

Audio requirements
One of the many challenges that had to be overcome was the sheer magnitude of sound reinforcement required for the event. At the apex of the gathering, there were hundreds of singers, dancers, marchers and musicians on and around stage. The music team included an amazing array of ensemble and solo vocalists, a large drum kit and percussion setup, bass, keys, electric and acoustic guitars, a large horn section, and at various parts of the event, different wind, horn, hand, plucked, strummed and bowed instruments.

Of course the system had to be up to the task of handling heavy sound pressure levels for the music, yet also provide detail, musicality and intelligibility to properly support intimate spoken word and solo instruments. The EAW system design consisted of dozens of KF and SB 730 line array modules, plus under stage mounted SB1000 subwoofers for the main system. KF750’s were also mounted up on the truss system mounted for the side of stage areas filling both the upper and lower bowls of the arena. KF360 and NT series modules were strategically placed around the arena and aligned to the main system so that there were no “blind spots” caused either by structural or other tech-system elements. The stage monitoring was handled by eight mixes of bi-amplified SM12 monitors, a 16 channel hard-wired Aviom distributed monitor system for the rhythm section of the band, plus dedicated Shure wireless in-ear monitor systems for key music team members.

Two racks of Shure UHF series Wireless handheld, headset, and lapel mics plus belt-packs for instruments were used during the performance, with computer monitoring of signal and battery strength going on at stage side throughout the evening.

Yamaha M7CL mixers were used at Front of House and Monitor positions, with a DM1000 cascaded into the FOH console to provide additional inputs for a variety of playback devices during the event. A Roland VM-7200 digital mixer was used in the audio recording truck feeding a Tascam X-48 48 track digital recorder which was set up to record audio to support video editing in the future.

Artech’s utilization of a large Roland RSS System Digital Snake System made getting all of the audio to the FOH, monitor and recording stations, plus two other splits (to go to the ACC’s in-house video suite, and to the CBC remote broadcast truck which was parked in the loading area), both much simpler and better sounding than a regular analog split snake.

John Devries, Sales Manager for Roland Systems Group Canada (RSG), provided input and pre-planning to map the project together and also participated personally in the event by playing trumpet in the band.

“Heavens Rehearsal required almost 64 mic lines and four audio splits,” explains Devries. “Roland Systems Group brought in our RSS digital snake systems to help with this challenge.” Devries speaks fondly of his memory from that night, and a look of calm amusement comes over his face when reflecting on the sheer size it all.

“We made sure that Artech had use of [our] system prior to the event so they could manage all the settings for the many artists performing that evening. Our S-4000 series snake system is a multi-channel digital audio transfer system. In the S-4000S-3208 modular stage rack, it has 32 24 bit/96khz high-quality XR-1 preamps and 8 outputs of which the inputs can receive both mic and line level inputs, which eliminates the need for direct boxes. Phantom power and an input pad were also provided for each channel. The event required two of these units, which gave a capable configuration of 64 channel inputs with 16 outputs.”

An event like this needs to take advantage of the full benefit of modern technology to go off properly. In the old days, you would have massive cable runs going from FOH to the stage, taped over and sometimes encased in conduit so people on the floor wouldn’t trip and hurt themselves. Luckily, thanks to advancements in digital audio, this was not a factor.

“The beauty of the system was that in between FOH and the stage we were running single small Cat 5E cables.” Devries explains. “REAC (Roland Ethernet Audio Communication) is a newly designed technology for digital audio transfer. It is REAC that allowed for such a low latency, easy installation and great audio with zipperless remote control of all preamp settings.”
Evidently, good things come in small packets.

Video Requirements
Video projection was dealt with through a three-pronged approach. Namely, near the stage area, fill screens for the far side of the arena, and side of stage areas (which needed to be used as the event was Sold-Right-Out, plus some of the choirs and on-stage participants needed to sit in these areas).

Draper Cinefold screens were used all around, with the near-stage screens being 10.5 x 14 feet, the far side screens were 9 x 12 feet, and the side of stage screens were 7.5 x 10 feet. The screens were large enough to provide high impact support of text (Scripture, hymn and worship lyrics) and IMAG (image-magnification) feeds from the Air Canada Centre broadcast booth.

Heaven’s Rehearsal was not a concert, so strategically, the screen sizes were not so large as to overwhelm the on-stage activity, but were large enough to fully support the activities and bring out detail that might have gotten lost in a venue that large… a definite balancing act.

All of the projectors were from EIKI. The main screens were: LC-X71 (5500 lumens for text), LC-X4 (10,000 Lumens for IMAG) and an LC-X71 (again, 5500 lumens for text). The far side projectors were three of the LC-XG300 4500 lumen units. The stage side projectors were LC-XG210’s, at 3500 lumens each.
The IMAG portion of the event was created using a combination of live action camera work, which was called and switched using the in-house Air Canada Centre package of cameras and switching, plus audio and video clips prepared in advance at Artech Communications specifically for the Heaven’s Rehearsal Event.

Playback of multiple clips simultaneously was achieved through the use of three Edirol PR-80 dual-stream video presenters connected to the ACC switcher in the broadcast booth.

Ready for 2008
When all was said and done, the folks involved with the planning and collaborating of the technical systems succeeded in delivering a truly engaging experience to everyone who attended. Despite the inherent challenges of pulling together an event of this magnitude under tight time constraints, the end result provided the perfect environment for attendees to do exactly what they came out to do— worship.

This year the event will be held at the Rogers Center on November 1st. More information about this year’s event can be found on their website.