Transforming an abandoned supermarket into a place where a growing church can feed the spiritual hunger of a multi-faceted congregation with multiple ministries mean enlisting “friends and family” to design and operate advanced video, audio and networking systems.
Richard and Joan West, pastors of Liberty Christian Center, are dedicated to using modern formats, facilities and technologies to bring the message of the Bible to Fairfield, California, a diverse community situated midway between San Francisco and Sacramento. When an abandoned shopping mall came on the real estate market, the Wests realized its potential immediately. With easy access to I-80 (Fairfield’s “main drag”), the location was ideal. However, the space would require a lot of renovation to convert it from an Albertson’s supermarket into a contemporary Evangelical church.
Liberty Christian offers non-traditional facilities such as a lobby expresso bar and an “xtreme kidzone.” While they offer full-immersion baptism to committed worshippers, Liberty Christian’s style is inclusive and contemporary, incorporating a rocking praise band into its services. The church has also focused on technology as a way of broadening its appeal. For example, the “Off the Wall” ministry, headed by Pastor Ben Dailey, was able to design a broadcast-ready TV system for the church. Based on an 8 x 4 Extron switcher, the system currently broadcasts to CCTV and local cable via Sony DV cameras with Canon lenses. Editing is currently done on a Mac running Final Cut Pro, but will soon move to live switching. At that point the two Sanyo projectors will be able to display close-ups from the stage on two 9 X 12 Da-Lite screens. A further expansion will enable video coverage of the church’s water-baptism area, located on one side of the stage.
In another example of hi-tech integration, Liberty Christian has both Cat5 cable and WiFi (802.11) Internet access. “You can bring your Palm or laptop to church, and download the notes for that day’s sermon,” Pastor Richard West points out.
As a contemporary ‘rock ‘n roll’ church, Liberty Christian requires excellent sound. Yet it doesn’t want to exclude worshippers who are used to a quieter atmosphere in church. “The number one complaint in a contemporary church like ours,” says Pastor West, “is ‘It’s too loud in front.’ But when you turn it down so the front is comfortable, it’s not loud enough in the back.”
To solve that problem, the church turned to Sound Decisions, an audio consultancy based in Sacramento, CA. “Liberty Christian Center chose me out of three consultants, based on our previous relationship, and put me in contact with their architectural team in the design portion of the project,” recalls Travis Nie of Sound Decisions. “I worked with the architect, doing acoustical models of the facility, looking at some of the surfaces and some of the things they were planning to do. The facility is basically a rectangular room. There were some dimensional changes done so there are not drastic parallel surfaces. It’s open to structure on the ceiling, the ductwork and trusses are exposed and painted dark brown for theatrical reasons. The deck is about 22 feet above the floor. All in all, the room acoustically is not a bad space, although the RT is a little bit long for the style of music they play. There is six inches of fiberglass thermal insulation on the ceiling, which helps quite a bit. But we want to treat the rear wall to try to eliminate some of the spatial reflections coming back to the platform.”
The design of the room and the sound system design took place concurrently. “There were quite a few changes taking place during the construction of the facility,” Nie says, “which sometimes makes it difficult for a designer. But we were able to work with it by revising our acoustical models.”
“We had originally designed a Renkus-Heinz ST9 loudspeaker system. But the company’s new compact line array (PN102/LA) had just come out, and I thought this was a perfect application: low ceiling, the customer really wants a high energy, high impact worship space for a full contemporary music service.
Liberty Christian Center now has left and right line arrays of seven PNX102/LA’s, bi-amplified with Crest Pro 9001 amplifiers driving the 10-inch woofers and 6001s powering the 1-inch compression drivers, which are loaded onto Renkus-Heinz’ Plane Wave Generator to produce the flat high-frequency wavefront required for proper line array performance. An Acoustic Diffraction Baffle provides diffraction loading through the mid-range transition from the woofers to the high frequency section. This keeps the horizontal coverage from narrowing through the transition, preserving consistent frequency response at the edges of the array’s coverage.
To deliver the sub-bass impact required for contemporary music, Nie installed four STX5-LO subwoofers, powered by a Crest Pro 10001, in the center of the room. “There’s some bandpassing between drivers to control the polar pattern of that low frequency energy,” Nie explains, adding “On each side of the subwoofer array we installed a compact, full-range PNX121M as a delayed satellite, to help that left and right energy reach the far side of the room. It creates very nice stereo imaging on either side. If you’re off axis, you’re still hearing stereo.” The stereo satellites are powered by Crest Pro 7001s. With a budget of $126,000, the satellite speakers were a bit of a luxury item, but a review of the EASE model convinced the client, Nie says. “We were able to plug it into the model right there and see the cause and effect.
Liberty Christian’s mix position, located at the rear of the space, holds a 40-channel Crest X8 for FOH and monitors. The processing racks hold eight dbx 166XL compressor/limiters, a pair of dbx Pro Vocal processors, a Rane G4 Quad Gate and a Rane DEQ60L. Two Rane RPM88 processors are in use for loudspeaker management (crossover, limiting and delay if needed) on the FOH system. Shure XLS4 and UA844 wireless systems get the signals from choir, band and pastoral microphones to the console. A pair of TASCAM cassette/CD players are on hand to playback pre-recorded material.
Liberty Christian Center held its first services in the new space on April 25, 2004 and the Grand Opening was the following weekend. “Everyone is really happy with the system,” Travis Nie reports. “It really sounds great, and we haven’t even got to the acoustic treatment. You can actually walk from the rear of the room straight up to an array and not hear any difference. During commissioning, I was testing the system, and as I was starting to clean some things up, I looked over at the associate pastor. He was walking around a little teary-eyed, saying ‘This is incredible,’ he was so impressed with the way it sounded.”