Sound, Lighting and Video: A Resource for Worship

Sound, Lighting and Video: A Resource for Worship
“I like the conversational, friendly tone. It makes the material seem accessible
to the reader. It’s as if the author is seated next to the reader at the mixing
console and is pointing out things to watch for.”
– Bruce Bartlett, audio engineer and author of
Practical Recording Techniques
“I really like Brad’s heart for the local church. I think he approaches the subject
in a genuine and honest manner that is encouraging.”
– Mike Sessler, ChurchTech Arts
“I’m very excited about having this book available for my church, and for
churches where I assist in ministry.”
– David Scott, Worship Leader and Associate director
of Georgia Festival Chorus
“What a great book! Brad has taken his years of audio/visual training and
personal experience and produced an excellent resource for every Worship
Leader and every Audio Visual Tech. From the most basic sound, lighting and
video systems to fairly complex systems, Brad has put together an encyclopedia
of knowledge that builds on the basics to provide an easy transition to larger
and more sophisticated systems. Not only does he address the ‘how to,’ but
the ‘why we should and why we should not’s’ associated with this important
area of our ministry. Brad has a heart for excellence in Worship that resounds
throughout the book. Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned veteran, I
heartily recommend this book to you. I believe that you, like I, will count it
one of your most valuable tools in ministry.”
– Dennis J. Brown, Associate Pastor Worship Arts,
First Baptist Church
“Finally! Thank you, Brad Herring and Focal Press, for bringing us a terrific
overview of Technical Production for Houses of Worship. Your experience,
skill, and artistry are evident throughout. I especially appreciate your attitude
of humility and step-by-step suggestions for dealing with ‘choir complaints.’
This immediately is required reading for my production volunteers.”
– John Weygandt, Scenic and Lighting Designer,
Willow Creek Community Church
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Sound, Lighting and Video:
A Resource for Worship
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Sound, Lighting and Video:
A Resource for Worship
Brad Herring
Focal Press is an imprint of Elsevier
Focal Press is an imprint of Elsevier
30 Corporate Drive, Suite 400, Burlington, MA 01803, USA
Linacre House, Jordan Hill, Oxford OX2 8DP, UK
Copyright © 2009, Brad Herring. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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ISBN: 978-0-240-81108-6
For information on all Focal Press publications
visit our website at
09 10 11 12
Printed in the United States of America
FOREWORD . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .IX
SPECIAL ACKNOWLEDGMENTS & THANKS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .XI
INTRODUCTION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . XIII
Sound Systems for Worship
Anatomy of a Sound System . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3
Connections in a Sound System . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25
More on Microphones . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39
Gain Structure. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53
Equalization . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61
Electronic Processing. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 69
Stage Monitors and In-Ear Monitors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 79
Making the Move to Digital. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 89
Conclusion of Sound Section . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 97
Lighting Systems for Worship
Anatomy of a Lighting System . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 101
Color Mixing Theory. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .121
Common Power Connections of a Lighting System . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 125
Controllers and Protocols . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 135
Close up on Dimmers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 145
An Overview of Moving Lights . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 149
Beyond Illumination – Using Lighting for Design . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 157
Architectural Lighting and Integration with Stage Lighting . . . . . . . . 177
Conclusion of Lighting Section . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 179
Video Systems for Worship
CHAPTER 19 Anatomy of a Video System . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 183
CHAPTER 20 Lumens, Brightness and Contrast – What Does it all Mean? . . . . . . . 199
CHAPTER 21 Hi-Definition vs. Standard Definition . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .205
Front Projections vs. Rear Projection . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .209
A Closer Look at the Video Screen . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 215
Cameras and Tripods . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 221
Worship Presentation Software. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .229
Conclusion of Video Systems for Worship . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 233
Conclusion of Book . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 237
Working with Contractors and Having a Christian Witness . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .249
Building Teams and Finding Volunteers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 251
Checklists and Procedures . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .259
The Art of Troubleshooting – Thinking Logically and Linearly . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .265
INDEX . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .269
When I first undertook this project, it was with some in trepidation. There
is simply so much material to cover, it seemed like too much information to
discuss in one book. Perhaps this is why to date, such a comprehensive book
has not been written.
After some research and many outlines and drafts we came up with the layout
of this book. We all believe this will be a tremendous help to ministries worldwide. The introduction section is critical for vision casting and overall analysis of media systems in the Worship environment. The rest of the book places
emphasis on systems and interconnections with helpful advice on using these
There are many people who have contributed years of knowledge, and timeless
help to make sure this book is accurate and helpful. Without them, this project
would not be nearly as comprehensive as it has become.
I’d like to especially thank David Scott, Rob Dillard, Mike Meads, John Curtis,
Mike Sessler, David Hepburn, Osabuohien P. Amienyi and Bruce Bartlett for
their technical expertise and of course, my parents and Becky (my loving and
supportive wife) – without your support and patience this would have been
God is doing incredible things and Media and Creative Arts Ministries are playing a huge role! Churches are able to connect with people in ways never before
possible. With the emergence of video, dramatic arts, contemporary worship,
and new delivery formats we are able to reach more people and speak to them
more specifically than ever before.
These are exciting times! My one piece of advice to any church reading this
book – don’t simply change because the church down the street or across
town is changing – do what God has called you to do – and do it with fervor.
There is a specific thing that God has called you and your ministry to do –
make sure you know what that is and pursue it full force. If everyone went to
contemporary or blended worship, who would be relevant to the people who
desperately desire traditional worship? What would become of those people?
Likewise, if everyone catered to the 30/40 year olds, who would be there for
the young singles? We all have our spot in ministry that God has called us to!
Sometimes it’s an entire church calling, other times it’s a departmental calling –
regardless God has a calling on YOUR life. Seek it out and go full speed ahead!
In every instance, media and creative arts can help you communicate to the
masses – the trick is learning how to apply it appropriately so that the message is received and the teaching reinforced in a way that makes it easy for the
people to apply it.
Don’t simply change because the
church down the street or across town is
changing – do what God has called you
to do – and do it with fervor.
So, pray. Then pray some more. And when
you get done with that – pray again. Make
SURE you hear from God and know the direction He has for you and your ministry. Love
your people – both your flock, the volunteers
and paid staff that put in countless hours preparing for and supporting services.
I believe if we look at Scripture and analyze the life of Christ we will quickly
see that He was about people. He spent almost all of His time cultivating the
one on one relationship. I believe if Jesus were to come today instead of 2000
years ago He would not embrace media, but instead He would choose 12 people. What we do – it’s ultimately about loving people and we need to be careful
to not lose sight of that.
In fairness, I do believe that those 12 people and likewise those that they raise
up would most definitely use media and every other tool available to them to
further the Gospel and reach people with the life changing message of Jesus!
That being said, I encourage you to do the same! Whatever it takes – reach the
lost, disciple the believer, and raise up leaders. I firmly believe that Media and
Creative Arts Ministry can assist you in doing this. I believe this book will prove
to be a vital resource that will help cast vision and provide quick reference for
years to come.
God bless. Be strong. Think outside of the box. Reach a lost and dieing world.
Acknowledgments &
The help of the following people and companies truly made this book possible.
Thank you!
Becky Herring (for all of your tireless proof-readings and image finding!)
Barbizon Atlanta
Technical Elements
Dave Wagner
Josh Leblanc
Michael Ramps
Winfrey Shields
John Curtis
William Meads
Bill Hawes
John MacCullen
Mike Sessler
David Scott
Rob Dillard
David Hepburn
Osabuohien P. Amienyi
Bruce Bartlett
The entire team at Focal Press, and especially
Cara Anderson
Danielle Monroe
Kara Race-Moore
I could not have done this without you all.
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To understand how the world of audio/visual affects our worship today,
I believe we need to first look at the history of media and the delivery process
of both Worship and the Gospel message.
Many people will make the argument that the church does not need sound,
lighting, video systems and drama. They will argue this principle on many
grounds. But I believe we can look back in history and learn how worship
(including Biblical teaching practices) have evolved and see clearly how media
is a key component for the church of today.
Although this book is not about drama, it is interesting to note that drama has
been vastly used as a vehicle for religious expression – people were looking for
ways to communicate the Gospel truth and began to caravan and put on stage
shows. This concept was not different than many of our churches today – they
wanted to be relevant to the people of their generation. They wanted to speak
to them in ways that communicated clearly God’s love, and what better way to
do that than drama? So, when you look at the purist form of the work, we see
it being something that glorified God.
This takes us back to our primary discussion – Media in Worship.
In the days of Jesus, Paul, John, and the other Biblical heroes that we read
and study, they were blessed with a world of architecture that assisted in the
reproduction of the human voice. As you might recall from your history books,
electrical power had not yet been discovered and obviously, loudspeaker technology was centuries away. A solution must be found – and that solution was
to build places of theater and worship that allowed the voice to be heard very
clearly over long distances.
When Jesus taught, scholars believe he often found natural places that easily
amplified the voice making it possible for him to teach to the multitudes.
Today, however, we live in a very different world. Today we have technology
that reproduces the human voice and projects it to literally tens of thousands
of people at once. So architects and many church builders find themselves
more worried about the aesthetic component of construction versus the acoustic qualities and function of the worship center.
While this makes for a visually appealing room, it creates many challenges for
sound systems, lighting systems, and video systems. It also destroys the concept
of “Jesus didn’t use things like this” – He didn’t have to, we however, are often
forced to.
The modern day House of Worship is typically a rectangle or fan design. All
too often, rectangular designs come with short ceilings. This is not ideal for
sound, video, or lighting. Likewise, fan shaped Worship areas offer challenges
with sight lines, consistent seat to seat audio coverage, and in facilities without
catwalks – properly lighting the alter or stage area.
The History of Early A/V Systems
Early Audio/Visual systems incorporated basic flood lighting or in some cases
track lighting. Sound systems usually consisted of column speakers that eventually moved to center cluster arrays. Often, these arrays were stadium horns
with mid-range cabinets added to the mix. The idea was localization of the
spoken word. (By localization I mean the ability for the ear to ascertain where
the source of the sound is coming from). It made sense as the majority of the
service was spoken and much of the music was acoustic in nature. Video systems were rarely used, and if they were used it was normally more of a portable
system utilizing PowerPoint™ at best.
As music becomes more of the forefront in worship, we see a trend towards left/
right stereo systems. Likewise, lighting systems upgrade to more theatrical styles
(but still usually a basic PAR CAN or similar point and shoot light sources).
Video systems become more popular, but still primarily rely on PowerPoint™.
Quickly it was realized that the left/right speaker system had its drawbacks.
While it sounded pretty good for music, it lost its localization for voice. It was
also difficult to achieve consistent coverage patterns in true stereo throughout
the auditorium.
The recognition of these problems led to the creation of a Left/Center/Right
system design. With this system, the voice was typically channeled in the center
cluster while musical instruments were placed in the stereo feed. This was the
best of both worlds, but required a lot of equipment and additional training
on mixing techniques.
As speaker technology evolved, we see line array technology emerge on the
worship scene. While not applicable for every situation, line-array systems present the ability to evenly cover an auditorium while reproducing an excellent
sound. We still see line-arrays combined with center clusters (to take into consideration localization issues), but often the arrays are closer together than a
left/right system, thus minimizing the localization problem. We also see center
line-arrays as well.
The Modern Day House of Worship
Today, lighting systems are very theatrical based in many modern Houses of
Worship. It’s not uncommon to see moving lights as well as ellipsoidal instruments and PAR Cans. Video systems are quickly becoming hi-definition with
wide-format 16:9 screens, IMAG (Image Magnification) is common, and
dynamic video content is quickly becoming more common. Houses of Worship
are moving from PowerPoint™ to dynamic worship presentation software like
Easy Worship, Media Shout, Sunday Plus, and Pro-Presenter. The modern day
church is utilizing systems that rival any theater you would visit. The result is a
dynamic presentation of the Gospel that captures the attention of the congregant and speaks to them in a relevant media savvy method.
Lets review our earlier comment and stated belief that if Jesus came today that He
would still choose 12 people. Think about how
Jesus taught. Can you imagine him on a stage
The result of modern hi-tech
while 30 moving lights swept around Him?
delivery methods is a dynamic presentation
Does His teaching method strike you as someof the Gospel that captures the attention
one who would have produced fancy video
of the congregant and speaks to
productions? While no one has the definitive
them in a relevant media
answers obviously, I’d like to say that I think not.
savvy method.
The Gospel is strong and it stands on it’s own.
That’s huge.
No video. No fancy sound system or screaming worship concert. Twelve sold
out people, and He Himself sold out. Dedicated to God and determined to
save a lost and dying world.
Media systems are not a necessity. Regardless of our generation – the Gospel
message on it’s own is relevant. The truth does proceed from it. God’s Word
will not return void – that’s a promise. However, media systems can strengthen
our message, improve retention, and speak to people in ways that traditional
communicators just can’t.
Now, once again – balance. Like stated earlier, I believe that some of those 12
people would most definitely use media if the timetable of history were today
versus 2000 years ago. But here’s the key – everything
we do with media must ultimately be PEOPLE oriHere’s the key – everything we
ented. Because that’s what this is all about. Reaching
do with media must ultimately
people with the saving Gospel message and helping to
be PEOPLE oriented.
usher people to the throne of Worship as a corporate
We simply must be able to overcome today’s construction obstacles and present people with a clear and concise message of Hope and provide them with
barrier free environments that encourage un-encumbered worship. That’s what
media ultimately does in church worship. We must also understand that people
today are inundated with media content – it’s everywhere we turn. Television,
radio, internet, sporting events – we simply can’t escape modern media pushes.
Almost every young person you look at today has iPod earpieces crammed in
their ears or are walking in a daze as their fingers quickly tap out cryptic text
messages. Podcasts are the rage and it’s virtually impossible to visit a website
without a pop-up.
Ask yourself – where is God in all these pushes? It’s a fair question. Think about
your last few Internet surf sessions. Consider all the pop ups you encountered.
How many of them pointed you to the Gospel or offered eternal hope?
Tell me the last time you saw something on Television that grabbed your attention and spoke to you and allowed the Holy Spirit to convict you and grow
you? Okay – it does happen some, but again – it’s not the norm. As believers –
as people with the most amazing news in the world – we poorly use this and
all other media outlets to spread our message of hope and salvation. Christian
films are by and large terrible. The production values are so low that they come
across cheesy and as a result, are often irrelevant to the viewer. The acting is
often so terrible that the message is lost because it’s so obviously trite. I’m not
saying every Christian work is this way that’s not the case, but I am saying the
vast majority lacks the credibility for a lost audience to stay captured and catch
the message.
It’s a shame. Such an opportunity just squandered away.
Then there is the argument of the modern House of Worship being a theater
that is merely spectacle with no substance. And to an extent, I’d agree that this
argument can be true. However, in some instances, there is a proven effectiveness in using high-tech solutions to capture the seeker or the non-believer. As
a church we must be careful, if you get people in the building and don’t communicate clearly God’s love and His plan for their lives, then disciple them in
truth, and help develop their personal relationship with Christ – what’s the
point? If your goal is not to do this, go tour with a rock band and stop wasting
the church’s resources and time. We should be about bringing people closer
to God and developing relationships. Media in worship should be pointed at
achieving these goals.
A pastor’s primary tool is the Word of God – Scripture itself. A minister of
music’s primary tool is the score written on paper (or in today’s world, a fancy
flat-panel display). A youth minister’s tool is often activities and being free to
be goofy around kids. A small group leader or Sunday School teacher’s tool is
curriculum. YOUR TOOL IS MEDIA. It’s your opportunity to create something
that will speak directly into someone’s life and change it forever! Or, you could
just choose to be a button pusher and barely squeak by every Sunday. The
choice is really yours. But isn’t it exciting to realize that you – someone who
is normally considered a ‘behind-the-scenes’
person has the opportunity with every meeting,
As people who are interested in
to present something that speaks directly to the
using media and creative arts in
people in attendance? What a great concept!
worship we simply MUST BE
Paul asks the question in the book of Romans,
“How will people know if they don’t hear”. Sure,
Paul’s talking about the role of evangelism and
sharing verbally the saving grace of Jesus Christ, but in today’s society, a pastor
without a sound system or a recording facility or even good video projection is
OFTEN NOT HEARD. This is a serious conundrum. You, as a person passionate
about media, or entrusted in the role of media support, are not a button pusher –
If you don’t understand this, you need to stop right now and reconsider your
reason for being involved in media ministry. Because this is key! This is everything. Without you, the Word is not heard, the Word is not seen, the Word
is not taken to the masses. Without you, the people don’t hear, and that, my
friend, is what is all about.
As time continues, acoustically perfect environments become harder and harder
to find. Furthermore, we begin to realize that IMAG (Image Magnification)
helps larger groups relate to the primary communicator, and ultimately we go
full circle to our early beginnings and realize that we can, once again, present
the Gospel with dramatic arts. However, now with technologies that didn’t exist
back then, we can use media to emphasize the message. Media has become
integral to worship – obviously not the act of worship itself, but definitely the
process and the effectiveness of unobstructed corporate worship and clear concise teaching.
Systems Integration
It’s important to think of Sound, Lighting, and Video as three in one. One of
the most common mistakes churches make is thinking of sound, video and
lighting as three independent systems. Most churches today struggle with the
most fundamental success in audio reproduction. Many of these churches want
to incorporate video – often they are pressured to do so from many sources.
The church becomes so driven to add video, they skip over lighting. A poorly
implemented lighting system will often times allow light spillage onto the
video screens, thus washing out the image. The end result is a mediocre video
projection system that looks bad and combined with a poor audio system,
sounds bad as well.
Given the example above, when you think about sound, lighting, and video as
one large media system you have one poorly performing media system versus
three individual systems operating at various efficiencies.
When you think about this way, it doesn’t make any sense to implement one
system without properly implementing the others as well.
I firmly believe that audio is the base of your media ministry. I visit and work
with a lot of different churches. It never fails – when I attend a service that is
well mixed with a good sound system the congregants are involved in worship.
The majority of people are participating in singing and responsive readings.
Likewise, a poorly mixed system or a poorly designed sound system yields the
opposite results – very few people outwardly participating.
A well mixed service on a quality sound system instills confidence in the people.
They can clearly hear the worship leader and more easily engage. Likewise,
a poor sound system can actually deter ministry growth. I’ve worked with
churches that are seeing steady decline in choir, orchestra, and praise team
activity. On the surface, it appears to be a staffing problem – often blamed on
the minister of music or the worship pastor. However, many times, the problem is really poor technology. The people simply can’t work with the existing
system – and remember, these people are not technically savvy – many times
they don’t know how to communicate with us. They simply grow frustrated
and move on to other ministry areas.
I am reminded of an example of this. I was called out to a church once to sort
out a problem. The pastor was frustrated because the choir was complaining weekly about the sound quality. They kept saying they couldn’t hear. The
sound engineer was frustrated because he felt like he was cranking the system
and didn’t understand how they couldn’t hear. I showed up, and sure enough –
the people were frustrated. So, I made my way to the sound booth to speak
with the engineer. He was clearly on edge. He looked at me and said “Brad,
watch this.” He proceeded to bring up the stage monitor system without the
front of house speakers. From 120 feet away, we were measuring 80 db at the
front of house position from ONLY the stage monitors. The sound engineer
looked at me and queried, “How can they not hear that?” I had to admit, I was
perplexed. I was quickly understanding his frustration.
I made my way back to stage, thinking the whole time, “What is going on
here?”. As I made my way to the choir I began to pray. As I approached the choir,
God laid on my heart a simple question to ask the choir. I looked at the group
of singers and asked them “WHAT can you not hear?”. Their response (almost
in unison) was “EACH OTHER!! We can’t hear anything but those speakers –
they are too loud!”.
I think I heard the sound engineers head hit the sound console as it dropped in
ultimate despair! But the lesson here was realizing that all to often, non-technical
people don’t know how to communicate with technical people. We have to
know how to ask the right questions to solve the problem. So, many times,
poorly designed media systems can actually deter ministry team growth and
in some cases actually decline in participation. We need to be savvy enough to
realize this and fix the problem.
Video projection systems are VERY dependent on lighting – both stage lighting
and ambient lighting. Without addressing the lighting in your facility it is foolhardy to plunge full speed ahead with video projection. Likewise, dynamic
video content is really driven home with good audio. Often, video projects
include subject matter like “man on the street interviews” or testimonies. If the
sounds system can’t handle the task, the video is for naught.
Instead, these three systems should be thought of as one big integrated system.
First, sit down and determine your immediate needs as well as your long-term
goals and needs. Then design your system to meet these goals.
I recommend starting with your sound system. I believe it is the key to unencumbered worship. Your sound needs to be tight. Spend money on training your
media teams. Go to conferences, invest in one-on-one training, and purchase
video- and book-based training products. Your investment in training will pay
off many times over. Your people will be more confident and less frustrated.
They will perform their tasks better and worship will be facilitated.
Next, focus on your lighting and ambient lighting. If your goals include extensive video and creative arts development, you simply have to control ambient
light. You have to be able to dim your house lights, and you need at least basic
stage lighting control. In a more advanced contemporary service you need
moving lights and haze along with more detailed traditional lighting plots.
Finally, once your sound and lighting systems are in place, add the video. Now,
you can buy adequate projectors versus wasting money on super high lumen
projectors simple to overcome bad lighting. You can also make educated decisions on things like screen gain, rear projection vs. front projection, and other
equipment related needs.
If you follow this line of thinking in systems integration you will have a more
efficient system that will perform optimally. It’s simply good use of ministry
I can’t stress this enough. Media systems should be well thought out as a whole.
Most of all – get the basics right. If you continually find yourself with the wrong
words on the screen, experiencing feedback, late microphone cues, improperly
lit stage areas, unplugged microphones, and other such problems your media
ministry will never grow like it should – it will never have the positive effect
that you are working so hard to get. Once you get the basics down, and properly
integrate systems, you will begin to see lives changed.
Our job as media ministry people is to support those called to preach, teach,
and lead in worship. We have a huge roll in ministry. We are the support staff
that enable the anointed ones to see their calling to fruition.
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Anatomy of a Sound
A modern-day House of Worship sound system can be as complicated as
the day is long. Many systems today have integrated digital signal processing
(DSP), digital mixing consoles, automixers, complicated matrix systems, complex delay systems, and more! However, when you get down to it, every sound
system is ultimately the same.
Think of a professional sound system as if it were an automobile. You have
your basic entry-level vehicle – it often has no air conditioning and is simply
a motor, a transmission, a steering wheel, four tires, and a few seats. Getting
to 60 miles per hour takes forever and is celebrated when it happens. But this
vehicle gets you from point A to point B and doesn’t cost much.
Conversely, you have the high-end luxury car. Leather interior, biometric recognition systems, integrated GPS, super sound-dampening materials for an enjoyable
ride, a motor, a transmission, a steering wheel, four tires, and a few seats. This car
gets to 60 miles per hour in the blink of an eye – often exceeding 100 miles per
hour without the driver knowing it. It cruises down the road – its occupants in complete comfort – and gets from point A to point B – however, at a premium price.
One vehicle definitely performs better than the other – there is no question. But,
at the heart – both vehicles ultimately work the same. There is a motor, a transmission, four tires, and a few seats. If you can drive one, you can drive the other.
Perhaps you don’t know how to work some of the high-end features such as the
integrated GPS, right off the bat, but you can crank the car, put it in drive, and get
from point A to point B. Likewise, if you commonly drive the high-end vehicle,
you can get in the entry-level car, crank it, and get where you are going (although
you might have to rely on some old-school methods such as reading a map).
A sound system is no different. Despite their size and design, ultimately they
are all operated the same way. If you can operate one sound system, you can
operate any of them. Perhaps you won’t be able to use all the extra equipment
tethered to it, but you will be able to fire up a microphone or CD player and
Sound Systems for Worship
get sound out of the speakers. You will be able to perform a rudimentary mix
and get through the event.
A sound system is only as good as its operator. I’d say that at least 75 percent of the
churches I visit could get much more effectiveness out of their sound system if only the
operator knew the fundamentals of sound and mixed accordingly. Most of the problems
we encounter in church sound systems are not the direct result of a poorly designed
sound system, but the result of poorly trained operators. Solid and consistent training
of the basics of sound is absolutely critical to the success of the modern-day House
of Worship. A bad sound system design can still achieve quite a bit in the hands of a
qualified and well-trained operator.
Overview of an average
sound system layout.
Anatomy of a Sound System CHAPTER 1
You Do Get What You Pay For
While training is important so that your sound engineer can perform optimally
it’s obvious that a well-designed sound system will allow that person to truly
excel. Going back to the car analogy, it might be possible for a highly skilled
driver to perform well at the races
with an old clunker, but a finely
tuned sports car, in the same hands,
will far exceed the results of the
A preamp is an amplifier that boosts the
sound signal prior to it entering the signal path in
clunker. Keep in mind, when planthe console. A cheaper preamp will often alter the
ning a sound system, that you get
true sound and can adversely alter
what you pay for. But, perhaps more
the reproduction of the sound.
importantly, your sound system is
only as good as the weakest link.
You can spend all the money in the world on speakers and amplifiers but
cheap out on the console (sound mixing board) and your system will not perform as it should. The console will prevent the signal from being the best it can
be. Usually, due to cheap preamps, the signal coming into the board will suffer,
because as it passes through the signal path it will continue to pick up excess
noise, and this noise floor will be present in the system. The result will be a
less–than-adequate reproduction of sound.
Time after time churches upgrade their old analog console for a new digital
console – and they are blown away. They have better gain control, the signal
is cleaner, and the system is performing better than ever. Often, they are astonished. This is true in all aspects of your sound system – not just the sound console. So pay close attention to every piece of equipment (and cable) that you
In all your media systems, don’t go cheap on the components that are difficult
or impossible to change once the system is installed. Make sure to spend the
money where it counts (cables, patch panels, connectors, power, etc.). These
are the things that can’t easily be changed down the road. Other items, such as
consoles, microphones, and stage monitors are a little easier to upgrade later
on and might be bargaining chips for your “value” engineer if need be. But I
urge you – STAND STRONG. Nothing is worse than not having the tools you
need to do ministry because you lost (or worse yet, didn’t fight) at the “value”
engineering meetings.
Are You Grounded?
Often overlooked, and rarely understood, it’s important for a sound system to
be on its own circuits with its own isolated ground. Done properly, the power
for the sound system will run back to an isolated transformer specifically for
the sound system.
Sound Systems for Worship
Overview of a small
portable sound system.
This is the single most important thing you can do to reduce hum and interference noises.
Once you get this isolated ground – protect it! Don’t plug a moving light,
orchestra light, or other non-sound-related device into the sound power. These
devices can add noise through the power line that can cause operational problems and poor sound quality. Likewise, don’t go plugging your guitar amps or
other sound devices into building power. The second you do, you defeat the
whole process.
The Mixing Console
At the heart of every sound system is the mixing console. This is the centerpiece of any sound system. Most likely, when someone says “sound system”
Anatomy of a Sound System CHAPTER 1
you think of the large console on the floor of an arena with a confident-looking
person (often dressed in black) standing behind it. The mixing console is the
central heart of any sound system.
Realizing that at the time of this writing, over 80 percent of churches in America
are comprised of 100 people or less, most of the sound systems encountered are
very rudimentary. Often the mixing console will be a powered mixer (in other
words the primary mix controls, system equalization, effects processing and
amplification will all be built together as one unit). However, larger congregations
will have need for a larger mixing console. Many of these congregations will turn
to digital mixers and many will also use submixers.
When you first approach any typical mixing console, it’s common to be a little
intimidated. At first glance, all you see are rows upon rows of different-color
knobs and controls. It looks like a beast – and that’s when you stand behind a
small mixer! When you find yourself in front of a 48- or 52-channel console, or,
heaven forbid, a large-format digital mixer, you might just want to dive for cover!
Relax. That’s a standard feeling. But here’s the secret: if you learn about 16 button/knob functions you can run almost any console out there! That’s right –
all those buttons and knobs and controls that look so intimidating are really
duplicating the same function per channel. And regardless of the type or size of
the console, just like with the automobile example, they all work pretty much
the same. With the knowledge of a handful of controls you can operate almost
any console out there!
So, take a breath, grab a cup of coffee, and let’s explore the typical mixing console.
Lets start off by taking a typical console and breaking it into two primary
sections – the input section and the output section.
The input section is where you manipulate your various input sources (microphones, playback devices, effects returns,
etc.). The output section is where you
route the various signals to the different
outboard components of the sound system (processing, amplification, powered
speakers, stage monitors, etc.).
Input Section
Let’s look first at the input section. Often,
this is where the first wave of intimidation
comes for newer users. Don’t despair. The
input section is easy. Each channel will
consist of an intermediate volume control
A typical mixing console for an averagesized church. Mackie
1604VLZ shown here.
Photo courtesy of
Mackie Designs Inc.
All rights reserved.
Sound Systems for Worship
Rear Connections of a
Mackie 1604 Mixing
Photo courtesy of
Mackie Designs, Inc.
All rights reserved.
(usually a fader, but in some cases it will be a knob). This control is almost
always located at the bottom of the channel strip. Above this strip will be a section of knobs that control the equalization of the channel’s inputs, and another
section of knobs that control the auxiliary sends for the channel. Finally, at the
very top of the channel you will usually find a GAIN control (sometimes called
TRIM). This is the master volume control for the channel.
The controls on one channel duplicate across the entire input section! So, if
you look at Figure 1.5a of a typical channel strip, you will see the volume fader,
auxiliary, equalization, and gain controls. Now, when you look at the channel
in more detail, you’ll notice the Auxiliary knobs all do the same job and the
equalization knobs work like you’d expect. See – this is already getting simpler.
Let’s take a look at each control and discuss how it works.
As mentioned earlier, the Gain (sometimes referred to as Trim) is almost always
going to be located at the top of the channel strip. For practical purposes, you
can think of this as the master volume control on the channel. This is the knob
that the old saying is very true of: “A little bit will do you.” The Gain control is
actually affecting the gain of the preamp.
I like to explain volume structure for a sound system much like a water supply system. When you visualize how water works – you have different control
stations. Think about the main water cut-off to the house. If you turn it a little
bit, water gushes out. Likewise, if you turn the faucet to the kitchen sink on the
same amount, water trickles in comparison.
Now, think of that example when you consider your Gain control. The Gain
control acts like the main water cut-off – turn it a little bit, and you get a lot of
volume proportionally. Your fader or volume control on the channel acts more
like your kitchen faucet – move it the same amount as the Gain control and
you get much less volume proportionally.
Another function (usually located near the Gain control) is the PAD control.
This is a great feature for certain input devices (such as CD players). Some
Anatomy of a Sound System CHAPTER 1
signals come into the console at a higher db level – you know you are
experiencing this when the GAIN is all the way down and you can
barely touch the fader without blasting yourself through the back wall!
If you engage the PAD it will reduce the signal and allow you to build
proper gain structure. One key benefit to using the PAD with higher signals is that it will allow you more manipulation of the signal with the
fader – you can now use the fader to make small, minute changes to
the signal, whereas without the pad you could not. This gives you more
ability to craft your mix.
Typical input channel
strip. Mackie 1604
Mixing Input Channel
Console shown.
Photo courtesy of
Mackie Designs Inc.
All rights reserved.
If the GAIN is your big volume control, the fader is your small volume
control. This allows you more finite control of the signal and is the
primary control you use for your mix. While your mix is ultimately a
concert of all these functions, the fader is your primary control for finetuning the mix. This will be explained in more detail later in the “Gain
Structure” section.
Also near the fader (usually just above it) is the MUTE button. This button
allows you to quickly mute the channel without changing a bunch of settings
or moving the fader. Check your specific console manual to see if the MUTE
button also mutes your auxiliary outputs as well as the main outputs and subgroups – some consoles differ in this regard.
Usually, the next bank of controls is the Auxiliary knobs. It’s not uncommon
for people to not realize what this group of knobs do.
It’s helpful to think of them as simple signal splitters. The auxiliary section will
usually contain between 2 and 16 knobs, depending on your console and its purpose. Each Auxiliary control will usually have a master Auxiliary control (although
not always) and will have its own output jack on the back of the board.
Imagine that channel one has a keyboard input. The channel, without Auxiliary
controls, will take the sound of that keyboard, route it to the subgroups (if the
console has them), and then to the main outputs. That’s great – except you
need that sound in other places too! You might need it to go to the stage monitors, a CD recording or video feed, a hearing-assist feed, or any other output
source other than the main speakers.
The Auxiliary controls allow you to do just that. The more Auxiliary controls
you have, the more places you can route the signal. This is why many consoles
designated for mixing stage monitors have so many Auxiliary controls – they
want to be able to send each signal to many places. Auxiliary controls
give you a great deal of flexibility and are very useful for live and recording
Sound Systems for Worship
Auxiliary controls also allow you to send the signal to outboard effects units
such as vocal reverb units, delay units, equalizers, feedback, and many other
processing sources.
The equalizer controls act much like your car or home stereo – however, they
usually have more frequency bands. A typical small console will have a high,
mid, and low control. A higher-end console will often have a high-mid and a
low-mid control in place of the mid control. Most consoles will also have center frequency adjustment points for each frequency band control. The number
of these center frequency controls tends to increase as the price of the console
Good equalization techniques often elude beginning audio engineers. Your
volume can be spot-on, but bad equalization will destroy your mix.
The best way to learn how to equalize is to get a couple of buddies (ideally
male and female) and spend some time in your church. Give them a microphone (one at a time) and ask them to read a book. As they read aloud,
dramatically adjust each equalizer control independently. Start at the high
frequency and work your way down, resetting each control to center before
moving to the next one.
As you do this, listen to the dramatic change of tonal quality in the voice.
You should hear a substantial difference as you pan through the various
While each console is different, typically the high-band equalizer will act more
like a shelf. This means it will affect a certain frequency (usually around 10
to 12 KHz) and boost or cut the frequencies above this set frequency. The mid
range will affect the middle range of frequencies. On many consoles the mid is
centered somewhere between 1 and 3 KHz. Again, on many consoles you have
the opportunity to use the center frequency control to alter what frequency the
mid control is centered at. It is not uncommon to be able to sweep between
100 Hz and 8 KHz. Whichever frequency you select will be the center frequency.
When you boost or cut the mid range, the frequencies on either side of this
center frequency will be adjusted in a typical bell shape, as you would expect
to see from a Parametric Equalizer. Obviously, this gives you a wide range of
control. Finally, the low frequency control once again acts like a shelf, usually
affecting frequencies 80 Hz and below (although this will be different from
console to console).
You will also often find a “roll off” button – this will automatically reduce frequencies below its set point (often 80 Hz). This is helpful when you are trying
to eliminate low-end noise, microphone stand movement, footsteps, and other
low-end nuisances. However, if you are sending content to a subwoofer you’ll
Anatomy of a Sound System CHAPTER 1
want to make sure the roll off button isn’t accidentally engaged on channels
that include low frequency information (such as playback devices, kick drums,
bass guitar, etc.).
One important note: if you don’t hear a lot of difference when you make subtle changes
to the equalizer control, your system is most likely poorly configured and needs to be
adjusted. A properly set up sound system with good room equalization will be very
responsive to even the slightest amount of equalization change (assuming you are
affecting a frequency that is being utilized in the material you are adjusting for). A lack
of equalization response could be due to poor room equalization (acoustics) or poor
system design. Consult a trained and trusted audio professional for advice and systems
Equalization is key to good sound. While it can be used as an effect, it is primarily used in modern-day Houses of Worship to achieve good tonal control
of individual inputs and to reduce feedback potential (otherwise known as
increasing your gain before feedback).
One very useful tactic for equalization is to reduce the feedback. Often referred
to as “ringing out the microphones,” equalization can help you increase your
gain before feedback (or in layman’s terms – you can get more volume before
your sound system starts squealing like a stuck pig) – and everyone knows that
this is a helpful thing.
When ringing out your microphone, it’s best to use a Parametric Equalizer. This
will allow you to choose a very specific frequency and dial in the amount of Q
(the bandwidth) that the
change will affect. We’ll discuss
this more in the Outboard
Equipment – Equalization section. When using equalization
to reduce feedback it is helpful
to use as small of a Q as you
can – the larger the Q the more
frequencies you are affecting. The Q will tell the parametric how far to extend past
your center frequency when
Typical insert cable.
Photo by Brad Herring.
Sound Systems for Worship
it boosts or cuts the signal. So, the more Q the more frequencies that will be
altered and the more your sound will be affected. When notching for feedback,
you want to reduce the offending frequencies that are creating the feedback loop
but not alter the tonality of the sound.
The Parametric Equalizer would usually be patched into the console via an
insert cable and the insert jack. An insert cable resembles a “Y” cable. On the single connector side is a male Tip-Ring-Sleeve ¼-inch connector and on the other
side of the cable are two individual Tip-Sleeve ¼-inch connectors. The single
Tip-Ring-Sleeve connector plugs into the INSERT jack on the console, while
one of the Tip-Sleeve connectors becomes the SEND and the other becomes
the RETURN. It will depend on your console as to whether the TIP is the SEND
or the RETURN and vice-versa.
The actual process is rather simple.
1. Choose a microphone channel (obviously with the microphone plugged
into it and placed where it will really be used). You can do this with the
microphone placed in a stand, but it’s better if someone is holding the
microphone and walking around the stage with it.
2. Bring the gain all the way down.
3. Increase the fader until it reaches unity (usually shaded a different color on
the fader surface) or until the microphone begins to produce feedback.
4. Assuming you reach unity prior to feedback, begin SLOWLY increasing
the gain until you reach the point of feedback.
5. Identify the frequency that is ringing – dial it into the EQ and slowly
reduce the gain on the EQ until the ringing stops. NOTE: Give the system time to respond. Sometimes you might have to mute the channel
or reduce the gain to make the feedback loop stop – then slowly reintroduce the gain. Once you have properly equalized the frequency you
should be able to take the gain higher than before.
6. Continue increasing the gain until feedback occurs again – then repeat
the process.
NOTE: Anytime you alter the EQ regardless of how minute you also alter the
tonal quality of the sound. Ringing out a microphone should be done with
Feedback is the result of projected sound from
the PA system being picked up by the microphone and
reintroducing it to the system slightly out of phase (due to time
delay). This loop increases in intensity until the frequencies
excite to the point of feedback. Feedback can happen
at any frequency, but is most often heard at
higher and lower tones.
Anatomy of a Sound System CHAPTER 1
very conservative taste – you should monitor the channel with the talent’s voice
so you make sure you are not removing frequencies that will alter the sound
beyond what you are willing to accept.
You’ll never get to a point where you will not get feedback – it’s just an inevitable part of live sound mixing. The point is to try to get to a point where you
can get the volume you need (plus a safety margin) without feedback.
Man in the Hole Have you ever stood in a tunnel or a big open room and
listened to someone speak? The voice is hollow and has a weak resonance
to it that makes the voice difficult to understand. In our world of sound
systems, this is most commonly a result of too much mid-range EQ and
sometimes too much low-frequency EQ. Dial them back a little bit and see
if the tonal quality doesn’t improve.
Tin Can Effect This is the old AM radio sound – or like your head is in a
bucket. This is the result of too much high frequency and sometimes the
lack of mid and low frequencies.
My Ears Are About to Explode From the High Pitch This is perhaps the worst.
When the volume is extremely loud, and the high frequency is excited, this
creates a very uncomfortable sound for your audience. Adjust accordingly.
Remember: As sound pressure (volume) increases or
decreases equalization changes! A good sound engineer is
constantly making minute adjustments to the equalizer and
constantly listening for changes.
These buttons are usually (but not always) located near the fader. Not all consoles will have subgroups, but most of your mid to larger size consoles will
utilize them.
Subgroups are a sound engineer’s
best friend. Subgroups allow you to
take complicated mixes and combine similar channels into groups.
An example of this would be choir
microphones. If your church has nine
choir microphones, you can assign all
of them to the same subgroup. Now,
Make sure when using subgroups that you
have assigned the SUBGROUP faders to
their appropriate outputs (normally the
MAIN output) – otherwise your signal will
go nowhere!
Sound Systems for Worship
mix the nine individual microphones to taste. Once you get the mix set, you
can increase or decrease the SUBGROUP fader to control the overall volume of
that entire group of microphones in the main mix. This allows you to alter the
overall volume of a group without individual changes and trying to maintain
the mix.
Pre-Fader Listen (PFL), also sometimes called SOLO, will allow you to listen to
that specific channel in the headsets. This is a great tool for isolating problems
or simply listening to channels to identify what signal is coming through it.
PFL is also used for identifying a sound in a mix. For instance, if you are mixing an orchestra and you find yourself having trouble identifying the bassoon,
you can PFL the bassoon channel, hear it, and disengage the PFL, and your ear
will tend to hear the bassoon in the mix. This will allow you to identify the
sound and determine if you need more or less of it in the mix.
You want to make sure you know how this feature works prior to using it in a
service! Most consoles offer PFL and SOLO features that allow that individual
channel only in the headphones (as described above) but some consoles do
what’s called a “destructive solo.” This means that they mute all audio sources
other than the channel selected and only that channel is heard in the house
sound system! That would be a very unpleasant surprise, so make sure you
understand how your particular console functions!
Out-board equalizers play an important role in the success of your sound system. First, they control the tonal quality of your sound system. The equalizer
(combined with acoustic treatment) is your only way to overcome the natural
sound of the room.
Sound is actually a series of sound waves. As these waves are projected from
their source, they proceed until they hit something. If these waves hit something reflective (like a solid wall or glass), they bounce back and cause a
phenomenon known as reflections. If these waves hit a dense curtain, carpet,
the human body, or other such dense materials they tend to be absorbed.
As these sound waves bounce around your room they cause different effects in
the room. Often, they interact with each other to cancel out certain frequencies
in the room or to emphasize certain frequencies.
In an effort to control the room, equalization is used to increase or decrease
the affected frequencies in the room. Normally, a qualified systems integrator
will utilize a series of test microphones, measuring equipment, and other tools
to identify the problem areas in a room and equalize to overcome them. Now,
obviously, these waves interact at many different points in the room – thus
affecting each seat differently. The systems integrator (or engineer) will average
his finds to make the overall room balanced.
Anatomy of a Sound System CHAPTER 1
A Graphic Equalizer.
Photo courtesy of
Ashly Audio. All rights
When combined with proper acoustical treatment you can get a very nicesounding room. The more advanced planning that goes into the design of the
room the better your result will be.
As alluded to earlier, there are two primary types of equalization – Graphic
and Parametric. The specific use will dictate which one is ideal for your
A Graphic Equalizer comes in preset octaves (such as full octave or one third
octave). So, for instance, if you affect 1 KHz, you are affecting a preset range of
octaves on either side of that frequency. A Parametric Equalizer on the other
hand allows you to select the frequency, then select the bandwidth (basically the
octave range) on either side that you wish to select. With a Parametric Equalizer,
you can choose to affect a very broad range or an extremely narrow range.
A Parametric Equalizer is normally made with very few bands of control (usually between two and four), while a Graphic Equalizer typically has 15 or 31
bands to cover the entire audible spectrum.
If you are looking for very specific frequency control and want to make sure to
not affect a broad range of frequencies, then a Parametric Equalizer is your best
bet. If you are looking for broad tonal control and basic room adjustment a
Graphic Equalizer is more often employed for the task.
When you increase or decrease the gain of a frequency or
frequencies with an equalizer, you are increasing or decreasing
the overall system gain as well – be careful or you’ll find
yourself clipping and/or feeding back!
A Graphic Equalizer is fairly easy to operate. By selecting the appropriate fader
to the frequency range you wish to affect, you simply boost (increase) or cut
Sound Systems for Worship
A Parametric Equalizer.
Photo Courtesy of Rane.
All rights reserved.
(decrease) the level as it’s centered around 0 db. If you are unsure which frequency you are hearing, it’s easy to dramatically cut a frequency to the fullest extent of the control and listen to the change – it should be dramatic. You
should then be able to quickly decide if that’s the correct frequency or not.
Usually on the side of the Graphic Equalizer you will have a series of selection
buttons. One will be a db selector. This button determines how much range each
fader has. Since the unit is limited in physical space, each fader can only be so
long. By selecting your db range you can effectively make the fader cover more
range or less range. So, if you are trying to have more fine control you would
select the lower db setting, but if you find yourself needing more dramatic
control you’d select the higher db setting.
You’ll also notice a bypass button. Sometimes this will be labeled as ENGAGE or
ON as well. Either way, it does the same thing – it allows you to activate the EQ or
bypass it completely. This is helpful. You’ll sometimes find that as you adjust the
equalizer you will do more harm that good. It’s easy to “over eq.” When you think
you might be beyond a point of doing good, you can quickly bypass the equalizer.
If it sounds better with the EQ bypassed then you’ve “over eq’ed” the system. Start
working backward to undo what you’ve done or reset the equalizer and start over.
The Parametric Equalizer is going to have a series of controls on it. First, you
will normally have Frequency, Q, and Gain controls.
The Frequency control allows you to select the frequency you wish to center on.
The Q (sometimes called bandwidth) will allow you to select how many frequencies on either side of the center frequency you wish to affect. This is very helpful
for improving gain before feedback, reducing ringing nodes or similar fine-tune
adjustments. A larger Q on the other hand is more typical for controlling tonality.
As mentioned earlier, a Parametric Equalizer is more limited in actual bands
that it can affect, but is more flexible in providing the user the option of affecting more or less bands overall with a single central frequency.
The Role of Equalization
Equalization plays a vital role in modern-day sound systems. Not only does
it help us balance the room but it also permits us to control the overall tonal
quality of the mix – both as a final mix and on an individual channel basis.
Equalization allows the engineer to “color” the mix.
Anatomy of a Sound System CHAPTER 1
Equalization for a typical sound system
will usually begin at 20 Hz and top out
at 20 KHz. This is the best case sonic
range that we humans can hear.
Power amplifier.
Photo courtesy of Crown
Audio. All rights reserved.
Amplifiers are used (as you might imagine) to amplify the signal. They take a
line level input and process the signal –
ultimately converting it to power. This
powered signal can now pulse the components of a speaker and allow it to reproduce sound.
Amplifiers are rated at different power levels (measured in watts) and different impedances (measured as ohms). It’s important that you match the correct
amplifier with the correct speaker. Underpowering and overpowering alike are
bad for a speaker and will shorten its lifespan. While buying the correct amplifier
might seem like a budget challenge, it’s the right path in the long term – as you
will be a better steward of your ministry dollar.
As a general rule of thumb, when choosing the correct amplifier for your
needs, the amplifier’s continuous power should be equal to one and a half or
two times the speaker’s continuous power handling (at the same impedance).
If you are wiring two similar speakers in parallel, the amplifier’s continuous
power should equal four times one speaker’s continuous power handling.
Most people know that OVERPOWERING a speaker is bad,
but many overlook the fact that UNDERPOWERING a speaker
can do just as much damage and shorten the service life
of the speaker.
Amplifiers are also available in various impedances. In the typical House of
Worship, you will most commonly work with 70 volts, 25 volts (commonly
used in low-voltage feeds with many speakers – such as nursery rooms, hallways, bathrooms, etc.) and 8-ohm, 4-ohm, and occasionally 2-ohm amplifiers
(most commonly used in distributing power to the primary speaker components of a sound system and stage monitor system).
Amplifiers, as with all electronics, vary in price. You do indeed get what you
pay for. A higher priced amplifier will likely have cleaner circuits, operate more
efficiently, and long work better in the long term.
Sound Systems for Worship
Typical loudspeaker.
Photo courtesy of
Electro Voice.
When considering ohms, realize that a speaker’s rating
is cut in half every time you plug another speaker into
the same circuit. For instance, if you have a stage monitor amplifier that feeds four stage jacks and your stage
monitors are 8 ohms each, when you plug in the first
speaker, it’s running 8 ohms. When you plug in the
second, they are both now running at 4 ohms. Add a
third, and you are running 2 ohms. If your amplifier is
rated at 8 ohms, you are really putting a strain on the
amplifier and will significantly shorten its lifespan –
not to mention the possibility of overheating the
amplifier, tripping circuits, or, worst case, causing a
fire. Fire is bad.
Also, realize that for every foot of cable you run to
the speaker, you increase resistance. This reduces the efficiency of the amplifier
and makes it work at less than specified wattages. Likewise, the use of undersized cable will increase your resistance – causing the cable to heat up (again
presenting a possible fire hazard) and reducing the overall workload of the
Next to a person standing behind a console, the loudspeakers are probably
one of the other primary things people think about when they hear the term
“sound system.” They are the main component that is usually seen by the audience and of course that’s where much of the sound actually comes from!
When considering speakers, there is a lot to think about. The first choice is,
are you looking at a distributed system or an array system? This will narrow
your search.
A distributed system is a system that uses many speakers spread over a wide
area. They are time-aligned digitally and work together to cover a large area of
sound by focusing on a small area per speaker. The speakers are then adjusted
so that they blend together and create a uniform coverage area.
This is more of an old-school approach, and while it can work very well in
certain cases I tend to steer people away from this concept. It requires a lot of
setup and a lot of equipment, and can very easily be altered by room environments such as temperature and humidity.
An arrayed system uses clusters of speakers to cover large areas. You have most
likely seen a center speaker array in older churches. This is a combination of
speakers that work together to provide an even coverage area throughout the
entire audio spectrum (ideally). More recently designers began working with
Left/Center/Right systems to combine good vocal reproduction with hi-fidelity
music reproduction. This system design works well in most rooms, but requires
a lot of equipment and a fair amount of training to get it all performing well.
Anatomy of a Sound System CHAPTER 1
Finally, most recent (as of the writing of this book) is line-array technology.
This technology uses a series of small boxes – one on top of the other – to
purposefully phase in and out with the other cabinets around it to create even
A Note About Line Arrays Simply stacking
a small group of speakers together vertically does not
make a true line array. A true line array is any number of driver
elements that are spaced no more than a quarter of a wavelength
apart. The speaker cabinets in a line array are designed to sum and
subtract from each other as a whole. This allows them to work in
tandem with each other and evenly cover an area. Many smaller
systems of vertically stacked speakers work well – but
they are simply vertical arrays. Make sure to know
what you are getting before signing on
the dotted line.
Once you determine which system you want in your House of Worship, you
can begin to look at the individual specifics of each manufacturer’s design.
There are some systems out there that might not sound the BEST, but they
work – even if dropped off a truck, kicked around storage, and just generally
abused. Other systems might not be so road-worthy, but produce a much higherfidelity sound. Both of these categories of speakers have their place in ministry.
Most loudspeakers are measured by the same standards.
First – Size. You will commonly see a speaker referred to as a 10, 12, or
15. This refers to the size of its woofer component. So, if a speaker has a
12-inch woofer it’s a 12-inch cabinet – or sometimes simply called a 12.
Second – Number of Components. For instance, a two-way speaker will
have a low and a high range component. A three-way speaker will have a
low, mid, and high range component.
Third – Driver Type. Some speakers are horn loaded and some are ribbon
speakers, while others are coaxial designed. Each driver type has its own
characteristics. For instance, a horn tends to be more in your face but can
really help you push vocals through a mix. A coaxial design will tend to
sound more like a hi-fi system and will lean toward sounding more like
your high-end home stereo system. Ribbon speakers are often loved by
audiophiles but are commonly limited by weather restraints and can suffer
from directional control problems.
Sound Systems for Worship
Fourth – Power Handling. Speakers are rated in wattage. Usually, a higher
wattage cabinet will produce a louder signal, and many times this signal
will be of higher fidelity (this is especially true with subwoofers). As a
broad statement, more watts will typically give you more sound – and generally a tighter sound. The speaker is also rated in continuous power and
peak power. As you might expect, the continuous rating is what the speaker
is designed to operate at over a sustained amount of time – the peak rating
is its maximum rating for short bursts of signal. Operating for long periods
of time at the peak power rating will ultimately damage the loudspeaker.
Fifth – Frequency Response. The human ear can typically hear from 20 Hz to
20 KHz (depending on age, history of exposure to loud sounds, and other,
similar factors). But the human body can FEEL much lower that that and
sometimes reacts to sounds much higher. For instance, sometimes sounds
above 20 KHz can make a person’s hair stand up on their neck. Sounds
lower than 20 Hz are often felt instead of being heard since the longer sound
wave creates air pressure that pushes on the body or thumps the seat. These
lower frequencies can go far in creating atmospheres and environments
where people get excited about the music they are hearing. So you can see
how all of these frequencies work together. Commonly a speaker will translate from around 30 Hz to 16 KHz, but this varies from speaker to speaker.
Sixth – Directional Design. A professional loudspeaker usually has a published coverage pattern. This is the average coverage predictability of the
loudspeaker. You will notice when you look at the specifications that it
varies from frequency to frequency, but the overall average is specified.
Typically, this will be 100° 100°, 60° 40°, 40° 20°, etc. This refers
to the angle from the center of the horn or tweeter that the sound will
cover horizontally and vertically. Many loudspeakers have a rotatable
horn, which will allow you to swap horizontal and vertical coverage as
needed for your purpose. Remember, this is not a perfect measurement
(for instance, if you walk to 34° of one side of a 60° pattern you are still
going to hear sound – but the majority of the high and mid frequency
sound energy will be encapsulated within that pattern).
One thing to remember in regard to loudspeaker
placement – ideally your main speakers for the audience will
be on top of or slightly in front of the most downstage microphone
(the microphone closest to the audience). This will help reduce
feedback in your mix. Any microphone that is in front of a
loudspeaker it is mixed into will have a greater tendency to
feedback quicker than if it were located behind
the loudspeaker.
Anatomy of a Sound System CHAPTER 1
Input Devices
All of the previous components do little good if there is no signal going
through the system to amplify. Input devices range from microphones to musical instruments with direct connections to CD players, minidiscs, computers,
iPods and more!
The input device is really the main reason for a sound system in the first place –
that is, to take a signal and amplify it so it can be heard by the masses. With
that in mind, it’s critical that you seriously consider how you connect devices
to your system.
As systems get more complex, there are more components utilized.
Unfortunately, many Houses of Worship get stuck on the very basic components
that we have already discussed and they stop there. The reason that’s unfortunate
is because the very basic components merely make the system work in a fundamental way – the audio gets louder and can be heard by the people.
But that audio is usually dull and uninteresting. It doesn’t do much for dissolving walls during worship and helping to usher people into the Throne room.
Often times, it creates walls by the mix being inefficient, poorly balanced, and
prone to feedback.
With proper training, the church can utilize many of the more advanced system
components and really begin to craft their mix.
I often tell people that there is no difference between media team and worship team. In reality, we are all on the same team – it’s just that the guys on
the “media team” play a different type of instrument. As a House of Worship
sound engineer, the mixing console is your “instrument.” With it, you can craft
a mix and really make it stand out. You can take a soloist and, by the manipulation on the raw signal that you impose, make the hair stand up on people’s
necks (not because the system is screaming with feedback, but because you
build in a dynamic that stirs the soul).
Beyond the Basics
We’ll look at many of these components later in the book, but I believe it’s
important that we mention them here so we realize that they are slightly more
advanced than the basic components and that you start to ponder how you can
begin to use these tools in your mix.
One of the first “upgrades” many people make is in the area of preamps. As
defined earlier, a preamp is an amplifier that boosts the sound signal prior to it
entering the signal path in the console. Most entry-level or cost-conscious mixers skimp on their preamps. A preamp sits behind the microphone input of the
Sound Systems for Worship
console and boosts the low-level “mic” signal to a line-level signal that can be
more easily manipulated and processed.
The preamp really determines how the original sound source will sound. A
cheaper preamp will tend to make the source sound really thin and thus reduce
a lot of the original dynamics. A real bad preamp will add a lot of noise to the
system, thus increasing your noise floor and reducing your gain before feedback. In a nutshell, this means the system is going to potentially start screaming with feedback much earlier than if the signal were cleaner.
One simple solution is to purchase rack-mounted preamps from a reputable
manufacturer that specializes in this very thing. Another option is to purchase
a more expensive soundboard with nicer preamps built in.
Electronic processing includes advanced equalizers, crossovers, compressors, limiters, gates, DSPs, effects processors, feedback suppressors, and more. Electronic
processing allows you to truly impact the sound after it reaches the mixer. Some
components help you to limit spikes, others help you eliminate feedback,
some help you alter the tonality of the sound, and some simply help you get a
clearer mix.
Electronic processing is a vital part of a quality sound system.
The subwoofer is a critical loudspeaker component that should never be foregone, but especially in Houses of Worship that are contemporary in nature.
One of the primary ways to build excitement and energy in a room is to “pump
up the bass.” In a contemporary service, the subwoofer can be used to really
drive kick drums and bass guitars. In a traditional service the subwoofer is
invaluable in rounding off the full spectrum of sound for instruments like the
keyboard and upright bass while also helping to punch the bass in a quartet or
other musical group.
Subwoofers create a huge dynamic in any sound system. Regardless of if you
use it as a big thumper or simply to create a full-range sound, the subwoofer is
a critical part of any sound system.
Generally speaking, when it comes to subwoofers, the more power they take
and the heavier they are to lift the bigger the punch will be. Subwoofers are
often cut because it’s difficult to find room to put them, but the effort is well
worth it in the end. Another reason subwoofers are foregone is cost. There are
companies that make a lot of bang for relatively little buck, and there are also
companies that produce outstanding subwoofer designs along with a price to
go with it. Both have their place in ministry. The choice of quality and punch
in a subwoofer is up to you, but going without one should never be a consideration if you can help it.
Anatomy of a Sound System CHAPTER 1
Excitement is built through a quality sound mix. In contemporary services, a
significant enabler of excitement in a mix is a quality subwoofer that is properly
crossed over at the right frequency and powered correctly. As with anything, a
subwoofer used with poor discretion can create more problems than good, but
used with taste the subwoofer can be your best friend in energizing the mix.
Another important feature on your sound system is a power conditioner. A
power conditioner will protect the system from power spikes, which can do
serious damage to the electronics that make up your sound system.
Power conditioners come in different types and different strengths. Your most
basic power conditioner is a rack-mounted multistrip power conditioner. Often
these come with lighting built into them, which can be helpful in illuminating
the components within the rack that are underneath it.
More advanced protection is located before the rack and is substantially more
expensive, albeit it offers more protection as well as sometimes providing a little
bit of AC cleanup.
Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) backups are another great addition to
your sound system. They are especially critical if you are using a digital console.
Many digital consoles can take several minutes to reboot after a power failure.
Having them on a UPS will keep the console up and running during a short
If your system is mission critical you can connect it to a backup generator that
automatically kicks on with building power failure. It is not uncommon to
see this type of generator system for large commercial buildings. The average
House of Worship will be well served with a simple UPS solution similar to
what you might use on a high-end computer desktop.
Now that you have an idea of the various components that can make up
a sound system, let’s take a look at the typical connections you will run into
when interconnecting these components.
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Connections in a Sound
By and large most connections for a sound system are fairly standardized. The
wiring for these connections is very standardized.
For each purpose, there is a proper connection. When it comes to sound systems,
the fewer connection points you have, the better off you are. With every connection
point comes an opportunity for noise and failure. So, by minimizing the number
of connections you have in a sound system you increase your odds of good performance. You also simplify troubleshooting when something does go wrong.
Sound systems have two primary groups of connections: Signal Level (Mic
Level and Line Level) and Powered Level (Speaker Level).
Signal Level connections are high- or low-impedance connections, while
Powered Level connections are post-amplifier connections (such as those found
on the back of a speaker).
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XLR microphone connections are a
professional quality balanced input
for mic level (low-impedance connections). You will notice that the ground
pin is slightly longer than the other
two pins. This ensures the ground will
always connect first when mated.
A balanced input consists of two conductors
of the same type that each have equal impedance
to ground. Conversely, an unbalanced line has
two conductors that have an unequal
impedance to ground.
(Female End)
(Male End)
Pinout (Male)
Pinout (Female)
Pin 3 (–)
Pin 2 (+)
Pin 1 (Shield)
Wiring pinout of XLR connection.
Pin 2 (+)
Pin 1 (Shield)
Pin 3 (–)
Connections in a Sound System
A Tip-Sleeve connection is always an unbalanced mono signal. When being
used for a signal it is considered a high-impedance connection. When being used
for power (such as for speaker connections) it is a Powered-Level connection.
Obviously the Powered-Level connection requires larger gauge wire and oftentimes the actual connection is made in a more sturdy fashion. A Tip-Sleeve connection is recognizable due to the single band on the sleeve of the connection.
A Tip-Sleeve connection is typically used for applications such as connecting a
guitar to an amp or direct box, while a speaker cable utilizing a Tip-Sleeve connection would connect an amplifier to a speaker.
Tip (+)
Sleeve (Shield)
Wiring pinout of TS connection.
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A Tip-Ring-Sleeve connection, depending on its application, is a stereo connection or a balanced connection. If it’s being utilized for low power output (such
as a headphone output), it allows for a stereo connection. When being utilized
for signal, it allows for a balanced connection. A Tip-Ring-Sleeve connection is
recognizable because of the two individual bands on the sleeve.
You will also commonly see a Tip-Ring-Sleeve connection used on an insert
cable, with one conductor being the send and the other acting as the return
(while the opposite end of the cable will have two Tip-Sleeve connections to
plug into the outboard equipment).
Pinout (Male:Female)
Tip (+)
Sleeve (Shield)
Ring (–)
Wiring pinout of TRS connection.
Connections in a Sound System
The 1⁄8-inch mini-plug connection is used for smaller electronics (such as an
MP3 player) as well as headphone outputs. The signal can be mono (single
band on the sleeve) or stereo (dual band on the sleeve). It wires just like its big
brother the ¼-inch connector, but is much smaller in size. The 1⁄8-inch miniplug is typically used for low-wattage powered connections (such as headphones), although in many applications it carries line-level loads.
Two BandsStereo
One BandMono
Pinout (Stereo)
Pinout (Mono)
1/8" MINI
Wiring pinout of 1/8-inch mini-plug stereo and mono connection.
Sound Systems for Worship
The RCA (or PHONO) connection is most commonly seen in consumer electronics and other pro-sumer components. Often used for audio (and composite
video), the RCA connection is a rather common connection for sound systems.
The RCA connection is an unbalanced high-impedance line-level connection.
It is also important to not confuse
an RCA output with a coaxial digital
connection. Always take the time to
read what you are connecting to!
Pinout (Male)
Pinout (Female)
() Tip Signal
() TIP Signal
Wiring pinout of RCA connection.
Connections in a Sound System
Originally brought over from the phone and
network industry, punch blocks have become
an acceptable way of interconnecting line and
mic level connections. Punch blocks can accept
a large number of connections in a relatively
small area. However, you do lose your shielding in the process, so it can be a component
susceptible to noise.
Placing your punch block in a grounded
metal enclosure will help you get some
level of shielding back.
Photo of a punch block
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Barrier strip connections are most commonly used for speaker-level powered
connections. They are simply a set of screw terminals that have a conductor
connecting one side to the other. By utilizing a spade connector on the end of the
wire, you can screw the wire down and then connect it to the wire on the other
side simply by making a tight connection at each screw.
Barrier strips can be joined together so that one screw on one side will connect to multiple screw heads on the other, thus allowing you to split the signal.
Again, impedances should always be considered when doing this. For instance,
many output impedances are low, thus allowing you to be able to connect several devices together without much worry; but many input impedances are
high, so connecting multiple inputs could cause problems such as distortion
and low-frequency loss.
Photo of a barrier strip
Connections in a Sound System
Banana plug connections are power-level connections that typically connect to the
back of an amplifier or speaker. A banana plug allows for quick and easy speaker
line connection. They can also be piggybacked into one another to stack out of an
amplifier (line impedances should always be considered when doing this).
Banana plugs come in all kinds of colors, so the most important thing to
remember when wiring them up is to stay consistent – otherwise your speakers will be out of phase by reversed connections. You will often find one side of
the banana post to be ribbed – traditionally this would be used on the ground
(black) side of the amplifier’s binding post.
() Usually
Ribbed or Red
() Usually
Smooth or Black
Wiring pinout of banana
plug connection.
Sound Systems for Worship
Neutrik introduced the NL series speaker connection that is now standard for any
high-end professional sound system. These connections twist and lock into place,
thus eliminating an easy accidental unplugging as was so often the case with the
¼-inch connector. Likewise, these connections are rated for more power and are
a lot easier to wire (since you can get them in set-screw or solder models).
The NL2 is a two conductor, the NL4 is a four conductor. They make other configurations of this cable as well. You can use the NL4 connection and only wire pins
1 and 1 for a normal passive speaker. Bi-amped connections can use the 2
and 2 pins as well and carry all four conductors to the speaker at once.
(1) For
Channel One
(1) For
Channel One
(2) For
Channel Two
Wiring pinout of NL4
(2) For
Channel Two
Connections in a Sound System
While a sound system can be connected directly via a microphone cable, it is
far more common to see most interconnections via a stage snake. A snake typically has a large number of stage connections on one end and a fan-out of
connections on the other side.
A permanent snake might be hardwired
into the wall, running with several different wires back to the console where it will
enter a patch panel or connect directly to the
console, while a temporary snake will most
likely have a stage box that will contain all of
the stage connections and a fan-out on the
other side that connects to the console.
A fan-out is the end of the snake with
several individual connectors. This end
would normally be connected at the
sound console.
There are two types of snakes – analog and digital.
Analog Snakes
Until recently, the only option for an audio snake was an analog snake.
Analog Whirlwind snake.
Photo courtesy of Whirlwind. All rights reserved.
Sound Systems for Worship
Analog snakes contain all of the channels inside one multi-conductor wire that
runs the distance between the stage box and the fan-out. The more connections,
the larger in diameter this multi-conductor wire will be. Large channel snakes that
reach longer distances can be quite large (and quite heavy).
If you want to break out to a monitor console, recording mix, or other output, a
transformer-based splitter is recommended. Trying to split signals without using
a transformer-based splitter is possible, but it will hurt your overall quality. A
transformer-based splitter will make sure the signal stays pure and isolated from
noise and impedance mismatches. Transformer splits are often very expensive.
Analog snakes are susceptible to interference and noise, and take up a lot of
room. Until recently, there was no choice: If you wanted to pass large channels of
audio from the stage to the mixing console you had to use a snake of some sort.
There is nothing special about a snake. The connections inside are wired exactly
the same. Most commonly, the ones on the stage side are panel mounted (flush
mounted to the surface — in this case, the surface of a box). However, both
sides of the snake can be what’s called a “fan-out.” This is where each individual channel is mounted on the cable itself – just like with a regular microphone cable.
Some snakes offer multi-pin connectors so you can tie them in directly to a box
or attach a fan-out.
Mass connector.
Photo courtesy of Whirlwind. All rights reserved.
The wire that runs the distance of the snake is a multi-conductor wire. Simply
put, this one large bundle of wire contains all the wiring needed for each connector in each connection. This simply saves you from having to run each individual wire separately (which would be a huge pain and take forever). Oddly
enough, it would also tend to be more expensive as each cable would be a fully
finished cable. Inside the multi-cable all the cables are regular wiring with one
big rubber exterior wrap for protection and extra shielding.
Connections in a Sound System
It’s important to not run power down a regular
microphone snake. The wiring inside is not heavy duty enough
to handle the current, plus the fact that the wire is shielded will
increase its likelihood to maintain heat from the added resistance – this
can start a fire. If you need another reason to not do this, the
combination of line level, mic level, and speakerlevel signals
can create crosstalk in your system.
Digital snake
Fairly recently, digital snakes have emerged in the marketplace. As a quick
summary – if you can utilize a digital snake, do it.
Digital snakes offer huge flexibility in running the signal and splitting the signal. Plus, they usually have excellent preamps and amazingly low signal to
noise ratios. This means more headroom in your mix and a much better sound.
Early on latency was a huge issue for digital
Today, however, that problem has been solved
Latency is the delay created by the
by most manufacturers. Digital snakes can run
analog to digital and digital to
on regular Ethernet cables or Fiber cables. The
analog processing,
Fiber cable is usually preferable due to the
increase in bandwidth and distance; however, it
is usually much more expensive and tends to be more fragile as well.
Most Houses of Worship will be well served with a standard Ethernet digital snake
solution. It is important to choose a snake with redundancy. After all, you are now
relying on one single cable to transmit all of your signal information. Should that
cable meet some unfortunate and unforeseen fate, you want another cable there to
seamlessly pick up the signal and keep the show audio going.
We talk more about digital snakes in the Going Digital portion at the end of
the Sound for Worship section of this book. But it’s important to realize that
you have a choice, and as digital technology continues to take over the world
of pro-audio, it is definitely the way of the future.
Roland digital snake.
Photo courtesy of
Roland. All rights
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More on Microphones
Overview of Microphones
Microphones come in a variety of flavors. They are referenced primarily by
their “pickup pattern.” Much like a loudspeaker has a coverage pattern, so
does a microphone. There are five basic patterns categories for microphones,
and these are referred to as “polar patterns.” You will seem them listed as
Omnidirectional, Cardioid, Super-Cardioid, Hyper-Cardioid, and Bidirectional.
Like reading a speaker coverage pattern, polar patterns can be intimidating
until you realize what you are looking at. Often times, a manufacturer will
give you readings at various frequencies. For most of your work you will suffice knowing the basics. As you advance, you can really gain from knowing the
individual frequency response of your specific microphone as it pertains to
vocalists of different ranges, monitor placement, and more! The illustrations
in this section are meant as a reference. I find it helpful to imagine the pickup
pattern of a microphone as if it were a flashlight. Wherever the field of vision
would be illuminated is where the sound will be picked up. With a flashlight, if
the beam does not illuminate something, it’s not seen. Likewise, with a microphone pickup pattern, if the sound is not within that pattern, it’s most likely
not heard. Knowing where a microphone does not pick up sound is often just as
important (sometimes more so) than knowing where it does pick up sound.
The illustrations here will provide you a good visual of what the polar pattern
is trying to tell you. They are not intended as an accurate depiction of any specific polar pattern, but rather to help you understand the general direction in
which sound will be picked up and rejected. Notice, they are slightly exaggerated to help you visualize the reception and rejection areas for each major class
of microphone. The areas with the black-and-white gradation are where sound
is most likely picked up from that type of microphone. Each manufacture will
supply a polar pattern with their microphone, showing how it specifically
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performs. You will notice that the actual area of reception and rejection varies
from microphone to microphone, but the same similar characteristics follow.
Omnidirectional – An Omnidirectional microphone picks up sounds
equally from all directions. There are some cases in which an Omnidirectional microphone can be helpful, such as a lavaliere microphone
for the pastor or teacher. As the person turns his or her head one way
or another, the microphone tends to pick up the voice fairly evenly.
However, it is important to realize the tradeoff. An Omnidirectional
microphone is picking up sound from everywhere – this means your
stage monitors, loudspeakers, and anything else in proximity to that
microphone. This can cause a feedback nightmare. It can also make
it hard to get a good, tight mix since it will pick up other instruments
nearby. (See 3-to-1 Rule later in this section, Figure 3.1).
Cardioid – A Cardioid microphone picks up a tighter area of sound in front
of it and rejects most sound behind it (including the areas 45 degrees off the
rear axis of the microphone and the area directly behind it) (See Figure 3.2).
Super-Cardioid – A Super-Cardioid microphone has a narrower reception
area (helping to reduce sounds coming from off-axis angles). However,
as you can see in the illustration, it also starts to pick up sounds from
directly behind the microphone as well (See Figure 3.3).
Hyper-Cardioid – A Hyper-Cardioid microphone has an even narrower
reception area in front of the microphone, but as you can see, it also has
a significantly larger reception area directly behind the microphone. The
microphones are very sensitive to directionality. It is important that the
microphone be pointed directly at the sound source you are wishing to capture (See Figure 3.4).
Bidirectional – A Bidirectional microphone receives sound from opposite
sides of the microphone equally. This is similar to a figure-8 pattern. Such a
microphone could be very useful for an interview where two people are sitting opposite each other, or any other situation where you would like to pick
up sound from both sides of the microphone fairly equally (See Figure 3.5).
Omni-Directional Pattern
Cardioid Pattern
Cardioid microphone.
More on Microphones CHAPTER 3
Hyper-Cardioid Pattern
Bidirectional Pattern
Super-Cardioid Pattern
Super-Cardioid microphone.
Hyper-Cardioid microphone.
Bidirectional microphone.
Why should you care about the areas
where a microphone REJECTS sound? Because
these are the areas in which you would want to position
stage monitors, loud instruments, and other unwanted sound
sources. For instance, placing a stage monitor directly in front
of a performer using a Hyper-Cardioid microphone would be
foolish as it has such a huge reception area directly off the rear
axis of the microphone. You would pick up stage monitor sound
as well as the primary voice. You would get a lot of unwanted
clutter in your mix – not to mention the feedback issues
you would most likely face. Likewise, if a performer were
using a Super-Cardioid microphone you would most
likely want to place a trumpet player 45 degrees
behind the vocalist. This would reduce as much
of that sound as possible from this
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Boundary Microphones
Often referred to as “boundary microphones,” there is a special breed of microphones that work by picking up sounds reflected on the area they sit upon.
Boundary microphones are often used in boardrooms and theatrical sets. They
have a very small profile and pick up sound from a broad area. These microphones usually pick up sound in either 90- or 180- degree patterns.
Boundary microphones are often used on the front lip of a stage with 90-degree
coverage. This allows them to pick up the sound of the performers but reject the
sound of the audience behind it. Other times, a 180-degree boundary microphone
will be used (such as on a wall or set piece) (See examples of boundary microphones Figure 3.6 & Figure 3.7).
Care should be taken to avoid areas like bookshelves or other cavernous areas,
as you will tend to pick up unwanted echoes. Also, if placed on a hollow floor,
exaggerated footsteps and other loud impact noises can be a problem.
Phantom Power
In a nutshell, phantom power is a 9–48v DC power source that powers condenser microphones. Condenser microphones must have power to operate.
They receive this power via battery, an external power supply, or through the
Phantom Power feed from the main console.
Phantom power was designed to eliminate the need for batteries or external
power supplies. Almost all modern consoles have phantom power. Basically, the
console sends voltage down pins 2 and 3 with respect to pin 1. Pin 1 is connected
to the cable shield, the ground wire inside the cable, or sometimes to both.
Crown PCC-160 microphone.
Photo courtesy of Crown Audio.
All rights reserved.
Crown PZM-30D microphone.
Photo courtesy of Crown Audio.
All rights reserved.
More on Microphones CHAPTER 3
The big thing to remember as a sound engineer in the House
of Worship is that Condenser microphones require
phantom power in order to operate, and Dynamic
Condenser microphones
microphones do not. So, if your choir microphones
require phantom power; dynamic
are not working, more than likely they are condenser
microphones do not.
microphones. Check to see if you are sending phantom power.
3-to-1 Rule
The 3-to-1 Rule is perhaps one of the most important to know concepts in
sound engineering. While not a steadfast scientific number, the 3-to-1 Rule will
keep you out of trouble.
Many people think that the more microphones you place in front of something
the better off you are. In reality, just the opposite is usually true.
Sound is a relatively slow medium. At sea level, sound is measured at 340.29
meters per second. While this seems fast compared to the family sedan, in reality it’s quite slow. Also, the speed of sound is variable depending on many factors such as altitude, humidity, temperature, and more.
As sound leaves the source, it begins to travel toward the listener. Imagine you
have two microphones placed in its path, side by side. Certain frequencies will
actually reach one of the microphones before it reaches the other. As these
frequencies are carried through your sound system and amplified out the main
speakers, this delay can actually cancel the frequencies out. The result – less
Imagine this example. Find a small pool of perfectly calm water. Toss a pebble
in the center and watch the waves ripple out from the source of entry. Now,
toss another pebble off to the side of where the first one landed. What you will
observe is the waves will interfere with each other and some of the waves will
diminish or dissipate all together.
The same is true with sound. As sound moves through a room it can be negated
or summed depending on the size of the sound wave and the distance it travels. This effect is often referred to as a “comb-filter” effect.
After much mathematical study, it was realized that an average of 9db or
more in reduction was needed to keep a microphone from canceling out the
sound of a nearby source. A rule of thumb for sound engineers has become the
3-to-1 Rule.
Sound Systems for Worship
2 Feet
3-to-1 Rule illustration.
6 Feet
Basically, the 3-to-1 Rule simply states that for every 1 foot a microphone is
from the primary source, the nearest neighboring microphone should be 3 feet
away from it. So, using a common example, if your hanging choir microphone
is 4 feet away from the primary source it is aiming at, the microphone beside it
should be approximately 12 feet away.
Now, I bet if you are having troubles getting a loud-sounding choir (and we are
assuming they are singing out), if you look at your microphones, they are very
likely much closer to each other than this rule states. If you decide to move
them further away, your stomach will turn when you see the mathematical distance play out. Nonetheless, in every situation where I have moved the microphones, in accordance to this rule, the sound always gets better and louder. The
math simply works.
Choosing Vocal and Instrument Microphones
Many church sound engineers don’t understand the basics of microphone
technique. The subject of choosing the correct microphone and placement is
a topic for a book unto itself, but we will take a brief moment and discuss the
most common microphone applications for the House of Worship and see
some typical ways to properly mic these situations.
Every sound system should have a basic workhorse vocal microphone and an
instrument microphone. Perhaps most common to the industry is the Shure
SM58 vocal microphone and the Shure SM57 instrument microphone. Pretty
much anywhere you look, you will find these microphones being utilized.
Many other manufacturers make similar microphones. They are usually in the
$100 budget (give or take) and work fairly well. Some manufacturers will offer
different warranties, some will have better feedback rejection, some will have
proximity effect (this is where more bass is added to the voice as the vocalist
More on Microphones CHAPTER 3
gets closer to the microphone), and others won’t. Regardless of which microphone you choose, it should be rugged, offer the desired frequency range and
provide a good signal-to-noise ratio.
In 95 percent of most churches, a Shure SM58 and an SM57 (or equivalent)
will get you through the day.
However, as you begin to seek a better sound, you will start to look at higher
end vocal microphones from companies such as Shure, DPA, Sennheiser,
Neumann, and more. You will see that these microphones provide a better frequency response curve and a nicer tone, and certain microphones compliment
certain vocal ranges better than others. As the quality of microphone goes up,
so does the cost. Like the old saying goes, you get what you pay for.
Your sound system is only as good as its weakest
component. If you choose a $1200 vocal microphone
but project it from a $200 pair of speakers, odds are you
won’t hear much difference than you would with a $150
microphone. Your system will always peak at the lowest
common denominator in the chain.
Again, when you consider that over 80 percent of churches in America are
meeting with congregations smaller than 100 people, the majority of church
budgets are going to be small. So, with that in mind, spending your money
on the basics will get you through most cases. I personally recommend having a good number of Shure SM58’s, Shure SM57’s, and a few Shure SM81’s on
hand at all times. If you have an orchestra, you might want to have a few Shure
SM98’s or Beta 98’s as well.
For the average church, there are few applications where you would use a SM98
or Beta 98 that an SM81 couldn’t handle, but the 98 just can’t be beat for convenience and ability to travel with the sound source (since it’s clipped on).
I recommend Shure because they are the industry standard, but there are other
microphone companies that offer very similar basic microphones. For instance,
I commonly use the EV 267a vocal microphone. It’s similar in characteristic
to the SM58, but I’ve found it tends to have better feedback rejection and less
proximity effect (the voice getting more bass tone as it gets closer to the microphone). The extra feedback rejection can be a huge help to struggling church
sound engineers who are trying to get everything figured out.
Likewise, Audix and several other manufacturers offer several entry-level microphones that compete with the SM58, 57, and 81 as well. The choice is yours,
Sound Systems for Worship
but make sure that you have a number of quality microphones that can handle
vocals as well as instruments.
So, what if you want to get better instrument sounds and tighter mixes? Listed
below are some typical microphones and placement for typical church instruments. These suggestions are primarily for live reinforcement on your stage
during worship. While many of these solutions could be used for recording,
they are intended for live reinforcement on stage.
There are several ways to mic a drum set. The cheap and easy way is two condenser microphones on boom stands over the drum – one on the left and one
on the right. The typical microphone for this is the Shure SM81 or other highquality condenser microphone kit, or a high-quality stereo microphone of
choice mounted in the middle.
Ideally each individual drum would get its own microphone, usually mounted
with a drum-rim mount if possible or on a boom stand if it’s your only choice.
The old workhorse, the Shure SM57, is a possible microphone for each drum,
or you can go with more specialty microphones for each one. For instance,
common choices for the snare drum would be microphones such as the Shure
PG56, the Audix i5, the Sennheiser e905, and other similar choices.
Toms are often miked with Audix D4’s, Sennheiser e904’s, Shure PG56’s, and
other similar microphones.
In general, on the toms and snare you want to place the microphone within an
inch or two of the drumhead itself, but out of the way of the player and his or
her sticks.
The high-hat can be miked with a variety of microphones – the Shure SM81,
Neumann U 87, AKG 451, or other similar choices.
The kick drum would be miked either directly in front of the head or, if the
head is cut, the microphone should be boomed inside the kick drum for maximum effect. It should not be resting on any insulation inside the drum. Several
microphones are good for this purpose – such as the EV RE20, Shure PG52,
Audix D6, or AKG D 112, just to name a few. Ultimately, you want to experiment to get the best sound for your system and taste.
Shure, Audio Technica, Audix, and other manufacturers also make Drum
Microphone Kits that are sold in packages that include the mounts. These are
often wise choices for the House of Worship.
The piano can be miked several different ways. Some people will place a PZM
microphone directly on the soundboard of the piano. If you do this, it’s important
More on Microphones CHAPTER 3
to place the microphone directly on the soundboard surface (and not attempt to
rest it on cloth or foam, etc.) so it can pick up the vibrations of the sound.
If you are running short of microphones, it is possible to place a Cardioid microphone such as a Shure SM57 or equivalent directly underneath the piano. It is better, if possible, to mic the piano directly over the hammers of the strings. Again,
the Shure SM57 can be used if you have nothing else around. If you mic the piano
this way, you should use a boom stand and place one microphone over the highfrequency strings and another microphone over the low-frequency strings.
A higher-end solution is to use a pair of AKG 414’s over the strings themselves in
the piano. Normally, if you don’t have a good mount, you can use gaffers tape
and tape the microphones laterally over the strings – again, one more over the
high strings and the other over the lower strings. The larger condenser microphone will pick up a very rich and warm sound that will be reproduced well.
DPA also makes a subminiature microphone, the SMK 4061, which works
really well and simply mounts to the soundboard via a magnetic base. They are
low profile and their wires are very small in diameter as well, allowing you to
close the piano lid.
Guitar (acoustic)
When miking an acoustic guitar, it’s common to aim the microphone at the
sound hole of the instrument. Once again, the SM57 is a typical choice here.
Other good choices would include the Shure
SM81 or other condenser microphone. Other
engineers will choose to move the microphone
3 or 4 inches down the neck and point it back
If you place the microphone
toward the sound hole to reduce the boominess
near the sound hole, be aware of the
of the sound.
boomy sound (due to the sound hole’s
Guitar (amplified)
resonance). You will need to turn down
low-frequency EQ to get a more
natural sound.
Obviously, you can take a feed directly out of
the instrument and into a direct box. However,
most musicians like to use an amplifier to
modify the sound to their taste for each song.
Ideally, you will want to mic the amplifier. In a House of Worship setting, a
Shure SM57 sitting with the element about 2 inches from the cabinet’s speaker
will work great.
Horns and Woodwinds
Again, a Shure SM57 or SM81 pointed at the bell of the instrument from
directly in front of it will give you a good sound. Given my preferences, I’d
rather use a Shure Beta 98 with a horn clip where applicable. This way the
microphone moves with the player as he or she shifts the horn around during
play. Flutes and clarinets can be miked with an overhead configuration with a
condenser microphone of choice.
Sound Systems for Worship
Strings are usually boomed just slightly over the strings. A good condenser
microphone should be used whenever possible. Your standard Shure SM81
would work well here. A Shure SM57 would work if nothing else were available.
Vocal microphones almost always get gypped in Houses of Worship. Typically a
Shure SM58, EV 267a, or other similar microphone is used – one microphone
for all people. While this will get you by, when you want the vocal to truly
excel, you should step up the microphone. Higher-quality microphones will
increase the sound quality of the voice. There are also some microphones that
are naturally equalized for the female voice as opposed to the male voice.
One step up would be to go to the Shure Beta line over the SM line. The Beta
58 will give you a much better sound than the standard SM58.
Audix, AKG, Crown, Neumann, and Sennheiser all make quality vocal microphones for a high-end performance. The hard fact is that if your vocalists are
just average at best, a general microphone will be quite fine. However, as your
vocalists get better, your choice of microphone will have a much greater impact
on your sound quality.
Using CD Players, Minidiscs, and Other Playback Devices
We’ve discussed microphones, but the other major source of input comes from
playback devices. The market is flooded with various makes and models, ranging from $25 consumer units to $6000 and up commercial units. Again, you
get what you pay for.
A common issue with playback devices is a very hot signal coming into the
console. As with any input on your console, always start with a conservative
volume level and ease the volume up until you reach the desired decibel level.
Many churches use consumer CD players and have troubles raising the fader
more than a hair – even when the gain is all the way down! This is a result of
the hot signal coming into the console. Most consoles have a PAD function. A
PAD will effectively reduce the signal volume, allowing you a little more range
on the fader.
Obviously, if you can barely move the volume fader before the volume is
knocking off wigs on the back row, you have a gain structure issue (we talk
more about gain structure in the next section). A PAD is really your primary
way to improve this situation. If a PAD does not work, then you need to examine the entire gain structure of your system and consider backing off the amplifiers or DSP send levels so you can bring the overall system gain down, thus
allowing you to increase the gain on these devices, and then lower the gain on
other inputs to balance the system performance. Again, we’ll talk more about
this in the next section.
More on Microphones CHAPTER 3
Most consoles give you a stereo input channel or a RCA
connection input for playback devices. The idea is that
you can play “preshow” music prior to your event.
Player and other
It has been my experience that these inputs are
devices, they
often useless unless you have a dedicated unit
into a
that is for nothing other than your audience zone.
More often than not, they run directly to the Main
Output bus. There is no way to channel them to the
stage monitors, backstage speakers, or other areas where
people other then the audience can hear them. This dramatically limits their
Many people are intimidated when they look at the back of a mixing console.
Don’t be. The inputs and outputs of a console are simply a few connections
that repeat across the back. Pay attention to the labels and plug your devices in
If your CD player is a consumer unit, it will most likely have RCA (sometimes
referred to as PHONO) connections. If this is the case, I recommend using a
MONO RCA to ¼-inch MONO adapter.
You can now use the standard RCA cable and connect it to your CD player. On
the other end, place your ¼-inch adapters on the cable and plug the cable into
a LINE input on your console. If you are in a situation where you must plug a
line level device into a direct box and then use the mic input, you want to turn
off the phantom power to that channel if the mixer allows you to do that. But
it is always advisable to plug these devices into a line-level input.
Unless your CD player utilizes XLR balanced connections, it is a line-level
device, unbalanced device. This means you should keep the run as short as
possible. I would not exceed 12 feet on an unbalanced connection and would
prefer to keep it to 3 or 6 feet when possible. The longer the run, the more
interference and noise you will likely encounter.
Another option, if your CD player does not have XLR outputs on it, is to use a
direct box. The direct box will change an unbalanced high-impedance signal
into a balanced low-impedance signal. You can now run the device a much further distance – you can even place it on the stage if you wish and run it to the
console via your stage connections.
Remember that your best component in a sound system is only as strong as
your weakest one. Don’t cheap out with cheap cables, and minimize adapters
as much as possible. One rule of thumb with pro-audio: Every connection
allows for noise. Avoid the temptation to use numerous barrel connections to
lengthen a cable – just get a cable the correct length. Avoid multiple adapters
(such as going from ¼-inch to 1⁄8-inch to RCA). Get the right cable, with the
right connections. Doing so will save you headaches down the road.
Sound Systems for Worship
Computers, MP3 Players, and Other Similar Units
A RCA ¼-inch adapter.
Photo by Brad Herring.
Computers and MP3 players offer us a great opportunity for playback.
However, with these devices often come hard drives. Many consumer products
will not provide a clean input for
your sound system. What might
sound fantastic on a pair of $25
computer speakers might not
sound as good when reproduced
on a high-end professional sound
Often you will hear the whining of the internal hard drive and
other noisy electronics emanating
A great benefit to using a good direct box is that
most of them have a PAD feature on them! You can select
a low selection on the direct box and reduce the signal going
into the console; this will help your overall gain structure
(especially if your console does not have a
PAD feature).
from your computer through the sound system. One key to success here is to
use a high-quality sound card. Another useful tip is to turn the volume of the
computer and the playback software to full. This tends to help overcome the
noise floor on most electronic devices.
I’ve also encountered this problem while using a non-hard drive MP3 player
while it was connected to the computer for charging. Disconnecting the device
from the computer and running it off the battery greatly reduced the noise floor.
Line Level vs. Mic Level
There are two primary levels on a modern day mixing console – line level and
mic level.
In a nutshell, mic level is (as you might expect) a non-amplified level of a
microphone signal. This is a balanced low-impedance signal that’s capable of
traveling longer distances without hum pickup or high-frequency loss than an
unbalanced high-impedance signal. This connection is typically coming from a
professional grade microphone, although some high-end processing equipment,
More on Microphones CHAPTER 3
playback devices, and other similar electronics will use mic-level inputs and
outputs. A mic level is normally referred to as 60 dBu.
A line level has been amplified at the source and is usually (although not
always) unbalanced. Line-level signals will provide you a louder input signal
than a mic level input. A line-level input will have a nominal level of around
1 volt and is usually notated as 4 dBu.
Conversely, most consumer sources (such as low-end CD players) are lower
than line level and are usually noted as 10 dBu.
If you have a line-level signal coming into an input that is expecting to see a
mic level, your sound will be distorted and mostly unintelligible. If you bring
a mic level sound into a line-level connection, the volume will be very low and
sometimes inaudible. It is important that you match your line and mic levels
So, that’s the theory. In the real world, however, things aren’t that cut and dry.
Manufacturers began offering a line of “pro-sumer” equipment that tries to
match the needs of the professional world with the price of a high-end consumer product. Different equipment manufacturers will handle output in different ways. Some manufacturers might put preamp-like circuits in the design
to boost the signal, while others might not. Some have less clean power circuits, while others are top notch.
The end result is that anything can happen. It’s always a good idea to test new
inputs – regardless of their function. You can test your input by bringing the
gain all the way down on the channel, bringing the fader all the way down, and
muting the channel. Then, plug in the device
and power it on. Insert your media and press
the play button. Once you know the content is
playing, un-mute the channel. SLOWLY, bring
It’s always a good idea to
up the volume fader – either until you reach
test new inputs – regardless of their
the desired volume or you reach infinity on the
channel. If you get to infinity and have not yet
reached your desired volume, slowly increase
the gain until the desired volume is achieved.
If the gain is all the way down and you can barely raise the fader, you have a
mismatch for your circuits. At that time, change devices, PAD the channel, or
utilize a direct box with a PAD feature to resolve the problem.
Utilizing Direct Boxes (DI’s)
We’ve discussed direct boxes, but what are they really? A direct box is basically an
impedance matching device that will convert an unbalanced high-impedance linelevel or instrument-level signal into a balanced low-impedance mic-level signal.
The use of a direct box will allow you to achieve a couple of things. First, it allows
you to make a low-impedance balanced connection that can travel hundreds of
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Direct Box
Photo courtesy of Radial
Engineering. All rights
feet without hum pickup or highfrequency loss. Second, most direct
boxes will offer a PAD for the signal. This will help you maintain a
good gain structure for your system.
Direct boxes come in a couple
of flavors – passive or active. An
active direct box will have some
sort of power supply (often a
battery) or will run off phantom
power. The idea is that a very high
impedance will not load down
the source and will result in a better sound. A passive direct box
utilizes a transformer to change
the impedance from high to low.
In both cases, the quality of the
direct box will determine the
quality of your sound.
Generally, a cheaper active direct box will give a better sound than a low-end
passive box. However, an active box will start distorting when it gets low on
power, so more maintenance and care is needed. When choosing which one to
use, it ultimately comes down to your specific situation.
Gain Structure
Perhaps the single most important concept to grasp in sound engineering is the
concept of gain structure. Your gain structure will determine the overall signalto-noise ratio and distortion level of your sound system.
If the channel gain is too low, you are likely to not get optimum performance.
You will have to push your fader volume so loud to get any volume out of the
system that your noise floor will be tremendously high.
If the channel gain is too high, you will not have the ability to get your input
and output channels at useful operating points/within unity range. This will
effectively leave you without the ability to get a good mix. It will also cause you
to find feedback quicker than you can say, “Oops.”
The performance of your sound system centers on gain structure. Good gain
structure is the cornerstone of achieving a balanced mix with a good signal-tonoise ratio and minimum feedback problems. If your system has proper gain,
your amplifiers should be getting a nominal-level signal, but not so high as to
cause clipping, which can damage loud speakers. Your system’s master faders
should be in the design center/unity area that is designated on your console,
and all of your input channel faders should be in the general area of unity.
Unity for most consoles is about three-quarters of the way up on the fader. It’s
also noteworthy to consider that the more faders you have in use, the lower the
average fader should be to avoid overloading the mix bus.
NOTE: Many a technical person has taken this idea of “design center/unity mixing” to the extreme. The unity gain portion of fader travel results in the cleanest signal-to-noise ratio in the circuit. This will give you the most bang for your
buck. But the bottom line is that the mix needs to sound good! Simply making
sure that all the faders are lined up at design center/unity all the time does not
make a good mix.
The idea is to set your gain to a setting that will allow you to keep your input
faders near the unity area. They will not stay locked there. A mix is dynamic
and therefore is always changing. The faders will move around (that’s why they
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slide in the first place). The goal is to keep the integrity of your gain structure
as much as possible.
If the system has a correct gain structure, then everything will ride fairly evenly.
If it does not, you’ll find yourself with the master faders barely up and your
input faders barely up or slammed full – this is not what you want to see. You
want to try to avoid pushing your faders much past unity. The signal-to-noise
ratio quickly degrades after this point and you will find yourself more prone
to bad noise and feedback. Instead, back off the fader a touch and increase the
gain. This is what it means to balance your gain structure.
It’s important to remember that every item in the signal flow will in one way
or another impact your overall gain structure. For instance, if you boost 800 Hz
on an equalizer, you’ve just increased the gain in that frequency area. Likewise,
if you cut 1.2 kHz, you have decreased the gain in that frequency area. Adding
effects units into the mix will increase the gain of that channel (think about it:
It’s taking the original signal and then summing the effects on the return).
As you start to complicate your mix by using equalization, subgroups, and outboard processing, the gain structure changes. If a sound engineer does not stay
on top of the mix, he or she will quickly find the gain structure completely out
of whack. This will result in poor mix quality and feedback, and consistency
Proper gain structure is not a property of just one component; it’s a property
of the entire sound system. As mentioned earlier, your amplifiers have gain,
your processing equipment has gain, your digital signal processors have gain
(and usually in multiple places), your inputs and your outputs of your main
console have gains, and even your line level can have an amount of gain (if
using a direct box or an instrument with volume controls such as a keyboard
or guitar).
That’s a whole lot of gain to keep track of.
When it comes to amplifiers, different people feel differently about the subject.
First, you want to make sure your amplifiers are matched in both wattage and
impedance to the speaker(s) they are powering. An amplifier can hurt a speaker
component by underdriving it (too little power) just as much as it can by overdriving it (too much power). So, it’s important that you power your speakers properly.
Some people advocate turning the amplifier gain input sensitivity controls to
full blast and setting the system from there. Personally, I’ve never liked this
approach. It depends on the amplifier and the manufacturers recommendation, but generally speaking, I prefer to set my amplifiers at about 85 percent
of their capacity. This gives me a little headroom in the amplifier and keeps
me from overdriving the speakers. I also believe with many brands of amplifiers this reduces my overall noise in the line going to the speakers, which will
reduce the amount of hiss in the system.
Gain Structure
A standard professional practice is to set up the mixing console so that it is
peaking at 0 on the mixer’s main output bus meter, then adjust the amplifier
until the desired volume is achieved. If you find yourself cranking the amplifier
all the way, you most likely need a larger amplifier, a larger speaker, or more
Once you have the gain level of your amplifiers and DSP (Digital Signal
Processing) set, turn your attention to the console. Start with a CD, and play
it. Set the input and output gain accordingly. Now, turn to your live mix. You’re
trying to get to the volume you want, while balancing the overall system gain.
If your console has very little movement on the controls, and your master volume is way down, you’re going to want to examine your DSP and amplifier
gains. You will want to slowly back off these gains (again, not in any one area,
but as an overall group) while you slowly increase the fader settings at the console. If you find your system way out of balance, it is best to start over and set the
gain structure from scratch as described above. Set the mixer to produce 0 levels
on the master meter (with your input channels operating near design center/
unity), then turn the DSP and amplifiers up until you reach the desired volume.
When setting your gain structure, you want to
make sure to leave yourself some headroom. Don’t max
the system out at the console level – always have a little more
gain on the console so you can get louder than normal
when you want or need to.
Ideally, your individual channels will have at least 30 to 40 percent more gain
available to them once your system is set. This way, it’s always possible for you
to increase the volume of the system without having to affect your amplifiers
and DSP’s. Generally speaking, once you get your main system components
(DSP, amplifiers, room equalization, etc.) set, you want to leave them alone.
Using the Meter Bridge to Set the Gain
Some consoles have individual channel meters, while others allow you to solo
the channel; and that channel’s input will then become visual on the main system meters. Some engineers will use this to set their gain. They will solo the
channel (or watch the signal meter on the channel) and set the gain until it’s
approaching 0 dB. Generally speaking, when you solo the channel and look
at the meter on the main meters, you will get more resolution and therefore
more accuracy. If your system is set up properly, this can work well. It’s simply
another tool in the arsenal and is up to the individual sound engineer as to
how he or she does it.
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Signal clipping is not always a bad thing – let me clarify. Almost every console
has a clip light on the input channel and a clip area on the meters. Most amplifiers have a clip light or meter bank, and many pieces of outboard equipment
have clip indicators. Universally this is indicated by the color red. It’s either a
small LED or a number of LED’s (usually changing color from orange to red),
or if you are watching an analog meter, it’s the area of the line with the red
shaded box.
Many people get confused and feel that their signal can never touch the red.
This is not accurate.
Occasional clipping (the red lights flickering or the analog meter needle swinging far into and out of the red area of the dial) is okay. However, caution
should be used to not exceed an occasional clip, as you will create distortion
and possibly cause damage to equipment
Clipping is bad when the red led is constantly on – or is more solid than blinking (or in the case of the analog meter, the swing arm is pegged and remains
stuck to the right side of the meter). Again, this is bad. This means you are
pushing your system well past unity gain. You are sending a lot of signal down
the line, driving everything to the
point of distortion. Your mix is
going to sound terrible and comTIP
ponent damage is relatively soon
With clipping and gain structure alike, it
to follow. Your equipment is just
ultimately comes down to common sense.
not made for that level of input
Don’t overdrive your equipment to the point of
breaking it or causing damage, but use these
tools to maximize your
mix efficiency.
So, use the clip lights as an indicator of your system efficiency.
Don’t be afraid of them, but don’t
ignore them.
Rules in general are there for your overall good. The same is true with mathematical concepts for pro-audio systems. That being said, sometimes you break
the rules. Even engineers will see and hear things that the system “shouldn’t
do,” yet it sounds great. It’s important for the sound engineer to have a working knowledge of the concepts that make the system work, but at the end of the
day the job of the sound engineer is about achieving the best mix possible.
In the world of the House of Worship, the sound engineer’s job is to make sure
the message of the Gospel goes forth without hindrance and that there are no
walls created during worship so the Spirit can work among the people without
the hindrance of technology.
When a sound engineer is truly doing his or her job, the system disappears
and the atmosphere that is created acoustically is one of confidence. What do
Gain Structure
I mean by this? I mean the congregants have confidence in what they are hearing (lead vocals and lead instrument). When you achieve a mix that creates
this confidence, the walls that people create are torn down and they feel
unafraid to worship. Every word can be heard, the melody can be followed,
and there is an energy in the room that is created directly by the sound
engineer. This is the true job of the House of Worship engineer.
Gain affects more than simply volume. Normally in the concert world, the volume will
start at its lowest and gradually build through the night until it reaches it’s loudest
point. In some cases, we can learn from this example in the area of worship. You can
overcome some amount of listener fatigue as well as build the energy in the room.
However, it’s important to realize that as your volume increases or decreases, your
equalization tends to change as well. As the volume changes, so does the way your
ears perceive tonality. Hence the reason you always see good concert engineers
tweaking their equalization through the night.
I am a firm believer in having both graphic and parametric equalizers at the
front of house mix location. I believe these should be inserted through the
various outputs of the console and sometimes, in extreme cases, inserted into
individual channel strips.
These should be separate of the house equalization. The house equalization should
be set and never altered (unless something dramatic changes in the room).
By having equalization inserted before the main house mix, you can start flat and
alter the EQ as needed for that particular show and volume level. When you are
done, the equalizer can once again be flattened and no adverse effects are done
to the house settings. EQ should be inserted in the main Left, Right, and Center
(if applicable) buses via the insert jack and insert cable. This will allow you to
alter tonality in the room without changing the house settings permanently. A
simply bypass of the EQ will revert the system back to the house standard.
It seems that people always like to tweak the house EQ, and in many places the
room EQ is changed based on a person’s preference. This EQ should be set by
a qualified person, as discussed previously, and not altered. Inserting an EQ at
this point on your mixer allows these engineers to adjust the room as they see
fit but not change crucial settings to the actual room equalizer.
I also like to insert EQ into subgroups and occasionally into individual channels when extra tonal control or feedback elimination is needed. Likewise, EQ
inserted in the AUX sends are a great idea for equalizing stage monitors, in-ears,
Sound Systems for Worship
and other sends from the console. If your console does not have an insert jack
for the AUX send, you can send the AUX directly to the EQ then to the amplifier – essentially doing the same thing.
Most counties and cities have ordinances in place that dictate overall volume
levels as well as start and end times for such public activities. For instance,
one place I mix frequently has a 10 PM cutoff date for all concerts. Any concert
exceeding 10 PM without special permits is in violation of the law and can be
“One volume level for all things does not an interesting mix make.”
Brad Herring
You have probably heard the word “dynamics” as it pertains to audio, but what
does it really mean? Dynamics is the natural shift of volume and intensity in
the overall audio volume. You’ve seen dynamics in action – the pastor whispers and then he shouts. Most sound engineers become aggravated as they
jump on the faders and clamp down the compressors. Sure, it creates a certain
level of technical stress for the engineer – but you might be missing the point.
That dynamic is with purposeful intent, and the intent is not to annoy you; the
intent is to connect with the listener. The range of volume and delivery makes
the speaker engaging. It keeps the delivery from being monotonous and it startles the listener back to paying attention. It also drives home points (both the
whisper – by making the listener lean forward and listen intently to hear, and
the shout – by being out of the normal and leaving a startling impression).
Music is the same way as is singing with the human voice. The dynamic
makeup of the music creates interest and emotion.
Communicators use dynamics
with purposeful intent – and the intent
is not to annoy you as the sound engineer –
the intent is to connect with
the listener.
Many House of Worship sound engineers spend all their time trying to balance the audio and make it the same
level. When this happens, the sound
engineer is directly competing with
the intent of the music! The engineer
thinks he or she is doing a good thing
but in reality, the engineer is actually
detracting from his or her main goal.
Don’t fret dynamics – embrace them. Sure, you still have to limit the extremes
to keep your system performance within tolerances, but go with it – enhance it.
Likewise, a good sound engineer can create dynamics. For instance, imagine a
scenario where the band is playing a song. In this example, you are alert and
paying attention. You notice the lead guitarist steps forward. Thinking quickly,
Gain Structure
you realize he’s about to let it rip! You decide that it’s going to really add to
the moment, so you discretely bring the guitar up in the mix just slightly over
everything else. Suddenly, that instrument is engaged in one-on-one worship!
The sound of that guitar rings through the room tastefully over the sound of
the other instruments for a few measures. The neck of the guitar drops a little
bit (an indicator that the moment is over), the guitarist slowly steps back into
place, and you ease the guitar back into its place in the mix.
You have just created dynamics in the mix. You have just created an environment of worship.
I tell people all the time, the A/V team is critical to modern worship. They are
a part of the worship team – it’s not you and them. When you step behind that
console you are playing an instrument as well, it’s just a different type of instrument. Only, you have the most exciting musical instrument of all – you get to
blend everyone together. You become the concertmaster! The responsibility of
the full presentation of worship sits on your shoulders. The worship pastor has
struggled all week (and in many cases much longer than that) to prepare context
based on the movement of the Holy Spirit, and now, it is your job to communicate that context in an easy to absorb presentation that again eliminates people’s
walls and defenses and allows them to be easily reached by the Holy Spirit.
That’s not a small task. That makes you far more than a button pusher. You are
an integral part of worship and teaching.
When you learn how to create dynamics in your mix, you learn how to make
your instrument really sing. For instance, using a delay effect on the last word
of a hanging vocal will make that word resonate and ring through the auditorium. Vocalists can’t do that on their own – that’s the task of the sound engineer. And that is the type of thing that a sound engineer gets to do that makes
the hair on people’s neck stand. The people don’t know their neck hair is standing because of what you just did – it’s imperceptible to them. You’ve created
an environment. And with this environment, walls come down and worship
manifests itself in supernatural ways because the flesh is no longer in the way.
Conversely, when you don’t pay attention, you don’t create dynamics, you
allow feedback, you don’t bring up microphones on time, etc., you create walls.
Seriously – you create an environment where people are annoyed, they are sitting on the edge of their seat trying to hear, and they don’t engage. They are
timid. The worship leader struggles to engage the people, the pastor works feverishly to connect with the listener. The entire environment creates a situation of
struggle and work to do the very that everyone has assembled together to do.
Sound really makes that big of a difference. If nothing else in this book
resonates with you, I hope that this fact will. The two paragraphs above are a
clear example of the impact you as a sound engineer have on worship.
The difference between the two scenarios is training, paying attention, having
the heart of a servant and engaging with the worship team in practice.
Sound Systems for Worship
Know your craft. Study. Sign up for materials,
go to training classes have people come to you. Pray.
Pray some more. Do whatever is necessary to get to the point
where you are able to play your instrument to the
best of your ability and create an
atmosphere of worship!
Controlling Dynamics for Quality Audio
While dynamics are good for communicating and connecting with the audience, there is no denying the technical challenges it presents to the House of
Worship engineer.
Unexpected or extreme volume changes can play havoc on a sound system.
This is where the use of expanders, compressors, and limiters come into play.
There is no way that a human operator can respond quickly enough to extreme
changes – especially when the mix exceeds three or four channels. Sometimes,
by the time you identify the specific channel the instance has happened and
ceased. The audio engineer needs processing equipment that is always looking
for these changes to help him or her out.
We will discuss compressors, limiters, and other signal processing tools later in
the electronic processing section of this book. But for now, realize that there are
tools that when utilized correctly can help you overcome the extreme dynamics
for your mix integrity. The point that I want you to get from this section is that
you should not fight dynamics nor should you try to compensate for them in
your mix. Keep them under control, but realize the importance of dynamics in
a mix and go with it.
When it comes to dynamics, panning and equalization play a part of this
as well.
Panning is the ability to move the signal from one channel to
another. In its simplest form it is placing signal in the left, right, and
center channels at various proportions. In a more technical
and concise definition, it’s the sending of a signal to multiple
channels in variable amounts.
If you are mixing in a true stereo environment (or if you are mixing stereo for
recording), you will find that panning sources around will create a broadersounding mix. There are many theories on this, but the principle is that by
panning sources you can help bring certain instruments more predominately
into the mix as well as help the listener sound surrounded by the mix. In a live
setting, panning can also help the listener with localization – that is, the ability
for the listener to determine where the sound is coming from.
If a pastor enters stage left and starts to speak, the first reaction of the people is
“Where is he?” Listeners then disengage while trying to orientate themselves to
the speaker. As humans, we feel a need to connect visually to people speaking
to us – especially when they are in the same room. Once listeners find the person speaking, they can then tune into what’s being said. If you are able to pan
the sound more dominantly in that direction, the ear automatically takes the
listener to that side of the stage. (Coincidentally, as you add lighting to the mix
and subtly bring up light in that area, the viewer will tend to locate the person
Sound Systems for Worship
more quickly as well – see how it all sums up for the overall connection to the
Now, obviously if you are not mixing in a stereo environment, panning is
not used in the same way. In a mono environment, panning is often used to
separate subgroup sends on many consoles. For instance, you might have an
eight-subgroup console. Normally, these are linked in stereo (so subgroup 1 is
left, subgroup 2 is right, subgroup 3 is left, 4 is right, and so on). By panning
some instruments left and assigning them to subgroups 1 and 2, you have just
assigned that channel to subgroup 1. Then take another group of channels and
pan them right while assigning them to subgroups 1 and 2, and you have now
placed them in the right subgroup. This will give you the maximum flexibility
in your MONO mix.
One problem with many stereo PA systems is that only people in the center
hear the true mix, while people sitting on either side hear dominantly from
the speaker cabinet closest to them. These people actually hear a different mix
than what is intended. There are ways around this with speaker placement and
design, but due to the sheer cost of such a system most stereo systems suffer
from these problems. Hence, most PA systems are mono systems and pan is
used to control signal as it routes through the console (as described in the
previous paragraph). Pan for actual mixing is used far more extensively in the
recording areas of pro-audio.
Some higher-end consoles allow you to assign a channel into a single subgroup
regardless of pan, but most consoles tend to link them in stereo pairs. If your
console limits you in this way and you are using a MONO mix, it’s another
way that pan can help control dynamics. Remember that everything is summed
when it comes to audio mixing – so, if you have a signal in subgroup 1 and
that same signal in subgroup 2, when you bring up both subgroups, you will
be doubly increasing the signal, whereas if you had the signal panned only to
subgroup 1, you would mitigate this possibility.
Everything builds on everything else. It’s important as a sound engineer to keep
your head in the game at all times. Know where everything is set and have a
plan for where you are going in the mix. This is the best way to keep out of
trouble with the mix and create a dynamic mix that incorporates worship!
We’ve talked a lot about equalization, but now it’s time to really delve into
what equalization is and how it affects your mix. There are several purposes of
equalization and several different equalization types. Let’s look at all of this to
give you a better idea of what you are facing.
Room equalization is accomplished with the main system equalizer. No doubt, at
some point in your life, you have been told, “Don’t touch that Equalization – it’s
been set.” This can be really frustrating if it’s the only equalizer in your system and
you are experiencing a lot of tonal and feedback problems.
The equalization they are referring to is the room equalization. It’s a primary
part of the sound system. If the room equalization is done correctly, it will create a balance for the entire system that will allow you the maximum flexibility
and the best sound quality. Once this is set properly, you should never mess
with it again unless something dramatic changes in the sound system or the
room (i.e., new speakers, amplifiers, or console or major room renovations or
acoustic changes).
So, what is room equalization and why is it so special? When your sound system was installed, it should have been tweaked to the room. Probably your
Audio Consultant used an RTA (short for real-time analyzer) to measure the
loudspeaker/room frequency response. We see RTA’s as a tool in pro-audio systems. The concept is similar, but a room RTA is often more precise and takes
into account several locations.
When the contractor or consultant RTA’s your room, he or she follows a series
of steps. Generally speaking, they will take a highly tuned computer-based RTA
and set it to a narrow bandwidth (this means they will see many more individual frequencies than the 31 you see reflected on your basic graphic equalizer).
After calibrating their equipment, they will place a highly sensitive test microphone in the room at listener position (so, if the average person were sitting
in a chair and his or her ear were 45 inches from the floor, the microphone
would be placed at this level; likewise if the person were standing and his or
her ear were at an average of 70 inches from the floor, the microphone would
be placed at that level).
The engineer would then excite the room with pink noise. Pink noise is all frequencies at the same overall level per octave. The microphone hears this pink
noise and then visually represents on the computer RTA the level of each octave
or third-octave band. When the engineer looks at the screen, he or she will normally see peaks and dips in the room at various frequencies.
The engineer will then move the microphone to various locations in the room
and note the average response he or she sees as the microphone sits in different
positions (such as house left, house right, under the balcony, in the balcony,
center front, the very back row, etc.).
Once the common frequencies are identified, the engineer will then boost or
cut these ranges with the system equalizer. He or she will continue to do that
until the room starts to flatten out visually. This means that all frequencies are
responding similarly relative to each other.
This is the starting point of room equalization. Next, most engineers will do
signal sweeps. Playing a range of frequencies into the house, they will find
rattles and hums that are often generated by specific frequencies and emanate
from items such as loose air vents, metal work, and so on.
Sound Systems for Worship
Finally, you should play back music of various styles. Find music that you are
familiar with and play it over the PA system. You should listen to the nuances
and details of the music as well as the overall mix of the songs. By listening
to music you are familiar with, you know what you should be hearing. You
can then make minor adjustments based on what you hear. This is relative. For
instance, the type of tonal qualities one person likes in a sound system will
not necessarily be what someone else likes. So, you want to take an unbiased
approach as much as possible. Think about your audience.
For instance, if your audience is 65 years old and over, you will most likely not
want a huge amount of bass and super-loud volumes – even if this might be
your personal preference. Likewise, if you are trying to reach 20- to 30-year-olds
in a contemporary setting, you are very likely going to push the bass response in
the room. You will find that bass response often correlates with excitement and
energy in a mix. Also, in a contemporary setting, you will have a desire to push
louder volumes and run worship more like a concert setting. Again, this might
be against your personal taste, but you want to think about your audience and
your mission goal of whom you are trying to attract – and mix toward that.
If you are in a blended setting, like so many of our churches are, you will
need to find a happy medium in the mix – something that drives the mix for
the younger audiences and something that smoothes the mix for the older
Listening to music over the PA system will tell you a lot more about how the
room will sound – not just how the room will respond (as the RTA shows you).
Now that you have listened to music that you know, I believe it’s important to
listen to music similar to your style of worship.
I would encourage you to not listen to your
own recordings, but to listen to professionIt’s important to listen to music with a
ally produced music within the genre of your
variety of musical range to give you a good
style of worship. This will help ensure that
feel of the response in the room.
you are listening to a correctly balanced mix
and therefore not compensating for recording
There are two things that are important about setting your room EQ.
When it comes to setting your room EQ, this should be left to a professional
who has the equipment and training to do the job correctly. Once the EQ is set
for the room it SHOULD NOT BE ADJUSTED unless there is a major acoustic
change in the room or a huge renovation of the sound system. Tonal quality
and event feedback notching should be done via inserted equalizers and channel equalization – not the room equalizer. This is one reason many installers
place the main house EQ away from the mixing console – so the mix engineer
is not tempted to modify it!
When you listen to music, your changes should
be very subtle. The idea of room equalization is to get
the room responding to the best of its ability. When all
frequencies in a room react in a similar and predictable manner,
you have the most control over your mix. You know the room is
RTA’d properly when you are able to make minor adjustments on
the individual channel EQ and hear the effects in the room. Assuming
the EQ is enabled and you are adjusting frequencies within the
range you are hearing, if you are cranking the EQ like
crazy and hearing very little affect to the signal, you
most likely have a room EQ issue.
With your room equalizer (the one that we just covered that has been set
for the room acoustics), you should then layer equalization on top of it for
feedback notching and tonal control.
As a rule, you should judiciously choose your equalizer
settings. Extreme equalizer alterations will usually do more harm
than good. If you find yourself making large equalization corrections
over a broad section of the equalizer, you should inspect your
room equalizer for accuracy.
There are two primary types of outboard equalizers – graphic and parametric.
Each band of a graphic equalizer is easily recognized because it has a set number of faders that represent various frequencies and generally a fader that controls the overall gain of the unit. Graphic equalizers come in various sizes, but
they are most commonly 15-band and 31-band flavors. The number of bands
is equal to the number of faders on the face of the unit.
A graphic equalizer has a set range (also referred to as “Q” or “bandwidth”)
that each fader manipulates. For instance, if you alter the gain on 1.2 KHz by
adjusting the 1.2 KHz fader, you are not simply adjusting 1.2 KHz; you are also
Sound Systems for Worship
Graphic EQ.
Photo courtesy
of Ashly Audio.
All rights reserved.
Parametric EQ.
Photo courtesy of Rane.
All rights reserved.
affecting many of the frequencies on either side. A standard configuration for a
graphic equalizer is a one-third octave equalizer. In this setting, if you were to
move the 1.2 KHz fader as mentioned above, you would also be affecting the
one-third octave of frequencies centered at 1.2 kHz.On some equalizers, you
affect a broad section of frequencies at small boosts and cuts and a smaller area
of frequencies on a larger boost or cut.
Other common configurations are one-octave and one-half octave widths.
What’s important to realize is that
when you alter the fader of your
selected frequency, you are actually
affecting other frequencies as well.
A parametric equalizer (sometimes referred
to as a “variable-Q equalizer”) generally
offers the user fewer individual bands, but far
more control of the sound by allowing each
band to select the frequency AND the bandwidth (or Q) that your selection will affect.
For instance, you can select the same frequency as above (1.2 KHz) and then select
the bandwidth you wish to affect. You can select a very narrow bandwidth
(often called a “notch” if you apply a cut) or a very wide bandwidth to affect a
large number of frequencies.
A parametric equalizer can be a real lifesaver in many applications for the
House of Worship. It is an excellent tool for minimizing feedback (by notching
out the offending frequencies one by one) and it can be used for tonal control (using a wide-Q selection). While it’s not as easy to look at and grab a
frequency as a graphic equalizer, it certainly offers the engineer a great addition
to his or her bag of tricks.
Using a parametric equalizer is as simple as selecting the frequency via the
Frequency control, selecting your bandwidth via the Bandwidth or Q control,
and then selecting the amount of boost or cut with the Gain control. Once
you have your settings, you can roll the Frequency control back and forth and
sweep those setting on various frequencies as you move the knob. This can be
helpful in finding a specific offending frequency.
When you look at the individual input channels on your mixing console, you
will see that each channel has a section for equalization. On larger consoles,
you find semi-parametric (typically a sweepable
frequency and boost/cut). Rarely, and only on large,
expensive consoles, will you find true fully parametIn
to cut frequencies
ric EQ. Most of your smaller analog consoles have
EQ rather than
three to four fixed bands of EQ. The better ones
have two swept mids. Normally, you are limited
to two or three frequencies. On less-expensive
consoles these frequencies are locked and you
cannot select your own frequencies. Some consoles have parametric EQ – they
allow you to have complete control over both the frequency and the bandwidth – especially on newer digital consoles. The gamut can be anywhere in
between, depending on your console.
So, while you might have a limited number of bands of equalization per channel, you still have a fairly powerful amount of equalization per channel.
Sometimes, however you need more equalization for specific purposes (such
as equalizing a difficult voice or notching individual channel feedback, or any
number of other reasons). Most consoles have an Insert Connection on the
back. By using an insert cable (this is a ¼-inch Tip-Ring-Sleeve connection that
branches out to two ¼-inch Tip-Sleeve connections; one Tip-Sleeve connection
is the send, the other is the return), you can connect any piece of outboard processing to the individual input or output that has the insert connection.
So, you would take the insert cable and insert the Tip-Ring-Sleeve (TRS) end of
the cable into the insert connection. Then, depending on your console, either
the Tip or Sleeve connection will be the send, while the other is the return.
Insert the Tip-Sleeve connector for the SEND connection into the INPUT of
the processing equipment and insert the Tip-Sleeve connector for the RETURN
connection into the output of the unit. You can also chain equipment together
by connecting the output of the first piece of equipment in the input of the
next, then taking the output of that component to the RETURN connection of
the insert cable. Now you have two components inserted into this channel. You
can continue to do this as need be.
However, whatever you insert will only be available on that one channel.
Sometimes, people will insert equipment on a subgroup (such as a compressor
or effects processor). This will allow you to affect any channel going into the
subgroups with the processing equipment inserted and allow you more bang
for your buck (although limiting a lot of flexibility).
Channel EQ on face of
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Electronic Processing
Most churches in America (and elsewhere for that matter) are primarily using
a microphone, a mixer, a systems equalizer, and loudspeakers. Many churches
are fighting to maintain some level of control with just a few components and
would be quick to ask, “Why would I want to add more components into the
My first response would be, if your church can’t get a most basic mix without
feedback, dropped microphone cues, and the other mere basics, then you probably shouldn’t add anything else to the mix.
However, electronic processing can offer huge advantages to your mix.
Therefore, if you fall into the category of churches that can’t keep their head
above water (technically speaking), you should do everything within your
power to get there so you can really start to craft your mix and improve your
ability to communicate with your audience.
The mark of a successful mix should not be that you did not get feedback. It
shouldn’t even be about getting compliments on a good blend or being able
to hear a vocalist. These might be short-term accolades and definitely accomplishments on your way, but the real goal should be to create an amazing
mix that breaks down the walls of insecurity in public worship! Creating a
mix that sweeps people into the environment and provides them confidence
and excitement should be the ultimate goal, because as we’ve mentioned earlier in this book, this is the place where people really begin to experience corporate worship, let their defenses down, and allow the Holy Spirit to work
within them!
Electronic processing goes a long way in helping you achieve this kind of
dynamic mix.
So, with this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the most typical electronic
processing components and discuss how you might use them.
Sound Systems for Worship
One great way to learn how various effects work in your sanctuary is to record someone
from your church singing. Ideally, record just that person and a piano or guitar. Record
the instrument on the left and the vocal on the right. Now, you can set that track to loop
and bring the left side in on one channel of the board, and the right track on another
channel. You now have a test bed to play with effects all day long while no one is growing
impatient with you (or looking over your shoulder). You can now add effects to the voice,
the instrument, or both! This will go a long way toward helping you understand how and
when to use electronic processing.
We just took a good look at equalizers, so we won’t go into much detail here.
However, it’s important to realize that equalization is a form of electronic processing. It takes the original signal and alters it (hopefully improving it) and
colors it to achieve a specific sound as desired by the engineer.
Reverb is another class of effects processors. Have you ever sung in the shower?
You’ve probably heard the old saying, “Everyone sounds good when they sing in
the shower,” right? The reason for this is a long reverberation time that is created
by the large number of hard surfaces and right angles. This allows the sound
wave you create with your voice to bounce around all over the place. The echoes
(or reflections) that are created when you sing in the shower result in what is
known as “reverberation.”
Too much reverberation will kill intelligibility in the room (or in laymen terms,
it will make it very difficult to understand what is being said). However, a little
reverberation will allow you to create an environment that blends vocals and
helps performers. It can make them sound like they are performing in a large
open room as opposed to a small tightly packed room. It can add space and
dynamics to your mix and really help create a feeling of excitement.
Reverb is great for the vocalist as he or she is singing – but it is not great for the
spoken word. So, you might want to add some reverb while the person is singing,
but you will need to remove it when he or she speaks to the audience directly.
Again, this is due to diction and being able to understand what is being said.
Reverb will have many settings – usually referred to as “plates,” or “rooms”. For
instance, a large plate or a large room will have a long reverb time that rings through
the room, while a small plate or a small room will have a fairly quick reverb time.
There are a ton of settings on most reverbs. When starting out, I’d recommend
that you stick to the factory presets and then slowly venture out on your own
as you get more comfortable with the settings.
Electronic Processing
When used tastefully, chorus is in many ways similar to reverb, but the sound
is a little different. Chorus adds a signal to its detuned replica, creating a wavy
or shimmering effect. The chorus effect can make a vocal or instrument sound
like there are several of them versus creating a reverberation of the original signal. One of my favorite places to use a chorus effect is with an acoustic guitar
(especially when the instrument is being plucked versus strummed).
Chorus will really add to the richness of the sound and help bring the instrument to life. It will add dimension to the mix and make it sound more like a polished performance that you would expect to hear on a professional recording.
Again, like with the reverb, your effects processor will come with several factory presets. Use them as you begin to experiment with the sounds you can get
before venturing on your own.
Flanging is an old favorite for guitarists in particular. It gives a very hollow,
swishing sound to the source. Usually, the instrumentalist will choose this effect
to match the style he or she is playing. However, most effects processors will
offer flange effects. Flanging is created by adding a signal to its delayed replica,
where the delay is swept continuously from about 0 to 15 milliseconds (ms).
It is yet another tool to enrich the sound of your mix and help make certain
instruments stand out during certain segments.
Delay is used both as an effect and an environmental control. Don’t be confused by the two.
First, system delay is used as an environmental control. Sound is relatively slow.
If you have a row of speakers at your stage and another row midway back in your
auditorium, odds are you are going to have a time issue. Without a delay, the
speakers will fire at the same time. By the time the content of the first speaker
reaches the second row of speakers, the second row of speakers is already that
distance ahead of it. So, the audience perceives this as an echo. It makes for terrible intelligibility.
So, the key is to place a delay processor on the second row of speakers. This
way, they wait until the first row of speakers catch up to them and then they
fire. This keeps all the signals time aligned. So you get rid of unwanted echoes
and phasing issues.
A delay effect is totally different. A delay effect (basically a controlled echo)
will take the original signal and play it again at a time specified by the user. It
will continue to play this delayed sound until its duration is reached. How the
Sound Systems for Worship
delayed signal is reproduced is up to the engineer. It can delay for a set duration of time and fade in volume as desired.
Delay can make for a memorable effect when used correctly. It is commonly
used in concert vocalists to echo a last word or phrase and can add a lot of
effect and dimension to a performance.
Perhaps the most misunderstood (and possibly most feared) piece of electronic
processing is the compressor/limiter. It’s really unfortunate, because these two
components can go a long way toward helping you achieve a better mix.
In its most basic explanation, a compressor allows you to set a certain threshold (or volume) that you are willing to accept. Once that threshold is reached,
the compressor allows you to set how quickly it grabs the volume, how hard it
pulls the volume down, how long it keeps it attenuated before releasing it, and
how quickly it releases it once it does.
A limiter is like a compressor on steroids. A limiter allows you to set a volume
threshold you are willing to allow and then, no matter what, never allow that
signal to peak above that setting – regardless of how aggressive it has to be in
its methods to keep the signal below that point.
It’s not uncommon for a beginner to seek help and get responses such as, “Just
play with it until it does what you want.” Not exactly a helpful answer, is it?
Don’t be discouraged.
First, understand that the natural tendency (once you understand what these
devices do) is to set them way too conservatively and expect them to mix for
you. Remember when your momma taught you that nothing is free and nothing is easy? Apply that here.
With compressors and limiters come tradeoffs, and the tradeoffs here are artifacts. Some artifacts are “pumping” and “breathing.” You will be able to actually hear the compressor/limiter as it begins to do its job.
For instance, if you have it set to compress anything above –15 dB on the console meter, then you send it a –3 dB signal; it’s going to sound squashed as this
piece of equipment tries to compress a –3 dB signal down to –15 dB. However,
this is a great example of why you would want a limiter in the system to begin
with. Let’s say that you get a feedback spike at 125 dB, but you’ve set your limiter threshold for an equivalence of 90 dB. Perhaps you’ve done this to protect
your loudspeakers or perhaps you’ve done it for overall volume control. That
limiter is going to grab that noise and keep it below your setting. This is going
to protect your equipment. It’s not going to sound pretty, but it’s going to save
the day and prevent expensive repair and/or replacement.
Now, the real purpose for a compressor is taking sudden spikes and reducing
them. For example, an extra-aggressive hit on the cymbals, or an out of the
Electronic Processing
ordinary loud shout from the pulpit, or a screeching soloist who has gone real
wrong on a bad note – all of these are examples of judicial use of compressors.
The compressor will react quicker than you can on the loud and unexpected
peaks, attenuate the spike, and return it to normal operating level once the
spike is gone. This is essentially what you would do at the volume fader if you
were quick enough (it’s really difficult to be that quick sometimes – especially
on a complicated mix).
There are several schools of thought as to how
to best set a compressor or a limiter. The practical side suggests that during sound check you
listen for the loud spikes and conservatively set
A compressor helps control
your threshold so that the compressor will just
your mix, and a limiter helps protect
barely grab them. Most engineers for Houses
equipment and hearing.
of Worship would probably lean toward using
a soft knee on vocals (this will tend to grab the
signal with more of a natural sound, albeit a
little slower) and a hard knee on instruments like drums and piano where the
compression transition can be very quick.
How long you hold the sound in its attenuated state (sustain) is a personal
preference, as is how quickly it releases (decay).
If you set the compressor too hard, you’ll know it because your mix will suffer. You’ll lose all the dynamics in the voice or the instrument along with all
the strength of the signal. Using the example at the top of this section, play
your recording and crank in the compressor and limiter. Listen to them at their
extremes to understand what they do and how they do it, then back off to a
conservative setting and listen to how they help you maintain order in the mix.
A well-set compressor will keep you from
constantly grabbing faders and yanking them down
just to slowly reset them, and a well-placed limiter will keep you
from dropping a speaker cluster to replace a
smoked-out voice coil.
As a starting point, you might want to set your threshold at 0, your ratio at 1:3,
the attack at 30 ms and the release at 100 ms. Then, as you are playing your content at full level, turn the threshold setting down until you begin to see 2–4 dB
of compression on the signal. This will get you in the ballpark and provide some
level of dynamic control. If you want to control larger peaks, raise the threshold,
raise the ratio to 1:5 or 1:8, and turn the attack and release down a bit.
Sound Systems for Worship
Gates are often misunderstood and commonly left out of the mix. A gate can
be a great tool – and it can also have devastating results.
A gate is a component that mutes the channel it is on until that channel reaches
a certain threshold (volume). Once this signal reaches the threshold that has
been set, it opens the channel.
Sound systems with too many microphones open and high stage volume can
sound terrible (and most often do). So, what happens is you have a loud source
on stage; in this example, we’ll use the kick drum. The kick drum is miked with
a kick drum microphone usually sitting inside the drum itself.
When the large foot mallet slams into the backside of the kick drum, the drum
emanates a loud low-frequency response. But does only the kick drum microphone hear this sound? Of course not – the snare mic, tom mics, cymbal mics,
hi-hat mics, and overhead mics all hear it too – and they hear it all out of time
with each other. The result? Mud.
So, what do you do when you have microphones in close proximity and they
are going to pick up ambient sounds, but you have to have them all up at once
(such as in a drum cage)? You place a gate on them. This way, the cymbal mic
is muted unless it hears a signal that is loud enough to only be from the instrument it is nearest to (the cymbal), and the same goes for the tom mics and
the snare. Your overhead microphones are a little trickier because you are using
them to round off the entire sound of the kit; but normally speaking, the overheads are run fairly softly, so they don’t give you as much problem in the mix.
Choir microphones are another killer. Even with a gate, once they open up,
they pick up everything that they hear – and this is usually 25 percent choir and
75 percent everything else in the room. If you SOLO or PFL a choir microphone,
just listen. You will most likely hear the entire mix in that one microphone –
commonly you’ll find the organ, the B3, the trumpet, the drums, and anything
else that’s screaming around the stage. This is why controlling the stage volume
is so important (and we’ll look at that in the next section when we discuss stage
A gate is easy enough to set – the exact setting is up to the engineer. Too conservatively and it will be mostly ineffective, too liberally and it will cut off the
first semblance of the sound. In other words, it’ll open too late and you’ll miss
Perhaps the best thing about using gates is that they give you more overall
gain before feedback as well as a tighter sounding mix. Essentially, they reduce
your noise floor by reducing the number of open microphones that are just
picking up the room, and they improve the tightness of your mix by doing the
same thing.
Electronic Processing
So, now that you are aware of these components, how do you go about hooking them all up? That’s a great question, and there are several ways to do so.
The best place to start is the manufacture’s instruction manual. I know, no one
wants to read the book, but it is usually where the vital piece of information is
found at 3 AM when you could have found it at midnight and gone home. Can
I get an amen from the choir?
Most manufactures will suggest the ideal ways to connect their equipment to
your sound system, but listed below are the most common methods.
Auxiliary Sends and Returns
This is one of the most common ways to hook up external processing devices.
Simply take the auxiliary output from the back of the console and route it to
the INPUT of the piece of equipment you wish to use. Then, take the OUTPUT
of the processing component and route it back to the mixing console. This can
be done in one of two ways: On some consoles you can route the auxiliary
back to an auxiliary return, or you can return the signal to any of your normal
input channels.
Personally, I prefer to route the return into a channel because I have full control of the equalization, the signal routing, and the metering. These advantages
make it worthwhile for me to eat up an input channel whenever possible.
Once the unit is plugged in, you simply select the channel you wish to add to
the effect and dial up the corresponding auxiliary knob. You will also need to
make sure the MASTER AUXILIARY knob is up as well. If you are not getting
a lot of effect, turn the master up first, then work on the individual channel
sends. Some processors require a lot more input than you would expect, but
as with all things, begin with a little and work your way up to where you need
to be. It is important when using the AUX system to control delay-based effects
that the effects unit be set to 100 percent wet at the device itself.
Insert Cables
Perhaps the second most popular way to connect outboard equipment is via an
insert cable and the insert connection on the back of the console.
An insert cable works by utilizing a ¼-inch Tip-Ring-Sleeve (TRS) connection
at one end and two ¼-inch Tip-Sleeve (TS) connections at the other. We discussed the insert cable earlier in this book, but to recap, the TRS connection
contains the send and receive, while one TS connection on the other side is a
send and the other is a return.
The use of an insert cable allows you to take the raw signal, send it to the
processing unit, and return it to that same channel affected by the processor.
Auxiliary control knob
on face of console.
Sound Systems for Worship
TRS Connector
Ring (Return)
Tip (Send)
TS Connector
To Tip of TRS
TS Connector
Insert cable.
To Ring of TRS
This method is commonly used for compressors, limiters, parametric equalizers,
gates, and other such devices, but not for delay-based effects.
The benefit is that it doesn’t use up auxiliary outputs and other critical output paths; the negative side to this is that you can only use the processor on
that one individual channel. So, it’s really up to the end user if this is a viable
option or not.
As a general rule of thumb, delay-based effects (such as echo, chorus, flanging, reverb, etc.) should be connected via the auxiliary bus, and dynamic-based
effects (such as compressors, limiters, and gates) should be connected via the
insert jack.
Personally, I use inserts on either individual channels or subgroups for my outboard compressors, limiters, and parametric equalizers.
Direct Outs and Channel Returns
Another option for routing signal to your external processors is using the direct
output of the channel (if your console has direct outs). Some lower cost consoles have a “workaround” that allows you to half-patch a Tip-Sleeve cable into
the insert connection. This will use the channel’s send without connecting to a
return. It’s a cheap way to achieve the result, but with manufacturers looking to
provide low-cost alternatives, it’s a creative way of solving the problem.
Electronic Processing
The direct out will allow you to take the raw signal on that channel
and send it wherever you need while still having the unaffected signal at the channel to control as desired. Direct outs are sometimes
useful for recording scenarios where you want to split the signal to
in-ear monitors and other similar purposes.
Direct out of console.
Again, if the signal is to be processed and returned to the console,
you can send it back via an available input channel, as described
above. Normally, a direct out connection is used to get the signal
to another source and not necessarily to bring it back into the mix.
I cannot stress enough that when it comes to any form of electronic
processing, less is more. When you start cranking effects everywhere, your mix gets muddy and the goal of presenting a clear mix is
missed. The other thing that will happen is the effect will take precedence over the actual signal. So, it will be obtrusive and suddenly will
sound like you got a new toy and can’t wait to try it out – and put it
everywhere. The goal is to use effects judiciously to help make the
mix really pop. They should be subtle and barely noticeable. Ideally,
the effect should be perceived as a room acoustic and not a trick. For
instance, when you run delay through a vocal and the voice rings on
the last couple of words, it should feel normal – not forced.
Also, keep in mind that with each additional processor, you are summing or
subtracting your overall system gain. So, in other words, with the use of external processing you are altering your gain structure along the way. You must
keep in mind your gain structure and your noise floor as you implement more
complexity into your mix.
Finally, processing should be a part of your mix – it should not be the mix.
Processing should be a subtle addition to the raw mix that helps the mix dynamically and emotionally. It should flavor the mix and help make it interesting. If
your mix is nothing but the processing, your mix is going to sound terrible.
Make sure you keep everything in perspective as you mix.
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Stage Monitors and
In-Ear Monitors
I continue to be surprised by the number of churches that don’t understand or
use stage mixes. So, let’s take a moment and talk about what a stage mix is and
why it’s important.
When you mix your service, the audience needs to hear a polished,
well-rounded mix of the instruments and vocals. This mix is what creates an
environment that encourages worship.
Alternatively, the musicians on your stage need to hear something very different. They need to hear components of the mix. For instance, the worship leader
is going to need to hear your primary instrument (most likely a piano or guitar) and certain vocals. He or she might want to hear the drums or specifically
the kick drum to help keep time. The worship leader may not care to hear the
bass guitar or other parts of the mix. It’s just not necessary to do the job.
It’s your job as the engineer to find out what each musician and vocalist needs
in the mix and provide it. When the stage monitor mix goes haywire, it’s a very
scary thing for the performer. It’s like taking a security blanket away from a
baby – only with real consequences.
I am not a musician. However, I was once “strongly encouraged” by a pastor to
lead worship for a youth camp. I recall getting caught up in the moment and
venturing off stage and into the crowd. I was using wedge monitors, and suddenly I found myself in the house unable to hear my monitor mix. It didn’t
take long for that song to go in the tank. I couldn’t hear my primary vocalist
and I couldn’t hear the keyboards. I was so far off that the song was unrecoverable. This was a strong lesson to me in the value of consistent stage monitors.
So, stage mixes are critical, but even more critical to the overall mix is how you
control the stage volume. I like to teach that mixing sound is all about controlling the acoustic energy in the room. If your stage volume is out of control, you
are sunk.
Many churches find themselves mixing sound with the main speaker output all
the way down or barely up at all! If this is where you find yourself, you need to
Sound Systems for Worship
reevaluate your on-stage instrument and monitor levels, and make significant
changes to the way you mix worship. When you are not using your house mix,
the audience is only hearing the monitors. This (as we just discussed) is not a
balanced mix. On top of it all, it’s not a direct mix – this is sound that is heard
after it bounces off a back wall and then comes out to the audience. It’s going
to sound like mud, regardless of what you do.
If you are using wedge monitors, the rule of thumb is that your front-of-house
sound plus the stage-monitor sound has to be a minimum of 12 dB louder
than the stage monitors by themselves. What do I mean by this? Simple. Take a
basic SPL (Sound Pressure Level) meter and position it near the mix position.
Bring your master volume down and get a reading in the house with everyone
on stage playing and singing away. Let’s assume this reads at 80 dB. In order to
get intelligible sound, when you bring up your main master, your new reading
should be at least 92 dB. Actually, the larger the separation you have between
those two readings, the better off you are. There is some argument as to the
exact number, and like everything with sound, it’s relative to your venue; however, 12 dB is generally the lowest number tossed around.
It’s also not uncommon to need more than one monitor mix. For instance,
your worship leader will need a mix, but your praise team might need to hear
something totally different. Likewise, your choir or drummer will need to hear
something else. So, it’s not unheard of to have two to six stage monitor mixes
at any given time.
EAW MicroWedge.
Photo courtesy of EAW.
All rights reserved.
Perhaps the most common form of stage monitor is the wedge monitor. The
wedge monitor is usually contained in a box that allows it to sit on the stage
at one, two, or three different positions. This allows the wedge to be aimed
more directly at the person(s) using the monitor. They are most commonly
floor mounted and positioned around the stage
with regard to the location of both the performer
and the microphone.
When using wedge monitors, it’s important to be
aware of the polar pattern of the microphone. For
instance, if you are using a hyper-cardioid microphone, you will most likely want the speakers
pointed at 70 degrees to the back of the microphone,
as the hyper-cardioid pattern also picks up sound
from directly behind the microphone. If the monitor were directly behind the microphone, this would
increase your stage clutter in the mix as well as make
you more prone to feedback.
It is not uncommon for a lead vocalist (or sometimes a pastor) to want two monitors offset 45
degrees from his or her position. This will give
Stage Monitors and In-Ear Monitors
equal coverage in each ear and it will also extend the person’s ability to hear if
he or she moves from side to side. With other groups, it might be easier to have
multiple people share the same monitor (such as an electric guitar and a bass
player). The end setup will be determined based on the needs of your people,
the limit of your equipment, and the capability of your sound engineer.
All Wedge Monitors Are Not Created Equal
Knowing what to look for in a wedge monitor is key. For instance, sometimes
you need a small footprint or you need it to be stand mounted. Here you
would select a near field monitor, also known as a “hot spot.” However, for
your worship leader you are going to want a full-range sound, so here you want
to place the best monitor you can afford.
Things you should look for in a monitor include:
The physical weight
Frequency response
Overall size
Power handling
Type of driver
The physical weight is a factor – remember, you are going to be lugging these
things around. Make sure that you can handle the load. Also, think about scene
shifts: You might have a smaller person expected to move some of the stage
equipment – will he or she be able to? But also realize that a heavier speaker
is often a better speaker. It’s going to have larger magnets and better construction, and it tends to be more robust. This is not a hard-and-fast rule, but it’s a
general standard.
Frequency response is important because the cabinet needs to be able to reproduce the quality of sound needed for the job. For instance, can it handle the
higher-end spectrum of your orchestra? Will it handle the low frequencies to a
reasonable enough level for your taste? Most monitors are full-range speakers;
nonetheless, it’s a good specification to check.
Overall size is often more important in the House of Worship than in the concert world. Oftentimes we have to deal with aesthetics as well as smaller stage
sizes. The physical size of the monitor might be a concern. Likewise, if you are
a mobile ministry, you have to consider roadboxes and trailer space.
Power handling is a feature often overlooked by many churches. Many churches
purchase small 100 W or 150 W speakers for monitor speakers. While this is
fine in some cases, if you are doing any type of contemporary worship, you will
probably be happier with a monitor that can handle more power. Power and
clarity often travel together. Just because you purchase a 500 W cabinet doesn’t
mean it’s going knock the wind out of your lungs when it turns on, but it does
mean the signal reproduced will most likely be of higher volume quality (than
a speaker with lower power handling) if matched to an appropriate amplifier.
Sound Systems for Worship
Likewise, the components inside will often be of higher quality. This will yield
you a better product in the long term as well.
Finally, the type of driver is an important quality to look at. Some monitors
have horns, others have coaxial designs, while still others use ribbon speakers.
Each of these components has its good and bad side. For instance, a horn is
very directional and can be easily controlled, but it can tend to be harsh sounding. This is not always bad; sometimes a harsh sound helps cut through the
stage clutter, but some people will not prefer the sound. A coaxial design is
going to give a more blended sound, but it’s going to have a very wide coverage (usually at least 100 degrees), and this could make it difficult to control in
proximity to other speakers and microphones. A ribbon speaker will produce a
very nice sound, but they tend to be very susceptible to moisture. They are also
usually more expensive.
Hands down, most people use a horn-based, two-way wedge monitor. You
can get them in 8-, 10-, 12-, or 15-inch varieties fairly easily. The size refers to the
woofer diameter. Most ministries would be well suited with a nice two-way 12-inch
solution, but the 15-inch will provide you a lower frequency response and usually a louder overall volume should it be needed. Of course, a 15-inch cabinet
is going to be significantly larger as well.
Advantages to Wedge Monitors
Wedge monitors have several advantages. Primarily they are inexpensive when
compared to in-ear monitors. They are portable and their purpose can change
from week to week. Another advantage is that multiple people can share a
wedge monitor.
Generally speaking, using wedge monitors will result in fewer individual mixes
as more people are listening to the same source. Of course, this is not always
the case, but it tends to be true, especially in smaller and medium-size Houses
of Worship.
Wedge monitors can also be mixed more easily from the front-of-house location than other dedicated solutions. This is a must for many churches that
struggle just to get someone to mix sound, much less those trying to find someone who can mix monitors as well.
The biggest drawback to using wedge monitors is the stage volume and how it
has a direct negative impact on the quality of the main house mix.
Mixing Wedge Monitors
Generally speaking, when mixing wedge monitors from the front-of-house
position, you should use an auxiliary channel for each mix. It is imperative that
the auxiliary mix be PRE-FADER. Otherwise, every change made in the house
will be tracked in the monitor mix, and your musicians and vocalists will be
pulling their hair out. You will get flooded with complaints, and the front-ofhouse engineer will quickly tire and become burned out.
Stage Monitors and In-Ear Monitors
When mixing the wedge monitors in the PRE-FADE position, the monitor mix
will not change regardless of what you do to the other mixes on the console.
This way nothing fluctuates, and the stage level and proportional mix remain
It is also worth mentioning that altering the gain after you have the monitor
mix set is not a good idea. Even pre-fade mixes are affected by the gain. So, if
you haven’t set up your channel properly to begin with, making large changes
to the channel via the gain control can still mess up your monitor mix.
While it is difficult to get the musicians on board, you will find more success if
you mix the house FIRST. Give the monitors a rough mix just so the musicians
and vocalists can hear key instruments and vocals, but mix the house BEFORE
you mix the monitors.
Remember, the concept about mixing sound is to control the energy in the
room. When you begin to push level to out of the front-of-house speakers, the
room will fill with energy. The musicians and vocalists will hear more of themselves in the main house mix than they expect to. Now, when you start mixing
the monitors, they will need fewer overall monitors because they can hear better.
If you start with the monitors, they can’t hear anything – so they ask for more
and more volume, and the result is that you don’t ever get the main house volume up, thus creating the problem we mention in the beginning of this section.
Realize also that people don’t always know how to communicate with you. For
instance, when they ask you to turn the bass up, what they might really need
is for you to turn the piano down. If everyone starts demanding more volume,
you are soon going to find yourself spiraling out of control and the mix going
out the window. Instead, remember that you are there to control energy and
the environment. Work closely with your team to establish trust and relationships. Understand their needs and make sure they understand yours as well.
Until recently, in-ear monitors were the holy grail of church sound systems.
Everybody wanted them, but very few could afford them. Each person had to
have his or her own mix, the cost of good wireless receivers were out of sight,
and finding people who knew how to use them was even more of a challenge.
Add to that the cost of even more batteries, and the whole idea was quickly
shot down.
So, why would people want to use in-ear monitors? Simply put, so they can
control their room energy by controlling the stage volume. When you remove
those big monitor wedges from the stage, your stage volume reduces exponentially. This immediately makes the front-of-house mix better.
Before we look at some of the newer options on the market that make in-ear
monitors very viable for even the smallest church budgets, let’s talk about how
to use in-ear monitors safely and properly.
Sound Systems for Worship
Proper Use of In-Ear Monitors
First, your musicians and vocalists should use both earplugs. This is for safety.
Using only one ear bud leaves the other ear open to all the ambient noise. Plus,
without the second ear plugged in, the other ear is usually cranked up louder.
Both conditions can cause hearing problems or hearing damage. Second, using
only one ear creates an odd imbalance that is very irritating and uncomfortable
to the musician.
If you want in-ears to be successful, plug up both ears of your performer. Now
when you do this, you create a problem – a huge disconnect for the musician
or vocalists from the audience. This can be a deal breaker. The symptoms are
the same: A look of panic is seen on the face, and worship usually starts to suffer. The performer will then reach up and flip out one of the ear buds in order
to once again connect with the audience. Now all of a sudden this individual
experiences that imbalance we just mentioned, and in an annoying attempt
to regain some control, he or she pops out the remaining ear bud. No longer
having the stage monitors to rely on, the performer is using all of his or her
musical fortitude to get through the service. At the end of the service, the musician tosses you the in-ears, telling you they’re horrible, and asks for the wedge
monitors back.
You can’t simply plug up both ears without solving this problem of disconnect.
Relax: It’s an easy problem to solve. Just take two microphones and place them
on the front of the stage aligned with your musicians and vocalists. Point these
microphones out toward the audience. I prefer to use a condenser microphone
for this as it will give a broader, deeper sound to the musician, but anything
is better than nothing (as long as they are reliable and work). Make sure you
don’t accidentally mix your audience microphones into your house mix. The
result will be far less than ideal. Now, take these two microphones and add
them to the in-ear mix. This will rebuild the room sound that the performer
has lost and will reconnect the performer with the audience.
It is important that these microphones be in line with the band and musician
or you will get a timing issue. The band will hear an echo in the in-ears because
the microphones are too far away from them. Because of this, your hanging
audience microphones for crowd recording will usually not suffice.
Some people will not need the audience microphones. But key people (such as
your worship leader) must have them in the mix to do their job.
Aside from that, traditional in-ear monitors are mixed very similarly to wedge
monitors. They are usually fed out of a PRE-FADE auxiliary, but instead of
going to an amplifier and speaker, they go to a wireless transmitter and receiver.
Ideally, you will want some form of limiter in the system to protect your performer in the event of feedback or another super-loud signal being accidentally introduced into the in-ears. Remember, this sound is sitting right at the
performer’s eardrum. You don’t want to cause hearing damage by doing something stupid (or making an innocent mistake).
Stage Monitors and In-Ear Monitors
With that in mind, let’s look at some of the systems available to the House of
Types of In-Ear Monitors
These are the more expensive “flavors” of in-ear monitors. They work much
like a wireless microphone. You have a wireless transmitter that sends signal to
a wireless receiver that is worn on the belt. This receiver typically has a channel
selector on it, a headphone jack, and a volume control.
The mix is sent to the wireless transmitter the same way a mix would be sent to
a wedge monitor.
With some systems, multiple people can select the same receiver channel
and share the same mix. Generally speaking, all persons would have their own
individual monitor mix in their ears, but this is not always the case.
Within the past few years, new personal monitor mixing solutions have come
on the market. Several manufacturers make various solutions, but perhaps the
most notable is the Aviom system.
What a tremendous breakthrough for Houses of Worship!
These systems take a set number of inputs (anywhere from 5 to 32 is standard
depending on the manufacturer). The sound engineer provides either a direct
send to the input or a small mix. For instance, the lead vocal might go into its
own channel. The kick drum might have its own input as might the snare drum,
but the rest of the kit might all be mixed down and put into a single channel.
These inputs would then go down to the individual musician via a Cat5e cable.
Now, each musician has a small station to balance his or her own mix!
Shure in-ear monitor system.
Photo courtesy of Shure. All rights reserved.
Aviom A-16.
Photo courtesy of Aviom. All rights reserved.
Sound Systems for Worship
This is tremendous. This is as close as we have come to “set it and forget it”
stage monitoring. With these systems, the main engineer can get the feeds set,
then allow the musicians and vocalists to do their own thing. These units can
be tied to a headset or to a wireless solution.
They can even be tied to a loudspeaker, but I highly discourage this. Remember
that getting a good mix is about controlling the room energy and the stage
energy. If you have a loudspeaker controlled by a third party, you are just asking for troubles.
These systems are simple to set up. For optimal results you should use a console
that allows you a pre-fader, post-EQ send. This way the musicians will receive a
little of the color of the mix for accuracy (via the EQ) but will not be affected by
your mix in the house. If you cannot provide pre-fader sends, in-ears will give
you nothing but headaches. But then again, that’s true of all monitor mixes.
Ideally, in-ear monitors (as well as complicated wedge monitor mixes) require a
dedicated monitor engineer on a dedicated monitor console. This can be quite
an expensive and complex solution for most Houses of Worship. Fortunately,
these user-based Cat5e systems do away with this need. They are truly a remarkable solution for Houses of Worship.
Advantages to In-Ear Monitors
The many advantages to utilizing an in-ear solution are probably obvious to
you by now. First and foremost, it lowers your stage volume. This fact alone
is a good enough reason to make the switch. Also, in-ear monitors effectively
lower your overall house mix. Now that you are not fighting your stage volume,
your house mix can come down should you choose – and that’s the important
thing: if you choose. The choice is yours. You are no longer being driven by the
acoustics of the room; you are now taking control of the acoustics of the room
and dictating your mix.
In-ears also allow more specialized mixes for the musicians. The use of in-ears
will also allow you more gain before feedback for the overall mix. This will
allow you more control of your mix.
Another great point to using in-ears is that the stage clutter reduces greatly.
With most of your wedges off the stage, you suddenly find yourself with more
room and fewer cables. This is a win–win in a House of Worship environment.
I’d strongly encourage any House of Worship to consider this as a viable alternative to your sound solution strategy.
If you’ve ever seen a large event or a big concert, odds are you’ve noticed the
guy immediately off one side of the stage behind a mixing console. Behold
the monitor engineer. With complicated monitor mixes, a monitor engineer is
crucial to things working smoothly.
Stage Monitors and In-Ear Monitors
To make this work, the original signal
is split before the front-of-house console ever alters the signal. This is usually done with an isolated transformed
split at the stage, but with newer digital
snake technology it is often done with
a simple Cat5e hub. Depending on the
system, one console generally provides
phantom power while the other has
phantom power turned off – but this is
not always the case. It is important to
know how your specific system works.
Digital snakes make splitting signals easy.
Now, with relatively inexpensive equipment, you
can route your original signal to the front of house,
monitor console, recording console, and any other
location you see fit – all with simple Cat5e
routers and Ethernet cable.
The monitor engineer is almost always located adjacent to the stage in some
way. This is done so the engineer can be close to the band and allows for easier
communication between the two. It also gets the engineer closer to the action
so he or she can actually hear a better representation of what is happening on
stage. The monitor engineer will typically have a headset and at least one wedge
monitor at his or her console. The monitor engineer is then able to listen in to
any of the monitor mixes on either the headset or the wedge, thus mimicking
how the performers are listening to the same material.
The console a monitor engineer uses is similar in function but different in format to a front-of-house console. Instead of having a handful of aux sends and
a main output section, a monitor console will typically have at least 12 auxiliary outputs and several other types of outputs as well. This console is designed
to send several individual mixes to different locations.
Perhaps the strongest point to the monitor engineer is that he or she is able
to focus on just the monitors. The monitor engineer and front-of-house engineer work hand in hand to create a balanced mix, but monitor engineers focus
their efforts on the monitor mixes on stage. This way, they are able to keep
everything balanced for the performers and respond more quickly to needed
changes on the stage.
For most Houses of Worship, a monitor engineer is a luxury you will not see.
However, it’s good to have a working knowledge of the concept in case there is
ever a situation that would benefit from such a setup.
Importance of Clearly Communicating
Realize that most people don’t understand how to communicate correctly with
the sound engineer. Perhaps you will recall the story I mentioned in the very
beginning of this book, where I was called to the church whose choir couldn’t
hear. The real problem was that the choir couldn’t hear each other. However, the
problem was presented as if they couldn’t hear the stage monitors. In reality, the
stage monitors were so loud they couldn’t hear each other to sing properly – a
perfect example of poor communication.
Sound Systems for Worship
The choir was voicing a problem: They couldn’t hear. The sound guy responded
by bringing up the monitors so they could hear better. The problem worsened when it should have improved. It snowballed. The situation hit a climax
because no one had thought to ask the basic question, “What can you not
hear?” because they all assumed the answer.
We turned down the monitor mix, the choir was overwhelmed with
excitement – and my work here was done.
This story illustrates a perfect point. Everyone comes from his or her own angle
when communicating a concern. The key is to not assume and to put yourself
in the other person’s position. Find out what the real problem is and communicate with each other as to how you are going to resolve the problem.
This applies not only to monitor mixes, but to life in general. Scripture tells
us to be slow to speak and quick to listen. The key to a strong A/V ministry is
communicating well with people and being a servant to them. As we discussed
earlier in this book, being a person who holds up those called to publicly proclaim the Gospel’s message is our goal. Communication and patience is the
key to success with this goal.
Remember, the key to getting a good house mix is to control the overall room
energy; this includes the stage. While using in-ear monitors is a great way to
start reducing stage volume, there are other things you should do as well.
Many churches all too quickly abandon acoustic drums in favor of electronic
drums. Unfortunately, most electronic drums just lack the sound of a good
acoustical set. Likewise, many drummers despise playing on them. Instead,
the answer is to simply enclose the acoustic drum set in a complete drum cage
with Plexiglas panels so the drummer can see out and the audience can see the
drummer. This will reduce the ambient sound of the drums to such an extent
that the drum will have to be miked and brought up in the mix to be heard.
Also, guitar amps can be placed in remote “amp rooms” and miked, or they
can face the player from the front or side so the guitarist can hear them better
and will not need them to be so loud.
Horns can be played with mutes and pointed down into acoustic material (versus
up into the air) to control their acoustic volume as well.
There is almost always more than one simple fix for a problem when it comes
to sound reinforcement. The more creative you are and the more time you put
into the mix, the more it will pay huge dividends with the final product!
Making the Move to
Recently there has been quite a buzz for digital consoles, digital signal processors, and, perhaps most recently, digital snakes. Many churches ask, “Should
we make the switch?”
Previously, manufacturers were making digital consoles that worked well in the
recording realm but were a real nightmare for live mixing. Slowly but surely,
the digital world has evolved for live sound – and now, as the role of the House
of Worship grows at an unbelievable rate, more and more manufacturers have
entire divisions dedicated to the House of Worship.
The world of digital offers a lot of positives for the House of Worship. First, the
signal-to-noise ratio is drastically improved over analog. There’s also the issue
of being able to split signals much more easily than with older analog solutions. With digital consoles, you can create users and lockout features – this is
great for funerals, weddings, and other special occasions. You can also preset
a setting for each person; so if you mix on Wednesday and come back Sunday
just to find that the youth band was in the room Saturday, insert your USB key
and all the settings fly back to where you left off on Wednesday. These are huge
advantages to the House of Worship.
Making the move to digital is inevitable. It is important that you understand
this: It’s only a matter of time. Manufacturers are offering more and more consoles with formats that are very appealing to live mixing. These consoles are
also integrating with the digital snakes, in-ear systems, and digital signal processing in unparallel ways.
Digital consoles are quickly becoming commonplace. Digital consoles come with
Digital Signal Processing (DSP). Earlier in this book we talked about outboard
processing equipment. In the old days, signal processing took rack upon rack of
space and was very costly. However, with the advent of digital consoles, now you
have an amazing amount of processing available to you at the touch of a screen.
Sound Systems for Worship
Most digital consoles allow you equalization, compression, and usually noise gates
on each channel! When you consider the cost of a single middle-of-the road
stereo compressor, you can quickly see the benefit in this one feature alone.
Now every channel has the option of its own individual signal processing.
Remember the previous discussion on making decisions about where you
insert or patch compressors, limiters, effects processors, and so on? Those days
are virtually gone with digital consoles. Limited only by the DSP-processing
power of the console you choose, you can have access to processing only
dreamed about before by the average House of Worship.
Things to Look for in a Digital Console
Digital consoles can be tricky – especially if you are converting from analog to
digital. The newer digital consoles are second nature to newcomers, particularly
younger generations who have grown up around computers.
The first thing you must realize is that the process of mixing on a digital console is different than it is for analog. Now one must think a little like an audiophile and a little like a computer geek. This means you have to think about
page locations, soft buttons, and layers. They way you mix will change, but the
value of making the jump will pay huge dividends in your ministry.
Because a digital console is a computer inside, most of them tend to operate
on pages. By pages, I mean that the information is stored in different locations that can be pulled up on the central screen (such as EQ settings, aux settings, soft patches, etc.) A soft button is a physical button on the console, but
its function changes depending on what page you looking at. The soft button
will usually have its function identified via the screen. And finally, when I talk
about layers, I am referring to the actual faders. Say, for instance, you purchase
a 48-channel console, but it only has 24 faders. Faders 1 through 24 are on
layer 1, and faders 25 through 48 would be on layer 2. By pressing the layer
button, the faders will snap to place where you left them. So, when you press
the layer button to select layer 1, the faders snap to position for the settings on
Yamaha M7CL.
Photo courtesy of
Yamaha. All rights
Making the Move to Digital
channels 1 through 24. Likewise, when you press the layer button again, the
faders will snap into position for channels 25 through 40. The motion of the
faders moving automatically is often referred to as “flying faders.”
First, I urge churches to look for digital consoles with as few layers as possible.
Many consoles boast about 48 to 96 channels in a 3-foot-long desk. Well, by
the time you account for a master output section, LCD screen, and other common features, you quickly realize that you are going to be working on three
or more layers to access those channels. When a House of Worship engineer
has to flip through multiple pages to get to a specific channel (and remember
which page it was on), this is a recipe for potential disaster. Likewise, imagine
your operator on a auxiliary return layer when a microphone begins to feedback. Now the engineer has to identify the microphone, identify the layer, and
fix the problem. This is much more complicated than grabbing some faders on
a console and fixing the problem.
I urge churches not to get more than two layers deep whenever possible. Then,
I urge them to take all of the primary microphones and place them on layer 1
and link the secondary microphones to layer 2. For instance, let’s say you have
four choir microphones. In reality, you rarely mess with them on an individual
basis; you generally bring them all up to the same mix, only on occasion altering an individual setting once you have it set. So, my advice is to put one choir
microphone on layer 1 and then link the other three on layer 2. This way, the
engineer can spend more of his or her time on the first layer. If a tweak is necessary, the engineer can jump over to the second layer and make the adjustment, but he or she isn’t constantly bouncing back and forth in the main mix.
The same concept can carry on other groups of microphones such as drums,
strings, brass, and other similar sections. This will help simplify the mix.
Having a console with digital-naming ability per channel is helpful as well.
This way, when you do jump layers, the channel name is displayed. It’s hard
enough for a House of Worship engineer to navigate pages, but it makes it a
lot easier when channels are properly named (such as KICK, SNARE, TOM1,
TOM2, CHOIR1, CHOIR2, etc.) versus having a cryptic code that doesn’t relate
to the purpose at all.
Another option to look at is how the console is controlled via a computer. Most
manufacturers offer proprietary software that offers the ability to control the
console remotely. The way it does this varies across the industry. For instance,
some consoles share with the computer real time, so if I am in the house and
looking at the equalization for channel 12 and someone on the console pulls
up channel 32, my screen on the computer jumps to channel 32, regardless of
what I am in the middle of. Other controllers allow multiple people to work
at once, so in this example, I would remain on channel 12 while the console
operator works on channel 32.
Some consoles allow for wireless integration more easily than others. This
might be something that is of value to you. Some allow you to tie in via your
church Wi-Fi network, while others do not.
Sound Systems for Worship
The integration of a USB key for each user is another great feature found in a
lot of consoles. We mentioned USB keys earlier in this chapter. The USB key
gives you the ability to record individual settings, patches, and equalization for
your console. You can then issue this USB key to as many people as you wish,
and with each preset these people will have only as much access as you give
them. Plus, it serves as a master reset to your specific settings every time you
insert an individual key. This is an amazing feature for the House of Worship.
Imagine a situation where you have a deacon running sound for a funeral. You
can assign the deacon a key that allows him to use channels 1 thru 4, monitor A, and the Master Left/Right bus. He has no access to any other part of the
console or configurations. Then, regardless of what he might do to channels 1
thru 4 during the funeral, when you show up on Sunday and insert your USB
key, the console is just the way you left it the last time you mixed. What a great
feature that we only wish we had on analog consoles!
The digital console should be able to interface with digital snakes, in-ear monitor systems, extra DSP power, and more. Make sure you know where you are
going long term with your A/V ministry and buy a console that will keep up.
Some consoles will integrate more easily with recording applications, while
others are meant to be strictly a front-of-house console.
Many resellers will oversell the reset feature. I call this the mythical magic button. The idea is that if settings get messed up, you can hit the reset button and
reload all the settings back to the original. While it is true that you can do this
and it is a great feature, it’s not the end-all of digital mixing. Without adequate
training for your people, these features are a wash. Sure, you can go back to
the original settings for your church, but you are not solving the problem that
got you there in the first place. The reset key is a great feature for “zeroing out”
the console and starting over, but the real answer is to train your people how
to run the sound system, troubleshoot the sound system, and mix. There are
times when the reset button is the right choice, but it should not supercede
your people being adequately trained on how to properly run the system.
Generally, when people start looking for a “one-button solution,” it’s because
there are other problems that they haven’t fixed. Invest the time and resources
in your people to train them well and your service will see the investment pay
off hugely.
Digital snakes are the way of the future. Gone are the days of running hundreds
of analog microphone lines and stage returns. Now all of this information
can be carried over one or two Ethernet cables. With each day that passes,
newer technology allows for more bandwidth, better fidelity and more
A digital snake will utilize standard Ethernet cable or fiber-optic cable to transmit your audio and control data. These cables will interface with a stage box that
Making the Move to Digital
holds your preamps and a console box that has preamp controls, channel signal
data, and a fan-out for the console (if needed). Now, instead of lugging huge
analog cables around, you can do the same job with a couple of Ethernet cables
or fiber-optic cables while getting the clean digital signal path at the same time.
The signal-to-noise ratio on digital snakes is much better than our old analog
sidekicks. You can get a better sound in the room, with much more volume and
far less noise due to the naturally quiet digital circuits. Another great feature
for many of these snakes is a better resistance to picking up interference from
AC (Alternating Current) and RF (Radio Frequency) noise. Many high-quality
snakes offer redundant connections, so if one connection fails, the other takes
over – transparently.
With rooms that require setups or with mobile churches, a digital snake is a
lifesaver! Not only are they lighter to carry, but they are so much easier to set
up and use. When coupled with a digital console, the benefits get even better as
the signal path remains digital and the signal-to-noise ratio is even stronger.
One concern with digital snakes – and digital devices as a whole for that matter –
is the issue of latency – that is, how long it takes the signal to find its way from
the source to the destination as it travels through audio to digital conversion,
digital to audio conversion, as well as through various DSP calculations. In
audio, as we’ve already discussed, sound travels fairly slowly as it is. When you
add unwanted delays to the signal path, the end result is far less than ideal.
An example of latency would be using a standard off-the-shelf USB microphone, running it through a computer, and speaking into it but listening at the
same time via headphones that are also plugged into the computer. In most
cases, you will say a sentence, and then halfway through the sentence you will
begin to hear it in the headset. This delay is latency, and latency will create a
disaster for any type of live sound.
However, as technology evolves, more manufacturers are overcoming these
hurdles. To date, there are high-quality digital snakes with less than 1 millisecond latency. This is acceptable for pro-audio solutions. So, be aware of latency
Roland digital snake.
Photo courtesy of
Roland. All rights
Sound Systems for Worship
issues with your DSP, digital console, and especially your digital snake, and
purchase accordingly.
One of the most exciting features with digital snakes that utilize Ethernet
cable as their model of signal transmission is the ability to split the signal
via Ethernet hubs. If you are new to the world of networking, an Ethernet
hub allows you to take one Cat5 signal and split it into several signal paths.
Commonly, you will find hubs that allow you to take one input and split it to
4, 5, 8, 16, or more signal paths! Some manufacturers allow you to use standard network hubs that you can buy off the shelf, while others require you to
use a proprietary hub. Either way, digital snakes make it far more economical
to do splits to multiple locations. With the advent of digital snake technology,
it is now well within the average House of Worship to create a separate recording mix as well as monitor mixes (should they have the need).
Often times, the preamps found in the head units of a digital snake exceed what
you would find on an average- to low-cost console. This alone will increase the
quality of your sound and become yet another factor in reducing your noise ratio.
We’ve talked about digital signal processors (DSPs) but haven’t really defined
what they are. A DSP is basically a computer that utilizes its processing power
to manipulate your audio signal. What used to be rack upon rack of equipment
is now contained within a one- or two- rack space unit that controls your system equalization, matrix mixing, routing, delay, limiting, and a large number
of other processes.
With the advent of digital consoles, this concept has been applied to the console itself, so now a console can have digital signal processing that can be
applied to the mix the same way a DSP handles the front-of-house system.
One word of caution: If you are designing a sound system utilizing a DSP, make
sure to order a second one as well for backup. When you are about to have a
service and a lightning storm comes that destroys the DSP, you don’t want to
be waiting on repair or shipping. Have the second DSP programmed and ready
to go, swap over cables, and you are back up and running. Systems become
very dependant on the DSP, and redundancy is key. Likewise, as stated earlier,
it’s a great idea to employ UPS’s and proper surge protection on all sound systems, but especially ones utilizing digital mixing and digital signal processing.
Digital signal processing is a wonderful thing for the House of Worship. By
utilizing this approach, you can get a lot more sound system for the ministry
The key to good sound system performance is training for the people running it. Making the move to digital technology requires a little bit of a learning
Making the Move to Digital
curve. As each day passes, it also requires greater knowledge about basic networking and server control. Mixing digital is different than mixing analog. You
should plan on receiving adequate training by someone who understands the
needs of the church and the dynamics of a House of Worship engineer.
Regardless, it’s important to stay on top of your game when mixing on a digital
console. It is imperative that you keep track of which layer you are on, where
your microphones are, and how things are patched. However, if you are mixing
on the right type of console, you will most likely find it easier than mixing on
an analog console, once you get used to it.
If you are adding a digital console as part of your system installation, you
should make sure your contractor includes solid training as a part of the sales
package. Otherwise, there are excellent opportunities for hands-on training
at many conferences and with companies that specialize in training and will
come to you; on-demand and DVD training options are available as well. The
training is available regardless of your budget or schedule, but it is important
to get trained.
Remember: You are more than a button
pusher! When you move to digital, don’t fall into
the trap of only selecting preset buttons – it’s
a recipe for disaster! Learn your craft and
take control of your mix.
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Conclusion of Sound
Sound engineers should realize their full importance in worship. By how
you execute your area of ministry, you either create walls or tear them down.
You either facilitate worship or you greatly diminish it. You are a part of the
solution or a part of the problem.
This is no small task. You are not merely a button pusher. Your role in the ministry is a vital one.
When the audio is right, people let their guard down. It just happens. The
audio becomes transparent and the people are drawn into a spirit of worship.
There are no distractions to encumber them. They simply worship. Their confidence is boosted by the quality of the mix, and the fear of the person next to
them hearing or seeing them worship dissipates. This process makes it easier
for the Holy Spirit to speak to their souls and stir up within them the reason
He has brought them there.
Anything we do to reduce distractions will ultimately help facilitate corporate
worship, but I believe none is stronger in facilitating worship than working
hard to execute a flawless audio mix that helps usher people into the
Throne room.
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Anatomy of a Lighting
A lighting system is a system of control, power, and usually dimming and lighting fixtures that allow you to control your architectural and stage illumination.
Many churches underestimate the power and effectiveness of adequate lighting
for worship.
First, let’s look at how a lighting system breaks down.
You can see in Figure 10.1 that your main power comes to the dimmer rack.
Large-gauge wire runs from the dimmer to the outlets (called circuits). Your
lighting fixtures then plug into these circuits, and your control surface connects
to the dimmer via a standard protocol to control their function. Your control
surface can also send control signal to other devices (such as motors, fans,
effects machines, moving lights, color changers, etc.) as well.
As far as the system routing goes, you have dimmers (the physical dimming
devices within your dimming panel), the circuits (the actual drops that the
lighting fixtures plug into), and channels (on the control console). In most
cases, your circuit number will be the same as your dimmer number. However,
it is possible (especially in smaller systems) to have more circuits than dimmers. This would be done for cost savings. For instance, you might have two
areas of your lighting that never get used at the same time (this could be
because of your room setup or any number of other factors). So, why would
you spend the money on dimmers that never get used at the same time when
you can patch those circuits over to the dimmers when you need them?
In this example, your circuit number and dimmer number would most likely
not be the same.
Let’s take an overview of each of the main components that make up a lighting
Lighting Systems for Worship
To Next
Lighting Controller
Lighting system.
Lighting Controllers
Most controllers today are computer-based devices. In the old days, lighting
was controlled via manual control surfaces. The industry began with large rheostat devices that were controlled via large levers. This was shrunk down most
commonly to a two-scene manual controller.
However, as computer technology became more accessible, we began to see
the trend move toward computer consoles. The first models were very crude
compared to the consoles of today. Many computer consoles today also offer
functionality that was found on the original two-scene manual boards. Most
computer consoles still have manual faders, some offer A/B scene selection on
top of the automated cue feature, and several now have encoders for using special effects that go beyond dimmer control.
As technology continues to progress, we see consoles now controlling scenery,
intelligent lighting, motors, automated trussing, and every other show-control
Anatomy of a Lighting System
Photo courtesy of
Leprecon. All rights
Congo ETC lighting
Photo courtesy of
Electronic Theatre
Controls, Inc. All rights
contraption you can imagine. Consoles are no longer bound by physical expectations. Now, control can come from a laptop, personal computer, and – in
some cases – a smart phone.
Dimmers come in a variety of “flavors.” A dimmer is basically a device that
regulates power by controlling the current dispensed to an electrical light to
control brightness.
When you think about dimmers as they pertain to the House of Worship,
you are going to be dealing with one of three kinds – satellite, portable, and
Satellite dimmers are often favored by smaller Houses of Worship because they
are lightweight, inexpensive, and able to move with the lighting rig.
Lighting Systems for Worship
Generally speaking, a satellite dimmer
is powered by 120 V via a regular 15
or 20 amp Edison (household) plug.
So, the dimmer can plug into virtually
any wall outlet and power a handful
of lights. They usually range in power
from 500 W to 2400 W per channel.
Again, the dimmer is limited to the
outlet amperage and the quality of the
extension cable used in the application. Obviously, the larger the amperage capacity and the better the quality
of cable, the better your results will be.
Satellite dimmer.
Photo courtesy of
It’s important to use no less than
12-gauge grounded extension cables.
Anything less can build excessive heat
and cause a risk of fire. Lower-grade
extension cables will also tend to pop
a circuit breaker more quickly due to
the excessive amount of resistance they
provide over a larger cable.
20 A
20 A
Circuit #1 Circuit #2
Main Power
Circuit Breaker
Satellite Dimmer
Satellite Dimmer
Lighting Fixtures
Lighting system
Lighting Controller
Anatomy of a Lighting System
A satellite dimmer can easily be mounted
to a light pipe, truss, or ceiling. They are
usually lightweight and easy to work
with. These dimmers can have channels
assigned to them so the controller can
communicate with them individually.
For instance, a 4-channel satellite dimmer can be set on channels in groups of
four. So, if the first one were channels
1 through 4, the next satellite might be
5 through 8, the next one might be 17
through 20, and the next one 9 through
12. No, that was not a typo – they do not
have to be in order sequentially in the
chain. The control system will control
the dimmer, whatever channel you give
it, regardless of its position in the system
ETS sensor dimming
system in roadbox.
Image courtesy of
Electronic Theatre
Controls, Inc. All rights
Portable dimmers are another variety of theatrical dimmers that utilize higher
power sources but are contained in a unit that allows them to be temporarily
installed and moved from event to event. These dimmers typically take singlephase or three-phase power and are “tied in” via cable tails that tie directly
from the main feed of a circuit box.
Portable dimming systems contain large numbers of dimmers in one location.
Usually, there will be between 12 and 48 dimmers in a portable system; however, there are no limits on either extreme.
There are several advantages to using a portable system over satellite systems.
Power feeding the dimmers is often more stable.
Dimmers tend to be at least 2.4k per channel.
More industrial strength components – will tend to last longer.
Easier to pack up and move around.
Easier to troubleshoot.
Dimmers are usually interchangeable and therefore easily replaceable.
Not reliant on small fuses that easily blow.
Portable dimmers offer a lot of the benefits of a fully installed dimming system
but still offer portability and usually cost less. The downside is that you need
someone to tie the dimmer into raw power, you need access to single-phase
or three-phase power (usually a minimum of 60 amps to upward of 400 amps
depending on the number of dimmers), and you will need to make longer runs
from the dimmer pack to the lighting fixtures – which requires a lot of cables
and cable runs.
Lighting Systems for Worship
Sensor installed
dimmer rack.
Image courtesy of
Electronic Theatre
Controls, Inc. All rights
Permanent dimming systems are by far the preferred method
for any House of Worship that is going to utilize a lighting
system for worship demands. A permanent system might
cost more money initially, but the advantages pay off
First, this is the only real way to get dimming control of
your house lighting, which I would argue is absolutely
imperative for modern worship. Being able to dim your
house lights for stage focus, worship intimacy, or special
productions is absolutely key. It is also critical to have all
of your house lights controlled via one fader. This way
they all come up together and go off together. So many
churches are running their house lights via several rheostats on the wall and find it impossible to smoothly bring
them up or down. This is just a distraction you don’t need
– not to mention a hassle. Getting your house lights under
control should be one of the first steps you take in getting
your lighting system in order. Using a permanent dimming solution is the only way to handle that many lights
and amperage.
A permanent dimming system is always tied in to power – it’s designed for the
proper load and documented. Better yet, the cabling from the dimmers to the
circuits is permanently wired inside conduit and clearly labeled. This reduces
the amount of cable runs and safety worries – not to mention it makes everything look neater.
As with any permanent system, once installed and tested, there are many fewer
failures; thus the system tends to be more reliable and predictable.
These systems will normally be fed from a three-phase 110 V per leg supply. The
design will tend to evenly distribute your load if installed properly among all
three legs.
We talked about the idea of circuits and channels in the overview. In the professional lighting world, a circuit is the connection that the light physically plugs
into. This cable is, in most cases, run directly back to the dimmer that operates
it. In this example, there is a one-to-one correlation between the two.
However, as previously mentioned, in some cases you could have a patch panel
where your circuits would terminate. At this patch panel, the circuits would be
hard-patched to a dimmer via a patch cable. In this example, you would have
mismatched circuit/dimmer numbers. For instance, circuit 24 over stage might
plug into dimmer 10. This is common when you have more connections in
Anatomy of a Lighting System
Cable drop and raceway for a typical stage
Photo by Brad Herring.
Computer light board
computer screen with
your House of Worship than you have dimmers to support them. This is a costsaving solution, or “value engineering.” Proper documentation of the system
will prevent a multitude of problems.
When you get to the console, it operates in channels. A channel consists of
dimmers that are soft-patched via the control console.
Let’s say you have 40 house light fixtures, each at 300 watts. If you are running
2.4k dimmers, you decide to allocate seven house lights per dimmer. You will
need six dimmers total to manage your house lights.
When you get to the console, you wouldn’t want to always manipulate those
six dimmers individually – it would be a hassle. So, you would go into the software patch on the console and patch all six dimmers into one channel. Take
the following example:
Your house lights are plugged into circuits 1 through 40. These circuits are
hard-wired (since they are house lights), seven at a time, into dimmers 1
through 6. At the console, you patch dimmers 1 through 6 into channel 1.
Now, when you tell the console to bring channel 1 to full, all of your house
lights brighten to full power.
Lighting Systems for Worship
Conversely, you would have found yourself manipulating 6 dimmers – or,
in a really worse case, 40 dimmers simply to bring up your house lights.
Programming and consistency would be a real pain! Dimmers, circuits, and
channels are all defined to allow the lighting designer a simplistic path for
As you can imagine, paperwork is vital for successful lighting plots. We’ll take a
look at some of the paperwork you’d want to have later in the lighting section
of this book.
Perhaps the most recognizable parts of a lighting system are the lighting fixtures themselves. Choosing the correct lighting fixture for the job is as important as an artist choosing the right brush for a stroke. Each lighting fixture
performs its job differently and yields a different visual result for the designer.
Let’s take a look at each of the main categories of fixtures and identify what
makes them different.
FIGURE 10.10
PAR 64.
Photo by Brad Herring.
Perhaps the simplest of all lighting fixtures is the PAR can. PAR stands for
Parabolic Aluminized Reflector. In short, this light is often referred to as a coffee
can with a floodlight inside it. And in fact, many a low-budget theater has made
these lights by following that analogy.
Basically, this fixture is a can with a sealed beam light inside that looks much like
an old-fashion headlight. These lamps
come in Wide, Medium, and Narrow Spot
configurations. Obviously a Wide lamp
disperses light the most, while a Narrow
Spot disperses light the least.
PAR can lamps are recognizable by the
waffling on the front of the lamp.
PAR fixtures come in many different
sizes. The most common are PAR 64, PAR
56, and PAR 38. Their sizes are derived
from the diameter of their barrel, which
is measured in eighths of an inch. So, if
you were to take a PAR 56 and divide 56
by 8, you would get 7 inches – the diameter of a PAR 56.
Old school PAR cans have a known lighting characteristic: They typically disperse
the light in a relatively uneven field, with
a horizontal hot spot going through the
Anatomy of a Lighting System
FIGURE 10.11
PAR lamps – wide/
medium/spot from the
Photo by Brad Herring.
middle of the beam spread. From up in the air, you can see this hot spot easily.
It is parallel with the ceramic back of the lamp. By grabbing the ceramic head of
the lamp and twisting the lamp clockwise or counterclockwise, you can adjust
the hot spot to where you desire. This is mandated by the object you are lighting.
For instance, if you are lighting a tall piece of scenery, you will most likely want
the hot spot running vertical to parallel the scenic item. This way, as much of the
energy of the light spreads on the object as possible. If instead you were lighting
a group of people, you would most likely want the hot spot to be horizontal and
landing on the average height of the people’s faces. This would tend to give you
a more even-looking wash over the group.
PAR cans tend to be very inexpensive. They are the ultimate “point and shoot”
Pros: They can take a beating, there is very little inside of them that can break, and they
are easy to maintain.
Cons: Overall poor quality of light, noticeable hot spots, and no ability to focus or
The Fresnel is similar to a PAR can except it has a lens that sits in front of the
lamp. This lens can be moved forward and backward, allowing the instrument
to produce a tight spot or a wide flood. The lamp is a quartz halogen lamp and
comes in many different wattages. Standard wattages for live theater are 500
and 100 W, but Fresnels are very popular in the film world and can easily be
found in wattages up to 15,000 W.
Fresnels are referred to by their lens size. Most common sizes are 6- and
8-inch Fresnels. They are identifiable by the lens with ridges that form rings
emanating out of its center and because the Fresnel lacks shutters for beam
Lighting Systems for Worship
FIGURE 10.12
8-inch Fresnel.
Photo by Brad Herring.
FIGURE 10.13
A Fresnel lens.
Photo by Brad Herring.
FIGURE 10.14
Image courtesy of Electronic Theatre
Controls, Inc. All rights reserved.
The Fresnel is hardly more complicated than a PAR can, but it does have an
actual base for the lamp that over time can corrode and will need maintenance.
There is actually a small amount of internal wiring, whereas the PAR can is
fully exposed.
These fixtures offer a more consistent spread of light, thus making them an
ideal choice for fill light and for stages that will be utilized for television.
Pros: Relatively inexpensive, easy to focus, even beam spread, focusable beam size.
Cons: A little more maintenance required, lamp cost/lamp life, no shutters for beam
Lighting sense made by ETC (Electronic Theater Controls), manufacturers the
the Source Four PAR – a fairly new fixture on the lighting scene. This is a newstyle PAR fixture that utilizes a 575 W or 750 W lamp. The field of light is much
more efficient and more even. Heat dissipates out the rear of the fixture (versus
the front of the fixture like a traditional PAR can would). This means that gel
life is greatly lengthened and the fixture is a little easier to work with.
The Source Four PAR fixture uses one lamp, but unlike the traditional PAR,
you get your various fields of light (narrow, medium, and wide) by changing
Anatomy of a Lighting System
FIGURE 10.15
A PARNel lens kit.
Photo by Brad Herring.
lenses on the front of the fixture. This helps reduce lamp inventory and gives
you more flexibility overall.
Pros: Only one lamp to buy, longer gel life, more compact size.
Cons: More expensive than traditional PAR can, more maintenance required.
The Ellipsoidal is arguably the centerpiece of theatrical lighting design and a
common fixture for the House of Worship. These fixtures offer a nice beam
consistency and the ability to shutter and blur/sharpen the focus. Unless the
Ellipsoidal is a zoom fixture (multiple focus length), the beam spread is set at a
certain size (Figure 10.16).
Some manufacturers have interchangeable barrels for different focal lengths,
while others make you purchase the entire light.
An Ellipsoidal is recognizable by the presence of shutters.
These fixtures have slots in them that will accept gobos and effects wheels.
With these combinations, you can project patterns, words, and special effects.
By being able to blur or sharpen, you can alter the way these effects look as
well as how the lights blend with each other on stage.
One of the main selling points for an Ellipsoidal is the ability to use the shutters for beam shaping. This allows you to make “shutter cuts” off scenery and
other areas that you don’t want the light to spill onto.
Pros: Beam shaping, blur/sharpen focus, pattern and effects capability, even field of light.
Cons: Expensive, sometimes limited in beam spread, more maintenance required.
Border lights are perhaps one of the oldest types of light we have from our history of theater and performance. In the early days, these lights were candles
with reflectors around them that sat at the lip of the stage. Today, our technology
has evolved far from candles, but the fixture still lives on the lip of the stage.
Lighting Systems for Worship
Border lights are another source of fill light. They are used
to light the performer (and scenery) from below. The
light then shines up on the performers’ faces. This helps
remove shadows under the chin and eyes. These lights
go a long way toward helping the person on stage appear
younger because they remove the exaggerated effect of
“bags” under the eyes and chin.
Border lights come in a variety of styles – MR16 lamps,
PAR lamps, floodlamps, and LED. The decision of which
to use ultimately comes down to stage size, desired footprint, foot-candles needed, and budget.
FIGURE 10.16
ETC Source 4.
Image courtesy of Electronic theatre
controls, Inc. All rights reserved.
These lights can bolt directly to the floor, be mounted to
a floor base, or be held down via weight (sandbags or
bricks). It is also possible to mount these lights from
above via a C-clamp and use them as top fill, but their
primary purpose is as border lights.
Prior to the days of quality cyc lights (discussed next), it was
not uncommon to see a backdrop lit with these lights. The
designer would mount them above and below the drop, usually focusing the lights so
they slightly overlapped in the middle.
Typically these lights will come in a one-, two-, or three-circuit configuration.
Perhaps most common is the three-circuit configuration where every third light
belongs to a circuit. In a multi-circuit configuration, each circuit would be a
different color. Many designers choose to use red, green, and blue so they can
mix to virtually any color. However, the color is ultimately determined by your
design need. Generally speaking, when used as a true boundary light, at least
one channel would be no color because it’s being used as a fill light for shadows.
Pros: Easy to use, cheap to maintain, small footprint, easy to hide, multi-color options.
Cons: When used for backdrops they give a scalloping appearance, often dim compared
to other lights.
FIGURE 10.17
Border light (sometimes
called a strip light).
Photo by Brad Herring.
Anatomy of a Lighting System
The Cyc light is one of the best and easiest to use fixtures for doing a full wall
wash. These fixtures are great for back walls and backdrops.
The cyc light is typically a three-circuit fixture with each circuit having its own
“cell.” These lights are referred to as single-cell, dual-cell, three-cell, or four-cell
fixtures. The fixture itself is very simple. Generally lamped at 1000 W, each cell
has its own reflector and lamp. The cell produces a very even and wide wash of
light. When properly placed with other fixtures, a very even wash is produced
over a vertical surface.
There is a top and bottom to this fixture; the reflector inside will throw light
further one distance than the other. This makes sense as the fixture is typically
mounted via C-clamps on a pipe or truss and suspended approximately 6 feet
in front of the object being lit. The light will throw a small field up but focus
the majority of the field out and down to adequately cover the scenic element.
By locating the cells so closely to each other, color mixing is very effective.
Again, utilizing red, green, and blue, a designer can mix to almost any color in
the spectrum. Many people choose red, green, and amber as a primary pallet;
these designers are looking for warmer tones and are not interested in achieving
every color. Still others will use specific colors for their particular production
needs. We will discuss this idea more in the color theory section of this book.
A cyc light is fairly lightweight and well worth the investment if you are lighting vertical components. They do tend to be a little clunky, making them more
difficult to conceal than other types of lighting.
Pros: Very even field of light, low maintenance, long lamp life, inexpensive lamp cost.
Cons: A bit clunky, generates heat, burns through gel fairly quickly, several required for
an even wash.
Perhaps one of the most iconic images in
professional lighting, the Followspot is used
in virtually every concert and many stage
Followspots come in every size and wattage imaginable. These lights are operated by
a person who visually tracks the target on
stage. They can be wired so that the lamp is
dimmed via the lighting control console or
via the operator. They typically have iris and
focus controls as well as a handful of color
choices and a blackout panel.
FIGURE 10.18
Altman Sky Cyc.
Photo by Brad Herring.
Lighting Systems for Worship
Higher-end followspots incorporate laser
sighting or telescopic sighting, while
lower-end spots use an iron sight or lack
sighting at all. Inexpensive solutions can
be utilized, such as taping a straw down
the top center line of the tube and taping a smaller straw vertically to the top
center of the front opening, thus making
an iron-type sight as found on an old
FIGURE 10.19
Super Trouper.
Photo courtesy of
Strong Lighting.
The operator must have some way to
sight the followspots on the target or
they will never be in the right spot at
the right time. There is nothing more
distracting or annoying than bad followspot work.
Followspots are used for highlights and
front fill. In concerts they are very popular. The band can be lit via downlight and backlight in very sultry colors, moving lights can be used for wonderful effect lighting, and the follow spot can
light up the few primary components (usually the lead singer) for front light.
A well-used followspot can have a very strong effect; a poorly utilized followspot will leave you very frustrated.
Pros: Bright light, can be pointed anywhere, not fixed to one location, can follow a
moving target.
Cons: Usually expensive, difficult to train good operators, consistency can be a
challenge, location for the unit can be a challenge.
All too often worklights are overlooked in lighting systems. It’s important to
realize that stage lighting is expensive to run, when you calculate the amount of
power needed and the relatively short (but expensive) lamp life. There is no need
to run stage lighting when you are not in a rehearsal, production, or service.
For instance, if a typical lamp costs $30 on average (some are much more
expensive, others are considerably cheaper) and has an average life of 1000 lamp
hours, this lamp will last you approximately 71 weeks when used on average 14 hours a week (6 hours on Sunday, 5 hours for a mid-week service, and
3 hours for rehearsals during the week). If you ran that same lamp every time
there was someone in the sanctuary (including during setup and cleaning),
your average time could easily be reduced to as little as 20 weeks. If someone
Anatomy of a Lighting System
were to accidentally leave the lights on all day and night (which happens more
frequently than you would imagine, with cleaning crews alone), this time can
be brought down to a handful of weeks.
That’s based on a 1000-lamp-hour life. Many lighting fixtures use lamps that
have a 250- or a 500-hour life. As you can see, the cost would increase significantly. Likewise, remember that you are possibly burning anywhere from 15 to
200 fixtures at a time (depending on your size and type of house light).
One modern-day trend is to use a theatrical fixture (like an ETC PARNel) for
house lights. While they are very versatile and provide an excellent field of
light, they are far more expensive to operate than standard floodlights. If you
were to utilize a fixture like this for your house lights, you would most definitely want a good fluorescent fixture or other type of inexpensive light to use
for day-to-day operations such as setups and building maintenance.
All too frequently Houses of Worship forget to install some sort of low-cost
worklight solution for their altar and audience areas. This means they are constantly running high-voltage short-life fixtures. The cost of this adds up over time
in both utility bills and lamp replacement. Likewise, the fixtures themselves get
more wear and tear as a result of the constant heat and have to be replaced or
repaired on a more regular basis. Also, any gel or patterns in the lights will tend
to expire much more rapidly, once again resulting in high operation costs.
Any House of Worship utilizing a stage lighting system should have an inexpensive incandescent or fluorescent worklight solution that can be illuminated by
a standard light switch. This will protect your investment, lower your operating costs, and your fixtures will have a longer lifespan – all of which saves your
ministry dollar for more important uses. Having these lights controlled via a
standard light switch will keep unnecessary people off your lighting console.
You will want to have some sort of cover or lockout switch on these lights so
they don’t get flipped on when you are in the middle of a service or production.
Pros: Cost savings.
Cons: Sometimes not as bright.
Perhaps one of the newest innovations to the lighting world is the advent of
LED lighting. With each day that passes, manufacturers are learning how to
make LED’s brighter and cooler. The long lamp life and ability to color change
are huge motivations for progressive work in this field.
An LED fixture consumes less power, usually emits less heat, and allows fullspectrum color changes. The limits have always been about making them bright
enough to compete with stage lighting. We are now seeing more LED solutions.
FIGURE 10.20
Photo by Brad Herring.
Lighting Systems for Worship
Any of the fixtures mentioned in this section have
LED counterparts, and most likely one day they
will all be LED based.
Presently, LED fixtures tend to be costly and, as
already mentioned, considerably dimmer than a
quartz-halogen product. However, LED fixtures are
commonly used to light scenery and walls as well
as for backlight and boundary lighting. As more
and more fixtures become brighter, they will soon
be used for front light as well as side light.
FIGURE 10.21
Photo courtesy by
American DJ.
LED technology is definitely something to keep your eye on as the industry
moves forward with this technology.
Pros: Low heat, long lamp life, little maintenance required, color changing.
Cons: Tends to be more expensive, tends to be dimmer, and offers less quality of light
with current availabilities.
Fixture Accessories
What makes theatrical lighting “theatrical” is how the designer can affect the
quality of light to set mood and build environments. Theatrical lighting offers
a number of accessories that help a designer to set that mood and to build that
FIGURE 10.22
Gobo and gobo holder.
Photo by Brad Herring.
A Gobo is a metal or glass disc that contains an image. This metal or glass disc
can be inserted into any ellipsoidal by the use of a gobo holder. The holder is
typically a metal sleeve with a round opening that allows the gobo to sit inside
it. When inserted into the light, this image is projected through the light onto
whatever surface you point at.
Metal patterns are dye-cut, while glass patterns are more of a screen-press product.
Glass patterns can reproduce photo-realistic
color images, logos, and other impressivelooking projections. Metal discs offer halftones and gradients that can allow for nice
graphics, but are most commonly created
in a stencil-type fashion and limited to the
color of the gel placed on the light.
Either pattern is available via catalogs in
hundreds of predesigned patterns or can be
Anatomy of a Lighting System
custom ordered with your specific artwork. Over time, a glass pattern
will hold up better and last longer but is more expensive initially.
A snoot (also sometimes called a “top hat”) is attached at the end of
the barrel of a fixture. A snoot will block unwanted light from hitting
undesired objects by helping to focus the light on the desired object
A snoot is useful in helping to aim the light and reduce unwanted
Black wrap (also known as “cinefoil”)
is the aluminum foil of professional
lighting. Theatrical lights have many
openings and opportunities for light to
escape from the instrument other than
from the end of the barrel. Oftentimes,
this light bounces off the ceiling and
other areas, and is a distraction to the
Black wrap looks and acts like a strong
aluminum foil, but it is black in color
and dissipates heat better than its aluminum counterpart. The black wrap does
not reflect light and can be wrapped
around the light much like aluminum
foil wraps around a potato.
Black wrap can also be used as a makeshift barn door, snoot, or any other
method to help you shape and control where the light spills and where it
Barn Doors are most commonly used
on Fresnels and PAR cans. They slip into
the gel frame slot on the end of the barrel and offer four hinged flaps – one on
each side of the barrel ring.
The barn door tries to make up for the fact that these instruments do not have
shutters. They give you a crude but effective means of shaping the light and
eliminating light spill. Barn doors are commonly used to keep light spill off
the audience area, side walls, and other scenic components that you might
FIGURE 10.23
Altman snoot.
Photo by Brad Herring.
FIGURE 10.24
Rosco black wrap.
Photo courtesy of
RoscoLux. All rights
FIGURE 10.25
Altman barn door.
Photo by Brad Herring.
Lighting Systems for Worship
not want indirectly lit by the large spill of light from a nonshutterable illumination source.
A doughnut is a thin piece of metal that slips in the gel frame
slot of a fixture. It has a small diameter hole in the dead center that is smaller than the barrel opening itself.
The doughnut eliminates reflections created within the barrel and produces a sharper edge on the beam of light when
sharp-focused by the instrument. The doughnut is most commonly used on an Ellipsoidal with a gobo projection. The
doughnut will eliminate the soft blur on the edges of a hardshaped gobo projection.
FIGURE 10.26
Altman doughnut.
Photo by Brad Herring.
FIGURE 10.27
Wybron color scroller.
Photo courtesy of
Wybron. All rights
Color scrollers are a way of allowing one
fixture to produce a lot of different colors.
The unit sits inside the gel frame holder
of the fixture and works like an old scroll.
Different colors of gel are taped together
to the size of the barrel opening. The
color scroller is then controlled via the
lighting control board and moves as the
control value is increased or decreased for
its channel.
The color scroller is often used in concerts
and theater where you have a group of
lights focused on a certain area but want
different colors in that area throughout the
night. It eliminates the need for hanging a
different light aimed at the same point on stage simply to achieve a different color.
Color scrollers can be difficult to work with at times. They have a tendency to
drop accuracy and have to be reset from time to time to stay in sync with each
other. Because it is dependant on the gel, the gel still burns through as usual
and has to be replaced.
With color scrollers, you tend to get what you pay for.
As LED and CMYK* color mixing technology improves, color scrollers will
slowly be replaced by these new technologies.
* CMYK mixing uses cyan, magenta, yellow, and black palettes for color mixing versus the
standard red, blue, and green palette. CMYK utilizes a subtractive color system. Starting with
white, the three colors (cyan, magenta, and yellow) are added to the light to block certain
color waveforms. In the printing world, K is actually the color black, but in lighting, black is
achieved by turning the fixture off. We will look at both the additive (RGB) and subtractive
(CMYK) color theories in Chapter 11 in the Color Mixing and Color Theory section.
Anatomy of a Lighting System
Remember, as a lighting designer you are responsible for the
safety of those below! It is a reality that you are hanging a
fixture weighing anywhere from 3 to 150 pounds in the air
above people’s heads. Accidents do happen and failure occurs
from time to time.
Manufacturers make safety cables for their lights. They are
generic, but effective. These safety cables easily clip and unclip
from the instrument. Typically they are connected through
the yoke and around the light bar or truss. In case of a Cclamp failure of some sort, the safety cable would arrest the
instrument and keep it from falling.
Safety cables should always be used. Likewise, any type of
backup restraint device (such as a gel frame clip) should always
be employed when working with lighting. Even if the object
doesn’t weigh much, the metal corners and sheer velocity of the
drop could cause severe injury to anyone below.
Remember – safety first!
FIGURE 10.28
A safety cable.
Photo by Brad Herring.
A gel is a thin sheet of colored material that is slipped into a gel frame
and inserted into the gel frame holder
at the end of the barrel of the instrument. This substrate will alter the
color or the color temperature of the
light. The result is an artistic alteration
of color and a technical alteration of
color temperature.
Gel is produced by several different
manufacturers. Each color has a name,
but they are identified by a number
that is designated for each specific gel. To add to the confusion, each manufacturer has their own numbering system. The major players in the gel market are
Rosco, GAM (Great American Market), and Apollo. Each manufacturer offers
their own take on how they make the gel; some gels tend to have more color
depth, while others hold up better to the heat of the lamp.
Generally speaking, the more saturated the color, the more quickly it will deteriorate. All gel will eventually burn out – some faster than others. This will
depend on color saturation, maintenance of your lighting fixture, and type of
lighting fixture.
Manufacturers offer free swatch books that contain everything they make. These
swatch books are indispensable to the designer in choosing the right color for
the right scene.
FIGURE 10.29
Gel cut and placed
inside gel frames.
Photo courtesy of
RoscoLux. All rights
Lighting Systems for Worship
For more permanent displays or for colors that never change, glass gels can be
purchased for most lights. While very expensive initially, the glass gels will last
virtually forever, thus never needing to be replaced.
Gel works by being inserted in the direct path of your light beam. The gel actually filters the light to produce the colors within the spectrum of the material.
You will notice on your swatch book several factoids. One of these is “transmission.” The lower the transmission number, the dimmer the light will be.
For instance, using a Rosco 80 (Primary Blue) will greatly diminish the normal output of the light. The color is also very saturated, so it will tend to burn
through more quickly than, say, a shade of light amber. When all is said and
done, it will take a stronger fixture to push through the dark filter and make it
to the stage than it would for a lighter-colored gel.
Another form of “gel” is diffusion. Diffusion filters work to diffuse the light.
Diffusion is commonly used for television and live stage to help blend light
sources together and to help the lighting fixture reach further than it optically
can in one direction or another.
The color corrector gel works by blocking certain frequencies of light as it
passes through the filter. Color correction is necessary for matching the color
temperature of the film negative or the white balance of a digital imager.
Different lamps create different color temperatures. These changes are not
noticeable to the human eye but are very noticeable to a camera. They will tend
to shift from amber to blue and will be very dramatic. If all of your lamps are
not the same color temperature, a correction gel can be used in most cases to
solve the problem for the camera.
Color Mixing Theory
While lighting may sometimes be thought of as being similar to paint, they
are indeed very different. The entire spectrum of color for lighting is different.
For instance, in paint, the color black is the presence of all colors, but in lighting, the color black is the absence of all colors. As video and lighting begin to
emerge, this line gets a little blurry. You might notice that many of the newer
fixtures on the market use CMYK color mixing – a palette that until recently
was reserved for the printing world. We’ll look at both RGB and CMYK as they
pertain to lighting.
Different colors of lighting can be mixed to achieve different colors (just like
when you mixed watercolors as a child), but the primary colors are different
and the way they interact with each other is different as well.
The three primary colors in lighting are red, green, and blue. With these three
colors, in theory you can mix to any other color you wish. Mix all three of them
together at the same intensity, and in theory you will get white. This is often
referred to as Additive Color Theory. Look at the color wheel in Figure 11.1 to
see how these colors interact with each other to make up different colors.
You can see from Figure 11.1 that your primary colors
(red, green, and blue) are the outer circles. As they move
on top of each other, you can see the colors they create
(assuming a 100 percent intensity value of each primary
color). Red and blue make magenta, green and blue make
cyan, and green and red form yellow. All three primary
colors together make white.
By varying the intensity of each primary color, you can
alter the combined color within the spectrum, favoring
the primary color that is the most intense.
So, you might ask, if you can do all this, why so many gel
colors? The reason is that the color mixing theory is just
Additive color theory.
Lighting Systems for Worship
that – theory. While it’s true that light reacts this way, the color sources have
to be emitting from the exact location to truly mix colors (as we see in technologies such as CMYK and RGB color-mixing fixtures). However, if the lights are
beside each other, you will tend to see halos of color. You will also get some
really interesting color shadows as the object moves through the light.
Color mixing like that described above works best with inanimate objects such
as walls, cycloramas, and scenic elements. This theory works well for backlight
and side light as well, when you want to create a dramatic effect of shadows
and stage coloration.
The CMYK model uses what is known as Subtractive Color Mixing Theory. In
subtractive color mixing, all colors combine to make black. This harks back to
the print world, where mixing all the colors together yields black. In lighting,
this is not really the case – you still get a grayish color, but because it is being
projected, there is always some luminance to it. In lighting, to get black, we
turn the fixture off (absence of light).
Subtractive color mixing works with white being the main color. To change colors, different filters are placed in front of the light to block the wavelengths of
certain spectrums and produce a different color. You can see from looking at
the subtractive color chart in Figure 11.2 that colors are achieved by different
methods from those used in the additive color theory.
You will notice here that when the cyan and magenta are mixed together, you
get blue. In the additive color theory, blue is a primary color, but in subtractive color you have to mix colors filters to get blue, thus making it a secondary
color in subtractive theory.
Subtractive color theory.
CMYK color theory is necessary because many of the new intelligent fixtures
utilize subtractive theory as their way of color mixing. When working with a
CMYK fixture, you will be working with this color system as opposed to the
additive system, when you work with traditional lights utilizing gel or RGB
color mixing.
We will discuss color mixing and design choices later in
this section, but for now it’s important for you to realize
the importance that color plays in lighting and how to use
color to achieve the desired results.
There are several methods available to the lighting designer
to change the color of the light emanating from the lighting fixture. While gel is the most common method to do
this, the designer has other options as well.
One of these, we have already mentioned – glass filters.
Glass that is painted or dipped to a certain color can be
Color Mixing Theory
used in place of actual gel. While costly up front, glass filters will never wear
out, so in the long run they are very cost-effective solutions. Obviously, being
glass they are more fragile and can be broken, but the overall longevity of glass
filters far exceeds a cut gel.
Some manufacturers also make a gel paint that is heat resistant. This gel can
be applied directly to many lamp sources, glass, or lenses. This allows you to
mix different colors to get your own color and also allows more flexibility in
how you achieve your color with the light instead of simply using a filter. For
instance, you could paint a window on the set with this gel paint and then
shine the light through the window to pick up the color.
Likewise, if you are trying to do an illuminated cube or other similar effect, you
could paint the translucent material of the cube with the gel paint and then
illuminate using fluorescent or incandescent fixtures from within to give the
cube a glow effect. Gel paint allows you not only to make your own glass filters
but also to truly think outside the box with color and design.
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Common Power Connections
of a Lighting System
There are several power connections that are common to lighting systems. Each
of these connections has its own pros and cons. It is up to the individual user’s
taste, budget, and power consumption requirements in choosing the right
You will also find adapters that will take you from one type of a connection to
another – so if your lighting system uses only one type of connection, it is possible for you to use a device with a different connection on it without have to
rewire one end or the other.
Let’s take a look at the most common lighting connections for power.
Lighting Systems for Worship
2P&G stands for “two-prongs and a ground.” This is a very common lighting
connection and is usually seen in a professionally designed lighting system.
The connection is relatively flat, with three large brass pins, measuring about ¼
inch each, spread between the edges of the pin. The ground pin is just slightly
off center so that you can only plug the connection in one way. The ground pin
is also slightly longer than the other two pins to ensure it connects first.
2P&G connection.
Photo by Brad Herring.
Being relatively flat, these connections are easier to tape down and do not create a big bulky mess that can be easily tripped over. Their large brass pins also
make a solid connection and are not easily bent or broken. The connector itself
is cost effective (usually ranging from $3 to $8).
One downfall of this connection is that it does not actually lock together, so
there is a small chance of it separating. Some manufacturers have molded holes
through the connector so you can tie them together with trick-line (also known
as “tie-line”); however, most people use a small piece of gaff tape to hold the two
Common Power Connections of a Lighting System
When using tape, use gaff tape – it leaves
no residue and removes more easily. Also, take one
side of the tape and fold it over on itself by at least ¼ inch.
This will create a tab on the tape that will allow you to take it
off quickly when you are done and not have to try
to peel under it to get it started.
Illustration of 2P&G pinout.
Lighting Systems for Worship
Twist lock connections (such as an L5-20) are also very common in lighting
systems. These connections are built for commercial and industrial power
needs. Utilizing a set of curved blades, the connections interlock and then twist
to create a positive lock position. To remove them, you twist the connection in
the opposite direction and pull.
Twist Lock NEMA L5-20 connector.
Photo by Brad Herring.
Twist locks make for very reliable and robust connections. They are a little
more expensive than other forms of connections and are significantly bulkier
as well. They are good to use in catwalks and other non-trafficked areas and
when dealing with a supercritical power connection.
Twist lock has come to be a common term for these type of connections. They
are available for multiple power ratings. The “L” in the connection name stands
for locking – for example, the L5-20. This is a locking (L), 120 V (5), 20-amp
(20) connection. NEMA (National Electrical Manufacturers Association) is a
U.S.-based standard for electrical code.
Of all the locking-style connections, perhaps the L5-20 is one of the most common power connections found in House of Worship lighting systems. Its wiring description is shown in Figure 12.4. If you are using other configurations,
make sure to contact the manufacturer for specific wiring information.
Common Power Connections of a Lighting System
Illustration of NEMA L5-20 pinout.
Lighting Systems for Worship
Camlock connections are very robust, well-insulated, high-power connections. In the world of entertainment lighting and the House of Worship, these
connections are most commonly used for power tie-ins and high-voltage,
three-phase power passing.
Camlock system.
Photo by Brad Herring.
You will notice that with most camlock systems, the green and white are opposite sex. The green is ground and the white is neutral. This is done as a safety
measure to make sure a leg of hot power is not accidentally connected to the
ground or neutral bus.
When wiring your own camlock
connections, make sure to follow the
safety standard of reversing the sex of the
green and white connection to help
ensure proper connection.
Camlocks require a special crimp tool. Generally speaking, most people purchase the camlocks with the necessary length and gauge cable already attached.
It is fairly common to order a camlock connection with a specific length of
cable terminating into a raw end. This allows the user to connect the cable to
a power bus or any other termination while using a factory crimped camlock
Common Power Connections of a Lighting System
Perhaps the most common type of power connector in the United States is the
Edison connector. This is the standard three-prong power connection that you
see in the wall outlets of your house and office.
Edison connector – 15 amp and 20 amp.
Photo by Brad Herring.
Edison connections are available in
both 15 and 20 amp versions. You
will notice from Figure 12.6, the 20amp version takes the prong on the
right of the outlet and flips it horizontal. The components that make
up a 20-amp connection are a little
bigger and stronger, to handle the
extra current draw. If your equipment
has a 20-amp connector, it is a BAD
IDEA to remove it and replace it with
a 15-amp connector so it will fit into
an existing outlet. This is asking for
trouble. Instead, upgrade the outlet
to a 20-amp outlet and make sure the
wire feeding that outlet is rated for at
least 20-amp duty as well.
Nonsense such as putting
a 15-amp connector on a 20-amp load
is how best-case circuits are tripped and
worst-case fires are started. Odds are, if you are
pondering your insurance coverage,
you should think of a new way to
do the task.
Edison connectors are very easy to find, relatively inexpensive, and, while
bulky, they are less bulky than most connections. Perhaps their biggest draw is
that the outlets are already in the wall for plugging in accessories, and you can
grab a connector at the local hardware store.
Edison connectors are good for some things, but for high-end lighting systems
you should strongly consider other connection types. The plugs are made of
Lighting Systems for Worship
smaller materials and tend to bend and break easily. There is also no easy way
to keep the connector from pulling out of the connection.
Many lower-end dimmers and pro-sumer-type systems will use an Edison connection for lighting. This is also typical for small mobile rigs that might be in
different locations with limited power accessibility. It is also tempting because
extension cords are easy to find for an Edison connection.
If you are doing a permanent lighting system, spend wisely and utilize a 2P&G
or twist lock connection for your system, and build an adapter for the special
times you need an Edison connection.
Pinout of Edison
Common Power Connections of a Lighting System
Soco cable is heavy, bulky cable, but it can save you a ton of work and hassle,
not to mention it’s a lot neater than stringing individual cables everywhere.
The soco cable is the “audio snake” of lighting. This one thick cable contains
six separate circuits. Soco cables have Veam-style connectors on each end
(one male and one female). You can use a breakout that has the Veam
connection on one side and six individual connectors on the other (most
commonly Edison or 2P&G connectors, but it could be any type of power
Socapex cable and breakouts.
Photo by Brad Herring.
Most professional-grade portable dimmers will offer a soco plug on the dimmer, so you can use the individual connectors or you can plug your soco cable
right into the mass-pin connector, and away you go. This makes for quicker
tie-ins and a neater connection point.
Remember, this is a multi-conductor cable that, unlike an audio snake, is containing many strands of 12-gauge wire. It’s heavy, and you should think of
smart ways to work with it to make your life easier, such as coiling it off the
catwalks directly into a roadbox or hamper, using a rope to pull up the end, or
other thoughtful ways of transporting it. Throwing 100 feet of this over your
shoulder and hiking up the stairs (although done way too often) is not the way
to enjoy your lighting career.
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Controllers and Protocols
In this section, we are going to take a closer look at the various types of lighting controllers available on the market. Again, as technology is impacting our
industry at a much faster pace than ever before, this information is continuously updating.
Two-Scene Manual Console
Once the modern-day staple of theatrical lighting, the two-scene manual console is slowly phasing out. However, this console is still found in many youth
ministries, puppet ministries, and Houses of Worship across the land. They are
cost effective, and if you aren’t doing a ton of lighting cues, they can be very
This type of console works by allowing you to set two looks – one that is active
and one that is not. So, you would have a preset lighting cue that the audience
would walk into; this would be on bank A. A second cue would be set on bank
B based on written records for each channel. For instance, channel 1 would be
at 45 percent, channel 3 would be at 30 percent, and channels 9 through 12
would be at 90 percent. But on bank A, the one the audience walks into, you
might only have channel 3 through 8 at 90 percent.
You would then cross-fade from bank A to bank B at whatever pace you wish.
The audience will now see the
lights transform at the pace you
cross-fade from the settings on
bank A to bank B. Now that you
are on bank B, the presets for bank
A can be changed to the next cue.
Now, when you cross-fade back up
to bank A, the look will be different again. You would keep doing
this through the entire show.
Two-scene manual
Photo courtesy of
Leprecon. All rights
Lighting Systems for Worship
As consoles became more advanced, they began to offer more features such as a
timer-based cross-fade for consistency, patching opportunities, and more scene
banks (aside from simply A and B).
Manual lighting consoles are still available and are a viable option for small
lighting systems, ones that don’t require a lot of lighting changes, youth programs, puppet ministries, and other such applications.
The key to successful use of a two-scene
manual console is good paperwork. Take the time to
make a spreadsheet with a cell for each channel. Identify it by
cue number. With all of your cue sheets laid out
the same way, presetting the banks will be
much simpler!
Computer-Based Consoles
During the early 1990s, computer consoles were just getting their teeth in
the marketplace. Initially, they were fairly bare bones, but today computerized lighting consoles are fairly complex. With these new control systems, we
are able to control intelligent lighting, scene machines, foggers, hazers, color
scrollers, color mixing, and a host of other non-life-safety items.
Now cues can be recorded and played back at the push of a button – identical
every time in both content and timing.
Most computer-based controllers will allow you to see what you are programming via one or more computer monitors. If you are in the market for a computer console, you should make buying one with monitor support a must.
Most computer-based consoles have this as a standard feature, but every once
Photo courtesy of
Electronic Theatre
Controls, Inc. All rights
Controllers and Protocols
in a while you will stumble upon a board that tries to make you hunt and peck
without these vital tools. Having multiple monitors is ideal; this way you can
see what’s going on with the show while at the same time flipping around other
parameters and seeing other things (such as patches, channel response, etc.).
Another great feature for most computer controllers that you should look for
is the ability to control multiple universes. We will discuss this idea of universes later when we talk about the DMX protocol, but in a nutshell, the console should be able to send multiple outputs. You can also purchase splitters,
but having the ability to control two or three outputs directly from the console
is virtually a must for most lighting systems today.
If you are looking to buy a computer controller and are thinking about buying used, be aware of what you are purchasing. Many of the older computer
controllers are very limited in what they can do (for instance, some only support a limited number of dimmers or channels, while others have limited fader
options). For many ministries, these limits won’t matter, as long as you make
sure you know not only where you are, but where you are going when making
a purchase decision. Don’t buy something now that you’ll regret later. Make
smart use of your ministry dollar.
While most computer-controlled consoles have a myriad of functions, they are
limited in their ability to control moving lights. If you are trying to program
a dynamic, heavily cued moving light show, you will most likely want to use
a moving light controller. As more consoles come to market, they are having
the ability to program both static and moving lights, but when it gets down to
individual control, nothing beats a true moving light console.
Moving Light Consoles
As moving lights have become more in demand, the need to control them has
increased as well. There are several ways to achieve this. Some manufacturers,
such as Martin, provide computer-based software for moving lights. This software is great for a youth group, special event, or smaller show. The software
will control moving lights, hazers, static lights, or anything else that connects
to a control protocol recognized by the software.
Software is only limited by its lack of hands-on controls, meaning that everything has to be grabbed via mouse or keyboard shortcut, and this greatly
reduces the number of actions you can do at once. Some software is also limited in its ability to layer effects in real time.
Some manufactures have overcome these issues by using wing panels. These
wing panels connect to your computer (usually by USB). They provide the
touch control you desire, while using your desktop or laptop as the processing brain to run the software. One frontrunner in this technology is High End
Systems, which produces the Whole Hog PC line of products.
Lighting Systems for Worship
Light jockey.
Photo courtesy of
Martin Professional A/S.
All rights reserved.
Whole Hog 3.
Photo courtesy of High
End Systems. All rights
The Whole Hog is arguably the most
notable moving light controller on the
market. While not the only controller
by any means, its name is synonymous
with moving light control. The Whole
Hog not only allows an operator to
preset motions and cues, but to override these settings with manual inputs
dynamically during a performance. This
console truly gives you optimal control
over the lighting. This is great if you
are running a praise and worship segment and the pastor suddenly gets up
to go to prayer; maybe you don’t want
the lights going nuts and you want to
tone it down. With the gentle slide of a
fader, they slowly transition to whatever you wish, even if what you wish is for
them to fade down to black.
Many other companies offer budget-based solutions or solutions that control
a fixed number of lights. For instance, some consoles will control up to 16 fixtures. For the average House of Worship, this is probably more than enough.
Controllers and Protocols
Many designers will run a conventional console for the static lights and a separate moving light console for the intelligent fixtures.
Your ultimate decision should be based on ministry need and budget.
Remember, as with any other piece of equipment to gauge where you are, where
you will be, and how long it will take you to get there when making a decision.
Automated Show Control
Automated show control really takes a step beyond lighting, but the controls
are often lumped in with lighting packages.
Automated show control can literally control any aspect of the show that you
want. For instance, many Las Vegas shows utilize show control. When it’s time
for the curtain to go, one button is pushed, which launches a series of commands that travel to all the various components. Music is played, click tracks
are delivered, lighting is changed, and stage scenery moved – all on an automated timer in perfect synchronization. An operator is on standby to intervene should something get out of whack, but the entire performance is tightly
That’s one extreme of show control. Another could be that your lighting is triggered off CD markers, or your video content is switched based off time code.
Show control can also be as simple as controlling hazers and foggers or automating CD playback with lighting cues.
As we increasingly move to digital, it is becoming easier for us to slave components together so that change on one console will create a change with another.
Already we are seeing the move to smart sheet music. The sheet music software
can control presets on some worship presentation software so that the song list is
set with the music selection for the musicians. As our world continues to evolve
with new technologies, this will become more standard in Houses of Worship.
Automated show control is definitely something to keep your eye on as we move
into the future. While most Houses of Worship might not need to implement
full-out show control (or even have the possibility given our dynamic nature),
we will certainly reap benefits from this in certain areas of the work we do.
Control Protocols
Over the years, lighting has seen many protocols come and go. Originally, the
standard was an analog system that has now faded out and given ways to new
You will still see some nonstandard proprietary protocols out there. NSI is one
lighting manufacturer that has its own standard called Micro-Plex. Micro-Plex
works off a three-conductor system and is proprietary to NSI equipment. It’s
Lighting Systems for Worship
worthy of mention that NSI also sells their equipment in the standard DMX
format as well.
Oftentimes, protocols come either as a result of no set industry standard at the
time, cost savings, or the attempt to force a user into a specific brand for future
Currently, the lighting standard is DMX. DMX is most commonly a five-wire
XLR-style connector. In the early days of DMX, only the first three pins were
used; therefore, the core standard of DMX is three-wire. However, as lighting
systems have become more complex, the other two-wires (originally set aside
for the future) are now being implemented.
DMX systems work in what are called “universes.” DMX512 (the full name of
the standard) can work with 512 channels at a time. So, to maximize its efficiency we set 512 channels aside per universe. A typical console will have at
least two universes built into it. Larger consoles will have more, and moving
light consoles will usually have considerably more. Lighting systems will typically utilize universes in common sense ways. For instance, universe 1 might
control all the conventional dimmers, universe 2 might control all the scanners, universe 3 might control all the moving heads, and universe 4 might control all the hazers, foggers, and other non-life-safety effects.
Of course, in simpler systems, universe 1 might run conventional dimmers
while universe 2 runs everything else. In really simple systems, universe 1 will
run all conventional dimmers until you reach the end of your house dimming
(say 192) and then, starting at 193 (or 200 if you like to make the math easy)
until you hit your 512 channel limit, will control everything else.
Universes are simply a way of overcoming a design limit in the DMX protocol.
If your console does not have multiple universes, you can purchase a universe
splitter box that will allow you multiple universes beyond what is built into
your console.
By using all five conductors of a DMX cable, it is now possible to control multiple universes via a single connection instead of having to utilize multiple DMX
outputs for every universe. Obviously, this only works if your system is truly
wired for five-pin DMX. Because the standard protocol only used three conductors, many contractors would only run three-conductor wire for DMX install.
Therefore, you might see a five-pin connector, but in reality only three pins are
wired up.
Many DMX fixtures (such as moving lights and hazers) utilize a threeconductor XLR-style DMX input. While this looks like regular microphone
Controllers and Protocols
DMX512 threeand five-wire
Pin 1
Pin 1 - Ground
Pin 4
Pin 2 - Primary Data ()
Pin 3 - Primary Data ()
Pin 3
Pin 2
Pin 5
Pin 4 - Secondary Data ()
Pin 5 - Secondary Data ()
DMX 512
(Female End)
(Male End)
Pinout (Male)
Pinout (Female)
Pin 3 (–)
Pin 2 (+)
Pin 1 (Shield)
Pin 2 (+)
Pin 1 (Shield)
Pin 3 (–)
DMX 512
Lighting Systems for Worship
cable, it is still DMX. Generally speaking, it is a bad idea to use standard microphone cable for these devices. Due to the differences in cable structure, a
microphone XLR cable will not hold the DMX protocol tightly over long runs.
This can result in position shift over all the values, thus rendering your cues
slightly different each time.
If you are utilizing a three-pin fixture in a five-pin system, a simple fiveto-three-pin adapter will hook it up and make everything run fine.
For those of you who really want to geek out on the standard, the United States
Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT) publishes the full DMX512 standard
on its web site ( The standard is USITT DMX512 1990.
There has also been a lot of conversation over the years about using DMX over
Cat5 cable. This might be confusing to some. By the phraseology, you would
think this is sending DMX down an actual Ethernet line – not so. Instead, this
is wiring for the future. USITT and Entertainment Services and Technology
Association (ESTA) (both standards organizations) have tested and proved that
DMX is capable of being sent down a Cat5 cable. Therefore, many facilities are
installing Cat5 cable as their wiring infrastructure but still using the five-pin
XLR connection to terminate.
There are currently no set standards for Ethernet connectivity. Barbizon, a
major lighting reseller, in their Fall 2006 newsletter published a suggested good
practice of termination by Barbizon Lighting Company:
Wire #
Wire Color
DMX512 Function
data 1
data 1
data 2
data 2
Not Assigned
Not Assigned
Data Link Common for data 1
Data Link Common for data 2
The reason behind DMX over Cat5 is forward thinking. Lighting systems are
evolving at a rapid rate. Already moving light manufacturers such as High End
are creating full-blown moving data projectors with lighting capability. As these
systems come online, there are more requirements that push past what DMX
has to offer.
Controllers and Protocols
DMX512 is a one-way protocol. It cannot
receive information from a device; it can only send
information. Therefore, it is critical that DMX not be used to
control any type of life-safety device such as chain
motors, hoists, pyro, and other potentially
life-safety devices.
Newer Protocols that are on the Way in
As newer systems and newer protocols are brought online in the future, having a facility wired via Cat5 will afford you the opportunity to convert to those
Among the new formats being pursued by manufacturers are protocols known
as ACN and RDM.
RDM (remote device management) is planned to offer two-way information,
thus allowing you to control fixtures via your control center. For instance, you
could conceivably get lamp-life information and set or reset fixture addresses
without getting on a ladder and climbing up to the instrument, as well as
obtaining other relevant information.
ACN (architecture for control networks) is planned to offer more features than
the current DMX system allows. While not being confined to Ethernet protocols
by current standards, it does lend itself well to Ethernet and is a recommended
standard. One desired purpose for ACN is to control complex media systems
as well as lighting and sound components. As of the time of this writing, the
most recent official published information was ANSI E1.17 – 2006. For more
detailed information about this standard, refer to that publication.
As for the scope of this book, realize that DMX is the standard protocol in the
United States and many other countries for lighting system control. However,
the market is changing quickly and newer technologies are forcing change.
Control systems are something to keep an eye on and, if you are installing a
new system running Cat5 or higher cabling, would be a wise investment for
the future.
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Close-Up on Dimmers
We referred to dimmers in passing at the beginning of this section, but let’s
take a more in-depth look at their function and basic controls.
Dimmers have come a long way over the years. Much like everything else in our
life, they have gone from large, heavy, cumbersome units to rather sleek, lightweight (relatively speaking) components that can be easily interchanged. There
are several companies that manufacture lighting dimmers, but only one or two
predominately used brands for entertainment systems.
A dimmer works by controlling the amount of current going through the
circuit, thus allowing a lamp to dim. Without dimmers your lighting would
simply be on or off. No fade, no variable intensities – just
on or off.
Obviously, when using such high power, a dimmer needs
to be fairly beefy to be able to handle the current draw
and loads forced upon it – thus the bulky size. Newer
dimmers are interchangeable; so you purchase the rack
and then purchase individual dimmers that can slip in
and out of the slots of the rack. This makes it really easy
to have backups and to test potentially bad circuits. Also,
with some systems, you can have a “dimmer module” that
slips into the rack slot, but it actually functions as a relay
or other control device. This adds a lot of flexibility to
your system.
Dimming requires a lot of power. I have yet to see an
installation where the lighting designer didn’t have to
argue with an electrician about the reason for the power
needs. Many people argue about the exact way to figure
the load that you will require. Some say figure 80 percent
ETC sensor dimmer
Image courtesy of
Electronic Theatre
Controls, Inc. All rights
Lighting Systems for Worship
systems full on – this assumes that all dimmers will never be loaded and few of
them will be loaded to full capacity.
In a nutshell, you should think about your system and not limit yourself to
how you currently use it, but imagine the worst-case “how it could be used”
mentality. For instance, if you do a lot of productions, odds are your curtain
call cue will be the brightest. You are likely to have the majority of your lights
at a high intensity as well as all of your house lights potentially at full. This can
be one serious load.
Every system is different, but the math is the same.
First, let’s assume you are using a 2400 W dimmer (commonly referred to as
a 2.4k dimmer). This means the dimmer can handle 2400 watts. Now, keep
in mind that you have resistance, so if you have 2000 W worth of lights on
a single dimmer, but they are located 300 feet away from the dimmer, your
resistance load (depending on cable quality and connection integrity) could
consume that overage on your dimmer.
Theatrical fixtures come in many wattages, but perhaps the most common for
live production are 1000 W, 575 W, and 500 W. Let’s imagine that you have four
575 W fixtures on a single 2.4 k dimmer. That’s 2300 W, technically under the
2400 W limit on the dimmer, but close enough that you might have problems
if you have enough resistance on the line.
Now, when it comes to power in both audio and lighting systems, you are dealing with amperage (A). Amperage is equal to voltage divided by wattage, so the
following formulas represents this.
For a single-phase system:
A = Wattage / Volts
For a three-phase system:
A = Wattage /(1.732 × 208 Volts)
So, let’s say you have 48 dimmers, each capable of 2400 W (usually referred to
as a 2.4 k dimmer). If you loaded each dimmer to 80 percent (1920 W each),
you would have a total wattage draw of 92,160 watts. If your system is based
on a 120 V system, your total amperage draw will be 768 amps single phase,
or approximately 384 amps per leg. If you were powering the dimmer system
via a three-phase power-system, using the formula above your total amperage
per leg would be approximately 256 amps, or roughly two-thirds the amperage
required when using single-phase power. So, it’s easy to see in a large lighting
system how you could need a significant power supply.
Now with today’s systems, it’s unlikely that EVERY single dimmer would be
loaded to capacity. Usually a dimmer will have one or two lights on it max,
and the majority of newer lighting being produced is running 575 W or lamps
(while some older lights still run 1000 W lamps). Also, if you had 48 dimmers,
Close-Up on Dimmers CHAPTER 14
a good portion of those dimmers would be servicing lights that you wouldn’t
use together. For instance, you would not have warm washes and cool washes,
pattern washes, specials, multi-color units for scenery and backdrops, and so
forth, all on at the same time. There would be no need to pull all of the circuits up at once, so the chances of finding yourself in this situation are slim.
However, you do have to think about the reality of your specific install and be
serious about the amount of power you need. It is better to assume the possibility that all of the lights may be brought to full at the same time and allow
adequate amperage headroom just in case.
For permanent, installed systems, you are dealing with two basic load types:
fixed and variable.
Fixed loads are typically house lights and, if run through the dimming system,
worklights. In other words, a fixed load is any load wired directly to the dimmer rack. While variable loads are fixtures and devices used for production
lighting – in other words, the devices you can plug, unplug, and move around –
these are your variable loads per service.
If you are trying to determine the minimum required power feed for the entire
system, calculate the fixed amperage load of the house and worklights based
on the maximum rated wattage of the fixtures and the potential amperage draw
of every production lighting fixture in the inventory, again based on the fixture
maximum rated wattage. Add these two values. This is the minimum power
feed for the system based solely on the attached and potential loads. As noted
above, it is better to allow headroom in the system for adding fixtures that will
increase the potential load on the system.
The following power feeds are typical for installed dimming systems using 3
Phase 120/208 VAC Power: 24 dimmers at 2400 watts each – 125 amps-3 phase120/208 VAC (these racks are typically rated for a maximum feed of 200 amps);
48 dimmers at 2400 watts each – 225 amps-3 phase-120/208 VAC (these racks
are typically rated for a maximum feed of 400 amps); 96 dimmers at 2400 watts
each – 400 amps-3 Phase-120/208 VAC (these racks are typically rated for a maximum feed of 800 amps). Maximum ratings may vary between manufacturers
and are subject to other factors such as cross-bussing in multiple-rack systems.
Either a licensed electrical contractor or electrical engineer should confirm all
power feed requirements. Preferably, the contractor or engineer should have
some experience with production dimming systems.
It’s also important to realize that dimmers can be configured to perform differently depending on your needs. Sometimes, there are physical switches on the
dimmer itself that will make it a non-dim (meaning it’s either on or off). With
a non-dim, if the control system gives it a value of 0, it’s off; with a value of
anything other than 0, it’s on full.
Lighting Systems for Worship
Likewise, dimmers can be set as to how they dim. While many dimmers make
the claim to be “linear” in the way they dim, in reality most of them have a
curve and it’s usually on the lower end of the intensity sweep. You can adjust
for this on most computer lighting consoles and on some dimmers themselves.
You can also set a dimmer to always be on, or to be “hot” all the time. This
is useful when using them to power moving lights and other devices that you
don’t ever want to power off. This way, regardless of what the cue tells the dimmer to do, it will always stay on. This keeps you from accidentally shutting
down critical show components at an inopportune or unplanned time.
Dimmers, like all controlled devices, work off addresses. We will discuss DMX
since it is the industry standard. Generally speaking, your dimmer racks will
start with address 001. They don’t have to by any means, but this is common.
If you have a 96-dimmer rack and you start the address at 001, the last dimmer
will automatically be address 096. If you then wanted to put a portable dimmer rack in, say, another 12 channels, you would address it as 097 and – you
guessed it – its first dimmer would be dimmer 97.
Sensor rack address
Photo by Brad Herring.
Now, we’ll get into moving lights in the next section, but for argument’s sake,
let’s say you have a moving light that has 16 channels to operate it. You could
address it 098, or you could skip numbers. For instance, you could address it as
100. This would make sense if you had a string of other non-dimmer fixtures
from this point on. Then your fixtures would start at address 100. The fixture
in this example would automatically go until 116, and your next fixture could
start at 117, or 120, or any higher number of your choosing.
If you were to address both dimmer packs (the 96- and the 12-channel units)
as 001, then when you tell dimmer 1 to come up, the first dimmer in both
packs would come up. Generally, this is not what you would want.
Likewise, if you were to address your first moving light at 100 and start the
next moving light at 105, you would have
constant conflicts of data and both lights
would be uncontrollable, assuming the
moving light has more than five channels.
The image here is a typical way of setting an
address. In this case, you read from left to right,
and the number in the window is the number
that corresponds to that location – in this case,
it would be 001. Other manufacturers use dip
switch settings and other methods to select the
address. Some are more difficult than others, but
if you consult the manufacturer’s manual, you
should be able to set the address rather quickly.
An Overview of Moving
More and more, we are beginning to see moving lights as a part of worship.
They certainly have their place and have more than one function. When most
people think of intelligent lighting, they think rock and roll and concerts. They
imagine the lights moving all over the place with crazy color changes.
While moving lights can certainly work in this capacity, if that is all you can
imagine them doing, you need to reconsider your way of thinking.
A moving light offers a House of Worship many advantages. First, it can be
focused from the ground. This is a great liability savings in having volunteers
or staff people working high up on a ladder every time an adjustment needs to
be made. Also, this one light can have multiple focus points during a service, so
the one light can do the function of several. And the moving light will give you
a variety of color choices from the same instrument. Some fixtures will offer
you a set number of colors within a wheel, while others will allow you to do
full dichroic color mixing.
Dichroic color mixing uses glass filters to alter
the perceived color value of the light. These filters allow
light to change from one color to another all by controlling
values via the lighting control board. Some of the advantages
include never needing to climb a ladder to replace a gel,
having any color available to each fixture at the touch
of a button, and never having to replace the filters
(unlike traditional gel).
Lighting Systems for Worship
Moving lights do not have to appear to move at all. Imagine you
have one focus for the praise and worship section. You might have
the first song yellow, the second song orange, and the third song
blue. Then, you fade to black to show a video and then come up on
the pastor preaching.
On a small-size stage (let’s assume 30 feet wide by 20 feet deep for
the sake of this conversation), that entire scenario could be done
with 10 lights – and that’s assuming you want backlight! If you are
not interested in front lighting every component on stage, you could
probably do it with 7!
Imagine, each of the lights has a focus point for the band that gives a
full stage wash – front and back lighting (we’ll talk more about this
later in this section). The first cue is yellow; then they slowly change to
MAC 550 moving light.
cue 3 slowly changes them to blue. Each song has transitioned visuImage courtesy of Martin
and your service is flowing nicely. Now, the third song is done,
Professional A/S.
and you fade to black. During the blackout, the lights change focus. Three of the
All rights reserved.
backlights swivel and pan to hit the pastor’s primary area of teaching and change
color to a light blue; and three of the front lights transition to point at the center
of the stage (giving enough room for the pastor to easily walk on either side)
and change color to white. All of this has happened invisibly to the audience.
Now, the pastor steps up, the lights fade back up, and the cue looks as described
earlier – no crazy motion or bizarre effects, but actual purpose and design.
Now, likewise, these same fixtures can move and change color and, in some
cases, project patterns. Combined with an area hazer, you can see the beams of
lights and create this majestic environment that sweeps through the audience. As
the praise team (or choir) begins to sing a song about the resurrection, the lights
slowly change to yellow and being to slowly tilt upward toward the sky. The lights
themselves worship God, through design. Now this mood change has engaged
the audience; they are subconsciously brought to this sense of awe as they are
caught up in the moment of unencumbered worship (assuming the audio team
isn’t feeding back and the video screens are projecting the right words – see how
it all ties together?).
How you choose to use the intelligent lighting will be up to your specific ministry and the way you communicate
with people.
Don’t use moving lights for the sake of
using them. Motion in worship (be it lighting,
cameras, or people) can be a huge distraction.
You must use taste and guidance from the
Holy Spirit in choosing the best time
and method of using such design
Now, be advised that intelligent lighting does have its drawbacks. These
fixtures are expensive to purchase,
they require a fair amount of maintenance (there have a lot of moving
parts, gears, and belts), the lamps
can be costly, and there is a learning
curve to acquiring the knowledge to
program them efficiently. However,
An Overview of Moving Lights
the payoffs for using intelligent fixtures can be extremely worth it in the
long run.
There are several types of intelligent fixtures on the market and they vary in
cost, effectiveness, and longevity. Let’s take a look at some of the fixture types
that you will encounter and perhaps be tempted by.
Club Style (one-trick ponies and other cheapies)
If you see a moving light for under $300 (some would argue under $1500), it
falls in this category. It’s a cheaply made fixture that is designed to throw light
and sometimes produce patterns. These fixtures are often purchased in bulk
by clubs and restaurants to create a fun atmosphere. Oftentimes they are not
controlled and are randomly running an internal program or at best are taking
preprogrammed internal steps based off the beat of the music they hear on a
cheap internal microphone.
If you are looking for something fun for a youth group or children’s ministry
or are specifically looking for a one-time special effect for a production, these
fixtures might be what you are looking for. They are not what you need if you
are trying to do serious intelligent lighting control for worship or if you need a
delicate touch (Figure 15.2).
Scanners (moving mirrors)
The scanners are what started it all (Figure 15.3). The idea was simple enough: All
of the components are stored inside a nonmoving housing, and the lens projects
an image onto a small mirror that then acts like a periscope for the lights. Move
the mirror and you move the light. They are fast and quiet, but a little more limited
in their movement. They cannot rotate 360 degrees; Normally, somewhere around
180 degrees is the extent of their travel, and their tilt is usually limited as well.
There are many uses for scanners in the House
of Worship. They hang easily, blend in, and
offer some nice design opportunities. Not all
scanners have a good douser (ability to appear
as though they are fading). Having a scanner
with the ability to fade as well as open and
close the shutter is a critical component for
most Houses of Worship. By nature of what we
do, there is often a need to transition slowly
into or out of a scene. If your fixture can’t do
this, then you are stuck with a slam on or slam
off effect – sometimes okay for youth services
but usually not ideal for a worship service.
American DJ club light.
Photo by Brad Herring.
Lighting Systems for Worship
Moving Heads (spots and washes)
Next on the scene was moving-light technology
(Figure 15.4). These took the industry by storm
and are what you most often see today in Houses
of Worship. Over time, their movement has
become very quiet and their flexibility offers a lot
to the House of Worship. They can be hung from
a truss or pipe, but they can also be floor mounted
by simply sitting them on their bases. Likewise,
they can sit on top of roadboxes or scenic elements
and add a nice high-tech look all by themselves.
Moving mirror or
Photo by Brad Herring.
Moving Head.
Photo courtesy of VariLite. All rights reserved.
These lights can change color, pan and tilt in
almost every direction, move slow, move fast
(although not as fast as a scanner), and create
spectacular effects.
A spot fixture can produce patterns as well as
colors. This gives you the option of doing stage
breakups for interesting looks or shaping the
beam so that it has interest as it pierces through
the air in a cloud of light haze. The spot fixtures most commonly offer the ability to spin
and rotate the patterns as well, which adds a
whole new dynamic to the environment.
A wash fixture typically produces color washes
and does not project patterns. However, the beam
it creates is usually wider (more like a Fresnel)
and has a larger area of coverage. They usually
excel in color mixing and can create stunning
color shifts and vibrant displays. They are great to
use on backdrops, scenery, or for stage washes.
Static Color-Changing Instruments
Color changer fixtures work like most conventional fixtures and come in
Fresnel and Ellipsoidal varieties. You would aim these fixtures as usual, but
instead of using gel, they have full CMYK color mixing built in. They are normally
cheaper than full-out moving lights and require a little less maintenance as there
are not so many moving parts within them (Figure 15.5).
Some companies are actually coming up with color changers that fit within
existing static lights to modify them to change color.
These newcomers are a great option for the House of Worship – especially one
that wants the advantage of color mixing but doesn’t want to spend the budget
on full-out moving lights.
An Overview of Moving Lights
LED technology, as we have mentioned earlier, is
making quite a move into the marketplace. The
original problem with LEDs was brightness. They
simply weren’t bright enough to compete with
your typical stage lighting. Then, they became
acceptable for wall washes or background washes
in certain applications (Figure 15.6).
However, LEDs are becoming commonplace
in lighting plots around America and the rest
of the world. They provide a long lamp life,
give off low heat, and do not require dimmers.
They can be plugged into the wall and controlled via DMX or other various protocols.
Wybron Nexera.
Photo courtesy of
Wybron. All rights
LEDs can also offer a smaller footprint, which
can make them very viable for the House of
Worship, where appearance is virtually always
a concern.
Intelligent lighting can be programmed via
a static light board or a moving light board;
however, it would be difficult to use them with
anything less than a computer-based programmable console. If you are simply working with
color changers, a good computer-controlled
static light board will do everything you need.
However, as you start to move into full-motion
lighting and dynamic cueing, you are going to
want to step up to a moving light console.
It would be well past the scope of this book to try to instruct how to program
all of the various consoles on the market. Instead, it is profitable for you to
know that there are different types of controllers for static and intelligent lighting alike.
Static Lighting Consoles
A static console strictly manipulates values for channels. In a typical setup, you
might have 1024 channels. These channels normally relate to a dimmer, but
they don’t have to. For instance, on a one-to-one patch, channel 1 at full would
bring dimmer 1 up to full.
LED light.
Photo by Brad Herring.
Lighting Systems for Worship
However, let’s say that the static console is connected to a 16-channel moving head.
For the sake of this example, the following channels are the functions of the light:
Light Function
Light Function
Pan Coarse
Pattern Wheel 2 Rotate
Pan Fine
Pattern Wheel 2 Index
Tilt Coarse
Tilt Fine
Lamp Strike
Color Wheel 1
Color Wheel 2
Pattern Wheel 1
Pattern Wheel 2
Test Mode
Okay, so now that you know what each channel does for our fictitious fixture,
you also need to know what each value of each channel relates to! For instance,
channel 12 is the lamp strike, but only values 10 through 25 strike the lamp
(actually turn on the lamp). Values 26 through 90 try to restrike, and values 91
through 100 turn the lamp off.
Likewise, channel 13 opens and closes the shutter… well, sort of. Values 1 through 15
close the shutter, 16 through 75 strobe the shutter at various speeds, 76 through 80
pulse the shutter (some very slowly), and 81 through 100 actually open the shutter.
Every channel is like this. So, you can’t just, say, set channel 12 at full and strike
the lamp. And, oh yeah, even if you could, chances are the strike needs to be
no more than 5 seconds and then the value should reset to zero; otherwise it
will continue to try to strike the lamp over and over, ultimately causing damage
to the fixture or the lamp.
Now, once you do get the fixture on, pointed where it needs to go, and to the
right settings, you write the cue. If you are doing a theatrical-style show with
continuous cues, now you have to write a cue previous to this one in order to
move the fixtures to this point, then time them to move, and THEN them turn
on. So it can take up to three cues to get one look.
It’s very possible to do. It will really help you get an answer to your prayer for
patience. I’ve programmed many a show this way – it’s possible, but it’s not
fun. It’s also not dynamic.
Newer static consoles offer a moving light section. This allows you to load a fixture library and then control the attributes via encoder wheels. This keeps you
from having to know in detail how each individual channel works. It’s a huge
leap above programming each channel by hand, but it’s still very time consuming and requires a fair amount of programming skill and patience. Plus, you still
have the dilemma of needing to program a move cue in between each visual
An Overview of Moving Lights
cue, unless you want to see the lights randomly move from one spot to the other
while changing all their attributes. Remember, the lights might have panned
360 degrees to point where they point. They will not just make a nice, smooth,
straight-line track to the next position unless you spend a lot of time programming them to do so.
Moving Light Consoles
A moving light console is an example of having the right tool for the job if you
ever intend to do a dynamic show with full moving light control.
Moving light consoles are designed for use with moving lights (imagine that). There
are many types of moving light consoles on the market, and each of them works
significantly differently from the others. As a designer or operator, you need to figure out which one best suits your ministry and learn it well. Then stick with it.
Now, you can load fixture libraries, and assign actions and triggers to fader
response. At your fingertips are page upon page of actions. With most consoles,
you can grab your fixture and assign it a motion path. You can move all of them
together, some of them together, or one light all by itself. While they are in motion,
you can change color, change patterns, or alter the path of motion. You can grab
your intensity fader and bring them down to a slow blackout or you can slam them
down to a blackout. Likewise, you can bring them up on command just as easily.
You don’t have to worry about what each value on each channel is doing – that’s
all handled in the library. You want to turn the lamp on? Push the button corresponding to that instrument to strike the lamp. Need to reset one fixture or a
group of fixtures? Select the fixture or group of fixtures and hit the reset option.
Moving light consoles take some time to learn and a lot of time to master, but
once you do, you are in complete control of your show. You can make changes
on the fly or continue on with your well-rehearsed script. The ability to manipulate the lighting at a moment’s notice far surpasses anything you would do on
a static light board.
Likewise, a moving light controller is capable of controlling dimmers and running static lights. However, it’s often like driving a Ferrari on an old gravel road.
Most people who have a lot of static fixtures to operate will either group all of
the static lighting into a few simple presets and run them off the intelligent
console, or they will run two separate consoles – one for the static lighting and
one for the intelligent lighting.
The choice is yours. It will depend on your needs and the demands of your service as to how you run the lighting for your House of Worship.
This is a question that only you can answer for your ministry. I believe that if
moving lights are an option for you, it is a good path to take – perhaps not
Lighting Systems for Worship
your entire inventory, but at least a few on hand. At minimum, I’d recommend
color changers. The dynamic environments that you can create and the flexibility they afford are beyond words. But at the end of the day, it comes down
to budget, personnel, and determining how you communicate with the people
God has given you to reach.
What’s the difference between a Porsche and a Pinto? Or an $800,000 house
and an $85,000 house?
Really, by and large, you get what you pay for. For most Houses of Worship
wanting intelligent lighting, a $3000 to $5000 instrument is going to far exceed
your expectations. As fixture cost goes up, so do features, lamp brightness, tracking features, and so on. For instance, some of the real high-end fixtures can lock
onto an IR (Infra Red) transmitter and actually track a target automatically, thus
acting like a followspot. Others offer smoother color mixing, and some offer full
video playback and edge blending for multiple light sources to create one large
video wall.
Some would argue the quality of the fixture improves significantly as the cost
goes up.
When it comes to using ministry dollars, we have to evaluate the best bang for
the buck. For every dollar spent on ministry, that’s a dollar that doesn’t feed the
homeless or fund a mission trip. It’s a dollar that doesn’t help a troubled teen
or an unwed mother. It’s a dollar that doesn’t fund a counseling ministry so
families can get back on track and learn about the love that God has for them.
On the other hand, every dollar invested in media ministry is a dollar that goes
toward telling a story of God’s love in a unique way and capturing the attention of someone who might not otherwise listen. It’s a dollar that helps build
environments that break down barriers and make it easier for the Holy Spirit
to work.
The best you can do is educate yourself, understand the needs of your ministry,
pray, and let the Spirit lead you in your decisions.
Beyond Illumination —
Using Lighting for Design
What makes lighting so appropriate for Houses of Worship isn’t simply illumination; it’s the ability to sculpt the light to create a mood and to build an
atmosphere that fosters worship and breaks down barriers. Lighting helps the
audience to focus; it can draw them in and remove the separation of the stage
and the audience area. With proper lighting design, the setting can be as intimate as you desire. It can be upbeat, it can be solemn, or it can be neutral.
It’s how you choose to utilize the illumination that makes or breaks the lighting ministry in your church.
Using Color for Design
Color for design has two functions – aesthetics and illumination. Obviously,
the process of lighting design goes far beyond the scope of this book, but there
are some simple concepts to keep in mind in regard to color.
First, realize that certain colors (green in particular) look really bad on human
skin. These colors can bring out all the imperfections and flaws in the skin and
make a person look very undesirable. Also, realize that different skin pigments
illuminate differently. So, if you have very pale and very dark people on stage
together, your lighting might look uneven if not properly gelled. Likewise, very
bright and very dark costumes can present problems that will make the lighting
appear to be imbalanced. You will want to gel accordingly to average the lighting out while at the same time staying true to the costume design and overall
look of the event.
When it comes to lighting for effect (aesthetics), the sky is the limit.
One of the biggest things that Houses of Worship (particularly contemporary
Houses of Worship) miss is the backlighting element. With backlighting you
can make bold color choices. You can change from one color to another and
mix colors to achieve beautiful results. With backlighting it doesn’t matter if
Lighting Systems for Worship
the color is bright enough to adequately illuminate someone. This is the real
beauty of backlighting – especially with worship, concerts, and other special moments. The backlight will wash the stage as well as the musicians and
vocalists. It will also create beautiful effects on the instruments themselves.
Backlighting can really make the stage come alive and help to create a strong
environment or a very stirring mood.
Typically, color brings out emotions in all of us. It’s the reason that adding colored theatrical lighting in various degrees of intensity stirs us when we see it.
The entire stage becomes dynamically charged by the simple addition of multicolored illumination – and the color doesn’t have to be extreme or constantly
changing to have an impact on the audience.
Just like with sound, subtle color and intensity differences will bring the audience into an atmosphere of worship and help to break down walls and barriers
that many people have when engaging in corporate worship.
Lighting Angles
Considering your lighting angles is important to any solid lighting design.
There are arguably five distinct angles for lighting designers to consider:
In order to properly light a subject or scenic element, it takes many of these
angles to make a solid “look.” Lighting should be thought of as sculpturing. As
you apply light from any direction, you will emphasize certain areas and deemphasize others. As you begin to combine multiple angles of light, you begin to
create dimension on stage so some things pop out more than others, and you
begin to create an emotion based on the angles and color.
You can also achieve basic but needed effects such as time of day, time lapse,
and environmental changes. All of these are important aspects of production
lighting; many are important for worship as well.
Down light is hung above the stage and pointed, for the most part, straight down.
If the focus is tilted one way or the other, the tilt is extremely slight. The idea of
down light is to hit the top of a target directly and spill around it on the floor.
You will notice in Figure 16.1 that down light by itself creates very strong shadows under the eyes, nose, lips, and chin. It also creates a strong presence of
light on the top of the head and shoulders.
Down light can also be very effective in lighting scenery or instruments.
Beyond Illumination — Using Lighting for Design CHAPTER 16
Down light.
Backlight is very crucial and often overlooked. When lighting a subject with
backlight, the lighting tends to create a halo around the subject. Backlight can
be from above, directly behind, or from below. Each offers the same type of
light on the subject, but the effect is dramatically different. In traditional backlighting, the backlight most often comes from the top.
Many churches miss a great lighting opportunity by not utilizing backlight. With
backlight you can create sultry colors on stage and make beautiful color washes on
instruments and scenery – as well as people, without worrying about whether you
can see their faces. If you are in an environment that wants to see bright faces, backlight provides an excellent way for you to bring a good color palette to your design.
Front light is the staple of most House of Worship lighting. This light is hung
in front and above the subject. Typically, front light will be projected at a 45degree angle or as close to that as possible. This will help to reduce unwanted
shadows on the face (by not exceeding 45 degrees) but will greatly reduce the
shadow throw by keeping it as steep as 45 degrees. So, when your front light is
off from the 45-degree axis, these are the trade-offs you face.
Front light is the lighting you would use to see the face of someone. This is
primarily the only form of lighting many Houses of Worship utilize, and that’s
Lighting Systems for Worship
really unfortunate. Front lighting is, for
most Houses of Worship, the essential
lighting. However, the real artistry and
emotion comes from combining it with
other forms.
Front light.
Many times I will avoid the use of front
light completely or use it as sparingly
as possible. In a contemporary worship
set, I light the worship leader with front
light, as well as the soloists and maybe
(depending on the situation) the praise
team. Everything else is lit with backlight, top light, and side light. I achieve
a strong color palette that can be easily
altered with the mood of the song or
can remain sterile and not change at all
(depending upon the conviction of the
church that I’m designing for).
For a more traditional service, I light the
main stage with a fair amount of front
light, as that is what people are going to expect. However, the primary area
of focus is always just a little brighter. As the area of focus shifts, so does the
intensity (slowly and subtly). This helps the viewer subconsciously concentrate
on the primary area of focus. Depending upon the individual ministry, I prefer
to light the orchestra with less intensity than the main stage (they are not usually the focus) and to keep the choir lights down or at the very least dim unless
the choir is singing. Any time the choir is singing, they would normally be lit.
I spend a lot of time trying to focus on the architectural points of the room
(thus lighting greenery, walls, and staging) to create visual interest in the room.
This lighting could change a little (if allowable) during the worship set to help
create an energetic mood, and it could also change with each sermon series to
match video graphics.
Front light, of all the lighting angles, has the most likeliness of washing your
subject out. It tends to flatten the subject, whereas the other forms of lighting help to create a three-dimensional sculpture of the subject. The more front
light you use, the flatter things will tend to feel. Front light without any other
angle of supporting light is dull at best.
Side light is, as you might now expect, illumination that comes from the side
of the stage. Generally, side lighting will be almost parallel to the floor in its
purest forms, but sometimes will come in at a long angle from a ceiling or
floor point.
Beyond Illumination — Using Lighting for Design CHAPTER 16
Side light.
Up lighting.
Side light is useful for creating interesting angles of light as well as for creating
true three-dimensional feeling. The drawback with true side lighting is that it
requires stage space as it has to be hung from a floor-mounted stand or lowered on a vertical pipe from above. Either way, the lights tend to be in the way
and the logistics can be problematic.
Up light, as we discussed earlier, is sometimes referred to as “boundary lighting”
or “foot lights”.
Up lighting is nice because it can take away dramatic shadows created by front,
side, and top light. The removal of these shadows removes any “sinister” look
and also helps make the person look younger. Almost all high-quality television broadcasts of large ministries will use some form of up light on the pastor.
The problem with up lighting can be location. Obviously, the lighting has to
be in the lip of the stage and this can be unsightly in some Houses of Worship.
Now there are much smaller versions available via MR16 lamps as well as LED.
Some pastors might also complain that they feel blinded by all the light. It’s
simply a trade-off of what is important – being well lit, looking good, figuring
out a mounting system that works, and being comfortable. All of these arguments have their place, and it is ultimately up to each House of Worship how
they choose to answer them.
Lighting Systems for Worship
Creating Shadows
Perhaps as much as what is lit, what isn’t lit can tell even more of the story.
Purposeful use of shadows and darker lit areas can create a lot of stage tension
as well as interest. It’s a well-known fact in Hollywood that, when making a
Shadow Area 1
Light 2
Light 1
Shadow Area 2
Light 1
Controlling shadows.
Light 2
Shadow Area 2
Shadow Area 1
Beyond Illumination — Using Lighting for Design CHAPTER 16
Light 1
Shadow Area 3
Light 2
Light 3
Shadow Area 1
Shadow Area 2
very dramatic movie, you can achieve a bigger effect by not showing the actual
event but showing a shadow of the event, or hearing the sound of an event,
and letting the viewers’ imagination create the scene for themselves.
Likewise, as we briefly discussed in the Color Mixing Theory section, you can
take a group of lights that are hung right next to each other and focus them at
the same point on stage. Make each of these lights a different color and they
will create multitone shadows over everything they touch on the stage. This can
create a very dramatic (and aesthetically pleasing) look.
Many young designers become fixated on eliminating shadows, but real interest can come in the work when you manipulate your shadows and become very
specific with them.
Controlling Shadows
There is difference in lighting with intentional shadows and relief versus not
knowing what you are doing.
In general, if you are trying to control shadows, it is important to realize how
a shadow is made. Clearly, objects casting shadows are not transparent and
so, when struck with light, interfere with the illumination path. The result is a
shadow. The lower the angle of light, the longer and more dramatic the shadow.
As a general rule, the closer your lighting angle is to 45 degrees, the better off
you will be. This will tend to drop a shadow more directly behind the object
while not creating harsh shadows that look unsightly.
Lighting Systems for Worship
It’s also important to remember that the brighter the light, the more intense
the shadow. For instance, if you create a shadow with ten 1000 W front light
fixtures, ten 500 W fixtures from directly above are not going to wash it out.
Every light will create a shadow. This is simple physics. So, if your front light
creates shadows going backward, backlight will create ones going forward, top
light will create shadows that fall straight down, and so on. One of the jobs
of the lighting designer is to understand the shadows and manipulate them as
part of the environment creation process.
I originally entitled this section Physics Don’t Change. But that’s not really true.
We know that the earth has stood still and rivers have parted, and I’ve seen
with my own eyes the Spirit of the Lord work miracles in productions and services that literally betrayed every law of physics that I have ever learned. We
serve the God of the Universe – and His powers are unlimited.
However, for the most part we have laws of physics. They operate within a set
of predefined rules. For instance, the speed of sound is rather constant, the
speed of light is a known quantity, and so on. In keeping with this, if you shine
a light at a subject, there will be a shadow – and that won’t change, even if you
do have a backdrop behind the person.
I cannot tell you the number of times I have been asked if I can remove the shadow
from the background because the director wanted a straight-on front light to wash
out the actor. One common theme in this book has been the need for communication. The ministry of lighting is no different. We must be kindhearted in all cases,
working as one who is a servant, but we must explain the facts to those who don’t
understand our world in a way that makes sense but is not condescending.
Backlight sometimes blinds people in the first row. You have to make a choice.
Perhaps you don’t seat the first row, or you fill it with ushers, or you readjust
your backlight to an angle that doesn’t work as well, or you move the worship
leader upstage 4 or 5 feet and readjust your backlight. But, the rules stay the
same: A bright light pointed at someone’s face is going to be blinding.
Choir Complaints
This is probably the number one complaint for anyone trying to do lighting for
worship – and undoubtedly the number one pain for someone lighting worship for television. It seems every time you turn a light on that’s pointing anywhere near a choir member’s face, the world stops spinning (but not the same
way as accounted in the Bible) and the complaints come flooding in about
everyone being blinded.
This is where your communication skills will really shine.
Fact: You have to light the choir.
Fact: Lights blind people when pointed in their direction.
Beyond Illumination — Using Lighting for Design CHAPTER 16
How you handle this situation will determine your effectiveness as a lighting designer or lighting technician. The following three steps will help you be
1. You should anticipate the problem and work with the worship leader
and pastor to have a team-based solution.
2. You should have a layman’s answer ready for the choir as to what you are
achieving and why it’s necessary.
3. You should be able to articulate what it is you are achieving (not only for
yourself, but for the overall ministry that you are all engaged in together
as a common body) and why it is necessary.
The list of potential roadblocks could go on and on, but the key is remembering the basics:
You are a servant and should respond as one with a servant’s heart.
Your ability to communicate and not become emotional will be your
make-or-break point.
Your overall goal should be about the work of the ministry as a whole.
You must be careful to be as much of a team player as you wish for everyone else to be.
You will see over time that, as you handle each issue with a servant’s heart and
a team perspective, God will begin to build a true spirit of teamwork and collaboration around your ministry. When this happens (if it hasn’t already) is
when things get really exciting! So, be mindful of yourself and you will see that
God will use you as the catalyst for change.
Setting the Mood
Lighting is all about mood and environment. There are many things you can do
to create an atmosphere with lighting. We’ve discussed some of them already
(shadows, angle of light, fixture choices, intensity, etc.), but now we are going to
talk more in detail about some standard design concepts that you can use.
Now that you have an idea of how color mixes, let’s talk about what you can do
with that color. There are certain physiological traits to light. People associate
color with different things. For instance, red usually signifies anger or murder
(the color of blood). Red tends to be classified as a “hot” color, so it has a temperature associated with it. Yellows and purples are often associated with royalty.
Blues are commonly reflective of elements such as water, sky, and nighttime.
Likewise, blue is a calming color, so it tends to relax people and build trust.
You have warm colors – these are your ambers, oranges, reds, and pinks – and you
have your cooler colors – blues, purples, and cyans. Daytime exterior scenes are
typically lit with warmer colors, while nighttime exterior scenes are often lit with
cooler ones. Cold climates tend to emphasize the cooler colors – or cool colors
are added to a warm wash to give a subtle “chill” to the wash.
Lighting Systems for Worship
As humans, we associate color with temperature. When you think of a cold,
snow-covered place, you tend to think of it more in shades of blue; however,
if you imagine yourself on a sunny day running though a field in the middle
of summer, you often have more of an amber tone to that scene. Likewise, for
summer, yellows and orange and white pop out at you. The winter is blue and
gray and – coincidentally – white. Some colors transcend to both warm and
cool. A no-color light can give a warm feeling or a cold one depending on what
it is paired with.
Especially in concert and dance lighting, it is common for a designer to combine a very hot color with a very cold color. Or to mix primaries in general – a
primary red complimented with a primary blue will create a dynamic visual
effect on stage. Likewise, so will a primary red and a primary yellow.
Color contrast is very important in creating an interesting stage look. If all of
your lights are one color, it quickly becomes quite drab, even if that one color
is bright yellow. However, if you have a rich blue background with magenta
backlights, no-color face lights, and sweeping bright yellow shafts of light going
over the heads of the worship team, you have just created a very dynamic look
by mixing your color palette.
Color in lighting can build tension, define time of day, determine location, or
simply build emotion. The right color with the right lighting will bring life to a
song, add mystery to drama, and help the audience focus on the message.
The gobo is overlooked by too many House of Worship lighting designers.
As we have discussed earlier, a gobo is a breakup pattern of some sort – be it
branches, leaves, abstract, cityscapes, logos, or whatever, a gobo breaks up the
light. This breakup of light can then be focused in a hard sharp focus or a very
soft fuzzy focus. The resulting look will be very different with each focus.
In the real world, lighting is rarely without breakup. Take a walk outside and look
for the effects of lighting. On the ground, you notice the shadows of leaves, power
lines, and tree branches, and the general unevenness of lighting in general. The
use of gobo patterns in lighting brings back that dimension of life to your design.
People are accustomed to seeing this, and the lighting looks unnatural without it.
This is not to be confused with bad focus. A poorly focused wash where there
are hot and cold spots of lighting is just poor lighting. This will distract from
the message and look amateurish. This is not what we are talking about.
Instead, we are looking for a well-focused wash with the pattern breakup resting nicely on top of it – or, in some cases, the pattern breakup being the wash.
Some uses of gobos for the House of Worship would include (but by no means
be limited to) these:
Casting the shape of a prison bar on the floor and over the face of an
actor who is portraying Paul writing letters in prison.
Beyond Illumination — Using Lighting for Design CHAPTER 16
Breakup patterns.
Photo courtesy of GAM
Products. All rights
879 Laser Lines
893 Teardrop Breakup
884 Bing Bong
873 Butterfly Breakup
867 Ripples
871 Fountain Breakup
Shadows of leaves as a character playing the part of Jesus teaching under
the trees in a garden.
A logo for a retreat weekend taught by the pastor, projected on the walls
at different sizes, angles, and colors.
Several cityscape gobos on a blank canvas that’s being lit by cyc lights of
varying colors to portray the world that we live in.
A series of windows casting over the stage as a man and wife play out a
scene on the den sofa, watching television. The outside light is breaking
through the windows that you can’t see, which eliminates the need for
building windows and complicating the scene change in some instances.
Abstract breakups on the floor or back wall, sharp focused or soft focused
for visual effect during a worship set.
Your church name projected on the wall as people come in.
Obviously, the list could go on and on. The idea is to get you thinking about
how to use gobos as a part of lighting for both worship and event production.
When budgets get tight, lighting can compensate for a lot of scenic elements.
This saves time and money in the long run.
Another common mistake is feeling that lighting must always be turned on.
This is a misconception. For instance, if you want to have an interesting scene,
let your actors come in with torches (assuming proper safety procedures are
Lighting Systems for Worship
taken) and then allow the torches to light the scene. If there’s not enough light,
ghost some top light in at 10 or 15 percent intensity and maybe some front
light at 10 percent or so, but by and large, let the torches do the work.
Likewise, if you are doing something more modern, consider giving your actors
flashlights. As they work, they can shine the lights onto other actors’ faces, and
sometimes their own. They can also reveal things about the set as they shine
their lights on these things. This can create a lot of interest and, by the mere
fact of not using stage lighting at all, the flashlights can set the place and time.
They can also add a sense of realism to the scene, depending on the content.
You can also choose to illuminate what are considered to be “practicals.” A
practical is anything on a set that would be used in real life that you choose to
highlight. An example of this would be a lamp, headlights of a car (should the
car be on the set), and so forth.
There are numerous ways to create environments with lighting – and it doesn’t
always have to be from the theatrical lighting in the air.
Blackouts are another form of lighting – actually, the absence of light. However,
blackouts should be tastefully executed. Sometimes used to cover scene shifts,
a blackout for such shifts should always be as brief as possible. Anything over
10 seconds begins to feel like an eternity. But a blackout doesn’t have to simply
cover something up; many times a blackout can occur at the climax of a scene
for added effect.
Lighting design is only limited by your imagination. Even if you don’t have
tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment at your disposal, you can create dynamic effects with a little ingenuity and hard work.
Have you ever been to a concert and observed the beams of light as they sweep
across the audience? Perhaps you’ve been to a contemporary worship service
and witnessed the same thing. Have you wondered how they do this?
Chemical hazers and foggers
will set off most commercial
fire alarms!
Simple – they use a hazer. There are a couple of different
types of hazers on the market. Some are oil based and others are water based.
A hazer simply puts a suspended particle in the air and the
beam of light reflects off it, thus making the beam visible
to the human eye. The key to getting a hazer to work properly
is using a fan in front of it. Even if it comes loaded with an
internal blower fan, results always seem to be better when an external box fan
or the equivalent is used. The fan helps to make the particles even finer as they
come out of the hazer.
Beyond Illumination — Using Lighting for Design CHAPTER 16
A hazer will tend to make a mess around it.
As the hazer (especially an oil-based hazer)
starts to pump fluid, there is a natural spillage that will come out of the mouth of the
hazer as it creates its particles. This is normal,
but it can get messy and, in some cases, slippery. Normally a hazer is located somewhere
on stage or mounted onto a lighting truss. You
will want to observe how your hazer works and
then decide. Not only should you consider the
residue it might leave, but also what works best
in your facility overall. Temperature, humidity,
and air currents all play a factor in how the
haze will function in the room. These factors
will also affect hang time and height consistency of the atmosphere.
A word of warning: You are going to want to experiment with the haze. If you
set it too high or leave it on too long, your sanctuary will tend to look more like
a smoky bar than a House of Worship.It does not typically take a lot of haze to
achieve the effect of seeing light beams in the air. Once the correct amount of
haze is in the room, a small burst of haze periodically will usually keep enough
volume in the air for your effect.
Also, when you use a hazer for the effect of seeing a lighting beam through
the air, you will want to start working with sharp-focused patterns (such as the
Rosco 77894 Beam Splitter Gobo or GAM 336 Balloons Gobo). Obviously,
these patterns are just suggestions, but the idea is that they will break up the
beam of light from a solid blob to a defined set of streaks. Different gobos will
affect the light differently, giving a different visual effect in the air. Experiment
and find your own favorite!
Fog Machines
Fog machines are used primarily for effect. Fog machines produce a large
amount of dense fog that looks a lot like smoke. It tends to rise in the air and
fill a room. Fog machines work off a chemical that is heated and creates the
illusion of fog.
Fog machines produce a much denser atmosphere than hazers. As a result,
they are very prominent in the design and should be used with purposeful
Some fog machines, especially ones that create large volume, are very loud
when they are pumping. Fog machines can also be located offstage (or under
stage), with the fog routed through large dryer hose or other venting systems.
DF50 Hazer.
Photo by Reel Efx.
Lighting Systems for Worship
Haze effect.
Photo courtesy of RoscoLux. All rights reserved.
FIGURE 16.10
Fog machine.
Photo courtesy of High End Systems. All rights reserved.
Fans are usually required to help push/pull the smoke through these systems,
but again it depends on the effect you are going for.
Likewise, your fog machines can be routed through hoses and vents to force
the fog to come out in a certain pattern or multiple locations.
Dry Ice Machines
Dry ice is a rather simple effect that often gets complicated. The premise is that
when you drop a block of dry ice into a large heated body of water (usually
boiling or close to boiling), the result will be a low-lying fog effect. There are
Beyond Illumination — Using Lighting for Design CHAPTER 16
some heater modules that work off 110 V, but the 220 V
is far better if you have the power. The hotter the water,
the better your result will be. Likewise, if you are doing
multiple effects, the dry ice chills the water, so you need
the ability to reheat fast.
There are several professional models available that you
can purchase. Many people build their own, using 55gallon drums, hot water heater elements, blower fans, and
dryer hose. The image shown in Figure 16.11 is a much
more recent model. One key part to success is having the
lid of the barrel sealed securely so there is no fog escaping
from the lid and all of it is coming out of the dryer hose.
Dry ice can produce several dramatic effects for the stage. Heating and air systems are critical for consistent dry ice delivery. Any change in room temperature, humidity, or air currents will result in the dry ice reacting very differently
in the room. Also, as the fog heats up, it tends to rise, so the warmer it gets,
the less likely it is to hang low to the ground as desired. Clearly, stage lights
tend to heat it up, so controlling your heating and air systems are critical. Many
times people will tech a show with dry ice, but when the show goes into performance, the air systems get cranked down to compensate for crowds and the
fog reacts differently.
It’s also a wise idea to test the dry ice more than once to make sure that it
responds predictably.
Design Software and Reporting
Have you ever heard the saying “Plan your work and work your plan,” or perhaps “Failing to plan is planning to fail”? These popular sayings apply directly
to lighting design and proper planning for it.
When you get ready to design a show, there are several tools available to you.
First, let’s look at some of the components expected from a lighting designer,
talk about how they integrate into the House of Worship, and then look at
modern tools available to help make the process smoother.
The image above is an example of a very simple lighting plot. The rectangle
would represent the stage, and the pipes are drawn to location over the stage.
Clearly, in a real stage plot you would most likely have more fixtures and positions, but this is just a sample. A lighting plot is a drawing that shows (to scale)
the position and type of each fixture, its circuit number, dimmer number,
channel number, pattern number (if any), and gel color. Some designers also
put focus information at each fixture on this list. The idea is to have on paper,
available at a glance, everything that is in the air.
FIGURE 16.11
Dry ice machine.
Photo courtesy of
Theatre Effect. All rights
Lighting Systems for Worship
FIGURE 16.12
Lighting plot for a show.
de 2
Le 0
FIGURE 16.13
Lighting plot close-up.
This document is to scale so the technicians can pull scale measurements off
the plot and hang the lighting accurately. Normally, a plot is printed on a
24- 36-inch sheet of paper, much like a construction drawing. However, it
can be on any size of paper.
The cleaner the drawing, the better you will be. Remember, technical ministry
is all about communicating, and the lighting plot is one major way of communicating your design to other people (as well as referencing it yourself).
Typically, your lighting plot will be an overhead view of the theater. Each pipe
and truss location will be drawn on the plot, and house circuit locations will
be on the plot as well. This way the designer can make sure he or she is designing smartly. For instance, if you place a light near circuit 42, you wouldn’t want
to have it plug into circuit 10 on the other side of the house unless you could
Beyond Illumination — Using Lighting for Design CHAPTER 16
not help it. Likewise, the designer can tell when he or she is out of circuits during the design phase so as not to be surprised on location.
A second page of the lighting plot is the sectional. The sectional is a crosssection of the middle of the church. If your church varies widely in design across
its lateral sections, then you might have multiple sectionals. The purpose of this
document is two-fold. First, it allows you to see the design from your audience
perspective and set all of your sight lines (sight lines are what your audience can
see from the extreme positions). So, this allows you to set your lighting to the
right height as well as determine the heights of any teasers or backdrops to hide
the lights. You could also use the sectional to set up drum risers, guitar risers,
choir risers, and so on.
A sectional will also let you determine your lighting angles. You can place a
person of typical height (say, six feet) on the drawing and see where your lights
will hit the person at various points on the stage. You can also get a better idea
of your shadows.
Along with the lighting plot, you should include a stack of paperwork.
Paperwork is very important to a streamlined design. Paperwork will do many
things. First, consider the hit-by-a-bus theory. If you get hit by a bus, the next
guy could read the paperwork and maintain the show. This is important. While
you will probably not get hit by a bus, you might come down with the flu.
Paperwork will also give you a quick cross-reference tool. Your paperwork, at a
minimum, should include patch sheets, gel cut sheets, dimmer loading, channel lists, group lists, and a magic sheet.
Patch Sheets
A patch sheet is a spreadsheet that shows each fixture location (pipe/truss/
catwalk ID, fixture number), the circuit it is plugged into, the dimmer that is
patched into, and the channel the dimmer is patched into. This way, when a
light suddenly doesn’t work, you have all the information you need to troubleshoot right away.
Gel Cut Sheet
A gel cut sheet identifies each gel color and size used in the show. It then
groups these by color and tells the technician how many cuts of gel to make
for each color. This paperwork will often include calculations of the number of
cuts you can get per sheet and the total number of sheets you need to buy to
gel the show.
This is extremely useful for both the designer and the technician hanging the
show. The technician can assign someone to cut gel based on the cut sheet,
while the designer can keep track of the gel budget.
Lighting Systems for Worship
Show Name:
Sample A
Joe Anyone
Mr. Big Star
Patch Sheet
Channel -> Dimmer Patch
5, 6, 7, 8
1, 4
end of report.
FIGURE 16.14
Patch sheet.
Show Name:
Sample A
Joe Anyone
Mr. Big Star
Gel Cut Sheet
Gel Cut List
Bastard Amber
end of report.
FIGURE 16.15
Gel cut sheet.
Dimmer Loading
A dimmer loading sheet will help you realize how many fixtures are patched
into a dimmer. This will allow you to make sure none of your dimmers are
overloaded. If you are on a three-phase lighting system, it will also help you
make sure your phases are fairly balanced as well, should that become a concern (assuming you know which dimmers are on which leg of power).
Beyond Illumination — Using Lighting for Design CHAPTER 16
Show Name: Sample A
Designer: Joe Anyone
Director: Mr. Big Star
Dimmer Loading Report
Dimmer Loading Report
Dimmer Circuit
Inst #
Pipe 3
Worship Leader Front Light
575 Watts Total Load
Pipe 3
Worship Leader Front Light
575 Watts Total Load
Pipe 2
SR Front Fill
1000 Watts Total Load
Pipe 2
RC Front Fill
1000 Watts Total Load
Pipe 2
LC Front Fill
1000 Watts Total Load
Pipe 2
SL Front Fill
1000 Watts Total Load
end of report.
FIGURE 16.16
Dimmer loading sheet.
Channel Lists
A channel list will identify fixtures by channels. This way you can quickly scan
your channels and identify which fixtures will come up with that channel. This
is helpful, for instance, when you see you have five fixtures in channel 1 but
when you bring up channel 1, only four fixtures turn on. With this paperwork,
you can quickly determine which locations you see, identify the one that is not
working, and troubleshoot accordingly (Figure 16.7).
Group Lists
A group list is very similar to the channel list, except it displays the information
by groups. Again, it’s a quick reference for you when things aren’t working or
when you are trying to find something to light a specific area.
Wow, that’s a Lot of Paperwork!
Yes, that is a lot of drafting and paperwork. But being organized is key to a
quick light hang and cue session and to being on budget. When you are in the
middle of rehearsal and the director wants more lighting in a certain area, or a
fixture blew and you need to know which one, you don’t want 50 plus people
waiting around for half an hour while you figure out your job.
Lighting Systems for Worship
Show Name:
Sample A
Joe Anyone
Mr. Big Star
Channel Sheet
Channel List
PAR 64
PAR 64
PAR 64
PAR 64
Inst #
1 Pipe 2
2 Pipe 2
3 Pipe 2
4 Pipe 2
SR Front Fill
RC Front Fill
LC Front Fill
SL Front Fill
ETC Source 4
ETC Source 4
1 Pipe 3
2 Pipe 3
Worship Ldr Front Light
Worship Ldr Front Light
1 Pipe 1
2 Pipe 1
3 Pipe 1
4 Pipe 1
Back Light
Back Light
Back Light
Back Light
end of report.
FIGURE 16.17
Channel sheet.
This paperwork allows you to be organized and respond quickly. The planning and work ahead of time will save you countless hours of work, hassle, and
stress on the backend.
In the old days, all of this paperwork was hand drafted and all of the reports
were hand generated as well. That was a lot of work. Then, along came computers and spreadsheets. Now designers can enter the information and sort based
on data in columns. This speeds things up a lot.
Then came CAD (computer-aided design) software. With the advent of programs
like AutoCAD and Vectorworks, designers soon switched to using the automated
drawing systems (making drafting revisions faster) along with the spreadsheets.
Finally, software developers merged the two. Add-ons for Vectorworks,
AutoCAD, and designer-specific software such as Softplot and WYSIWYG
became available that interpolate all of the data. You draw in a fixture and virtually connect it to a circuit, patch it to a dimmer, and patch it to a channel.
Assign the fixture a color and pattern, and tell the software which fixture it is.
Now the software knows everything there is to know – it knows lamp type, gel
size, pattern size, dimmer, circuit, and channel. So, the software generates all
the reports you could ever want and spits them out accordingly.
Now, when you make a change on the plot, the paperwork automatically updates.
Suddenly, all that work isn’t much work at all. What used to take designers days
to do can now be done in hours. Updates and changes are a breeze. Sometimes it
takes longer to print the reports and plots than it does to make the changes.
Architectural Lighting and
Integration with Stage
So, up until now we have mostly been discussing stage lighting. Architectural
lighting is considered anything that doesn’t illuminate the stage – wall sconces,
aisle lights, step lights, house lights, lobby lights, outdoor lighting, and so forth.
Architectural lighting is every bit as important as stage lighting. Audience safety
and first impressions are as important as how the show itself looks. All of the
lighting comes together to make an impression on the audience. All of it works
in concert to create a mood and environment. You must be able to control all of
this lighting.
Likewise, you want people to be able to control the architectural lighting
without firing up the stage lighting system.
Most new lighting systems allow for an integration of the two systems. You will
typically have an architectural control panel. This panel usually utilizes the stage
system to control all of the dimmers to set the looks desired. In a House of
Worship, you might have one preset for cleaning, another for weddings, another
for funerals and one for general meetings. Now, you can shut down the lighting system and someone can walk over to a wall panel, press a button, and get
lighting – preset lighting.
Now, when you turn your board on (or on some systems, press a lockout button), the wall panels are bypassed. You have full control at the board and can
run the show without worry of someone bumping into them and messing up
the lighting cue.
This type of system works very well for allowing control over the architectural
features but not turning over the keys to a complicated system. It’s important
Lighting Systems for Worship
Unison wall unit.
Photo courtesy of
Electronic Theatre
Controls, Inc. All rights
that you have architectural control as part of your lighting system, so figuring
out how to integrate the two systems is well worth your time.
Another option for integrating your lighting is to use the world clock within the
console. Most higher-end computer controllers allow for programming based on
time and date. So, you could have your console control all interior and exterior
lights. These lights could either be connected directly to your dimming system
or controlled via relays from the rack. So, for example, a relay could be actuated
by the control surface that would then turn on all of the exterior lights.
How you choose to integrate your architectural and stage systems is ultimately
up to you and the flexibilities you wish to have. However, understand that you
will need to address the issue one way or another.
Conclusion of
Lighting Section
You can see that lighting has a primary objective – to provide illumination
so people can see and safely navigate the room. However, lighting goes well
beyond this most basic requirement. With lighting, you can create an atmosphere and mood. You can shift the audience’s focus on the stage to wherever
you direct them. You can hide certain things and reveal them at your choosing.
You can mystify the audience with a sense of awe as you create beautiful landscapes with light that glides through the air and across the stage.
With lighting, you can control the feel of a service. You also enhance the sound
and video ministries by helping to enforce where the communicator is on stage
(and resolving localization issues for the listener) and by shielding the video
screens from excessive bounce light so the image really punches. Likewise, as you
manipulate the house lights, you can draw the audience into a more intimate
moment or you can put more emphasis on the video presentation that might be
Lighting the exterior of your church can create a more welcoming feeling for
guests and members alike after the sun has set. Likewise, the lighting of the
lobby and other public areas is just as important for creating a welcoming atmosphere that helps people let their walls down so they can worship uninhibited.
Lighting is all too often overlooked by the House of Worship. Many churches
just want to have enough light to read by or have the lights dim enough that
the video can be seen. This is really missing the point. Lighting gives us a huge
opportunity to communicate visually with the people who attend worship and
to help guide them along the way of finding what it is they came for.
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Anatomy of a Video
A video playback system is any number of devices that are brought together and
displayed on a screen for the masses. This can be as simple as a computer-based
system and a projector or as complicated as multiple cameras, multiple video
decks, and multiple computers all running through a switching device out to an
array of plasmas, LCDs, projectors, and recording devices. Ultimately, the one thing
they all have in common is the final result – an image that is viewed by the masses.
Video playback systems are taking Houses of Worship by storm. If you don’t
have an integrated video screen in your worship service, you most likely want
one. I have come across a few Houses of Worship that have no interest in video
playback, but by and large, those Houses of Worship are few and far between.
Most fellowships recognize the advantages for video systems and they want
them now! The problem is that people want a video playback system without
understanding all that is entailed to get one working properly. Many Houses
of Worship (especially smaller ones) ignore the fact that their sound system
is poorly functioning and that they have no controllable lighting and 12 huge
windows flooding light into the sanctuary – but they want video projection.
The result of this type of mentality is usually not stunning. Either the church
spends way too much money buying a super-huge projector to overcome the
ambient light in the room, or they buy a cheap projector that looks terrible
and washes out. If the church opts for the brighter projector, the sound system is often still terrible, so the true effect of the video presentation is often
lost. Even if the sound system starts to keep up, without controllable lighting
it’s hard to pull the congregation into what’s happening on the screen because
everything is a wash of light.
Likewise, if a House of Worship opts for a plasma or LCD screen, typically the
screen is still washed out and, more commonly, too small to see! This makes
the impact much less dynamic and minimizes the effect that video can have for
your service.
Video Systems for Worship
Typical video system
Monitor Banks
DVD Player
Camera Control
Video Deck
Video Switcher
Out Board Visual
Video Screen
Anatomy of a Video System CHAPTER 19
Assuming the House of Worship is skimping on the video playback system,
odds are they are skimping all the way around – poor switching choices, poor
worship presentation software choices, poor computer playback choices, and
poor video playback choices. If they are thinking about Image Magnification
(IMAG) via live cameras, odds are they are also looking for the cheapest cameras they can get their hands on.
There is a difference between being cheap and being frugal.
I hope by now you are starting to really understand that these three media systems are not stand-alone systems in a House of Worship. They truly build off
each other. They are not three individual systems that you might or might not
need; they are parts of one big system that works in concert to create a mood
and environment that captures people’s attention, communicates with them
on different levels, and helps to remove barriers for worship.
There are many things to consider when installing a projection system. If you
are looking to install a video system today, there is no option but to get widescreen 16:9 screens and native 16:9 projectors. Anything else is archaic and will
soon be out of date.
The only question that even sort of remains is, Should you do high definition
or standard definition? Chapter 21 addresses this issue.
The most important thing you can do for a video
playback system is to control the amount of ambient light in
the room! Likewise, you should make every effort to eliminate
lighting spill on the screens (be it a flat panel or a projection
screen). Ambient light and light spill on a screen will kill your
image by washing it out. This is one reason having an
adequate lighting system is so critical to a
successful video playback system.
A video playback system consists of at least a few items. The absolute minimum
would be a video projector (or flat panel display) and a computer. However, a
minimal yet proper video playback system would consist of the main source
that is being displayed, the switcher, the scaler, and the video projector (or
plasma or LCD display). Let’s take a look at each one of these in more detail.
Video Systems for Worship
Main Source
The main source is whatever is being played at the moment on the screen. This
could be the computer, a DVD, a camera, or any other type of visual playback
that you have connected to the system.
When thinking about your sources, the higher the quality of components you
can afford, the better your signal is going to be. Also, like anything else, the
quality of your cable and connections will make or break you.
You also want to use the highest resolution connection you can get. In ranking
order from worst quality to best quality you have:
Component or VGA
Let’s take a brief look at each of these inputs.
Composite video is a single RCA phono-style connection. Composite video can
also be delivered by a single BNC connection. All professional systems use BNC
for composite video. All of the information within the video passes through
this one connection.
RCA composite cable.
Photo by Brad Herring.
Anatomy of a Video System CHAPTER 19
This is by far the worst video connection you can make. It is not designed to travel
long distances and maintain good quality; and it has lower bandwidth, making
the signal degradation high. In the old days of 4:3 analog televisions, we could
mostly get away with this, but try to project a large image on a high-end video
projector – regardless of whether it’s standard definition or high definition – and
you are going to see a fairly ugly signal on the screen. Send this to a plasma or
LCD display and the results are going to be equally bad.
This connection is found on the back of many consumer components and is
usually yellow in color.
A composite connection carries intensity information as well as all three color
channels (red, green, and blue).
Composite cable.
Video Systems for Worship
S-Video is a step up, that’s for sure. It’s still
an analog signal, but at least it’s beginning to
separate the channels of information within
the video, which will offer a higher-quality
S-Video separates the video information
into two channels – luma (luminance) and
chroma (color).
S-Video cable.
Photo by Brad Herring.
S-Video connections are capable of carrying
a 480i standard-definition signal. This is a
much higher resolution than composite video, but, as you can see, it is quite
low by many of today’s emerging standards (720p, 1080p, 1080i, etc.).
For 4:3 standard-definition video, you can use S-Video without a lot of consequences. However, as you start to step up into widescreen, digital, and highdefinition video, you are going to want a higher-quality connection.
Pin 4
Chroma (c)
Pin 2
Ground (c)
Pin 3
Luminance (y)
Pin 1
Ground (y)
Pinout of S-Video cable.
Anatomy of a Video System CHAPTER 19
Component video and VGA signals are still analog connections, but they present
one of the best overall image qualities you can expect without going to the digital
realm. Component connections are easily recognized by their three-color individual pathways. Component video comes in several standards, but the three that
most commonly impact the House of Worship are RGB, RGBHV, and YPbPr (also
known as YUV).
Component cable.
Photo by Brad Herring.
RGB cables carry the red, the green, and the blue color channels on individual
conductors, thus maximizing the amount of bandwidth each conductor can contain with individual color channel information.
With RGB, the green channel contains the horizontal and vertical sync
RGBHV offers more flexibility by offering red, green, and blue information
channels, and then two separate inputs in addition to the color inputs – one
for horizontal sync and another for vertical sync. These connections are most
commonly found in high-end pro-sumer and professional components.
Video Systems for Worship
YPbPr is another standard of the RGB family. In this standard, Y carries the
luma (or brightness information), Pb carries the difference between the blue
and the luma (hence the b subscript meaning b-y), and pr carries the difference
between the red and the luma (hence the r subscript meaning r-y). In an effort
to save bandwidth, the green channel is interpolated using the blue, red, and
luma channels.
On a normal YPbPr connection, the green cable will carry the y, the blue carries
the Pb, and the red carries the Pr.
The YPbPr standard came about to conserve bandwidth within the RGB
Component cable
VGA signal is another form of RGB, only in a nine-pin D-Sub connector.
Originating with computer display monitors, VGA was created as an easy
method to carry RGB information to a computer monitor. Over time, the other
pins were utilized for various purposes. Today, many projectors and other video
devices will accept RGB via a VGA connection. For the purposes of video projection, I’ve included the following VGA pinout:
Anatomy of a Video System CHAPTER 19
VGA cable.
Female Connection
(Pins on Male are Mirrored)
Pin 1 - Red Video
Pin 2 - Green Video
Pin 3 - Blue Video
Pin 4 - ID Bit 2
Pin 5 - Ground (H-Sync)
Pin 6 - Red Return
Pin 7 - Green Return
Pin 8 - Blue Return
Pinout of VGA connector.
Pin 9 - 5V DC
Pin 10 - Ground (V-Sync, Doc)
Pin 11 - ID Bit Pin 12 - ID Bit 1
Pin 13 - Horizontal Sync
Pin 14 - Vertical Sync
Pin 15 - ID Bit 3 or Data Clock
Video Systems for Worship
Digital Visual Interface (DVI) is a true digital connection; however, its transmission distance (normally 15 feet or less) is very limited without some form of
DVI amplifier. Cable quality will be a huge factor in how far your cable transmits. Typically, when you reach the threshold of your cable length, the signal
will start to degrade with artifacting. Another 5 to 10 feet of cable after artifacting will generally yield no signal at all. There is generally very little tolerance
for length of the cable – the signal will generally work or it won’t. There are
some standards (DVI-I) that will allow an analog signal for compatible components as well.
FIGURE 19.10
DVI cable.
Photo courtesy of Belkin. All rights reserved.
DVI uses Transition Minimized Differential Signaling (TMDS) encoding
to compress the video signal and send it from the source to the projector or
plasma/LCD screen.
There are many arguments on the topic of quality. Some will argue that the DVI
connection is better than component video because it is digital. A lot of people
disagree with this. Component video is a very solid video signal path; DVI is
solid as well. The individual choice is up to you.
The quality of DVI is very good. With longer lengths, you are going to need an
Anatomy of a Video System CHAPTER 19
Female Connector
(Male Connector is Mirrored)
Single Link DVI - 1
Dual Link DVI - 1
Single Link DVI - D
Dual Link DVI - D
DVI Connector Identification
Pin 1 - TMDS Data 2
Pin 2 - TMDS Data 2
Pin 3 - TMDS Data 2/4 Shield
Pin 4 - TMDS Data 4
Pin 5 - TMDS Data 4
Pin 6 - DDC Clock
Pin 7 - DDC Data
Pin 8 - Analog Vertical Sync
Pin 9 - TMDS Data 1
Pin 10 - TMDS Data 1
Pin 11 - TMDS Data 1/3 Shield
Pin 12 - TMDS Data 3
Pin 13 - TMDS Data 3
Pin 14 - 5V DC
Pin 15 - Ground (for 5V DC)
FIGURE 19.11
Pinout of DVI connector.
Pin 16 - Hot Plug Detect
Pin 17 - TMDS Data Pin 18 - TMDS Data Pin 19 - TMDS Data 5 Shield
Pin 20 - TMDS Data 5
Pin 21 - TMDS Data 5
Pin 22 - TMDS Clock Shield
Pin 23 - TMDS Clock
Pin 24 - TMDS Clock
C1 - Analog Red
C2 - Analog Green
C3 - Analog Blue
C4 - Analog Horizontal Sync
C5 - Analog Ground Return for Red, Green, Blue
Video Systems for Worship
High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) utilizes the same encoding as
DVI: Transition Minimized Differential Signaling (TMDS). The primary difference is the actual connector and that HDMI also passes audio. HDMI is a digital
connection capable of transmitting hi-def signals.
FIGURE 19.12
HDMI cable.
Photo by Brad Herring.
As a general rule, HDMI cable is very expensive. Long runs of this cable are
often not cost effective, but for a shorter run to a projector or plasma screen,
HDMI can be very simple and quick. The video quality is excellent and the
audio signal (up to eight uncompressed digital channels) transmits with it.
One cable, nice and neat, finished.
There are three different size connectors for HDMI – Types A, B, and C. Type A
has 19 pins, Type B has 29, and Type C is a miniconnection with 19 pins as well.
For certain applications, HDMI is an excellent choice. For long runs, it’s generally cost prohibitive. Most HDMI cables are limited to less than 50 feet without
some sort of amplifier. Some studies have shown that when used with HDMI
fiber-optic extenders, HDMI can travel over 300 feet.
Because HDMI and DVI are compatible, no special conversion boxes are
required to adapt HDMI to DVI. However, DVI is not capable of transmitting
the audio signals, so they are lost in the conversion.
Anatomy of a Video System CHAPTER 19
19 17
15 13
11 9
18 16
14 12
10 8
5 3
4 2
Pin 1 - TMDAS Data 2
Pin 2 - TMDAS Data Shield
Pin 3 - TMDAS Data 2
Pin 4 - TMDAS Data 1
Pin 5 - TMDAS Data Shield
Pin 6 - TMDAS Data 1
Pin 7 - TMDAS Data Pin 8 - TMDAS Data Shield
Pin 9 - TMDAS Data Pin 10 - TMDAS Clock
FIGURE 19.13
Pinout of HDMI connector.
Pin 11 - TMDS Clock Shield
Pin 12 - TMDS Clock
Pin 13 - CEC
Pin 14 - Reserved
Pin 15 - SCL
Pin 16 - SDA
Pin 17 - DPC/CEC Ground
Pin 18 - 5V Power
Pin 19 - Hot Plug Detect
Video Systems for Worship
The video industry is rapidly changing as technology evolves. There are a few
other video standards that you will encounter in the future, but the aforementioned standards are the ones most prevalent in Houses of Worship. It is, however, worth mentioning these other standards so you are aware of them.
FIGURE 19.14
Video switcher.
Photo by Brad Herring.
Serial Digital Interface (SDI) is a broadcast standard for transmitting uncompressed standard-definition video, audio, and other data packets over a
standard BNC connection. Newer
on the scene is High Definition
Serial Digital Interface (HD-SDI),
which allows uncompressed highdefinition video, audio, and various digital packets, generally over
fiber-optic cables.
One of the new emerging standards
that you will most likely interact
with is video over Cat5. Cat5 cable
is increasingly being integrated into
A/V systems – video is no different.
Many manufacturers make equipment that can convert regular video
signal to Cat5 cable and back again.
Depending on the equipment, you
will sometimes need the converter,
or it may be integrated directly into
your devices. This saves a tremendous amount of money with regard to purchasing copper cable and still presents a good image. There is no doubt we will see
more of video over Cat5 cable as this standard continues to evolve.
A video switcher is the heart of a true video system. This is the “mixing board”
of video signals, if you will.
The video switcher can take multiple video sources and allow a director the
opportunity to transition (or “switch”) from one source to another. The timing
of the transition can happen via an automated timer or by a manual T-bar.
All of the various video inputs will have their own preview monitor so the
director can see everything that is available at any given moment. Then, they
can call up the desired input into the “preview” bank of the switcher. When
they make the transition, whatever is selected in the “preview” monitor will
transition to the “live” monitor. What you see on the “live” monitor (including
transitions) is what will be broadcast or recorded; it is the final mix, if you will.
Anatomy of a Video System CHAPTER 19
Most switchers allow for straight-cut edits (a simple, instantaneous splice from
one source to another) or any number of transitions, from dissolves to fancy
wipe patterns.
Some switchers will also allow for very rudimentary audio mixing, but this is not
their primary function. And some switchers will allow you to color correct, mix
to picture-in-picture (PIP), and create a host of effects for the image alteration.
A scaler is an invaluable tool. A scaler will take various display resolutions
and scale them to the image resolution you set as your final output resolution. A scaler does this by stretching and shrinking the material proportionally.
Generally speaking, the more expensive the scaler, the better the results.
FIGURE 19.15
Photo courtesy of
Extron Electronics.
Scalers are often advertised as being a part of another component such as a
video projector, switcher, plasma or LCD screen, or so forth, but these are generally not high-end scalers and do not always do a stand-up job at their task.
Your projector, or plasma or LCD monitor, is going to have a native resolution. For instance, many video projectors are 1024 768 native. This means
that without any type of software interpolation, they project 1024 pixels wide
by 768 pixels high. Your image quality will always be best when matched to
the native resolution of your display device. So, you would use a scaler to
“up-convert” or “down-convert” your source image to match the native image
of your display. High-end scalers often give you better results because they are
tasked with nothing but scaling. Therefore the components in the scaler are
often higher quality and are tasked simply for that one purpose.
Using a high-end scaler is like taking a computer that is designed for GPS navigation and asking it to also run word processing and other tasks. The computer
quickly gets overloaded and stops functioning as well as it can. However, if
you take an out-of-the-box GPS unit and turn it on without asking it to do any
other tasks, it works very well and efficiently for its intended purpose. The same
is true with using an outboard scaler.
Video Systems for Worship
A good scaler will also offer you functions like pan, frame rate conversions,
color alterations, detail enhancement, and other functions as well. So, once
again, you get what you pay for when it comes to features and quality.
It is worth noting that the scaler can only operate to the quality of your display
device. So, if you have a device that displays 1024 768 signal, as we used in
our example above, a scaler cannot make that device show 1920 1080 pixels.
The scaler can only operate within the confines of the display properties.
Whenever possible, you want to make sure that your sources match the native
resolution of your display monitor. However, this is not always possible –
especially with the ever-changing standards in today’s broadcast world. It is for
these instances that a scaler exists.
Video Projector/Plasma/LCD
The final step is the actual display device. In most Houses of Worship this will be
a video projector, but more and more Houses of Worship are turning to LCD and
plasma displays as well. Sometimes a plasma or LCD screen is used instead of a
projector, while other times a screen is used in conjunction with the projector.
FIGURE 19.16
Photo by Brad Herring.
Whatever the source, it should be mounted at a viewing angle comfortable
to the audience and should be as large enough for the image to be seen from
the farthest seat. It is the second requirement that often eliminates a plasma
or LCD monitor for most Houses of Worship. However, many facilities utilize
plasma/LCD technology for the first few rows, the choir, or under the balcony.
Many Houses of Worship will also choose to route their display to the lobby
and nursery via plasma or LCD monitors as well.
Whatever your choice for your fellowship, you should make sure it is big
enough and bright enough to do the job. We will look at specifics for projectors and flat-panel displays in the next section.
Lumens, Brightness and
Contrast – What Does it
all Mean?
When it comes to projectors and flat panel displays, not all are created equal.
Many will vary in color and brightness. Add to this that manufacturers measure
their components differently! So, a projector by manufacturer A says it’s 2500
lumens, and another projector by manufacture B says it’s 2500 lumens. One
projector will most likely look brighter and crisper than the other.
With this being said, one cannot choose by lumen alone. For that matter, one
cannot choose by any one factor alone. When researching which display to
purchase, you must take all of the specifications into account and then research
your top choices. See what other users have to say about them, and finally contact the manufacture to try to arrange a demonstration of the product. You can
even request a “shootout.” This is where multiple manufactures bring their
products to YOUR church and display YOUR content, thus allowing you to see
for yourself, side by side, which one works best for you.
Oftentimes, Houses of Worship fail to understand the full buying potential
they have. As we’ve stated earlier in this book, most manufacturers now have
an entire team set up to serve the House of Worship market. We have exceeded
theater and broadcast purchases in many ways; thus the companies are competing hard for your purchase. Use this to your advantage to make sure you
make the right choice.
Also, it’s important to realize that as a projector’s lamp ages, its effective lumen
output drops. Even though you might not be halfway through the advertised lamp
hour for your projector, the image will be significantly dimmer in some cases.
What is a lumen, anyway? A lumen is simply a way to measure the power of
illumination. To put this in perspective, the amount of light that a single candle
emits would be considered one candle. You have probably heard the expression “foot-candle”. One foot-candle is the amount of light measured within a
one-foot radius of a single candle.
Video Systems for Worship
Given this information, one lumen is equal to one foot-candle worth of light
per square foot.
When it comes to projectors, American National Standards Institute (ANSI)
standardized the procedure for determining lumens (hence the reason why you
often see them referred to as “ANSI lumens”). There are other procedures for
determining a lumen count for a projector, and manufacturers are not required
to use ANSI lumens as their standard. If you see projectors with ANSI lumens
listed, you can feel more comfortable that you are in the same ballpark with
regards to how they were tested.
However, lumens are not the be-all and end-all of projectors by any means – this
is only the general measurement of brightness. The amount of ambient light in
the room, the type of screen, and the distance
the projector is from the wall will dictate how
bright the projector must be.
Just because your projector lamp is rated
for a set duration of hours does not mean
you should use it for that long. In order to
keep a bright image, you should replace
your lamp before the
end of its life expectancy.
As we’ve already discussed, but which warrants
stating again, as the projector ages, the lamp efficiency (i.e., lumen measurement) will decrease.
This is vitally important if you are buying a used
projector or if you have been using a projector
for some time with the same lamp. The projector will become dimmer over time.
How Many Lumens Do I Need?
This is the million-dollar question. The best way to determine how many
lumens you need is to try out the projector in your facility before you buy it. In
general, the more lumens, the better off you will be. It is virtually impossible to
purchase a “too bright” projector, but very common to purchase a “not bright
enough” projector. Of course, the rub comes with budget constraints. We don’t
want to be wasteful in how we spend our difficult-to-come-by ministry dollars,
but at the same time we want to do this once and get it right.
Here is a formula for finding your basic lumen needs:
1. Using a standard lighting meter (not a camera meter, but a true light meter),
measure the ambient light that is hitting your screen. You should set your
meter to read in foot-candles. (Note: 1 foot-candle 1 lumen/sq feet.)
2. Determine the square footage for your screen (so, if your screen is 9 feet
high 16 feet wide, your total square footage would be 144 sq feet).
3. Utilizing SMPTE (the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers)
recommendations, a good number for excellent video playback would
be 20 lumens per square foot. (Their recommendations top out at 22
lumens per square foot, so you could alter this number if you want an
even brighter screen; their low-end estimate is 12 lumens, so you can see
20 is fairly high.)
Lumens, Brightness and Contrast
4. Using our base of 20 lumens per square foot, add to this your ambient
light reading. For this example, let’s assume your ambient light reads at
an average of 5 lumens per square foot).
5. Take your answer to step 4 and multiply it by the total square footage of
your screen found in step 2. In our example, this would be 3600.
So, the actual math formula is:
[(Lumens Desired + Average Ambient Light Reading) × Screen Square
Footage] = Total Lumens Needed with Ambient Lighting Consideration
Given the steps above, you would be looking at using a 3600-lumen projector as a minimum. This assumes you are using a screen with a gain of 1.0 (we
will discuss screen choices and screen gains later in this section). If you are
using a different screen gain, use the following formula for a calibrated lumen
[(Lumens Needed for Ambient Light Conditions)/
Screen Gain] Calibrated Lumen Need
However, even if you are using a screen with a gain higher than 1.0, I would
still recommend the larger-size projector if possible. Make sure to read the section on Screen Gain for a better understanding of the pros and cons of using
screen gain.
Remember also that as you adjust various settings and profiles, your projector
will likely not output the full lumens advertised. Keep in mind that manufacturers will test lumens in the best possible scenario. These “ideal” conditions
might not always be present in the real world. So, in general, it’s always a good
idea to estimate high on the lumens you need – as we discussed earlier, you
can never have a projector that’s too bright.
We mentioned that you needed to find your ambient light level on the screen.
You do this by utilizing a foot-candle light meter. There are also charts that
allow you to use a photography meter and then translate the exposure reading
to a foot-candle reading, but why not use the right tool for the job? A footcandle light meter will run you around $120 to $160.
Foot-candle meters are also useful in establishing house light levels, classroom
light levels, and office light levels. There are handbooks published by SMPTE
and other standards organizations that tell you the amount of foot-candles
required for certain conditions. Likewise, some building codes state the level
of foot-candle certain areas must have for public safety (such as aisle lights,
stairwells, etc.). A light meter is a very useful tool to have in your bag if you are
doing lighting or video work.
Video Systems for Worship
Likewise, a light meter can be used for
stage readings. This can be especially
helpful when lighting a stage for video.
Light meter.
Photo Courtesy of Extech.
All rights reserved.
A light meter has a light sensor and
usually, these days, a digital display.
This display will show you the number of foot-candles being read at the
light sensor. Some of the more fancy
models allow you to download your
information into a computer and maintain fairly complex data logs, but for
our purposes we simply need a meter
that will show how bright the light is
at the location of the light sensor. As
you move the sensor around, you
will find varying levels. This will also
help you eliminate darks spots and hot
One foot-candle is equal to one lumen, so the ability to read a foot-candle
measurement works well for our calculations.
The brightness control of a projector (not to be confused with the brightness
of the projector measured in lumens) will control the black level of the projector.
The brightness should be set via a test chart. The chart will have a series of strips
going from absolute black to white. The brightness is set correctly when the
absolute black is still maintained but each individual level of black can be differentiated. Likewise, the white should remain white and not turn gray.
The contrast control (not to be confused with contrast ratio) will control the white
levels of the projector. The contrast should be set via a test chart. The chart (as used
for the brightness level) will
have a series of strips going
from absolute white to black.
The contrast is set correctly
The Brightness and Contrast controls alter each other’s
when the white is still mainsettings. Setting them properly requires patience. A change
tained but each individual level
in one will affect the other and require a tweak. Don’t rush
of white can be differentiated.
this. Once set correctly, your dynamic color range will be
Likewise, the black should
ideal for your display!
remain black and not turn gray
or light black.
Lumens, Brightness and Contrast
Contrast is the measurement of the projectors blackest black in relation to its
whitest white. In general, the higher the Contrast Ratio, the higher the detail in
the image. Also, a higher contrast ratio will help you overcome the “wash out”
effect in a room with ambient light bleeding onto your projection screen.
It is not uncommon to see contrast ratios exceeding 2000:1. The higher this
number separation, the more defined your blacks will be. A higher contrast
ratio is necessary in order to achieve good, crisp-looking video.
Perhaps you have noticed that when you turn a projector on without an
image, in a dark room, you can see the gray box that it creates on the screen. This is
a result of low contrast ratio. When you are seeing that box, you are seeing
what your projector is defining as black. The higher the contrast ratio, the less
noticeable this gray box will be when no image is being projected.
Contrast ratio works the same on both plasma and LCD displays. The bigger
the number, the better the image quality, the darker the blacks, and the whiter
the whites.
Specifically, when choosing a projector, contrast ratio is as important as the
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High Definition vs.
Standard Definition
High Definition (HD) video is the new standard for video in the United States.
As of the time of this writing, there are two primary formats for high-definition
video – 720p and 1080i/1080p. The “p” indicates progressive scan, while the
“i” indicates an interlaced image. We’ll discuss this in more detail later in this
section. High-definition video is also widescreen (16:9 screen ratio).
Standard Definition (SD) is what we’ve been watching pretty much since television was invented. The screen has far fewer lines of resolution and is traditionally a 4:3 ratio screen, although it can be presented in 16:9 format as well.
Standard definition is on its way out (much like the days of black-and-white
Given this primer, clearly the biggest question on a lot of minds in Houses of
Worship across America is, “To hi-def or not to hi-def?” In my mind, the answer
is simple. If you are installing a new system, go hi-def. If you can’t afford all of
the hi-def components, then put in the hi-def infrastructure (projector, screens,
cabling, etc.). At least get the hard part of a hi-def system in place and you can
slowly upgrade your other components in the future. Many manufacturers offer
SD/HD hybrid switchers that can get you by until you make the full swap.
If you are already established in standard definition, you should start planning
your migration. Soon all content will be delivered in hi-def standards. As the
video medium continues to grow for worship services, the need to deliver HD
will become crucial. Remember, part of the reason a House of Worship uses the
video medium in general is to speak to people in a relevant way. When everyone at home is watching content on 16:9 high-definition televisions, anything
less will appear to be outmoded and dated.
If your church is only placing words on the screen and using text-based presentations, you don’t have as much to worry about. You will by and large continue
to be uninhibited because you are not showing produced video clips. Even if
you are doing IMAG (image magnification), you are still limited to your own
Video Systems for Worship
Benefits to making the move to high definition include these:
Crisper images and videos due to higher resolution
Ability to play professionally produced clips
Ability to integrate satellite and cable presentations or snippets thereof
Continuing relevance to your audience and updated appearance
Ability to create video recordings and archives that are forward compatible to the new standard
Continuing with standard-definition video systems over the long haul would
be much like a church installing a black-and-white projector. You just don’t
do that.
All 4:3 aspect content is standard definition. Many people think when they
see a 16:9 (widescreen) presentation they are watching high definition. This is
not accurate. The aspect ratio of the screen size alone is not a determination of
resolution and quality.
While it is true that high-definition programming is shot on the widescreen
format, it is also possible to produce standard-definition programming on a
widescreen format as well. The most common standards are:
You will notice first that each standard has a number and then a letter. The letter
indicates an interlaced signal (i) or a progressive scan signal (p).
Interlaced Video
Interlaced video scans every other line when producing a video image. These
lines are often referred to as “fields.” It appears as though the image is being
shown frame by frame, but in reality it is being displayed half frame by half
First, your television will display the odd field; then, 1/60th of a second later,
the even field will be displayed. This originally came about because televisions
were too slow to scan the full 480 lines of resolution at a time, so by breaking
the image up and firing half the image every 1/60th of a second, they could
make what appeared to the human eye to be a solid image.
Because of the way the human brain interpolates information, interlaced video
works. However, sometimes there are artifacts in the image and it has a tendency
High Definition vs. Standard Definition
to flicker. If you have ever paused an interlaced signal or played it in slow motion,
you will notice significant artifacting (often called “combing”) in the image.
We see interlaced video once again rear its head in high definition for similar
reasons. Many consumer-based electronics simply can’t process full 1080p HD
video fast enough to keep up. Therefore, the industry decided to go with a less
stable interlaced option (again, firing half the image at once) to provide for
more resolution as a whole. The result, while technically higher in resolution, is
usually a less clear picture due to the artifacting of interlacing the video.
Progressive Video
Progressive scan still scans the entire frame, from side to side at one time. This
yields a smoother, more reliable image that doesn’t flicker or artifact. However,
it takes a fair amount of processing to handle this much information at once.
When we get into higher definition resolutions (like 1080p), it becomes difficult
for less powerful equipment to handle that much information at once.
Most people will agree that progressive scan is a more favorable delivery
standard. The image detail is better, the artifacting is less, and the stability is
greatly improved.
Now that we’ve discussed the letters, let’s look at the numbers. Basically, the
numbers are shorthand to indicate the native resolution of the format.
480p and 480i refer to 480 lines of resolution. The 480p is 480 lines scanned
all at once, and the 480i is 240 lines scanned in an odd/even pattern every
1/60th of a second.
720p refers to a high-definition standard of 1280 720 pixels. Likewise, 1080i
or 1080p refers to the high-definition standard of 1920 1080 pixels (regardless of progressive or interlaced, the resolution is the same). Of course, with
interlaced delivery, your resolution is not fully delivered since it’s appearing on
opposite fields at a time.
1280 720 pixels
1080i or 1080p
1920 1080 pixels
As a comparison, standard-definition video is 640 480 pixels!
Just like every other aspect of technology, your video will only be as good as
its weakest component. Cable quality is very important for video playback and
recording systems. Too many people try to make budget cuts with cable – this
is the worst place you can cut money. A piece of equipment can be sold and
upgraded with few headaches, but cable and connections are infrastructure that
Video Systems for Worship
cost far more to replace down the road and are always going to present roadblocks to quality.
When wiring a system, think about the future. In respect to an entire system,
running an extra set of cables or using an upgraded cable that exceeds your
current needs will be a huge investment when it comes to future upgrades.
Likewise, it is always smart to run Cat6 cable with new cable runs – video is
moving more toward network-based devices. Similarly, more and more content
is becoming available on demand via the Internet.
Forward thinking will serve you well in the years to come. If you have to make
budget cuts, do it for equipment that you can easily change and upgrade in the
Front Projections vs.
Rear Projection
When projecting video, you ultimately have two choices on how to do it – front
projection or rear projection. Both present their own positive and negative
points. In general, a House of Worship that can do rear projection is usually
better served to do so.
Rear projection offers the neatest install option. The projectors are located
behind the screen and out of sight. The screen has a magical “flat panel” look
and is often built into the décor of the facility. This cohesive design offers a full
compliment to the room.
Rear projector set up.
Video Systems for Worship
Rear projection also needs fewer lumens than front projection. The reason is
because the projector is facing the viewers; they are staring into a light source
that is emanating through a screen and continuing beyond. There are no issues
with reflection and fewer problems with ambient light because the intensity is
being projected through the screen material.
Another advantage is that the projector is usually easier to get to. This makes
general maintenance and lamp replacement far easier. It also makes troubleshooting the system easier as you are not usually working at great heights and
uncomfortable angles to manipulate the projector. Should a projector fail, it’s
also usually easier to get a temporary replacement on the stand and pointed at
the screen.
One great advantage to rear projection is that you can stand in front of it and
not cast a shadow. This is great for large screens at low elevations because it
allows you to do a digital set or project talking points behind the speaker while
he or she walks in front of and even interacts with the image. This can be a
great way to break down walls of communication and pull the audience into
the message.
However, rear projection has some downfalls. First, there is usually a noticeable
hot spot in the image where the concentration of the lens energy can be seen.
Another drawback for rear projection is that it takes an enormous amount of
space. While one can incorporate extensive mirror bouncing to help limit the
physical distance from the screen, the truth of the matter is that you are going
to need to eat up some serious real estate to utilize rear screen projection. The
larger your screen, the more real estate you are going to have to surrender. For
many Houses of Worship, this alone is a deal breaker.
Rear projection requires that you have no other light spill from behind the projector. In outdoor venues, rear projection utilizes something called “tunneling.”
The idea is to build a completely masked area from the projector location to the
screen so that no ambient light can spill onto the screen from behind. When
ambient light is introduced from behind the screen, it competes with the projector and washes the image out. Likewise, inside installations must make sure
the lights are out in the projection room and the door is shut. Should someone
open the door with a light on in the other room, it will be very noticeable on
the screen.
Generally speaking, the cost of building out a rear projection screen is more
than a front projection solution.
Another negative aspect to rear projection is that the real estate you eat up
cannot be used for storage or anything else (including speakers). The projection room has to be a large dedicated area of dead space. The beam of light
cannot be interrupted by any physical object. You will have an entire room
(or sometimes two or three) used for nothing other than projection. With
construction costs and limited land available, this can sometimes be a hard pill
to swallow.
Front Projections vs. Rear Projection
While there appear to be more negative points than positive ones, rear projection
is still an overall better projection solution if you have the space to utilize it. You’ll
need a less powerful and less expensive projector and you’ll have a much more
finished installation.
Front projection appeals to many modern day Houses of Worship. It’s much
easier to implement (especially into an existing structure) than rear projection.
The screen can be flush mounted to a wall and the projector hung from the
ceiling or placed on a shelf on the back wall. The amount of “empty space”
needed for projection is already empty because it’s high up in the air in an
open area that can’t be utilized anyway.
Front projection systems offer more flexibility in the location of the projector
related to the screen. Front projection is sometimes easier to do by a group of
well-meaning volunteers who buy a projector on eBay. There is no complicated
build out, no waste of space, no difficult trim work, no precise angles, and mirror
bounces. By and large, you hang a screen, mount a projector, point it, size it to fit
the screen, focus it, and play your content. This is appealing to many churches – so
Front projection system.
Video Systems for Worship
appealing that they choose to ignore the big ugly projector hanging from a stick in
the middle of the room (or on an oddly placed shelf on the back wall).
However, front projection requires a little more “oomph.” The image is not
being shone into the audience through a screen; instead, it is being bounced
off a screen and reflected. Sheer laws of physics will demand that some of that
light is absorbed, while some of it is refracted and the remaining bit is reflected.
Much of the lamp energy is wasted via the reflective screen, thus requiring more
energy in order to be bright enough for the audience.
Likewise, if the screen is too low, or if anything gets in the way of the projector
(for example, a person carrying a worship banner), you are going to experience
terrible shadows on the screen. Unless you are doing shadow puppets, this is
not an ideal situation.
Another downfall for front projection is the unsightliness of the installation.
Like it or not, the projector is going to be in the room, cables are going to connect to it (although this can and should be done neatly), and it’s very possible
that fan noise is going to be heard by those near it.
General maintenance and lamp replacement is much more difficult. The projectors often require a lift, a large ladder, or scaffolding to reach. This can be
time intensive, expensive, and more dangerous for the person maintaining the
However, at the end of the day, front projection is usually a cheaper alternative. Between the cost savings and the space savings, many churches choose to
utilize front projection, especially when installed in existing structures.
How do you choose what’s right for your church? Many things will help you
decide this.
The first thing to consider is your budget. Can you afford the build-out cost of
rear projection, and then, can you give up the space needed (do you even have
the space needed)?
After that, it comes down to practicality. How long will you be in the space
before moving into something larger? If you are only going to be in the facility for a couple of years, the overall cost and manpower to do rear projection
might not be worth it.
Are you interested in having an image behind the speaker and then giving the
presenter the option of interacting with the image? Are you interested in using
video as a scenic backdrop?
What is your primary goal for using video projection, and does this goal mandate or require rear projection?
Front Projections vs. Rear Projection
One relatively newer technology (especially for the
House of Worship) is the idea of edge blendRemember, when using multiple
ing. Edge blending allows you to use mulprojectors, it’s important that the images
tiple projectors side by side to create one
match in color, brightness, and focus. Some
large image. There are software solutions
churches might try to save money by purchasing
that allow any projector to edge blend,
used projectors at low-market values. If you do
as well as projectors with edge blending
this, you should purchase the same projector
built in. Sometimes you might find yourfor both screens to increase your chances
self better off using an external processor
of matching them visually!
that will do the edge blending, scaling, and
image assembly for you. Every application is
a little different, but there are a lot of tools available
to help you accomplish this edge-blending effect.
By carefully aligning the projectors and utilizing
a video distribution matrix, you can achieve
When using edge blending, you must
one super-large image on a single screen.
keep in mind your aspect ratio. If you make a
This is much like the idea of using
screen with an odd ratio size, the image
multiple monitors on your computer,
and/or video is either going to have to be
except there is no boundary – the two
custom-made for your screen or it will be
screens would literally appear as one.
oddly distorted or cropped.
Stacking has been around forever. Imagine you are doing an outdoor festival, and due to such factors as sunlight, you need 15,000 lumens. You have
a choice – one heck of a rental bill or stacking three identical 5000-lumen
projectors. Stacking requires precision aiming and usually utilizing test patterns
to get it right.
If the projectors are not aimed correctly, your image will be filled with ghosting
and have an appearance of being doubled. Any hope of clarity will be lost, and
the overall result will be dismal.
Another interesting twist to conventional video is using a projector as a light
source to create a stage wash on your set and performers. Video as lighting is
a fairly unused lighting form to many people, and that’s a real shame. With a
good computer playback source and a basic switcher (for dimming and dousing
control), a projector can cast an unlimited amount of textures and shapes to the
stage floor.
Imagine using a moving background that you have created or purchased from
any number of websites. These sparkling images with majestic motion could
scroll over your entire set in ways a simple spinning pattern never could.
Video Systems for Worship
Likewise, you can shoot color washes out of the projector
and wash them over the stage as well! As with regTIP
ular stage lights, you can adjust the focus for
When using a projector as a light
your specific needs.
source, it is necessary to create a mechanical
douser in front of the lens; otherwise, the contrast
ratio of the projector will cause a gray light over
the stage at all times. A douser is a simple piece
of opaque material (such as heavy cardboard)
that can be moved in front of the lens
to physically block the light.
When you stop thinking of video projection as simply video images on a screen,
a whole creative world opens up to you.
Imagine using a multiple display projection system and projecting words and
backgrounds on your side screens, but projecting only the moving background on your
set (without the words). This would automatically
bring a cohesive look to your lighting and video designs!
Remember when we were discussing the idea of standing in front of rear projection? This can also be achieved via flat panel arrays and video walls. When
you have such a background with motion and color behind your band, it
creates a breathtaking effect. This can really push your visual limits without
your having to use a lot of static and intelligent lighting.
The motion from the rear screen with the people and instruments standing in
front of it will really add to your visual excitement in worship.
Rear screen.
Photo Courtesy of
Renewed Vision. All
rights reserved.
You are only limited by your imagination. Even budget constraints can be overcome with creative thinking.
A Closer Look at the
Video Screen
Video screens come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and materials. You can also
purchase screen material in raw form and stretch it to your own frame in any
shape you like. Projection screen material stretches in a similar way to canvas.
It’s fairly easy to make your own frame using simple carpentry techniques and
projection screen material. This can give you a lot of flexibility in how you
encompass video design into scenic design.
Shapes for video screen
in scenic elements.
Video Systems for Worship
If your projection screen is embedded into a set with walls on either side, the
excess video image simply spills onto the back of the set and is never seen by
the audience. If, however, the screen is suspended in the air or is in a space by
itself, you must build a mask that will match the screen to place in front of
the projector lens – thus eliminating video overspill and matching your image
(Figure 23.2). This mask can be made out of cardboard, poster board, or aluminum materials fairly easily. For a more permanent solution, you could determine the exact shape using poster board and then translate that as a stencil onto
aluminum for cutting.
Projection screen material comes in two primary types – front screen and rear
Front projection screen material can only be used for front projection. The back
of the screen is lined in a heavy black material that will not allow light to pass
through it and helps ensure the majority of light is reflected back to the audience.
A rear projection screen is designed for the projector to shine through the
translucent material and help the light source blend through the material at a
consistent rate to produce an image on the backside. Rear projection material
can be projected on from the front as well. However, the screen is not designed
for reflection, so the image will be much dimmer than if projected on a front
projection screen.
Video Screen/Stencil
The rear projection screen comes in different densities that are identifiable by
their color.
A Closer Look at the Video Screen
Many home theaters use a dark black projection screen. This dark color helps
to saturate the blacks in the image and enhances the contrast ratio. However,
the image appears to be much darker because the transmission rate of the
material is very low. This requires a higher lumen lamp for proper penetration.
The dark screen also has a smaller viewing cone (this affects how people on the
extreme sides can see the image). The viewing cone for a dark rear screen like
this is often as low as 60 degrees. This means that unless you are practically in
front of the screen, you will have a hard time viewing the images.
Perhaps the most common rear projection screen is the darker gray color.
While not as effective at controlling the blacks, it has a much larger viewing
cone (usually around 120 degrees) and requires fewer overall lumens to punch
through since the material is more translucent.
The third type of rear projection screen is a very light gray. This is very translucent and is often used in high-ambient lighting conditions. However, because
of its super-translucent nature, the hot spot of the projector image is more
Most Houses of Worship utilizing a rear projection system would likely use
the darker gray-colored screen for the overall advantages of image display and
viewing cone.
It’s also possible to order a perforated video screen. While not noticeable to the
human eye at a distance, these screens are designed to allow sound waves to
pass through them. Perforated screens are often used in movie theaters, where
the speakers can be mounted behind the screen, thus creating the effect of the
sound literally coming from the visual source on the screen.
Now, at this point you might be thinking, “I thought rear projection screens
had to be unobstructed.” Well, they do. But think about how the projector
emits light. It starts at the lens and expands until it hits the screen.
As long as the beam of light is not interrupted by the speakers (or other
object), it’s fine. So in this case, the projector sits higher to be in the center of
the screen, and the speakers are located closer to the projector but under the
beam – therefore not in the way (Figure 23.3).
Perforated screens can be very useful for Houses of Worship. Depending on
the screen location, it can be possible to have side-fill speakers, subwoofers, or
even some organ speakers in the projection room.
Screen gain is another option you will want to investigate when purchasing your
screen. A screen gain of one is normal. As your gain increases, the screen will
have the appearance of a brighter image. However, remember: When something
Video Systems for Worship
Projector beam, screen,
and speakers.
seems too good to be true, it usually is. There are trade-offs with using higher
screen gain. For instance, the image quality can appear less smooth (sort of pixilated) to some viewers because of the way the screen reflects light.
Typically, as screen gain increases, the red, green, and blue colors will reflect
differently, resulting in a color shift of the image depending on your point of
view. Likewise, the higher the screen gain, the lower the viewing angle. So, as
your screen gain goes up, your available viewing angles go down; this is typically not good for most Houses of Worship.
As a screen gain increases dramatically (over 1.4), there will tend to be a noticeable hot spot in the image. This hot spot will appear in different screen locations, depending on where one is sitting.
However, a higher screen gain will result in a brighter image as more light is
being reflected. There are some instances (primarily where the viewing angle
is mostly straight on and a large amount of ambient light is present) where a
high gain screen can be very effective.
By and large, I would urge most Houses of Worship to work with a 1.0 gain
screen whenever possible and purchase the right projector for the job.
Another big question a House of Worship must face is whether they should use
a motorized screen that can be remotely raised and lowered or utilize a permanently framed screen that always stays in position.
A Closer Look at the Video Screen
The answer to this will ultimately be up to you and the confines you have to
work with. In some cases (especially in retrofits), there is simply no way around
a motorized screen.
In general, I find motorized screens in Houses of Worship to be a huge distraction. They tend to be clumsy and noisy at best. The transition of the screen is
rarely well concealed, and I believe it detracts from the seamless communication we should seek. Anything that can be a distraction has no place in the
House of Worship. We should be about helping people to focus on God and
engage in corporate worship. Distractions of any kind make this difficult.
If you are considering a motorized screen, you should weigh all your options.
If you are installing a screen in new construction, you should carefully design
your building for all of your A/V systems – including video and screen location. I would always advise a church, whenever possible, to use a permanently
framed screen and avoid a motorized screen for the worship center.
Many Houses of Worship are tempted to use flat panel displays in their worship center, but generally we find that they are not large enough. This prompts
the question, “How big should my screen be?”
THX cinema standard states that the furthest seat should have no less than a
36-degree horizontal viewing angle and that every seat should be unimpaired
visually ( While this is a cinema
standard, we can derive some useful information for our House of Worship.
Ultimately, viewing size is up to the user, and the definitions set by THX for
cinema don’t really apply to the House of Worship since the screen is not the
“feature presentation.” However, it is important to have a screen that is easily viewed. The audience shouldn’t have to crane their necks to see the screen.
People should be able to see the screen without obstruction, and likewise, it’s
important that the person on the back row is able to easily read the screen. After
all, this is the point – to communicate with people via the display of choice. So,
it stands to reason that if everyone in your congregation can’t read the screen,
it’s too small.
Also, I prefer to set up video screens where the viewer is looking across the stage
to see the screen. This way the worship leader and other activities on the stage
area are always in the line of sight. Otherwise, the audience members must look
away from the screen to see words and videos. This is not an ideal situation.
Ideally, you want people engaged in what’s happening on the stage. The lyrics
and other video content should add to what’s happening on the stage.
Sometimes, when screens are mounted so the people in the back can see, they
can be mounted too high or too much out of the way for your congregants
closer to the alter or stage area. A common solution is to place smaller flat
panel displays along the front edge of the stage for this group of people.
Video Systems for Worship
Perhaps the next big obstacle is determining where the screen should go. This is
most easily determined by ruling out where it can’t go. Many traditional churches
have a high apex in the center of the auditorium, so it may seem to make sense
that a center screen be mounted on this section of the wall. Unfortunately, however, there is almost always a religious icon of some sort at this location, which
the screen covers, and that’s a sad thing – to cover an icon with a video screen.
Likewise, many protestant Houses of Worship have baptism pools in this area of
the facility, forcing the issue of a motorized screen and awkward transitions.
Oftentimes, the real answer is to utilize multiple screens, but this solution is
often resisted due to cost. Sometimes, there is no alternative but to place a
screen in a less than ideal location.
Here are some important things to keep in mind in regards to screen location:
Are you covering up something important to your fellowship?
Can everyone clearly see the screen?
Does it affect your stage lighting (and can you focus your stage lighting
so it doesn’t wash out the screen)?
Is it comfortable to view for an extended period (both while congregants
are sitting and standing)?
Is it stable (not moving with air currents, flapping, etc.)?
Does the placement encourage uninhibited worship?
As many Houses of Worship add video to their services, they also add screens
and displays for the worship leader, praise team, band, and choir. This can be
a simple duplicate of what the congregation is being shown or a specific feed
that is sent via another operator especially for the people leading worship.
To assist the worship leaders, televisions and flat panels can go neatly in front
of the stage area or in front of the choir on the stage, while projected screens
are normally projected on a screen on the back wall. You want to pay attention
to not creating a distraction to the congregation; it’s intended to be a worship
aid to the leadership, but it should not be a barrier to the congregation for worship. It can become a distraction to the congregation if the image is visible to
the congregation and flashing a different feed out of sync with the ones being
provided for the congregational worship.
Cameras and Tripods
There was a time when the only real camera solution that had any quality to
it at all carried a price tag of over $60,000 per camera. Thankfully, those days
are by and large over. Don’t get me wrong – there are still many high-quality
cameras at this price point (and well beyond), but the modern-day House of
Worship has many other choices for cameras at lower prices.
When it comes to cameras, the House of Worship really has one of two categories
to choose from – the smaller format “pro-sumer” and the full-format “ENG” size
Both types of cameras have huge advantages and disadvantages to ministry.
Charge-coupled device (CCD) technology is how most digital cameras process
images. Generally speaking, the larger the CCD chip, the better the image. Also,
the larger the chip, the better the camera tends to work in low-light applications (larger lens openings also create better low-light images).
High-end video cameras, like the ones you want to use in ministry, will be threechip cameras. While you can purchase single-chip cameras, they are often of
inferior quality and not usable for any type of broadcast application (including
IMAG and service archives). A single-chip camera must capture all luminance
Panasonic AG-HPX500
and Panasonic
Photo by Brad Herring.
Video Systems for Worship
and color information on one chip. A three-chip camera utilizes a separate chip
for each color (red, green, and blue), thus allowing a higher-quality image.
Cameras can also trick you with claims of “high definition.” Sure, they can capture the high-definition signal, but often lower-priced cameras are very limited
by bandwidth. Anything less than 25 Mbs (megabits per second) is possibly
going to result in artifacting when used for recording. Many would argue that
anything less than 100 Mbs is inadequate for broadcast needs. Side by side, all
the cameras look wonderful. Every camera and every format is different. To get
a true comparison of cameras, you need to look at playback from their recordings. This will reveal far more to you than simply looking at a monitor of it
shooting live. You may ask yourself why you should spend so much money for
the expensive camera. The answer lies in features and bandwidth.
There was a time when smaller cameras offered few features that would be desirable for a broadcast ministry (they lacked XLR inputs for audio, had poor – if
any – meters, etc.). That is not so much the case anymore. Granted, there will
most likely always be more features packed into a bigger camera (sheer size
alone would indicate that), but increasingly the smaller cameras are becoming
packed with high-end professional features.
Likewise, a camera is often defined by the quality of its optics (the lens). It is
often quite helpful to be able to interchange lenses based on your needs. It is also
true that a larger piece of glass in the lens will often lead to a better image (particularly in low-light applications). Many pro-sumer cameras do not offer you the
opportunity to change the lens. Most will have some sort of adapter you can use
for add-ons, but they never really compare with a full-size interchangeable lens;
it’s part of the compromise you make in purchasing a less-expensive camera.
A camera should be evaluated for its entire package. Consider the available accessories, power requirements, battery life, optics, outputs, and weight. Each of these
aspects will be important to you when you consider a camera purchase or rental.
Pro-sumer cameras are recognizable because they are barely larger than a personal camcorder and almost exclusively have a fixed lens that cannot be interchanged. Another giveaway is the sub-$6000 price tag that most of them carry.
These cameras are great for a lot of ministry applications. They usually utilize
small lithium-ion batteries that are not expensive and last several hours per
charge. They are great for youth ministries, man-on-the-street interviews, baptism videos, and general video shooting. With proper lighting, they can also
be used for main-service cameras. However, if you are working in dim lighting,
they might not always yield the result you hope for.
If you are planning to use a pro-sumer camera in a multicamera shoot for
live switching, the biggest drawback might be the lack of camera control unit
Cameras and Tripods
(CCU) operation. One of the main advantages to using a CCU is shot consistency. We’ll talk about CCUs in more depth when we complete our camera
Smaller cameras are often very lightweight (commonly weighing in at under 5
pounds). However, this can be a detriment as well because they are sometimes
hard to hold still for long amounts of time. The cameras are typically handheld, although some companies offer attachments than can modify the camera to a shoulder-mount camera. The lightweight nature can be cause for more
jerky pans and tilts – especially at the beginning and end of a movement.
These smaller pro-sumer cameras often cheap out with the electronics. Many of
them utilize a 1⁄8-inch connection for sound input and a similar connection for
headphones. Some companies offer a conversion box that will accept XLR and
adapt the signal to the 1⁄8-inch jack on the camera. While this is helpful, the quality is still not usually as good as a real, built-in, balanced XLR connection.
Pro-sumer cameras often provide iris controls and zoom controls via electronic
connections. Sometimes there is a ring on the lens that allows for true manual
operation, but more often at least some of these controls are via nondirect controls. This sometimes limits their smoothness and effectiveness.
A full-size camera offers a ton of features and image control that easily surpass the
pro-sumer camera. This should be evident by the huge price increase. In all fairness,
every day this gap narrows, but in reality there are still many features found on a
full-size Electronic News Gathering (ENG) or studio camera that make it worth its
weight in gold (and by the prices, you might sometimes think that is literal).
As you have probably already figured out, full-size cameras often allow for CCU
control – a huge advantage to multicamera shoots in the House of Worship. This
is the easiest way to balance all the cameras and keep the shots consistent. Many
full-size cameras use TRIAX-compatible connections – this allows CCU connectivity as well as communication systems, tally light control, video preview, and a host
of other features. TRIAX allows video to be sent up to 500 meters without degradation. TRIAX cable will also provide power to the camera, so it really is one connection for all needs. This makes for a quick setup and neat installation. However,
TRIAX comes with a price; not only are the cameras that utilize the technology
more expensive, but the cable itself is expensive as well. Nonetheless, this is a true
broadcast solution, and one that will pay for itself in shot consistency and control.
Full-size cameras are typically heavier (some weighing over 15 pounds).
However, this weight adds to the stability of the camera and allows for smoother
pans and tilts. Being shoulder mounted, the camera is supported by the entire
body and with a little practice can yield a very steady shot even without a tripod.
Full-size cameras often offer zoom and focus remotes – these are true remotes
that connect to and manipulate the lens itself (not some digital knockoff trying to
Video Systems for Worship
electronically move controls). This allows operators to have full pan, tilt, zoom,
and focus on the handles so they can manipulate the cameras and achieve the
best shot without having to reach to several different places.
On a full-size camera, the zoom, iris, focus, and back focus are all true lens
controls and as such are mounted on the lens itself. This gives you a very
smooth movement on the actual optics of the lens. Smaller-bodied cameras
usually control this via rotary wheels and buttons, and the adjustment is often
stepped (i.e., noticeable). Typically, these are electronic controls and not actual
optical controls. Having the luxury of true optic control is yet another advantage to the full-size camera and will provide a better quality picture.
The CCD sensors on full-size cameras are often larger than the pro-sumer units.
Typically, these cameras will have three CCD chips at least half an inch in size
(as opposed to the smaller 1⁄3-inch chips commonly found in pro-sumer cameras). This larger CCD will yield a better image and decrease your depth of field.
One of the primary perks to a full-size professional camera is the lens. Lenses on
professional cameras contain a larger, higher quality glass. This automatically
makes them better in low-light conditions. As with any camera, the image is
only as good as the optics. Clearly, with better glass (the lens) you will achieve
a better image. Being able to interchange lenses is a huge advantage as well. For
instance, if the shot is close up, you might want a wide angle lens, but if the
shot is back from the balcony, you are going to want a lens with more zoom.
Now you can match the ideal lens to the shot desired. By matching the optics to
the shot, you will continue to achieve a better quality picture. Likewise, you can
opt for high-end lenses that will give you better depth of field.
Depth of Field
Simply put, depth of field allows the image to separate the background from
the foreground with more intensity by causing one or the other to be in focus
while the rest of the image is out of focus. You see this in film all the time – the
foreground is in focus, while the background is very blurry; then, there is often
a shift as the background object comes into focus and the foreground blurs out
(this is called a “rack focus”).
A “short” depth of field will give you an object that is distinctly in focus while
the rest of the image is out of focus, whereas a “large” depth of field will tend
to make everything in focus. Wide-angle lenses will give you more of a long
depth of field, while telescopic lenses will give you more of a short depth of
field; hence the advantage that can be achieved by interchangeable lenses.
Depth of field is truly one of the most noticeable differences between video and film. A film camera will
typically have a very short depth of field, while
“Depth of field” by definition is the distance
most video cameras will tend to have a larger
range from the camera in which the subject
depth of field. Depth of field with video comes
will appear to be in focus.
down to image sensor size, lens length, and aperture
Cameras and Tripods
setting. You can do a lot with video, but the fact of the matter is that film still offers
an overall better depth of field as well as a warmer, less sterile look.
There are several other factors that determine depth of field – iris, the distance of the subject from the lens, lighting, and shutter speed all play a factor
in determining your depth of field. Generally speaking, a more open iris will
result in shorter depth of field, but your lighting has to be lowered to keep the
image from overexposing. Another option for digital cameras is to use neutral
density filters, which limit the amount of light coming into the camera without
shifting the color. This will allow you to use a larger aperture at a given level of
light, thus limiting your depth of field.
A CCU will allow a single person to operate the iris for each camera. This is
commonly called “shading.” This means your camera operator simply has to
point, zoom, and focus the camera. When the director calls up the shot, the
CCU operator will make sure the iris is consistent with the other cameras and
playback devices being utilized.
A CCU can also control color balances, shutter speed, black levels, and camera
gain as well as a variety of other camera controls. Utilizing CCU systems, you
can also activate talent lights on the active camera, send signals to the camera
operator, and allow each camera operator to see the currently used shot at a
flick of a button.
Mostly, only the large ENG and studio cameras offer CCU control (Figure 24.2).
PTZ Camera Control
Newer technology allows for full pan, tilt, and zoom control. These are often
referred to as “robotic cameras” and are a great choice for many Houses
of Worship. One common problem all Houses of Worship face (as we have
mentioned several times) is avoiding distraction. It’s hard to be inconspicuous
with three camera operators, on camera stands, running cameras.
PTZ cameras allow you to mount the camera on a wall, under a balcony,
behind the choir, or anywhere else your heart desires. Now, from a remote
room one person can control all aspects of the camera. On many units, you
Photo by Brad Herring.
Video Systems for Worship
Remote camera on a
pan/tilt camera system
with controller.
Photo by Brad Herring.
can program common movement paths (complete with speed of panning and
tilting) and save these as presets. Then you can call up that movement preset,
switch to it, and switch off it before it completes. These cameras can be real
lifesavers for worship! They also free you up from having one more operator to
book for every service. On the other hand, it’s very difficult to follow a speaker
or other talent on the stage smoothly with a PTZ camera, so these are best used
for static or preprogrammed pan/tilt/zoom shots.
Camera Summary
Deciding upon a camera will ultimately be up to your budget. If you are doing
broadcast or archive recordings for worship (including IMAG), you should try
to find a full-size camera that falls within your budget, if possible. You should
also base your purchase on a plan for the future.
Utilizing TRIAX is ideal if the budget permits, but not necessary if you have to
cut costs. Having a full-size camera without TRIAX is better than nothing at all.
The TRIAX simply makes the production better.
For portable shoots, location shoots, and man-on-the street interviews, a prosumer camera is often preferred because of cost, battery life, and weight.
One other thought: If you are planning to do green screen shoots and key-in
backgrounds, you will usually find a bigger camera works better. The larger
chips inside the camera often capture more detail, allowing for a better key.
That being said, people key pro-sumer cameras all the time, but the results are
typically better with full-size cameras. When you think about it, if the larger
cameras didn’t offer better solutions, don’t you think the large studios would
use the cheaper cameras?
Ultimately, it’s like everything else – you get what you pay for. However, when
you start to count ministry dollars, you have to realize you don’t always need a
Prevost motor coach when the old school bus works just as well.
A $1200 tripod is a deal – not highway robbery. Many people start looking at
camera tripods and have to pick themselves up off the floor when they start to see
Cameras and Tripods
Floating head.
Photo courtesy of
Bogen Imaging. All
rights reserved.
prices. When it comes to high-end video,
your tripod makes all the difference.
You need a professional-grade tripod with
some substance to it. The legs should
securely lock and, ideally, it should have
spreaders at the bottom.
Photo courtesy of Bogen Imaging. All rights
The key to tripod success is buying a fully
floating head that matches your camera weight. Likewise, the head should
be matched to the camera for size and
Less-expensive tripods are generally lighter weight with a semi-fluid or nonfluid head. This is unacceptable for broadcast (or IMAG). If you intend to lock
down one shot and never pan or tilt, then maybe you can get away without a
fluid head.
A fluid head is a fluid-filled, balanced tripod head that allows smooth and fluid
panning and tilting from start to finish. With a fluid head, there is no jerking
motion at the start or end of the motion, and during the pan or tilt everything
is nice and smooth. Smooth camera movement is a primary component of
high production standards.
Cheaper tripods will also result in a shakier shot because they are made out of
lighter-duty materials. It’s vital that your shot be solid and your movements be
smooth. This can only be accomplished by utilizing a professional-grade tripod
and head.
Tripod Platforms
It’s also important that your shooting platform be elevated when and where
it makes sense. You can do this with custom-built platforms, seating risers, or
specific platforms designed for cameras. Ideally, the camera is on one platform
and the operator is on another. This will keep the tripod and camera from
shaking when the operator moves around or shifts weight. If you are on a permanent structure, this is not as pertinent.
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Worship Presentation
If your ministry is still using PowerPoint or other similar static presentation
software designed for the boardroom (some would argue that should be spelled
“bored room”), do yourself and your ministry a huge favor and STOP. As worship
has become more A/V supported, new companies have emerged that bring custom
worship presentation software to our door.
These software packages offer huge advantages to the House of Worship. Typical
features include:
Song libraries
On-the-fly changes
Operator screens that allow for easy changes in workflow
Integrated scripture (often in multiple translations)
Controlled CCLI (Christian Copyright License International)
Motion graphics behind text
Full DVD playback (on computers that support DVD drives)
Full video playback
Dynamic messaging (like nursery calls)
Excellent character generation for external keying
And much more!
Almost all of the titles available at the time of this writing are similar in cost
and, for the most part, similar in features. All of these companies offer free
downloads on their sites so you can try before you buy.
While they all do the same basic things, each of them has its particular way of
doing them. For instance, some titles will play back a PowerPoint presentation
as if it were being played out of PowerPoint (complete with transitions and animations), while others will take a final image of each slide and present that
slide (without the animations and transitions).
Some handle the DVD playback better than others. Certain titles tend to have
crisper text that can be keyed more easily than other titles. Some of the software packages offer outstanding graphic flexibility but limited scripture lookup.
Video Systems for Worship
Some are easier to use than others, while others give you more flexibility and
design choices.
So, it really is worth downloading the free trial software and seeing which
works best for you.
As of the time of this writing, the most popular software packages are:
EasyWorship (
MediaShout (
SundayPlus (
ProPresenter (*
LiveWorship (*
Worship presentation software should be used in any House of Worship utilizing video for worship. The mere fact of song libraries alone is enough to
justify the expense. If the songs you use are not already in the program, you
can download them from CCLI and other third-party sources or type them in
yourself. Once you’ve done this, the title is there in the database for future use.
Should the worship leader choose a song off the playlist, it’s a simple matter of
grabbing the song from the database and projecting it on the display. Literally,
seconds later the song is up and running. The songs are divided by verse, chorus, and bridge, making it easy to navigate during worship. You are not limited
to a linear slide design – you can go from any slide to any slide at the click of a
One often-overlooked detail by many churches starting out with video projection is how the words will appear on the screen. Oftentimes, the operator will
cram as many words as he or she can fit on a page, and then start the next. This
does not help worship flow smoothly.
Instead, each page should have a logical phrase on it. This should follow the
song break musically or the thought that is being portrayed. Fewer words are
good for the people following along, although it means a little more work for
the operator.
When video projection in churches first began, it was primarily managed by
PowerPoint. We had a static background (usually something fairly unimpressive)
and large text. If we were lucky, there was some form of color coordination.
* ProPresenter (as of the time of this writing) is a Mac-only application and LiveWorship is
a Mac and PC application, while the others are PC only. There has been a lot of talk in the
industry that some of the other titles are considering a Mac solution. EasyWorship has just
announced it is coming out with a Mac version but has not made an official release date.
Worship Presentation Software
As we began to advance, we saw the development of worship presentation
software. In the beginning, it was PowerPoint on steroids – still utilizing static
backgrounds, but starting to use features like song libraries, scripture look-ups,
and dynamic control.
Generation two software integrated motion graphics behind the words. Suddenly
we could play looping backgrounds of video images and digital images to add a
dynamic impact to the words that were on the screen. As computers and displays
became more advanced, so did the ability to play back various forms of media
on the screen.
Today we have full-out motion control capability. Now clips can be called up
and played real time. They can be played forward and backward, regular speed,
slow motion, or accelerated. Color hues can be changed, and image masks can
be added and played on individual screens or spanned across multiple screens.
With video motion control, we can do with video what for years was only dreamt
of with lighting. Now, one person sitting behind a video playback station can literally tell a story with video. As the songs progress, so does the video. Clip after
clip can be strung along to create a masterpiece of imagery that is complimented
by powerful lyrics and hundreds of voices.
Perhaps one of the first manufacturers to offer equipment specifically for this
purpose was Edirol when they introduced Video Canvas. Shortly afterward,
Renewed Vision introduced Pro-Video Player. Video Canvas is more of a proprietary hardware solution, while Pro-Video Player is software based and utilizes the Mac. Both work well in a House of Worship.
With a creative person on board, these tools can be used to craft an amazing
visual story that will go hand in hand with worship. Compliment the video
motion control with your lighting and you will have one stunning visual display.
These devices can play multiformat clips (anything from still images to SD formats to HD formats as well). There are many websites that sell footage specifically
for worship applications. Be it short visual clips, mini movies, or man-on-thestreet interviews, you now have unlimited choices on how you communicate
with your audience. You can even produce your own clips and use them.
Based on CCLI look-ups, video and still clip downloads, and other Internet
functionalities that are built into many of these programs, it’s a wise idea to
have a network drop in the booth. Not only will this allow you to access files
online, it will also allow you to easily swap data from a central server. This can
be a huge time saver and increase workflow efficiency.
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Conclusion of Video
Systems for Worship
A video system can truly complement our attempts to communicate with people.
It adds the visual component of learning and increases the chances that people
will walk away with what you are trying to teach them.
Through video clips, we can tell stories and take those in attendance to foreign
places. We can introduce them to the community, walk them down the street,
and see what people really think. We find that people are very revealing when
they talk to a video camera. They will say things that they wouldn’t say in normal conversation. It’s odd, but it’s true: People become very open when talking
to a camera. This openness can allow you to express reality to your audience in
ways otherwise not possible.
Utilizing words on the screen helps to lift the faces of those engaged in worship. This gets them in good singing posture and promotes corporate worship.
Their faces are pointed toward the altar where the ones leading in worship are
often standing. Everything about video helps to encourage corporate worship.
By using purchasable video clips and combining them with making your own
clips, you are unlimited in how you can effectively touch people. Video uses
strong imagery to speak directly to a person’s soul.
Some churches make a conscious choice not to use video at all, while others
make it a central part of worship. Ultimately the choice is up to the individual
House of Worship and how you choose to communicate with people. If you
do choose to use the video medium, please realize that it is not a stand-alone
system. In order for the video playback system to truly be successful, it must be
used in tight concert with the sound and lighting aspects of worship. Together,
the three systems combine to communicate your message to the masses in a
way that will remain with them well past the next meal.
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Conclusion of Book
If I had a penny for every pastor who has complained to me about the words
being wrong on the screen, I could retire in the tropics. Add to this the number
of missed microphone cues, poorly cued CD’s, unintentional blackouts, wrong
video switches, and so forth, and we could all retire in the Tropics.
Churches often feel at a loss as to how to make it better and get things right.
There are many things that can be done to help this.
The Playbook
While it requires more planning on behalf of the worship leader, the only way
to guarantee the words are right on the screen is to create a playbook each
Sunday. This playbook is more than a simple “order of service.” It is the entire
service skeleton. Take a look at this imaginary sample playbook:
10:55 AM
Begin service Preset 1
count down
on screen.
CPR fall
10:58 AM
Call worship
team to
stage left,
band stage
10:59 AM
Send the
band and
team out on
Preset 2
on stage
11:00 AM
band starts
playing at
0:00 on the
Preset 4
vocals up
11:01 AM
Song 1
(insert title
spot on
Words with
swirls V1, C,
V2, C, V1,
B, V3, C
11:08 AM
Song 2
(insert title
hazer on for
20 second
Solo on
mic 3 at
V2 Solo
on mic 1
at V3
Words with
of rivers #5
V1, V2, V3,
C, V1
for pastor;
and stage
set up for
11:09 AM
Call actors to —
places stage
right — prep
props that
will come on
in blackout.
Call to
places and
11:17 AM
Actors on
mics 5, 6
and 8 up,
band and
Actors go
right —
props on
from stage
Black out
until set,
then up on
preset 7
The playbook indicates the ideal time that the event will happen. Obviously,
this will slide back and forth, but it gives a good frame of reference – both to
the person planning worship and to the people executing it.
You will notice that each event is listed (even preparation events) and each category is listed along with instructions of what should be done. This example has
been scaled down for simplicity, but in the real world you could have as much
detail here as you want. Notice that under the video tab detailed instructions
are given – INCLUDING SONG ORDER. This way there are fewer surprises.
Obviously, worship has a level of dynamics to it, but at least this is the plan.
If you ever watch the news on a regular broadcast, you’ll notice everything is
fairly smooth and well timed. The newscasters are working from a playbook.
Conclusion of Book
However, when they break in with a big story, if you pay attention, you’ll notice
things go downhill really fast. People start stumbling on words, text and graphics
tend to come up late (and sometimes wrong), cues get dropped, microphones
don’t work – it starts to feel like many of our church services. Why? Now the
newscasters are reacting to a situation and not following the plan.
Unfortunately, we tend to run all of our services like this – reacting to the
events unfolding on the stage instead of knowing ahead of time what should
happen and acting appropriately.
It’s simply unreasonable to expect a group of
volunteers who do not do this for a living to get it 100
percent right all the time. Any resource you can develop to
assist them will essentially help the flow of
worship and ultimately help you
communicate effectively.
Volunteer and Staff Buy-in
Another thing that is important is volunteer buy-in. The people executing the
service have to understand that they are a critical part of worship – a critical
part of communicating the Gospel message. If they are zoning out, goofing off,
and missing cues, the message is being dropped.
Once you have a solid buy-in, people will start to genuinely care about their
ministry. They will want to excel in it. With buy-in, you can start to get people
more involved in rehearsals and other practice times. You can start building a
team that truly works together and is heading in the same general direction.
Without buy-in, you get people who show up late, cancel at the last minute,
or simply don’t show up at all. They half-heartedly attend to their tasks and
fail to realize the critical nature of the work they are doing. You cannot build a
dynamic A/V ministry like this – much less have accurate words on the screen.
Service Producer
Having a Service Producer is the big answer. Aside from perhaps the smallest of
community theaters, no production in the world would ever think of running
without a stage manager – the one person who is in charge of the complete
execution of the service. Yet, as media savvy as we are, most Houses of Worship
run reckless during worship. We hand hundreds of thousands of dollars worth
of equipment to men and women who, as a rule, come from very diverse backgrounds, often not technical in nature.
We expect these people not to only master their area of ministry (often with very
little hands-on time to gain experience and little, if any, training), but also to be
able to make critical decisions, work under pressure, and catch every cue. It’s mad!
The utilization of a Service Producer will make many of your woes go away.
A Service Producer should be someone who is organized and good at administrative tasks. Service producers should be able to think on their feet, think
outside the box, and – most of all – be team players. This person doesn’t necessarily have to have technical expertise, but he or she should have at least a
working knowledge of each of the systems you employ, as well as a reasonable
idea of how long a request will take and how much work is involved.
The Service Producer needs to be a good communicator. He or she should be
able to talk to the tech team in a way that is well received and welcomed while
at the same time, be able to talk to the pastoral team in a way that they can
understand. The Service Producer bridges the gap between technical and nontechnical. This person also has the overall vision of where the ministry is going.
In an ideal world, the Service Producer is only a Service Producer. He or she
spends time with the worship team as well as the pastoral team and should
have not only the vision, but also a keen sense of where the service is going.
For instance, if the Worship Leader deviates from the plan and starts into an
intense worship song, the Service Producer would be close enough to all the
people involved to know what is happening. He or she would in turn call for
the video screens to go to black (or perhaps to a certain video clip to complement the song) or might call for the lighting to dim in the house or on certain
areas of the stage, and this person would, most of all, be the reassuring voice of
calm to the rest of the team.
The Service Producer – one person, in control, making decisions, and helping
everyone to stay on task: Doesn’t that one description alone give you hope?
Now the sound engineer can be freed up to concentrate on the mix; the lighting person can be focused on the lighting quality – not worrying about when his
or her next cue is coming up; the stage managers have a central person helping
keep them on track; and everything is running smoothly. Most of all, when the
service goes off book (and it will), you have one person who’s just as entrenched
in the spirit of worship as the Worship Leader. This person can quickly make the
decisions to follow the action on stage and confidently lead the team.
This also gives the Worship Leader a single point of contact. Now, the Service
Producer deals with all scheduling and personnel issues. If a cue is missed, the
leaders come to the Service Producer, who handles it on the technical level
with the person who needs the information. Ideally, the Service Producer is
one who can, in his or her own way, develop relationships with the tech team
(perhaps even form a small group with them) and begin to transition your A/V
team into something far more than a group of people who meet for worship
services to run the service.
Conclusion of Book
The Service Producer then produces the service. Here is the ideal worship team
Service Producer
A2 for Sound
L2 for Lighting
Switch Engineer
Stage Manager
A3 (if needed)
Worship Software
So, in the example above, the Service Producer would communicate directly
with each department head. In the actual running of the service, the only
exception would be for audio; the Service Producer would be on headset with
the A2 so the sound engineer can still receive cues but isn’t confined to a headset, so he or she can mix the service.
All the various department heads have the people under them that they are
responsible for. The A2 would normally sit at the sound console with the main
mix engineer. He or she takes cues, helps cue tracks, and is a second set of eyes
for the engineer who is spotting people about to speak in a microphone. The
A3 would, in most cases, be on the floor somewhere near the stage.
The lighting designer would control the light desk and be on headset with the
producer to make sure the lights were doing what was needed. The L2 would be
available for refocuses, gel replacement, troubleshooting, and so on. In many
Houses of Worship, the L2 would be omitted except for in large productions.
The video director would be calling video cues. The director usually has his
or her hands full and would not be on headset all the time, but would have
an open line in order to hear the producer during the service. Oftentimes, the
video director will also control all video playback for the service, as well as the
lyrics and motion video happening on the screen – so it’s critical that this person is in the communication loop.
Finally, the stage manager is on the floor ready to handle emergencies and cue
people on timing. He or she might be changing batteries, exchanging microphones, resetting staging or props, handling transition times, and making sure all
people are where they need to be when they need to be there. Commonly the stage
manager would be on one side of the stage and the assistant stage manager would
be on the other; this way both sides are covered in the event of an emergency.
In short, utilization of a Service Producer will solve many problems that the
average House of Worship faces.
Continued training is imperative for the House of Worship technician. Today,
more than ever, opportunities exist for Houses of Worship of any size and any
budget. I’d say that 90 percent of the Houses of Worship I work with could
improve their A/V systems tenfold by simply getting the right training. We see
a full turnaround in quality, morale, and performance simply by investing one
or two weeks in training people how to be empowered in the area of ministry
they serve.
The church has several training methods available to it.
There are several major conferences and hundreds of smaller ones that you can
send your people to every year. These conferences give your people an opportunity to catch vision as they see all the equipment available and the new things
happening in the industry. They also get to spend time with other people just
like them and learn from their experiences. This alone can be a huge source of
encouragement, not to mention a source for the skills that are learned.
Many of the top consultants and training experts in the Houses of Worship
field show up to share their knowledge with the technicians that attend. It’s
a great time to receive instruction, ask questions, and make new contacts for
people who can help you in the future.
The top three national conferences are National Association of Broadcasters
(NAB), Lighting Dimensions International (LDI), and InfoComm. These conferences are for the A/V and broadcast industry at large, but within the past few
years there has been a large, growing House of Worship sector at these shows,
spearheaded by Technologies for Worship magazine and their Worship Pavilion.
The Worship Pavilion offers free hands-on classes, showcases the newest equipment, and offers the chance to chat one-on-one with many of the instructors
and editors for the magazine.
WFX is another conference that is well attended. Hosted by Church Production
magazine, these conferences are self-contained and cater specifically to the
House of Worship. They too provide some of the best experts and instructors
available to teach in-depth classes to attending technicians while also providing a show floor with exhibitors from many major companies.
The WFX shows are smaller than the huge industry shows (like LDI, NAB, and
InfoComm), but they are targeted specifically to the House of Worship.
Conclusion of Book
Willow Creek Association is another excellent conference-type solution for
the House of Worship. Hosted by Willow Creek Church, this conference is all
about using media and technology and thinking outside the box. The reputation of Willow Creek inbues their church conferences.
There are also a ton of smaller regional conferences that are hosted by
private companies, churches, and associations. These conferences are also
advantageous to consider. They often require fewer travel expenses and sometimes, depending on the conference, can be a real value to your team.
DVD Training
One of the ways we primarily equip churches is via DVD training materials.
This lets the church make a one-time purchase that can be used over and over
again. The benefits are that the training is consistent, the graphics and illustrations really help stress the lesson, and each viewer is able to get a general survey of what is being covered. Viewers can go back and review at their leisure.
Most of our DVD’s also come with PDF manuals for classroom support.
The drawbacks are that the information is not tailored to your specific equipment and you cannot stop and ask questions. However, the cost is far less than
a single trip, and the benefits can last a ministry a lifetime.
When looking for DVD training, make sure the training covers the area you
want to learn (i.e., live sound, recorded sound, intelligent lighting, video
switching, etc.). Many DVD’s are simply remasked from other markets, while
others are specific for the House of Worship. Each has its place in training, but
church-targeted materials are a good place to start.
DVD training is a great way to educate your people without spending large
amounts of money doing so. It’s also a great way to get everyone on the same
page. If you experience people on your team that need training (but they don’t
think they do), it’s a nonthreatening way to do a group training exercise without arguing the fact.
Internet Based Training
One of the newest ways to train Houses of Worship is via low-cost, downloadable, on-demand training over the Internet. These videos can be purchased
without having to incur the expense of packaging and shipping, there is no
delay in receiving the materials, and you can start right away!
There are several models on the Internet. Some involve monthly fees, some are payper-view, and others are one-time purchases. Training is available on everything
from changing a lamp in a fixture to programming a console to using Photoshop™.
Some websites worth looking at are:
On-Site Training
The final training option that is commonly available is on-site training. These
sessions offer a lot for Houses of Worship in that the expert can come directly
to your facility, teach on your equipment, and tailor the training specifically to
your needs and questions.
While sometimes a costly option, on-site training offers a level of detail that is
unobtainable with any other method.
We find many Houses of Worship will often purchase a set of DVD’s for
the basics, then at a later date will schedule us to come out and follow up with
on-site training.
There are several magazines available, both in print and electronic formats.
These magazines offer a monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly opportunity for your
team to see what other churches are doing and catch up on the newest trends
and equipment offerings. Many of the articles are insightful and offer excellent
Some magazines you might want to search for include:
Technologies for Worship
Church Production
Worship Leader
Worship Arts & Technology
Books and Blogs
There are a myriad of books on various media technology subjects as well.
While they might not be “worship oriented,” as this one is, the information is unbeatable. There are books dedicated to specific topics, with hundreds
of pages of information. For instance, Richard Cadena’s Automated Lighting
(9780240807034) and Steve Shelley’s A Practical Guide to Stage Lighting, Second
Edition (9780240811413), are all excellent books to read to further your study
on specific areas of interest.
Likewise, the Internet is full of blogs and websites on subjects relating to media
ministry. Some excellent ones to check out are:
However you choose to get the training, it is a necessary part of technical
ministry. Likewise, it’s important to keep track of your team on a personal
Conclusion of Book
and spiritual level. The enemy chooses to attack us all in various ways – only
together can we stand firm.
In the midst of the chaos that we call “service production,” don’t lose sight of
the people in the equation. While our ministry might involve a lot of technology, all ministry is ultimately about people, and that should never get lost in
the fray.
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Working with Contractors
and Having a Christian
The House of Worship has a bad reputation in the world of technology contractors, and that’s a sad statement. However, it’s true. Many manufacturers
have opened up entire divisions of their companies to tailor to the House of
Worship, but in many cases that’s simply a financial move. It’s a true statement
that the House of Worship out-buys many theatrical and touring markets. Every
day the House of Worship becomes more vested in technology and the fruits
that it can bring.
However, the actual contractor working with the House of Worship often has
a very negative impression of the church. The reputation is so bad that several
industry books that target the contractor as an audience warn them about the
hazards, and several books aimed toward the House of Worship warn of the
industry’s impression.
Many times Houses of Worship can be difficult to deal with. Odds are, you are
nodding your head as you read this. Many times the House of Worship is committee driven, often by people who are very well meaning but have no idea
what reality is – especially with high-tech equipment.
Budgets are tight for everyone and, as we’ve mentioned in this book already,
one ministry dollar spent on technology is a ministry dollar that can’t be spent
elsewhere. So it pays to be cautious and to try to stretch your budget as far as
you can, but not at the expense of your testimony.
I’ve heard contractor after contractor tell stories of churches inviting them in
to bid a job only to take the bid and use the information to do the job themselves. Providing information of that kind is called consulting, and these
contractors usually charge for that service. If a contractor is offering design
information as a part of the quote for the job, recognize that for what it is and
don’t take advantage of it. Either pay for the design or pay for the install, but
don’t ask a contractor how to do something and then just do it yourself. First,
it’s unfair; second, it makes the contractor feel used – a feeling we’d never want
to purposely inflict on someone.
Likewise, be honorable in how you deal with your contractors financially. Keep
everything in writing. Oftentimes, my company, as well as others like mine, will
operate as an on-site consultant for a job. This way, the church is not in an awkward situation – it does not pay the contractor until the consultant signs off,
approving the work. This arrangement makes the consultant the “bad guy” and
protects the reputation of the pastoral staff and the church in the process.
Put everything in writing. This way, everyone knows what they are getting and
there are no assumptions on either party’s part.
Handle the contractor with love. Remember, a lot of these guys are not believers. Their business model drives them to the House of Worship because such
institutions are a large target for A/V business. The way that they are treated,
both as a person and as a business, might be the only opportunity the House
of Worship has to leave a lasting impression.
When contractors make a visit to your facility, they are taking time from their
day. That time is worth a lot. Be aware of this when you bring them out. Likewise,
check their references thoroughly. This will help you avoid a bad situation.
Finally, don’t expect everything for free or everything at a discount. Be honorable. If a price is too high, simply tell the contractor that it’s out of your budget,
and either continue shopping around for a better price or start saving toward
the project. The House of Worship is nonprofit, but contract companies are not.
Their employees have to make money and put food on the table just like everyone else. We should not expect everything for a discount or for free. Remember,
a worker is worth his or her wages.
Awkward emotional situations can arise when you ask for a discount or a
“freebie.” On one hand, contractors recognize that Houses of Worship are
nonprofit; but on the other hand, they need to make a profit. Don’t guilt-trip
contractors or make them feel like they owe you something. If you can’t afford
the work, move on until you can.
Above all, always act in a manner above reproach – not only with contractors,
but with everyone you meet.
Many churches hire in temporary help for the main worship services. These
people are often contractors as well, from all different walks of life; however, they
are skilled in the A/V area and they pick up extra work with various churches. All
too often people (including pastors) assume these people are either a part of the
church or are believers. Many times, this is not the case, and unfortunately, they
are exposed to the inner workings of the House of Worship, which can sometimes be unseemly. After all, we are all people and we all have our shortcomings.
However, always assume the people you hire are not believers until you know
otherwise. Treat them with love and respect, and provide a good testimony for
them at all times. After all, this is what we should always be doing – not just
when we think nonbelievers are watching.
Building Teams and
Finding Volunteers
Perhaps one of the most frequently asked questions is “How do I find volunteers for my A/V ministry?”
The key to getting volunteers starts with having a good team philosophy.
People often watch for a while before getting involved in something. For
instance, if they see the pastor chastise the sound engineer from the pulpit,
odds are they are not going to want to put themselves in that same position.
This will make it difficult to get people in the “hot seat.” If they see that people
are working around the clock, time after time, and are always at the church,
odds are they will not want to beat your door down to volunteer. Likewise, the
spirit and attitude of your team will be another key factor in people’s willingness to volunteer.
Many people become involved because they want to challenge themselves
and learn a new skill. Do you have systems put in place to train and empower
people to get better at their technical ministry? Or will they be thrown into a
duty that they don’t know how to master and will ultimately fail and become
frustrated? This too does not make a healthy environment that encourages
people to volunteer.
Many pastors become so desperate to get someone behind the sound, lighting,
and video consoles that they will take anyone who walks near the equipment
and shows even a basic curiosity. However, this is a critical area of ministry, and
the people working in it should have the spiritual gifts to best match the work.
You should look for people who have a good spirit about themselves. Your leaders in the A/V ministry should be spiritually mature; after all, the ones who
work for them will look to them for leadership. Ideally, the people in your A/V
ministry will be creative. For instance, it is much easier to teach a musical person how to mix than to teach a technical person how to have an ear for the mix.
It’s easier to teach a graphics person how to use presentation software than it is
to teach an IT person how to choose complementary colors.
Your team should have a good dynamic. If your team has healthy relationships, both with each other and the pastoral staff, you will find people more
willing to get involved. If your team has a healthy dynamic, you will also find
very little “kingdom building” going on and the drama will be left to the stage.
This too will encourage people to become involved. Ideally, the A/V ministry
forms a small group who hold each other accountable and live life together.
Independent of what your outreach and discipleship strategy is, having the A/V
group function as a small group is a huge plus.
We must also be careful not to burn out our volunteers. This happens easily
in media ministry. These men and women are working countless hours during
the week to pull things together. Add to this a huge production and you will
quickly find people at the church until 1 AM and later. Many of them work a
full 8- to 10-hour day, then forgo their families to get the media systems ready
for production, often going one or two weeks nonstop. This can be burdensome and can cause a high burnout rate. It is something to avoid at all cost.
If you can work spouse support into your ministry, you will not be disappointed.
Spouses are supposed to be helpmates to each other, and sometimes working
in the area of media ministry pulls people away from their families. This can
cause bitterness or resentment between the husband and wife; it can also cause
an opportunity for the enemy to do work in the relationship. Obviously, this is
counterproductive to everything we are trying to do. So again, it pays to have a
healthy environment in which everyone serves. Consider having group socials
or perhaps a fun work call that the spouses can help with! Perhaps it’s labeling
storage bins, sorting connectors, coiling cable, sorting gel, labeling video tapes,
or duplicating CD’s and DVD’s. At least once a quarter, think of a way to involve
spouses and once again bring everyone together as a group.
Likewise, I believe it’s important for the leader to have quarterly fellowships,
at a minimum. Something casual and away from the “technology” is always a
good idea. Perhaps it’s a backyard barbecue or a day out at a local lake – but
whatever it is, make it about the PEOPLE.
Once you start to build these dynamics, you will
see a healthier overall approach to media
ministry. Now you have created an
Remember, our work is about people.
atmosphere that people feel good
Not what they can do for us or how much work
about being a part of. This will make
we can get out of them, but about the relationship
your search for new volunteers much
we can have with them and the opportunity to
easier. People on the outside will see
disciple them to walk more closely with
this and will have a much more positive
God in their own individual lives.
outlook on the work that is happening.
The first thing you can do to find people is to watch and listen.
Building Teams and Finding Volunteers
Try not to jump on the “come work for us” bandwagon immediately. This is
especially true if you find that someone within your fellowship does A/V by
trade. It’s really tempting to get the professional in place fast, but the reality may be that God has that person there for another reason. It can be quite
draining to do A/V full time as a living and then come to church and do it
some more.
Build relationships first. See where the person is with God and where he or she
is in life. If this person is meant to work in the A/V ministry, God will bring it
to pass. Get to know the person and begin to live life together.
The true “gold mine” in finding people is connecting with the inquisitive person who keeps looking at the soundboard and starts to ask questions. This is
always an opening to talk to him or her further about being on the A/V team.
Clearly, there is an interest; now take it to the next level by getting to know the
person and identifying his or her strengths and spiritual giftings.
You will find that when you get people working within their area of gifting,
they will be happy and tend to work hard.
If you need help, ask. Use the tools that you use best to drive home the point.
For instance, turn it into a sketch. When you get ready to ask for help, turn
all the lights off, turn all the sound off, turn all the video screens off. Then,
announce acoustically from the stage, “Our media team works hard to pull off
the things you see and hear. But we need help. Without help, this is what we
have.” Then bring everything back up. Media is often taken for granted. Look for
ways to point out everything that happens, and then ask people to get involved.
Many times, people think that the media ministry is working fine and you
don’t need anyone else. So they don’t get involved. You have to make your
needs known.
People are also intimidated. What we do is fairly complex. They need to know
that they will not get thrown in the middle of it and have to sink or swim. That’s
scary. Instead, make sure they know that there are systems in place where they
will learn the skills they need and be gradually placed in an area of ministry.
HAVE THESE SYSTEMS IN PLACE. Training is critical – not only for good service execution, but for bringing new people into the work as well.
Offer people the chance to sit backstage and just watch. This way they can see
what happens and decide if they want to be a part of it or not. This is where
team dynamics are critical. If potential volunteers walk into chaos and people
yelling at each other or making disgruntled remarks about the pastor (no, that
never happens), they are not only not going to want to be a part of your team,
but they might question why they should be a part of the church at all! There
could be more harm done than good – so good team dynamics are critical to
finding new people.
Make “Help Wanted” signs and hang them around the tech area. It’s funny,
creative, and gets people’s attention. Add a link on your web site where people
can sign up for more information on the media teams. Use all of your available
outlets to communicate the need.
Invite prospects to your socials. This will help break the ice in a casual atmosphere and help them to form relationships with the people they would be
working with. Do you see a common theme here? I believe if you make everything about relationships, the rest will fall into place.
Build in a way for people to slowly work their way into the media ministry. For
instance, a new person would make an excellent A2 (the main engineer’s assistant during the service) – that is, a person not actually mixing, but helping with
setup and spotting cues during the service. Then you could slowly move this
person into mixing a sound check or an evening/midweek Bible study. Next,
you could let him or her mix the pastor’s message during the service (this way
he or she starts to get used to being behind the console in the actual setting but
isn’t really doing very much). Then let your volunteer mix some of the songs
for worship and eventually turn him or her loose on an entire service (with
someone assisting for a couple of services until the volunteer feels confident).
Do you see how this is a much more inviting method than throwing a new person behind the console to sink or swim in the first week out of the gate?
If you adopt methods like this, the people on your team will become allies for
finding new people. They will say, “Oh, it’s easy to get involved – you can start
by watching,” and it will progress from there. This makes a scenario in which it
is a lot more likely for someone to say, “Sure, I’ll come in and watch” than by
saying, “Hey! We need someone to mix the next service – you can figure it out!”
Another great source for volunteers is your musician pool. It’s hard sometimes
to let a guitar player mix the service because you don’t want to lose the guitar
player, but if you have two or three people that can play guitar, try letting the
musician moonlight one or two weeks a month at the soundboard. This will
not only get a musical person mixing, it will help bridge the gap between the
technical and the musical. It will also let your technical people see and hear a
new perspective on mixing.
Remember – it shouldn’t be media team and worship team. We might talk
about them that way to identify what we are talking about, but at the end of
the day there is only one Worship Team. Everyone makes it happen in his or
her own unique way.
This is hard for many Houses of Worship. Let’s face it, most of us have one person who does media ministry day in and day out. Maybe there are two or three
people, but they are always there at the church working away. They are at every
rehearsal, every service. This can wear on the volunteer.
However, media ministries are hard. If people don’t do it on a fairly regular
basis, they will never develop their skills to the point of excellence. They will
Building Teams and Finding Volunteers
always be a little timid and you will never truly get the person to his or her
fullest potential.
So, you must find a way to rotate your people, but at the same time offer them
enough hands-on time to stay proficient.
Many Houses of Worship have their own way of doing this. Sometimes one
person mixes worship while another mixes the teaching time. Some will use
one person for one service a day, for a month at a time, and then give this person a week or two off. Others rotate in weekly schedules or have one person
mix Sunday, then skip the next Sunday but mix the midweek service, rotating
back and forth.
Whatever you do, it’s important to realize two things about your technical servants:
It’s easy to hide in the technical realm. God wants to develop and grow everyone in the church. While working with technology, it’s easy not to “hear” the
message because you are “listening for the cue.” It’s sometimes difficult for
God to do a work in someone because the person is so busy working for the
Kingdom. It’s important that your people have time for spiritual growth. If they
are always behind a piece of technology, it’s hard for this to happen (another
reason the media small-group idea is so important).
The media team needs time to truly worship and get away from the crazy pace
of technology support every once in a while.
Utilizing the idea of a small group outing is really helpful for reducing burnout. We have mentioned some ideas for this already, but others might be teamwork exercises, rope courses, paintball challenges, a day at the park – you get
the idea. When you help encourage the group to live life together, the work
they do becomes fun – not burdensome. This is the key to reducing burnout.
You should also find ways to make your training sessions fun. Include food –
that always works. Think about something you could do as a group, and then
incorporate training around it. I tell people who use our DVD training to do it
as a group. Invite everyone over to the house one night, order in some pizza or
make lasagna, enjoy the fellowship, and then watch a session on TV. Discuss it
as a group and try it later at the church. Or perhaps watch it at the church and
follow along, but go out afterward and play miniature golf or do something
silly as a group.
Build relationships with your people. Make lifelong bonds that stand the test
of time. The more the team understands each other and the church leadership,
the easier it will be for them to execute good decision making during worship
and help the entire team to reach their ultimate goal.
We’ve discussed the idea of a service producer, but we haven’t talked about
how it helps you find people. One of the biggest turnoffs to working in media
ministry is the amount of responsibility someone has in making the right
choice and the fear of making a wrong one.
With a Service Producer calling the shots, people are asked to do just their task.
They can now make the lighting look good, make the sound balanced and well
mixed, utilize a piece of software to get the words on the screen when they
are told to do so, and so on. Now people don’t have to worry about making a
decision that’s going to be very noticeable if they are wrong. With this fear
eliminated, it’s easier to find people to step in and run different systems.
Not everyone is cut out to be a leader or a decision maker. So if you can create
an atmosphere where you have one or two solid leaders and decision makers,
you make it much easier to find people who can do the other stuff.
This is probably one of the biggest things you can do to find new people –
don’t beat your current people up in front of everyone. For that matter, don’t
beat your current people up at all.
For instance, when there is a 95-dB squealing feedback in the house, the sound
person knows he or she has messed up. There’s no need to run back there and
make a big deal out of it.
Let me give you an example by relating a story of one time when I was working
with a church on a weeklong training course. It was Sunday and we were headlong into the service. The first service was executed by the main sound engineer
and it went very well. We were now in the second service, and it was being
mixed by one of the newer engineers. The church had a digital console, so the
engineer was behind the console and I was downstairs watching the mix console from my computer. I was doing two things: First, I was trying to tweak an
EQ issue we were having, and second I was trying to let the engineer feel some
confidence by not hanging directly over his shoulder (although I had full control of the console via my laptop, should I need to adjust anything).
Suddenly, I heard a thump that was out of the ordinary for the mix. There was
one person on the stage, but clear as day you heard “boom, boom, boom.” At
first I thought it was a passing car outside, and I started flipping through the
layers on my laptop looking at all the channels. Then I saw it – the aux channel input was open and signal was pushing through. About the time I got the
mouse to the kill the aux, the engineer caught it and removed the aux send
from the channel, and the thumping went away.
I knew what had happened. The engineer had left a channel open and tried
to cue an upcoming video. The channel was muted, but it was pre-fade to the
subwoofer. I didn’t move. I didn’t go running up to the sound console and talk
to him about it. About a minute later, I noticed a laser pointer dancing over my
laptop. I looked up and the sound engineer was looking at me with a sheepish
look on his face and motioning me to come up there. So I did. Once I arrived,
Building Teams and Finding Volunteers
he leaned over and said, “That thumping you heard was me.” It was hard
not to chuckle. Of course it was him. I knew it, he knew it – the entire church
fellowship knew it.
I simply patted him on the shoulder and told him the mix sounded good. He
didn’t need to be scolded. We didn’t need to have a lesson in auxiliary sends.
It was a simple oversight. Instead, he needed to be encouraged – the mix did
sound good.
When trying to improve the quality of your technical ministry, always focus on
the positives. Have more positive than negative comments. For instance, if there
is something wrong, address everything that is right or that has been improved,
then talk about the one thing that needs work. Ideally, finish on another positive point. This is just good leadership. People have enough stress and failure
in their lives without everything being negative. Praise them for the good they
do, and then gently instruct on the things that need improving.
If you find that there are more things needing to be improved than to be
praised, let go of some of the items that need improvement. Focus on the positive, then talk about the one or two glaring things that need to be worked on.
Then next week, if there is improvement in those areas, say so, and then start
to work on something else. Try to keep a positive outlook on the process and
encourage the people doing it.
Sometimes, this is not possible. For instance, you might be under a production deadline and everything is falling apart. Sure, there are times you have to
encourage your people to “put their big boy pants on” and fix some problems.
But even then, you can do so in a way that fosters teamwork. Remember, ministry is about people. I can’t stress it enough. When we lose sight of that, we are
treading in dangerous waters.
Most of all – pray. Pray as a team, pray as an individual,
and encourage prayer. Prayer is the answer, even to the most
technical problems. As you pray with your team, seeking God
in the good and bad times, the attitude will be one
focused on Him and the result will always
be a better one.
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Checklists and Procedures
Power-Up Sequence:
Accessories (CD players, mini-discs, etc.)
Equalizers, compressors, and other processing equipment
Power-Off Sequence:
Equalizers, compressors, and other processing equipment
Accessories (CD players, mini-discs, etc.)
It is important to turn the amplifiers on LAST
and to turn them off FIRST. This will reduce the chance
of getting speaker pops and thumps that can damage your
equipment. Ideally, you should use a power sequencer
that will allow you to turn your components on
and off with a throw of a switch.
While it may seem like common sense, you would be surprised how many
people forget to unplug a device prior to working on it. This can result in
burns, electrical shock and potential glass rupture. For safety, always follow the
following sequence prior to changing a lamp:
Unplug the fixture.
Remove the lamp housing from the fixture.
YOUR BARE FINGERS. Doing so will
cause the lamp to prematurely blow as a result
of the oil on your fingers. Should you
accidentally touch the lamp itself, wash it
thoroughly with alcohol and allow it
to dry before using it.
Check for bad wiring, cut wires, or
other damage.
Remove the lamp from the fixture.
Check the base for excessive corrosion, looseness, or other potential
Firmly grasp the new lamp by holding the base and reinsert it into the
Replace the lamp housing on the
Plug in the fixture.
Arrive early and anticipate problems.
Turn on the sound system.
Play a CD and make sure each main speaker is functioning (by isolating
each zone).
Continue using the CD that is playing to check each monitor speaker for
proper function.
Ensure that all microphones are plugged into the correct channels.
Do a “line check.” Using a partner, speak into each individual microphone while the primary sound engineer brings up each individual channel (only one up at a time). If a channel doesn’t work, troubleshoot and
Replace all batteries. Batteries are too cheap to try to “get by with” one
that may be old. Make sure each wireless microphone and in-ear receiver
has fresh batteries.
Double-check that all microphones are pointing in the right direction
and in the proper place.
Make sure all cables are neatly taped and out of the way so the stage area
looks clean and uncluttered – this will also help in troubleshooting.
Realize that sometimes even a brand new battery
will fail! Sometimes an entire box will be bad. Unfortunately,
it’s just the nature of the beast. If you use rechargeable batteries,
always make sure to have a box or two of regular
batteries on the shelf for the rare time that someone
forgets to charge your rechargeables!!
Checklists and Procedures
Before each service, you should perform a lamp check and dimmer check for
every fixture in the house. There are two steps here that I like to follow: First,
I encourage you to bring every fixture in the house up to 10 percent. This way
you (or your assistant) can stand on the stage and visually check that each
lamp is working. By keeping the percentage low (10 percent), you can stare at
the lights without being blinded, see what’s working and what isn’t, and, most
importantly, you won’t overload your dimming system.
If you see any fixtures not working, investigate. Check the lamp, the circuit
breaker, the fixture, the cable – whatever it is – until you discover why it is not
Next, from the console I bring up each individual channel, one at a time.
You are checking to make sure the patch is still the same, that fixtures come up
correctly, and that the focus is accurate. If anything looks wrong, fix it before
the service.
After you know the dimming is working, the fixtures are working and the focus
is correct, you should run through each cue for the service (in order). Make
sure they all work as designed. Be sure to look for odd house light intensities
and other oddities.
Duct tape is a terrible thing for your cables and your floors, and makes a mess
of everything. It was intended for heating and air systems – let it stay there.
Use gaff tape for your stage and cables. Gaff tape (or gaffers tape) is available
from any theatrical supply house. It costs more money, but it’s a cloth-based
tape. It tears well, adheres well to carpets (without residue), and won’t leave
sticky gunk on your cables.
Gaff tape has a ton of uses. You can use it on fabrics, to safely tape cables, to
mark locations on stage, or for practically any other use you can think of. It’s
also available in many colors. Don’t let initial sticker shock scare you away –
gaff tape is a solution worth its weight in gold!
I am amazed at the number of Houses of Worship that don’t label their
consoles! It’s madness! Use board tape or even white gaff tape and label your
control surfaces.
This tape can be removed, taped over, and changed as needed, but everyone
will know what’s where. Labeling is probably one of the simplest but most
important things you can do to improve the quality of your A/V department.
Before each service, computer operators should familiarize themselves with
the songs, scripture, and other slides that will be projected via the service. Each
slide should be checked for accuracy and spelling.
Lyric slides should change when it makes sense – during natural phrasings of
the song. The way the lyrics are displayed and changed will often make a big
impact on the meaning of the song to the worshipper.
The operator should go through each slide and make sure they all play back
correctly and that the computer is functioning correctly.
Each video screen that will be used should be checked before each service. You
should look for proper aiming, unusual light spill on the screens, color consistency between the projectors, and brightness consistency.
Take the time to make sure everything is set correctly. Once you begin a service,
the video screens become a primary communication method with the congregants. Make sure you have the best look you can so it communicates without
It’s important that you arrive early. Always work on the principle that nothing is going to work and you are going to have to fix everything. Leave yourself enough time to do this. Hopefully, when you arrive, everything will work
and you will have plenty of time to focus on the work you are about to do.
However, if there are problems, you will have the appropriate amount of time
to solve them without rushing and risking a failure during the service.
Once you get on site, be proactive. Make sure you are “prayed up.” Have a good
spirit about you and be in as good a mood as possible. You are often going to
be one of the first personal encounters of the morning with the rest of the worship team. If you are grumpy or ill-tempered, that will tend to set the mood for
everyone else. Be of good cheer and encourage those you are working with. It
will become contagious and make things go a whole lot more smoothly.
It’s always better to be calm before
a service or production than to be scattered
and stressed. Proper preparation is the
key to being ready for a service.
Be proactive in asking if there is anything you can do – from setup to preservice checks. Perhaps it’s as simple
as getting someone coffee. Think of
yourself as a servant who gets the
opportunity to participate in worship.
Recognize guest artists and other special guests that might be a part of the
Checklists and Procedures
service. Introduce yourself and make them feel welcome. A side bonus to being
friendly is that if you are the sound engineer, this is a great time not only to get to
know the people visiting your service, but also to listen to them speak. Hear the
way their voices sound naturally and note this so that you can “eq” your microphones more quickly during the sound check.
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The Art of Troubleshooting —
Thinking Logically and
I never will forget the lesson I learned on the first sound system I ever installed.
I had a buzz in a single 70 V speaker and just couldn’t figure it out. I was jumping all over the place trying to solve the problem, but nothing worked. This was
one of the opportunities in my life for my father to pass on wisdom that taught
me a valuable lesson.
On this particular day, my father taught me how to troubleshoot. I was having a conversation with him about the project, and I told him that I just
couldn’t make this speaker stop buzzing. He asked me what I had done, and as
I explained it to him, he looked at me with a grin and said, “You need to learn
how to troubleshoot.”
My father was an electrical engineer with over 35 years of experience. So I sat
back and let him talk. At this point, it dawned on me that troubleshooting is a
process. Regardless of what type of system you are working on, the art of troubleshooting is a step-by-step linear process – not a shotgun approach.
Many people are scared away from pro-audio systems because of their complexity
and the fact that they can’t see anything. For instance, a hum could emanate
from anywhere. It is not like lighting,
where the light doesn’t come on and you
can track back two or three steps to idenThe
tify the problem. However, when you
think logically, even a complex sound
system becomes reasonably simple to
The first thing you should do when troubleshooting is to break down the
systems. For instance, in a lighting system you primarily have a power system
and a control system. Take the more likely of the two and work backward from
the problem.
For example, you have a lighting fixture that doesn’t work. Working backward,
first check the lamp – is it blown? If yes, replace. If no, then check the power at
the source – do you have power? If you don’t have a tester, plug a light that you
know works into the circuit where the failure is. If the light comes on, the problem is within the bad fixture. It could be bad wiring, a bad plug, a bad lamp base,
or any of a few other problems. However, now you know the problem is in the
fixture. If the good fixture doesn’t light, you know the problem is in the circuit.
Now, you would work from the circuit to the dimmer. First, you should go
to the dimmer to see if the circuit is tripped. If it is, identify why the circuit
tripped (too much wattage on the circuit or direct short), fix the problem, and
reset. If the circuit is not tripped, try swapping the dimmer. If the problem continues, you know the dimmer is not the issue. At this point, I’d make a mental
note that it could be a wire that has come unlanded or a similar connection
problem; however, in an installed system this is less probable.
So, at this point I’d turn to my control systems. I’d make sure the channel was
really up and that it was patched correctly.
The idea is that you keep working backward on a single track until you find the
problem. In the example above, if you were to try a new lamp, then try control,
then look to the patch, then swap a dimmer, and so on, without following a reasonable sequence, you could easily miss something in the fray. Logically progressing from the problem backward is the only sensible way to find the problem.
In the heat of battle, it can be tempting to start solving by shotgun approach.
It’s always best to take a breath, think logically, and work the problem one step
at a time.
If the problem were in the sound system, the approach would be the same.
Let’s say you have a buzzing speaker. You have two primary systems – power
and signal. Buzzing is typically a result of a bad ground. Knowing that, I’d start
with the power. Starting at the amplifier, I’d disconnect the input to the amplifier and see if the buzzing continues. If it does not, then the problem is occurring before the amplifier; if it does, the problem is at the amplifier or at a point
past it. You see, at this time you’ve disconnected the signal from the amplifier.
If the buzz continues, you have eliminated the signal portion coming into the
amplifier, so you don’t need to check there; you’ve identified that the problem
is independent of the signal coming in. Hence the problem must be with the
amplifier, the power, or a connection between the amplifier and the speaker.
If the problem did go away, then you know that there is something upstream
of the amplifier causing the problem. More than likely, it’s a bad ground in a
cable or some other signal problem. So you’d work backward, disconnecting
source after source until the problem disappeared. In this way you eliminate
systems one by one until you find the offending problem(s).
From this point, you could start working on the problem.
The Art of Troubleshooting
So, the first lesson in troubleshooting is to break it down into systems and
work the systems until you identify which one is causing the problem, then
work that system in a systematic way.
As mysterious as the problem may seem, it’s not just some random unexplainable problem. Thinking logically will always lead you to the source of the
Problems are found by taking it one step at a time. You prove that something
is working and move to the next step. Ultimately, you find something broken
and repair it. If that solves the problem, you are done; if not, you keep working
from that point, looking for the next problem.
Sometimes you can get lost in the details, especially in a complicated problem.
So take a moment and draw out the system. As you go through the problem, you
can mark off the areas you test one by one. This will help keep you from missing something, but it will also keep you on track. Sometimes as you get into the
problem, you can find yourself lost in the systems. A drawing will help you visualize the problem and stay in touch with what you have and have not done.
Take your time in solving the problem. Even if it’s a high-pressure situation,
take a breath and work methodically and at a reasonable pace. If you allow
yourself to get rushed, you’ll make mistakes, overlook something, and simply
get frustrated.
Try to remove emotion out of the mix and rely on logic. When troubleshooting, logic is the only thing that will get you a solution. So take the time it
requires to find the problem and then fix it right. Too many times we patch
something together in a “temporary” fix that winds up being a permanent fix
(until the next time it breaks). As the expression goes, “Beware the longevity of
the temporary.”
Ultimately, if you take care of your systems, they will take care of you.
If you are going to be involved in media systems, learn how to troubleshoot
effectively. It’s a part of the territory. Once you learn how to troubleshoot, you
will be a vital asset to your ministry team. You’ll also be surprised to see how
this skill set transfers to many other facets of life.
267 D
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ACN (architecture for control
networks), 143
Additive color theory, 121–2
Aesthetics, 157
AKG, 48
AKG 414, 47
AKG 451, 46
AKG D 112, 46
Altman barn door, 117
Altman doughnut, 118
Altman Sky Cyc, 113
Altman snoot, 117
American DJ club light, 151
American National Standards
Institute (ANSI), 200
Amperage, 146
Amplifiers, 17–18
Analog snakes, 35–7
“ANSI lumens”, 200
Architectural lighting, 177
and integration with stage
lighting, 177–8
Audio dynamics, 58–60
Audio Technica, 46
Audix, 45, 48
Audix D4, 46
Audix D6, 46
Audix i5, 46
AutoCAD, 176
Automated show control, 139
Auxiliary controls, of sound system,
Auxiliary sends and returns, 75
Aviom A-16, 85
Backlighting, 157–8, 159
Banana plug speaker connection, 33
Barn doors, 117–18
Barrier strip connection, 32
Bidirectional microphone, 40, 41
Black wrap, 117
Blackouts, 168
Border lights, 111–12
Boundary lighting, see Up lighting
Boundary microphones, 42
Breakup patterns, 167
Brightness control, 202
Building teams, and finding
volunteers, 251–7
Cable quality, 146, 192, 207
CAD (computer-aided design)
software, 176
Camera control unit (CCU), 222–3,
PTZ camera control, 225–6
Cameras, 221
CCU, 225
PTZ camera control, 225–6
full-size cameras, 223
depth of field, 224–5
overviews, 221–2
pro-sumer cameras, 222–3
Camlock, 130
Cardioid microphone, 40, 47
Cat5 cable, 142, 196
CCLI (Christian Copyright License
International), 229, 231
CD players, 48, 49
Channel equalization, 67
Channel list, 175, 176
Charge-coupled device (CCD)
technology, 221, 224
Choir complaints, 164–5
Choir microphones, 13, 43, 44, 74,
Chorus, 71
Church Production, 242, 244
Cinefoil, see Black wrap
Circuits and channels, of dimmers,
Clipping, 56–7
Club style, 151
CMY model, 122
Color contrast, 165–6
Color for design, 157–8
Color mixing theory, 121
gel, alternatives to, 122–3
Color scrollers, 118
“Comb-filter” filter, 43
Common power connections, of
lighting system:
camlock, 130
Edison, 131–2
soco cable, 133
twist lock, 128–9
2P&G, 126–7
Component video, 189–90
Composite cable, 186, 187
Composite video, 186–7
Compressor, 72–3
Computer-based consoles, 136–7
Condenser microphones, 43
Console, 5
auxiliary control knob, 75
connecting playback devices, 49
labeling, 261
Consulting, 249
Contractors, working with:
and having christian witness,
Contrast control, 202
Contrast ratio, 203
Control protocols, 139–42
DMX universes, 140
Controllers and protocols, of
lighting, 135
automated show control, 139
computer-based consoles, 136–7
control protocols, 139–43
moving light consoles, 137–9
newer protocols, 143
two-scene manual console,
Crown, 48
Crown PCC-160 microphone, 42
Crown PZM-30D microphone, 42
Cue to cue, 261
Cyc lights, 113
Delay, 71–2
Depth of field, 224–5
Destructive solo, 14
DF50 Hazer, 169
Dichroic color mixing, 149
Digital cameras, 225
Digital consoles, 89–92
Digital signal processing (DSP), 3,
89, 94
Digital snakes, 37, 87, 92–4
Digital Visual Interface (DVI), 192
connector, 193
Dimmers, 103, 145
addressing, 148
circuits and channels, 106
configuring, 147–8
loading sheet, 174, 175
permanent dimmer systems, 106
portable dimmers, 105
power needs, 145–7
satellite dimmers, 103–5
Direct boxes utilization, 51–2
Direct outs and channel returns,
DMX pin configuration, 140–2
DMX512, 140, 142, 143
$3000 fixture and $12, 000 fixture,
difference between, 156
Doughnuts, 118
Down light, 158, 159
Drums, 46
Dry ice machines, 170–1
Duct tape, 261
Dynamic looks with video, creating,
Dynamic microphones, 43
EasyWorship, 230
Echo, 71
Edge blending, 213
Edirol, 231
Edison, 131–2
Electronic News Gathering (ENG),
Electronic processing, 22, 69
auxiliary sends and returns, 75
chorus, 71
compressor/limiter, 72–3
delay, 71–2
direct outs and channel returns,
equalization, 70
final thoughts, 77
flange, 71
gates, 74
insert cables, 75–6
learning, 70
reverb, 70
Electronic theater controls (ETC),
Ellipsoidal fixture, 111
EOS, 136
Equalization, 62, 70
channel equalization, 67
and panning, 61–2
pitfalls, 13
role, 16–17
room equalization, 62–5
system equalization, 65–7
types, 15–16
Equalizer, 14–16
balancing, 57–8
controls, 10–11
ETC PARNel, 110, 115
ETC sensor dimmer unit, 145
ETC source, 4, 112
Ethernet cables, 37, 87, 92, 94
EV RE20, 46
Fader, 9, 90
Fan-out, 35, 36
Feedback, 11–13
Fiber cable, 37
“Fields”, 206
Film camera, 224
Fixed loads, 147
Fixtures, 108–16
barn doors, 117–18
black wrap, 117
color scrollers, 118
doughnuts, 118
gobo holders, 116–17
safety cable, 119
snoots, 117
border lights, 111–12
cyc lights, 113
Ellipsoidal, 111
followspot, 113–14
Fresnel, 109–10
LEDs, 115–16
PAR can, 108–9
Source Four PAR, 110–11
worklights, 114–15
Flange, 71
Floating head, 227
Fluid head, 227
Flying faders, 91
Fog machines, 169–70
Followspot, 113–14
Foot-candle, 199
Foot-candle light meters, 201
Foot lights, see Up lighting
Fresnel, 109–10
Front light, 159–60
Front projection system, 211–12,
Full-size cameras, 223
depth of field, 224–5
Gaff tape, 261
Gaffers tape, see Gaff tape
Gain control, 8–9
Gain structure, 53
audio dynamics, 58–60
clipping, 56–7
equalizer balancing, 57–8
under law, 58
master bridge, using, 55
as whole-system approach, 54–5
GAM 336 Balloons Gobo, 169
Gates, 74
Gel, 119–20
alternatives to, 122–3
cut sheet, 173, 174
Gobo, 166–7
holders, 116–17
Graphic equalizer, 15–16, 65
Group list, 175
acoustic, 47
amplified, 47
Hazers, 168–9, 170
High definition (HD) video:
vs. standard definition, 205
infrastructure, 207–8
interlaced video scans, 206–7
progressive video, 207
resolutions, 207
High Definition Multimedia
Interface (HDMI), 194–5
High Definition Serial Digital
Interface (HD-SDI), 196
High-end video cameras, 221
Horns and woodwinds, 47
Hyper-cardioid microphone, 40, 41
Illumination, 157
choir complaints, 164–5
design software and reporting,
design paperwork, 173–5
lighting plot, 171–3
lighting angles, 158
backlight, 159
down light, 158, 159
front light, 159–60
side light, 160–1
up light, 161
mood, setting, 165
atmospheric conditions,
best lighting, 167–8
gobos, 166–7
using color, 165–6
paperwork, 175–6
controlling, 162, 163–4
creating, 162–3
using color for design, 157–8
Image Magnification (IMAG), 185,
In-ear monitors, 83
advantages, 86
newer Cat5e-based systems, 85–6
proper use, 84–5
traditional in-ear monitors, 85
InfoComm, 242
Input devices, 21
Input section, 7–14
auxiliary controls, 9–10
equalization pitfalls, 13
equalizer controls, 10–11
fader, 9
feedback, 11–13
gain control, 8–9
PFL, 14
subground assignments, 13–14
Insert cables, 11, 75–6
Intelligent fixtures:
types, 151
club style, 151
moving heads, 152
scanners, 151, 152
static color-changing
instruments, 152–3
worth, 155–6
Intelligent lights, programming, 153
moving light consoles, 155
static lighting consoles, 153–5
Interlaced video scans, 206–7
Iris, 224, 225
Lamp change sequence, 259–60
“Large” depth of field, 224
Latency, 37
Laws of physics, 164
LCD displays, 187, 197, 198
LEDs, 115–16, 153
Leiko, see Ellipsoidal fixture
Light jockey, 138
Light meter, 201–2
Lighting angles, 158
backlight, 159
down light, 158, 159
front light, 159–60
side light, 160–1
up light, 161
Lighting controllers, 102–3
Lighting Dimensions International
(LDI), 242
Lighting plot, 171–3
Lighting system, anatomy of:
dimming, 103–6
fixtures, 108–16
accessories, 116–19
gel, 119–20
lighting controllers, 102–3
meaning, 101
Limiter, 72–3
Line-array technology, 19
Line level vs. mic level, 50–1
LiveWorship, 230
Loudspeaker, 18
Lumens, 199–200
need for, 200
light meter, using, 201–2
MAC 550 moving light, 150
Mackie 1604 input channel, 9
Mackie 1604 Mixing Console, 8
Mackie 1604VLZ, 7
Mass connector, 36
Meter bridge, 55
MediaShout, 230
Mic level vs. line level, 50–1
Microphones, 39
boundary microphones, 42
CD palyers, 48
computers, 50
direct boxes utilization, 51–2
line level vs. mic level, 50–1
minidiscs, 48
MP3 players, 50
overview, 39–41
phantom power, 42–3
playback devices, 48–9
techniques, 46–8
3-to-1 rule, 43–4
vocal and instrument, 44–8
Minidiscs, 48
Mixing console, 6–7
Monitor engineer, role of, 86–8
Mood, setting, 165
atmospheric conditions:
dry ice machines, 170–1
fog machines, 169–70
hazers, 168–9, 170
best lighting, 167–8
gobos, 166–7
using color, 165–6
Motorized vs. permanent screen,
Moving heads, 152
Moving light:
consoles, 137–9, 155
overview, 149
$3000 fixture and $12, 000
fixture, difference between,
intelligent fixtures, 151–3,
intelligent lights,
programming, 153–5
Moving mirror, see Scanner
National Association of Broadcasters
(NAB), 242
Neumann, 48
Neumann U 87, 46
Neutral density filters, 225
Neutrik, 34
Newer protocols, 143
1/4-inch tip-ring-sleeve (TRS)
connection, 28, 67
1/4-inch tip-sleeve (TS) connection,
1/8-inch mini-plug mono and stereo
connection, 29
Occasional clipping, 56
Omnidirectional microphone, 40
Overpowering, 17
PAD control, 8
Panasonic AG-HPX170, 221
Panasonic AG-HPX500, 221
Panning, 61–2
and equalization, 61–7
Paperwork, 175–6
design, 173–5
PAR, 64, 108
PAR can, 108–9
PAR lamps, 109
Parametric equalizer, 10, 12, 16, 66
Patch sheet, 173, 174
Perforated video screen, 217, 218
Permanent dimmer systems, 106
Permanent vs. motorized screen,
Phantom power, 42–3
PHONO connection, see RCA
Piano, 46
Plasma displays, 198
“Plates”, 70
Playback devices, 48–9
Playbook, 237–9
Portable dimmers, 105
Power conditioners, 23
PowerPoint, 229
Preamps, 5, 21–2
Pre-fader listen (PFL), 14
Pre-service lamp check procedure,
Progressive video, 207
Projector, 198, 216
ProPresenter, 230
Pro-sumer cameras, 222–3
Pro-Video Player, 231
Proximity effect, 44
PTZ camera control, 225–6
Punch block connection, 31
“Rack focus”, 224
RCA composite cable, 186
RCA connection, 30, 49
RDM (remote device management),
Rear projection, 209–11, 216–17
Reflections, 14
Renewed Vision, 231
Resolutions, 207
Rev, 244
Reverb, 70
RGB cables, 189
RGBHV, 189
“Robotic cameras”, 225
Roland digital snake, 37, 93
Room equalization, 62–5
“Rooms”, 70
Rosco 77894 Beam Splitter Gobo,
S-Video cable, 188
Safety cable, 119
Satellite dimmers, 103–5
Scaler, 197–8
Scanner, 151, 152
Screen gain, 217–18
Screen location, 220
Screen size, 219
Sennheiser, 48
Sennheiser e905, 46
Sensor rack address station, 148
Serial Digital Interface (SDI), 196
Service producer, 239–41
utilizing, 255–6
“Shading”, 225
controlling, 162, 163–4
creating, 162–3
“Short” depth of field, 224
Shure, 46
Shure in-ear monitor system, 85
Shure PG52, 46
Shure PG56, 46
Shure SM57, 44
Shure SM58, 44
Shure SM81, 46
Side light, 160–1
Signal clipping, 56
Signal-to-noise ratio, 93
Single-chip camera, 221–2
Single-phase system, 146
SMPTE (the Society of Motion
Picture and Television
Engineers), 200, 201
Snakes, 35
analog snakes, 35–7
digital snakes, 37
Snoots, 117
Soco cable, 133
Socopex cable, see Soco cable
Softplot, 176
Software and reporting, designing,
design paperwork, 173–5
lighting plot, 171–3
SOLO, see Pre-fader listen (PFL)
Sound checklist prior to service, 260
Sound engineer, 4
training, 5
Sound engineer, clear
communication with,
Sound pressure level (SPL), 80
Sound system:
anatomy, 3
advanced systems, 21–3
amplifiers, 17–18
equalization role, 16–17
equalizer, 14–16
heart, 3
input devices, 21
input section, 7–14
layout, 4
mixing console, 6–7
speakers, 18–21
connections in, 25
analog snakes, 35–7
banana plug speaker
connection, 33
barrier strip connection, 32
digital snakes, 37
1/4-inch tip-ring-sleeve
connection, 28
1/4-inch tip-sleeve
connection, 27
1/8-inch mini-plug mono and
stereo connection, 29
punch block connection, 31
RCA connection, 30
speakon speaker connection,
XLR microphone connection,
power up/off sequence, 259
Source Four PAR, 110–11
Speakers, 18–20
arrayed system, 18
distributed system, 18
standard measurements, 19–20
Speakon speaker connection, 34
Spot fixture, 152
Stacking, 213
Stage lighting, 177–8
Stage monitors, 79
Stage pin, see 2P&G
Stage volume, 88
Standard definition:
vs. high definition, 205
infrastructure, 207–8
interlaced video scans, 206–7
progressive video, 207
resolutions, 207
Static color-changing instruments,
LEDs, 153
Static lighting consoles, 153–5
Stencil mask, 216
Strings, 48
Strip light, see Border lights
Subground assignments, 13–14
Subtractive color theory, 122
Subwoofers, 22–3
SundayPlus, 230
Super Trouper, 114
Super-cardioid microphone, 40, 41
System equalization, 65–7
Technologies for Worship, 242, 244
Telescopic lenses, 224
Three-chip camera, 222
Three-phase system, 146
3-to-1 rule, 43–4
THX cinema standard, 219
Time arrival and meetings, 262–3
Training, 94–5
books and blogs, 244
conferences, 242–3
DVD training, 243
internet based training, 243
magazines, 244
on-site training, 244
Transition Minimized Differential
Signaling (TMDS), 192,
TRIAX, 223, 226
Trim, see Gain control
Tripods, 226
platforms, 227
Troubleshooting, art of, 265–7
“Tunneling”, 210
Twist lock, 128–9
NEMA L5-20 connector, 128, 129
2P&G, 126–7
Two-scene manual console, 135–6
Underpowering, 17
Uninterruptible power supply (UPS)
backups, 23
Unison wall unit, 178
United States Institute for Theatre
Technology (USITT), 142
Up lighting, 161
Variable loads, 147
Vectorworks, 176
VGA signal, 190–1
Video, as lighting, 213–14
Video cameras, 224
Video Canvas, 231
Video motion control, 230–1
Video playback system, 183
CAT5 cable, 196
component video, 189–90
composite video, 186–7
DVI, 192–3
HD-SDI, 196
HDMI, 194–5
LCD displays, 198
plasma displays, 198
S-Video, 188
scaler, 197–8
SDI, 196
VGA signal, 190–1
video projector, 198
video switcher, 196–7
Video projector, 198
Video screen, 216, 262
front projection screen, 216–17
motorized vs. permanent screen,
odd shapes for interesting effect,
perforated screen, 217, 218
rear projection screen, 216–17
screen gain, 217–18
screen location, 220
screen size, 219
shapes for, 215
Video slides, 262
Video switcher, 196–7
Video system, anatomy of, 183
video playback system, 183
LCD displays, 198
main source, 186–96
plasma displays, 198
scaler, 197–8
video projector, 198
video switcher, 196–7
Vocal and instrument microphones,
Vocals, 48
Volunteer and staff buy-in, 239
Wash fixture, 152
Wedge monitors, 80
advantages, 82
frequency response, 81
mixing, 82–3
overall size, 81
physical weight, 81–2
power handling, 81–2
type of driver, 82
WFX, 242
Whole Hog, 138
Wide-angle lenses, 224
Willow Creek Association, 243
Willow Creek Church, 243
Wiring pinout:
of banana plug speaker
connection, 33
of barrier strip connection, 32
of NL4 connection, 34
of 1/8-inch mini-plug mono and
stereo connection, 29
of punch block connection, 31
of RCA connection, 30
of TRS connection, 28
of TS connection, 27
of XLR microphone connection,
Worklights, 114–15
Worship Arts & Technology, 244
Worship Leader, 244
Worship Pavilion, 242
Worship presentation software, 229
networks in worship, 231
video motion control, 230–1
word phrases, 230
Wybron color scroller, 118
Wybron Nexera, 153
XLR microphone connection, 26
Yamaha M7CL, 90
YPbPr, 190
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