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Feature: Blending old and new

Feature: Blending old and new

Feature: Blending old and new

St James’ Church sought modern audiovisual systems to enhance services while remaining discreet. Creative Audio-Visual Solutions was up for the challenge

St James’, the parish church in Wiltshire’s county town of Trowbridge, is a Grade I listed Anglican sanctuary. As visitors enter the building, they are reminded of the church’s vast history with monuments for the poet and surgeon George Crabbe (1754–1832), who also served as a clergyman in Trowbridge from 1814 until his death, and luddite Thomas Helliker, both of whom are buried in St James’ Church.

While the church is steeped in history and a shining example of traditional church architecture in England, St James’ is also willing to adapt with modern advances in technology. Therefore, the church leadership approached Creative Audio-Visual Solutions (CAVS) to install both a new audio and video system to bring St James’ services to life and to allow the church to include multimedia elements in the other community events it hosts. However, CAVS was also tasked with ensuring that these new systems remained discreet, blending in seamlessly with the environment while adhering to the restrictions imposed by the building’s Grade I listed status. Thankfully, the systems integrator is well-versed in meeting such demands.

‘The church contacted CAVS as one of the leading house of worship AVL integrators in the UK,’ explains CAVS sales director, Rob Alvis. ‘We were also involved with a similarly large project within a local church at the time and St James’ was impressed by our sympathetic approach to ensuring a high level of technical capability while respecting and working with the delicate church aesthetics and décor.’

The main sound system installed comprises 12 JBL CBT50LA column array speakers, complemented on the low end by two Electro-Voice ZX1-Sub compact subwoofers. The CBT50LA speakers have been deployed in pairs on six pillars throughout the sanctuary, painted to match the stonework.

An Electro-Voice N8000 NetMax digital matrix controller handles audio processing, ensuring the sound system is tuned to the room and heavily reducing feedback and other acoustic anomalies. Power for the audio setup is provided by Electro-Voice’s CPS 8.5 eight-channel amplifier.

For controlling the sound setup, CAVS installed a Soundcraft Si Performer 1 digital mixing console, which can also be controlled from anywhere in the church wirelessly via an iPad. The iPad control has been set up for simplicity with recall settings, meaning anyone in the church can recall the presets for different types of service, no matter their technical level of expertise. In addition, a Soundcraft Mini Stagebox 16i facilitates the addition of up to 16 instrument inputs when a large worship band performs.

On the subject of inputs, music is captured during services by Electro-Voice ND66 condenser cardioid instrument microphones, while speech is handled by Sennheiser XS-2 radio mics, complete with antenna distribution system. Other sources include a Denon DN-500CB combination CD/MP3/Bluetooth player and DN-500R MP3 recorder for playback.

‘CAVS works with a core group of manufactures that provide excellent service and quality,’ says Alvis. ‘For instance – in regard to the sound system – this needs to perform at all volume levels, not just being driven at the high volumes some speakers require before they come to life. JBL’s and Electro-Voice’s speakers and processing meet this brief. On the mixing side, Soundcraft digital mixers are accessible to all users’ abilities – well laid out, with colour-coded faders and controls with less reliance on menus and computer knowledge, which can hamper less-experienced operators.’

As for the visual elements, CAVS installed a trio of Sapphire Smart Move projection screens at the front of the church. The centre screen receives content from a Christie LW751i-D 3LCD, 7,500-lumen projector, while the left and right screens are served by a pair of Christie LW502AP 5,000-lumen models. All three Sapphire screens have been winched to allow them to be hidden behind the sanctuary’s arches when not in use.

The projector screens are used for displaying hymn lyrics and words, still images and video, as well as live footage from within the church captured by a Sony SRG300HW remote-controlled PTZ camera for IMAG (image magnification) purposes. The feed from the Sony camera can also be streamed by the church online via a Datavideo NVS-25 video streaming and recording server, for congregants unable to attend a service in person. Meanwhile, movies and other content can be played back from a Denon DN-500BD professional Blu-ray player.

Those managing the displayed video content keep track of various video feeds using a Datavideo TLM-702HD TFT broadcast monitor bank. Channels are scaled for the screens and switched between using a Kramer VP-774A HDMI and HDBaseT ProScale presentation switcher. CAVS also installed a Kramer RC-78R touchpanel, which offers overall control over the setup.

To make sure that all of this technology didn’t disrupt the church’s traditional aesthetic, the CAVS team constructed a bespoke equipment cabinet to hold the Soundcraft mixer and house the amplifiers, video switchers and other equipment, such as St James’ hearing induction loop system.

‘There were some anxieties with this installation due to the strict boundaries within a Grade I listed Church of England sanctuary in regard to cable runs, colour blended cables and fixings, among other factors,’ concludes Alvis. ‘Although accurate building acoustic mapping was done in advance, there is an element of uncertainty with audio working in a real-world, very reverberant environment. However, once finished, the system performed beyond the expectations of the client and is providing scope for further growth and development in terms of how the system is used, and future developments such as growing the live worship band and streaming and recording services.’

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