Tech View: Colin Boyle discusses house of worship AV
Tech View: Colin Boyle discusses house of worship AV
Colin Boyle is the European product marketing specialist for projectors at Canon. He previously served as production manager at Kerith Community Church
I worked at the Kerith Community Church in Bracknell, West London, which had a 1,000-seat auditorium as well as meeting rooms, office space and a separate youth and community building with a 200-person capacity. In my time there I held several roles. Initially, I was director of music, offering training to the volunteer musicians, which led to my role as the church’s first production manager, overseeing the teams who contributed to the PA, lighting, projection, camera operation and vision mixing. This started as a volunteer role but, as the church expanded and our production requirements grew, I increased my hours to part-time for two years. Following this, I became a full-time, permanent member of staff for over 19 years.
Today, many houses of worship are looking for new ways to engage with younger audiences and to create more captivating, compelling services. In order to do this, many of the larger venues are installing high image quality projectors for song lyrics, video and even live service projection – particularly important for congregations operating across multiple venues.
This is often integrated with staging and lighting design to create an immersive experience, which helps places of worship deliver their message. It’s also becoming much more common to see this practice in smaller houses of worship, who are trying to maintain interest in an increasingly competitive digital world. Central in all of this is the use of projection software, which produces a much smoother creative flow for religious meetings. When used in accordance with vision mixers, this allows much greater freedom with projection, enabling AV technicians to overlay live feeds with words or images.
Over the years, worship content hasn’t undergone a dramatic transformation. For most places of worship, lyrics to songs, religious texts, offerings and images are relatively constant and, generally, this only requires a single projector with a central screen and basic sound reinforcement.
Depending on the church culture, change is often hard to implement when necessary. Providing a clear vision of change to the church – particularly one with a top-down leadership structure – is essential. If you can get the leaders and finance managers on board with the transformation, then you are on to a winner. In the case of the Kerith Community Church, where the funding comes from congregational giving, it’s crucial to demonstrate the value of the projection installation. When you are asking the community to donate significant amounts for AV infrastructure, you have to be able to justify it and ultimately show that it was worth the money spent.
A big part of this is helping the church community to see the long-term strategy. Often, churches want to invest in solving a current problem but aren’t looking at where they want to be in five or 10 years. Overcoming the current problem with a solution that allows growth demands a clear vision and a bigger budget but, when considered over a five- or 10-year period, it can be a much better use of the congregation’s hard-earned money.
At Kerith, for example, we made an investment of over £40K in our lighting infrastructure. I had to clearly illustrate to the congregation what this investment would look like, as the cost covered the implementation of just six white lights! However, this money also covered a significant power upgrade, trussing, DMX cabling, patching and connectivity with the lighting desk.
Over the next 10 years, we slowly added lighting fixtures, with purchasing often strategically coinciding with big events. Due to the initial investment in the lighting system, we were able to seamlessly add new fixtures to the underlying infrastructure. Even when the BBC came in to record two episodes of Songs of Praise, they were able to plug high-end lighting equipment into the churches 30A three-phase supply and were very happy.
A more practical challenge, especially when working with old or heritage buildings, is ensuring that any changes don’t affect the building’s aesthetic. For projection, this often means having a compact model, capable of delivering high image quality and a short-throw projection so that it can be positioned discreetly out of the line of sight of the community. Maintaining the look and feel of the building is pivotal.
When making changes or improvements to your house of worship, it’s important to employ the support of a reputable systems integrator, relative to the size of your house of worship. For the PA requirements in our 1,000-seat auditorium at Kerith Church, we used a systems integrator who had worked with several West End theatres, but, for the smaller youth and community building, we worked with a smaller local company. This ensured that we used our budget most effectively and had the relevant expertise on hand to support with the project.
For volunteers, I would also recommend that you arrange the best training possible on the equipment used in your house of worship, then document or formalise this training so that it can be passed on to the next generation.
For long-term volunteers, make sure that you plan for the future and keep this in mind when making investments. Involve key staff and volunteers with the development of your AV strategy and use their skills to save money. Invest in the best equipment and training possible to make sure that it is a lasting venture and that staff and volunteers can make the best use of it for years to come.
Different manufacturers have different strengths and technologies to cover key markets but very few are relevant to all markets. Canon has an established heritage in optical excellence, across its entire professional imaging range – whether that is cameras or projectors. Canon’s high image projection technology meets a wide range of installation possibilities, including traditional houses of worship and more contemporary style setups that are looking to attract younger audiences.
The AV industry is being driven by the home cinema market and the way in which the younger generation engages with technology. As with many other installation environments, houses of worship need to engage with modern culture, standards and expectations. As a manufacturer, Canon strives to keep pace with the huge transformation in how people engage with content and ensure that it has the best solutions to offer within the markets in which we operate.
This article was first published in the September-October edition of Worship AVL. Subscribe at www.proavl-central.com/subscribe/worship