Clear-Com president Bob Boster explains why houses of worship might consider adding an intercom system to their inventories and the benefits they bring
An intercom system is a real-time communication tool used between two individuals, or between teams of people, working on the same project. Intercom technology has evolved in multiple directions as various requirements have developed among different markets or even sub-disciplines within a single market. Most of these developments have been around infrastructure or medium (such as wired or wireless, and what version thereof – analogue, digital, IP, different radio frequencies).Current trends of interest are the use of IP as a way to connect multiple sites inexpensively andaccommodating more wireless users with some of those being deployed in a zoned system with multiple connection points so that users can roam around a customised coverage area.
House of worship trends
The house of worship market is one of the fastest growing in the entertainment technology sector, and more and more religious facilities are insisting on upgrading their AV capabilities. This trend away from more traditional religious services to more interactive, comprehensive live productions makes them a direct competitor of more secular forms of live events.Now, they’re on the lookout for newer technologies including lighting, PA systems, microphones, LED screens and, consequently, intercoms.
Investing in this type of technology creates an opportunity for houses of worship to serve not only their parishioners, but to provide a service as a multifunctional facility for the surrounding community. Community members wanting to host non-religious live events–conferences, concerts, dances – have access to the appropriate technology.
In addition to the growing complexities of religious productions, churches are also trending towards developing satellite spaces. New satellite venues are a way to increase their audience, as they are often in different cities, states or even countries, but they also present the need for more connective technology between themselves and the central location. Again, this is a situation in which an intercom system becomes a necessity.
Size and scale
Whether a house of worship is small, large or multi-campus, there is an intercom solution available. Wired and wireless solutions can work well individually or in combination. Intercom vendors are fully aware of radio frequency restrictions and equipment must pass a respective country’s compliance testing before they can be sold into a given region.
For small, single-site churches with few talk/listen positions, and where cableruns to user devices are possible, wired systems can be an ideal solution. These wired systems are typically inexpensive and very simple to manage.
For churches that are medium-sized, or have high growth potential, a wireless solution can provide more flexibility, programmability and scalability for addressing the specific needs of the production. As churches grow in size, the production tends to grow as well, and the need for more mobility arises. A wireless system can allow for all necessary parties– mobile cameras, choir, spokespeople – to move about freely throughout the space.
For multi-campus churches with growing congregations, services and choirs across different locations, a combination of wired and wireless intercom devices can be linked over IP to provide an optimal solution.
These are, of course,generalisations – all churches are different and may require unique solutions, but it is important to remember that intercom systems can easily integrate and accommodate growth.
Speaking on behalf of Clear-Com, we are very much in the mindset of providing the right-sized tool for the job and creating pathways for people to expand or upgrade their existing system as they move forward with different requirements.We have a very broad catalogue with a lot of choices for size, complexity and cost, and they can all interoperate, so really the choice is down to what the congregation wants to do and what kind of budget they have for doing so. We also have a lot of experience in helping houses of worship take existing solutionsand address their evolving needs, so you could say scalability is built in.
Intercoms can be easily integrated with other equipment and the intercom system itself can also be built up to be more robust. As referenced before, our wired and wireless solutions are endlessly compatible and a simple, cost-effective wired solution can be built up as a wireless solution as the congregation grows in size and complexity.
Intercoms can also easily interface with non-intercom products including audio consoles, monitors, cameras, specialised microphones, speaker systems and everything else you would need for a full-scale AV production. For example, any product that supports Dante, AES67 and SMPTE 2110-30 interoperability can integrate with Clear-Com intercom products.
Figuring out how to get it all plugged in successfully can be managed internally or externally with the help of a systems integrator as you prefer. Thereis no categorical answer as to whether you will require professional experience because it really hinges on the level of sophistication of your church’s technology team but, broadly, if the rest of your main technology elements (audio mixing console, video switcher, streaming solution) have been something you can configure yourself, then normally you can manage the intercom yourself too. We tend to be one of the more complex aspects of a church’s toolkit, but usually not the most challenging. The most critical part of your journey is to understand what you want to accomplish (for example, who needs to talk to who from where and in what combinations) and generally that’s something only your team can address.