Focus on Houses of Worship: Upgrading a Rock ‘n’ Roll Church
Oct 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By John W. DeWitt
When Faith World set out this year to significantly enhance its audio and visual production values, its points of reference were not other churches, but rather musical concerts and the numerous theme parks surrounding its Orlando, Fla., hometown.
“Our services are rock ‘n’ roll, with a real concert feeling,” says Ryan Russell,production manager for the non-denominational church founded and led for the past 15 years by Rev. Clint Brown, a popular gospel recording artist who has a distribution deal with Universal. “The production stuff is important to Pastor Brown, and living in Orlando — with all the entertainment offered by Disney, Universal, and the other theme parks — we have to do something to appeal to a young crowd that wouldn't necessarily go to church.”
The concert-style approach must be working, because the 2,300-seat sanctuary is routinely filled to capacity for each of Faith World's regular services; services are offered on Tuesday nights and three times on Sunday mornings. Moreover using the Broadcast Pix Slate 3016HD production switcher — installed as the core of the recent AV overhaul — the church has more people watching over the Internet than in the building, Russell says.
Services are streamed live over the Web to an average audience of 5,000 viewers per service. A live host talks to the Internet audience before and between each service, handling emailed prayer requests and announcing new products — mostly Rev. Brown's albums, along with inhouse-produced CDs and DVDs of his sermons that are available for purchase on the church's judahbookstore.com website.
Services are also broadcast across fiber on closed circuit around the church campus, including in the gym, which is where a big screen, projector, and audio system serves overflow crowds on Easter and other holidays. Russell eschews the use of PowerPoint presentations typical in other churches, preferring instead to produce full commercials with moving graphics and sound that run in between services on the sanctuary screens and CCTV.
Attaining this level of production sophistication has been a long, gradual evolution for the church and for Russell, who has worked at Faith World for a decade.
“We had never started from the ground up and built what we wanted,” he says. Faith World purchased its current facility from evangelist Benny Hinn in 1999, when Hinn moved his ministry to Texas. “We inherited a lot of equipment from Benny Hinn and integrated as much of our own stuff as we could,” Russell says. “Over the years, we had done a major upgrade on their audio. But the video controller was built for their gear, and we were still using all the existing wiring, which was like 20 years old.
“[The facility's vintage switcher was] on its last legs, and the whole video system was composite,” Russell says. As for the audio: “The front-of-house console needed to be replaced; we had unclean power and a lot of other issues like that, so we had a lot of snap and crackle,” he says.
New AV Foundation
All that began to change this past year when, tired of renting equipment for major events such as the summer Judah Music Convention, Brown and his board gave Russell the opportunity to clean things up. “[They] handed me a budget and trusted me to focus on what I wanted,” Russell says. “With the budget, we had [around $600,000, which the church secured via a contractor's loan], I said I wanted to upgrade the core so we would have a strong foundation to build on.” Russell then engaged Jeff Cameron of Encore Broadcast — a dealer and integrator with offices in Orlando; Tampa, Fla.; and Chattanooga, Tenn. — to help the church develop a budget, a detailed wish list of equipment, and an integration plan.
Cameron, who went to college with Benny Hinn's chief engineer and specializes in churches, says Encore usually charges upfront for design work. But in the case of Faith World, which previously had done some work with Cameron's video engineer, Ken Smith, decided to work around this requirement.
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