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Keeping the Economic Faith: Houses of Worship Roundtable

Oct 9, 2009 12:00 PM, By Dan Daley

Six industry experts weigh in on the current and future HOW market.

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In a down economy, is midsized the new mega? What does that mean for HOW AV technology in general?

Thrasher: Midsized is the new mega—for now. Churches, like everything else, tend to go in cycles. There’s a period where 10,000-seat rooms are in fashion, and then it’s 3,000-seat rooms. We’re in the latter cycle now.

Westra: We have seen a trend over the last three years away from mega auditoria, if not away from mega churches. Instead of one large auditorium, a church with high membership will build a church will multiple smaller auditoria, which can operate separately as well as linked. The net result may actually be a higher expenditure per seat. My personal view is that if the members of a church conduct their financing according to biblical principles, the church will be immunized from a bad economy.

Carlson: Everyone is amazed at what they see at Willow Creek or Saddleback, but most churches don’t have those kinds of finances. What we’ve seen is that as original members of congregations, who joined when the worship style was more conventional, bump into younger congregants who have different expectations of sound and video. The solution is to use multiple services that meet each group’s expectations. The AV technology has to be able to scale to do that. That’s a challenge.

Clayton: While the term “mega” usually doesn’t apply to our range of projects, we did go through a period where even traditional worship space clients were requesting and expecting an ever greater package of functions and features. It seemed the only way to satisfy their needs was by designing bigger, fancier, and more expensive systems. Some of the projects got out of hand, quite frankly. They taxed the capacity of a small consultant’s office, were hard for the contractors to implement, and very difficult for the users to understand and even use properly. During the past year or two, we have scaled back our designs to be more in line with the level of work we did 10 years ago—at least in functional terms of the hardware.

Dempsey: It depends on whether you are talking about economics or physical size. Mega is big and requires bigger solutions. Some solutions are being installed in stages due to budgets. AV continues to be very important to any church, and some are able to take advantage of this economy while others are struggling where they would not in a better economy.

What digital AV technologies/products are you recommending as most cost-effective and why?

Westra: We recommend the best possible digital processors for crossover, equalization, delay, and limiting functions, and then hope that the clients don’t tinker with them. We would only recommend digital consoles in very limited applications where truly qualified operators were present due to the learning curve.

Carlson: That’s always going to be limited by budgets, but in general, we’ve been encouraging the use of digital consoles. They’re more costly than analog consoles, but they improve performance to the point that they’re more cost-effective.

Budd: Digital consoles and digital processors are still the mainstays of the digital technologies we are recommending to our customers.

Clayton: Networked digital audio implemented in DSP-based mixing/routing/signal processing systems lets us do a lot with a little, especially in terms of minimal equipment rack space and streamlined system infrastructure. We also like using steered line-array loudspeakers in reverberant buildings, both for the excellent electro-acoustic results and relative simplicity of working with many fewer loudspeakers than are needed with most other design approaches.

Dempsey: Digital snakes and consoles require a lot less infrastructure and offer more flexibility. DSP technology continues to become more prevalent in systems of all sizes.

Thrasher: For audio, the Yamaha M7CL is the best buy on the market. It’s actually easier to use than many analog consoles. And we’re also recommending fiber for all control and equipment spaces, even if we don’t terminate it and leave it dark.

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