Not Built for Video
Jan 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By Dan Daley
How one integrator adapted a Michigan church for better sightlines.
In the grand scheme of things, 1980 doesn't seem so long ago in the house-of-worship market, but in the context of media systems that integrate with houses of worship, today is a completely different techno-archeological era. That was the first thing that came to mind when Gary Zandstra, sales and marketing manager for integrator Parkway Electric & Communications in Grand Rapids, Mich., began surveying a project at Calvary Church, also in Grand Rapids.
“This church was not built for video,” Zandstra says he remembers thinking. And that, he adds, is frequently the case with many churches that predate the recent megachurch trend.
Calvary Church did have some modern design elements, including a semicircular thrust stage with a wing for a sizable band or orchestra and chorus that faces 1,800 seats splayed in a 110-degree angle on the main floor in front of the stepped stage and in a balcony above.
The sanctuary was first occupied in 1986, and it did have an electrical drop-down screen, which was mounted with three lights in the V-shaped area above the stage. This screen was quickly abandoned and plastered over. Later in 2000, a rear-projection electric 7.5'×10' drop screen was installed at stage level. However, due to the architectural design of the stage's backdrop (two more-than-20ft.-tall brick columns that look like huge pieces of shoe molding encase a V-shaped aesthetic centerpiece made of wood, plaster, and organ cloth that conceals the church organ's loudspeakers), the screen was installed so that when deployed, it virtually touched the stage floor. This necessitated that the minister using the stage step to the side when video was playing. Even worse, occupants of seats located in the balcony were having trouble seeing the screen due to its low height.
In 2002, the church tried to rectify the line-of-sight issues by adding Fujitsu and Sony 42in. plasma displays into areas of the main church that had sight problems, as well as into overflow areas outside the main seating area. But it was a patchwork solution at best. In 2007, the church's finance committee approved a multiphase plan to completely remake the building's AV presentation system. The last phase would include the addition of a new digital audio mixing console.
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