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Audio and Light: Install at St. Pius, Part 1

May 12, 2011 10:07 AM, with Bennett Liles

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Editor’s note: For your convenience, this transcription of the podcast includes timestamps. If you are listening to the podcast and reading its accompanying transcription, you can use the timestamps to jump to any part of the audio podcast by simply dragging the slider on the podcast to the time indicated in the transcription.

You've got a big brand-new church with a huge open space, hard walls, and lots of long reverb time, so how do you make it sound right for speech and live music? Brian Cox is here from Audio and Light in Greensboro, N. C. to tell us how he made it happen for St. Pius Tenth Parish, coming up on the SVC Podcast.
Brian, it's great to have you with me on the SVC podcast from Audio and Light in Greensboro, N. C. and you did a big audio system in the new sanctuary of St. Pius Church there and that's always a challenge with more traditional church designs not being known for being very acoustically friendly. First though, tell me a little bit about Audio and Light and what sort of clientele does the company have and how long's Audio and Light been around?

We've been around actually since 1984—27 years. The original owners started the business as a live production house, which we still do. We still have a very large live production department. We do walk-in rentals but our main business has gravitated to systems integration and design over the past ten years or so. [Timestamp: 1:29]

Well that's a very competitive field.
It is and we really try to focus on the house-of-worship market, higher education and corporate…and a little bit of government work. We stay out of K-12 and some of the other things, but those are our main focuses. [Timestamp: 1:44]

And this church, St. Pius Tenth Parish, describe this one for me. They've got a big congregation of over a thousand now, and this was a brand-new and bigger church for them. I guess they had been holding separate services because of the limited space in their old building and this new one was a way to get everyone there at the same time?
Exactly. The previous church building was built in the 70's and seated about 350 and they were holding multiple masses every weekend and have somewhere in the neighborhood of 7-900 in attendance over the weekends. So they were really busting at the seams as far as their whole ministry there, and so this new facility that they've just completed will seat 1,100 so they can have pretty much the whole congregation in there for mass at one time if need be. [Timestamp: 2:3]

Well that's probably a lot easier on everybody. I guess that gets people more into the spirit of things, having a bigger group. So what kind of services do they have? Do they have a lot of live music?
Yes, oh yes, they sure do. They have a complete compliment of piano, drums, bass, guitars, sometimes strings, and sometimes brass. [Timestamp: 2:48]

And that's probably a special trick because with a reverberant environment trying to get it to work well for both music and spoken word was probably a bit of a challenge.
Yes it has. It certainly was. The room is tremendously live with the RT's in the six- to eight-second range so we had a lot going against us to begin with but the results have been very satisfactorily actually. [Timestamp: 3:09]

So at what point did they call in the Audio and Light? Was it in the development planning right at the beginning, or did you have to come in late in the game?
We were very fortunate that they had the foresight to get us involved right as they finished their architectural drawings—early on—that gave us the chance to get all of our raceways, all of power requirements, all of our structural requirements—everything into the drawings set before they ever broke ground. [Timestamp: 3:35]

And after you saw this and they got with you on the plan what was the primary technical goal on this thing? Was there anything that particularly stood out?
Well first and foremost is the intelligibility, speech intelligibility, of the room. The architecture is very reflective, very reverberant, and very big and open airy room and their monsignor is very specific about wanting to be heard and understood—he made that clear to us in the beginning. So that was our number-one technical challenge or technical goal is to make sure that anybody who speaks could be heard. And the second one is flexibility, once again they do have music, but that changes. Their band—it may be just a piano in this service, it may be a full-fledged praise band in the next service, so they needed the flexibility to be able to handle all of those inputs and set it up and hear it in different spaces—there's a chapel, there's a narthex, there's other rooms where this audio needs to be heard, and so flexibility was our second challenge or technical goal. [Timestamp: 4:33]

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