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Working Around a Challenging RF Environment for Worship, Part 1

Nov 4, 2010 3:31 PM, 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.

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Working Around a Challenging RF Environment for Worship, Part 2
Antennas and frequency coordination are critical in a crowded RF environment with lots of radio intense government facilities around....

You’ve got a shrinking spectrum and growing need for wireless microphone and in-ear monitoring systems right in the middle of one of the most active RF environments around. Beau Miles with Asbury United Methodist Church near Huntsville, Ala. solved it with Sennheiser, and he’s going to tell us about it.

SVC: Beau, thanks very much for being with me here on the SVC Podcast all the way from Madison, Ala., a suburb of Huntsville I believe it is.
Yes, sir. It is.

OK, and at Asbury United Methodist it looks like there’s a lot happening. What style of worship do they have there?
Every style you could pretty much imagine. Well that’s not 100 percent true. I could imagine a few others, but they do a little bit of everything. Every Sunday morning we have two separate services going on at the same time for a total of four services every Sunday. One of which is a traditional service; it has organs and orchestra and choirs and different things of that nature, which you would be accustomed to seeing. They sing from the hymnals; they do the liturgies—the traditional Methodist church appearance is what it would be. What I am primarily involved in is the contemporary side, and that incorporates a wide array of music and anywhere from the guys like John Mark McMillan, Hillsong, New Life, different things, [and] of course, all the guys who play in Passion—different things like that. We reach out to an audience that ranges from youth groups probably to about their early 40s to mid 50s would be, so it’s a very wide group. But we do that, and then on top of that we recently started a 24/7 prayer house that we are getting off the ground, so needless to say it’s not 24/7 yet, but it will be soon; it is 24/1 right now, every Monday from 7 in the morning until 7 o’clock the next morning. In our traditional sanctuary, there is a wide arrange of music there too, from acoustic to piano to rock ‘n’ roll. And all the while there is prayer and worshipping happening 24/7, and we hope to take that to a full 24/7 so that at any time, if you have something bad happening at 2 in the morning, that you can stop in at the church and go and just worship. And so those are the different things that we have going on, I would say. [Timestamp: 2:56]

And you’re the tech director there, so I guess you’re the man with the wires and the cables and making sure everything’s plugged into the right place.
I am that. Technically I am just in charge of our youth building and our contemporary, but we don’t have a full-time technical director anywhere else. We have other people who deal with the technical side in traditional and for the 24/7 prayer house called Store House, but when things go wrong, I’m the guy who’s here 40-hours-plus a week. And so needless to say, I’m the one who gets the phone call when things go down, so I always try to have something spare on me so when they question for things as simple as a jump drive to a microphone cable that we make sure we have that at easy access. [Timestamp: 3:44]

And in the Huntsville suburb where you are there’s a lot of upscale science going on in that neighborhood. What kind of a congregation do you have in that church?
I am laughing because I just moved here from Louisiana, where it was a vastly different people. We’re here in the South, yet this is probably more northerners than I’ve ever seen in a southern city, which is been a very good change here. It is engineers, scientists, NASA, defense contractors, computer programmers; the intellectual men of our country probably come through here on a regular basis, if not are stationed here. We have several places in this town that are very big into cancer research and are hopefully making some breakthroughs, and like I said, defense contracting from the Predator missiles to the Drone projects and everything like that, the army—almost every major branch has a base here, and so we have everything it feels like. But the congregation is made up of primarily some of the most intellectual people I have ever met. [Timestamp: 4:59]

And you’ve got a new, I believe, a 1,500-seat auditorium. When did that come along?
Well, they’ve been building it now for about two years, and it officially opened in Easter of 2010 of this year, and that has been more than blessing. It’s a 1,500-seat auditorium where we do our contemporary services, and between the two services, we’re averaging probably about 1,500 plus or minus per Sunday. So the second service is pretty packed down. We have between 1,000 and 1,100 every single week, and the first service is a little bit less, about 400 or 500. Those start at 8:45 and 10:30. And at the 10:30 service, we have a lot more practice under our belt, I would guess that would be the best way to say it. [Timestamp: 5:46]

You’ve got a lot of RF stuff going in the church. You’ve got wireless mics and in-ear monitoring, and it seems like Huntsville is an especially challenging RF environment.
Absolutely it is. Before I came here, I designed audio/video and lighting systems, and part of that was me designing the wireless systems and I did classes with Sennheiser. I actually did one with Shure, but I did a very informative one with Sennheiser, and we talked about all of the issues that were coming up, and then I moved here and I now know more why they were talking about all of those issues because here, not only do we, on just this campus alone, have over 40 wireless microphones or wireless transmitters and receivers, but in this whole entire town, we don’t know what could be hitting RF band at any time. Obviously you have your TV stations, but a lot of these defense contractors are doing things on the RF spectrum that is in the open bands, which is where our wireless [is]. So when we do it, we haven’t had anybody break through yet with any kind of cause, but we were very, very cautious as we designed the wireless environment here to make sure that it would be as locked down as possible. And even if someone brings in one more wireless, I have to make sure that I know where it is in the band, what it’s going to do, what it could do, who it could interact with because we have a children’s sanctuary right below our sanctuary. We have a little bit of everything, and so we were very, very cautious and are still very, very cautious with our wireless environment here. [Timestamp: 7:25]

And you’ve got in-ear monitoring systems; did you break that in or if so, how did the performers take to that? Sometimes it takes a little bit of getting used to.
It does. I was not here when they broke it in, but I have heard many, many, many stories from it. We do have in-ear monitors; we use them through the Aviom system. From what I was told, they were brought in a couple of years ago; our worship pastor and one of our associate pastors, Scott Thackerson, said, “Guys, we’ve got to move to all in-ear monitors,” because at that time, the congregation was meeting for the contemporary services in a gym, and so obviously it was a reflected environment. And next thing you know we’re starting to get more and more people in there, so sound and delivering our message became more and more of a concern. And so we had to go to in-ear monitors to reduce the amount of noise stage volume, and so that’s why they went to it and Scott said, “Guys, were going to it.” And we have a lot of guys who are old-school and have played from everywhere from bars and have played professionally and have played all over the country, and probably even a few of them all over the world, and they’ve used wedges for a lot of their career, and all the sudden they get told, “No, you can’t use those anymore.” And so a lot of these guys had to relearn monitoring, and they fought it for a while, and every now and then you still hear something to the effect of, “Man, can’t you just give me those wedges?” when they see me setting up something and I just laugh and say, “No way, man. I won’t. I can’t do it,” and I just go, “No way, it’s not going to happen.” And they just laugh at me, roll their eyes. They like it, but they have learned that the Aviom system is reliable, and they’ve learned trust it, so it took some time. We also make sure they all have very good ear buds. We buy for the church, not for them. But we buy for our church 12 sets of Westone UM2s, and we have the inner-changeable foam tips, or we allow for them, if they want, to go buy the molded tip and do that, and so we make sure they have that so that they can hear a true frequency response in their ear. We don’t want them to put in—no offense to Apple—but to put in iPod headphones to monitor their mix. And so a lot of guys have, once they saw it and played with it and practiced with it, they still tentatively walked out on to the field, but they walked out and I think we’ve even made a few believers out of them. [Timestamp: 10.01]

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