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Emergency Audio for Worship, Part 1

Jun 10, 2013 11:49 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.

At St. Lucy Parish, the church members had been putting off upgrading the church’s sound system until the old one finally died and it became an emergency. Mike Dow at Zamar Media Solutions in San Jose had been looking at the church’s needs and already had a plan ready to go. He’s here to tell us what Zamar Media Solutions did to save the day, coming right up on the SVC Podcast.

Mike, thanks for being with us on the SVC Podcast from Zamar Media Solutions in San Jose, Calif. That’s kind of an interesting name and I know you had a big sound system revamp at St. Lucy Parish. It looks like they were long overdue for one. Tell me what’s been happening at Zamar Media Solutions. What’s been going on there?

Well, we’ve been keeping pretty busy despite the downturn in the economy. We’ve got a lot of customers that have been waiting to do upgrades for the last couple of years and so they’re starting to percolate up to the top of the heap, so to speak, and they are scaled back in scope a lot of times, but the St. Lucy project was one that was long overdue and that we’ve been working on for probably about six years trying to get the process to complete. And they finally had a system failure, which brought us to the table again. [Timestamp: 1:36]

Yeah, nothing like the whole sound system collapsing to finally get the people in gear on fixing it. Now I think they had an upgrade in mind some time ago and just put their plans on ice for a while probably with budget concerns. What sort of a church is St. Lucy Parish? What sort of a worship style do they have there?

Well, that was one of the challenges—the variety of worship styles. There are various types of congregations, ethnic groups that meet there. It’s a Catholic church, but they have very, very diverse groups, so it presented some challenges for us. Sometimes it’s just choir, organ, and the liturgy. And then other times it’s a full band in front of a small choir and it varies quite a bit. It required us, during the commissioning process, to actually bring in each of those groups, dial in on the mixer—the digital PreSonus mixer—each of those groups and gave them fader control and the basics that they needed, which is all they were used to doing, but with a little bit of experience on our part to make sure that things were dialed in and sounded good when they fed the larger system. [Timestamp: 2:44]

And of course a digital mixer with recallable presets can make it much easier for non-pro audio people to get up and running with it. But they had the old system that wasn’t working. So what did they say when they called you up, ‘Help, come rescue us,’ or what?

Absolutely. That was pretty much the call that I got from Michael Wentz, the coordinator there. And he’s very tech savvy; [he] came out of the Silicon Valley here in the computer industry, so he was very cognizant of what he wanted, what he needed. He participated in the design process, and that’s why we were so successful in this because we had an inhouse person who knew what they wanted as opposed to the typical customer who knows what they don’t like but not sure what they do like. So it made for a very successful design process, and the end result was pretty much astounding. The initial system that was in there was all pretty much conference room ceiling speakers about 20ft. to 25ft. in the air, with no delays, nothing. Everything was small-rack, round-knob mixers with fingernail polish where the knob should be, and was subject to continual fooling around by various folks who thought they knew better, which created everything from distortion to blown speakers to just generally bad sound. So they were looking for a pilotless system that allowed them to hit a button, recall things, and make minor adjustments once that recall was done, which now that we’ve been several months into operation has been totally successful and they’re very pleased. [Timestamp: 4:21]

And the old system that was in there, since it went down, I guess there wasn’t much, if any of it, that you could repurpose and reuse in the new setup. The churches want you to do sometimes.

That’s correct. We reused maybe, I think, one small amplifier for their lobby and some remote speakers. Everything else was replaced. We had done the video work about four years ago and had rebuilt that portion of the rack, so we reintegrated the new audio with our old video and rebuilt the entire rack system for them; brought in new power to handle the larger amplifiers, so it was an interesting process. One of the interesting things they did was they requested I leave one of those mixers in there that wasn’t hooked up so people that liked to play can come back and play with the knobs that didn’t do anything. [Timestamp: 5:12]

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