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The Buzz: Install of the Month:
Fellowship of the Woodlands Church

Sep 1, 2005 12:00 PM, By Charles Conte

Faithful Recall


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Two Yamaha PM5D-RH digital consoles help the Fellowship of the Woodlands Church manage the various events that pass through its 4,200-seat main auditorium.

Fellowship of the Woodlands Church in The Woodlands, Texas, is a dynamic, contemporary church that doesn't give an audio engineer a day of rest. Certainly not on Sunday — or on many other days of the week, for that matter.

The church recently installed two Yamaha PM5D-RH digital consoles for FOH and monitoring. The two-week period during which Fellowship of the Woodlands demoed the console was typical of the rapid succession of varied events that pass through Fellowship of the Woodlands' 4,200-seat main auditorium. The demo period was packed with events that involved elements such as full bands and singers, a symphony, a choir production, and even a full replication of a Blue Man Group performance. Thus, the events necessitated wildly different setups in terms of microphones, patching, and staging.

FOH engineer Harold Rubens, who is also an independent AV contractor, integrated the PM5Ds into the church's AV infrastructure. “Recallability on the head amp allows us to maintain a good unity gain structure throughout,” he says.

Rubens is referring to the optional RH front-end configuration of the PM5D, with 48 XLR analog mono inputs with recallable mic preamps. It's derived from the head amplifier design of the Yamaha PM5000. “There can be as many as 24 entirely different mixes in some of the bigger services,” says monitor engineer Clinton Moore. “And then it's not uncommon to have one person on a particular mic on one song, then different singers using the same mic for other songs.”

“The ability to rehearse something, store your settings, and three days later come back and hit a recall button — and boom, it's there — is a huge advantage in the kind of day-in, day-out production schedule we handle,” says Rubens.

Rubens and Moore are trained professionals with many years of live mixing experience between them, though mostly on analog consoles. But they were up and running on the digital PM5D within an extremely short time frame.

“I was hesitant to make the switch from analog to digital,” says Rubens. “I'm a hands-on mixer. With an analog console, I can be making one adjustment and be checking something else. But with this console, you can't do that. You have to push another button in order to see what you want to see.” However, Rubens continues, “The beauty of the PM5D is that it is logically laid out to enhance what you are doing by putting everything you need in your hands, and more.”

Fellowship of the Woodlands FOH engineer Harold Rubens (left) and monitor engineer Clinton Moore (right)

If Rubens was initially hesitant about moving to a digital console, always pushing him forward was the knowledge that production size and values at the church were nearly overwhelming his abilities. “We try very hard to make the song sound like it was done on the CD,” he says. “That means effects, sounds, mix. … Everything changes per song. [Before,] I just could not make the switches fast enough.”

Apart from recall, Rubens was also taken with the sonic quality of the Yamaha PM5D's mic preamps, its 32-bit internal processing, and its 96kHz audio. “The coolest thing is that I can hear the difference between 48k and 96k on our PA,” he says.

Houston-based RWS Architects designed the main auditorium, which opened in August 2001 as the church's first and only sanctuary. Acoustic Dimensions of Addison, Texas, performed acoustical and AV system design. The auditorium was designed to maintain a sense of unity among the congregation, pastor, and praise team; a balcony helps give the room a more intimate feel. RWS Architects and Acoustic Dimensions took pains in their designs to keep to a minimum the noise of the building's HVAC and electrical systems. “The room sounds phenomenal. It really is a pleasure to mix in this room,” says Rubens.

The audio system is a left/center/right cluster design using Peavey's MediaMatrix as the heart of the system for all processing and distribution. The system includes MQ series loudspeakers from EAW and a Bag End D18 subwoofer. Moore creates stereo in-ear monitor mixes for the singers and also sends mixes and direct-outs to an Aviom system for the band.

Fellowship of the Woodlands also uses two Barco Elm R12 rear-projection systems for image magnification of video rolls and lyrics, and feeds from up to six Sony DXC-D35 DVCAM cameras. Using an ETC lighting desk, technical director Dave Marks has a full theatrical lighting system, including intelligent lighting, at his disposal. This lets him create different looks for each song/segment during the services.

The technical department at the church is relatively small, consisting of two video shooters/editors, two audio engineers, and Marks. Volunteers pitch in to create media for the church's spiritual, physical, relational, and financial fitness website, www.thelifecoach.org. Nothing is outsourced, including broadcast-level video graphics creation (via Pinnacle Deko software), shooting and editing for commercials (shot in HD on rented Panasonic VariCams and edited in Apple Final Cut Pro HD), and audio editing and recording in Digidesign Pro Tools.


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