Twin Cities Church
As with most installations, the one at Twin Cities Church in Grass Valley, CA, started with an idea, continued with a plan and included a handful of adjustments along the way.
Over a three-year period, the Twin Cities ministry team worked with CCI Solutions, an Olympia, Wash.-based company that specializes in the design and implementation of audio, video and lighting systems for contemporary worship spaces. Prior to the new building project, CCI Solutions had established an ongoing business relationship with both Twin Cities Church and their architect, Gordon Rogers Associates. The first planning meetings for the new facility were held in 2002 and the final installation pieces were put into place so that the facility was ready for services in June 2005.
CCI's principal acoustical consultant Ron Simonson, P.E. reports that there were three main challenges when it came to planning the Twin Cities facility. "They wanted to design a facility that was expandable in the future without a lot of expense," he says. "The second thing is that they are incredibly progressive in their use of drama into their worship services. Finally, they were designing the facility on a hill that overlooked a big valley, so they wanted a lot of glass and daylight, and our acoustical and lighting design had to accommodate this need for natural daylight and lots of window area."
Twin Cities celebration arts pastor Dave Bollen added one more challenge. "When we first started with CCI, we expressed that we wanted a top quality audio system and we wanted to maintain the quality that we had in our existing facility," he says. "Given our budget constraints, that was a real challenge!"
On the audio side of things, Simonson's recommendation was to build a system around an expanded cluster arrangement. "It was designed to give them maximum intelligibility in the space, particularly considering the amount of glazing involved. They were pleased with that design, and probably a year into the project or so, we had the design significantly done using four clusters around the front of the stage plus a number of satellites," he says.
However, in what would be the first adjustment, Bollen reports that they heard an SLS 8695 column line array system at a high school auditorium in Redding, Calif., that knocked their socks off. "We were impressed with the even coverage across the room and the fact that you could fill the whole space and not have to pound the volume," he says. "So, we came back and discussed the line array idea with CCI."
Simonson and the CCI Solutions team felt that the small 8695 line array columns would not be adequate for the new worship space and recommended the SLS RLA/2 LS8800 line array instead. "A line array solution obviously brings some tradeoffs, particularly for drama use in terms of gain before feedback and possible intelligibility issues depending upon the room acoustical treatments," Simonson says. "The upside can be a more open-sounding musical performance, and that was a tradeoff they were willing to make, particularly since they are using headset types of microphones instead of lapel or floor microphones."
It might seem to some that line arrays are easier to set up in an install situation. Simonson says, "It does seem like it's just 'hang them up there and you're done,' like a road show, and a lot of churches are thinking they can do it. There's a lot more effort and a longer timeframe to successfully integrate these systems into a building design.
"We think line arrays are a wonderful tool in the tool box," he continues, "but it takes as much-if not more-engineering, design and acoustical engineering to make it a successful installation as it does with any of these other products." CCI bolstered the line array system with SLS FF2605 front fill speakers and Bag End D18EI subwoofers. The P.A. is powered by Crown CTs600, CTs2000 and CTs4200 amplifiers. A Symetrix Symnet 8X8 digital signal processing system was brought in for the line array. The church was planning to bring over their existing 56 channel console due to budget constraints, but it failed during commissioning. CCI Solutions quickly negotiated a deal on a "B" stock 48-channel Allen & Heath GL4000 console, which was delivered and installed in time for their first service.
Simonson reports that the church had an impressive assortment of microphones before the installation started. "As is typical with many churches now, their stable of portable equipment can be pretty good," he says. "A growing, expanding church is already doing many of the ministries in their old facility that they want to grow into in their new facility, so many have already purchased a lot of good gear like microphones and source equipment."
Although the Twin Cities process took three years from idea to completion, Simonson delivered Aviom A-16 personal mixers with Shure E-2 Earbuds to ministry staff a year before moving into the new facility. The Aviom system was selected so that the musicians could alter their own PM mix on stage. Simonson believes delivering a personal mix system early on is crucial. "That way, they get used to using it in their existing facility so that when they make the switch over to their new facility and system, that isn't new as well," he explains. "They can step right in with something they are comfortable with and there isn't too much change all at once. Churches that move in and try to do personal monitoring at the same time they have a new facility with a new sound and lighting system go through a lot of change all at once."
Beyond technology, CCI Solutions had to overcome some stiff acoustical challenges that were only exacerbated by the line array installation. "The acoustical treatment when using a line array can be substantially different than using an expanded cluster design, because there is a lot more energy that a line array will put on the back wall," Simonson says. "We made sure to put a significant amount of absorptive material on the back walls to reduce the amount of energy going back to the platform." While there would have still been the issue of reflection with a distributed cluster design, Simonson says it would not have been as drastic with the distributed approach. "The angles are such that you've got much less energy going at the back wall, because the satellites are aimed at more severe angles," he explains. That said, Simonson adds, "Even with the amount of attention that we paid to putting material back there, there are still areas like large doorways that you can't put absorption on, so you still get some energy coming back to the platform. As a designer, you really do have to pay attention to the back walls in any room where you are using a line array."
CCI also incorporated an extensive light and video system into the building's infrastructure. As Bollen points out, two large video screens placed in the proscenium needed to be accommodated. "CCI Solutions and the architect worked with us to dress those with drapes so they didn't look like they didn't belong there, and then the location of each array on each side needed to work out just right," he says. "It ended up being perfect, and the look of everything is just right."
In the months since the Twin Cities Church started to use the new location, Bollen reports that very few tweaks have taken place. An SLS engineer came in and fine-tuned the system, and there are considerations for upgrading the existing Crown amplifiers. That said, Bollen reports, "We are so happy with the system."