Thursday, May 24, 2012

Making The Best Of It

My boss ran into another pastor recently who needed some help with his sound system. We swapped information and arranged for me to spend a morning at his church sorting things out. He was able to tell me a few things via email but like most times, he didn't know a lot and wasn't able to tell me that much. So on the morning in question I arrived knowing very little and hoping we could piece something together that would serve them well.

I used to do quite a bit of business straightening out church and school sound systems. Whether they were well designed and implemented at first is almost immaterial. Eventually a multitude of minor changes pile up and you get something that's an unworkable mess.  In this case, there was next to nothing in the room so we kind of had a clean slate.

The original system consisted of a 200 watt mixer amp and a pair of pole speakers. The minister had a lav mic and there were one or two other dynamic mics on stage. That was it. The goal was to incorporate an eight channel powered mixer with some more power, get a few more things into the system and also add a couple wedges on stage if possible.

I was there for about four hours and the majority of the time was spent just untangling things and sorting through boxes of stuff.  During that time we talked about how the room was used and the usual order of things during a service. I found out who participated on stage and how they generally approached a mic.  After a lot of digging it turned out that there was enough stuff on hand to accomplish the mission save for a goodly length of speaker cable which was easily procured at a local hardware store.

Once installed I patched all the mics and started tweaking. The mixer had a three band EQ on each channel but the mid was fixed at 2.5k, a frequency I usually don't touch too much unless I need to boost it a tad for better vocal intelligibility. Much more useful would have been a mid fixed at 1 kHz or even lower. It also wasn't particularly effective EQ. When I was done all the lows were as far down as they could go and the mids pretty far as well.  There was a single seven band graph that was selectable for either FOH or monitor. (Pure genius... oy!) I wound up using it on FOH oddly enough because most of the users tend to stay well away from a mic so they needed lots of gain.  On stage they just needed some piano and a touch of vocal in the wedges so we were able to keep feedback down just by regulating the levels.

I also got an FM transmitter going that they had lying around and that let them get sound into their nursery, quickly and cheaply, without adding another amp or speaker. They plan on also getting a hold of some inexpensive FM receivers to provide assisted listening for the hearing impaired.

All in all it was really just making the best of a pretty grim situation. But it was still an improvement over what they had in place before. The pastor said he had a handful of volunteers in training so I'll be sending him some web resources to put them on to. The last email I got from him said they tried things out at a rehearsal and everything worked great. 

The most important thing I'd like to say about all this is that it would have been pretty easy to go on and on about how much better other churches have it and what he really ought to have. The truth is, even the little bit he spent on the mixer and the cable was probably a stretch. So by making the best of it and keeping a positive attitude it wound up being a positive experience for both of us. As I drove away we were both feeling pretty optimistic.

No comments:

Post a Comment

You're the Scotty to our Kirk