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Author Topic: Church in the round  (Read 6031 times)

Chad Whittington

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Church in the round
« on: October 30, 2012, 10:23:55 am »

I've been tasked with designing and setting up a system for a special service and I'm not sure how to do this properly. I'll explain as best I can what the organizers want:
1. Location is a high school gym.
2. This is a one time event.
3. We will need to rent most of the equipment.
4. We need video projection for songs and readings.
5. We are expecting between 400-700 people.
6. We have a limited budget in terms of money and setup time.
7. We don't have a band. We will have one song leader and the rest is spoken word.

Here's the challenging part: They want a low stage (1-2 feet) in the middle of the room with the audience in a circle surrounding the stage. See the attachment for a very rough sketch (not to scale).

Video:
I'm thinking I'll set up four screens behind the audience so people will look from one side of the circle to the other to see the screens. This is not great because the screens will have to rather tall so that people can see them over the crowds heads.

Sound:
I don't know how I'll setup the speakers so that everyone can hear, so they don't block sight lines, and I minimize feedback. I don't have time, money, or expertise to do any rigging, which would likely be the best solution. I have access to speakers on sticks, along with amps, mixers, etc. I've done plenty of pa work in a standard setup and know how to set up the system that way but this round idea is worrying me. My other concern is that in the round setup I'll have cords running through the audience.

I'd love any advice that you can give me on this.  I'm trying to convince the organizers to change the layout to something simpler but I don't think I'm going to win that discussion.

Chad Whittington
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John Livings

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Re: Church in the round
« Reply #1 on: October 30, 2012, 07:12:40 pm »

"I'm trying to convince the organizers to change the layout to something simpler but I don't think I'm going to win that discussion."

Chad, I would try to change their minds, or ask for LARGE budget.

Regards,  John
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Chad Whittington

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Re: Church in the round
« Reply #2 on: October 30, 2012, 10:06:46 pm »

So it's not just me this is a nightmare setup :)
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Scott Wagner

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Re: Church in the round
« Reply #3 on: October 30, 2012, 10:23:36 pm »

So it's not just me this is a nightmare setup :)
Four 90-degree boxes will cover this fine.  Although I would add 4 front fill boxes, too.  Get the mains in the air and angled down.  This will help to even out the levels throughout the listening area (and keep things from bouncing off of the screens).  Flying is the best way to do this for sight-lines (and trim height), but sticks will do the job with minor sight-line issues.  Keep in mind that this is a mono setup.  Also, don't mix and match your speakers.  You'll have enough to worry about without having each zone sounding different.
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Scott Wagner
Big Nickel Audio

Bob L. Wilson

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Re: Church in the round
« Reply #4 on: October 31, 2012, 11:16:32 am »

I've been tasked with designing and setting up a system for a special service and I'm not sure how to do this properly. I'll explain as best I can what the organizers want:
1. Location is a high school gym.
2. This is a one time event.
3. We will need to rent most of the equipment4. We need video projection for songs and readings.
5. We are expecting between 400-700 people.
6. We have a limited budget in terms of money and setup time.
7. We don't have a band. We will have one song leader and the rest is spoken word.

Here's the challenging part: They want a low stage (1-2 feet) in the middle of the room with the audience in a circle surrounding the stage. See the attachment for a very rough sketch (not to scale).

Video:
I'm thinking I'll set up four screens behind the audience so people will look from one side of the circle to the other to see the screens. This is not great because the screens will have to rather tall so that people can see them over the crowds heads.

Sound:
I don't know how I'll setup the speakers so that everyone can hear, so they don't block sight lines, and I minimize feedback. I don't have time, money, or expertise to do any rigging, which would likely be the best solution. I have access to speakers on sticks, along with amps, mixers, etc. I've done plenty of pa work in a standard setup and know how to set up the system that way but this round idea is worrying me. My other concern is that in the round setup I'll have cords running through the audience.

I'd love any advice that you can give me on this.  I'm trying to convince the organizers to change the layout to something simpler but I don't think I'm going to win that discussion.

Chad Whittington

As with most endeavors involving humans determination of outcome as success or failure is entirely predicated on expectations. My hypothesis: If the attendees are church in a gym people chances for success are good as they tend to be inclined to overlook church infrastructure related shortcomings in all areas including sound. If the attendees are established church or unchurched people with expectations based on previous experiences in churches, clubs, theaters, performing arts venues, etc chances for success are poor. My ears support your inclination to be wary of a round setup. I have been in a few round churches most with hugely expensive systems all using flown center clusters and except in a few cases where the ceiling height was 50'+ the intelligibilty was marginal at best. Many also suffered from obvious hot spots on the stage that caused all manner of difficulties. I must admit I have never been to a round service in a rectangular room. Conceptually I can't envision how any arrangement of speakers on sticks is going to perform remotely as well as the flown clusters.

Four 90-degree boxes will cover this fine.

Could be right could be wrong depends upon how the stakeholders define "fine".

If you had the gear, access to the room, and many hours to iterate I suspect one could make progress towards a tune that gives better intelligibity through a combination of delay/phase and levels. Since you don't, Alea iacta est if it is a complete disaster at least the worship planners won't do it again.
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Chad Whittington

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Re: Church in the round
« Reply #5 on: October 31, 2012, 11:40:42 am »

As with most endeavors involving humans determination of outcome as success or failure is entirely predicated on expectations. My hypothesis: If the attendees are church in a gym people chances for success are good as they tend to be inclined to overlook church infrastructure related shortcomings in all areas including sound. If the attendees are established church or unchurched people with expectations based on previous experiences in churches, clubs, theaters, performing arts venues, etc chances for success are poor.

The audience is made up of at least three established congregations each with their own buildings.  This is a one time service where we are all meeting together.  My goal is that everyone can hear the people speaking as clearly as possible in a space that is not acoustically ideal.

If you had the gear, access to the room, and many hours to iterate I suspect one could make progress towards a tune that gives better intelligibity through a combination of delay/phase and levels. Since you don't, Alea iacta est if it is a complete disaster at least the worship planners won't do it again.

I have access to the room the night before but I don't have access or budget to fly the speakers or really tune the room properly. We want this to be a success so that there will be desire to have services like this again in the future. I'm concerned that if no one can hear or see the screens they won't want to attend the next service like this even if it has a more conventional setup.
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Bob L. Wilson

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Re: Church in the round
« Reply #6 on: October 31, 2012, 02:12:56 pm »

The audience is made up of at least three established congregations each with their own buildings.  This is a one time service where we are all meeting together.  My goal is that everyone can hear the people speaking as clearly as possible in a space that is not acoustically ideal.

I have access to the room the night before but I don't have access or budget to fly the speakers or really tune the room properly. We want this to be a success so that there will be desire to have services like this again in the future. I'm concerned that if no one can hear or see the screens they won't want to attend the next service like this even if it has a more conventional setup.

Options:
1) Arrange a full scale test in the gym with the system you intend to use. Packing or concrete blankets thrown over the chairs and a dozen boomboxes all tuned to different radio stations to bring up the noise floor is the simplest way to model for the effect of the audience. Sounds like a lot of work but trying to explain how this setup may or may not sound to lay people is lots more work. Depending on results either the leadership will decide it is good enough or it isn't. 

2) Convince organizers of the unknown performance risk you are facing so they scrap the round idea in favor of a more conventional arrangement.

3) Flee by ship towards Tarshish.
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Brad Weber

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Re: Church in the round
« Reply #7 on: October 31, 2012, 05:01:56 pm »

The audience is made up of at least three established congregations each with their own buildings.  This is a one time service where we are all meeting together.  My goal is that everyone can hear the people speaking as clearly as possible in a space that is not acoustically ideal.

I have access to the room the night before but I don't have access or budget to fly the speakers or really tune the room properly. We want this to be a success so that there will be desire to have services like this again in the future. I'm concerned that if no one can hear or see the screens they won't want to attend the next service like this even if it has a more conventional setup.
Understanding you may be stuck in the middle, please read what you said above.
 
You seem to have some defined goals such as it needs to be a success, intelligibility is important, everyone needs to see what is on the screens and soon.  So how did you get to having a budget and layout that seem likely to have difficulty supporting those goals?  Did the people that developed the "in the round" plan consider those goals?  Did anyone consider the goals and what may be required to achieve them when they set a budget?  The point is that the layout and room have a direct impact on the AV required to meet the goals defined as does the budget and schedule.  And at least in terms of how it affects the AV it seems like the room/layout aspect and the budget/schedule aspect may have been established without coordinating the two.  As a result, unless they layout and/or budget can be altered to better accommodate the AV then some of the goals for the AV may have to be compromised.  And it may be better to make that point sooner rather than later.
 
I am not clear how they see the "in the round" working.  You mentioned it mostly being spoken word and with the relatively low stage and flat floor that seems to mean that at any time half the audience would be seeing the back side of the talker.
 
Front projection would seem challenging.  Where would you put the projectors?  How would you keep room and ambient light off the screens?  And with screens opposite one another would they tend to somewhat wash each other out?  If you can't fly anything and are in a gym with likely limited ambient and room lighting control then you might have to consider multiple rear projection screens with each having its own 'projection room' created behind the screen using soft goods or whatever.  Something that keeps light other than from the projector off the rear of the screen.  Or maybe multiple LED walls, although it sounds like that option would probably exceed the budget.  And you are right that they would have to be above head height to avoid interference especially from anyone standing on the raised stage.
 
You mentioned a concern about cables and exit paths, trip hazards, etc. are indeed a consideration but that also made me wonder where the "FOH" mix location would be located?
 
I haven't even mentioned the speakers since without being able to fly anything and with no time or money for tuning and alignment you are probably just going to have to do the best you can with what you can afford.
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Jonathan Johnson

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Re: Church in the round
« Reply #8 on: October 31, 2012, 07:16:16 pm »

Purchase 500 cheap radios and get a low-power FM transmitter. That's probably the best intelligibility you're going to get, but don't expect it to provide the same level of experience.
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Stop confusing the issue with facts and logic!

Chad Whittington

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Re: Church in the round
« Reply #9 on: November 01, 2012, 08:55:30 am »

Understanding you may be stuck in the middle, please read what you said above.
 
You seem to have some defined goals such as it needs to be a success, intelligibility is important, everyone needs to see what is on the screens and soon.  So how did you get to having a budget and layout that seem likely to have difficulty supporting those goals?  Did the people that developed the "in the round" plan consider those goals?  Did anyone consider the goals and what may be required to achieve them when they set a budget?  The point is that the layout and room have a direct impact on the AV required to meet the goals defined as does the budget and schedule.  And at least in terms of how it affects the AV it seems like the room/layout aspect and the budget/schedule aspect may have been established without coordinating the two.  As a result, unless they layout and/or budget can be altered to better accommodate the AV then some of the goals for the AV may have to be compromised.  And it may be better to make that point sooner rather than later.

I was brought in after the initial discussions between the ministers at each church where they came up with the round idea. I think AV goals were considered but by people who admittedly have little knowledge or training in the area.  The round idea seems rather intrenched in some of the pastor's minds leaving me to either convince them to change their minds or "make it work."  I think I can get about $1000 to rent equipment but that will only cover the most basic PA along with screens and projectors.  Based on what others have said in response to my questions I think I would need at least ten times that amount of money to do this properly (not to mention expertise in rigging).

I am not clear how they see the "in the round" working.  You mentioned it mostly being spoken word and with the relatively low stage and flat floor that seems to mean that at any time half the audience would be seeing the back side of the talker.
 
Front projection would seem challenging.  Where would you put the projectors?  How would you keep room and ambient light off the screens?  And with screens opposite one another would they tend to somewhat wash each other out?  If you can't fly anything and are in a gym with likely limited ambient and room lighting control then you might have to consider multiple rear projection screens with each having its own 'projection room' created behind the screen using soft goods or whatever.  Something that keeps light other than from the projector off the rear of the screen.  Or maybe multiple LED walls, although it sounds like that option would probably exceed the budget.  And you are right that they would have to be above head height to avoid interference especially from anyone standing on the raised stage.
 
You mentioned a concern about cables and exit paths, trip hazards, etc. are indeed a consideration but that also made me wonder where the "FOH" mix location would be located?
 

Great questions. Some of these I hadn't considered yet.  I guess I was thinking I would put the FOH behind one of the sections of chairs and spend some of my time away from the FOH to get a better idea of what people were hearing (or not hearing).

I haven't even mentioned the speakers since without being able to fly anything and with no time or money for tuning and alignment you are probably just going to have to do the best you can with what you can afford.

The more I think about this the more I feel like I'm in over my head with this round setup.  I may have to try to hire someone locally or convince the pastors to go with a conventional setup.

Thanks to everyone for your input... I have a ship to catch... Tarshish here I come :)
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Re: Church in the round
« Reply #9 on: November 01, 2012, 08:55:30 am »


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