House of Worship AV (Keeping it Simple)

It has become a bit of an oxymoron to say “House of Worship AV” and “simple” in the same sentence.

Larger churches that have modern worship services have grown accustomed to the complexities of a full band mix and video production to display song lyrics on a display or projection screen. When budget allows, most churches opt to have one or more paid individuals that are tasked to handle the AV for their services. Not all houses of worship can afford this luxury and require help from volunteers within the church to run these systems who may not be thoroughly educated to do so. Often it is a hybrid of a paid individual and volunteers. Along with this, the recent pandemic introduced an increased requirement to transport AV to an online streaming service and/or overflow spaces within a church building which increases the complexity of any system.  Even a more liturgical service with only a couple of microphones being used and little or no video projection can get complicated in a hurry. Now the church needs to deal with cameras, switching and production of another aspect of AV they hadn’t had to before.

How do we design systems with all these complexities and keep it easy for the users of the system to navigate, troubleshoot, and operate?

A proper needs analysis for the house of worship is the place to start. Everyone wants a system with a lot of flexibility. With flexibility comes complexity and expense. A proper needs analysis will determine where the system needs to be or can be flexible and where it can’t. For example, many churches do not necessarily require the need to re-route the inputs and outputs of their audio mixing console. For most church services, the microphone jacks will go into the same mix console channels, and their mixer outputs will feed the same physical outputs. Having an audio mixing console or even a video or camera switcher with input and output routing functionality adds complexity that may not be needed. The use of software driven camera systems may introduce a lot of flexibility, but a simple, all-in-one camera controller, switcher, and streaming device may be all that is required and is much easier to operate. Not to mention, it is one box and not multiple smaller pieces of equipment that would need to be managed.

Leveraging equipment that the church is currently using and familiar with will also make it easier for them to operate.

The needs analysis should determine if the equipment still fits within the functionality of their needs and the equipment is in good working condition. Existing equipment may save money in the short term but result in headaches and problems in the long term if the equipment has service and reliability issues.

Proper labeling and documentation of the connectivity of the systems and how it is configured will also help with any troubleshooting, special needs or changes that are required.

Even after a thorough needs analysis and deployment of a system or multiple systems, the venue’s needs can change if maybe even for one service. Having good documentation of how it was originally installed, gives them the ability to change what is needed for that specific event and easily put it back the way it was.

Education for the individuals running the equipment is a necessity.

Learning not only the equipment’s operation but its configuration and connectivity to other systems can be like drinking from a fire hose, especially if AV isn’t the individual’s area of expertise. Depending on the size and complexity of the system(s), one training session may not be enough to retain all that is necessary to run the system with ease. It might be a good idea to do an initial training session to get them started and then return to do another training session to answer any specific questions they have or reinforce what was previously stated. Including additional educational resources is also a good idea. The more training, use, and familiarity with the AV system, the simpler and easier it becomes.