Technical Upgrades: How and When

How and when to upgrade….

Over the past year the church I serve at has gone through a number of upgrades and expansion of the technical systems. Some of them were necessitated because of the growing ministry, some because of the age of the equipment. All of the upgrades were necessary and there are still more that are needed.

So how and in what order did we choose to upgrade what we did? Perhaps you find yourself in a similar situation?

Basically our upgrades and expansion were all needed and happened in the order that they did for various reasons:

    • Reason 1: Growth
    • Reason 2: Act of God
    • Reason 3: Schedule
    • Reason 4: Continual Improvement.
    • Reason 5: Opportunity
    • Reason 6: Age of Existing Equipment

Growth

Facing a “full house” we felt the need to add another service in our multipurpose room (gym). This involved a complete AVL build out in that space. Like any project, budget was a major driving factor.

As we sat down and looked at what we needed in the space we decided to attack Audio and Video, leaving lighting to be done in the future due to budget reasons. In the area of audio we started laying out things what was important and what should take precedence. On the top of our list was quality followed by personal mixers for monitors. Quality involved getting the best speaker system as possible (after all the speakers will hang there for 10-15 years) This decision lead us to install the L’acoustics ARCSII wide and focus speaker system. With that decision made, there was little left in the budget for much more. Going for value we then determined that the Behringer X32 with the P16 personal mixers would be the only choice that would fit our budget. We figure that we can upgrade and then move it to our youth room or children’s area at a future date. Having an existing screen helped the budget as it was almost already all spent. The best value we could find on a projector was one in the 6500 lumen brightness area (what we felt was just bright enough). For lighting we just hung some existing Source Four ellipsoidal fixtures to light the stage. The existing HID house lighting would have to do for now. Upgrade the lighting would need to come later.

Act of God

At about the time we launched the new service (actually the same week) our existing Midas Verona analog console was damaged during a lightning strike. Bingo! We needed to act fast. So in came our new DiGiCo SD9 console. That was a fun week as my team went from Analog to Digital in two venues literally overnight. As we installed the SD9 we found out that our existing Aviom system (version 1) was not compatible with the Aviom card in the SD9. Now another decision, what to upgrade our personal monitoring system to. This brought us to the Allen&Heath ME personal mixers that were installed the following week.

Schedule

With the addition of the new service in the Gym we now had 2 services going on at the same time. A traditional style in the Main room and a contemporary one in the Gym. At first we rotated preaching so there was live preaching at both services at 9 am and the contemporary service in the main room at 10:30. After doing that for about 6 months the leadership team determined that we needed more of a consistent voice so it was determined that we would need to simulcast the 9 am service from one room to the other. We also decided to do it on an extremely low budget scale as we were not sure this would be a long term solution. So with a couple of consumer cameras and a Black Magic ATEM Television Studio we started simulcasting. As we went along we added some additional cameras to bring us to 4 “fixed” position consumer cameras and an additional consumer camera on a tripod. In the last month we added a home brew “DVR” so we could delay broadcast from one service to the other. (Read about the DVR here)

Continual Improvement

As our new service grew we added LED houselighing and Stage lighting in the multipurpose room. We also added some additional cameras to bring us to 4 “fixed” position consumer cameras and an additional consumer camera on a tripod. In the last month we added a home brew “DVR” so we could delay broadcast from one service to the other. (Read about the DVR here)

Opportunity

About 6 months ago a client of mine (from my work at Parkway) received a double shipment of 30 LED wash lighting fixtures that they had ordered from me. In talking to the manufacturer they offered the fixtures to me at a significant discount so they would not have to recall, reship and restock the fixtures.

So as a team at church we decided to jump on the opportunity. Now this can’t always happened as sometimes things like budgets and cash flow get in the way. In fact just a week ago I had the opportunity to pick up a “real DVR” a gently used broadcast quality one for 1⁄2 price. Unfortunately we had to say not now. We would have loved to have it but cash flow and budget did not allow for us to jump on this deal. Maybe later……

Age of Existing Equipment

Stuff gets old and worn out. Our main speaker system was showing age, we were having some intermittent issues. The week after it celebrated its 10th year in service, we upgraded to the L’Acoustics ARC II WIFO (Wide and Focus) speaker system. This brought our main room up to the level of the system we had installed in the multipurpose room. Next on the list our 5+ year old projector. That should happen the end of this year or the beginning of next year.

So how does this maybe apply to you? Anyone of the 6 reasons is a good and often necessary reason to upgrade, but what is important is to have a plan and to have some contingency built in along with a touch of flexibility.

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