Friday, December 22, 2006

Church audio

Yesterday, in the middle of the shopping day, Laura and I dropped by our nephew Alex's preschool to watch him in their Christmas show. It was highly cute, just like every other show cast entirely with children five and under, and I enjoyed supporting the neph. What really impressed me was the sound system. I'm a professional production tech guy, and a bit of a gearhead, so I recognize good gear when I see it. And the church that hosts Alex's preschool had some great gear. I'd guess they spent over a quarter of a million dollars on production, between sound and lighting and projection.

The most notable thing about the gear is that it's so much more than they need. The room is small enough that if I were on stage I might not feel the need to use a microphone, but they had a 56-channel Midas console, a 16-channel Heath-Allen console running a submix, and a huge pile of digital processing. Their lighting rig consists of a dozen Source 4 pars and lekos, plus a dozen Mac250 moving-head lights. They've got three projection screens with fixed projectors. They actually need maybe a third of what they've got. Churches are often over-geared; it's in their nature. There's nobody to tell them what they actually need. They'll hire a consultant, paid a percentage, who talks to salesmen, paid a percentage. The only potential for an honest opinion comes from their own sound guy, who's generally bad at what he does -- and, he also wants the most toys possible. So churches always end up with a pile of production gear they don't need.

I'm not complaining; churches keep the production business afloat. Even in a major theater town like New York City, churches outnumber theaters a hundred to one. But I'm always amazed to walk into a 500-seat house of worship and see pro audio gear better suited to a major concert venue. I'm also amazed at how poorly chosen some of their gear is. They've got ten monitor sends (a huge number), but they've only got three wireless mics. They've got a rock-and-roll line array speaker system, but they've only got six mic stands. They've got a huge video patch bay with only three patch points wired up, and they use duct tape instead of gaffer's tape.

No comments: