When it comes to church tech teams, qualified and experienced volunteers can be hard to come by, especially for many smaller churches.
With the very real possibility that inexperienced individuals will be asked to head sound operations, churches are forced to help green volunteers navigate an exceedingly steep learning curve before they can effectively be utilized.
What if there was a way to make this learning curve a little less steep? Arria Live Media is attempting to do just that. The Hillsboro, Oregon startup has essentially created smart audio equipment that can be controlled directly through an IPad interface sound system, completely bypassing the need for a mixer.
Ed Arrington, CEO of Arria Live, says that their system allows volunteers to work more like orchestra conductors than mixing board operators. Sound technicians using Arria Live are communicating with each individual endpoint, he says, the way a conductor interacts with individual musicians, rather than mixing different channels through a soundboard.
"Using an arrangement like this allows [components] to communicate, sync and stay tightly connected," he said. "You still do mixing, but you don't need a mixer."
Arria Live uses smart technology to actually change the architecture of a sound system. In the place of signal routing and channel mapping that is normally done through a traditional central mixing system, Arria Live instead uses endpoints that self-identify and self-configure. These smart points then communicate directly to the operator.
"Our product is a full system. It is not just a component," Arrington said. "It is like the difference between a car and the entire transportation system, or an airplane and the whole aviation system that includes airports, air traffic controllers and everything needed for air travel."
"When Henry Ford created the automobile it was great, but we still needed roads, laws to govern those roads and an agreed upon system to make everything work. Arria Live is like that system [for sound production]."
The foundation of the system rests with the smart endpoints, which include microphones and speakers. These endpoints each house their own signal processor which can store information about the device and share it with other endpoints through a standard Ethernet network. Without a mixer, the endpoints can be plugged in anywhere, and there is no need for mapping tables, or even different channels, making set up and troubleshooting less time consuming.
Arrington contends that Arria Live is the first significant technological advancement in the sound performance arena in over fifty years as that is when central mixing technology first originated. The question that remains, though, is whether or not the use of new technology is needed in the industry. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right? Arrington says that Arria Live is a tool that will make sound engineering simpler and easy enough for anyone to manage, making the use of technology acceptable and needed.
"I have a good deal of hands on experience running fairly complex sound systems with 20-30 inputs trying to manage with snake inputs and the like," Arrington said. "Coming from the tech world seeing all of these advancements, I was fascinated how the performance world hadn't caught up with technology like most other industries have done. I thought that's a bit of a problem when there are [issues in the industry that] technology could fix."
Many churches today don't have the luxury of having someone that understands acoustics or how reverb works. Arrington says that Arria Live is his team's attempt to address this problem.
"I thought there ought to be a way to make this stuff simpler. I want to be able to plug in a microphone and that mic would tell me how it is routed. That's what we decided to do," he said.
Some churches have already implemented Arria Live as their new sound system. Crossridge Church in Sherwood, Oregon, for example, is using this new technology and Arrington says that they are extremely satisfied.
"[Our product] worked great for Crossridge, and it had some benefits for them that I never would have envisioned," Arrington said.
By using IPad interfaces, Arria Live has the potential to make the sound technician's job a portable one. At Crossridge Church, this equated to their sound guy, volunteer Jim Copfer, being able to sit in the service with his family while he performed his duties as a sound technician. With Crossridge as well as other venues that have started using Arria Live, Arrington says that it is interesting to watch the progression as the technicians become accustomed to the system.
"It's been fun to watch When somebody first installs it, they're not sure what to do with it, but they quickly transition to figure out what makes it better than the old system. People that have some experience are a little uncomfortable at first, but about 30 minutes in they make a transition and get it. Younger people are different. Students are very creative and have jumped right in with no fear, and it's great because you can't mess this system up. You can make the room sound as acoustically good as possible and lock down the mix."
Arria Live produces a variety of smart devices including microphones, microphone converters, speaker converters, input converters, stereo converters, headphone monitors, and IPad compatible software applications that will soon be available for Mac and IPhone.