Church Achieves ‘Beauty for Ashes’ With Transformative AVL Install

Six-month project at Washington church comprised of Hitachi projectors, Chroma-Q houselights, CHAUVET Professional production lighting, L-Acoustics speakers, and a High End Systems HedgeHog 4 lighting console.

TACOMA, Wash. For some projects, the luxury of time is one that is simply not feasible.

Beginning from the early morning hours after Thanksgiving last year, to the day before Memorial Day six months later, Our Savior Lutheran Church's staff and congregation experienced a full swing of emotions.

“We were able to come out of the tragedy with something better than we could have imagined.”

The church, which averages about 550 on Sundays, found itself in the midst of having to literally pick up the pieces, following a shocking series of arson fires that severely damaged its sanctuary and lobby last November.

Then, barely half a year later, on Sunday, May 28, the church reopened its doors for the first time since the tragic incident. The church's complete transformation occurred at the same location it had used over the last 24 years.

Many of the changes are part of a renovation comprised of completely new audio, video and lighting equipment.

Matt Kees, Minister of Media and Technical Arts said that the church had in the months before the fire, begun looking toward making upgrades and changes to the church's lighting and adding environmental projection. Those plans, though, were originally thought to be about two to five years out.

"(With what was) damaged in the fire, we had to replace (the church's lighting)," he said. "We had been in conversations with CCI Solutions (in Turnwater, about a half-hour drive) about some upgrade possibilities." The church's plans, though, were quickly expanded, as there had been no audio system upgrade planned prior to the fires. The plans were then thrust on the fast track, noted Todd Gathany, the Systems Operations Director for CCI Solutions. "With what happened, it advanced the timeline a bit," he said.

Over the ensuing months, the church largely worked toward replacing everything in their worship space by the Memorial Day weekend, other than its pews and the large cross stationed at the middle of the altar.

"The theme for our church during that time was Beauty for Ashes.' We were able to come out of the tragedy with something better than we could have imagined," added Kees.

Featured in the install were four Hitachi CPX-9111 projectors, each 10,000 lumens offering XGA resolution, for environmental projection. Working with the projectors to facilitate the environmental projection in the space is the multi-display software, Dataton Watchout. In addition, a fifth projector, a Hitachi CP-WUX645N WUXGA 4,200-lumen projector, serves as a confidence monitor in the space.

For the new lighting installed in the worship space, a combination of Chroma-Q Inspire RGBW houselights and an array of CHAUVET Professional production lighting are featured. Included among the CHAUVET Professional lights are six Rogue R1 Spot lights, with each consisting of a moving head white beam LED fixture, with a three-facet prism, two gobo wheels (one rotates), and an eight-position color wheel. In addition there were 18 COLORado 1 Solos; six Ovation E-910FC19 lights, each a 19-degree full-color ellipsoidal LED lighting fixture; and six Ovation F-95WW lights, warm white LED Fresnel compact lighting fixtures.

To operate the full series of Chroma-Q and CHAUVET Professional lights is a High End Systems HedgeHog 4 lighting console. It features an internal 12.1-inch multi-touch monitor, ten faders and four encoder wheels. The compact and lightweight HedgeHog 4 is ideal for new users and for smaller venues.

The audio system that was installed at Our Savior Lutheran includes a varied L-Acoustics setup. Featured are WiFo speaker arrays, using both ARCS Wide and ARCS Focus speakers, one per side, totaling two pairs. Both the Wide and Focus incorporate full-range performance, from 55Hz to 20 kHz and 137 dB of maximum sound pressure level for the ARCS Wide and 139 dB of SPL for the ARCS Focus. Each ARCS Wide and ARCS Focus cabinet is designed for up to 450 watts RMS. The configuration of each has a 12-inch low-frequency bass-reflex driver and a 3-inch high-frequency diaphragm compression driver.

In need of extended bandwith in the worship space, a pair of L-Acoustics SB18i subwoofers was also deployed. Each SB18i sub includes an 18-inch driver, with a 4-inch coil. The subs are also individually capable of handling 700 watts RMS, along with reaching down to 32 Hz (-10 dB).

"Quality was important to them, along with having a completely full sound that is not harsh," said Gathany, regarding the selection of the L-Acoustics system. It was important that the system provides a full, rich sound. And that it doesn't contribute to the comments that a service is too loud.'"

Pertaining to churches contending with volume issues, he added, "My experience with the volume wars' is it's not the volume. It's the harshness," to where he added that the L-Acoustics "are a present, a positive experience."

Controlling the audio system is a pair of PreSonus RML32AI digital mixers, along with a PreSonus CS18AI control surface. The CS18AI offers complete hardware control, for up to 64 channels, along with handling all mixing needs.

To complete the audio and video portion of the install, CCI Solutions was on site at the church for a period of a few weeks, according to Gathany.

"We probably had people here for three weeks, for rigging, and then wiring. And then when things were in a more completed state," he said.

This wasn't the first time that Kees had worked with CCI Solutions, he noted. Over the years, he'd he said he'd built up a longtime relationship with the integrator, dating back to college. Then during the mid-2000s, while serving as the church's worship leader, he worked with the integrator to complete an audio and video upgrade in the worship space.

While the space was being transfigured, the church held services in the local commons at a nearby middle school. During the time, Kees explained that the church "didn't have any cancellations. When we went to the middle school, we essentially became a mobile church." Beginning in November, Gathany said, "CCI was able to service both sides of their needs. That included their retail needs and also their integration needs, to where they could become a portable church overnight."

Typically, upgrade plans seek to incorporate demos, among other things, but limited time eliminated such ideas from the project.

"We basically entrusted all of (the audio, video and lighting equipment selection to CCI Solutions). Other than the PreSonus equipment, which I selected, and that’s because I have a working relationship with them," noted Kees.

Among the major factors a church should account for if planning a similarly multi-faceted project, Gathany said, "Is the importance in selecting an integrator that specializes in the integration of audio, video and lighting, and who also can understand the mission of what the church is trying to do." By having a firm grasp on the mission, it can go a long way to prevent installing sporadically used equipment.

For Kees, any church planning such a significant overhaul should make sure there are clear lines of communication between those handling the electrical work and the installer, since there were no drawings or plans by the church for this project, with "the entire worship center being down to its studs and outer walls, we relied on plans from CCI that they coordinated with the electricians, to ensure that everything we needed was in place," noted Kees.

To help the church be prepared once the project was finalized, Gathany explained that, "We provided all the training. There were some follow ups, to get them ready for the first services, for lighting looks and environmental projection." Learning EP, Kees noted, "was not as complicated as I thought; the learning curve was not too steep."

While Kees added that he is responsible for the majority of the lighting design and environmental projection, he added that he is still in the process of training other "staff and technicians in those aspects," but that overall, the expectations related to the install had been exceeded.

Most notable in how those expectations were surpassed; Kees cited the lighting in the space. There was staff that "had no idea about the lighting, what it could do. The houselighting and production lighting that we had installed, until they actually could see it, it even surprised some skeptics." By incorporating environmental projection with the help of the Hitachi projectors, he added, "We had some people who might have been (originally) opposed to it, but then came up to us to tell us how it helped enforce the emotional connection during worship."

The lighting changes also caught the attention of the congregation, explained Kees, particularly during the church's Vacation Bible School. During that recent event, he said, "we used the entire front wall. We animated clip art that was part of the theme, and made the experience pretty exceptional for the kids."

As the install work was being completed at Our Savior Lutheran, aside from a manufacturing delay with the house lights, Kees said that there were "a few challenges from week to week, but nothing major. Once was the system was up and running, it was relatively smooth sailing." Gathany agreed, adding, "House lights are the bane of our existence. While there were always sequences of things happening (on site), it was pretty normal in most regards."

Following the completion of the install, Gathany added, "I've only heard positive (reactions) that we hit the target." 

Even though members of the CCI Solutions staff have been on site to make some system adjustments since the install, they have amounted to "mostly minor things," explained Gathany. "Most of it is programming-related. When you live in a space, you see that you can change this and that." The modifications were nothing unusual, added Kees, noting that "it's all part of the process of fine tuning things, to make sure the systems are dialed in."

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