Matthews UMC

In just two hours each Sunday, Matthews UMC turns a functional gymnasium into a state-of-the-art 450-seat performance space, thanks to an advanced AVL design by All Pro Sound.

When it comes to facilities, churches often choose to create new projects or remodel an existing space to meet those needs. Sometimes, however, budgetary constraints preempt these approaches. North Carolina-based Matthews United Methodist Church needed to create a state-of-the-art, modern worship space, but had no need or means for growing facilities. Instead, the church turned to All Pro Sound to transform a functioning gymnasium into an effective modern worship environment each week.

The most difficult criterion for the new worship space was that it had to remain functional as a gym during the week, but transform quickly into a progressive worship space. Every aspect of the design and equipment selection had to address three main considerations:
Ease of setup and teardown.
Time required for conversion.
Ease of operation.

The technology needed to be carefully designed so that all the equipment could be moved to a new facility at some point in the future. With more than 40 volunteers at various technical levels, ranging in age from 12 to 80 years old, the solution also needed to be volunteer-friendly and simple enough to be deployed in as short a time as possible. Since there is no opportunity for rehearsals or run-throughs during the week in the gym, it was critical that setup each Sunday morning was fail-proof ensuring that each operation could run smoothly and as expected every time.

All Pro Sound began the project by installing motorized blackout window shades as well as blacking out the gym's 45-foot ceiling, being careful to retain its acoustical properties. Next, a custom 64-foot motorized backdrop was designed large enough to dramatically change the look of the space. At the press of a button, the backdrop descends 25 feet to the floor creating a canvas for the back of the stage. To withstand the rigors of installation in a gym, the backdrop is housed during the week in a sturdy wood enclosure.

To protect lighting fixtures, All Pro Sound designed an oversized, 40-foot by 30-foot, 16-inch truss system to be suspended 25 feet in the air. The 25-foot mark cleared the 22-foot height requirement for basketball competition, and the structure doubled as a protective cage, keeping the light fixtures and speakers out of harm's way. In addition to providing protection, the truss was also designed to be reusable in a future building and helped the team avoid costly structural changes to the gym.

Other updates, such as energy-efficient lighting and carefully placed acoustic panels, were added to improve the gym environment.

Gymnasium to Modern Worship Weekly Conversion (Matthews UMC)

Matthews, North Carolina
Project Size: 301-800 seats
Completion Date: April 6, 2014

For main speakers, APS mounted 11 three-way compact line array modules on the protective truss. This ensured that there were no hotspots or dead areas in the room. The speakers are self-powered, driven by three individual 500-watt Class D amplifiers. Each speaker is matched to its own digital signal processor, which saves valuable space by eliminating the need for racks full of amps and processors.

Next, APS designed a custom Front of House solution that was modular and could be setup in minutes. A 32-channel digital mixing console, equipped with two quick-connecting digital snakes and I/O boxes, offers portability and high-quality audio. A wireless access point provides connectivity, and the stage rig is housed in a 16-space, 24-inch-deep road case with casters. A distribution hub with eight digital mixers and earpieces provides up to 16 channels of personal monitoring. Vocal mics include eight wireless systems with antenna splitters and active directional antennas. Active direct boxes are used onstage.

In keeping with the mood and tone of a modern worship space, graphics, video, and images were a critical component. APS identified a protected area just below the indoor track as an ideal location for three projectors. The projectors light up three 16-foot by 9-foot custom screens, each with a 22-foot square custom black backdrop. A two-foot overlap of the screens allows entrance points on the stage.

The heart of the video system is an HDMI matrix that receives signals from two 27-inch iMacs running ProPresenter presentation software, as well as two PTZ cameras mounted on tripods and a static video feed from the commons area. The switcher services this triple-wide screen configuration, broadcast recording, commons area monitors, a streaming feed, and two 50-inch flat panel confidence monitors (located in carts at the front of the stage).

Ten ellipsoidal fixtures, along with four moving lights and eight white LED lights, were installed where they would be best protected within the truss system. A powerful hazer creates atmosphere on stage, while 16 static RGB wash LED lights are located around the room. Lighting control is done with six four-channel truss dimmer packs and a Jands Vista S1 lighting console.

Each Sunday morning at 6 a.m., 10 Matthews UMC volunteers begin rolling lighting and sound desks into place and making connections. They cover the scoreboard, stow away basketball hoops, and set up 450 chairs for the congregation. By the 8 a.m. musician's call, the team has set the stage and is ready for a quick break before starting rehearsal at 8:30. In less than two hours, the gymnasium at Matthews UMC has been dramatically transformed into a modern worship space that has become a focal point for the community's next generation of worshipers.

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