Volume 6, Issue 7 — July 24, 2017
|Solve Three Problems to Increase Sales in Churches|
By Anthony Coppedge
House of Worship Technology Consultant
“Can you come and fix our church AV?” This singular question is rife with implications for the audio, video and lighting (AVL) industry and one that needs to be addressed by manufacturers, systems integrators and rep firms serving the $1 billion (annual) church AVL market so that the pain experienced by all involved is properly diagnosed and solved. Manufacturers and systems integrators must solve three problems to increase sales in churches.
Solving the First Problem: Redefining Expectations
As I’ve written about previously on rAVe, the house of worship (HoW) market is one that is a curious mix of technologists and layman decision-makers. Perhaps unlike other vertical markets like corporate, education and government, dealing with local churches often introduces the added complexity of addressing both the technical influencer and the non-technical purchase order approver. Because of this common duality with two client representatives, the sales process can become convoluted.
As an AVL consultant to the HoW market, I learned that not only setting expectations, but also redefining expectations was one of my key responsibilities when it came to working with churches. In the AVL industry, we’re all too familiar with the term ‘value engineered’ to describe a reduction in project cost. What I learned about churches was that while cost reduction was easy to document and understand, redefining the expectations of the client was critical when documenting the project’s scope reduction, too. Over time, I added a new section to revised proposals that explained what was included and what was no longer included, along with any technical and/or operational ramifications induced by the cost-cutting. This section was highlighted to the church technology representative and the church budget approver, along with a line item signature by each paragraph in the Redefined Expectations section of the new proposal document. I can tell you that this one addition changed the minds of many decision-makers who realized the cost savings introduced a change in their desired expectations.
Money is not really the problem in churches; the perception of good stewardship is the real issue for the men and women responsible for spending donated funds.
When a manufacturer’s product is pitched as a problem solver, the systems integrator has the responsibility to ensure the problem solved includes a holistic solution that doesn’t create a new problem in the process. This synergistic relationship between the manufacturer and integrator is localized squarely at the client’s venue. The original expectation the church buyer had based on the manufacturer’s product promise must not be lost in translation as part of an integrated system. As a consultant, I saw the finger-pointing that starts when this relationship is not well maintained, and the church is forced to assign blame to one of the other. Frequently, the manufacturer gets the short end of the stick when the integrator is the one meeting with the client. I found that bringing in manufacturer reps early on in church projects helped cement the trust the church has in the vendor while also presenting a unified front for the church to see between the product creator and integrator.
Solving the Second Problem: Ongoing Service
When a church calls asking the question ‘Can you come and fix our church AV?’, what they’ve identified is a lost trust in the manufacturer and the systems integrator. Fair or not, both the product manufacturer and the integrator get lumped into the bucket of ‘unsatisfactory’ when a church believes their problem hasn’t been addressed by either party. That’s when a new integrator gets this phone call and a new issue must be addressed: ongoing service.
It is highly likely that the problem the church is experiencing could have been easily dealt with by the original integrator, had the relationship been intact through follow-up service calls and an ongoing support contract (beyond limited warranties). Of course, selling this add-on may seem hard to do when value engineered projects are looking to save costs. Adding the cost of ongoing service when prices are being cut is easily addressed by highlighting the cost-per-church-service (see my article ‘Cost Depreciation and the Amortization of Church AVL Technology’) and shifting the church buyer’s focus from the total cost to the total cost of ownership.
More than most client types, churches deeply understand the value of service; after all, they are a service-based industry relying on a volunteer workforce to get most of their mission accomplished. Framed in this way to the church decision-maker, the cost of failure of AVL technology in one of their venues is very, very high indeed, while the ongoing cost of ownership is a number that can be looked at over a number of years, making the money spent on service a proverbial drop in the bucket.
Solving the Biggest Problem: Church Market Ignorance
Looming behind the plea for help from a church needed AVL support is the underscored significance of how much ignorance exists in serving this market. Sure, a percentage of these requests to help ‘fix’ a church AVL system are minor tweaks to the system and major training needs for the church tech operators. However, even training issues can (and should) be addressed with ongoing service contracts.
An AVL industry reader need only look at the end-of-year roundup of ads aimed at the HoW market (2014, 2015, 2016) to compare what works for churches against the current ads and product marketing slicks your firm is producing to woo church clients.
Understanding the HoW market and grasping the estimated billion dollars per year spent on AVL by churches in North America alone is a potential game-changer for manufacturers and systems integrators alike. The technical problems churches are solving have a lot in common amongst and between churches, so it is important to help identify root causes instead of mere symptoms. There are three main reasons churches upgrade or outright add new equipment: When entering a new building program, when renovating an existing building or when expanding into new technology areas such as multi-site or online services. Beyond that, the issues that crop up are routinely focused on technology failure, inadequate training, or unmet expectations from the previous installation. All of it is addressable with proper redefining of expectations, ongoing service contracts and an intentional shift from price to a cost-per-service value proposition.
Do you have similar experiences with church clients? Share your opinions and experiences in the comments below.Leave a Comment
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|Selling to Churches? Learn from Amazon Prime|
By Anthony Coppedge
House of Worship Technology Consultant
Churches have needs for audio, video and lighting (AVL) technology far more often than most manufacturers or systems integrators know. From changing sermon series with new scenic stage designs every few weeks to the addition or renovation of multi-site venues to production tech upgrades, churches utilize AVL tech week in and week out. It is likely that if churches had an easier, cost-effective way to make more frequent purchases from trusted integrators, there would be a noted uptick in sales revenue from this 300,000 church market in North America alone.
Amazon Prime and Selling to Churches
In 2005, Jeff Bezos used a marketing sleight-of-hand when he wrote a letter posted to Amazon.com: “It’s simple: for a flat annual membership fee, you get unlimited two-day shipping for free.” In all reality, the shipping is not really free, if you’re paying a fee. But it was seen as patently obvious that free two-day shipping would cost more than the original annual price of $79. Years later, the price was raised to $99 annually, but Amazon didn’t skip a beat and has reportedly steadily grown the Prime user base to ‘tens of millions of people,’ according to the company. The brilliance of Prime is that instead of trying to add a little extra margin in shipping, Amazon saw the opportunity to reduce a perceived barrier-to-entry — shipping costs — and have members buy more frequently.
The reason why Amazon pushes so aggressively on Prime is that members spend more — a lot more. It’s been reported that Prime customers spend somewhere in the realm of three to five times as much on Amazon every year as their non-Prime counterparts. Think about that. Three times in revenue for what ends up costing the company a tiny fraction of margin. The Prime experiment will go down in history as the second great proof of Jeff Bezo’s brilliance, with the first being the bet that people would eventually choose to buy more online than at a brick-and-mortar store.
Whereas Amazon Prime is an undisputed success at the world’s fastest growing and largest retailer, the principle of removing small barriers to entry for purchases is a key step in building a repeat sales business. For the AVL industry selling to churches, the concept is similar: If you find the perceived barriers that keep churches from making multiple micro-transaction purchases, then several larger transaction purchases will follow. More to the point, many of those purchases can come through your business.
Lease, Rent, Purchase
Part of the dilemma church tech purchasers face is that the last-minute nature of technology is based on fast-moving decisions such as a change in sermon series or the decision to launch a needed overflow video venue for a church outgrowing their facilities. Tech isn’t generally all that cheap, so the budget requests add up quickly when a large request is needed with little time to plan for it. So, the church stretches what they have and reduces scope a bit to try and not spend as much. But what would happen if there was a relationship with a systems integrator and trusted manufacturer to make incremental purchases every few weeks or months and add short-term lease options for technology that is needed now but may not be needed six months from now? Whereas Amazon Prime found the cost of shipping to be a purchase limiter, your firm may find that cash outlay may be the bigger issue than a church’s ability to work with a flexible lease.
Small purchases and upgrades are easy to justify. It’s the larger ones that are deal-breakers for church technical arts departments, so the need for a lease makes sense. The idea of changing out large-ticket items means the church can meet their needs for today and have the flexibility to plan for future contingencies. Also, the church isn’t stuck with any technology that is easily replaced by something faster/better/cheaper down the road. This opens up the possibility for creating a resale program of gently used equipment for yet another sale to another church client.
Beyond leasing, churches often prefer to rent gear to see how it works in their venues before making a significant purchase. However, long-term rentals are greatly reduced in price and provide a good value for the church and keep inventory from sitting un-rented on shelves.
The idea I’m pitching here is that there are multiple revenue streams that can be opened up if the AVL industry aggressively provides solutions to these perceived problems.
Selling Just Enough, Just in Time
The iterative nature of church technology requests means that there will be a growing number of opportunities to provide just enough tech, just in time to meet the timelines and time frames of churches. The Amazon model of having what they need immediately available — even last minute — and getting it to the client quickly is one that would translate well to the house of worship AVL market.
The idea of micro-transactions is to help churches scale their technology up and down a tiny bit at a time, incorporating the technology into sermon series or special events (Christmas, Easter) as they have a little bit of budget to make incremental additions or temporary rentals/leases. This should, of course, apply to both equipment purchases and any consumables (lamps, bulbs, filters, extra cable, etc.). Why wait for the beginning-of-budget-year sale when you can create a lot of micro-sales all year long? The idea I’m presenting is not about one-off sales; rather, the purpose is to create multiple buying/leasing/renting opportunities that allow churches to say ‘yes’ more than they kill the deal.
Generally, churches have fairly consistent revenue streams, but there are months where cash flow is more restricted. This varies from church to church, but the opportunity is to make adding, replacing or upgrading technology as simple as possible so that large cash outlays are not required each and every time. This is how Amazon Prime made it easy for consumers to shop a little bit at a time and still end up spending three times more than the non-Prime members.
Selling to churches? Learn from Amazon Prime.
How are you shifting your business to sell more often to churches? Share your opinions and experiences in the comments below.Leave a Comment
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|In My Head or On the Stage|
By Dr. Frederick Ampel
President & Principal, Technology Visions Analytics
The house of worship sound reinforcement space can be segmented in a wide variety of ways for a large number of purposes. The simplest divider is whether or not the worship style/service includes musical and singing (vocalist) performers. At this early point in the discussion, it doesn’t matter what kind of music, how many performers or what style of service are involved.
If your worship facility includes music and singing performers you face an upfront and essential set of decisions regarding the type, location and of course cost for the main sound reinforcement system and its deployment (a topic which we have covered in a previous article and are likely to revisit in the future).
But the similarly critical issues surrounding the support of the musical and vocal performers are often initially overlooked. In actuality these requirements may present a far bigger set of problems and technology decisions than anything else on the audio side of the fence.
To quote from a recent article by Anthony Coppedge, rAVe’s house of worship technology consultant, “Thinking long-term about technology is not something most church leaders have ever considered; they have a pain point, so they buy or lease technology to remedy the pain. This piecemeal approach is actually visible to the naked eye when looking at the front of house booth or video production room at a large percentage of churches, with a mash-up of products and brands smattered in equipment racks and on shelves.”
The inherent chaos of this technology acquisition style is further exacerbated by the various interfaces, technology incompatibilities caused by age or obsolescence, and the extreme complexity of trying to teach new people how to use the stitched together system that results. Read Anthony’s full column here.
This article will explore that essential element of delivering the worship service and the decision trees you need to consider in coming to a conclusion on how best to support your worship style, presentation and those delivering it.
Making a List and Checking It Twice
I frankly have lost count of the number of times this ‘minor’ issue has “magically” appeared in meetings and planning discussions, and how often it was not properly budgeted for or even incorporated into the overall design for the facilities’ sound systems.
It matters very little whether this system is a new build, in a new facility, or a re-fit or re-hab of a system in an existing space. The core problems to be considered and solved remain the same.
So before you jump down into the deep end of the audio reinforcement pool — STOP! Take a deep breath, relax and sit down. Make a list of the elements of your service as they currently are constituted and then do the vital (and usually forgotten) step of looking down the road — what kind of service do you expect two, three or five years from now? What will happen if the congregation grows and the worship offerings grow with it?
What if there are suddenly two services every Sunday with differing content and approaches (for example, a service for the older adults and a service for the younger members of the congregation)?
You are going to need one of those nice big legal size yellow pads (or the electronic equivalent) to make this list because you really, really need to put down every possible scenario, even the ones you think are highly unlikely right now.
The old adage of ‘never say never’ is the guiding principal here. The list of projects in which the ‘never’ issues rose up to become major problems is far longer than the list of projects in which they never surfaced. Thirty plus years of real world experience has made that un-deniably obvious. So please don’t ignore any possibility just because it seems outlandish or far off right now!
The primary thing to define is the style and content of the service as it is presented today:
- How many musicians and vocalists are involved?
- What type and kind of instruments are being used (acoustic, electronic, etc.)?
- How are these musicians and vocalists spaced out?
- Is there a worship leader (lead singer) style performer who moves around or changes locations?
- Is there a choir, and how are they positioned (on -stage, choir loft, or)?
- Is there a choir leader (director/conductor), and where is he/she positioned (at the organ, at some other
- instrument, in front of the choir)?
- Does that choir leader also sing or just lead?
- Are there guest musicians and vocalists, how often, how many?
- What is the facility layout and how will that impact performers, players, instrument locations?
- Is there a fixed organ (pipe or electronic), where is its keyboard?
- How professional are the musicians and vocalists ?
- Do professional musicians and vocalists come to the facility to perform? If so, how often and what size groups are the norm?
Later on in this article we will review each of these questions and what their implications are in your choice of monitoring systems and approaches.
The Unspoken Givens
Before we take the high dive into the audio pool, let’s examine some core issues that apply regardless of what type of worship service you conduct, or where you conduct it.
First and foremost, one of the unspoken givens in any HOW audio system project is that the facility leadership is highly unlikely to fully comprehend the technical intricacies of the project. Sure, they understand (we hope) the need for the appropriate budget and relative merits of the various cost based options, but on what level do they understand it?
It is risky to make assumptions about how well the people who control the funds comprehend the differences between, for example, a generic one-size-fits-all, low-cost, in-ear system and the improvements that custom-fitted, ear-mold-based, in-ear devices might make. Or do you think your leadership grasps the value proposition of self-powered, DSP-equipped, networkable floor wedges (expensive) vs. the much lower cost off-the-shelf basic stage monitor wedge?
Their ability to evaluate any hardware proposal is inherently limited to essentially a cost basis. It is therefore extremely important that you very carefully explain and justify your choices on the basic of need and flexibility (future-proofing) rather than trying to teach them the complexities of the technology. Couching your proposals in terms of long-term usage and the ability to adjust to changes in the worship service, or any number of other variables is much more likely to get their attention.
Wedges and Ears
Although it is increasingly common to see worship venues try to make the transition from “wedges” to “ears” for stage monitoring purposes, they often find that this can be a surprisingly tricky process.
Let’s review the hardware basics. Fundamentally, wedges are loudspeakers that are angled up at the performers, thus the wedge name and shape.
The other method, is the wireless based In-ear monitor systems. This places earphones (commonly called ear-buds or simply buds) in the ear of the performer, mostly sealing the ear and providing a highly isolated monitor mix.
One mistaken assumption about the use of in-ear systems is that their use usually eliminates the need for a monitor loudspeaker “wedge.” This is simply not true. It may be the case, but many musicians and singers find they are most comfortable with having both a single in-ear and a floor wedge. (Things just got much more complicated, didn’t they?) More on that topic later.
In either case, wedges or in-ears, the mix (feed) can be provided from any or some combination of the front-of-house console, a dedicated monitor console, a personal on-stage mixer or a wireless computer or tablet.
There are multiple variations on the standard sized floor wedge available including low profile units like the one pictured here or the more compact variety shown here.
Additionally, floor wedge systems can be passive requiring separate, external power amplifiers and signal processing and heavier cabling, or they can be self-powered, often with built in DSP and networking capabilities, greatly simplifying cable needs (an audio feed), but this approach will also require the availability of electrical power near to the desired location. Another option, increasingly common, is the coaxial loudspeaker, which helps with both size and the ability to limit acoustic spill from the wedge. A coaxial system incorporates the HF section in the center of the LF driver — one example is shown here.
In-ear systems also come in many flavors, styles and cost levels. It is important to note that the lower-cost (often referred to as generic) models, anywhere from $100-$300 per set of ear buds plus the wireless hardware cost, are “one-size-fits-all, which may or may not be suitable for your users. Some of these system do provide various sizes of ‘tips’ for the ear buds to try to accommodate the wide variety of sizes the human ear presents, but any non-custom ear-bud will only work as well as the fit it can provide to a specific user. However, the more expensive custom molded earbuds (usually between $400-$1,000), while substantial, will provide a tight fit and excellent isolation, along with higher comfort levels to the user.
Two examples of the custom molded products available are shown here, along with an example of the kind of ear-mold required to produce the tips for each person.
Almost all of the in-ear systems in-use today are wireless based, which means two things. One you will need a transmitter (which can often feed multiple receivers) and a separate belt pack style receiver for each user. An example of a mid-priced transmitter/receiver system is shown here.
One of the lowest cost options for testing out the feasibility of using an in-ear system in your HOW is to rent a small system for a few key members of your music team. I would suggest looking into a two-week rental time frame so that you have sufficient opportunity to have various participants try things out. One of the many generic ear-bud based systems would be the logical choice. The small cost of the rental can save you enormous money in the long term as you can definitively determine what and for whom this might work (or if it won’t) without actually buying anything.
The enormous variety of electronics available to drive in-ear systems requires a separate article, but suffice it to say that you can find systems ranging in price from about $200 per user on up to whatever your budget can manage. One issue often forgotten when deploying wireless in-ear systems is the potential frequency and interference conflicts between existing or planned wireless microphone systems and the wireless in-ear systems. Many operate in the same frequency bands using similar (or identical) hardware, so it is essential to de-conflict frequency spectrum allocation requirements up front. Most manufacturers of wireless mic products provide software and support for this purpose. Be sure to take advantage of this resource to avoid problems at 8 a.m. on a Sunday morning.
Back to the List
Remember that list we made? It’s now time to work our way through those questions and give you some recommendations to consider. So to the edge of that diving board and into the deep end of the audio pool we stride.
1. How many musicians and vocalists are involved? Why is this important and why is it first on the list? Because it will set the hardware parameters and total quantity of any specific item, microphones, floor wedges, in-ear units, power connections and so forth. You realistically cannot even begin to create a budget or shop for gear until you know accurately how many of what will be needed today — AND how many of what may be needed in the next year, two years or whatever time frame is viable for your organization. Our recommendation is that you create a spreadsheet-like document with at least three columns:
- A: What we need right now
- B: What we need to plan for in the next 12 months
- C: What we need to think about over the next two, three, four years
Now here’s a hard-won trick — whatever the totals are in each column, calculate your real needs by adding a minimum of 20 percent to each column’s number to cover the “oh, I forgot to mention” that ALWAYS comes up just as you think you have a final plan. It’s not if these will arise, it’s when.
2. What type and kind of instruments are being used (acoustic, electronic, etc.)? The answer produced by this question will tell you what types of microphone you will need and how they will need to be deployed. It will also allow you to sit down with each musician and discuss monitoring needs, based on both their physical position relative to other players and relative to their on-stage location(s) — remember some may move around or get up to work with the congregation or lead in singing or any number of other options. Here is where the first decision point on wedges vs. in-ears is likely to take place. It’s also the time to start asking about experience with in-ears and comfort levels with that technology.
3. How are these musicians and vocalists spaced out? This is the most important early question because it literally ‘sets the stage.’ It will tell you where people are planning to be, where they may end up and what kind of overlap from wedges you might encounter for example or how long the cables to mics needs to be and a host of other core planning items. We strongly recommend making a map of the theoretical layout, on a dry erase board. Then look at what could happen, where people or instruments might end up, and make a new map with first second and even third positions marked. Plan for each, adjust as needed. Then sit down with all the singers, musicians and participants and go over your map for their input — only after than can it be sort of final. By-the-way, experience shows it will never really be final only the best plan you can make for some to be determined by the real world time frame.
4. Is there a worship leader (lead singer) style performer who moves around or changes locations? Knowing this tells you whether or not you will need wireless mics for these person(s), and also whether or not in-ears will work or will you need multiple wedge locations. If it is multi-wedges, plan for a way to mute the unused ones as they move to lower on-stage levels and manage feedback. But be prepared to rapidly adjust depending on their on-stage style and movements.
5. Is there a choir, and how are they positioned (on-stage, choir loft)? Choirs are wonderful and also a nightmare. Since the vast majority of choir participants are NOT performing professionals, so balancing levels, mic positions and covering them with sufficient wedges without cluttering the area or creating high feedback prone levels is a complex balancing act. This is a location where low-profile self-powered, wedges are a boon. Be sure you verify coverage patterns so you can just overlap where needed both left to right and front to back. This is also a prime place to consider small hot-spot-type monitors for covering grouping by pitch or location. Mounting these to short mic stands can allow you to conceal them below sight lines, especially if there is a front wall behind which the choir is located. If they are on risers, this is an approach well worth considering as it makes for less level, more focus for the singers and better control of leakage and feedback. Generally speaking the small hot-spot products are lower cost than wedges as a bonus.
6. Is there a choir leader (director/conductor), and where is he/she positioned (at the organ, at some other instrument, in front of the choir)? This question tells you what kind of monitoring will be needed and where you can put it. In most cases choir directors prefer wedges because it helps them hear the choir acoustically as well and the support musicians through the wedge. Hot spots are another popular choice for this application, often in pairs or multiple locations if the person moves from the organ bench to standing in front of the choir for instance.
7. Does that choir leader also sing or just lead? If they do you will need to balance that support need with monitoring and microphone location and type. In-ears may be the only option in some cases, but a properly configured and feedback suppressed wedge system can and does work, with the right choice of mic and location. Consider one of the many head-worn small condenser mics as they are much better at isolation and feedback rejection. Plus they are normally wireless which gives the director freedom of movement.
8. Are there guest musicians and vocalists, how often, how many? Accommodating guest musicians MUST be planned for up-front. You will need to know how many, what instruments, their experience level both with your worship style and the existing compliment of musicians and singers. Do they have their own preferred mic or monitor choice. If so, TEST IT beforehand to make sure it is compatible with your system, and that it actually works. This is where the concept of the Virtual Sound Check discussed below can be a lifesaver.
9. What is the facility layout and how will that impact performers, players and instrument locations? What is where? How deep is the stage? How wide? Where are the fixed in place elements (pulpits, altars, lecterns, choir risers? What can be moved? All of this is part of the mapping process outlined in item three above. You must know what hardware you can put where, what cable lengths will be needed, how many wireless channels and all the other related issues. Covering a long wide stage with wedges can lead to massive front of stage visual clutter and a trip/safety hazard for worship leaders or singers/musicians who move around. And don’t forget the ever present feedback gremlins lurking just waiting to be triggered by movement of a wireless mic in front of a wedge for example.
10. Is there a fixed organ (pipe or electronic); where is its keyboard? This answer is often lined to the choir director question, and many choirs are led from the organ or primary keyboard location. If feasible an under the seating bench wedge monitor is generally the best choice for this location, as it is concealed visually and close enough to the user to be able to keep its level low. Be sure to verify what the person at that location wants to hear, and what is the absolute minimum they can live with- then find a balance between the two.
11. How professional are the musicians and vocalists? The vast majority of musical contributors in HOW services are not professional musicians by trade. Therefore their ability to adapt to things like in-ear systems, and monitoring in general is often a steep learning curve. They only do this once a week in most cases, plus if you’re lucky, a rehearsal or two. Three words — virtual sound check! Get your side of the process de-bugged without them present, leaving you time to deal with the individual problems, needs and requirements without having the start of services clock ticking loudly in the foreground.
12. Do professional musicians and vocalists come to the facility to perform? If so, how often and what size groups are the norm? First, if this happens in your HOW it’s a golden learning opportunity for you, your staff, your musicians and singers. They can all see how people who make their living with this hardware use it, work with it and adapt to it. But if they do come, you must have enough spare mic inputs, electrical feeds, chairs, monitor feeds and all the rest to accommodate their needs. Most professionals who tour have a printed “rider” document spelling out in detail their technical needs and requirements. GET a copy as far in advance as feasible. Keep it on file for future reference and be sure to ask questions or raise issues before they arrive — that’s what tour managers and their own sound crew is there for. ASK!
These folks can also be a treasure trove of information on the transition to in-ear systems if that is a direction you are contemplating. They have been using those systems for in many cases years and understand all the nuances associated with human perception and similar problems. Use their experience to help your people.
Virtual Sound Check
Perhaps the most under-exploited capability of almost any modern generation digital FOH console is what has generically become known as the Virtual Sound Check option. In essence this incredibly versatile function allows you to replace the live band on stage with a virtual copy, typically recorded digitally to a storage device (USB drive, SD card, portable HD or almost any other similar system including many ADAT type recorders). In many cases a built in multi-track recording function in the console can also provide this functionality.
The major difference between a functional Virtual Sound Check (or VSC as it’s often called) and simply recording a performance or service directly from the console is that to make the VSC you have to be able to archive every channel in use individually. It is also crucial that these feeds (channels) be picked up at a specific point in the signal chain within the console — that is, as close to the mic preamplifier’s output as possible. Or more simply put, we want our pick-off point for the VSC tracks to be right before ANY signal processing of any type other than the preamp’s gain. This is so that what you record is what you would have heard in a real sound check BEFORE you applied any EQ, dynamics, filters or effects — the “pure” sound of that source’s microphone or direct injection feed to the console.
Every console manufacturer will offer their own flavor of this process and even just listing all the options would take pages and pages of data — so you should check your particular console’s manual, online resources or customer support portals for the best way to do this on your specific make and model.
The most useful and functional systems make it easy to record pretty much right after the mic pre A/D conversion, then re-insert the signal at that same point with a touch of a button. Don’t forget that you need to do this for each and every channel you would normally use for any specific service or event whether that is 12 or 48 channels.
Practice, Practice, Practice and Don’t Forget Training
As the HOW audio world, transactions from paid engineers to volunteers or in some cases from full-time to part-time volunteers, having the ability to spend significant practice or training time with a new volunteer going over your FOH and monitor systems, fine-tuning parameters and assembling many variations on any mix or service with no pressure and without the congregation listening is a huge benefit. This is especially true if new equipment is added in or new people join the team.
But… there’s always a but — remember that this is VIRTUAL reality and thus you will not have a key component of an actual live service or event — the acoustic energy coming from the stage. Therefore the perceived sound of things like, drums and solo vocals, choir or that massive pipe organ will be (depending on your particular building’s acoustics) somewhere between modestly and significantly different.
Just in case you think this is not something “real pros” would do — let me assure you that every live sound and live venue FOH engineer I know (lots and lots) uses this almost every show. In fact, many keep specific shows from specific venues on thumb drives to speed set-up the next time they play there or to remind everyone what stuff sounds like in this space. It’s an extraordinarily useful and flexible tool that you should add to your kit. This blows the old scene or preset recall capability out of the water!
The Great DIY Debate
Other than the few dozen super-mega-colossal HOW projects that get built each year, there is one question that always arises, usually at the very last minute, and mostly without serious consideration of the potential issues. This is the “Can we install this ourselves and save a lot of money?” question, or in more prosaic terms — the Great DIY debate. Frankly the answer is always, I repeat ALWAYS… maybe. Since this topic IS going to come up, and will have to be resolved, perhaps a short evaluation of the issues is warranted.
Can DIY be successful? Again… maybe. It depends on so many uncontrollable variables that there is no yes or no answer possible. Each HOW is different, and the available resources are all over the map so — maybe! But there are some don’ts that are well worth remembering. This applies to both HOW staff and professional integrators’ who might be involved:
- Don’t plan on doing ANYTHING where you cannot 125 percent verify that the core competencies needed, technical expertise, equipment, tools, etc., are firmly and reliably available. Never undertake a project when there are questions about safety, codes or skills unless you can personally vouch for those issues. People can and do get killed because of mistakes made at this stage of any project. Don’t be one of them! This may appear to be blatantly obvious, but it is a hard wired part of human nature to overestimate one’s capabilities or knowledge. In a lot of areas that’s only a minor problem; in this space it can be fatal.
- There are highly qualified professional engineers, contractors (HVAC, electrical) and a host of other specialists in every community. Don’t let arrogance prevent you from seeking advice and counsel when you’re out of your comfort zone. A few dollars spent on the right advice can avoid thousands of dollars spent to pay lawyers or fix avoidable mistakes. Sure there are contractors, integrators and other professionals who won’t offer an advice only option, but for every one that says no, there is usually one who will work with you. But be truthful and upfront about what you want, what your budget might be and honest about what you can and cannot understand or do.
- If people can be injured or hurt by what you’re about to do or attempt — STOP! Hire a licensed professional. High voltage, rigging and structural issues are not casual concerns.
- Realistically, unless your available volunteer pool is unusually capable or large, you will likely need to find a way to split the job between DIY and professionals. Negotiate UP FRONT with the pros you need and work out a division of effort. Create a written document clearly stating who is doing what, when and who is responsible for the completion of that job to a working level. Don’t handshake this — get everything down in writing for everyone’ sake.
Ultimately saving some money and having staff and volunteers take some ownership of the project is a useful and valuable thing, but be more than 100 percent sure that everyone can safely and effectively do what they have been asked to accomplish. If you have any doubts, don’t go ahead until you have it resolved.Leave a Comment
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|rAVe NOW’s InfoComm Coverage Is Next Best Thing to Being There|
By Gary Kayye
There’s no substitute for going to InfoComm — it’s a must-attend trade show if you are in the commercial AV industry. But, not everyone is allowed to attend.
If you weren’t one of the lucky 44,077 people that were in Orlando for InfoComm 2017, then we have a solution for you.
We actually brought over 25 reporters to the show. So, we have way, way, way more coverage than anyone else. And, we covered more than you could have had you attended yourself.
How? Well, we went to every single booth on the show floor and shot videos (1,650+ of them) of all the new products launched at InfoComm this year. And, we recorded podcasts (45+), we video live-streamed daily each day using Facebook LIVE, we wrote blogs 20+), we published 300+ news stories and we shot in excess of 3,500 photos from the show floor!
And, it’s all in one, searchable, dedicated website — a website we built just for infoComm 2017. Check it out here.
InfoComm 2018 is in Las Vegas so you should put it on your calendar now — June 6-8, 2018!
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|AVProConnect Claims 18Gbps 4×4 Matrix Switch for 4KThe new AVProConnect AC-MX44-AUHD is spec’d as an 18Gbps 4K60 4:4:4 4×4 matrix switch that features Toslink audio output support up to Dolby 7.1, DTS and LPCM and on-board audio delay control, for lip-synching TV video. This switch claims to equalize and amplify the output to ensure the HDMI signal can be transmitted through long HDMI cables without loss of quality. Built-in 1080p to 4K and 4K to 1080p scaling on each output allows for EDID management. Other features are:
- HDMI 2.0(a/b)
- Full HDR support (HDR 10 and 12-Bit color)
- Dolby Vision, HDR10+ and HLG support
- HDCP 2.2 (and all earlier versions supported)
- IR, RS232 and LAN control options
- Digital Toslink out (7CH PCM, DD, DD+, DTS, DTS-MA)
- Balanced analog out (2CH PCM)
- Audio delay for digital and analog out
- Support for Crestron, C4, RTI, ELAN and more
Here are the detailed specs.Leave a Comment
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|PreSonus Ships Ultra-High-Def Studio 2|6 and 6|8 Interfaces|
PreSonus is now shipping its Studio 26 and Studio 68 USB 2.0 audio/MIDI interfaces. Both interfaces record at up to 24-bit, 192 kHz resolution and feature PreSonus’ XMAX microphone preamps, audiophile-grade digital converters, ultra-low-jitter clocking, and MIDI I/O.
As with all PreSonus recording systems, Studio-series interfaces come with the company’s Studio One Artist DAW software and Studio Magic Plug-in Suite for Mac and Windows. The Studio Magic bundle includes seven popular plug-ins in VST, AU and AAX formats.
The Studio 26 2×4 bus-powered audio/MIDI interface features two front-panel combo mic and switchable line/instrument inputs with +48V phantom power for condenser mics. In addition to the L/R main outputs, you get two balanced line outputs for monitor mixing, while LED meters indicate input and output levels. A Cue Mix A/B function lets you toggle between two mixes while monitoring through headphones.
Designed for small studios, the Studio 68 six-in, six-out audio/MIDI interface sports two front-panel combo mic/line/instrument inputs and two rear-panel mic/line inputs. In addition to the L/R main outputs, you get two balanced line outputs for monitor mixing or speaker switching plus S/PDIF I/O. A Cue Mix A/B function lets you toggle between two mixes while monitoring through headphones — perfect for DJs and to listen in on a performer’s monitor mix.
Both PreSonus Studio-series audio/MIDI interfaces are available immediately and the Studio 26 is $199 while the Studio 68 is $299. All the details are here.Leave a Comment
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|PreSonus Ships Quantum Thunderbolt Interface|
PreSonus is now shipping its Quantum Thunderbolt 2 interface. The 26 x 32-channel Quantum is the company’s fastest audio/MIDI interface, as it uses the Thunderbolt 2 bus and a direct-to-DAW signal path. Spec’d at 24-bit, 192 kHz converters with 120 dB of dynamic range and PreSonus’ recallable XMAX microphone preamps combine to deliver superb audio quality. For more I/O channels, you can stack up to 4 Quantum interfaces via Thunderbolt to create a monster 96 x 96 system.
The Quantum offers two combo mic/instrument/line inputs and six combo mic/line inputs, each with a digitally controlled XMAX preamp and +48V phantom power. You also get two ¼” TRS main outputs, the aforementioned eight ¼” TRS line outputs, and two independent headphone outs with dedicated volume controls. With ADAT Optical I/O and S/PDIF stereo digital I/O, you can have up to 18 additional digital inputs and outputs for a total of 26 in and 32 out. BNC word clock I/O ensures your Quantum and other digital audio devices operate in tight sync; and MIDI.
Designed to be the central hub for any recording studio, the Quantum offers two main and eight auxiliary balanced line-level outputs that are great for monitor mixing. An onboard talkback mic can be routed to any mix, and you can listen to any mix from either of two headphone amps. You also get Mute/Dim and Mono controls.
Here are all the tech specs.Leave a Comment
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|multiCAM Systems Intros Integrated IP Input Support for All-In-One Production Systems|
multiCAM Systems is launching a new IP interface feature that receives IP video streams directly from the local area network. The new capability, which requires no additional hardware or software, works with the company’s entire product line as well as any PTZ camera available today.
multiCAM Systems’ integrated IP interface supports a much greater number of cameras than is traditionally available through SDI capture cards. The IP functionality also reduces the size and cost of the central server, as all video streams and PTZ camera control are managed over the network without the need for special IT equipment. Customers retain the flexibility to use IP or SDI for each input to support mixed camera environments.
Available immediately, the IP input feature works in Visual Radio applications using MULTICAM RADIO, and it offers native IP connectivity for Visual Radio. On the commercial AV side, the new IP interface is ideal within classrooms, corporate AV environments (meeting and huddle rooms, large conference spaces) and theaters/auditoriums using MULTICAM CONF, MULTICAM E-LEARNING or MULTICAM TRACKING to produce and stream lectures, presentations and live events.
In addition to immediately adding multiple high-quality camera signals to the network, the IP interface enables full PTZ control and power over a single network cable. The latter is possible when using a Power over Ethernet-enabled (PoE) network switch or PoE injector.
Here are all the details.Leave a Comment
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|VUE h-208 Loudspeaker DebutsVUE Audiotechnik debuted the next addition to its h-Class family of ultra-high-definition, full-range loudspeaker systems. The h-208 includes a custom-designed 3-inch diameter large-format compression driver that features a Truextent beryllium diaphragm and a powerful Neodymium magnet. VUE says this combination allows the HF unit to deliver dramatically better high-frequency extension and response linearity than more traditional aluminum or titanium-based designs. A precision engineered 70° x 45° (HxV) horn ensures predictable coverage.
The compression driver is joined by two custom-designed and manufactured 8-inch transducers. These transducers have large, 3-inch (75 millimeters) voice coils that increase power handling while minimizing losses due to power compression.
A 64-bit digital processor handles EQ, time alignment, crossover management, speaker protection, and complete SystemVUE network control and monitoring functions. A dual-channel, high-efficiency amplifier delivers 1600 watts LF, and 275 watts HF power long-term with more than 3,000 watts output. What’s more, the Class D design eliminates the need for noisy cooling fans, while a lightweight, fully protected, switch-mode power supply provides worldwide compatibility with universal mains operation from 85V to 260V.
All transducers and VUEDrive electronics are housed in a birch enclosure that includes integrated M10 hanging points as well as the h-Class’ distinctive, deep red multi-layered powder coated grill. A U-bracket yoke is provided as standard for easy installation and aiming. The h-208 also features a built-in stand mount for portable applications.
The h-208’s unique enclosure is the perfect marriage of form and function. Due to its low-profile design and rear-cabinet slant, the h-208 can be easily hung from the ceiling at steep angles while maintaining a very profile. The unique cabinet shape also allows the h-208 to serve as a high-output stage monitor for applications where stage depth is limited, but sound quality and output are critical.
Here are all the specs.Leave a Comment
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|Fulcrum Acoustic Unveils New CCX Subcardioid Coaxial Loudspeaker|
Fulcrum Acoustic has announced the CCX1295 12-Inch Subcardioid Coaxial Loudspeaker. The CCX1295 marks Passive Cardioid Technology’s first application in Fulcrum’s TQ Install line of installation loudspeakers. Combining the benefits of this technology with Temporal Equalization (TQ), the single-amplified CCX1295 delivers LF directional control, improved intelligibility, sonic accuracy, and the output capability and, they claim, a pattern control of normal premium 2-way systems in a considerably lighter and more compact enclosure than those with offset drivers.
The CCX1295 features a single 12-inch 90° x 45° horn-loaded woofer and a 3-inch compression driver in a compact enclosure designed for permanent installation in a wide range of applications. This passive subcardioid coaxial loudspeaker provides 9 dB of low frequency attenuation in the rear hemisphere. As the first member of our CCX12 family, the CCX1295 will soon be joined by 12-inch models offering a full range of horn patterns.
Passive Cardioid Technology was first introduced in Fulcrum’s FL283 Line Array Module, is the basis for their Cardioid Subwoofers product line, and is a technology they continuously develop and evolve into new applications.
Here are all the tech specs.Leave a Comment
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|PreSonus Ships AudioBox USB 96 and AudioBox 96 Studio Recording Kit|
PreSonus is shipping its compact new AudioBox USB 96 audio/MIDI recording interface, which makes recording at up to 24-bit, 96 kHz simpler. Bus-powered and built to travel, the AudioBox USB 96 offers two front-panel combo mic/instrument inputs.
The AudioBox USB 96 is also the centerpiece of PreSonus’ new AudioBox 96 Studio recording kit. It’s designed as a starter kit for a simple studio and combines an AudioBox USB 96 interface with Studio One Artist software, Studio Magic Plug-in Suite, monitoring headphones, a large-diaphragm condenser microphone, and all necessary cables. It’s designed for multitrack song production, demos, songwriting, capturing live performances, podcasting, and field recording for video or sound effects.
AudioBox 96 Studio includes:
AudioBox USB 96 bus-powered audio/MIDI interface with cable
- 24-bit resolution, up to 96 kHz sampling rate
- Two combo mic/instrument inputs and 2 balanced line outputs
- 48V phantom power for M7 condenser microphone
- Zero-latency monitoring via internal mixer
- MIDI I/O
- USB 2.0 bus powered
Studio One Artist recording and production software
Studio Magic Plug-in Suite
- Single-window work environment
- Drag-and-drop functionality
- Unlimited audio tracks, MIDI tracks, virtual instruments, buses, and FX channels
- Instantly configures to PreSonus audio interfaces
- 25 Native Effects 32-bit effects and virtual instrument plug-ins
- Compatible with Mac and Windows
M7 large-diaphragm studio condenser microphone with cable
- Includes: SPL Attacker, Mäag Audio EQ2, Lexicon’s MPX-i Reverb, Eventide H910 Harmonizer, Eventide 2016 Stereo Room, Brainworx bx_opto compressor, and Arturia’s Analog Lab Lite
- Compatible with Studio One and any DAW for Mac or Windows that supports VST, AU, or AAX
HD7 studio monitoring headphones
PreSonusʼ high-definition HD7 headphones:
- High-resolution neodymium drivers
- Precision acoustic chamber
- Extended bass response
- Mic-stand adapter
- Cloth carry bag included
The PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 is available immediately for $99.95; here are the details. The PreSonus AudioBox 96 Studio is available immediately for $199.95; here are those details.Leave a Comment
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For all you REGULAR readers of rAVe HOW out there, hopefully you enjoyed another opinion-packed issue!
For those of you NEW to rAVe, you just read how we are — we are 100 percent opinionated. We not only report the news and new product stories of the ProAV industry, but we stuff the articles full of our opinions. That may include (but is not limited to) whether or not the product is even worth looking at, challenging the manufacturers on their specifications, calling a marketing-spec bluff and suggesting ways integrators market their products better. But, one thing is for sure, we are NOT a trade publication that gets paid for running editorial or product stories. Traditional trade publications get paid to run product stories — that’s why you see what you see in most of the pubs out there. We are different: we run what we want to run and NO ONE is going to pay us to write anything good (or bad).
Don’t like us, then go away — unsubscribe! Just use the link below.
To send me feedback, don’t reply to this newsletter. Instead, write directly to me at email@example.com or for editorial ideas, Editor-in-Chief Sara Abrons at firstname.lastname@example.org
A little about me: I graduated from Journalism School at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (where I am adjunct faculty). I’ve been in the AV-industry since 1987 where I started with Extron and eventually moved to AMX. So, I guess I am an industry veteran (although I don’t think I am that old). I have been an opinionated columnist for a number of industry publications and in the late 1990s I started the widely read KNews eNewsletter (the first in the AV market) and also created the model for and was co-founder of AV Avenue, which is now known as InfoComm IQ. rAVe [Publications] has been around since 2003, when we launched our original newsletter, rAVe ProAV Edition.
Everything we publish is Opt-in — we spam NO ONE! rAVe ProAV Edition is our flagship ePublication with what we believe is a reach of virtually everyone in the ProAV market. rAVe HomeAV Edition, co-published with CEDIA and launched in February 2004, is, by far, the largest ePub in the HomeAV market. We added rAVe Rental [and Staging] in November 2007, rAVe ED [Education] in May 2008 and then rAVe DS [Digital Signage] in January 2009. We added rAVe GHGav [Green, Healthcare & Government AV] in August 2010 and rAVe HOW [House of Worship] in July 2012. You can subscribe to any of those publication or see ALL our archives by going to: http://www.ravepubs.com
To read more about my background, our team and what we do, go to http://www.ravepubs.comBack to Top
Copyright 2017 – rAVe [Publications] – All rights reserved – All rights reserved. For reprint policies, contact rAVe [Publications], 210 Old Barn Ln. – Chapel Hill, NC 27517 – (919) 969-7501. Email: Sara@rAVePubs.com
rAVe contains the opinions of the author only and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of other persons or companies or its sponsors.