Three Keys for Building Design

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Editor's note: We can't stress enough that you read this article, read it again, and then promise to follow all of Mike's recommendations.  If you do so, you'll be ahead of 90% of churches out there.  One of my investment advisors rants that no one really wants to learn about investing, but that most people just want a quick-fix.  It's the same in the technical world.  There are no shortcuts when it comes to proper planning, equipment selection, and integration. 

by Mike Sessler,

Today I’d like to tackle a few suggestions that I always give to churches who are starting a building project. I always say the same thing, mainly because these are the areas I see churches skipping time after time. Skipping these things ensures two things: First, you and your congregation will not be happy with the performance of the sound, lighting and/or video in the room. Second, there will remain a healthy market for companies that specialize in fixing churches that were designed and built poorly.

With that said, here are three things you cannot skimp on when entering a building project.

Fix the Acoustics Before You Build

First, the overall acoustic signature of the room has to be correct. This is where most churches skimp out. They let the architect design the building; which is fine except I've yet to meet an architect who has any real clue how acoustics work. A few do, but they're the ones who design churches for a living and have acousticians on staff.

The problem is most architects want the room to look nice and be easy to build.

Read more: Three Keys for Building Design


God Sees Your Service

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by Mike Sessler,

A big part of the problem with serving behind the scenes is that you are, by definition, supposed to be pretty much invisible. Most of the time, we technical artists are OK with that. We'd rather not be the ones on stage, talking to the crowd; or even in a big room full of people if we're honest. We like to be in the background, and that's OK. But there's a problem with being invisible.

We tend to feel invisible, too.

I'm sure it's happened to you (and if it hasn't, it will) on a Sunday afternoon that while you're picking up the stage, eager congregants will come up and tell the worship leader, band and pastor what a wonderful job they did. They'll go on and on about how much they love to worship, and how much they got out of the message. This is all good.

But it can sting a little, too.

We know that we helped make the service happen. Shoot, we may have even made the band a sound a lot better than they really are (reverb covers a multitude of sins, and sometimes turning down a guitar is better than turning it up...). We made sure the pastor's slides were made, and displayed at the right time. All the mic's worked exactly the way they were supposed to. The lighting complimented the music, and the service was technically excellent.

And nobody noticed.

Read more: God Sees Your Service


Seven Reasons that your wireless systems don't work.

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Seven Reasons that your wireless systems don't work. 

Is there anything worse that a wireless microphone that doesn't work properly?  I can't think of many. 

Take a look at the following article from Shure's Applications Engineering team to discover ways to help make your wireless microphone systems work more effectively.  Some of these are pretty basic, but it's never a bad time to get back to basics, so I think that you'll find it valuable. 

A few weeks ago, one client found out that his monitors weren't working because the monitor equalizer was turned off.  He just assumed that it was on, since everything else in the rack was powered up. 

Reason #1: Dead or weak batteries
How to check: 1) Substitute new, fresh, brand-name alkaline batteries. 2) Examine the wireless mic battery terminals to make certain they are making a secure contact to the battery terminals.

Reason #2: Operating frequency range of the wireless receiver does not match the operating frequency range of the wireless mic/transmitter
How to check: Find the operating frequency range marked on the receiver, e.g., H6 524-542 MHz. Check the wireless mic/transmitter for the same frequency range. The frequency ranges must match exactly.

Reason #3: Failure of an audio interconnect cable
How to check: 1) Substitute another cable of the same type. 2) Use an ohmmeter to check the cable for a shorted wire or an open wire. 3) If using a body-pack transmitter, substitute another lapel mic or head-worn mic of the same model.

Reason #4: Operating frequency is not appropriate for the location
How to check: 1) Using the zip code of the location and the model number of the wireless system, consult the Shure Wireless Frequency Finder web tool to determine recommended frequencies. 2) Use the SCAN feature of the wireless receiver to find an open frequency.

Reason #5: Local interference from other electronic devices or wireless systems
How to check: 1) Turn off any electronic device that is within 5 feet of the wireless receiver, such as a DVD player, a CD player, a computer, an iPod, a wireless router. 2) Remove the wireless system and take it to a different location at least ½ mile away. If it works OK there, the problem is local interference in the original location. Finding the source of local interference often requires the use of a frequency spectrum analyzer - an expensive piece of test equipment.

Reason #6: Improper installation of the wireless receiver or its antennas
How to check: 1) Determine if there is clear line-of-sight, at all times, from the location of the wireless mic transmitter to the receiver antennas. If there is not, the installation could be suspect, though hidden antennas can work satisfactorily if installed correctly. 2) Have the installation evaluated by a local wireless microphone expert.

Reason #7: Failure of the receiver's external power supply
How to check: Substitute another power supply of the same type or with equivalent electrical specifications.

With the explosion of wireless devices (phones, tablets, wireless mics, wireless internet, etc.) over the last few years, using best practices when selecting and using wireless systems is even more important than ever.  If you have questions about how to make your wireless gear work as well as possible, please call us.  We have lots of tools that make our job easier. 


Why Hire an Integrator

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by Mike Sessler,

I was recently asked by a reader for some suggestions on helping his church's leadership understand the need to hire an integrator for new building project. If you've read this blog at all, or listened to ChurchTechWeekly, you know it's something we talk about a lot. Sadly, most churches don't do this well. In the case of our reader, his leadership thinks that they can do the job in-house, and things will be just fine. As someone who has been working in churches a long time (20+ years), I can tell you that in-house jobs rarely end up in the same zip code as fine.

Now, to be sure, there are some churches that can tackle an in-house install. Typically those churches are fairly large and have multiple technical personnel on staff. That technical staff has collectively many years of experience doing design, and installing equipment. They also have a great relationship with an equipment vendor who they can ask advice on things they don't know about.

Those churches are rare, however. Most churches are smaller with less experienced (if any) technical staff. Now make no mistake; I think the small-church technical leader or volunteers are real heroes. They get stuff done in the face of non-existent budgets, time and equipment. But there is a vast difference between making things happen on a weekend and designing and installing a full-blown A/V/L system in a new (or renovated) building.

Designing a full system takes a lot of know-how, and requires an encyclopedic knowledge of equipment. Given the wildly varying standards we're dealing with right now, it's far too easy to end up with systems that won't work together. Designing speaker systems is far more complex than hanging a few boxes in the air (which also needs to be done safely), and typically DIY projects are less than desirable.

As someone who for whatever reason seems to be the Mike Holmes of church tech, I can tell you've I've pulled out a lot of gear that was installed by well-meaning but terribly uninformed people. It can take years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to fix mistakes that were done in the name of saving money. Don't do it!

Here are the top five reasons you should not do it yourself. Feel free to send this link to your pastor...

Read more: Why Hire an Integrator


Shure Apps Tech Tip: Microphone Distance Factor

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What is the Distance Factor for a microphone? In brief, it means that a directional microphone may be placed farther away from a talker than an omnidirectional microphone and still produce similar audio results. This assumes two microphones of equal quality and sensitivity.

As an example of the Distance Factor, let's consider a simple application: recording a talker's voice in a meeting room. Through experimentation, an omnidirectional mic is found to produce an acceptable recording when placed 2 feet away from the talker.

Acceptable recording = minimal level of background noise in relation to the talker's voice level. Rule of thumb: the talker audio should be at least 20 dB louder than the background noise.

Now try a cardioid microphone in place of the omnidirectional. The Distance Factor for a cardioid is 1.7. This means the cardioid may be placed 1.7 times the distance of the omnidirectional and produce the same audio quality. In this example, the cardioid may be located 3.4 feet away (2 feet x 1.7) from the talker and produce an acceptable recording. The Shure KSM141 is the perfect microphone for this experiment as it can be switched from omnidirectional to cardioid.

Next, try a supercardioid mic in place of the omnidirectional mic. The Distance Factor for a supercardioid is 1.9. So it may be placed 3.8 feet away (2 feet x 1.9) from the talker and produce an acceptable recording.

Then, put a hypercardioid microphone in place of the omnidirectional. The Distance Factor for a hypercardioid is 2.0. It may be placed 4 feet away (2 feet x 2.0) and produce an acceptable recording.

Finally, try a shotgun microphone in place of the omnidirectional microphone. The Distance Factor for a typical shotgun is 3.0, which allows the microphone to be placed 6 feet away (2 feet x 3.0) from the talker and produce an acceptable recording.

Remember that the Distance Factor is a multiplication function that directly relates to the audio quality obtained with an omnidirectional mic in a given acoustic environment. If an omnidirectional mic must be used at 1 inch from the talker for acceptable results in a noisy setting, then a hypercardioid mic must be used at 2 inches for the same results... not, not, not the 4 feet mentioned in the previous example above.

IMPORTANT: The increase in Distance Factor for a directional mic is due to its greater rejection of ambient (background) noise, not due to any increase in sensitivity to the desired sound source. In other words, the directional mic does NOT reach out and grab the sound emanating from the talker's mouth. Really, it does not…

When a mic is placed farther from the talker, more amplification is necessary to maintain the same output level. In a public address application, it is loudspeaker positioning that often dictates microphone location and overrides the Distance Factor in determining the maximum distance from microphone to talker.

Omnidirectional = 1 Cardioid = 1.7 Supercardioid =1.9
Hypercardioid = 2.0 Shotgun = 3.0



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