‘Pastor At Boshoff is a stickler for quality and performance. He knows what he wants and he demands the best,’ says Sound Harmonics’ Joseph Mandy. The recently completed 6,000-seat Christian Revival Church (CRC) auditorium in Pretoria is testament to this commitment and as a result it has been equipped with some very high-end audio and lighting gear.
The new mega-church auditorium required ‘a world class sound system that would cover all of the church’s requirements, from their usual services, to youth services, church conventions such as the annual “Dream Week” and potential internal church productions of a theatrical nature’, explains Mr Mandy. ‘The system coverage needed to be even throughout the venue and be able to produce a high SPL when required.’
As with any mega-church, there is a wealth of equipment on show at CRC Pretoria, and probably the best place to start is with the control surface at FOH. At each service, you will find CRC Pretoria’s audio team running a DiGiCo SD Ten, but this is far from the manufacturer’s only equipment put to use by the church. CRC Pretoria has also installed a pair of SD8s – one for monitors and the other for broadcast – as well as an SD Rack with 56 inputs, 32 outputs and four AES outputs.
CRC Pretoria decided on DiGiCo for its consoles following advice from a US engineer. ‘The church makes use of students and volunteers, hence it was of utmost importance that the consoles were highly intuitive and required minimal training,’ states Josh Oates from local DiGiCo distributor Tadco. ‘Most of the crew come from an “analogue” background so it was fairly easy for them to get to grips with the DiGiCo surface layout and extremely powerful user interface.’
‘The versatility of these mixers is a real benefit for me,’ adds CRC Pretoria head of audio, Henry Underhay. ‘I come from a live rock music background where things need to happen creatively on the fly and being able to setup the mixer in the most comfortable layout for me has brought me tremendous joy. Everything you feel that you may require can literally be at your fingertips once you have done the initial setup.’
The real challenge for this portion of the project came from combining the different surfaces. ‘It was a bit of a challenge but we managed to come up with a way to have three DiGiCo consoles all fed from a single SD stage rack,’ recalls Mr Oates. ‘FOH, monitors and broadcast each has individual control of inputs and outputs.’
While ease of use has been key, Mr Underhay is also keen to point out the sound of the desks has also been vital. ‘The sound of these mixers is sonically very transparent with very little (if any) unwanted colouration. This allows for a beautiful and responsive mix. In other words when you make a change to anything the results are what you expected it to be,’ he explains. ‘Like most live sound engineers I tend to be quite paranoid even in the safest situations. The guys at DiGiCo seem to know this and all the failsafes, like redundant power supplies or separate reset capabilities of the processing and audio units, has really put me at ease. I need to mention though that I have not yet had to use any of these measures, it's just nice to know they're there.’
Away from the mixers, the other major audio element is the distributed L-Acoustics loudspeaker system supplied by Sound Harmonics. The main PA consists of nine KARAi per side with two hangs of four SB18is in cardioid mode plus a pair of ground stacked SB28s each side. A further four arrays of four KARAis act as delays for the balcony area, allowing good stereo imaging upstairs. Sidefills come in the form of two arrays of two Arcs Focus which have been flown to cover the raised seating areas on each side. The front rows are catered for by six 8XTi cabinets which have been built into the stage while four 12XTs serve as monitors for pastor Boshoff. The system is powered courtesy of 10 LA8s and three LA4 amplifiers.
‘We decided to use a distributed system approach, which we found would be better suited to overcome the challenges of this project,’ says Sound Harmonics’ Mr Mandy. ‘With the church having already purchased L-Acoustics Kara for the upgrade to the Bloemfontein branch, it only made sense to carry on with the high standards and backup service already experienced and delivered by the Sound Harmonics team. It was an easy decision for the elders of the church to make.
‘We used KARAi in both the main and delay systems so that the sonic signature would be exact and there would be enough headroom,’ he continues. ‘To deal with reflections, we chose each system element very carefully, and made sure speaker aim is precise so there is minimal energy wasted on the roof and wall surfaces. With regard to low frequency response, I used a combination of stacked and flown subs, and with some intelligent DSP processing, we got the low end to really carry evenly across the venue and managed to cut down on leakage through the roof.’
Following a 10-day installation, Mr Mandy believes the L-Acoustics equipment has enabled the church to avoid a number of potential problems. ‘Even though it’s a well-designed auditorium, long distances (indoors) and high balconies all pose problems for the end result. However, the very tight coverage pattern of the Kara and predictable throw has allowed us to succeed with no effort at all,’ he explains. ‘In fact, the 3D simulation software from L-Acoustics, Sound Vision, was on the mark when we turned the system on. With the LA-Network manager and amplified controllers it was easy to align all aspects of the system without having to walk and climb long distances to reach the amplifiers that were located in the roof void close to the PA.’
Equally important for the worship experience at the new venue is the lighting system. Here CRC turned to DWR Distribution. ‘DWR has a long term relationship with CRC going back over six years with the congregation based in Bloemfontein. When they decided to build the new auditorium, they asked us to be involved,’ recalls Duncan Riley from DWR. ‘Pastor Boshoff, was involved from the very beginning and was very passionate about the project. This alleviated any challenges and made it smooth as the supplier knew what the end result was required.’
To meet CRC’s lighting needs, DWR supplied 24 Robe Robin 1200 LED wash, 12 Robin Pointe, 24 Philips Selecon SPX profiles, 24 Robe LEDForce 18 LED pars and 24 Longman LED Pars. These are hung from the supplied Prolyte trussing using Prolyft motors. Control of the lighting rig is courtesy of an MA Lighting GrandMA2 console, while the solution is completed with a pair of LeMaitre haze machines. Finally, a GDS ArcSystem consisting of 120 fixtures with wireless control has been put to use for the house lights.
‘Power and maintenance saving long term, and not having to replace bulbs and gels as time goes by are the areas where this equipment will benefit the church,’ explains Mr Riley. ‘We installed LED fixtures to a large degree to save on power consumption, but still get the same effect as if we had used generic fixtures using tungsten or discharge lamps.
‘It really looks appealing and vibrant, along with a lot of eye candy in the mix,’ continues Mr Riley. ‘We are delighted and hope that the client feels the same way.’
Given the standards set by pastor Boshoff, this hope is shared by all the companies involved with the project. Fortunately, it seems to have passed the stringent tests in place for it as Mr Mandy concludes. ‘The church elders remarked how professionally and flawlessly the system was installed and that all expectations were achieved and surpassed.’