Lights, Camera, Worship: Ministries Turning to a Mix of Cinematic and HDR Technology Options as Production Values Increase

by Craig Harper

The singers are lit and miked, it’s a packed house and the cameras are rolling, when the pastor says, “let’s try that again.”  Pastor? While this might sound like something a director would say while recording a concert or live event, it’s increasingly becoming a more common scenario at many ministries.

Gone are the days when it was good enough to simply record a service with one fixed camera pointed at the pastor. Churches are now producing more live events and special services, and streaming services on the web to reach more people across the country and the world.

At the larger churches, audiences and A/V systems are on the scale of the biggest stadium concert tours, bringing with it a whole new set of production challenges and opportunities, for example, IMAG and multi-camera set-ups.

Churches need to deliver content to more platforms and in higher quality, and the increasing accessibility of more affordable and capable production technology is making it easier to do this than ever before.

When churches buy new technology they need to think about more than its ease of use and durability. They have to consider image quality and how it can help them achieve the right “look” they need.

The keyword for any ministry is options, and a company like Sony has the most comprehensive mix of technology options to fit any size room or application. Churches are implementing any, or a mix of, these options — from full-frame mirrorless alpha cameras or the compact RX0 for specialized POV shots to compact handheld 35mm camcorders like the FS7 or FS5 up to the F55 and new VENICE camera, the same cameras used to shoot big-budget movies and TV shows.

It could be a mix of models like F55s with an HDC series studio camera to combine a beautiful Super35 “film” look with 2/3–inch lenses, as well as fiber connectivity, seamless gen lock and many other features.

Many churches have been using the HDC-4000 series cameras. The reason churches like Lakewood have chosen the HDC-4000 series cameras is the ability to produce 4K HDR and HD SDR simultaneously, and they support both S-log3 and HLG workflows for HDR to provide a unique look.

One ministry, Lake Pointe Church uses Sony’s 4K cameras — from the FS7 and FS5 camcorders to the full-frame 7S and 7S II interchangeable lens cameras — in nearly every aspect of the ministry’s video production to capture services and events and handle the streaming, reaching 3,000 people online.

Chip Acker, Video Director at Lake Pointe Church, noted that since the organization is focused on video production and streaming, it’s important to have high-quality, easy-to-learn equipment that can be used and maintained by the church’s volunteer staff.

Acker continued, “Pairing the right gear with our wide range of production styles gives us the best options for our church. The variety of Sony products that we own allow us to put the right gear into action with any of our production requests and it also helps us save money over the long-term.”

These are just some examples of churches employing a mix of different cameras to spread their messages effectively and wider. And it’s not just limited to cameras.

Sony offers wireless microphone technology and high-res audio systems to keep the audio sounding as good as the video looks. Churches can also satisfy their entire workflow with Sony’s intelligent media services, which offer flexible and cost effective workflow solutions ranging from editing, storage and archive to cloud collaboration, asset management and distribution. In addition, beyond the sanctuary, it’s more common to see laser projectors or the latest “active learning” solutions in classrooms and collaborative worship spaces.

Churches needs will never stop growing. Sony’s family of options will keep pace, ready to meet, and exceed churches needs today, and tomorrow.

Lights, Camera, Worship

By Kirsten Peyton

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
Matthew 19:14

When I was a little girl, I spent all week waiting for Sunday to come. Kids Church was, without a doubt, the highlight of my week. To this day, there are certain songs that come to mind when I think about the time I spent in Kids Church. That was where I learned Bible story after Bible story and memory verse after memory verse. More importantly, I gave my heart to Jesus in a cinderblock building with red and blue paint splatters all over the walls. Being involved in Kids Church as a child had such an incredible impact on my life that when I became an adult, my husband and I accepted a call to become Student Pastors at our church.

It is my heart’s desire to provide children with every available opportunity, like the ones given to me, to have a real encounter with Jesus when they come to church on Sundays. My Kids Ministry Pastor, although he wasn’t given a huge budget, always made the most of what he had. We used transparencies to put the words up on the screen, but he always had them decorated so that they would be more visually interesting to us. To me, it was always so fun to see how he was going to decorate them next! We now have so many more ways we can use technology to really kick our Kids Worship Services up a notch. The great news is, your church may already be using these elements.

Kids Church, at the end of the day, is very similar to “Big Church”. The only real difference being the average attention span in the room. If you are, in any capacity, involved with the adult services at your church, you know that technology plays a huge roll in keeping people engaged during the service. Trends are constantly changing and innovating and trends in technology and music are no exception. It’s especially important in Kids Church to stay up-to-date with what’s new in technology in music.

Technology should never be a distraction. It should only ever be an enhancement of the overall worship experience. It’s important to utilize all that technology has to offer without ever compromising the integrity of true, genuine worship. So, where do you begin? How can you incorporate technology and media into your Kids Worship Services? Here are three important elements to help get you started:

1. Lighting

Lighting effects have been, whether intentionally or unintentionally, used in church services for hundreds and hundreds of years. In Bible times, church services were held using only candles or torches for lighting. If they weren’t available, only the light of the moon was seen. Studies have shown that the lack of lighting causes your brain to produce an excess of melatonin, which causes you to relax. Bright lighting has the opposite effect. Fast food restaurants typically have the lights turned up bright because they want to get their customers in and out as quickly as possible, but high-end restaurants keep the lighting soft to keep you relaxed, wanting to stay longer and, hopefully, willing to spend more money. That being said, lighting can help create an atmosphere and set a certain tone. This applies to your Kids Worship Service as well. If your space allows, try to separate sections of the room and utilize lighting to distinguish a “play area” from a “worship area”. Turning down the lights during worship in the designated “worship area” will allow the kids to be less distracted and more focused on what is going on. If there is room in your budget, feel free to experiment with fun lighting as well. Just because the lights are turned down doesn’t mean there can’t be fun colored lights as well to keep kids engaged during the fun, upbeat worship songs. Lighting is a very simple, inexpensive addition that can really help you set an atmosphere for worship in your Kids Church services.

2. Presentation Software

You may be reading this and thinking that PowerPoint is the extent of your knowledge about software. What you may or may not know is that there are specific church presentation software programs that have been created specifically for churches to quickly and easily set up their services. These programs include ProPresenter, MediaShout, and EasyWorship, among others. Church software programs make setting up your Kids Worship Services quite simple. All your worship songs and the lyrics that go along with them can be stored in the software program and added to the service setlist on the Sunday you will be singing them. If your church has a CCLI license, you can even import songs directly from CCLI so that they don’t have to be typed out. Different Bible translations can also be downloaded directly into the software so that you can quickly and easily add scripture to be used during the service. If you’ve been in Kids Ministry for any length of time you know that last minute changes to the service happen quite often. With PowerPoint, in order to make a change, you are forced to create a whole new slide. These church software programs are designed to make last minute changes happen in just a matter of seconds. Software can be an investment, but the money spent is well worth the time it will save you in service prep. This will allow you more time to focus on the actual worship experience for your Kids Ministry. It’s important to discuss software with your senior pastor because they may already be using a software program in the adult service that you can also use in the Children’s Services. Some of these programs offer “Campus Licenses” so that one license (one purchase) can be utilized by several different ministries in the church at the same time. This allows your church to make one software purchase that benefits the entire church. If you’d like to learn more about church software, visit for more information.

3. Kids Ministry Media

There are a few different types of media you can utilize during your worship service to help illustrate your lessons/songs and better engage your kids. My favorite media addition to our Kids Church Services are Worship Tracks (also referred to as Song Tracks). Worship Tracks are fun, engaging videos that play a kids worship song while displaying the lyrics on the screen. This takes quite a bit of pressure off a Children’s Pastor who may not be musically inclined enough to lead worship songs or even a Children’s Pastor who doesn’t want to spend time typing out and setting up lyrics to songs every week. There are incredible artists like Yancy who create really energetic, engaging worship tracks for your Kids Ministry to use. Kids Videos are a kid-friendly version of videos that your senior pastor may be using during his messages in the adult service. These videos range from “sermon illustrations” that can be used to help illustrate a Bible lesson to interactive games that can be used to keep your kids engaged throughout the service. Another media element you may want to consider adding to your services is Motion Backgrounds. Motion backgrounds are images with slight movement that can be used behind song lyrics, scripture verses or other important service elements on a service slide. This is, yet again, a small addition that can really add that “finishing touch” on your worship services and really make them look well put together. All of these media products can be purchased through WorshipHouse Kids at

It’s important to acknowledge that nothing can take the place of the one-on-one relationships that you have with your kids and the relationship with Jesus that you work to help them foster. These technology elements are intended to help you enhance the overall worship experience. We have an incredible opportunity to provide the next generation with the tools they need to develop a relationship with Jesus. There is nothing sweeter than a room full of children lifting their voices and worshiping the Lord. With just a little effort and budgeting, you can help your church create a worship environment for your kids that the Lord will bless and grow.

5 Sure-Fire Ways To Muddy Vocals

(If you aren’t immediately aware, the tone here is supposed to be tongue-in-cheek.)

You may have heard this old joke.
Q: How many vocalists does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: One to hold the bulb, and the rest of the world revolves around him or her.

Singers get too much of the spotlight anyway. It’s time to take them down a peg. There’s no really good reason for the congregation to understand the lyrics being sung or what’s being said or prayed during the worship service. So make sure to follow these five surefire techniques to disable your vocalists’ impact on the congregation.

  1. Ignore microphone EQ

If you want mush, there’s no reason to roll off the microphone bass frequencies around 100Hz or boosting the warmth a bit around 150 Hz – 200Hz. You wouldn’t narrowly notch down midrange mush around 325Hz – 400Hz. You’d never consider slightly bumping mid-rangy vocalists around 3.5kHz – 4 kHz (or dropping that area for nasally singers). You wouldn’t reduce that range in competing instrument EQ’s to make a pocket for the vocals. You’d never add airiness by slightly bumping around 8kHz – 11kHz or reducing sibilance around 6kHz. And of course, pro-mud audio technicians never, ever re-adjust the EQ on vocalists once the rest of the instruments are incorporated into the overall mix, or listen to the vocal EQ from the congregants’ seats, especially during the actual set. Let’s keep those vocalists humble!

  1. Overuse effects

Another technique to muddy the vocals is having the audio technician overuse delay and reverb, especially EQ’ed to peak in that mushy middle 325Hz – 400Hz range. And while you’re at it, instead of sparingly using compression to smooth vocals, over-compress them to remove all dynamics. You’ll have awesomely blasé vocals, thick and flat. 

  1. Have the musicians play over the melody range

Of course, as a wise pro-muddian, you would enlist the aid of the keyboardists and guitarists, getting them to add layers of sound right on top of the vocals. You would make sure that the guitarists overemphasize playing lower notes on the A and D strings. You would instruct the keyboardists to play thick pads right in the middle of the keyboard, especially an octave surrounding middle C. You may even get the other background vocalists in on the action by asking them to all sing melody in not-quite unison and to take small liberties with the melody to add flutter and distract the congregation’s ears from the actual melody. And if the vocalist breaks to pray or speak to the congregation during an instrumental, ensure incomprehensibility by having at least one musician continue to play brightly toned melodies in the background to confuse listening ears.

  1. Teach improper mic technique

Allow the vocalists to sabotage themselves through poor microphone technique. Instruct them to continually eat the mic and always stay in that bass-boosting proximity effect area. Or have them sing off axis by gripping the microphone like an ice cream cone pointed up their sinus passages. Or, for a little variety, teach them to them hold the microphone like the 1970’s television sports announcers about a foot below their mouths with their arm glued to their chests. For added boost, have the vocalists pull out one in-ear monitor to dangle pointed at their microphones so the entire congregation can be delighted by the click’s delightful vocal cue’s “Intro, 2, 3, 4!” exhortation.

  1. Sing the wrong words

Finally, if your vocalist remains the slightest bit distinguishable, suggest that the words don’t matter. It’s alright, no, spiritual, to modify lyrics on the fly. And if the lyrics are forgotten, just make them up, or, better yet, mumble! (Then have the vocalist give a questioning look at the microphone and wave at the sound tech, another sure-fire tip to build team unity.)

Everyone loves muddy vocals.

Tim Miller has served small, medium, and multi-site congregations for over 30 years in volunteer, part-time, and full-time worship-related roles. He consults for growing church worship programs, and delights in walking with other worship folk who want to better impact worship. Check out his website, Hearts in Tune Worship. He would love to hear from you!


The Five Gallon Rule

This article was originally published in Worship Leader magazine (Oct 2007). For more great articles like this one, subscribe today.


Mention Spinal Tap around a group of musicians and they will declare in unison, “This one goes to eleven.” The mythical British band in the movie is enamored by a guitar amp with unprecedented volume capacity. So, too, it appears, are many worship musicians. A million dollars worth of acoustic design, EASE and EARS modeling, meticulous installation and planning can be obliterated by a guitarist with a three hundred dollar amplifier. While increased volume is ingrained in the fabric of modern worship music, there must be a reasonable balance between the needs of the bands and the needs of the congregation. After dozens of consultations with churches about volume, I have developed a multi-pronged approach to giving the band enough stage level to function properly while reserving the bulk of the room’s energy for the congregation. As Spock noted in Star Trek IV, “The needs of the many (the congregation) outweigh the needs of the few (the band).” Here, then are some guidelines:

  1. The five-gallon rule
    The room will only contain a certain level before either it or the humans occupying it express displeasure. Noted acoustician R Bob Adams conducted an extensive study of the tipping point where people begin to complain about volume. He determined above 95dBA/slow, some portion of the congregation will find the level uncomfortable if it is maintained for more than one minute. Below 95dbA/slow, few complaints are heard. Naturally, the context of the music’s tonality, the acoustic signature of the room and the existence of aberrant frequencies in the upper mids will affect the tipping point, but it is safe to use 95dBA/slow as a starting point for level control. If the band’s amps, acoustic energy and floor monitors register 90dBA before the mains are engaged, there is a problem since the sound system has only a 5dB window before the point is exceeded. In this case, the band must reduce level as there is no “silver bullet” solution available. The bucket is full before the PA is turned on. Note, the level can go above 100dBA for short bursts without incidence; the concern here is the average level over time.
  2. The invisible sound curtain
    Sound does not magically stop at the lip of the stage; it proceeds unencumbered into the audience. For example, if you walk into a home theater store and the salesperson is going to demonstrate the clarity of the speakers, the last thing she would do is turn the speakers away from you before engaging the Blu-Ray disc. No one wants to hear the back of the speaker, yet that is what we subject the audience to each Sunday with our floor monitors. The boomy low-mid energy washes into the congregation and masks the clarity of the main speakers. Guitar amps positioned on the stage at floor level facing the audience sound perfect to the guitarist but can devastate the audience’s experience.
  3. The audio security blanket
    Performing in front of an audience can be unnerving. Some artists use a wall of sound as a security blanket to protect themselves from rejection. Unfortunately, a pair of biamped wedges in front of the leader causes the BGVs to ask for more level in their monitors; in turn the guitarist turns up his amp and the drummer plays louder. It is a counterproductive spiral.
  4. The colored index card
    When asked to intervene in a stage volume issue, I carry two oversized index cards in my briefcase. One card had only red, green and blue stripes on it. The other has a smattering of seventeen colors. Invariably, the artist will ask for “a little bit of everything” or more of something in the monitor mix. I respond by holding up the card with all the colors on it and ask, “What colors do you see?” The artist replies they cannot make out any specific color, only that there are a number of colors on the card. I agree and then hold up the card with only three colors. “Now, what colors are on this card?” I ask. They respond, “Red, green and blue.” “Exactly,” I concur and then explain if you combine the seventeen colors on the first card you end up with a dull shade of gray. However, if you combine red, green and blue, you have sixteen million colors at your disposal. In essence, then, the more elements present in the monitor mix, the less discernable each element becomes. The purpose of the monitor mix is to keep the artist on time and on pitch. Anything that detracts from that purpose is counterproductive to the goal and needs to be eliminated. Usually, voice, hi-hat, bass, right hand keys and acoustic guitar are all that is necessary to fulfill the monitor’s mission.
  5. The myth of in-ears
    In-ear monitors are not a panacea for the band. They require a competent engineer to develop the blend since the wearer is now fully dependent on the ears for the entire aural landscape. Ears also need an ambience input to bring the audience into the artist’s head due to the isolation inherent in ear monitors. However, if these needs are met, in-ears can provide a stellar experience, with full bandwidth response and all the information needed to perform properly.
  6. Personal monitoring can work
    Instead of relying on the mix engineer to turn signals up and down, personal monitors transfer the task to the user. With either Hearback’s eight channels or Aviom’s sixteen channels, the artist dials the knobs to achieve the mix they desire. With the Aviom system, the mix can be stored and recalled for later recall. The process in both instances is simple and effective. Generally, BGVs are the only band members who need to remain on wedges due to the time and expense of creating a personal mix for each one. In most cases, the drummer, bassist and keyboardist are most inclined to use personal monitors while the leader and guitarist are most reluctant to the technology.

By definition, a sacrifice of praise involves giving up something of value. If the band is willing to explore some options, the volume wars can come to a peaceful end and the congregation can enjoy the result.

Kent Morris delivers a bridge-building perspective to the technical arena. He is a live sound engineer for Paul Baloche, Tommy Walker, Kim Hill, and Israel Houghton and served as a senior pastor for a decade. He spent a dozen years in MI retail and wholesale. Currently, he is an audio/video system designer with Cornerstone Media, whose clients include Mt. Paran Church of God and In Touch Ministries.

Trust Your In-ears?

Woohoo – your first set of quality in-ears have arrived! You’ve plugged them into your personal monitor mixer. They fit perfectly. They sound pristine. Sunday’s going to be awesome!

But then during the set the band turns to mush, you can’t hear yourself, the click is inaudible, and to top it all off, you’ve lost touch with a congregation that looks like they’re just moving their mouths. So you do what you’ve seen the cool pro’s do and pop out one side. But now you tempo drags, your pitch slips, and the click bleeds through your mic into the house and everyone hears, “Chorus, 2, 3, 4….”

In-ear nightmare.

The Underlying Basics
In-ears with personal monitor mixes can be a great asset when working properly. Unfortunately, many times the people using them are not trained properly, and the devices become an irritating inconvenience that hampers your opportunity to impact worship.

Follow these tips to make your in-ear and personal monitor mix do their job in helping you do yours.

1. Save your precious ears! Always turn your monitor mix volume to 0 before inserting your in-ear cable. Then put the in-ears into your ears. Gently raise the mix volume level as needed.

2. In-ears are merely monitors. Their job is simply to let you hear only what you must in order to play your part, not to create a pristine CD-mix in your head. Each instrument you add to your in-ear mix increases the mud. Keep your mix simple.

3. To hear the congregation, you’ll need to mic them. It’s best to use shotgun-type mics for this so you can reduce as much bleed from the main speakers as possible. Add this element sparingly to your in-ear mix! Remember, congregational clapping will automatically be behind the click because of the delay caused by the distance of the sound going from the main speakers to the congregation, and from the congregation to the mics. You’ll primarily hear the congregation channel a cappella breaks.

4. To hear non-vocalist team members during practice, either mic them to an “everything else” channel or aim the congregational mics at them.

5. General in-ear mixing principles:

  • Pan yourself to center.
  • Pan the drums and the click/cue opposite one another.
  • Pan similar instruments to yours hard right and hard left to create sonic distance between them and yourself.
  • If you don’t absolutely need to hear an instrument in order to play your musical role, don’t add it to your in-ear mix. If you can’t help yourself, keep it soft.
  • Pan similar instruments to opposite sides. So if you’re a background vocalist, pan the other background vocalists to hard right and hard left.
  • Work to find your own instrument volume sweet spot. If you’re too loud, you’ll play or sing softly and not provide good signal to the soundboard. If your volume is too soft, you’ll oversing, have pitch issues, or overplay.
  • There will automatically be additional mud once the congregation joins in because of noise bleeding into your in-ears and through open mics in your mix. You may need to adapt at this point a bit.

Creating Your Personal Monitor Mix: A good place to start

1. Set the overall volume on low. Take everything out of your personal mix except yourself. (If you’re using the common Aviom 16ii, you can reset all channels by pressing the left Reset and right Mute buttons simultaneously.) Raise your channel’s volume to about 70%. Then bring up the overall volume setting to the level you need for your own sound. Keep in mind that good in-ears cut out so much exterior sound that you don’t need extreme levels in your head. If you can pan channels on your control unit, set your channel to center. You should be able to hear yourself clearly.

2. If you play an instrument using two separate channels, pan one instrument one-half light to the left and the other the same to the right. (For example, my Godin guitar outputs an electric channel running through one rig and an acoustic channel running through an acoustic rig; I separate apart the two channels just enough to distinguish both. My vocal mic is centered.) I usually start the guitars at about 65% volume and the vocal at about 70%.

3. Add the drums, click/cue, and sound technician mic. Pan your drum channel one light to the left and pan the click one-half light to the right. Make the click about as loud as yourself – that constant, bothersome click is one of your most important elements. The drums should be noticeably softer, but present enough so you hear the groove. Make the sound technician mic distinguishable by placing it half way on the right between center and the click. I usually start the drums at 45%, the click at 70%, and the sound tech mic at 70%.

4. If you’re not the leader, add the leader’s voice one-half half light on the same side as the drums. You need this loud enough that you can follow vocal cues and can hear any changes dynamically. (This will also help keep the leader’s voice separated from the click’s vocal cues.) I usually start the lead vox volume around 65%

5. Add the primary instrument. If it is the same kind of instrument as yours (example: you play guitar and the leader plays guitar), pan the primary instrument completely to the right side. Make it loud enough that you can distinguish groove, hooks, and dynamic adjustments. Otherwise, pan it one light to the right (opposite the lead vocal but not as far as the click). I usually start the primary instrument at about 50%.

6. Add the loop. Pan it left one light with the drums and opposite the main instrument. Unless you are relying on the loop for the groove or are doubling something on the loop, keep its volume very soft in your mix. I start the loop at about 30%.

7. Add any instrument that is similar to yours, but only if you absolutely need it in order to play your role. Keep similar instruments panned hard right or hard left. I start similar instruments about 40% and try to cut them back during rehearsal.

8. Add any remaining instruments you absolutely must include by panning them 1-and-a-half lights on opposite sides. I start remaining instruments at 20%, except the bass, which I start around 40%.

9. By now you’ve probably covered up you own volume level a bit too much and may need to increase your own channel. If you still can’t hear yourself, you added too much of the other instruments and will need to reduce them, especially instruments that are similar to yours. Tweak if you must.

10. Save your settings!

Wrapping it up
Once you’re used to doing this process, it should only take one to two minutes. Before anyone plays a note, I usually have already reset my monitor mix to 0 and then preset my levels and the click/cue to 70% volume, the primary instrument and vox to about 50% volume, and the rest to about 30%. After dialing it in a bit during sound check, I save my settings and leave it alone, seldom adjusting my monitor mix once the actual set with the congregation begins. If you need to make a significant adjustment between songs, save each setting and use the recall button instead of making adjustments during the actual set.

This technique relies heavily on separating similar sounding instruments by using the personal monitor mixer’s ability to pan. If your mixer cannot pan, you will need to simplify even more by limiting your mix to yourself, the primary vox, the click/cue, and the primary instrument.

Rehearsing with musicians using this panning technique does take a bit getting used to – sometimes the sound from the instrument of the person standing to the left of you comes from the right of the in-ear mix. Weird. Sometimes I have to watch another musician’s hands or communicate using hand signals.

But I really like being able to hear important parts clearly, play on time, and sing the right pitch. All this without the feedback issues and overly loud stage monitor volume levels we used to struggle with before in-ears came along.

And you know what? The congregation likes it better, too.

* * * * * * * * *

Tim Miller has served small, medium, and multi-site congregations for over 30 years in volunteer, part-time, and full-time worship-related roles. He consults for growing church worship programs and delights in walking with other worship folk who are trying to increase their ability to impact worship. Read his Smashwords author interview. He would love to hear from you!


Tech Upgrade Church Spotlight: Valley Baptist Church

Valley Baptist Church provides three worship services every Sunday in its 1,800-seat Worship Center—two with a choir and orchestra, and a third with a praise band playing guitars and drums. A stage filled with musicians and a choir feels grandly spiritual, but a deep, mostly empty stage can dwarf a much smaller band. “We wanted a way to update the stage look between the two services without losing the ability to use video projection screens upstage,” said Jason March, Director of Engineering at Valley Baptist. “We wanted a backdrop that would come down and separate the orchestra and choir from the praise band, and we wanted our screens to come forward in front of all the backdrops.”

Idibri Design began the renovation by replacing the screens with two 18’ x 10’ LED display walls, increasing the system’s movability. The challenge, however, came with the need to reduce the stage size to make the space more intimate for the contemporary service. The church needed to move the screens downstage 28 feet, and then lower them to eight feet above the stage.

To create this custom solution, Idibri and Pacific West Sound turned to J. R. Clancy, Inc. “Clancy had done LED gantry systems that moved up and down or in and out, but this one had to do both,” said Chris Berendsen, Installation Manager at Pacific West Sound. “It was truly unique.”

“We designed a way for the screens to travel upstage and store flush with the back wall,” said Patrick Finn, Product Manager with J. R. Clancy. “It required a custom hoist and gantry system, using components of our PowerLine® line shaft hoist—but configured in a custom way.” Clancy’s SceneControl® 5200 control console serves as the controller for the LED gantry system.

With the system in place, Valley Baptist can transform the entire stage in minutes. “If you can imagine, we actually strike most of the orchestra pit, and we do a whole audio changeover between services—in about 15 minutes,” said March. “Having the screens move forward has improved the dynamic of our services, without a lot of extra effort. The LED screens and movable gantries have allowed us to put them wherever we want, without worrying about how the projections will appear.”

The choir loft in the original facility was a permanent, concrete-and-steel structure. In the 2015 remodel, Valley Baptist’s music minister suggested that updating the loft to a portable option on a flat stage would offer more flexibility. A four-tier StageTek™ riser system was purchased from Wenger for the choirs, which number from 75 to 90 voices.

“The simplicity in reconfiguring the StageTek risers is great, although we don’t do this very often,” explained March. “Several weeks ago we moved a couple sections of the first tier forward to make a square drum riser for a contemporary band. When we’ve needed reconfigure them, it’s been easy to do.” He noted they were initially concerned about footfall noise, so they had all four stairways carpeted.

In Addition to the Singing

We ran into Sally Morgenthaler at the National Worship Leader Conference, May 18-19, and thought we should pull out one of her old articles from the WL archive for you to enjoy. If you want full access to the entire Worship Leader archive, subscribe today!

(Originally published in Worship Leader, March/April 2005)
The opening of the service was riveting. The hymn, “For the Beauty of the Earth,” wafted through the congregation, drawing worshipers into God’s presence on an ethereal cord. A penny whistle started with a haunting intro and remained the single instrument until half-way through the second verse. Imperceptibly, a Celtic harp joined in, followed by a viola, doubling the melody at mid-range. Then came the images, the hymn morphing into a wide-eyed, sung prayer for the world God created and loves. Clips from the acclaimed video production, Baraka, scrolled over three screens in surround sight … images of unfathomable, geographic beauty, juxtaposed to urban sprawl, sickness, natural disaster and environmental devastation.

Tapestry of Art
It was one of the most transcendent worship moments in memory. Why? Was it the hymn? Was it singing and praying, listening and watching, all at once? Was it intercession with eyes open? (Is that possible? I’ve heard more than a few times that it’s not.) Was it the world presented at the poles of reality, both entrancing and hideous? Or was it the sparse instrumentation in a praise and worship church where “sparse” is not a known part of the English language?

I don’t honestly know. Perhaps it was all of these things. Together. A tapestry of art, both communicating truth and wooing response. A world beyond the beige, light-years past the one-color, one-sense default so common to what is otherwise known as contemporary. A tapestry of expression with oh-so-many many intertwined threads saying oh-so-many things: we love You, we thank You, we grieve, we celebrate, we plead, we repent, we adore … You.

I came away from that moment, transfixed, having encountered God in an entirely new way. It’s a good thing when this happens because, frankly, sometimes I ask myself, “Are the what and the how of worship important?” Talk about questioning one’s existence! But, after this experience, how could I ever doubt that? What worship is and the cultural mangers that contain it have never been more important. Silly me. At least one truth I encountered that Sunday couldn’t be more clear. Worship is more than a “worship time.” It’s more than the best song sets we’ve been putting together over the past two decades. It’s everything we do, say, feel, hear, give, touch and see in God’s presence, the entire time we are together, and it’s what we take with us out into the world beyond the walls.

Crafting Experiences
This year, will the worship in your congregation be—more often than not—a transfixing, engaging experience? Or, will it just be more of the same: a pretty-good song warm-up before the message with a few extras thrown in for good measure? Will your church’s worship be as compelling for the skeptical as it is for the already convinced? Have you considered that our tendency to “over-sing” may be a barrier to the lost? If worship is where real humans meet a real God then we need to be crafting experiences for real humans with eyes, noses, nerve endings and taste sensors as well as ears.

If we access God through all of our bodies then worship is not just about singing. It’s about everything. And that is extremely good news. At the very least, it means we have the chance to expand our how-can-people-worship repertoire and watch God work through the artistically gifted people in our communities.


The Sound Tech’s 5 Rules for Prayer Without Distractions

(This article was originally published in Worship Leader’s Jan/Feb 2016 issue. To get more articles like this one, subscribe today!)

One of the most memorable moments of my career (not a good memory) was the time I forgot to mute the input channels of the band as we went into prayer. Sure enough, the acoustic guitar player figured that the prayer, which was to be followed by announcements, gave him enough time to go backstage and refill his coffee. Yep, you guessed it. As the pastor uttered the words, “Holy Father we come to you today …” a huge bang rang out over the sound system, and it felt like maybe the Lord was about to show up in a thunder. Of course it was the acoustic player unplugging his guitar. Since that incident, I have never forgotten to mute the band at prayer time.

Prayer from the platform is something that happens at almost every event that takes place at a church, and rightly so! The act of prayer is instrumental in a worship service. Therefore, as a sound tech it is your responsibility to ensure that it takes place in the most-effective manner and, most importantly, without distractions.

With prayer’s importance in mind, let’s look at 5 specific things that you can do to facilitate prayer.

  1. Plan Ahead
    This goes for every aspect of a worship service but is worth mention here because the transition in and out of prayer time sets the tone and feeling. Prayer is a chance to look ahead and see what is coming up and mentally plan out your next moves. Think what channels do I need to turn on, what level should they be at and, in this age of digital mixing boards, what layer are the inputs on and how am I going to get there?
  1. Pay Attention
    Transitions tend to be the area where the most notable issues (mistakes) happen, so it is critical to think ahead and make sure you are doing everything you can to make transitions smooth. A pet peeve of mine is when the pastor gets up and the mic is not turned on, or when the mic is too loud or too soft as he begins speaking (or worse yet there is feedback). It is your job to pay attention and look ahead. A good sound tech always does a sound check with the band. A great sound tech always does a soundcheck with everybody involved in the service.
  1. Find Proper Volume
    Finding the proper volume during a prayer can actually be challenging. Too loud and you feel like you are being yelled at, and it also feels impersonal. Too soft and you find yourself straining to hear what is being said. I like to say keep it at normal conversational level—it should feel “right.” A note here on volume: one of the most annoying things during prayer is background noise. HVAC can be a huge issue. If you are hearing lots of fan noise or rumbling or if you can hear the kids ministry down the hall, find a way to correct it or mitigate it. You could play music underneath the prayer.
  1. Use Program Material (background music) When Appropriate
    As mentioned above, background music, either live or recorded can help mask other background noise. It also can enhance the prayer adding some additional emotional content. The key here is finding appropriate music. (No, AC/DC is not a good choice. Ever.) A soft quiet organ or piano patch played live or recorded is usually the best and safest route to go. Remember it is a music bed, meant to go underneath the prayer.
  1. Pray
    Yes, pray. Participate. God wants to talk to us and for us to talk to him. Take part. Share a private moment with him. Let him know what is on your heart, what is troubling you, and what you are thankful for. Commune with him.

I know that you are thinking, okay how am I supposed to participate when I have to look ahead, concentrate on what is going on, and make sure the worship team is happy and not jumping up and down trying to get my attention. Relax! First off, if you plan ahead and are truly prepared, the needs of others (the worship team) should already be taken care of. Yes, there are emergencies and sometimes just plain drama that require you to acknowledge others. For that reason, I always pray with my eyes open and thank God that he gave me the ability to multitask. You can engage in prayer, watch the stage, think ahead, and make necessary adjustments at the same time.

You have a job to do during a service. Prayer is for the congregation, but it also for you, the worship team, the ushers, greeters, and staff—it is for everyone. So join in. Make sure you take this time to engage with what is going on in the service; it will help you personally as well as the entire congregation. Remember, the more in-tune you are with what is going on the better your mix and performance will be.

It’s a cliché but oh so true. Prayer is powerful! Make sure you do your part to facilitate it.

Gary Zandstra is a partner in, inventor of the one-touch virtual soundcheck 32 channel digital recorder. You can reach him at



In-Ear-Monitors: An Introduction

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hat Are They: Custom In Ear Monitors (IEMS or CIEMS) are devices used by musicians, audio engineers and audiophiles to listen to music, hear a custom mix of vocals and instrumentation usually during a live performance.

How do they Work: Traditional speakers work when electrical current +/- flows through a voice coil and the permanent magnet. The coil also connected to a diaphragm moves (back and forth [positive/negative]) and this movement produces the sound we hear. IEMS work using a similar concept, but rather than use a diaphragm and voice coil, there is a thin piece of metal (called an arm) between the voice coil and magnets. When it receives current, it transmits motion to a driver that moves air between it (driver) and a layer of foil (closed system) which produces sound. All of these parts are contained inside a box (balanced armature) small enough to fit neatly in an earpiece impression of your ear. Some manufacturers use multiple boxes and separate the frequencies between them (crossovers) in combinations of highs, mids and lows. IEMS featuring multiple armatures produce exceptional sound quality and cost as high as $2000.00 or more.
Why Do You Need Them: These devices can potentially change the way music is heard on stage thereby changing the way music is heard in the audience. A common complaint of most sound systems is loudness. In fact many bands and churches are opting for IEMS to minimize on-stage volume which, when combined with front-of-house speakers, increases the total dB threshold often to unsafe or unpleasant levels. Stage participants using IEMS also have a distinct advantage with the ability to get a comfortable volume level and personal mix that allows them to perform better. On-stage Sound pressure levels (SPL) are lower, decreasing the risk of hearing loss. Additionally, communications options can be added making it possible for everyone to be connected without using hand signals or stage runners.
Some FAQs for those considering this option:

Maybe our sound guys will learn better techniques, what if we choose to wait and see what happens?
Remaining comfortable by doing nothing risks hindering your ministry, turning off potential members and/or losing current ones. In other words, if loudness is your problem it will stay your problem.

What if we begin the process and decide it ruffles too many feathers to stay the course?
You must work through the unfamiliar bumps and missteps sometimes, well before the advantage of change is fully developed and appreciated. In other words, if you begin the process of change and quit amidst complaints and resistance, loudness will stay your problem.

What if the Pastor and Media Team Leader want to change to an IEM system but have decided on a product no-one likes?
Ineffective communication and research will stifle present progress and discourage future efforts. In other words, if those you wish to influence don’t feel they are part of the solution and don’t understand the process even though they agree with the eventual end result, loudness will stay your problem.

What Are Your Options? Lets assume your current set-up is fine and all is well, however your equipment needs upgrading or a complete overhaul (it’s really a matter of when not if). Look at the possibility of using IEMS as part of your future system based on the size of your church, your budget and (primarily) whether your music ministry could translate their use as a benefit to the congregation. IEMS aren’t cheap by any means, however if they become a part of the equipment you use to conduct ministry then its an investment. You can opt for custom models which require ear impressions be made by an audiologist. These range in price between $400.00 to $2000. Devices that don’t require ear impressions and have universal ear pieces, cost between $75.00 to $400.00. Sound quality between the two favors the custom makes since they inherently create a good ear seal and often contain multiple cross-overs for premium sound. However, the difference in sound quality is ultimately difficult to measure if you don’t have units to compare. Custom units may not be an expense some churches can handle but using IEMS as a sound management tool could translate into the acceptance of non-custom models. Universal IEMS aren’t much different from products labeled “In Ear” Headphones, both may or may not have tips to create a good ear seal and the sound quality should be measured against your specific application.
More Info: You can read a review of the top 24 units here. It’s a couple years old and newer models have come out since. But its still an exceptional analysis worth looking at.
Below are a list of companies that make custom and universal In Ear Monitors.
Lime Ears
Ultimate Ears
Alclair Audio
Reid & Heath
JH Audio
Heir Audio
Unique Melody
1964 Ears
Creative Aurvana
Cosmic Ears
Bowers and Wilkins
Sony MDR EX600 & MDR EX1000
Spider Cable REAL VOICE
Spiral Ear
Shure In Ear Monitors

Franklin Purnell started in the music industry as a recording engineer, mixing and producing after graduating from Trebas Recording Institute In 1990. Live sound reinforcement and production on numerous projects and events covering all spectrums of music are just a few of his achievements. He has built and customized recording studios, installed pro-sound equipment for churches, offices, and homes and provided consultations that range from system modification to complete upgrade. An astute author, his accomplishments include writing for the 4Cproject blog, teaching a course on “Legal Issues in the Music Business” for the Gospel Music Workshop of America (GMWA) and providing A/V instruction through the “Music2MyEars Workshop” at the annual West Coast Music and Worship Conference (WCMWC). Find out more,

AVL With a Global Reach

 SITUATION: Logistics, local gear, and the need to make the most of what is available
One of the most memorable experiences in my tech career took place in Zambia with Tommy Walker and his team. Tommy has an unquenchable passion for the lost in the developing world and has focused on reaching and connecting with people wherever he is given the opportunity to minister. Zambia, despite its difficult colonial past, has developed into a beacon for the gospel within Africa. So, with throngs of Christ-followers ready to help, Tommy set out to record a live DVD in the city of Lusaka. However, we soon found out personnel logistics is one thing; gear logistics is quite another. The world is equipped to move people anywhere on earth, their gear, not so much. In the end, the DVD was a success but only by overcoming some serious challenges along the way.

SOLUTION: Simplify again and again to reach a minimum acceptable level
Congregations in remote areas of the world are content to use the available technology, but they learn to master it fully. Just as embargo-affected Cubans have kept 1950s cars running for decades with no replacement parts, so, too, media techs in Guatemala, Cambodia, and Estonia have been able to keep antiquated mixers, mics, and cameras functional with no outside support. It is a testimony to their ingenuity and should cause those of us in the States to reexamine our definition of a “need.” Additionally, given the perils of travel, gear can be broken and should be considered expendable. For a first-world team looking to serve on a short-term excursion, the key question members must ask themselves is, “What is the absolute minimum amount of gear I need to perform my function?” As a gesture of gratitude, many visiting worship teams leave all the equipment they bring with the host churches. Since international flights have strict rules regarding baggage weight limits, the corollary of lighter weight applies as well. Clearly then, this situation precludes bringing amplifiers of any type, multiples of any instrument, and any item considered irreplaceable, such as a ’59 Les Paul Rosie.

ACTION: Know the environment
Just as customs vary around the world, tech norms are different as well. It is often noted, British sound techs are among the world’s elite due primarily to their calm attitudes during the chaos of sound check. I found out, though, this aplomb does require the tea cart come off the truck first, be plugged in, and tea served before any other gear can be off-loaded. For a Type-A American with a detailed timeline in-hand, this process can be difficult to comprehend, but it is the local custom and should be honored.

Safety, though, must be held to a rigid line of acceptability regardless of the locale. For instance, in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, I had to accompany the equipment owner to the one store in the country where safe hoisting gear could be found and insist it be purchased and used in place of the dangerous rigging they had attached to 1,500 pounds of line array. Even so, I could not stop the rigger from climbing the support structure barefoot with no safety harness. Prayer goes a long way in these situations.

Incoming AC power is not stable or entirely safe in many areas of the world. In Myanmar, their music festivals are accompanied by high-pressure water hoses drenching the revelers in close proximity to power lines running from nearby generators. Isolation transformers can help in these environments and should be part of the system. For on-stage talent, the best idea is to not touch the mic or use wireless instead. For less dangerous situations where there is the possibility of hum, Ebtech’s Hum-X devices are quite useful. Given the diversity of connectors and voltages, it makes sense to take a high-quality international kit in a carry-on bag.

Kent Morris delivers a bridge-building perspective to the technical arena. He is a live sound engineer for Paul Baloche, Tommy Walker, Kim Hill, and Israel Houghton and served as a senior pastor for a decade. He spent a dozen years in MI retail and wholesale. Currently, he is an audio/video system designer with Cornerstone Media, whose clients include Mt. Paran Church of God and In Touch Ministries.

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