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Improving Prayer with Intelligent A/V Planning

TV Magic shares with the readers of AVI LATINOAMÉRICA the fundamental aspects that must be taken into account for the installation of AV systems in places dedicated to worship and prayer.

Mauricio Bolaños, SALES Engineer at TV Magic*

In planning and managing their growth, today's houses of prayer are using advanced A/V technologies to frequently maintain and improve their communications with new and future members.  In addition, these increasingly sophisticated transmission and production systems are being leveraged to reach not only participants in weekly religious services, but also members around the world through television and newer channels, including DVD distribution, Internet network and content delivery to mobile media.  The possibilities are limitless, even if the church budget is not. However, smart planning and purchasing can help homes of prayer find and implement systems that meet many of their needs.

Things to consider

The first step in the construction of the A/V infrastructure for the houses of prayer is to define the main objective of the project. Church members should begin by identifying what they want to achieve (immediately and in the long run) with the facility. If, for example, the only goal (now and for the future) is to facilitate the presence of everyone in the church to see, hear, praise and teach, then a simple installation with limited production tools will probably be enough for the presentation of the video, the announcements, the lyrics of the songs and the graphics.

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If, on the other hand, the long-term goal is to use television, audio, and lighting cameras to support wider production and delivery of video or finished programs in different formats, then the church should consider a larger, more complex facility that incorporates systems for signal routing, capture, editing, transmission, archiving, and distribution.

How media will be displayed or distributed, where it will be displayed and for whom, are important factors to consider when building an A/V infrastructure.  These elements establish the required audio and video quality and also shape the workflow related to media utilization; even future plans for working with these means are also important considerations.  The church may not achieve its ultimate goal in a single step, but its acquisition and deployment of A/V equipment should always contribute to and promote that goal.

Not to neglect

It is essential, initially, to have key people to make decisions throughout the planning process; during the rest of the project it is necessary to continue and conclude with greater support from the congregation. This is important for defining goals and creating space within facilities for A/V systems. Clearly, physical space is a necessity for production personnel, but the actual incorporation of A/V elements into the prayer space is also something to be of concern.  Implementing A/V systems within this environment can be challenging because of the new technologies involved and because lights, cameras, speakers, and other equipment can be unfamiliar or seem annoying to some church members.  In older houses of prayer and particularly those with historical designations, decisions about equipment should generally be made taking into account the way in which effective production capacities should be established, but retaining the incomparable atmosphere of the building.

Organizational charts and floor plans can help in the design of a non-obstructive and still practical A/V installation.  They are also important to map out the flow work or to arrange for how audio and video will actually be provided in support of the church's media-related goal.  By plotting the types of signals and the flow of them, the workflow diagram can be used as a key tool in the selection of equipment, starting from cameras, microphones, speakers and video screens, to lighting, network, wiring, power and HVAC systems (all in relation to the structure of the existing or proposed building).

Although the community itself is a valuable source of information on the acquisition of a new A/V facility, the creation of a workflow diagram ensures expert advice perhaps from a professional within the congregation or from a consultant or system integrator specializing in facilities for the worship market.  Anecdotal advice from members of other churches can be helpful in avoiding some difficulties, but system integrators offer a lot of experience that can help the church save time and money, while ensuring that the project's original goals are met.

The project and its stages

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Because of their reliance on the financial support of their members, many churches will need to direct their goals to a phased approach. Here too, the system integrator can play a key role, helping the church to have a maximum return on investment and make smart purchases that are prioritized according to the project's goals. Clearly, cameras are an important one-phase purchase.  Less obvious is the importance of audio and lighting.

Regardless of the size of the installation, there is no need to stray from the fact that audio is the medium through which the message of prayer is delivered to the congregation.  Bad audio leads to bad production. Likewise, lighting is an essential part of the A/V installation. Even churches designed to take advantage of natural acoustics and light can present very poor lighting.  As a result, the illumination of key areas (the pulpit, the choir stage or the spaces where those who speak and those who give the mass stand) is vital to achieve a high quality image (video).

A wide range of dealers offer equipment that will do the job, and indeed do it well. A drop in prices for A/V products places many of these teams within the range of the church budget, but also complicates the selection process.  Houses of prayer that have chosen to work with a systems integrator can benefit from the company's product knowledge and dealer relationships. Integrators who offer a wide variety of brands are generally not beholden to any distributor and can suggest a proven mix of products that meet both the church's budget needs and functional needs.

As with any investment of its resources, the church must do its own homework and self-education, ask questions freely, and seek solutions and professional services that have successful tracking records. By having this knowledge and having a carefully considered project goal, the church is empowered to take the first steps to use the media and promote members' commitment to prayer.

*Mauricio Bolaños is a sales engineer for TV Magic (, an integrator of A/V systems and high-quality transmission.

Richard Santa, RAVT
Author: Richard Santa, RAVT
Periodista de la Universidad de Antioquia (2010), con experiencia en temas sobre tecnología y economía. Editor de las revistas TVyVideo+Radio y AVI Latinoamérica. Coordinador académico de TecnoTelevisión&Radio.

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