About five months ago, my church, Sunlight Community Church, opened a 730-seat sanctuary in South Florida. As the Associate Pastor of Worship and Media, it was my privilege to help design this space. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to share some things we learned along the way, with the goal of helping out other churches who are considering doing the same.
I’m starting with the sound booth, in response to questions I received on the Church Technical Leaders forum at The City. Here’s a little pictorial tour of why we did what we did:
The first decision you will have to make is where to place the sound booth in the room. It is not ideal to place your sound person in the corner or against a wall (definitely not in another room or behind glass). Why? You want your sound person to hear and experience exactly what the crowd is hearing so that he can accurately mix. That’s why we placed the sound booth where we did.
Imagine placing your sound person in an area where there is less bass. He mixes the kick drum and bass guitar loud enough to make it sound right where he is but, in the process, blows everyone else’s eardrums out. See what I’m getting at? Location is important because the laws of physics are immutable. Sound waves are sound waves, and there is no amount of processing that will alter how they behave in a physical space. Don’t fight it. Embrace it.
Given how prominent the sound booth was to be, we had to make it look nice. We are pretty proud of how finished it looks.
One of our sound booth’s unique features is its slanted top. I think I got this idea from the great Mike Sessler. Do you have people who like to place drinks on the ledge right next to your super-expensive soundboard? How do you stop that from happening? I, for one, do not believe in signs. You can print “DO NOT SET DRINKS HERE” on hot pink paper in 100 pt. Comic Papyrus, but people will still ignore it. It would be much more effective to design a system that prevents behaviors you do not want. Our system was to put a slanted ledge on our booth that makes it physically impossible for this area to get cluttered up.
To prevent unsightly cords from covering the walls, we designed a way to run them through the walls. From inside the walls, they go under the raised floor and then come back up where they need to go.
If you peel back the carpet, you can see the we have a “computer flooring system.” It’s designed for use in computer labs. You can pull up sections of it and run wires anywhere.
Pulling up the squares is insanely easy, and look at all those wires we’re hiding!
We chose iMacs because, as they are all-in-ones, there are less wires. They’re also powerful enough to run all our systems easily. One, for instance, is running 64 channels of Waves Soundgrid Multirack and 64 channels of Logic for virtual soundcheck. Another is running four discreet HD video outputs from ProPresenter without missing a beat. But that’s another post for another day.
Of course, it should go without saying that you need to take careful measurements before building. We needed enough space for 4-5 people to easily move around without hitting each other. We wanted all media volunteers to be in the same tech booth so that they could help each other (i.e., no separate booth for lyrics or lighting). The depth of the Midas console determined the depth of the desk. The combined width of all the components determined the width. The height was determined by what our operators were comfortable running while standing.
All in all, we are very happy with the way our sound booth turned out, and it is helping us provide a top-notch experience for our guests each week, which is our highest priority. If you have any questions, comment below, and I’ll try to answer them!