Is Livestreaming Your Event A Good Idea?

Many churches I visit these days are doing some sort of streaming of their services. While this is common today it was not at all common when I first streamed a live service at Hope Church in Mason somewhere around 20 years ago. There was no possibility of video and the audio only stream was glitchy and poor quality. But, we wanted to make the message available to more people and we foresaw the trend that how content was consumed was about to change significantly.

Fast forward to today and I have been assisting Anderson Hills UMC in setting up streaming for both their Traditional and Contemporary worship services. Along with an associate we have configured the systems to stream a full 1080P video image with almost no glitches providing the viewer a great, high quality experience.

So how about the value to the church? When we started streaming way back then it was difficult to know how many viewers we actually had. After we upgraded at Hope Church about 15 years ago and included video and converted from Real Media to Windows Media, we were able to have an online monitor of the streams and, in real time, view the ip address of those logged in and where they were coming from. I was very surprised to see that we were getting viewers from all around the US and, if I remember correctly, we had around 100 simultaneous viewers pretty much on a weekly basis. And this was without the benefit of any marketing or social media, just word of mouth and the church website. Today churches like Crossroads have tens of thousands of online viewers each week.

So I would ask, why would a church not have a livestream setup for their services? It allows a way for shut-ins to see the service live, those on vacation or away on business to feel connected. And family members who have moved away to stay in contact. And with the on-demand feature, archived services can be viewed at any time, anywhere in the world. For me this is an essential feature for every church that is serious about personal ministry and instruction to anyone and everyone.

Sound Concepts is partnering with a local hosting company to make streaming affordable even for the smallest of churches. We are offering a service whereby the church no longer requires an internet savvy person to be available at the beginning and end of each event. We will arrange for the stream to begin and end automatically each week. Nothing to do but start the service and thereby reach people that otherwise would not be reached. If this is of interest to you please give me a call and I will be glad to discuss the requirements and program details. Or you can click this link to read more about what we are offering.

Sound Concepts Livestream Webpage

So What’s This About Banned Wireless Mic Frequencies?

FCC Banned Frequencies Update
The FCC has recently auctioned off a band of frequencies that have previously  been made available for use with wireless devices including wireless microphone systems. To see the actual statement by the FCC visit this website: https://www.fcc.gov/general/wireless-microphones-0
The practical effect for any current user of wireless microphone systems is that, depending on the frequency range of the systems in your church, school or other facility, it may become illegal to operate your systems in the near future.
First, the affected frequency range: 607-698 MHz Note: all systems operating in the 700 MHz frequency range were banned several years ago and are illegal to operate now.
Second, How to check your systems: Each transmitter and receiver will have the frequency range listed on the identification tag or in the settings menu. The format is generally shown as 6xx.xxx MHz. or 7xx.xxx MHz.
Third, when will it become illegal to operate systems: All operation of the affected devices must cease by the end of the day July 13, 2020. However, there may be some new legal devices operating now in range they have been allocated.
Fourth, what options are available to address this issue?
1. One option is to keep the offending system(s) until the deadline date and then begin using a system operating within the legal bands.
2. Another option is to purchase a new system(s) now.
3. Another option is to choose an option other than the wireless system.
Considerations: The offending system still have some resale value on eBay and other marketplaces. Selling now will result in some return on investment. As the date to cease operation approaches the value will decrease to 0. During the last round of replacements, the 700 MHz band, we were able to donate a significant number of wireless systems to missionaries in countries other than the United States as it is only illegal within the borders of the U.S.
For more information on this issue you can visit the Sennheiser website discussion on the issue at: https://en-us.sennheiser.com/spectrum
The Worship Facilities website also has the following article on this issue: http://www.worshipfacilities.com/article/wireless_mic_alert_beware_of_600_mhz

Why Do Churches Often Buy Several Sound Systems In A Short Period Of Time?

I can’t tell you how many time I have visited a church to look at a sound or presentation system that they are unhappy with only to hear the pastor say “We’ve  only had this system a few years but it has never been right” After a few probing questions the answer is almost always the same; “We used a guy who was a friend of a member of the church.” Or “It was installed by our sound guy.” I’m sure there is the thought that the person was a really good fellow and would give them a great price but it did not work out as planned. So why is that?

In my experience, most “sound” guys are only sound mix engineers and not system designers. Maybe they run sound for the local band or even are the sound man at a local church, but, does that qualify them to design a system for a permanent installation? Let’s look at a couple of scenarios:

Sound guy for a band: This person may, in fact be really good at making his band sound great in the local restaurant but there are significant differences between that venue and a house of worship.

1. A restaurant venue is generally smaller than a church Sanctuary and most certainly has a lower flat ceiling.

Response: Most Sanctuaries are significantly larger than a restaurant dining area. In addition most Sanctuaries have vaulted or domed ceilings or if they are flat they are generally 2 or more stories high. Sound propagates very differently in a larger room than in a small space. Speaker placement becomes critical to even distribution and clarity of sound to each seat. A very different loudspeaker is required and must be matched to the dimensional characteristics of the space where it is to be used.  Most certainly all speakers are not created equal.

2. The audience for a band concert is likely to be talking to others they are dining with and the music becomes only ambiance or background entertainment.

Response: When we are dining out our attention is primarily on the persons we are with and the conversation going on around us. When in a church service or other spoken word event the attention is focused on the person speaking. In the restaurant there is no real need to understand or really comprehend the content of what is going through the sound system in contrast to the need to comprehend every word coming through the sound system in a house of worship.   It therefore becomes critical that the sound arriving at the listener’s ear be clear, orientated such that it appears that the sound is coming from the person speaking and not from somewhere in the room and that the sound arrives only once to the listener at an audible level. Room acoustics, speaker design and placement enter significantly into the design equation if we intend to have clean, clear sound.

3. Most likely the same people will not be back within a week to hear the same band in the same location.

Response: Attendees of a house of worship generally attend week after week and, more often than not sit is a similar place in the room. If the reinforcement system is hard to listen to for the reasons listed above they will start to complain and after a while may even stop attending the services.  Proper design and implementation is very important in maintaining the attention of the attendees.

3. Very little of a band the event is spoken word.

Response: In a typical worship service or lecture, at least 50% of the event is spoken word. In our restaurant example, such a small amount of the event is speaking that the listener may be willing to strain to understand for a few sentences but if the speaking goes on for a time and it is difficult to understand the words the listener will fatigue from the required effort and either tune out or leave altogether. Again, proper attention to the acoustics of the space and the design of the speaker system is critical to the success of a sound reinforcement system.

Sound guy for the church or some other church: This person may have experience setting up sound week after week when the church was a startup and was asked to do the install for the new building. So he really should be able to design a permanent system, right? Or maybe the sound guy has been in the church for many years and has faithfully shown up week after week without pay, contributing to the ministry of the church with his time. Of course we have to let him do the design and installation of the new sound system, it would not be right otherwise.

I’m not going to repeat all of the items above because they mostly apply here as well. While the sound guy is dedicated and a friend of everybody in the church does not mean he has any knowledge of acoustics of a given type of space and such things as RT60 or %ALCONS or a significant number of other criteria that must be considered in planning speaker choice and location. And even if he understand the meaning has he ever really had to deal with these issues in different venues each with their own anomalies.

So what is a church or pastor or leader to do? First, be sure that you consult with a company that does have experience in designing larger spaces and most specifically performance spaces. If possible visit several facilities with similar characteristics and needs as are found in the project you are developing.

Except for the smallest of performance spaces, an EASE study (click here for more information) must be completed. In this study the coverage patterns of the speakers will be made clear and the acoustic characteristics of the space can be quantified. Do not buy a system without it!

Just because someone can hook up a stereo system and make it work or can set up a system for the Friday night band gig does not mean they have the knowledge to implement a successful performance system in a large room or performance facility.

Jim Murphy, Owner, Sound Concepts LLC © May not be reprinted without permission.

For another perspective on this issue here is a resource with a slightly different take on the issue: Why Churches Buy Three Sound Systems, and How You Can Buy Only One