ArrayProcessing, an advanced line array optimisation tool from d&b audiotechnik, has helped to create uniform sound coverage at Rivers Church in Sandton, a suburb of Johannesburg, South Africa.
The church has recently doubled its capacity, to 3,000 congregants, by building itself a new home: the sanctuary is fan-shaped with a single balcony. The church engaged integrator Stage Audio Works, whose head of sound for worship music, Andrew Illgner, comments: “Our pastors André and Wilma Olivier, never wanted it to be two churches, those at the front feeling fully engaged, and those at the back a little removed. So it’s in how we address our audience where the benefits of ArrayProcessing have proved such a discernible difference.”
ArrayProcessing (AP) was not yet available when the church first contacted Stage Audio Works. “In terms of audio system design, Rivers Church has used us previously at their Youth Facility and the Durban campus,” says Stage Audio Works’ project manager Nathan Ihlenfeldt. “They first contacted us about this new-build church two years ago. I spoke with Stefan Goertz at d&b’s education and application support department and we designed a sound solution using d&b V-Series loudspeakers driven by D80 amps.
"Then AP arrived. We looked very closely at that; it had the potential to directly address that sense of engagement which the Oliviers so clearly desired. Initially the additional amplifier channels required to implement AP made the cost prohibitive, then d&b’s new 30D install amps came along. What was once financially out of reach suddenly became entirely possible.”
To appreciate why ArrayProcessing should prove such a critical factor it’s important to understand how the church operates. “We are busy for most of the week,” explains Illgner. “On Wednesday evening we rehearse the weekend service. Across our campuses we have a membership of almost 20,000 so on Sunday there will be three services – two in the morning, one in the evening. Once a month there is the sister’s ministry for the women, another for the men, and there are volunteer nights for specific projects, plus youth conferences and the like, so there are plenty of demands upon the audio system. For the smaller meetings we might just use the floor section below the balcony.
“When Nathan presented the concept of AP to us it was out of our budget, but the attraction was immediate; a means to ensure all seats throughout the church had the same experience as those in the front rows, no matter what the configuration.
"When the new installation amplifiers became available we accepted Stage Audio Works’ generous offer to fly to Mannheim in Germany and experience AP first hand at the special launch event presented by d&b. At the demonstration we immediately walked to the back of the room; when they compared the system with AP switched on and AP switched off, we directly experienced the massive difference - it’s like being in the near field wherever you are. That’s exactly what has now been achieved within the church, front to back; when I’m mixing from a position around the middle of the floor area I know that everyone throughout the auditorium can hear what I’m hearing; they all have that same experience.”
However, the improved emotional engagement that resulted necessitated a system design tweak. “We soon found that elated congregations, especially the younger members, are more frequently attracted to stand up and approach the dias,” says Illgner. “This creates its own problems, not least blocking the d&b E12-Ds installed by Stage Audio Works for frontfill. A quick solution, easily implemented by Nathan’s team, was to add a pair of flown V7Ps, the point source V variant. By getting these cabinets flown above head height the problem has been solved. Myself and Ed Helliwell, our technical director, got to hear the V7P at Mannheim along with the AP demo, so we knew what we were getting."
He concludes: "What we do is quite different from many other churches, and the flexible and continuing support from Stage Audio Works is a big contribution to that. Since we’ve moved to the new church quite a few people have come to me after the service and commented on the difference of experience. They use words like ‘connected’ to describe what they hear, ‘it’s as if the Pastor is stood right in front of us’, they say. So in that sense AP has delivered exactly what we were all looking for.”