Sidmouth is a charming town on the Devon coast, with a pebble beach and a bustling town centre. The parish church sits at the heart of the town, just off the high street and is used regularly for community events, such as the annual folk festival.
APi Sound and Visual were called in as the church was in dire need of a new sound system, which had not been sufficiently invested in when it was put in 20 years ago. This led to a serious lack of clarity due to poorly positioned loudspeakers and a system that could no longer keep up with the requirements of the church.
With the Nave stretching 20 metres front to back and 17 metres wide, with an open-style layout, the new sound system needed to cover a large area, whilst remaining as discreet as possible. Flexibility was another key factor for the new audio equipment, with the church being used by a number of different groups for a variety of events throughout the year. This meant that, although speech was the primary use for the new sound system, it needed to be adept at reproducing full-range music from CDs and other music sources when required.
As with any audio-visual installation in a church or heritage building, great care was taken by APi both during the design process and installation to ensure the fabric of the building was disturbed as little as possible.
APi’s Stephen Neath designed the system and speaks about the challenges faced in the design and implementation phases. “With the space being so large and the central columns not suitable for positioning loudspeakers on, I decided on a column speaker with a wide coverage, so that they could sit on the outside walls but still cover the centre pews.”
The client was treated to a demonstration of the selected equipment before the final go-ahead was given by the church council. This also gave Stephen a chance to test his proposal and ensure the coverage would be as even as he hoped. “A demonstration is both great for the client, but also a useful exercise for us as engineers, as we have the chance to test the products we are recommending in the space before it gets installed.” He adds “It gives both parties confidence - I know I’ve designed a system which will deliver, and the client gets to hear a preview of what is to come.”
Other areas of the church were covered by smaller columns, which were fitted lower down the walls than the previous speakers, to decrease the distance between the loudspeakers and the listening height. Choir microphones were installed in the chancel to give an ambient feed into the existing live-streaming setup and give the choir a boost in volume in the church.
“As with any sound system, you have to find the sweet spot between performance, visual impact of the installation and ease of use for the customer”.
“But with our years of experience installing into church and heritage buildings, I feel we are always able to get this balance right and deliver exactly what the customer is hoping for.”
A digital mixer with both physical and app-based control was installed, to give the church the option to operate the system in whichever way suited them best. A subwoofer complimented the column loudspeakers, giving warm depth to music and speech that had been lacking with the old sound system. Cables were painted in and run at a high level wherever possible to minimise the visual impact of the installation.
“I am really pleased with the quality and intelligibility of the sound we have been able to achieve”, says Stephen. “You can go anywhere in the church and hear exactly what is happening, with a consistency to the level and tone of the sound.” At the end of the installation, the sound system was fine-tuned by APi’s engineers to minimise feedback issues and ensure optimum audio quality. “The difference is night and day!” states Stephen. Within a few days of completion, the client received a detailed walkthrough document which can be kept at the operating position and be referred to when required.
“When you have to point the speakers out to people during the training session, then we know we have chosen the right product to blend into the environment!”
APi Communications Ltd, Unit 9, Sandpiper Court, Harrington Lane, Exeter, Devon, EX4 8NS
When it comes to installing an audio-visual system into a building that is nationally significant for being one of the first combined police stations and courtrooms in the country, it is fair to say there is a lot to think about.
Tavistock Guildhall and Court Room is set in the heart of Devon and is now a popular visitor attraction for people who want to get a sense of what it would have been like all those years ago, walking up from the holding cells into the courtroom. As well as inviting visitors, it is still being used as a functioning council building, and it was this use that meant an audio-visual system was required.
APi Sound and Visual were asked to supply and install a full audio, projection and streaming system, bringing the space into the 21st Century, but crucially without impacting the impressive aesthetics of the well-kept interior of the building.
It was clear straight away that one of the most challenging aspects of the installation would be the projection screen, as it needed to be as unobtrusive as possible when not in use. Even once it has been decided that a winch screen would be deployed to allow the screen to be raised out of the way, the curved design of the ceiling in the courtroom made fixing this without leaving brackets exposed very tricky, and there was a large crest which the screen would need to avoid.
Next on the list of challenges to overcome was the cabling that would be required to run between the main control system in the rack cabinet to the equipment spread throughout the room. Two pairs of loudspeakers, a projector, a professional PTZ (pan, tilt, zoom) camera and a hearing loop system would all require cabling, but these would need to be hidden from sight as much as possible.
Lastly, the system would need to be easy to operate, as often it would be a town council member or site volunteer setting up for an event, so a simple control interface would need to be designed, to avoid a complicated on/off procedure before and after each use.
Using our previous experience working with heritage buildings, APi’s skilled engineers fabricated unique brackets and pelmets to encase them, meaning the screen winch mechanism was completely hidden from view and enclosed by something that looked like part of the room’s original design.
The projection system was completed by a high-powered laser projector, which gives almost instant on-time. It is capable of Full HD quality image reproduction, which allows the system’s users to show high-quality content from the DVD player, a laptop, or even the streaming system with this maximised on the projection screen. The option to screen share wirelessly was also included, for times when tablets or other devices may wish to present without being tied to a physical connection point.
The live streaming system was fed by a single PTZ camera, which was connected to a streaming PC in the equipment rack, along with the inputs from the two laptop points and a DVD player installed in the room for ad-hoc connections. This camera could be simply controlled using the customised control interface installed and programmed by our engineers, allowing manual control of the camera, or quick recall of pre-saved positions.
This central control interface also gives simple control of the audio system which consisted of two pairs of ultra-slim line array loudspeakers and a complimentary subwoofer to give a clear, well-rounded sound to both speech and music playback. A total of 12 gooseneck-style wireless microphones were installed which acted in a conference setup during town council meetings, with the ability to set priority on one or more of the microphones if required for the chair of the meeting.
The verdict came back as overwhelmingly positive on completion of the project, with the new technology enhancing the use of the space for meetings and other events by the town council. The equipment is locked up safely in the rack cabinet which is tucked neatly into an unused area of the building but is easily accessible for users who require interaction with the control interface.
Visitors enjoying the history and atmosphere of the courtroom do not have their experience limited by the audio-visual equipment due to the careful selection of products which have a perfect balance between aesthetics and performance, and the expert installation carried out by APi’s team of engineers.
Ladywell Convent is the home of the Franciscan Missionaries of the Divine Motherhood (FMDM), who are an International Religious Congregation of Catholic women who travel across the world helping others through their love and compassion.
Ladywell is one of their largest properties, based near Guildford in Surrey and is surrounded by a beautiful area of gardens and green space, which attracts visitors for retreats and conferences. At the heart of the building is a large chapel, with an incredible hand-built mosaic on the front wall which has been beautifully cleaned and restored in the last decade.
Ladywell's size has increased over the years, but the chapel has always been at the heart of the building, acting as the focal point for prayer and reflection.
APi Sound and Visual were contacted to provide a quotation for a new audio-visual system, with sound and live streaming on top of the agenda. With a domed ceiling and hard surfaces all around, the chapel is a very reverberant space, meaning the new sound system needed to be designed very carefully to be capable of providing clear and intelligible speech throughout.
Any live streaming system had to be simple to operate but be of high quality, for it to be viewed by other Sisters across the globe. “An important factor of the design process is always finding out from the client how much they want to interact with the system on a day-to-day basis”, says APi’s managing director Andy Pidsley. “For this project, it was clear that minimal interaction was desired, but it would still be useful to have physical controls when required for things like microphone level adjustment.”
One unique factor which had to be considered when designing the live streaming system was that the client wanted the camera to always be streaming to their website, so it could be viewed at any time across the world. This meant APi had to be sure that the streaming equipment they installed would be reliable enough to cope with this demand.
APi decided on Audac ultra-slim loudspeakers, distributed throughout the chapel and positioned close to the seating positions around the outside of the space. This ensured that sound did not have to travel far to reach the listeners, which in turn reduced the amount of reverberation the sound system would create.
The sound system could be controlled either by the wall-mounted control panel (pictured below) or through the iPad app which was customised by APi’s engineers to make user interaction as simple as possible. This gave the users a choice of how they felt most comfortable operating the system.
The constant stream demand of the camera meant APi had to test and implement a unique setup for the camera, which reboots it at midnight every night to ensure there are no issues during the day. This PTZ (Pan, Tilt, Zoom) camera gives a variety of shots which can be used during services and a high-quality feed from the sound system is sent to the stream, so those watching online can hear clearly.
APi's custom control interface for moving the camera position was installed in the vestry area, which gives the ability to change the camera view when required during a service.
Ladywell Convent’s main worship area is now a space where services can be heard and understood not only by those present in the room but also by the members who join in from all corners of the world.
The camera feed is constantly streamed live to the centre's website, allowing anyone from across the world to watch and take in the peaceful setting of the chapel.
“It is a breathtaking space and I am very pleased we were able to deliver an audio-visual system that both produces the required performance, but also ticks all the boxes for being unobtrusive and not taking away from the architecture of the room”, says Andy.
This was actually the last of a number of projects completed at the convent, with activity and conference rooms also having smaller audio-visual systems installed by the team at APi.
APi Communications Ltd, Unit 9, Sandpiper Court, Harrington Lane, Exeter, Devon, EX4 8NS
St Mary the Virgin is a beautiful, large Grade 1* listed parish church, set in the heart of a bustling town in Oxfordshire. The church’s presence in the town has been steadily growing, and they now have a large regular congregation both in person and online.
As with any large project, APi’s Andy Pidsley had a lot to think about when it came to designing the new audio-visual system.
“The church had a strong idea of what they wanted, which helped me quickly narrow down a lot of the equipment I was going to specify. But there was still a lot of thinking to do about speaker positioning and creating a simple user interface for what is a very complex audio and live streaming system.”
The size of the building was a challenge in itself - cable routes had to be found from one end to the other and loudspeaker positions and types had to be carefully chosen. As with all of the APi’s designs, there was a focus on creating an audio-visual system that would be simple for everyone to operate.
Another consideration was the need to disguise the equipment within the church, with the building’s listed status putting strict rules on what could and could not be done. This ultimately was a big reason for the model of loudspeakers used in the sound system design.
“We decided from an early stage that a demonstration of the loudspeakers would be important, both so that we could make sure they would perform in the space, as well as to give the client an opportunity to see and hear them.”
After a successful demo, the Audac Krya series reinforced their credentials for the installation and a total of 10 ultra-slim line array units were fitted throughout the church, complimented by two compact 12-inch subwoofers.
The live-streaming system was based around three full HD Pan, Tilt, Zoom (PTZ) cameras, which are able to move between preset positions to give the operator almost unlimited shots to send to the live stream. APi’s custom control interface was configured in such a way that live streaming could be operated with minimal effort, with one button to start and stop the streaming and pages to control each camera independently.
“The customised live streaming control surface we have created takes so much stress away for the person operating the system”, states Andy. “Having buttons which are labelled to tell you exactly what they do allows anyone, even someone who has not used the system before, to sit down and be 90% on their way to operating the live streaming system.”
A Yamaha matrix handled all the audio requirements, routing four Sennheiser radio microphone systems, a four-channel floor-mounted input box and four hanging choir microphones to the desired areas of the church. APi’s engineers configured the associated Yamaha iPad app to be personal to the church, making operation as easy as possible from anywhere within the building.
Andy reflects on a job well done;
“this project was the largest of the year for APi Sound and Visual but was a glowing success thanks to the hard work and skill of our engineers, who made sure that the system was easy to operate, sounded fantastic and had the smallest possible visual impact on the church.”
Now the Oxfordshire church has everything it needs to allow both the physical and online congregation to clearly hear and see the message the church is trying to get across. The delicate selection of equipment has resulted in a high-quality audio-visual system without impacting the heritage and grandeur of the building.
In the weeks following the installation of the new audio-visual system, the church has received overwhelmingly positive feedback from the congregation (and not the sound system!). The customer was delighted with the outcome and stated that “Our expectations have been vastly exceeded”, adding that working with APi “felt like a partnership”.
So unsurprisingly any works to update the sound system and add an installed camera, streaming and projection system were examined in fine detail by the DAC to ensure that the impact on the aesthetics was minimal.
Burford is a very attractive Cotswold town which brings in tourists throughout the year and because of the church's strong links to King Henry VIII, the church has a large number of visitors who stop in while exploring the town. This meant that any audio-visual equipment - especially the projection system - had to be as discreet as possible so that it would not impede on the grandeur of the space.
Being a large evangelical Anglican congregation, the church decided that it was more inclusive to turn 90 degrees so that they could gather in a more relaxed theatre-style layout of chairs. However, for more traditional services such as funerals and remembrance Sunday they still need to be able to switch back to the original layout.
This was achieved by adding a 3rd loudspeaker so that with a simple switch the audio orientation can be changed.
The audio system is based on our favourite Allen and Heath digital desk, offering a handy touch screen plus full wireless control via iPad. This is a great step up from their existing digital desk with its microscopic screen and fairly daunting control app. A 4-channel digital amplifier gave us a good choice of equalisation options, limiting and crossover adjustment allowing their existing subwoofers to be included in the new arrangement.
Two remote HD pan tilt zoom (PTZ) cameras were installed in locations which suited both church orientations and were controlled by our own ultra-simple button control pad with backlit displays behind each button allowing the functions to change over various pages of options.
In addition to camera control, this unit also controls the video switching and streaming unit removing the need to understand a potentially baffling array of additional controls. So streaming to YouTube is just a matter of a single button push, with a monitor screen displaying both camera images, the outgoing image and the sound levels.
We set up the audio processing so that the sound was optimised for listening on a device with smaller speakers such as a tablet or laptop, compressing the music and speech to deliver a comfortable consistent level.
The projection system was successfully installed using two winch-down projection screens, which were able to lift up into the aisle above the archway when not in use. This was important as this side of the church is what you see first when entering the church through the main door, so it was crucial that these screens could disappear from view.
Two laser projectors were installed in the arches on the opposing side of the nave to price a clear and bright image onto the large screens, allowing the congregation to see regardless of where they sit in the nave.
The projectors were suspended just below the top of the arches, to remain as hidden as possible. The on/off control of the projectors was also programmed into the customised streaming control interface, giving the church a central control panel for both the streaming and visual systems in the church.
On the day the system was handed over we received this message from our customer, “Trial run this afternoon with band practice. All very good and epic sound. iPad App is very easy to use and so great to be able to wander around the church with it”.
The cameras are a high definition remote pan, tilt and zoom type, one which is fitted on the gallery face and the second being mounted on a pillar with a thin strap for fixing so that DAC approval was not required.
The main benefit of these cameras is that they offer exceptional image quality even in low light, a frequent issue in many churches.
The supplied joystick remote control has a number of preset memories so that commonly used shots can be quickly recalled, with the joystick allowing fine control.
A four input switcher and combined streaming unit makes the whole process of selecting a source for the projector and stream simple and removes the need for an additional computer to perform the streaming function. The illuminated controls clearly show the current source, and also allow more advanced functions such as superimposing words over images. The unit also doubles as a recorder and will record to a USB device.
A 22" monitor shows a 4 way split of the different input sources available to the mixer. Finally a small microphone was positioned on top of the rood screen to pick up singing and other ambient sounds just for the streaming audio.
After installation training was provided with on-going telephone support as and when needed.
They have had a two year building and renewal project both refurbishing the worship space and building offices and an enlarged community cafe space along one side of the original building. For our part APi have been involved in installing a simple to use 8 camera digital CCTV system, plus a full audio visual system.
We are used to working at height but usually this is in Anglican buildings so we were surprised at the 10m tower scaffold we needed to fit the screen in this project, but our engineers all have a head for heights so took it in their stride. With an install this high we had to use a special winch down unit that allows the screen case to descent 7m to the correct height for viewing. A Panasonic projector provides the images with the laser light source good for 20,000 hours there will be little need for maintenance and the low power consumption gives it a low total cost of ownership.
For the sound system we used some of our favourite products with the Allen And Heath QU-PAC for mixing, and slim high performance FBT line array loudspeakers giving room filling sound from just 2 speakers. Professional radio microphones from JTS (all rechargeable of course) and a digital 4 channel power amplifier from DAP audio’s new range plus one of their subwoofers to fill in the low notes.
The church had an extremely aged sound system that had failed and a fast approaching visit from the Bishop to install the new incumbent.
The requirement was to get a new system in and running that both covered the current needs of the church, and would be capable of growing with the congregation as the vision for more contemporary worship was worked out.
APi designed and installed a system that is similar to the existing system but with enhanced functionality and is also capable of forming the basis of a comprehensive system supporting speech, recorded music and small music groups.
The result was the new system was installed just 45 days after the initial site meeting (most of this was waiting for a Diocese admin box to be ticked). Our engineers worked on all the settings and equalisation, so that the system sounds good as soon as it is switched on.
The customer said “I would like to thank you all for the splendid service you have given our church in putting in this sound system in such a short time. Can I give a special thanks to Joe, who went over and above his remit yesterday. He helped us with the system all through a funeral service.”
To further improve and enhance this modern style of worship APi Sound & Visual was asked to supply and install three projection screens across the Nave width in such a fashion that these screens could be concealed when not required.
We designed and installed our own design of electric boom arm that swings out from the nave wall behind the front crossing arch. The two smaller side aisle screens ascend to disappear behind the Norman arches in the North and South Aisles. We even piggybacked one of these for the music group to have their own images close at hand! The projectors are located at high level behind the rear arches of the crossing, again out of sight from the rear of the church.
A simple button panel controller provides colour coded source selection and control over individual projectors.
We also replaced the current mixing desk with a rack mounted digital desk that can be operated wirelessly from an iPad or iPhone. When using an iPad it can be controlled either by the full professional app which gives detailed access to all areas of the mixing desk as you would expect from a traditional desk. However, it can also be operated by the simple customisable app which allows for only the controls required for basic operation to be displayed, in a simple to access arrangement. A further app allows band members to control their own monitor mix. The mixer has its own built in touch screen for back-up operation, plus comprehensive recording functions.
APi Sound & Visual have enhanced worship at All Saints, however, if you visit this partly Norman church you will find the overall aesthetic to be undisturbed.
Unfortunately this removed the main source of sound absorption in the building and lead to an increase in reverberation time, making speech intelligibility poor and their modern worship style fatiguing.
APi Sound & Visual calculated that to reduce the reverberation time from the current 2.2 seconds to around 1.2 seconds (this is halfway between ideal speech and ideal amplified music recommendations) they required around 60sqM of additional absorption.
We used 25mm thick acoustic panels fixed to the walls. These are available in many colours sizes and shapes to fit in with the decor of the church.
The panels were placed along the rear wall, between the windows on the front wall with the remainder above the entrance door and on the wall with the cross.
Dave Goodson from Wootton New Life Church remarked: “It took us a few weeks to get used to as we were so used to the sound bouncing back to us but it has made a significant impact. The service throughout from APi Sound & Visual was efficient and positive, the product is just right for what we needed".
When Father Mark, who had knowledge of APi Sound & Visual from a previous church, was appointed as Dean of the Cathedral, we were asked to make improvements to the antiquated sound system within.
We replaced all of the major components to give reproduction of great clarity, coupled with the ease of using an app based mixer which improved audio headroom and feedback performance without loss of volume or clarity. Discrete column loudspeakers in white were used to blend into the cathedral columns whilst still entirely filling the nave with audio. As you can see from the picture, the speakers blend in well on the columns.
APi Sound & Visual designed a system to improve the whole overall performance and control of the sound quality. Slim profile loudspeakers were placed along the length of the Nave with minimal visual impact. This configuration fills the space with sound at a lower volume providing a more intimate experience for the congregation.
A Wifi wireless controlled mixer allows control from many devices such as an Ipad. The wireless mixer allowed the system to be mounted in a secure location as access not required for operation. Sophisticated equalisers in the mixer were utilised to create a great sounding system.
A bespoke radio lectern gooseneck microphone with an rechargeable Audio Technica pack was also included.
The result is an easy to use system designed for speech intelligibility that delivers great sound despite the reverberant nature of the church and is aesthetically unobtrusive.